Review: Craigie on Main

Local, fresh, and fantastic
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 28, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars

Two chunks of arctic char ($29), one leaned on top of another, were cooked at a low temperature — a little nod to science-lab food. I think the effect of this method is somewhat lost on a fatty salmonid, which is not bad when overcooked. I would rather have tried the scallops or sea bass prepared in this manner, in fact. Still, it was a nice dinner, complimented by a red sauce (not tomato, perhaps blood orange?) and fennel stalks.

Since entrées aren't guaranteed to fill you up, side dishes take on added importance. Those on offer our night were bone marrow ($10), for which Maws has become well known, and a big bowl of roast fingerling potatoes ($8) with a large clove of roasted garlic. The marrow here came from five pounds of split beef soup bones, with sea salt to bring up the flavor. This is not a dish for those who must avoid saturated fat and cholesterol. But if your Lipitor is earning its way, there's nothing as luxurious as the pure flavor of marrowfat and salt, spread onto toasted French bread.

The wine list at Craigie on Main is almost entirely French, with an emphasis on affordable regionals such as you might find in a really fantastic Paris bistro. We had a glass of 2006 Chiroubles from Bernard Metrat ($11), one of seven Beaujolais regions represented on the list. Chiroubles is one of the lighter ones, this fine producer edging the classic strawberry aroma toward a deeper cherry note. With the new location comes a full liquor license, and Maws has decided to try some artisanal cocktails. A "Northern Lights" ($10) is made of Scotch, St. Germain liqueur (flavored with elderflower), artisanal bitters, and such. Some of the aromatics were lost on me. I thought it was basically a whiskey sour with enjoyable bitter notes. The other problem with traditional cocktails, if you are sitting in the bar, is that all the shaking-not-stirring is loud. Decaf ($3.50) is good and strong, as it has to be. Tea ($4) is brewed properly in a pot, but the Armenian sevan blend ($4) just smelled like straw.

Desserts stick with the French and local themes, and several benefit from house-made ice creams. Gingerbread pain perdu ($10) might have been the best. The two slices of basic gingerbread weren't heavy and were stacked like the char fillets, so the pain perdu (French toast) had all the flavor of gingerbread without the leaden texture. Prune-Armagnac ice cream added just a lift of liqueur sweetness. A seasonal apple and pear crisp with pecans was topped off with young ginger ice cream and a sprinkling of cranberries. Profiteroles ($10) featured a banana-cream filling — kind of like a smoothie sandwich with a lot of chocolate sauce.

A classic cheese plate ($16) was also on offer — not overly generous, but it packed plenty of flavor per ounce. The goat was Greta's Fair Haven, out of Carlisle, Massachusetts: a little softer than cheddar, with lots of taste. From there we moved on to a Pyrenees, which was a little firmer. The capstone was an aged creamy cows'-milk cheese with nutty flavors and a melting richness from Auvergne, in France. Honeycomb, a smear of green-tomato chutney, and some toasts served as garnishes. This wasn't an elaborate display, the better to enjoy perfectly ripe flavors. With the check came a complimentary little cup of hot chocolate — actually, more like chocolate pudding spiced with cardamom and mild ancho chile.

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