A few weeks ago, my friend Nandi and I decided to celebrate the fact that we’d hit our fundraising minimum for the marathon. This was a pretty big deal because the minimum is non-negotiable; if we didn’t hit it we’d owe the difference! We were also far enough into the training that a bit of fun was much-needed. Since we’re both fans of excellent food we decided that this celebration would take the form of dinner at Ten Tables Cambridge, a popular spot that we had yet to try!
Ten Tables started in JP, an itty bitty place as the name suggests that had a focus, as most of the nicer restaurants in the area do, on locally sourced, organic ingredients. Alas, I’ve never made it to the original location, as Jamaica Plain may as well be the moon if you live on the other side of the river and don’t drive. However, when Craigie Street Bistrot moved to its digs in Central Square, lo and behold! Ten Tables was happy to expand to the Cragie Circle spot, an odd space in the basement of an apartment building, but much more convenient for us Redliners. (In full disclosure it is also a bit bigger than Ten Tables JP – it’s more like 20 tables.)
When we arrived at the restaurant we were informed that we could either eat ala carte or put ourselves at the mercy of the Chef’s Tasting – an entire dinner including appetizer, entree and dessert that would be a total surprise! The catch was that we both had to do it, but after making sure that we could get our meals sans shellfish (Nandi is allergic!) we decided that it had to be done.
Dinner opened with salmon crudo (regular, unshelled fish are fine for the Nandster) topped with baby spinach and toasted pine nuts:
This was very fresh and spring-like, and surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because sometimes I find the texture of raw salmon to be alarming – I love the taste, but it can have an unpleasant squishyness. This aspect was happily missing from Ten Tables’ version!
Next we were brought what was perhaps our favorite dish of the evening:
What’s this? An egg? Yes! But not just any egg – this is a Five-Minute Egg, served in a soup of green garlic, more baby spinach, semolina, and truffle butter! The truffle taste was wonderfully pervasive – lending the otherwise very light and delicate soup a meatiness. Here’s the egg split open to reveal its golden middle:
Next we received our entrees, a very nice skirt steak with tomatillo salsa and “crushed” Yukon Gold potatoes:
The steak was tasty, but I find it to be a bit of a boring entree for a tasting, to cook a really good steak properly is to largely leave it alone. However, the crushed potatoes were great – wedges of Yukon Gold that were sort of smashed – not mashed up – intact but broken – and cooked until they were crispy. Yum.
Finally, it was time for dessert! While I’m usually more motivated by savory than sweet, these confections were truly stunning. They’re definitely running a close second with the semolina for best dish!
While up until this point our plates had been identical, for the dessert course we were each given a unique item. We agreed to eat half of each and then switch. Laid before me first was the Toasted Pound Cake with Rhubarb Compote and Chantilly Cream:
A strong vanilla flavor pervaded the still-warm cake, making a good, sweet contrast to the sharp rhubarb and rich cream. Toasting the cake had given it an enjoyable crispiness.
But my heart belongs to the dessert brought to Nandi:
That, my friends, is a chocolate terrine with sea salt and Thai basil ice cream. Be still my heart. For one thing, any time sea salt is incorporated into a dessert my day is made – I told you, I’m a sucker for savoriness! For another, that ice cream was a revelation – the herbal spiciness of the basil was a perfect counterpoint to the rich bitterness of the chocolate. Throw in the crunchy, salty goodness on top and I was in my glory.
Throughout we drank a perfectly lovely 2008 organic Barolo that seemed to play nicely with everything we were eating. Our entire experience was just what I hoped for – the right amount of celebration for our mini-goals achieved!