“What are you guys thinking of ordering?”
“I don’t know! Listen to this: ‘crispy skin duck breast with brown butter farro, shaved brussels sprouts and pomegranate and pistachio relish, and pomegranate molasses reduction’. I might have to get that. But the ‘ale braised lamb shank’ sounds pretty amazing too.”
“Oo yeah. I think I’m going to order the duck.”
“Well we should probably start with the steamed New England mussels and warm Vermont goat cheese. And a bottle of Louis Martini Cab.”
Sound delicious? It was. This was just the introduction to a week marked by appetizers, entrees and wine (and the occasional dessert) while my parents visited us from the west coast. We successfully, and most enjoyably, ate our way through the neighborhoods of Boston, starting with Stephanie’s on Newbury Street.
There was far too much imbibing during that week-long visit to detail in one short story; where to begin? With the morning strolls through the Public Gardens carrying coffee and scones from Boston Common Coffee Company? Or with the slightly bizarre seafood joint where Mom mistakenly ordered less-than-desirable, food-poisoning-potential, “wicked clean” steamer clams? It was all so delicious and fun I couldn’t possibly write it all down, so here are a few of my favorites:
After our first dinner in the North End (which, for those who don’t know, is the Italian quarter of Boston), my dad pipes up and says, “well we can’t exactly come to Boston and only eat in the North End once!”, so away we went for round two! While both were outstanding meals full of house made pasta, red meats, seafood, and wine, I am going to pick favorites and say that I particularly enjoyed our first meal at Trattoria di Monica.
Like many of the restaurants in the North End, Trattoria di Monica is tiny, barely managing to squeeze in 10 or so tables between their old brick walls. We waited outside for 45-teasing minutes that Saturday night for one of those tables to become available, which proved to be almost as eventful as the meal itself! Not only were we nearly run over by fire trucks bouncing up onto the sidewalk as they went screaming through the narrow streets, but we also got to eavesdrop on the accent of a group of quintessential Boston Italian young men wearing all white track suits talking about playing bahl in the pahk.
I loved this Italian meal in particular because it managed to be both classic and creative, while occupying our attention for over three hours! That is the remarkable thing about a good meal: you can sit and enjoy each other as much as you enjoy the food! We all ordered from the specials menu, which was so long and enticing that we had to ask the strung out server to repeat them three times! We shared tomato-cheesy appetizers, mussels, crusty bread, house-made pastas and a refreshing berry dessert, and soothing luscious sangiovese. I myself had the carbonara, which was as rich and creamy as one could hope for, right to the last bite.
On Monday morning, while the entire city was slipping into work clothes and shuffling downtown, the four of us climbed into Joe Silver and headed south, passing by Plymouth Rock and old presidents’ homes on the way to Cape Cod (“The Cape”, as New Englanders devotedly refer to it). Donning our sunglasses we set out to explore the famous cape and it’s fine sea-fare. But wait! It is March on Cape Cod, and everything (and I do mean everything) is closed! Driving along the sleepy roads we passed brilliant red cranberry bogs tucked in below the water line. We sailed by boarded up seasonal lobster shacks and majestic weathered homes. We paused at state parks and beach access points (most of which were closed from storm damage), and waited for a pair fluffy orange foxes to tiptoe across the asphalt back into their private winter woods.
It was lovely.
But all that moseying makes for a hungry crowd, and where to find an open restaurant was anybody’s guess. On a whim my mom thought to text my brother-in-law, Chuck, who spent many a childhood summer on the cape visiting family. He instructed us to go to Sir Cricket’s, and so we did! The only open restaurant we passed from Sandwich to Provincetown, Sir Cricket’s was a felicitous recommendation. This lobster shack had it all: sunny yellow paint, white lawn chairs accompanying four plastic indoor tables, and more than a little fishy stink. Did I mention the lobster roll special?
Never having experienced the famous Massachusetts lobster rolls, we were all wide-eyed and oogly when the cook in the rubber apron called “order up!” We each got a white, squishy hoagie roll stuffed to overflowing with freshly cracked pink and white lobster. They smelled salty and sweet in the way that only shellfish mixed with mayonnaise can, and the bright yellow lemon wedge cut through that creaminess with perfect acidity. We didn’t say much during that meal; we just ate.
It has been almost two months since their visit, and the details of many of the meals have faded behind final papers and sleep deprivation, but one thing is clear: we ate like kings and enjoyed every minute!