Where We Ate in CambridgeEvery dining experience was stellar. They included East Coast Grill, Rialto's, Flour, and Craigie on Main. Our first dinner, the night before the class, was a return to one of my favorite Boston Restaurant's: My old friend Chris Schlesinger's East Coast Grill.
We were joined by my editor Pam Chirls and her two girls who had driven in from New Jersey and had gotten slightly delayed by all the traffic coming in from all over the country for the Boston Marathon. While we were waiting, we enjoyed appetizers of the fresh local oysters and the "hell ribs," tongue-numbingly spicy in a most delightful way and with a most fantastic flavor. Keep in mind that Chris bottles his famous "Inner Beauty" sauce that can knock your socks off. We were warned to approach these ribs cautiously but I remembered that from the last time even though it was several years ago! When the Chirls girls arrived we all ordered main courses. Woody and I shared a delicious grilled mahi-mahi, accompanied by avocado, plantians, pineapple salsa, and black beans and rice. But our favorite was Isabelle Chirls's sweet potatoes that had crunchy fried exteriors and meltingly perfect moist interiors. We learned the secret was baking them first so the outside did not over-brown the way it usually does from the high amount of sugar contained in the sweet potato. For dessert, we longed for the banana split made with mango ice cream and rum caramel sauce but were far to full so we compromised and had the dessert minus the bananas. The girls had the most creamy and delicious vanilla ice cream ever. Both ice creams were house made.
Saturday night, we had reservations at The Rialto, located in the Charles Hotel, recommended by Laura Goodbody, the daughter of my old friend and colleague Mary Goodbody. Chef/owner Jody Adams offers an ever changing tasting menu and dinner menu of Italian cuisine. The first two courses were crêpes filled with braised lamb shank, accompanied by lamb liver, and napped with a deliciously tangy sauce, and porchini pasta with wild mushroom Bolognese. They were both so delicious we clean forgot to photograph them! For the main course we shared a fabulous special of rabbit loin with pinenuts and sunchokes with a side of perfectly braised spring vegetables.
Our very favorite course of all was the devine ode to rhubarb dessert: A perfectly crunchy meringue, topped with an intense, creamy ruhubarb sorbet, candied dried rhubarb ribbons, poached diced little cubes of rhubarb, a bit of strawberry purée and a sprinkling of pistachio. Sunday morning, we accompanied the Chirls girls to Joanne Chang's Flour where they had brunch and we were gifted with a huge box of pastries. As we had brunch reservations at Craigie on Main, recommended by colleague Jackie Gordon who recently had spent a weekend eating all around Boston, we were saving the pastries for the long train ride back to New York.
On to Craigie on Main where we had been encouraged by Jackie Gordon to order their famous $16 burger (and yes it was well worth every penny!) But first they offered us their lovely, traditional brunch doughnut with caramel sauce.
What made this burger worth its salt? Well, for starters, the meat was freshly ground from lean grass-fed beef but not to worry, the fat that was added was bone marrow and suet. The burger was first cooked in a combi oven (a combination of radiant heat and steam) and then grilled to charred medium-rare perfection. It was then placed on a flavorful and tender house made bun and offered with fries, however, we opted for the fabulous potato galette that caught our eye, and which they graciously substituted. It was like a grown-up potato latke--exquisitely crunchy on the outside with meltingly tender layers of potato within. (Oh joy!) Almost forgot to mention the lusciously tangy house made mace ketchup.
We learned that our adorable and charming server, Sam, who had just moved from New York where he had studied film writing at NYU (my alma mater), had worked at one of New York's finest restaurants: Thomas Keller's Per Se. This came up when he asked what my favorite donuts were in New York and I said the ones at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery.
Shortly before leaving we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with chef-owner Tony Maws. He shared with us that his three year old son sometimes helps him make pasta and finds it to be more fun than playing with play dough! He suggested that next time we come for dinner. We sure will!