Monday, December 28, 2009
Food Field Trip: An Ode to Boston Tidbits and Treats
We spent the weekend after Christmas with one of my best friends: the city of Boston. Boston to me is like New York is to Carrie Bradshaw. I seem to just fit in Beantown. I never tire of the old cobblestone streets, the Beacon Hill brownstones, the sense of history and timelessness, its provincialism, and of course, the food. The weather is another story entirely!
Boston is quaint and walkable, with intimate small dining spaces that exude charm and warmth, and is home to some notable chefs. While I do like living in Washington, DC, it's big, loud, home to many who take themselves--and their work--far, far too seriously, and much of the city and its environs (albeit with some exceptions) is newer. So I enjoy savoring the sounds, sights, and flavors of Boston when I am able to get up there.
Here are some of the spots, old and new, that we were able to hit up this weekend:
First off, one of my favorite everyday lunches can be had for the bargain price of $5.50 ($7.00 with the addition of a Diet Coke). I discovered Anna's Taqueria about twelve year's ago thanks to a friend who was attending B.U., and I have not found a better burrito or anything close since. It has to do with the quality of the cheese and the way it is steamed into a thin tortilla, the skill in which it is wrapped, the savory rice, and of course the fillings.
I am slightly obsessed with this local chain, which now boasts five locations in and around Boston, all around college campuses. I think Anna's sustained me through graduate school and even now, I cannot imagine a better lunch. I actually prefer the vegetarian burrito, which includes fresh chopped grilled vegetables--carrots, three types of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, squash, and corn. Couple this with the rice, a mix of black and pinto beans, searing hot sauce and hot peppers, and finally sour cream and guacamole and you have achieved burrito nirvana. The quesadillas are also quite good and B really enjoys the chicken and carnitas burritos.
After this completely satisfying lunch, we were walking down Newbury Street on an exceptionally warm December Day, when B swears he catches a glance of someone drinking out of a coffee cup with the Wired Puppy logo. This funky coffee shop was a morning go-to spot in Provincetown, another favorite location of ours. I of course thought B was imagining things, but he was convinced. So we did what all good urban tourists do when they have not yet given into the iPhone craze: we popped into the Apple Store to look it up. And while the Wired Puppy website was not updated to reflect the address of its new location in Boston, Yelp was.
B was psyched. We headed back to Newbury Street, where the shop occupied the lower level of a brownstone. The interior was nice, with old brick walls and archways with Provincetown-style funk, including some modern interior touches and cool music. Plus there was plenty of seating--a rarity for a coffee shop on this street.
Now while I have never liked the taste of coffee, B goes to extraordinary lengths (and expense) at home and abroad to track down purveyors of the perfect beans and brew. He thought Wired Puppy coffee was the best he had ever drunk in Boston. I did however enjoy a chilled sparkling water for only $2, which is a relative bargain on Newbury St.
Our last stop of the day before dinner (blog entry coming soon) was the Parker House. Full disclosure: we had our wedding reception here, partly because of its history and culinary reputation. Not only was it the birthplace of the Parker House roll and Boston cream pie, but did you know its restaurant once employed some now-notable personalities, including a certain chef, dictator, and activist? The hotel maintains its sense of history and charm to this day, and this is especially true of the Last Hurrah, one of two bars located off the lobby. This dimly lit, comfortable room is staffed by friendly waiters who have been there for ages (thanks Paul), the music is standards, and the views across the street are of King's Chapel and Old City Hall (the latter now houses a Ruth's Chris). The martinis, shaken tableside, are excellent.
B always opts for the classic gin martini up with olives, where as I favor the Big Apple Martini made with an apple liqueur and vodka, and has none of the fluorescent green apple color or pucker. The martinis are shaken table side and served on a silver try along with some delectable warm nuts.
The prices for martinis at the Last Hurrah are between $10-12--up from their $7-9 pricetag when we got married there in 2006, but still a pretty good deal.