I totally forgot to post this at the time, but Husband and I went out to dinner for my birthday last month. Since it was the Eat Local Challenge, we (I) wanted to go to a place where the chef really valued local ingredients. This is not hard to find in Boston. Most of the best area chefs buy a goodly portion of their produce locally, so it was really just a matter of picking a place. There’s Steve Johnson’s Rendezvous. Ana Sortun’s Oleana. Craigie on Main. Hungry Mother. Harvest. Why are all of these in Cambridge? They do it in Boston, too, I swear.
We decided on the Garden at the Cellar outside Central Square. The chef, Will Gilson, is the son of farmers who run The Herb Lyceum in Groton. I figured he must really, really like local produce. Also, according to certain customer reviews, word is that the chef is pretty tasty himself (be sure to read the one by Jennifer S.). And, well, there is a newly opened position on my blog…
Whenever we go out to eat, I end up liking Husband’s meal better. Like 100% of the time. But, I’m starting to catch on. When Husband decided what to order, I swooped in and stole his idea because it was my birthday, not his. And, you know what? It worked. My grilled pork chop with roasted apples, Brussels sprout-bacon hash, and fingerling potato au gratin had me doing all the annoying Rachael Ray eye-rolling and moaning. And if you don’t think I’ll be stealing the idea of hashing Brussels sprouts with bacon, then you’re obviously new to my blog. Husband’s salmon was excellent, too, by the way. Organically farmed, whatever that means. But I still liked mine better.
Also, we had one of the most beautiful small plates I’ve ever seen. It was thick curls of grilled calamari, perfectly tender, scattered with sprouts and edible flower petals all basking gently on some kind of sauce. It all worked so well together, I couldn’t even identify the sauce. It was sauce. That’s all I know. Anyway, it was spectacular-looking on its long, rectangular plate, but more importantly, it tasted amazing.
But excellent food aside, I want to talk about service. Great service is hard to find, and yet it’s so crucial to the overall dining experience. Poor service affects how you experience the food. But, admittedly, it’s also very subjective. Every diner has different expectations and it really has a lot to do with individual personalities and your own mood, blah, blah, blah. So, when you have a server who really clicks with you and does a good job almost effortlessly, it’s like magic. My particular perfect waitress can be found at the Garden at the Cellar. She was knowledgeable. She was attentive without hovering. She smiled often and her face didn’t crack under the strain of it. And when I told her that I didn’t like my cocktail, did she get all defensive and hurl my glass across the room to smash against the bar? No. No, she did not. She simply asked why and we talked about what I might like better. Her suggestion was perfect. I offered to pay for it, but she didn’t charge me.
They don’t serve dessert or coffee at the Garden, just some nice chocolates with the bill. I was secretly grateful. I can’t not order dessert if it’s on offer, and I will ask unreasonable things from my digestive organs in order to cram some sugar into a space that’s already bursting beyond reason. The focus here really is on the food.
The end result? A fabulous birthday for me and a big-ass tip for my server. Win-win.