Walk down an alley in Somerville’s Union Square, open the door and you’ll find something unexpected. In contrast to the blacktop and bars sits Field & Vine. When you enter, you are transported from the city to the countryside, with plants, wood, and lights that call to mind a fairy house more than an urban restaurant. It’s a wonderful space to spend a couple of hours relaxing with a few glasses of wine and a variety of shared plates.
We visited on October 7, a Friday night. It was not too busy upon arrival but filled up as the night went on. The website, reservation system, and door remind you that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is required, but we were never asked for it. And from our seats near the door, we never noticed anyone else being asked either.
We started with a glass of the Fun Fizz of the Day, a rotating, uncommon glass of bubbly that was quite good. While sipping, we reviewed the menu. Everything is made to share, and they recommended six courses for two people, which was more than plenty, add to that the desserts, and we were very full by the time we left.
The first dish to arrive was the beef tartare. It was dressed with Nuoc Cham Aioli, fried shallots, peanuts, and herbs. Nuoc Cham is delicious because it is light and acidic. It’s basically the opposite of aioli. And peanuts? My wife put it best when she said, I now know that hamburgers and peanut butter don’t go together. The potato chips were excellent, and I liked the shallots and the fresh herbs, but this dish is a hard pass for me.
Next out was the grilled squash blossoms. They were stuffed with a shrimp mousseline, that was more like a shrimp sausage. It was good but over powered the delicate squash blossoms. We ordered a bottle of Blaufränkisch, an Austrian red wine, and unexpectedly it paired beautifully with the shrimp.
Before we finished the squash blossoms, the cheddar cornbread arrived. Excellent cornbread. It was served with spicy pickled vegetables and miso butter. It felt a little out of place with the first two courses, but I liked it so much I didn’t care.
The next three courses were outstanding. First came crispy new potatoes with a generous amount of garlicky sauce and pickled red onions. My wife swears this was the best thing we ate, and she should know because I think I got like one of them.
I got my revenge on the next course, a tender and juicy cut of bone-in Berkshire pork. Topped with celery root, served with a basil applesauce, and grilled on a wood burning stove, it was delicious. I did share it with her, but once we got down to the bone, it was all mine. I’d trade some potatoes for a bone any day.
The final savory course was duck breast. Cooked to a beautiful medium-rare, it was served with cauliflower puree and a vinegar slaw that included grapes, lovage, and ginger. It too was excellent.
Dessert was a disappointment. I got the Almond Cake with creme anglaise and sweet pickled rhubarb. It was dry, flavorless, and not sweet enough. My wife got the Carolina Gold Rice Pudding, which I decided not to try, but she didn’t even eat half of it before declaring it no good. We did stop at Littleburg and get vegan chocolate chip cookies on the way back down the alley. They were awesome, so skip dessert at Field & Vine get yourself a cookie.
This wasn’t my first trip to Field & Vine. I had a birthday dinner last year and really enjoyed it. On both visits, they did wonderful things with roasted meat. The pork and duck were both outstanding. I also really enjoyed the cornbread, and the potatoes supposedly were out of this world. Other dishes, like dessert and the tartare missed the mark.
It wasn’t cheap. The total bill came to a little over $400, though that did include the tip. This actually might be the thing that keeps me from going back. They included a 20% tip and a kitchen fee automatically. Ok fine. I can get over that, but really at that point just eliminate tipping and factor it into the cost. But what bothered me more than a little was that they didn’t tell me when they brought the check. If not for a warning from my wife, I would have paid an extra 20%. I wonder how many people have not realizing it.
Of all the Hall of Famers we have visited so far, Field & Vine is at the bottom. Don’t misunderstand. It is good, it just doesn’t live up to the other places on the list. There were misses and we really haven’t experienced much of that at the other stops. Plus, and this isn’t their fault, but I hate trying to park in Union Square.