Craigie on Main Revisited

Upon my return to Boston there was definitely one place I had missed the most, as much for its atmosphere as for its wonderful food and masterful mixologists. News had reached me in a land far away that this restaurant had made it to the final round of Munch Madness 2012, where it was unceremoniously and inexplicably beaten by Hungry Mother (good but …dry po’boys…). But I also heard of many new happenings, keeping up with menu rotations and newest offerings through their very active facebook page. Just a week and a half ago Bourdain reaffirmed my love for the place when at Symphony Hall some dork asked him “Where would you like to eat in Boston?” to which he without hesitation responded “There are still some places I can’t believe I’ve never been in. Like, Craigie on Main is one of them.” Before I left to Argentina, I had gone there on a date and had the Chef’s Tasting experience, which was wonderful. I had also dropped into the bar a few times and asked the talented Zachary to make me something which matched (or better yet, offset) my mood and I have never been let down. I have sampled many different types of liquors there, helping me pinpoint my favorite ones, for future reference. All in all it’s a great place with a fantastic vibe, made possible by great service, an open kitchen and the perfect bar. In this confusing time in my life, it’s an unchangingly positive thing and I’m going to lean on it as on a strong male shoulder in the next few weeks to make me feel great again.

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Speaking of bar bites, this one is one of my favorites. I say “one of…” because my #1 is and will always be their wonderful Roasted Bone Marrow (cut length-wise!!!) with crusty bread, which soaks up any drink perfectly, leaving a comforting meaty essence in your mouth. But this one is a close second. Craigie’s Assiette of House-Made Terrines, consisting of fromage de tête (headcheese), foie gras torchon and pâté de campagne, along with traditional accompaniments such as grated shallots in rice wine vinegar, cornichons, whole grain mustard, a bit of sweet and sour cranberry (?) chutney, crunchy celeriac remoulade and some sort of shredded root veggie. It was served with big, hearty, rustic slices of toasted sourdough. All three meats were pretty delicious indeed. The head cheese was crumbly and soft, packed with tender little chunks of head meat to the point that the aspic wasn’t even very obviously present. Instead of providing the rubbery, cold jelly consistency, it just happened to be what was holding together the protein. The aspic did provide a nice, slippery, glossy texture to the outer brim of the headcheese chunk, though, which was very nice indeed. The foie was buttery soft, chilled and very subtle in flavor, with only a very feint smokey fat flavor lingering on the palate as an aftertaste and a tiny bit of coarse salt sprinkled over the top to bring these subtle flavors more to the forefront. The pork-based country pâté was perhaps my favorite, soft with a gummy bite to it. It was flavored with thyme and all-spice and was the perfect consistency to match the bread.

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And finally, one of my favorite cheeseburgers in Boston. No crazy toppings here (mac ‘n’ cheese at B.B.C./ practically anything you want at Tasty Burger…), just a few ingredients brought to a high plateau and combined in the perfect ratio. The patty, wonderfully imperfect in shape, is made of local, grass-fed beef with bone marrow and suit added for extra buttery moo flavor and juice. Some dehydrated red miso is also mixed in for a background umami flavor, which brings out the natural flavors of the meat even more. The meat is ground in house to a very loose consistency, to where it is barely held together and is still somewhat fluffy in texture. The patty is incredibly juicy with a nice caramelized, peppery sear on the outside, pouring out a trickle of blood and a bit of delicious fat when bitten into (even when ordered medium rare). Melted on the burger is some shredded mild cheddar which runs over it, oozing down the side seductively. The house-made milk bun is fluffy on the inside but still has a nice bite to it and a crunchy char on the surface from being toasted on the burger pan drippings. It really is very well proportioned to the size of the patty. Home-made, creamy ketchup is drizzled over both bun halves. Some lettuce is tossed in the leftover burger drippings and is placed on top of the patty. The burger is served with baked and then fried house-cut steak fries which are deliciously crispy without a lick of excess oil, and a very lightly seasoned side salad. The condiments provided (which I never really end up using but which are much appreciated anyway) are home-made celery root slaw which is tossed in home-made mayonnaise, home-made red wine vinegar pickles and home-made ketchup. A limited amount of these are made per day and they are only sold at the bar, so come in early for one!

To find out more about this definitely NOT overhyped burger, check out the following video in which Chef Tony Maws explains how it is made:

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