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Writers Reunited: The Boston Food Experience

July 21, 2010
by

So after finally acclimating myself back to reality after a 3-day trip to Boston to visit Nia, I  realized I should probably get around to writing about it.  Along with hours spent shopping (or more like admiring things I will never be able to afford) and a really awesome IMAX viewing of the new movie Inception, which I highly recommend, we really spent the majority of our trip eating.  Oh and what wonderful eating it was.  Our culinary excursions send us from Greece, to Thailand, over to Italy, and finally, ending in France…yet we never left Boston.

It all started on Friday afternoon where my mom and I, exhausted from the plane ride, took Nia’s advice for the only cheap eating on Newbury Street, and dined at Steve’s.  The deceivingly plain looking restaurant produced Greek food that was the exact opposite.  Both hoping for a light lunch, we ordered the Greek salad and Spanakopita.  However, the flavor of the salad dressing was so good and the creamy spinach and feta tucked between layers of phyllo so satisfying that our plates were suddenly empty and our waistbands significantly tighter.

But that did not stop us from further indulgence that night, after we easily walked off our full stomachs during a full day of shopping.  We met up with Nia and decided to return (as this was our second visit to Boston) to Pho Basil for the most delicious and fresh Thai food in existence.  As Nia has previously mentioned, this place may be a bit “hole in the wall” but the food’s outstanding flavor completely makes up for this.  The menu itself takes a good half-hour to look over, and an additional 20 minutes are needed to pick between the variety of dishes.  We started with two amazing appetizers: spicy crab Rangoon, offset by a sweet apple dipping sauce, and succulent steamed gyoza dumplings, that melt in the mouth.  For our entrees, we ordered Thai style fried rice, which was much sweeter and more flavorful that traditional Chinese take-out fried rice, and Thai yellow curry with duck. This was the first time I had ever eaten duck, and I was not disappointed.  I loved its texture, the way that is was moist, juicy, and very tender, but at the same time chewy and dense.  The curry sauce was spicy yet sweet and, of course, delicious too.   After finishing the veggies and meat and was left with nothing but a plate of sauce and rice, I couldn’t stop from swirling the two together and eating every last sauce-soaked bite.  I didn’t regret it one bit, although the hours of heartburn tempted me to think otherwise.

For dessert, we went to Sweet Cupcakes.  The store was very adorable with pretty pink wallpaper, crystal chandeliers, and a glass case proudly displaying the little jewels of cupcake art.   The same can’t really be said for the taste.  We all agreed that the frosting was too sugary and sweet and the cake, dry, dense, and muted in flavor.

But our sweet craving was definitely satisfied Saturday afternoon with a trip to Beacon Hill Chocolates.  Although we were tempted to buy out their supply of chocolate bars to take home, the Boston heat wave limited us to a truffle each, consumed immediately before being melted into a puddle.  The top of the picture shows our selections (clockwise from the top left: cashew toffee, balsamic zinfandel, olive oil and sea salt, and hazelnut praline and cream.)  These chocolates were the freshest I had ever tasted and the actual chocolate flavor was so intense and rich, it left the loveliest taste lingering in my mouth for hours.  I actually couldn’t resist a return visit the next day before leaving and bought 4 more truffles (lime/ginger/coconut, lavender, honey, and cassis with praline).

Saturday night led us to the south end for pizza…but not just any pizza.  We went to Picco (Pizza and Ice Cream Co.) for supposedly one of the best pies in Boston.  However it was more like one of the best pizzas in the United States.  They pride themselves in using fresh ingredients, which was apparent by the superior taste, and for their crust, which was cooked until slightly blackened and blistered on the outside yet retained the chewiness of amazing French bread on the inside.  We got two different pizzas.  The first was the Alsatian, which was topped with onions and shallots caramelized til they were sweet as candy, garlic, tangy gruyere cheese, crème fraiche, and thick, smoky, bacon.  It was truly unreal and original…I’m literally salivating as I’m writing.  Our second pizza was more traditional:  a tomato sauce and mozzarella base topped with broccoli rabe, sausage, and ricotta.  It too was amazing, bursting with a fennel flavor from the sausage.  It was a good balance of bitter, tangy, and sweet and had the perfect cheese-to-sauce ratio.  And if that’s not enough, we each enjoyed dessert in our own way.  Nia and mom had fun experimenting from their endless list of beers, while I, on the other hand, chose to indulge in their homemade ice cream.  I chose a coconut chip ice cream sundae.  It was presented in a tall footed, 50s ice cream parlor glass packed so tight that ice cream dripped down the sides.  I devoured it before I could even think about a picture.  It was refreshing with a strong coconut flavor and huge shards of chocolate imbedded within.  The ice cream had a slight crystallized texture, significant of its homemade quality and the stomachache afterwards was disregarded due to my sugar induced high.

On our last day, we enjoyed a wonderful brunch from Craigie on Main in Cambridge.  The interior had a real charm to it.  It was decorated in a French style with large ornate mirrors, grey-and white striped walls, and French posters on the walls, yet had a masculine air to it with wood accents, leather placemats, and a huge open kitchen.  All of the food was local and very fresh and the menu really tested our decision-making skills.  We chose the restaurant for their famous doughnuts (only on the Sunday brunch menu), which were recently named by Food Network Magazine as the best breakfast in Massachusetts.  Therefore, we also could help but to try them as an appetizer.  They arrived still very warm and coated with coarse sugar and a sweet caramel sauce and were the perfect accompaniment to coffee.  I balanced out the doughnut’s sweetness with my entrée, a salt cod and potato puree topped with crispy herbed breadcrumbs and a poached egg.  It was served with a light chorizo and greens salad and a huge slab of toasted country bread, excellent for dipping in my egg.  To save you from probably another page of food descriptions, I will simple say everyone else enjoyed their food as well.

Although our eating adventures included a variety of international foods, we found that this is actually the typical fare of Boston.  A very diverse city must have a diverse selection of food, and coming from a small town, this was treat for my palate.  Boston may be a place of astounding American history, but its food culture is very diverse, worldly, and not to mention, delicious.

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