Last Monday night I had the pleasure of being treated to dinner and a beer tasting by the folks of Stone Hearth Pizza Co. The company with locations in Porter Square, Belmont and Needham are committed to sourcing sustainable and organic ingredients from over 30+ local farms. Their well rounded selection of beer is also sourced locally from New England craft breweries. In addition, they offers a variety of Gluten Free items on the menu. Local and sustainable? Buzzwords echoed throughout many restaurants in this city. Gluten Free menu? Not so much! However, both are commitments that deserve praise and speak to the high standards by which the owners hold themselves accountable. I can't even remember the last time I was in Porter Square but lets just say it was long enough that I had no recollection of how massive the three levels of escalators in the T station were, and I had no sense of which way the city was once I got outside. I need to get out this way more often! The space at 1782 Mass Ave is charming and modestly decorated. The heartfelt dedication and genuine pride emulating from chef / GM Michael Ehlenfedlt and marketing woman extraordinaire Alex Chamberlain was clear to our table of bloggers from beginning to end. This attitude appeared to translate to the rest of the patrons as smiling faces (and plates of good food) filled every table in the room. The food is best described as casual gourmet - Neapolitan style thin crust pizzas, garden fresh salads, baked pastas and more served at reasonable prices. (Which are noted, even though I'm eating on the house.) As we settled in, I was offered a beer right away and I chose Cisco Brewers Summer of Lager which was coincidentally the first in a series of tastings presented to us by Dave Aresty, the craft beer distributor rep for Stone Hearth. A classic bavarian style larger with citrus notes proves light and refreshing, complimentary to a warm summer evening. The meal started with an excellent Summer Gazpacho ($3 mug / $5 bowl.) Right away I noticed the use of red fiestaware (collectible vintage dinnerware) which I thought was an original touch. Michael noted it was no easy feat to collect all those red mugs.Out came the Parmesan Flatbread ($2) made from their organic dough which has been oven-fired with garlic infused olive oil, grated parmesan and salt and pepper. It was accompanied by Melanzana ($4) a delightful roasted eggplant dip. The contrast of the cold, refreshing gazpacho with the warm rustic flat bread made for an ideal start to a summer meal. Meatball Poppers ($5 for an order of three) are made with organic locally raised beef, stuffed with fresh mozzarella, sauteed onion and assorted spices. These poppers are a superior meatball indeed, baked and served piping hot; one version bathing in a spicy tomato sauce, the other a creamy onion sauce. The extremely flavorful sauce is also perfect for dipping thick slices of soft Foccacia bread. Meanwhile, the Wachusett Green Monsta IPA was up for sampling. An All-American yeast teams up with Cascade, Amarillo and Centennial for a homerun of hops in every sip. Fantastic!Salads are simple and delicious, offering the freshest vegetables (and fruit) in lightly dressed heaping portions. The blanched asparagus spears in the Spear Me The Details salad were hand picked from the farm that morning, their apparent freshness delighted the table. This blackboard special salad also boasted cashews, radishes and oranges in a honey orange ginger dressing. The Stone Hearth Caesar ($6.95) offers a mix of romaine and radicchio with housemade croutons and grated parmesan. This salad satisfies the caesar craving with finesse. The avocado in the Spinach and Avocado salad ($6.95) was perfectly ripe, complimented by shaved red onion. Next we drank a beer called Sweet Action brewed by Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, New York. A golden amber ale, the sweet is from the sugars in the barley malt, the action from the bittering spice in the hops. Finally, the pizza! Their signature thin crust is spectacular, even and perhaps especially the Gluten Free. The Divine Goddess ($12.50) a white pizza where mozzarella and ricotta cheese mingles with hearty chunks of broccoli and warm leaves of spinach was the recipient of a GF crust. It was easily detectable in the fact that it was a little thicker than the signature paper thin crust, a little more doughy and chewier while remaining crisp around the edges. They chef has worked hard at perfecting this recipe for months and his efforts have paid off. The Bacon & Blue ($12.50) hits just right notes with smoked crumbles of bacon that don't overwhelm. Great Hill Blue as well as provolone cheese melts into julienned zucchini, summer squash and roasted cherry tomatoes. The pie is finished with garlic oil and freshly chopped basil. The third pizza was the Farm Fresh ($12.50) and while appropriately named, you could also call this one the Kitchen Sink as it contains everything but! Garlic oil, roasted cherry tomatoes, charred red and yellow peppers, Yukon gold potatoes, artichoke hearts, green and black olives and mozzarella are topped with a salad of arugula, red onion and prosciutto. A heck of an ingredient list produce a remarkable pizza that is the epitome of freshness, a true vegetable lovers delight. The last beer we had was Pretty Things Once Upon A Time, the only one of the bunch I have previously tried. I first tasted it over Memorial Day Weekend at Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar where they offered it on draft. I was instantly a fan of the East India Porter for its roasted flavors possessing an easy drinkability. I was glad to try it again and also appreciated that I was exposed to a bunch of new beers over the course of the evening. Our visit wouldn't have been complete without a taste of what they offered in the dessert department, which was Local Vanilla Geltato over a Gluten Free Molten Chocolate Cake. Cool vanilla gelato melts into the moist cake cascading with warm velvety chocolate. It's a heavenly combination that has an embraceable lightness to it. As with all the food at Stone Hearth, it feels healthy without being classic health food. It's fresh, it's local, it's organic, it's not your typical greasy pizzeria joint.
Many thanks to Stone Hearth Pizza Co. for their generosity and hospitality, for exposing me to some quality new beers, Gluten free pizza and all around fantastic fresh tasting food. And of course to Elizabeth for organizing the dinner which was also attended by Megan, Bianca and Emily. It's always fun to photograph and enjoy good food with these ladies!