Tuesday, August 10, 2010

T.W. Food: A Taste of Greece

So many restaurants, so little time. I have a list of places I want to dine at, especially some which have been continously receiving good reviews. So it was a pleasure to knock off one of those restaurants from my list, T.W. Food in Cambridge. And it certainly lived up to the hype.

The restaurant is owned by Tim & Bronwyn Wiechmann, and Tim has a lengthy culinary resume, from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to Ten Tables. I find their mission statement to be compelling, on multiple levels. "Our mission is to promote artisanal food and cooking. The pasta, charcuterie, sausages patisserie and ice creams are done by hand using European traditions, methods and recipes. We support many small local growers of vegetables, dairy farmers, meat farmers and cheesemakers, and take pleasure in bringing these products to you."

It is a small place, generating a homey and elegant vibe, and I would strongly recommend reservations on the weekend. It seems like an excellent place for a cozy, romantic date. I had been invited to check out a Greek wine dinner, and was accompanied by two friends and fellow writers, Dale and Jennifer. Our host for the evening was Jillian Marini, their Wine Director, who had personally selected the wines for the evening, and had also worked with the kitchen on the food to pair with the wines. Jillian was very personable and passionate about wine.

The usual Ala Carte food menu changes frequently, dependent on what is available. The menu consists of Artisanal Charcuterie ($6), Starters ($10-$17), Pasta (small $10-$11/large $20-$21), and Mains ($21-$27). You also have the option of a three-course Prix Fixe ($39) or the six-course Grand Tasting ($59). In addition, there is a Tuesday Wine Series which delivers four courses paired with wine ($49). To me, I find the prices very reasonable, especially considering the multi-course options. To be able to get artisanal food, with many local ingredients, at these prices is a good value.

The wine list is intriguing, containing many interesting and less common wines. There are about ten wines available by the glass, many bottles ranging from $25-$45, and a pricier reserve list.

Our dinner began with a small amuse bouche, some Fried Polenta with collared greens. Though I am generally not a fan of collard greens, this was a decent dish, with a nice crispness and some bright corn flavor.

The first course was Pan Seared Sea Scallops with nectarine compote, corn, and lemon balm butter. This was a superb dish, and I really think the combination of scallops and corn is a winner. The scallops were cooked properly, nicely seared, and the sweet corn was delicious. The flavors seemed very fresh and clean.

Our first wine of the evening was the 2009 Mercouri Estate "Foloi" (about $18) which is a blend of 85% Roditis & 15% Viognier, with an alcohol content of 12.5%. On the nose, the fragrant wine gave off citrus and minor floral notes. On my palate, I found a crisp, dry wine with flavors of pear and pineapple, and a bit of tartness on the finish. There were some subtle floral notes too, and I found the wine paired very well with the scallops. This is probably a wine that would pair well with other seafood dishes too. It is a wine I recommend.

Up next was an Heirloom Lettuce and Tomato Salad with a carrot vinaigrette and oyster shooter (an oyster in a carrot essence). A nice, fresh salad with a mild vinaigrette. The oyster shooter did not work as well for me, especially with our second wine. I enjoy both oysters and carrots, but the two flavors and textures just didn't seem to work.

The 2008 Gaia Estate Thalassitis (about $25) comes from the Greek island of Santorini and is made from 70-80 year old vines of Assyrtiko. The wine is made from free run juice, sees no oak, and has an alcohol content of 13%. This was a compelling white wine that was very dry with strong tastes of mineral and smoke. There were undertones of subtle fruit flavors, some pear and apple, and it had a fairly long finish. I think it would have went well with briny oysters, but the more creamy carrot essence just didn't work with the wine. A very interesting wine and it also receives my recommendation.

The main entree, Painted Hills Farm Flat Iron Steak, came in two different preparations: one with smoked potato salad, balsamic jus & basil and the second with wild chanterelles, black trumpets and sauce foie gras. The different preparations were intended to complement the two different red wines we drank with this course. I enjoyed both preparations, finding the steak tender and flavorful. The first preparation combined elements of smoke and sweet while the second was more earthy and rich. The second preparation might have been my favorite, though it was a close decision.

For the first preparation, the wine was the 2006 Argyros Estate Atlantis ($23) which also comes from Santorini. It is a blend of 90% Mandilaria & 10% Mavrotragano, was aged in French oak for 6 months, and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. This is considered a more approachable wine, and I found it to be full bodied and fruity, with rich plum and black cherry flavors. It had restrained tannins and a long finish. A pleasant steak wine and my dining companions preferred this to the second wine.

My favorite though was the wine paired to the second preparation, the 2006 Mercouri Estate Red ($22), a blend of Refosco and Mavrodaphne with an alcohol content of 13%. This wine reminded me of an aged Bordeaux, elegant and refined, with more subtle, complex flavors and aromas. It paired well with the earthier flavors of the mushrooms and was a wine to slowly savor, enjoying its complexity and nuances. At this price, I think it is an excellent value, especially if you like this style of wine, and strongly recommend it.

Dessert consisted of Artisan Cookies and Ice Cream, about four different types of cookies and three ice creams, including vanilla, sage and creme fraiche. The cookies were excellent, crisp and flavorful, while the ice creams were very creamy and tasty. My favorite was probably the creme fraiche ice cream. This was a lighter dessert so made for a nice ending to the meal.

Service was excellent and overall I was impressed with the quality of the food. I also like their philosophy, their use of local and artisanal ingredients and foods. Plus, I very much enjoyed all four of the Greek wines and I continue to heartily recommend that you try some Greek wines. These specific Greek wines should end up on the regular T.W. wine list.

I will be returning to this restaurant to try more of their dishes, and I anticipate I'll have a delicious meal once again. Check out T.W. Food and I am sure you will agree.

T.W. Food
377 Walden Street
Cambridge, MA
Phone: 617-864-4745

T.W. Food on Urbanspoon


Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I'm a big fan of T.W. Food. I love what Tim is doing there with his careful attention of detail and strong focus on local ingredients!

Greek Restaurant Owner said...

Greece in general boasts an extensive roster of popular wines that features classic wines from Nemea, Pelopponese and other famous regions in the southern part of the country. These wonderful wines feature grapes grown in salty seaside air on mountain slopes. The best Greek wines are made of different Greek grape varieties such as mavrodaphne, moschofilero, agiorgitiko, assyrtiko, moscato and xinomavro and you can sample them in restaurants like Niko’s where the management goes to the trouble of collecting the very best Greek Wines possible.
Try some greek wines westchester has.