A gentleman took me on a date one night to Craigie on Main and I finally got the chance to try their legendary Chef’s Tasting Menu. It started with simple, bite-sized thoughts, followed by a series of more complex concepts materializing perfectly on our plates. Zesty, yet delicate cocktails prepared by famously talented mixologists periodically intervened like products of some mysterious alchemy, helping us to contemplate and embrace these culinary ideas, emancipating our palates from the spell cast over them by each dish tasted and readying them for each new dish to come. Sumptuous, sweet desserts provided a satisfying finish to the meal, allowing us to reflect on the journey we had just had. And finally, with a drop of syrupy thick, black espresso we were violently plunged back into the bitterness of reality, left to hopelessly cling to flimsy, dream-like memories of flavors we savored, of textures we probed. The experience lasted a few hours; it was a sensual one, no rush. It was not about eating, it was about tasting. I wasn’t hungry when I got there and I wasnt full when I left. But I was happy.
Chilled, slightly sticky, slightly slimy somen (or very thin udon) noodles folded with thin strands of radish and a few petite rings of scallion into a neat little lump. Doused with pungent but clear rice wine vinegar and sprinkled with crunchy peanut crumbs. A very simple, clean and refreshing 2-bite introduction.
A thin, salty, oily but dry ribbon of prosciutto sitting on a tender ring of pickled, sour yet pleasantly sweet white asparagus and a thin, crunchy bit of string bean. Capped off with a sprig of dill. A slightly hardier, texturally and flavorally more complex little introduction and a preview of what’s to come.
Asymmetric, amorphous, each very distinctly shaped. Some more plump and round, others more stretched out and lean. Briny, ocean-flavored and incredibly fresh. Flavored with just a tad bit of white wine vinegar and a leaflet of parsley.
An absinthe-soaked sugar cube fizzing away in a flute of crisp, fresh sparkling white wine, topped off with apple-flavored, sweet Calvados brandy. Topped off with a lemond rind. This is a deliciously complex and satisfying drink, very light on the palate. A perfect compliment to the oysters.
Hardwood-roasted on a charcoal grill, seasoned lightly with coarse Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Split lengthwise which made it easier to scoop out. The marrow melted like beef-flavored butter over the fresh, crunchy country toast. It was an intimate moment as the marrow seemed to lock in the personal essence of the beef; it was almost like smearing the very soul of the animal onto a piece of toast.
Porcini, honshimeji and oyster mushrooms, scrambled together with a bunch of other types I failed to recognize. Very lightly sauteed in what was probably only a teaspoon of oil until tender but still maintaining a bite, seasoned lightly with a bit of salt and (which is in my opinion crucial in bringing out the flavor depth of these ingredients) coarsely ground black pepper. Each spoonful flooded my mouth with earthy, woody, musky flavor and left an interesting fungal funkiness as an aftertaste.
Incredibly fresh, tender and flaky without a hint of fishy oiliness, the slightly grilled trout was coated with a cardoon and citrus infused foam and was sitting in a cardoon puree with small planks of the stem (remarkably close in flavor to an artichoke) holding it up. Surrounding the fish were plump, salty razor clams peeping out of their shell. A very delicate but complex dish.
And now for a complex and not so delicate dish, a piggly wiggly platter of oily pork pleasure. A hearty rectangular brick of firm yet moist suckling pig confit lying casually atop a thin slab of maddeningly crispy, golden-red pork belly coated in a sticky, slightly sweet glaze. A sweet and savory spice-crust, laced with subtle hints of cinnamon and clove cover a perfectly cooked, tender rack of hearty piggy ribs which sits next to its smaller siblings. A beautifully thick, nutty peanut sauce to dip in. A soft and moist mélange of tender, Shimeji mushrooms, bok choy and red and white beets sauteed in foie gras jus smeared on the side. What an amazing experience this dish was.
A thick, cloudly almost pulpy blend of citrus guts, fruity, light St. Germain, raspy Scotch and some bitters to cap the flavor. A perfect transition from the light fish dish to the heartier pork one to come.
Sickly sweet Carpano antica vermouth blended perfectly with a splash of woodsy Junipero gin and bitter, savory Cynar. A hint of rose to give it a sweet finish. A perfectly complex and bitter drink to clear the palate after the piggy dish and prepare it for dessert.