Monday, February 22, 2010

La Famiglia Giorgio

The birthday celebrations continued on Sunday afternoon with my Dad, his new girlfriend, Lisa, and her two year old daughter, Caycee who were visiting Boston for the day. There is always a restaurant or ten lingering in my brain, we'll call it my running “to eat list", which, in the North End covers just about anywhere I haven’t been yet. Ideally we'd benefit from somewhere that could cater to a young child. I assumed anyplace with family in the title ought to be able to cover it and therefore chose La Famiglia Giorgio just a few blocks over on Salem Street. We hadn't eaten all day and what was once going to be a late lunch turned into an early dinner. 
The restaurant was empty upon arrival except for a few tables, but by the time we left, the place was packed full with a line out the door. Looks like we’re not the only ones who love us some Sunday Italian feasts. We were seated at a spacious table for six next to a wall with a sprawling mural of the Italian countryside. They had a highchair - score one point for kid friendly. They had paper place mats - score another point for kid friendly. We had packed Caycee’s crayons and coloring books, but who needs a coloring book when you’ve got paper place mats!? Our waitress introduces herself as Auntie. She was fabulous throughout our meal. Drinks were ordered promptly. It was Mai Tais ($6.95) for my sister and I. She had just gotten off a shift at Spaulding Hospital, and was able to join us! But, hold the phone. Mai Tais? Honestly, who are we? Sometimes it is fun to order something completely unexpected off the drink menu. Lord knows we drink enough red wine. Adam stuck with a Coca-Cola ($1.50). I adore when Coke comes in the glass bottles, it reminds me of Europe.
To start I ordered a cup of Minestrone Soup ($3.95), a classic and an all time favorite soup of mine. I haven’t had a good Minestrone in awhile. This cup overflowed with veggies, beans and noodles in a light broth. It hit the spot. Bread was delivered and olive oil was mixed tableside with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. This classic Italian dining tradition never fails to impress.Dad ordered an Antipasto ($15.95) for the table, which was excellent. It was fresh, crisp, flavorful and included any and everything you’d expect your Antipasto to have.
Here we have salami, provolone cheese, tomatoes, prosciutto, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and breaded eggplant strips over a bed of romaine lettuce. The entrée selection was plentiful and prices ranged from $12.95 for standard pasta dishes to $16.95 for seafood entrees. Nothing clocks in over $20, which frankly, is unheard of around here. (Or maybe I’m just hitting all the expensive joints?) Well, to me, this menu is impressively low priced. Entrees up! I chose Clams with Ziti ($16.95) which boasted Little Neck Clams sauteed in (my choice of) a garlic and olive oil sauce.
This dish was fantastic. The clams were impeccable, slightly briny and delightfully chewy. The accompanying ziti done to al dente tenderness was flavorful, bathing in just the right amount of garlic and olive oil.
Adam ordered the Mussels with Linguine ($15.95). He also chose to have his dish sauteed in garlic and oil. My family is into taking pictures of food almost as much as I am. I didn't intend to have a picture of everyone’s dish, but they passed my camera around the table! Dad received a heaping plate of Frutti De Mare ($19.95) overflowing with sauteed mussles, clams and squid in (his choice) of fresh tomato sauce. Leah enjoyed the Chicken SaltimBoca ($15.95) where juicy chicken breasts are sauteed with mushrooms and sage in a butter and white wine sauce and topped with prosciutto and sliced mozzarella. It was the days special of Lobster and Shrimp Ravioli ($16.95) stuffed with ricotta cheese and sauteed in a creamy vodka sauce for Lisa.Now that's what I call a feast. La Famiglia Giorgio’s does them right, family style portions and all, which means lots of leftovers for lunch. Don’t worry, Caycee ate too. They have a childrens menu offering dishes priced at $7.95 and under. They are definitely off the charts with kid friendly points at this stage in the game!
And then there was dessert. This is the type of spot where Happy Birthday is sang, and sang loud. In addition to chocolate Birthday cake, we had Homemade Tiramisu ($6.95), a man playing the accordion at our table, and cups of rich frothy espresso. All of it was just delightful.
The accordion player was thoroughly entertaining.
It has been an amazing birthday celebration (so far!) Birthday week will take a short hiatus and resume Friday at 8pm. Stay tuned!!
La Famiglia Giorgio on Urbanspoon

