Friday, May 13, 2011

American Craft: At the Crossroads of Food and Beer

This review originally published May 12, 2011 at The Brookline Patch


Beer: it's not just for co-eds anymore.

The craft beer movement of recent years, which has reminded all of us that the right beer can enhance good food in the same fashion previously limited to fine wine, has instigated a wave of gastropubs like American Craft on Beacon Street. Here, the dark wood, the brick-red wallpaper, the exposed pipes, and the saloon-style chandeliers tread the line between pub and modern restaurant. Even as IDs are checked at the door and we overhear smattered cheering for the Celtics-Miami Heat game on the TVs located throughout, we sit down to a creative, well-prepared meal accompanied by a large selection of American-made wines, spirits, and most importantly, craft beers.


We started outwhere else?at the bar, where Tom, barkeep to the adventurous, narrowed down our indecisive beer preferences and let us sample before we committed. We ended up with a clean-tasting Allagash Confluence ($8), and the sage-infused Stillwater Cellar Door ($8). Beers like these alongside a platter of thick-cut chive fries and luscious, addictive bleu cheese dip is a chic incarnation of the age-old beer-potato snack combo.

The excellent service continued at the table, where our server Steven happily discoursed about Belgian brewing techniques and, at our request, made careful beer recommendations based on our dishes.  He’s right at home in this restaurant that cares deeply about the crossroads of food and beer.

Duck Two Ways ($22), with a dry-rubbed breast of duck and a confit leg, was a journey through the taste-texture continuum: the crackle of the skin on the leg that encased shreds of meltingly tender duck, the spicy broccoli rabe that still retained a bit of its inherent bitterness, the sweetness of the cherries against the tender duck breast, the natural tang of the roasted yellow potatoes.  Pair the duck with a Pretty Things Baby Tree ($5.75), a smooth, dark marriage of sweet and bitter that highlights the plate’s different flavors.

The Pan Seared Salmon ($18) suffered from an oversalted crust, though the blandness of the accompanying truffle risotto cake cut the salt somewhat.  Pea tendrils and spinach in a delicate saffron cream sauce lent a seasonal spring flair to the dish.  A natural pairing here is the Pretty Things Jack D’or ($5.75), a gentle beer that emphasizes flavor without masking the elegance of the sauce.
Chicken Confit Sandwich
Crab Cake Sandwich
Sandwiches, like the Crab Cake Sandwich ($12) featuring sweet Maine crab and a Dijon aioli, are all served on Hi-Rise Bakery breads with fries or fresh mixed greens.  Try a classic like the Rueben on rye, or a more adventurous pick: the Chicken Confit Sandwich ($12), a clutter of chicken thigh confit and crackly skin, with applewood smoked bacon and sweet red onion jam.  And, of course, there’s the burger in various forms (beef, turkey, veggie), with time-honored toppings as well as unusual choices like garlicky greens, pea shoots, whipped potato, or truffle butter.  The house recommends pairing your burger with a Dogfish Head brew adventurously named Hellhound on my Ale.  How could you resist?
Yes, vegetarians, there are options for you here: appetizers of zucchini fritters with a buttermilk sauce ($8) and Butternut Squash Risotto ($9); bowls of soup and entrée salads; vegetable cannelloni in a tomato and basil cream sauce ($14); the aforementioned veggie burger ($9).
At my count, there are 62 beers on American Craft’s menu.  With four already checked off my list, I guess I’ll be back, oh, about 58 more times.
American Craft is open Monday-Wednesday 5pm to 12am (kitchen serves until 10pm); Thursday-Friday 5pm to 2am (kitchen serves until 11pm); Saturday 4pm-2am (kitchen serves until 11pm); Sunday 4pm to 12am (kitchen serves until 10pm).  1700 Beacon Street.  MBTA: Green Line (C) to Tappan Street.  For reservations, call 617.487.4290.

1 comment:

  1. Being a summer beer drinker, this intrigues me. Bring special beer when we meet is going to be my new motto.
    G Tep

    ReplyDelete