The Main Ingredient
Dec 08, 2010 07:48PM ● Published by Anonymous
The Café has undergone a few cosmetic changes since our last visit, including new hardwood floors and light blue paint to the walls, which highlights the restaurant’s cozy booths. Displays of paintings from local artists, which are for sale, accentuate the walls. The place is as friendly as ever and just as busy as we remember.
A very noticeable change is the Main Ingredient’s menu. It is more adventurous, but still satisfying in every way. So with a tad of excitement, we let the longtime leader in the kitchen, Chef Geoff Williams, take us for a culinary ride.
We started with a cup of Apple Curry Crab soup ($4), a distinctive version of crab soup. It was rich and entertaining with gentle bites of apples forefronting the wonderful marriage of crab and curry.
Our second courses consisted of Crispy Oysters ($12) and a Hummus Plate ($8). Gently coated in a cornmeal crust and delicately fried, the oysters were delicious. They were accompanied by wilted garlic spinach and laced with a sweet corn broth and tomato coulis. The hummus plate was fun to eat. A well-prepared hummus itself, it was served with a combination of richly flavored roasted red pepper tapenade, cucumber tomato feta cheese, and Kalamata olive salad, plus a tasty, generous side of pan-seared flatbreads.
A palate cleanser was in order, so two refreshing salads were ordered. Celia settled on a classic Caesar Salad, rightly prepared with fresh crisp romaine lettuce, while I decided on an excellent Café Salad, a blend of mixed greens tossed with gorgonzola cheese and candied pecan nuts, all in a light maple champagne vinaigrette.
As for the centerpieces of the meal, we were spoiled. The entrees were very generous—so much so, we were not able to finish them. The Seafood Puttanesca ($23) came as pan-seared fresh scallops, shrimp, and fresh fish laced in a sun-dried tomato, capers, and white wine sauce, garnished with Kalamata olives, wilted garlic spinach, and a fried-tomato polenta. It was, perhaps, slightly on the acidic side, but nevertheless very scrumptious. The very interestingly described “Tuscan Cassoulet” ($18) was our second selection. Being French and quite traditional when it comes to such terms, it definitely grabbed my attention. I meticulously picked through the bounties of this dish, and I was able to appreciate the nice blend of sautéed Prosciutto ham, chicken, and Italian sausages with onions and garlic, combined with Cannelloni beans, all laced in a white wine and sun-dried tomato sauce.
The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round earthenware pot with slanting sides. It is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck, and sometimes lamb), pork skin, and white haricot beans. Numerous regional variations exist, the best-known being the Cassoulet from Castelnaudary, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Cassoulet”—a designation with which I must concur—as well as Toulouse and Carcassonne. The Main Ingredient’s variation was quite audacious, but I admit, they passed muster.
I am sure you will be surprised by this, but for once, we did not have dessert. Instead, we checked out the beautiful display where everything looked scrumptious and listened to a table nearby raving about their chocolate mousse pie and a mocha cheesecake.
Celia sipped on a wonderful glass of 1919 Argentinean Malbec ($8). The wine list is on the short side, but with nice various selections and well priced. The wine list is very appropriate with the style and compatible with the menu.
The friendly staff, our sever Cameron in particular, and Nikky, the manager, for her hospitality, deserve big thanks for our great, casual evening out!
The Main Ingredient
914 Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis
7:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
7:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
$4–15 salads, $8–12 appetizers, $15–21 entrees, $8–16 café fares, $6–11 wines by the glass