Search This Blog

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anniversary Restaurant Review: Craigie on Main

Four years ago on May 24th, 2009, my husband and I got married.  It was such a great day.  Good food, friends, family, and a great memory to start our journey together.  Each year we sit and talk about what we should do on our anniversary to celebrate our life and relationship.  We have this list in a spiral journal of things to do in our lives, kind of like a bucket list, but also a list of dreams and memories.  We have silly things, like "play dodge ball," expensive things like "tour Australia," sentimental things like "teach Sam to drive," and difficult things like "Car accident".  I would highly recommend sitting with your partner and creating such a list.  It is good for a couple of reasons. First, you know how to surprise your partner with special dates and experiences that maybe you would never know they wanted to try!  We have things listed that we put down a couple years ago, so if I plan something I can truly surprise my husband with something I know he wants to do but we haven't discussed recently.  Secondly, when we check off an item we record the date.  This allows us to keep track of a lot of memories and dates and special times and moments we have shared as a couple.  We even added surviving hurricane Sandy and getting in our first car accident, so now we can look back when we are 80 and see what we have been through together...good, bad, and ugly!

This year we consulted "the list" and decided to go out to a nice dinner in Boston (since next year we are planning to knock off a trip to Napa/Sonoma).  We had originally decided to head to the top of the Prudential and have a nice meal.  We were thinking the food would just be "okay" but the view would be spectacular, we could get some seafood, and have a good reason to get all dressed up.  It has also been an item on the list since our earlier dating days.

The week of our anniversary, however, I was talking with a friend and she mentioned her "husband's restaurant".  Well to clarify, the one he works for in Cambridge.  She told me all about how the restaurant uses all locally sourced and organic foods from farms.  She said they have a "tasting" menu where you basically sit and have them bring out whatever the chef has in mind (they take into account allergies and food preferences, etc).  She explained some of the meals she had there and it sounded so much more exciting as an anniversary dinner.  It definitely sounded more like "us"  (organic and adventurous) than a steakhouse in Boston, so we switched the reservation and that is how we ended up at Craigie on Main in Cambridge.

We are so glad we decided to switch.  The weather was um...pouring (to put it lightly).  I am talking like torrential downpours.  I am sure the view from the top of the Pru was a little less nice that evening than usual.  We will save that list item for another date.  Craigie on Main also had valet parking, which was really handy on this particular night!

So here is what my husband and I thought of our adventurous night out to Craigie on Main (keep in mind that this was our "cheat day" from the vegan challenge):

The atmosphere is nice and the dress is business casual.  I felt like I could dress up and feel a little fancy, but it wasn't stuffy or pretentious.  When I go to steak houses in Boston (Grill 23 for instance),  I feel like I could "mess up" and that I don't really belong.  I feel almost judged!  Craigie on Main didn't feel like that at all.  I felt comfortable, welcomed, relaxed, and excited! No snobbery.

The service was fabulous.  Maybe a little on the side of more-fabulous-than-usual because my friend told the staff we were coming as friends of his...but fabulous none-the-less (and they seemed great to surrounding tables too).  When we walked in, we got the best smile from the hostess and I felt like she was genuinely excited that we came.  She brought us back to a cute little romantic table (that wasn't on top of the next table over).  They brought out an "anniversary toast" right away with some sparkling wine. So special!  The wait staff, food runners, etc, knew everything about the food.  We were not rushed through our meal (and we had 6+ courses!) and they genuinely wanted to know how we liked everything, how the wine was going with the food (which they happily paired for us) and let us be alone in between courses to enjoy each others' company and savor our meal.

The food was truly memorable and delicious.  We ordered the six course "Tasting" menu because we wanted to enjoy the adventure of it, but they had a really nice pre-fixe menu that changes based on the day's food and availability (which is why the menu is not specifically posted on the website).  Highlights on the food included sushi-type courses like rainbow trout with horseradish sauce, pickled mackerel and mullet with a pea shoot coulis.  The main course was brought out by the main chef himself, Tony Maws!  I knew it was him because I had seen him on a clip you can view here.   The main course was a beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon with white asparagus and roasted carrots on the side.  It was divine.  I don't really even like carrots and these were divine.  I would have to agree with the waitress who quipped "Everything roasted in duck fat tastes good".  Yes. It. Does.  We also tried white asparagus ice cream with anise.  It doesn't sound  like asparagus and ice cream would go together, but it did here!  It was sweet and definitely tasted like asparagus.  The main desserts were also good (they brought two different ones to try), an ice cream with chocolate soaked in espresso and some sweet fried dough balls with caramel and a dipping sauce. They brought another little treat after the dessert, but I was way too stuffed to taste it.  Again, delicious food that I couldn't make at home!

All in all, a great meal. Memorable and fun and right up our alley!  I will mention that we couldn't go there often because it is a bit pricey.  The pre fixe meal was more reasonable price-wise than the tasting menu, but we splurged because it was a special occasion!  However, we are SO glad we did and it was worth every penny for such a great anniversary memory!  I highly recommend this restaurant and hope to be going again someday for another special occasion!