Craigie on Main

I rarely venture over the Charles. Nothing against Cambridge, but, there is so much to conquer on my side of the river! For Craigie on Main I made a special exception. The only reservation available for Saturday evening was at 10:30, which is pretty late to begin a meal. Nonetheless, I was still highly anticipating my birthday dinner.
We arrived early and were given a warm welcome by two hostesses and a host who offered to take our coats. We made our way to the bar, a scene which was packed with couples and singles dining on massive hamburgers and shoestring fries. The bartender wasted no time handing us a clipboard of libations.
I was quick to make up my mind, knowing I could have ordered and loved anyone of those brilliant sounding cocktails. I chose the Ardoise, described on the menu as: Aromatic and Refreshing a blend of Sage, Rain, Juniper and Lime.Watching the bartender adorn the finishing touches, a sage leaf is slapped something fierce in between the palm of her hands and the glass is rimmed with the garnish before she delicately places it in the drink. The whole "performance" aspect is rather entertaining. These bartenders mean business. The rows of bitters, elixirs and infusions further indicated the seriousness of the cocktail program. I was in awe.
Shortly after a few sips of our cocktails we were seated promptly at 10:30. I love to take in each and every aspect to anywhere new, so I was happy to be lead across the restaurant, past the sprawling open kitchen, to a table for two in the back corner of the dining room. A white exposed brick wall fronts the room with a collage of funky mirrors and black frames housing old school French paraphernalia. Having spent three weeks in France this past September, I was drawn to the collages and overall polished bistro vibe. Our waiter was pleasant and made sure we knew all of our options ($75 prix fix; choose from any appetizer or entree on the menu, as well as six or ten course chef tasting menus.) I’m a huge fan of prix fix, however my instincts told me to stick with the a la carte menu.
The Ragoût of Local Forest Mushrooms appetizer was chosen mainly due to the fact that I have been dying to try anything with a poached egg. The House-Made Rabbit Sausage wasn’t hurting its cause either. This course did not disappoint, in fact, it was pretty unbelievable.
It was everything I imagined it would be and more, from the intense meld of flavors to the feeling experienced as I cut into the farm fresh egg, exposing the runny yolk to seep into the dish. It's the little things...
This dish left me salivating and the entrée up next did not disappoint. I ordered the Vermont Organic Pork Three Ways: Crispy Suckling Confit, Spice-Crusted Rib, Grilled Belly

I’ve always been a big pork fan and never in my life has pork tasted so good. The rest of the dish boasts red quinoa, autumn olives, pear purée and winter farm vegetables. These components all served to compliment the rich pork and presentation wise created a stunning dish. My date’s entrée which I sampled was the All Natural Hangar Steak a la Poele.
Yes those would be steakhouse sweet potato fries, along with creamed spinach, roasted bone marrow and corned beef cheek. We also shared a side of Brussels Sprouts cooked in duck fat, which were beyond amazing.
This food is so incredibly rich! Rich in flavor, yet delicately prepared. Chef Tony Maws embraces local cuisine and is a master of refined cooking techniques. The dishes consumed tonight rank superior in my book.
I’m in picture-taking, plate-cleaning heaven! Did I forget to mention I ordered another cocktail? This gem is called Northern Lights described as crisp smoked Edlerflower meets Douglas Fir.

With a mash up of St. Germain, Scotch, citrus and Bittermens bitters it was potent yet balanced.It was perfect timing as the clock struck 12:00 (my day of birth, its official!) and we ordered dessert. I’m a coffee drinker all the way but the tea menu was calling my name tonight. I chose a non-caffeinated pot of Savon.
Oh, hello beautiful dessert of Peanut Butter Parfait with banana foam.How on earth does one make foam from a banana? It tasted just like the real thing! This was exceptional. A Trio of Sorbets was also ordered featuring flavors of blood orange, grapefruit and apple with candied rhubarb, kumquat and fennel. The icing on the cake right there. (Apologies for the blurry photograph, it's late and I seemed to have lost my touch!)
This Birthday dinner venture across the Charles was well worth that cab ride back to Boston and then some!!

853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Craigie On Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato