Tuesday, May 26, 2015

DGA Dining: Craigie on Main

            On a recent trip to Boston, the DGA team dined at Craigie on Main, a Cambridge restaurant that blends French cuisine with seasonal New England ingredients. The dinner featured simple dishes prepared and executed at a high level, befitting Craigie’s reputation as one of the best restaurants in Boston.

            Craigie on Main and chef Tony Maws have been the recipients of numerous culinary awards.  Maws won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast in 2011. Boston Magazine also named him the Best Chef in Boston in 2008 and in 2005 Food and Wine Magazine named him “One of America’s 10 Best New Chefs.” Maws, a Newton native, has worked under Boston chef Ken Oringer and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. He has also studied modern French cuisine under Bernard Constatnin in Lyon, France.  In 2002, Maws opened his first restaurant Craigie Street Bistrot. In 2008, he closed Craigie Street Bistrot and opened Craigie on Main in its present home. Since moving to its new location, the restaurant has won awards from Boston Magazine, GQ, Food and Wine, Bon Appétit, and other national publications.  In late 2013, he opened his second restaurant, Kirkland Tap & Trotter in nearby Sommerville.

Tony Maws
Chef Tony Maws

            The team eschewed the tasting menu in favor of individual appetizers and entrees. Below are some of the highlights.


Six Wiley Point Oysters
Meyer lemon vinaigrette
            The oysters were light and delicate and paired nicely with the bottle of white wine that Doug had ordered for the table.

Crispy-Fried Pig’s Tails
pickled peanuts, nuoc cham, cilantro
            The pig tails were crispy on the outside and fatty and soft on the inside. It seemed like they were cooked slow and low for hours to render out the fat and then dropped quickly in the fryer before being served. Nuoc cham

Ragoût of New Jersey Asparagus
chicken confit, pickled ramps, mustard seeds, farm fresh egg
            A ragout is traditionally a slow cooked dish cooked over low heat. Primarily ragouts feature meats, but in this case, the asparagus was the star of the dish.

Whole Wheat Conchiglie Pasta
boudin noir ragoût, ramps, Parmigiano Reggiano
            While this basic whole wheat pasta dish seemed simple, it was incredibly complex in flavor.

The Restaurant's logo tells you what it's all about 


Olive Oil-Poached Scottish Sea Trout
razor clams, couscous, artichoke barigoule, za’atar, fennel purée
            Benson ordered this trout dish that came out of the kitchen colored a deep orange, almost like salmon. It had been slow cooked for forty minutes and infused (via air) with spices. Benson liked it so much, he shared a bite of it with Doug.

Vermont Pork Three Ways: Spice-Crusted Rib, Slow-Cooked Belly and Roasted Loin
Morel mushrooms, white asparagus, cashew mustard, claytonia
            This was the most popular dish at the table and for good reason. It featured three different parts of the pig. The Spice crusted rib had the best combination of flavor and texture. It was crispy (having been fried) on the outside and the meat fell off the bone. The loin was perfectly cooked and the belly, the part of the pig used to make bacon, was rich and delicious.

Craigie on Main features on open kitchen


Chocolate Foie Gras Pot de Crème
barley ice cream, crispy oat crumbs, foie gras torchon
            The desserts at Craigie on Main blended traditional desserts with savory ingredients—hence a pot de crème and foie gras. The pot de crème, a custard-like dessert, tasted of chocolate, but was not sugary. Additionally it had a barley ice cream, making it another item that no one at the table had ever seen before.

Malted Milkshake
white asparagus ice cream, rhubarb chantilly, spiced cookies
            Doug was not a fan of white asparagus ice cream. 

            Overall, Craigie on Main was a restaurant that offered simple presentations, bold flavors, and challenged our palates. So if that kind of dining experience appeals to you, go eat there. We recommend it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

True Detective

            On True Detective, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), an alcohol riddled ex-detective, likes to muse about the nature of existence. Borrowing from Nietzsche, he explains that “Time is a flat circle.” Cohle believes that people and their lives repeat on an infinite loop. As the series nears it conclusion, Cohle stresses to his ex-partner, Marty Harris (Woody Harelson) of his need to complete the loop—solving a seventeen year old murder case that has defined his and Harris’s careers.  In exploring this idea, known as “eternal return,” True Detective raises questions about identity. The contrasting characters of Cohle and Harris and its setting in rural Louisiana allow showrunner Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga to investigate these philosophical questions.

HBO's latest Great Drama 

            Rust Cohle differs from the typical Matthew McConaughey role. In Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey’s undeniable charm and charisma won over audiences and Oscar voters. In True Detective, he dominates the screen with an understated delivery of Cohle’s philosophical monologues. He lures in, rather than bludgeons, the audience with his performance. Additionally McConaughey’s trademark handsomeness is largely absent. Cohle’s nickname, “The Tax Man,” reveals his character and identity. Cohle never hides who he is. He studies his giant case ledger, mediates upon it, and sketches the world around him. Cohle is certain in his beliefs, denigrating organized religion and most conventions of human behavior. This leads to conflict with Harris almost immediately when the two investigate the murder of a young prostitute in rural Louisiana. Pizzolatto provides Cohle a tragic history, mainly the death of his daughter and dissolution of his marriage. The trauma in Cohle’s life doesn’t dismiss or diminish his beliefs, rather it helps explain him. Ultimately, his abrasiveness, determination, and philosophical beliefs drive the plot of the series.
            Harrelson’s Marty Harris is very much the opposite of Cohle. Harris constructed his identity out of contradicting words and actions. He shrouds his hypocrisies in masculine platitudes about family, children, and work. After the revelation of his affair with a younger women, Harris blames his mistress. He lies to his family, his partner, and ultimately himself. These lies weigh down Harris until it boils over at inopportune moments, including after an encounter with his mistress’s new boyfriend. Harrelson displays this internal tension through Harris’s jaw. The perpetually clenched jaw seems ready to shatter Harris’s head in a million pieces at any moment. Harris’s entire life is a performance. In front of his daughters, he acts as a father should without ever actually raising his children. At the end of series, he admits he hasn’t seen them in two years. As a cop, Harris carries himself with authority and conviction and tries (and fails) to hide his true feelings and hypocrisies. By the end of the series, he finally breaks down in tears in front of his family, offering a glimpse of the damaged man inside.

Partners: Harris and Cohle.
            Writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga also used the rural setting of Louisiana to explore these questions of identity. Over the course of the series, from 1995-2012, they show the ever changing nature of Louisiana’s coastline. The bayous and swamps hide evidence. This poor, rural, and neglected area allows crime to flourish. As Cohle notes, children can disappear into the bayou and no one in New Orleans or Baton Rouge will ever notice. The perpetrators of the murders that Cohle and Harris investigate wear masks and hide their true identities. They dwell on the margins, reveling in shifting Cajun and Vodun traditions, where identities come and go. By relying solely on Pizzolatto and Fukunaga, True Detective also maintains a consistency of voice and visuals. Pizzolatto’s writing delves deeply into the contrasting characters of Cohle and Harris, their differing characters evident in their widely different names. Fukunaga provides the show a visual language. He explores Cohle’s drug riddled past, the expansive and emptiness of rural Louisiana, and the unrelenting interviews of Harris and Cohle. He also offers something extraordinary, a six minute long tracking shot that ends episode four, Who Goes There, that can’t be captured in words.

            Ultimately True Detective begins as murder investigation and offers a philosophical investigation into humanity and who we are.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

DGA Dining: Quiessence

            Trial consultants spend a lot of time on the road. They learn the difference between clean hotels and dirty ones, favorable and unfavorable trial venues, and perhaps most importantly between good food and bad. While working on a case in Arizona a few years ago, the DGA team ate at Quiessence, a farm to table restaurant in Phoenix. Jamie remembered it as one of the best meals that the team ever had. Recently, Jamie and her husband Ryan had the chance to eat there again and are happy to report that the food continues to be outstanding.

            Quiessence specializes in American style cuisine using locally sourced produce and meat. Its wine menu boasts selections from local Arizona wineries. The restaurant features a rustic menu, focusing on simple presentations that allow the ingredients to shine through. Quiessence is located at The Farm at South Mountain, a ten acre working farm where much of the produce used at the restaurant is grown. The Farm hosts three restaurants, an event space, gardens, and several retail locations. Quiessence is one of three restaurants located on the property. It is also home to the Morning Glory Café, serving breakfast and brunch. The Farm Kitchen caters to the lunch crowd with a menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads.

            On their recent trip, Jamie and Ryan partook in the six course tasting menu.

 First Course: Charcuterie
            A charcuterie plate is a collection of cooked, cured, or otherwise preserved meats, primarily pork, but also lamb and beef. A charcuterie plate generally features fresh made sausages, pâtés, and other forcemeats (meats that have been ground up and used as a stuffing).

Second and Third Courses: Sweet Potato Soup and Farm Fresh Vegetable Salad
            The second course was a simple, yet delicious sweet potato soup. The third featured simply presented, but flavorful vegetable salad.

Fourth Course: Duck Confit Gnocchi
            This was Ryan and Jamie’s favorite dish by far. Duck confit is a preparation of duck leg where the leg is rubbed with salt, pepper, and herbs and left refrigerated for 36 hours. The salt and spices preserve the quality of the meat. After 36 hours, the spices are removed and you cook the duck leg in fat at low heat (170-275 degrees) for at least four hours, but generally longer. By then the meat and fat are separated, leaving behind a deliciously juicy and tender duck. Gnocchi meanwhile are a firm pasta made from riced potatoes and held together with flour.

Duck Confit Gnocchi 

 Fifth Course: Lamb (Jamie) – NY Strip (Ryan)
            Here Jamie and Ryan diverged on their entrée choices, but both agree that this was their second favorite course.

Sixth Course: Chocolate Hazelnut Pie (Jamie) – Bread Pudding (Ryan)
            The chocolate hazelnut pie featured hazelnut ice cream, a strawberry coulis (a thickened fruit sauce), and edible flowers. The bread pudding featured vanilla ice cream, cherries, dried cranberries, almonds, and a Dulce de leche (a liquid combination of milk and sugar) caramel.

Wine: Because of their early flight the next morning, Jamie and Ryan eschewed the wine pairing and instead split a bottle of wine. They ordered a red blend consisting of a Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot  from the Ancient Peaks Winery. The mix of these full bodied wines matched well with the entrees and Duck confit gnocchi. 

Never forget the wine. 
             Overall, Quiessence lived up to its promise of simple and delicious farm to table cuisine. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Saints Draft Recap

            As promised from last week, we’re back to recap the Saints 2015 draft. The Saints entered the draft armed with 9 picks, their most since 2002. In an effort to rebound from the disappointment of last season, Saints GM Mickey Loomis aggressively retooled his roster in the offseason. Loomis shipped offensive mainstays Jimmy Graham, Ben Grubbs and Kenny Stills and a 4th round pick out of town. In return, he got the 31st pick in the draft, the 78th pick, the 154th pick, center Max Unger, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Now let’s see what he did with them.  

Pick- Round-Overall Pick
Andrus Peat
Stephone Anthony
Hau’Oli Kikaha
Garrett Grayson
P.J. Williams
Davis Tull
Tyeler Davison
Damian Swann
Marcus Murphy

Last week, we discussed five areas of need for the Saints: nose tackle, cornerback, linebacker, interior offensive line, and wide receiver. The team spent six of its nine picks on defenders. The Saints aggressively targeted three of these areas. Since it is the top 4 or 5 players who will likely determine the success or failure of the Saints draft, let’s start there.   

1-13: Andrus Peat, offensive tackle: With the departure of Ben Grubbs and with aging starters elsewhere on the offensive line, Peat represents a much needed infusion of youth. Listed as a tackle, Peat will compete with Zach Strief and Terron Armstead to start on one of the two tackle spots. It’s hard to argue with this pick.

1-31: Stephone Anthony, inside linebacker: The Saints linebacking corps desperately needed a boost and Anthony should provide help as an inside run blocker. The Saints finished last in the league against the run according to DVOA last season. This was a solid although not spectacular pick. The Saints had an opportunity to bolster their interior defensive line by taking Malcolm Brown, a 330 lb run stopper from Texas (who went to the Patriots at 32). The Saints addressed defensive tackle later in the draft, but Teyler Davison is more a developmental pick than someone who can come in and start Week 1. The pick of Anthony over Brown suggests that the Saints are satisfied with their current tackles Broderick Bunkley and John Jenkins.

Hau'Oli Kikaha will be lining up for the Saints next year 

2-44: Hau’Oli Kikaha, outside linebacker: Kikaha provides the Saints with another outside rusher capable of sacking the quarterback. Kikaha had 19 sacks at the University of Washington last season. He will line up opposite of Junior Galette and should improve the Saints pass rush that finished 26th in adjusted sack rate last season accounting for only 34 sacks.

3-75: Garret Grayson, quarterback: Here’s where things start getting interesting for the Saints. In an offseason where GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton stressed the need to rebuild the defense and expressed faith in their ability to retool the offense on the fly (both of which are very reasonable assumptions), why take a quarterback in the 3rd round? Especially in a draft widely considered devoid of quarterback talent. Drew Brees has two years left on his contract and if the Saints want to avoid an onerous cap hit, they will likely extend him after next offseason. While his play declined slightly last season, much of that was attributable to bad offense line play and the Saints constantly playing from behind. If the goal is to reinvigorate the defense, why use two of the top four picks on offense?

            The Grayson pick pivots into something that we discussed last week. The ability of the Saints to parlay their nine picks into an asset for next year’s draft. Picking 75th and then 78th provided them a great opportunity to trade down and accumulate more picks or acquire extra picks in 2016. Instead the Saints traded into the back end of the 5th round, trading a 6th round pick this year and next year to move up. It would have been better to turn these nine picks into more options for next season not fewer.  

The Saints had a good draft. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to develop those draft picks into good players. If they do, the Saints could find themselves Super Bowl contenders once again.