Knowing how I love the pig, and Craigie on Main, when Doc saw the Craigie on Main newsletter announcing the Whole Hog dinner - he immediately said "you've got to go!" Who am I to argue? After assuring me we had it in the budget for one of us to go, I graciously accepted.
From the moment you enter Craigie, you feel well-cared for. My last visit my girlfriend and I were brought glasses of water before we even had a table. Artful, well-conceived classic and innovative cocktails are a real draw. Anticipation of what one might get to drink, taste, explore heightens the delight leading up to the dinner.
For me, good food, good drink, good service are only enhanced by the opportunity to learn something new each meal. Whether it's a fun new wine (Oltrepo Pavese from the Lombardy region in the North of Italy) or a new herb like calaminthe, or a new cocktail ingredient or combination, if you are introducing me to some new taste experience, you've got my attention. And a bit of my heart.
Hors d'ouevres - "les Cochonailles" - Piglet's Delight
Pate de campagne, lardo, pork belly, crispy pig parts. Delicious with our libations from the bar. I could eat tons little salty pig nibbles. That reminds me of the suckling pig skin I have in the freezer. Chicharrones up soon.
First Course - Tortellini of Braised Pork Belly squash blossoms, squash jus, calaminthe. These delicate little tortellini were so light and the filling so luscious. I wanted to spoon every drop of the jus. Calaminte has been described as mint like or thyme-like. It was delicate to be sure. I had a glass of a nice dry, crisp Riesling.
Second Course - Crispy Fromage de Tête - that's head cheese, y'all. Earthy inside, crispy outside, egg to emulsify and, as David pointed out, all the components together really work well, together.
(So fun to dine with a photographer! See me snapping this shot, check out David Dadekian's photo!)
Sunny-side up farm-fresh egg, potato-mustard puree, sauce charcutiere.
The Oltrepo Pavese was one I chose with some help from Richard Auffrey, the Passionate Foodie, a real connoisseur. We settled on this glass partly because I'd never had it before and because it was described as a light Burgundy or Pinot Noir -ish in style. The color was bright berry and the medium body worked fine with the tasty pig head.
Third Course - Suckling Pig Head with Brains over pea greens, local black trumpet mushrooms, spiced puree of eggplant. David and I shared this entree for two. The skin was crispy and salty, the meat was tender like pork-brisket. The fat was creamy and sticky. I am hooked. The brains were served separately, and oohs, aahs and mm mms were peppered with the odd zombie jokes, natch. This was a double-first for me. Both head and brains are something I've never had. Wait. That doesn't sound right. I mean, I've never eaten a pig head nor its brains. I'd compare the brains to creamy sweetbreads. More delicate than foie but meltingly delicious. This course was truly a revelation. I wish I had another one. Right here. Right now.
Dessert - Late Summer Macerated Fruits, sweet white peach soda, yogurt sorbet. When is a foam not passe and blah? When it's fizzy and fun. This was a surprisingly interesting dessert. Thin ribbons of perfect honeydew melon took me instantly to the memory of the first time I'd ever tasted the melon.
Mignardises - sorry Doc, I couldn't save the pate de fruit for you. You would have loved this one. Blackberry so deeply flavored. Tea to finish the meal.
Rooibus, Rhubarb custards light and just perfectly tart and sweet these little treats came when we were certain we could eat no more. But eat them, we did.
Really a perfect evening all around. I'm still floating on a porcine dream. Thanks to Chef Maws, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, my fun dinner companions, David and Richard and of course, Doc - mwah! - for making it all happen!