Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

My 12-year-old daughter’s at the age where she’s fascinated by the world of music. Working in radio, I’m lucky that I’m able to offer her some great experiences. Thanks to my boss, Rob, the man with all the connections, she got to meet her favorite band, AJR. She went backstage and met the guys from Imagine Dragons. She received a hand-written birthday greeting from Brendan Urie of Panic! at the Disco.

I saw my first concert at the age of 17. It was Three Dog Night and T.Rex at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. My daughter has already seen more concerts than I did in my teens.

As touristy as they are (and as mediocre as the food is), Hard Rock Cafes and their walls full of pictures, guitars, photos and other memorabilia, offer a glimpse into the world of music that fascinates my daughter. Once she visited her first Hard Rock, the world’s largest at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, she was hooked. If we were traveling anywhere near a Hard Rock Cafe, we had to go.

The Hard Rock at Universal was followed by New York City, Washington DC, the Cayman Islands, Paris, and Reykjavik. Yet we never made to the one in Boston, closest to our home in Rhode Island. It was time to go.

Hard Rock Cafe, Boston.

 

Our stay in Boston began with lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, near Fanuel Hall. Nothing particularly amazing about the venue, but we could now scratch it off the list.

I clearly don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

 

Because our main point of going to Boston was to visit the New England Aquarium, I chose to get a room at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, located right on the water and literally a few steps from the aquarium. The area around Long Wharf includes many restaurant and shopping choices.

The Marriott Long Wharf is a huge hotel, and I was surprised at just how clean the property was, despite the vast numbers of people who were moving through the lobby and hallways. Our room was clean and technologically up-to-date: everything you’d want in a hotel room. Beds were comfortable, towels were plentiful.

The only complaint I had about our hotel is one that I have with most of the Marriotts and Westins that I’ve been to recently. They’ve decided to make the move away from old-fashioned room service with carts, real plates and silverware, and decent food. Now they all offer what amounts to take-out service. You get a bag full of cardboard boxes that contain your meals….paper napkins…plastic utensils…and crappy food. I highly doubt all of this gets recycled. So in a world where we’re supposed to be thinking about how not to overload our landfills, these guys came up with the idea to make everything disposable. Really dumb. Goes without saying that we didn’t eat at the hotel.

No carts. No fuss. No thanks.

 

The New England Aquarium is a great place to take the family and see penguins up close. We arrived at feeding time, and it was fun to watch them eat; some of them fussy, some of them devouring their offerings of fish. The center of the building is a spiral, and inside the spiral is a huge 4-story aquarium. So as you slowly walk up the spiral, you get a constantly changing view of the aquarium and the thousands of fish and other sea life (manta rays, tortoises, sea horses, jellyfish, starfish, eels, seals, and lots more that thrive there. Again, you might be lucky to catch them at feeding time, when workers in scuba gear swim down to the different groups of fish and make sure they get fed.

One note: buy your tickets online before you go. The outdoor line for last-minute ticket buyers was huge, and we visited on a bone-chilling winter’s day. Those people standing in line were very unhappy. We just walked right in with our online printed tickets.

 

The Red Lantern in Boston.

 

We don’t have many great Asian restaurant choices in Rhode Island, so when we go to Boston, it’s almost always on our list. This time, we decided to skip Chinatown and go to a restaurant that was as much about the atmosphere as it was about the food: The Red Lantern. Great music, cool lighting, awesome design, very good food and a huge cocktail menu. My daughter had miso soup and a massive delicious bowl of beef lo mein. I shoved a few large chopstick-fulls into my mouth “for blogging purposes.” Really good. I started with a plate of boneless ribs, sweet and sticky. My main dish was a huge spicy tuna toro maki roll: a tempura fried roll with avocado, cucumber, chili soy and toro tuna, slightly torched. Over the top. The Red Lantern has a beautiful bar, and my original mai-tai was well-made, though very sweet.

Dessert selections weren’t what we wanted…and we needed a breather…so we Ubered over to Newbury Street, where we found a wonderful gelato shop: Amorino. It’s an Italian chain, and they know how to do gelato!

I suppose if I wasn’t hanging out with my daughter, I’d take this opportunity to go to a bar for one last cocktail, but instead, we just went back to the hotel and focused on the next day, thinking we’d hit the indoor pool. Turns out it wasn’t a great idea, because the pool last the Marriott Long Wharf was really small and full of screaming little kids. Plan B: find a really great Sunday brunch.