In health and culinary adventures,
Nicole Harter

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kale and White Bean Soup

Today's recipe is something I threw together this past week on a chilly day right after the rain came and cooled off that heat wave. Light for summer, but warming because it cooled off so quickly.  My husband really loves sausage and greens together.  A couple of years ago I realized that you can get a little bit of that flavor by simply adding the fennel without the sausage!  So here is a little vegan version of kale and white bean soup--no sausage, but added tempeh and fennel to replace it.  I also added some pureed beans to thicken it up!

Kale and White Bean Soup

2 Tbs olive oil
1-2 spring onions chopped (regular is fine here)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz pack tempeh
2 tsp fennel seed (ground up with a mortar and pestle)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cans white navy or cannellini beans
1 bunch kale
6-8 cups water or vegetable broth, depending on how soupy you like it.
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and saute the onions until they are soft.
Add the garlic and tempeh and then the fennel and brown for a bit.
Add the carrots vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
Boil for a bit until the carrot cooks.
Mean while, puree 1 of the can of beans in a food processor.
Wash and cut the kale into strips.  Remove the hard stems if you don't like them.
Once the carrot is a little tender, add the kale and can of beans that you did not puree.
Simmer until the kale is nice and wilted.
Add the pureed beans and bring back up to a simmer.  This just makes the soup a bit thicker.
Serve with a piece of bread or toast to make a nice meal.

Add ins--potatoes, celery would add a nice touch too!

In health and soupiness,
Nicole Harter

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Stronger

In my excitement about the vegan challenge, I have neglected to talk about the other "thing" I have been working on, which is "getting stronger".  

Got this photo from Microsoft Word's Clip Art

I am out of shape and there is no need to sugar coat it.  In the last three to four years my pattern has been pregnant, nursing, pregnant, nursing.  During this phase of my life I didn't do nothing (walked and swam a little bit) but I am not strong. I am not in shape. I even had to go to physical therapy after the birth of both my youngest kids because my hips and shoulder were thrown "out of whack" by pregnancy.  I am not completely "let go," but I am not where I want to be in terms of strength and endurance and muscle tone.  I want to chase my kids and play basketball without being winded.  I want to get stronger so I can be the best mom I can be.  I wanted to be able to clean the house top to bottom and still have energy for my kids.  I want them to see strong, healthy parents as role models.

Last year when my cousin's son was 8-9 months old, she started doing the Couch to 5K program. She got in great shape.  I was jealous!  It wasn't "mad" jealous, but more of a "so happy for her and totally inspired" kind of jealous!  My other cousin who blogs her journey here , is also an inspiration.  She somehow finds time to work out multiple times a week and she has 2 small kids younger than mine!  Then, I also see these ladies Erin Sinar and Jessica Weiderhold, who are friends of mine from high school who are really strong!  So, while I am not trying to promote one program or another, I just wanted to share multiple sources of inspiration to show you that there is not ONE way to get in shape or get strong. I think you find something that #1 you like, and #2 that works for you long-term.

When I was in high school, college, etc, my main form of exercising has been primarily running.  I always defaulted to running.  It is portable (I can do it anywhere).  It is stress-relieving.  I really enjoy getting out in nature, soaking up some sun, and clearing my head with a nice long run.  I miss it.  I didn't realize how much I missed it until I started doing it again. 

When disaster struck on Patriot's Day in Boston (a couple days after my daughter turned 1), I started to really consider running again.  I have always had such respect for marathoners.  Committing to running so far and finishing is such a great achievement.  I had kind of always hoped someday I would have a chance to run one.   How could I run one when I can't even run a mile anymore?  Yuck, I couldn't even run a mile anymore.  Time for change.

So, while I made excuses for a couple more weeks I ran into another mom of a child in my son's class.  She was walking the track during our sons' soccer practice. She mentioned the Couch to 5K program. Hmm...time to look it up online since that is another person mentioning the same program.  I looked it up that night and started the next day.  The program only requires that I run 3 times a week.  Three times per week is totally doable!  It also starts reeeeally slow.  I needed reeeeally slow.  Baby steps man.  If I started too hard and got completely sore, then I wouldn't want to do it anymore.  I also did not want to re-injure my hip, shoulder or foot (long story with 6 weeks in a boot).  

It's 5 weeks later.  I just did a 20 minute run to finish out "Week 5" and it felt SO good.  I am so happy to be moving again.  I am less stressed and feeling much better.  I am hoping to get to the point where I can run 3-5 miles again without feeling like I am going to fall over.  I may even sign up to run a couple of local 5K races.  Running is step 1 in my journey to "getting stronger".  I am starting to think and pray on toning and muscle work too, but I haven't landed on anything.  When I do, I am sure I will share as I continue on my journey.  

So what do you love to do?  Rollerblading?  Bike riding?  Dancing?  Zumba?  If you like it, then you will stick with it!  Do something you like to do, a few times a week.  Start slow, but start.  You will love it, I promise.  And if you don't, then pick something else!

In love and exercise,
Nicole Harter