Monday, January 18, 2010

Six meals in Boston

Wha... where'd my January go? I meant to take a week or two off for the holidays. Then I got really sick (no disease named after me, though). Then I got mailed to a suburb of Boston on a business trip. Holy crap! I feel like I haven't cooked anything in a million years and probably all my 23 readers have left for sexier food blogs.

Readers! Come back! I miss you, too. Here: as a gesture of my good intentions, I will give you a little food porn tour of Boston. I went with a colleague, Kurt; my lovely consort, Beth, flew in later for funsies. Kurt and I worked all day and then, by night, explored Boston as much as we could. The two characters in the pictures are Ruby Mae Owl and Fred, Beth's and my respective finger puppet alter egos.

Meal #1: Legal Sea Foods

A steamed lobster met its end in my belly at this regional fine dining chain. The whole lobster came with the requisite drawn butter; also with sides of garlic mashies and spicy seaweed salad. Mr. Lobster (pretty sure it was a mister; I found no coral) was preceded in death by a bowl of creamy potato-studded clam chowder. Wicked ahhhsome.

Meal #2: Ye Olde Union Oyster House

Established in 1826, this oldest restaurant in America has the dark, cramped dining space and insanely plumbed, drafty bathrooms to prove it. Not that I'm complaining; I live in a (much younger, yet still) old building myself, and I find the scale perfectly human and dottily charming. Our barman served us Harpoon beer and chatted us up in a fantastic Boston accent. There was a Ben Franklin impersonator drinking at the end of the bar. When we were seated, our waitress mothered us like a hen. The menu was large and impossible to winnow, as there didn't appear to be a bad or boring dish on the list.

I decided on a plate of fried clams that came with buttered boiled potatoes. My two companions had scallops with pasta Alfredo and lobster ravioli in cream sauce.

Odd as it seems to me now, it did not occur to any of us to order oysters.

Meal #3: Amarin of Thailand

The next day, Kurt flew home. Beth and I were staying for another two days. We did not feel like venturing downtown this night, and Beth had found a Thai restaurant on her way to the local Starbucks that morning.

Amarin was a lovely change of pace from the seafood. They had fresh, flavorful, spicy, and inexpensive dishes like this beef with holy basil. The restaurant was filled with Thai paintings, prints, carvings, and sculptures. I felt disloyal to Minneapolis, home of so many exemplary Thai places, for enjoying it so much.

Meal #4: ArtĂș

My professional obligations concluded by Friday early afternoon, leaving some daylight hours for exploring Boston's neighborhoods. In Beacon Hill, we found this small Italian restaurant. I had the "Preferito" panini: huge leaves of prosciutto nestled into provolone-lined Italian rolls and filled with thin-sliced eggplant marinated in olive oil, white wine vinegar, red pepper, basil, parsley, and oregano. Mmmm, mangiamo!

On our way out of Beacon Hill, we stumbled across Cheers across from Boston Commons. It was a great TV show, but we are over it. We satisfied ourselves with a picture.

Meal #5: Cafe Jaffa

Cafe Jaffa is a Middle Eastern restaurant. And yet they had cabbage rolls, a favorite dish of my late Croatian grandfather. I guess Croatia clings to the Near East by its fingernails. Whatever. Jaffa made a fine version of this comfort food from my childhood.

Meal #6: La Summa

And that about sizes it up: La Summa (roughly, "Everything" or "All That" or "It" as in "that's it") was all that, that's it, everything I wanted for lunch. The space was elegant. The food was sublime. The prices were absurdly low, especially considering the neighborhood (North End, historic/expensive).

I had this dish of house-made fresh penne with generous hunks of ham, sun-dried tomato, and spinach in a rich cream sauce with a sprinkling of chopped basil. Che bella.

On our post-prandial stroll, we passed (but did not enter) the Parker House, birthplace of the Parker House roll and Boston cream pie.

And then it was time to fly back to Minneapolis! I'm happy to be home, grateful to be well, and looking forward to cooking my own food this week.

Welcome back to my blog, and thank you for reading!