Sunday, June 29, 2008

Restaurants: Boston Food Finds

Last weekend I had my annual reunion with a group of college girlfriends. This year's destination: Boston. Since we'd all already been on the Freedom Trail one too many times, we decided to make the focus of this visit shopping and, more importantly, eating!

First order of business when we arrived was lunch. We ducked into Croma on Newbury Street and had some delicious panini----chicken and avocado with basil mayonnaise, perfectly pressed and grilled, the real, Italian way (unlike some places that simply toast the bread). We were thinking of heading down the block to Johnny Cupcakes for dessert, which had a huge line outside, until we realized that it was a tee-shirt store and had nothing to do with confections. We still don't really understand the hoopla surrounding these tee-shirts, but I have a feeling if you're older than 20 it is something you just wouldn't get.

That evening we discovered a great sushi bar called Douzo (we're told it's pronounced "DOUGH-ZO") on Dartmouth Street. It was packed, but we were able to snag a high-top bar table in the elevated bar, which had a great view of the entire restaurant. The sushi was fantastic and fresh, and one of our favorites was the "Crazy Roll" which had too many ingredients to remember, but it was delicious. Paired with lots a couple bottles of wine, it was a great place for our first night in Boston.

The next morning we grabbed some coffee and a bagel and headed to Quincy Market/Fanueil Hall for some more shopping, with the intent of walking over to the North End (Boston's Italian neighborhood) for lunch. One of the salespeople in a store gave us a fantastic recommendation for her favorite North End spot, Antico Forno on Salem Street. The restaurant is small, and we almost walked right by it....but it is not to be missed. We realized after we sat down that they were only serving the dinner menu (it was Sunday afternoon), but since none of us were hungry enough for a huge meal, they were nice enough to let us split a few dinner entrees between our group. They arrived at our table with a basket of bread and a dish of olive oil with some plump kalamata olives floating within....and that alone was enough to make me return to this restaurant. The bread was amazing, definitely some of the best I've ever had. The risotto special with asparagus, mushrooms and truffle oil was wonderful----but the Rigatoni alla Bosciaola was easily the best pasta dish I've had in ages. It combined pasta with prosciutto, peas, and mushrooms, and was tossed in a special plum tomato & marscarpone sauce. YUM.

Naturally, while in the North End we had to stop for gelato. Since most of the gelato shops had a television, and it happened to be the quarter-finals of the World Cup (Italy vs. Spain), it was hard to actually get into one. People were spilling out over the sidewalks everywhere trying to watch the game. We finally managed to squeeze into Gelateria on Hanover Street. We all ordered something different, so I was able to taste several of the selections. Grapefruit, which is a flavor I probably wouldn't choose on my own, was surprisingly delicious and refreshing, as was the mango. My other favorite was mint chocolate chip, but I will say the chocolate left something to be desired (the texture was all off and ice crystals dominated).

Later that evening, we had a reservation at Tapeo on Newbury Street, a fun tapas bar with both indoor and outdoor seating. They'd advertised a "Three Tapas plus dessert for $35" special, but then claimed that they weren't actually offering it, even though according to the waiter, "tons of people kept coming in and asking about it". Hmmmm. Not off to a good start.

Because our waiter was so nice and helpful (and this false advertising was certainly not his doing), we decided to stay. Our group ordered a wide selection of tapas to go with our sangria (which was great), ranging from a traditional Spanish Tortilla with potato, to prunes stuffed with goat cheese (my favorite), to tender pork loin with mushrooms and a blue goat cheese sauce. We also liked the scallops in saffron cream sauce, the garlic shrimp, and the basil/tomato/goat cheese spread (there was a lot of goat cheese happening at our table!). We finished with an order of traditional "Churros y Chocolate" (Spanish fried dough with chocolate dipping sauce) and a decadent flourless chocolate cake with three sauces (pistachio, creme anglaise, and an amazing coffee-flavored sauce). We definitely needed to go for a post-dinner stroll to walk off this meal!

The last morning of our visit, we went to a great diner called Steve's Greek Cuisine on Newbury Street, which seemed appropriate since all of our husbands happen to share the name Steve (yes, very weird). So, in honor of them watching all the kids over the weekend, we ended our eating-vacation there. It was a great, no-frills diner, with excellent service.

Boston is a fantastic city----and now it has become one of my new favorite dining-destinations!

PS: My girlfriends had a late flight, and checked out JP Licks for ice cream after I left. Here's what they said: " We went to JP Licks (at the original location in Jamaica Plains, hence the JP) and it was amazing beyond belief. I had strawberry rhubarb ice cream that was to die for. Even though you weren't there personally, it's definitely worth blogging about - all homemade, all delicious. Mojito sorbet, cappuccino oreo chunk, oatmeal cookie, Myers rum raisin......I could go on!" There you have it.

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