I had a super birthday dinner.Although I thought it would start with dinner - It actually started while I was still at work. Instead of cake my coworkers brought in red wine and delicious cheese and crackers. So much better than cake after a long day!
After I sobered up a bit with some coffee, Rafe and I headed to dinner at Henrietta's table in the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. I've always been curious to try Henrietta's table because of their motto of 'Fresh From the Farm and Honest to Goodness Home Cooking' - or simply 'Fresh and Honest'.
Upon arriving we were seated in a corner booth - These are my absolute favorite because Rafe and I can sit next to each other and look out onto the restaurant. It always feels so cozy to sit next to your guy on a nice night out. As we sat down we were given 3 different menus: a dinner menu, a drink menu - and a cheese menu!!
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the options at first - but decided to start with a cocktail. I love dirty martini's and bloody mary's, so the dirty bloody martini was the perfect start for me:
House infused pepper vodka, dry vermouth, clamato juice, olive juice, olives
The restaurant has a big, beautiful bar area right when you walk into the restaurant. If you are ever in Harvard Square, just browsing, I recommend just popping in for this drink...I know I'll be stopping by in the future when I'd like a midday drink! Rafe ordered his favorite Harpoon IPA.
We started perusing the cheese menu, and suddenly one of the nicest birthday presents arrived at our table: a complimentary cheese board. We were given 3 samples to try: Bijou, a pasteurized goat cheese from VT; Aly's Eclipse, another goat's milk cheese from MA; and Duet, a pairing of aged cheddar and cave aged blue fro MN. I liked tasting the two goat's milk cheeses side by side - goat's milk cheese are often so delicate that you don't get to appreciate the nuances, but side by side you could really taste how complex they were. Rafe loved the combination of the assertive cheddar with the blue - he's starting to come around on blue cheeses! All the cheeses at Henrietta's table are served with preserves, cranberry walnut melba toast, and fresh/dried fruits.
For appetizers, Rafe had the Maine Rock crab and corn chowder with smoked bacon. I had a bite and it was good - I went for a second bite....and the soup was gone - Rafe was very hungry and the soup hit the spot! Originally I was going to order the simple spinach salad as my starter...but right before we ordered, Rafe asked me what I thought the Pastrami Salmon was like....and I decided, what the heck - that does sound inventive. I'm glad I changed my mind. I love pastrami, I love smoked salmon - this was win-win. The crispy potato's were waffle-cut, crispy and salty. And I LOVED the lemony creme fraiche.
While we waited for our entrees we looked around at the space a little bit more. The interior is decorated like a nice country farm house. The hardwood floors are beautiful, and the molding on the walls and ceilings are beautiful. There are also large-print black and white photographs along the walls - some of farms and fields. The open kitchen just added to the honesty of Henrietta's kitchen - I liked being able to look up and see chef's preparing the meals for the guests.
For dinner, Rafe had the duck: house maple smoked and grilled free range duck breast, confit leg, cranberry compote, port wine reduction. I had the lamb: barbeque ale braised elysian field farms pulled lamb shank, local wilted greens, native beans, crispy ntirate free smoked bacon. We also ordered a side of 1/2 root veggies, and 1/2 roasted potatoes - both were locally grown. The flavor of Rafe's duck was great. It was tender and juicy. We both wished that the skin had been rendered a bit more, as it was pretty fatty - and what is better than crispy duck skin? The lamb was great - very rustic. All the pulled meat on a plate, topped with thick bacon, creamy beans and greens. It was very tender and comforting. I paired my meal with a delicious pinot noir - it was recommended by the waiter, and it complimented the meat very well.
We were exceptionally full after dinner. But I had heard so much about the chocolate bread pudding that I didn't care...I was ordering it. It was my day afterall (poor Rafe I know). I really liked the desert. It wasn't cloyingly sweet chocolate, but the banana's and the sauce were - so each bite I took had a nice contrast of dark chocolate, and sweet syrup...it was a great ending to a great dinner.
In addition to enjoying the food, I love that I know where my dinner came from. This is a luxury that I usually get at home since I get my produce from Boston Organics, but I was very impressed with the detail of the menu and the care that clearly went into developing the recipes. This wasn't the fanciest meal I've ever had. The food was cozy, homestyle and rustic. The atmosphere at Henrietta's table was fantastic. It was simple, good food served in an beautiful, but unpretentious space.
I plan to head back again and purchase the restaurant's cookbook "Fresh and Honest" and to enjoy Henrietta's Yard Sale. Sunday-Thursday you can order any 3 courses for $32, or any 2 courses for $25. Anyone want to join me?