by: Jessica Cickay
I’ve never really been much of a “taster” when it comes to eating—I’m more of a grab-it-by-your-hands, shove-it-in-your-mouth, no-evidence-left-behind kind of girl. But last Tuesday, my habits had to be honed as I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Taste of Cambridge at The Charles Hotel, and taste did I ever! I celebrated the culinary crafts of the city by taking myself on a three hour tasting street tour of over 50 restaurants along the intersection of savory and sweet.
Guilty pleasures of mine include trolling celebrity gossip websites, sneaking Mary-Kate and Ashley movies and vegging out to anything aired on Bravo. So when I saw recent Top Chef Masters contestant Jody Adams’ restaurant Rialto at the Taste of Cambridge I kind of had a moment. The celebrity chef hands down offered up my favorite taste of the night—charred sesame eggplant encased in a pita slathered with smoky red pepper sauce and decorated with walnuts and feta cheese. My first taste never tasted so good. [Ed Note: this sandwich is also part of the Mezzetta Make That Sandwich competition where Jody has the opportunity to win 10K for the Share Our Strength charity]
Melty, salty, gooey, crunchy, cheesy, crispy and chewy are not the names of this Snow White’s version of the Seven Dwarfs, but instead everything that was right about the arancini served by Amelias Trattoria. These wonderfully warmed balls of speckled green risotto housed a center of oozing mozzarella cheese that made my knees weak and my mouth oh-so happy.
Upstairs on the Square proved why they are literally situated above the rest in Cambridge with their Taste creation. A freshly griddled yellow corn cake—studded with golden corn nuggets—served as a saucer for a cloud of fresh mozzarella and mascarpone cheeses, a sweet strawberry coulis and a thin shaving of salty duck prosciutto. I took two servings and no prisoners with this taste.
A variety of Mexican restaurants took to the Taste of Cambridge stage, but the East Coast Grill bested them all with their flank steak and jicama-cabbage slaw soft taco, which was cooked to a perfect point somewhere between juicy and tender.
July fourth weekend wouldn’t be the same without corn on the cob and Grafton Street swooped in for the save with their BBQ summer corn dipped in chipotle lime butter and spotted with queso fresco.
Unfortunately, Craigie on Main didn’t become a mainstay restaurant for me with their rhubarb and hibiscus tea soup with buttermilk foam. Yes, they stayed on top of recent food trends, but to the stomach of this simple gal, they simply couldn’t top the classic yet comforting tastes from the likes of Upper Crust Pizzeria, Border Café and Whole Foods.
Basic instincts took over once I was ready for dessert—hands were flying, multiple plates were filled and my chewing became as involuntary as my breathing. Lyndell’s Bakery (believe me, they seriously brought their entire bakery with them) and their infamous half moons became both my best friend and worst enemy.
Essentially popped off cupcake-tops, these willpower waners were blanketed in down comforters of vanilla and chocolate frosting that almost made me forget to eat their strawberry cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, lemon raspberry tarts, chocolate coconut macaroons and peanut butter cookies. Almost. The man working at Lyndell’s referred to me as their “frequent flyer” of the night if you need a visual.
I laughed, I tried and I tasted my way through Cambridge at the event that gave me a more-than-worthy stomach ache and also more than 50 reasons to return!
The Taste of Cambridge was held to benefit:
CitySprouts - A non profit whose mission is to develop, implement and maintain beautiful, resource-rich school gardens in collaboration with public school communities. Integrated into the curriculum, CitySprouts gardens inspire teachers, students, and families with a deep, hands-on connection to the food cycle, sustainable agriculture, and the natural environment.
YWCA - With 106 units of single room occupancy (SRO) housing for single women and a 10-bed shelter for homeless families, the YWCA is the city’s largest residential housing provider for women. The YWCA Cambridge is a welcoming place where women of all ages and girls find safe shelter, respite and opportunities to learn and grow.