Mr. E headed back home after a week long frenzy of travel. Friday evening, I picked him up from Logan and we we made our way to Harvard Square. Neither of us went to Harvard, but the area is practically a hallowed ground of some of our happiest moments. We had our first date at Cambridge 1 many moons ago. Mr. E also proposed to me in Harvard Square in a scenario quite similar to this past Friday. I’d returned from a work trip and we were going to have a late dinner at Cambridge 1, that sneaky guy. Before we arrived at the gates of the holy slices, Mr. E got down on one knee and popped the question. I said yes and we went on our merry way, splitting a pie and sharing some old and new laughs like we’d done for years.
This past Friday, we ate a late dinner at Alden & Harlow. I’ve realized under no normal circumstances have I ever eaten at Alden & Harlow. It’s always after picking someone up from the airport at odd hours that I can manage to get in. I’ve tried a few times walking in with no reservation on a Saturday night only to have the hosts smugly tell me it’s a 1.5 hour wait. Yeah cool, thanks guys.
Your best bet is to go late, bee line straight past the host stand and grab seats at the bar. Do not make eye contact, just keep walking with conviction until those damn seats are yours.
Once seated, we were greeted by Dan, our friendly bartender who was happy to prepare “whatever!”. I had a wonderful gin cocktail and a mezcal cocktail to follow. Mr. E had two awesome tiki inspired mocktails. Dan was kind enough to breakdown the ingredients of both the cocktail and the mocktail to me and Mr. E, which is something I respect in a bartender. We’ve had experiences where bartenders will just throw the mocktail down on the bar without a second thought and not bother explaining what they just mixed together.
We ordered and the kitchen sent over a few extra treats —
Black Bass Crudo Popcorn Crema, Basil, Lime & Calabrian Chili – Mr. E and I agreed this didn’t stand out all that much. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I normally love Calabrian chili, but we must have gotten a pretty mild bunch on our plate. I wanted more acidity and brightness. The crema and the actual popcorn threw me off. Also, the texture of the popcorn after sitting on the wet fish wasn’t for me.
Charred Broccoli Butternut Squash Hummus, Bianco Sardo & Cashew – Incredible flavor on the charred broccoli. It’s definitely one of my tried and true dishes. It’s really well balanced and the charred smokiness, while prominent, does not completely dominate the other flavors of the dish. This is the one dish I suggest to both vegetarians and meat eaters alike when I direct them to Alden.
Chicken Liver Pate Grilled Radish, Basil Oil, Salt & Vinegar Chicken Skins – Favorite dish. If you like chicken liver, you have to get this. Plus, salt and vinegar chicken skins??? Are you kidding me? Loved this.
Pickled Verrill Farm Corn Pancakes Buttermilk, Maple, Shishito – Again with the popcorn. Not following this trend? The pancakes were really delicious, but I’ve had a version at Coppa that I like better. That said, it’s still worth ordering.
Blistered Cherry Tomato Toast Burrata, Garlic Chips, Tomato Leaf Vinaigrette – Fun extra from the kitchen. It was a nice way to get the sweetness of summer while tomatoes are still in season.
Eggplant a la Plancha Smoked Peanuts & Tahini, Ricotta Salata, Jalapeno Seeds – The eggplant was halved lengthwise and dolled up with the works. It was a very hearty dish that made me just sit back in my chair and say, “aaahhh.” The intensity and crunchy texture of the smoked peanuts with the mild nuttiness of the tahini and the meatiness of the eggplant was really pleasant.
Blistered Shishitos Grilled Haloumi, Pickled Eggplant, Spicy Honey & Sunflower Vin – Another extra from the kitchen. Can’t say no to shishitos. The combination of salty, sweet, acidic was nice on this dish. It was impossible to stop nibbling on these guys even after feeling ridiculously full from the entire meal.
Overall, the meal was solid. The bartenders and the chef garde manger were all so friendly. Never once did I get a look of judgment for whipping out my new toy and snapping close to 10 photos of every dish. They were fun, informative, and really enhanced our experience. As we were leaving, Dan bid us adieu and told us to come back soon, which we will definitely be taking him up on that offer.
Alden & Harlow
40 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138