I've fallen in love with the town of Hudson, MA, which is about 45 minutes west of Boston. I drove out there for the first time in September 2015, thanks to an invitation from the owners of the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. and New City Microcreamery.
I absolutely adore both spots (which are directly across the street from each other), and now they've added a third member to the family, Less Than Greater Than.
The website reads, "Less Than Greater Than caters to diners looking to enjoy expertly crafted libations, tasty food and decadent desserts." If that sounds intriguing to you, here is how you find it: walk into New City Microcreamery, then head for the back right corner (by the bathrooms), and then look for this sign.
There is a small light switch beneath a window (that looks a bit like an oversized cuckoo clock). When you flip that switch, the host pops out to greet you - just like the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz!
We had a reservation (bless, Open Table), so the host confirmed our name, closed the window, and then re-appeared to usher us in through the door. We parted a set of thick, deep red, velvet curtains, to emerge into the top secret space.
You can't see the space from the street. In fact, the windows are staged to look like a general store. Inside, there's a real speakeasy vibe - dim lighting, huge bar, clandestine conversations.
We were seated at a table for two in the front window. Our server was awesome and came over to pour glasses of water and explain the menu.
To begin, my dinner date ordered one of the signature cocktails called the Hostage Fruits. It's a mix of tequila, lemon, serrano pepper, snap pea, Bruto Americano, Curacao and Angostura. It came served in a stunning, chilled glass.
After a few sips, she commented, "This has just the right amount of heat from the serrano pepper." Personally, I wanted to take home the glass.
We decided to share two of the appetizers, and the first to arrive was the roaster cauliflower and brussels sprouts with watercress and fried garlic.
The veggies were tossed in a dressing that was light and herbaceous. My friend described it as, "Almost a mustard-like vinaigrette." We both really loved this dish and made it disappear rather quickly.
We also ordered the burrata and asparagus, which came so beautifully plated that I actually gasped. Look at those purple radishes!
The way it's listed on the menu, it also comes with charcuterie, but we asked if we could have the meat on the side, and they were happy to make that modification.
For me, burrata is always the right choice. We were both pleasantly surprised by how tasty the asparagus was. From across the table, my friend chimed in, "Each stalk was crisped and perfectly cooked."
For the entree round, we split two dishes - the lemon herb cavatelli and the risotto. I tasted the cavatelli first, which came in the most stunning, spring-like presentation. You can tell from the minute you lay eyes on one of these dishes that absolutely everything is fresh.
The ricotta cavatelli was coated in lemon herb pesto, and topped with radish, watercress, greens, and parmesan crisps. The crisps were my favorite part. My dining buddy was underwhelmed by this one, saying "This didn't knock my socks off. I felt like it really needed more texture. Especially after the crisps sat in the bowl for a bit, they became soggy."
The risotto came and right away I disappointed. Traditional risotto is made with aborio rice and this looked like something closer to bulgur or farro.
The dish was topped with plantains, which was way too much starch.
With the dinner plates cleared, it was time to move on to the grand finale - dessert! It is worth noting that the ice cream on the other side of the door, at New City, is some of the best I've ever had. When they opened a second location in Central Square in Cambridge, my heart leaped with joy! So, I knew if we ordered one of the frozen creations, we'd be in for a treat.
At the bottom of the cocktail menu is a section called Spirits and Cream.
We had to try the Black Palmetto (vanilla ice cream, Filipino rum, Averna and chocolate cookie bits). We also selected something off the dessert menu called the Destroy All S'mores.
The ice cream came in a cocktail glass, which was totally appropriate, since it was so boozy! You have to be 21 years old to enter Less Than Greater Than, and now I know why! Holy crap that first spoonful was strong.
As far as boozy ice cream goes, I really liked that this wasn't a milkshake (which can be way too filling) and each bite had a nice crunch from the cookie pieces.
The s'mores dish was basically a giant bowl with three layers - crust on the bottom, chocolate, then torched marshmallow on top. While it may not look like much when the dish lands on the table, if you get a bite where the marshmallow is still gooey, you will be very pleased. It also tasted great combined with the ice cream!
For me, Less Than Greater Than really shines with its appetizers and desserts. If I were designing the perfect Hudson, MA itinerary, I'd start with drinks and appetizers here, head across the street to Rail Trail for dinner, then swing back over for ice cream at New City. I cannot think of a more delicious trifecta.