Last night Tony Maws' Central Square restaurant Craige on Main hosted its second annual "The Road Less Traveled" dinner, a tasting menu showcasing unusual ingredients (literally) guaranteed to send patrons scrambling for their google machines. On a normal night, Craigie's menu is still fairly adventurous, with its pig head for two, pig tails, wild mushrooms and non-wheat pasta (perhaps the riskiest of them all). Maws has long been a stalwart of the offal/charcuterie movement, but last night's event was a peek into the chef's freakier side, with dishes like cod milt brandade, monkfish liver brochettes, oxtail pastrami, cocks combs, and striped bass head and tail.
The event provides a glimpse into what trends may lie beyond offal and charcuterie, which of course won't last forever and are already becoming something of a cliche, no matter how appetizing and holistic they might be. Take for instance Maws' house-made plankton "creste di galli," an oceanic-tasting emerald green batch of noodles served with the aforementioned cocks combs plus sea urchin and guanciale. To make the noodles, Maws adds dried, powdered plankton to the dough. Not only does it one-up nose-to-tail; it also sounds a little bit like something we might be forced to eat if we screw up sustainable seafood.
Wine pairings were equally left field, as in a Ribolla Gialla (the varietal) Lunar Movia: a cloudy, Tang-colored wine from Brda, Slovenia. While the event might run the risk of seeming gimmicky, or too similar to Monty Python's parody of Roman dining ("larks' tongues, jaguars' earlobes, wolf nipple chips..."), Maws' treatment of the oddball ingredients was almost understated. Totally absent was the machismo of extreme eating events like, say, East Coast Grill's Hell Night. In his own words: "Both the food and wine showed that the unusual and less-common can also be delicious - and not because they're simply different, but because they're simply delicious."
The chef seemed particularly pleased with how things were going as he talked up diners, explaining this and that. If nothing else, it was a chance to hear the phrase "duck testicles" bandied about it with abandon.
Disclosure: our admission to this event was provided by the organizers.