30 August 2007
Where: Oleana, Cambridge, MA
Who: Me, A, and our friends, Mick & Momo
A has been working crazy hours at work and sent me an email telling me not to expect him home for dinner. I was bummed, of course. He worked late the night before as well, and my plans for dinner were put off to tonight. Our garden is bursting with tomatoes, summer squash and herbs, and I had come up with a pretty good idea of what I was going to make. But I digress! Oh hell, I’ll digress. This is what the site is all about, right? OK, here’s what I was going to make: tilapia in a white wine sauce with thai basil and peppers and burst grape tomatoes. Sounds good, right? Well, we may never know. OK, back to the story. A little while after the first email I get another one with a cc from Mick. He and Momo had a babysitter for the evening and wanted to go out to dinner. They have a newborn, so this was a big treat. I gave A the tiniest of guilt trips (I can do guilt trips well), and lo and behold, he didn’t have to work late. We met in Cambridge at Mick & Momo’s house, had a couple of pre-dinner cocktails and headed out for dinner. Now, Oleanna is one of those restaurants that I have always heard fantastic things about. They are in a small space in Cambridge on Hampshire St. and have an outside courtyard! This is huge in the Boston/Cambridge area because up until a few years ago, this was a rare treat. I’ve tried on more than one occasion to make reservations, and have had no luck, and the courtyard is first come, first served. Mick mentioned that we should try it, and since we had a good back up plan, we were all game. Well, the stars aligned, because not only was there a table available in about 15 minutes, but it was outside, and, there were seats at the bar, and there was a parking space – in Cambridge – that wasn’t resident only. Can you believe?
We started off in the bar with a bottle of Proseco. A and I went to a wine tasting a while back that featured Italian wines and the presenter said that a great way to start off any evening celebration, whether it be at home entertaining guests, or at a restaurant was with a bottle of sparkling wine. We totally agree and have made it a point to do this at dinner parties we have at home. (Since I came up with my blog idea after this dinner, I do not have details on any of the wine we drank, and I’m taking food descriptions from the menu where I can. I will try to get better – I promise.) We hadn’t even finished our glasses when we were taken out to the courtyard to our table (the courtyard is pretty awesome – that’s all I’ll say).
I hadn’t had a chance to see the menu until we sat down, and it was one of the most interesting menus I’ve come across in a long time. It is like, well, here’s the description from the Web site: “the Cuisine centers on the Arabic influenced foods of the Mediterranean with a strong lean towards Turkish; the dishes are layered with flavor and unusual spice combinations.” Pretty interesting, huh? The menu is broken down into six sections with the first three geared toward the first course: Pret a Manger; Appetizers, and Grains and Greens (which are available as entrees as well). Mick was our team leader and took care of ordering the appetizers and wine. He did a fantastic job!
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc
Armenian Bean & Walnut Pâté with Homemade String Cheese
Warm Buttered Hummus with Basturma & Tomato
Sultan’s Delight; Tamarind Glazed Beef & Smokey Eggplant Puree with Pinenuts
Spinach Falafel, Tahini, Yogurt with Beets & Curly Cress
Ricotta & Bread Dumplings with Red Wine, Porcini and Kale
I can’t even begin to describe the different tastes that were presented with these choices. One of my favorite things about restaurants like this is that you really just need to put your faith in the chef. I for one couldn’t even begin to tell you what Bastuma is. It looks like bacon, but tastes sweet – like a beet. The eggplant puree was cool and mild next to the sweet, spiciness of the beef. The falafel was served with lavash bread and was fantastic. And the dumpling! Unbelievable. The Bean & Walnut pate was OK. It little dry and not a flavorful as everything else.
- Free Range Veal & Almond Dumpling—Moorish Style With Fennel Escabeche. It actually came with a cup of veal jus to pour into the dumpling. Now, my husband is a guy that can eat rich food, and even he couldn’t finish this. He loved it, but it was a lot.
- Duck Shawarma with Pickled Green Tomatoes & Green Beans with Cardamom-Rose Yogurt
River Rock Beef Shish Kebob With Zucchini Pancakes, Tomato, Carmelized Butter & Nigella Seeds.
- I ordered the special for my main course so I don’t have the full description. You can see why it is hard to describe the entrée without the full description. I know that it was delicious and that the flavors played off each other perfectly. It was cod on top a potato pancake with chorizo and a tomato-like puree on top.
The funny thing is that it was hard to try each others entrees – each of the tastes were so different that it would have been hard to just have the one bite. The portion sizes were perfect – we even saved room for dessert. And thank God for that because the desserts? Pretty awesome. Mo wanted to go to Oleana just for the baked Alaska and probably would have been happy to just order one for herself. It is actually baked – none of this torch stuff on the top. It had coconut ice cream in the center and was served with passion fruit caramel. I’m not a big coconut fan, but this just worked so well. The other dessert was the special, so the details are a little sketchy – it was almost like pistachio marzipan with pistachio ice cream and teeny, tiny little beignet (that we actually split into four pieces) and a raspberry coulis. Oh, I forgot to mention the dessert wine. We got the Moscato d’Asti, Gatti Piero. Mo was hoping it was the kind that had the little bubbles and because the stars were aligned for us, it was. It was pretty much a near perfect night.