Whenever I go to a new restaurant I usually scour the menu online, peruse their website, and check out photo’s to get a good sense of where I’m going. But surprisingly, I did not do that this time around. Salts restaurant in Cambridge, MA had been recommended time and time again by my friend, Jason. We have talked about this restaurant, his experiences, and the food that this “top 10 chef’s in 2007” was pumping out for sometime. I knew I had to go.
Salts, located near Kendall Sq in Cambridge, has a very small road front exterior, it is charming with nice lighting and small topiary trees. Upon walking in the front door, I enter a calming, dim lit, well furnished, warm space. Smells of buttery bread, aerating wines, roasts, and herbs filled my senses and I quickly thought to myself, ‘this feels like home’.
Jason and his wife, Lorraine have been coming here every few weeks for sometime now, so it was fitting that my friend Sean and I were here to dine with them. Jason, a foodie like me, knew this place would be right up my alley and he would soon be very right. Without looking at the menu much, Jason suggested we do the five course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. The level of excitement brewing inside me at that moment could be compared to winning a small fortune, meeting a new guy, or returning from a shopping extravaganza. I knew I was in for something good, but, I still had no idea what to expect. Our lovely waitress, Analia, who is also the most charming hostess I’ve ever met, explained the chef’s tasting experience to us. She asked that we come up with a list of things we do not like to eat. Quickly I realized just how easy going of a crowd I was with, but to my demise, I was the only person with something on their “does-not-eat” list: goat cheese. I know, you’re probably disappointed, most people are surprised, but I can’t stand the stuff. Anyway, that was easy, with one small detail to be left off our palates, she was off to the kitchen and back moments later with our first wine.
Shortly after a few sips and some light conversation, Analia returned with an amuse bouche of French Onion Soup, but certainly not your average french onion soup. The plate that lie in front of me was comprised of a dehydrated duck crouton, a single braised pearl onion, and what looked like a tiny white egg. I am a huge believer that we eat with our eyes first, so when this arrived, my mouth watered and my creativity took note. I quickly filed this visual display in the “for future foodie use” file in the culinarian part of my brain. Analia finished off the plate with a hot, robust smelling, traditional broth. Ahhh yes, comforting french onion soup, every component was here. That ‘white egg’ I mentioned, was not an egg at all… but a beautifully packaged, melt in your mouth, burst of creamy gruyère; an elegant touch of molecular gastronomy at it’s finest. The chef nailed it, I was wowed. One course down, five more to go…
I could certainly sit here and describe each and every course, sip, bite, and swallow but I won’t. I will tell you that what followed was the best meal of my life, so far; foie gras, lightly crusted cod over a petite bed of gnocchi, perfectly sauteed potatoes, a chicken terrine wrapped in its own crispy skin, a perfect chardonnay wine paring, braised short ribs, delicious sauces, roasted beef tongue, meticulous plating with delicate details, strawberry sorbet, spot-on dessert wine, frozen lemon mousse, edible flowers!… An experience like none that I’ve ever had, and a serious palate pep talk. As I continue to embark on my culinary school career, this type of eating aroused my potential and sparked an even larger fire in my soul. I am taking notes every step of the way, and becoming more open to all edible things, well, er, maybe except goat cheese! I will however, take on any challenge, should someone out there have an exceptional goat cheese to try.
My Salts dining exploration will remain at the top of my list for sometime, not only because of the experience, but because of the company I was with and the conversation that flowed throughout, much like the amazing wines :)- Thanks Jason, Rainy, and Sean