Mooo, in Boston.

 

Mooo is a steak restaurant inside the beautiful XV Beacon Hotel, on historic Beacon Street. As I was searching for brunch possibilities, I saw the tempting list of freshly-baked treats on their menu, very different from those offered elsewhere, and I knew this was where we needed to go. We were not disappointed!

Ordering the cinnamon buns was a no-brainer. The moment they say on the menu that you “need to give it a little extra time,” you know it’s going to be worth the wait! as we slowly pulled apart the gooey rolls, shoving them into mouth, I moaned like Patton Oswalt in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: “Cinnnabonnnn……” (Though it was way better than any Cinnabon I ever head!)

The incredible cinnamon buns at Mooo.

 

My daughter knew almost instantly that she was going to have the chocolate chip pancakes…with a side of bacon, of course. I was contemplating the lobster eggs Benedict (I’m a huge fan of bennies), but then I said to myself: “Wait…this is a steak restaurant. They have half-a-dozen steak and eggs offerings on the menu. Have a steak, for crying out loud!” My inner voice served me well.

I had a choice of 2 ribeyes: either a 12-oz. American corn-fed ribeye, or a 14-oz. pastured, grass-fed Australian ribeye. I’m a grass-fed guy, so the larger Australian ribeye (which was also less expensive) was a no-brainer. It was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a very long time. A couple of eggs and a side of perfectly cooked potatoes made for an ideal meal.

Brunch is served!

 

Mooo was such a great choice for brunch that I will keep it in mind for dinner on a return trip to Boston.

 

We returned to our hotel after brunch, simply to pack up and head home. A nice 24-hour getaway with wonderful food and a fun time with my daughter. I know my daughter and I will be back in June to see a Billie Eilish concert at the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, so we’ll have more opportunities to hit a couple of restaurants, this time in the Seaport District, which, sadly, is being overrun by so much new construction that you can’t even see the water anymore. It’s sad because Boston’s traffic has just been rated the worst in the country, and this will only add to a crumbling infrastructure that is already overloaded.

 

 

 

For me, no dining experience is complete without a great cocktail. If all they’ve got to offer is a martini straight-up with olives, I’ll drink it alright–but I’ll be disappointed there’s nothing more.

Coppa is a wonderful small enoteca in Boston’s South End, featuring small plates by award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette. (They’re also the 2 creative forces behind Toro in Boston and NYC.)

The food was incredible, and this drink, called “Hey, Neon,” was inspired. The glass was rimmed with dehydrated and finely chopped kalamata olives. I tried to recreate that at home, and couldn’t get the texture or the size right. And I could never get it to stick to the glass, either! Ultimately, I simply skewered a few kalamatas and placed them on the glass!

The original “Hey Neon” at Coppa.

 

 

“HEY NEON”

1 1/2 oz. Aalborg aquavit
3/4 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse

Add ice to a cocktail shaker and then add the ingredients. Stir well, until very cold. Strain into a martini glass. Add the skewer of kalamata olives.

 

Aalborg is a brand of aquavit (or akvavit), a clear alcohol similar to vodka but usually infused with other flavors, mainly caraway or dill, popular in Scandinavia.

Punt e Mes is a sweet vermouth, the so-called “little brother” of the granddaddy of all sweet vermouths: Carpano Antica Formula.

Cynar is an Italian bitter and digestif made from herbs, plants and artichokes. Strong in flavor, but delicious!

Chartruese is a French liqueur made by Carthusian monks since 1737, using a recipe that dates back to 1605. It contains 130 herbs and plants. It’s also one of the few liqueurs that ages in the bottle, changing over time. Green Chartreuse is 110 proof, and naturally colored from the maceration of its ingredients. Yellow Chartreuse, at 80 proof, is a milder and sweeter version.

My version of the “Hey Neon.”

 

 

Every major city in the United states has a Capital Grille, and it’s a great place to grab a solid dinner if you’re traveling. Although the Capital Grille in my town of Providence, RI has recently moved from its original location, we can still boast that we had the very first one in the USA.

They don’t do crazy-fancy drinks at the Capital Grille. They keep a very well-stocked bar with high-end booze and make solid cocktails. But there is one signature drink you can find there, and that’s the Stoli Doli. A Stoli Doli is simply Stoli vodka that has been infused with fresh pineapple. If you sit at the bar at the Capital Grille, you won’t be able to miss the very large jar of freshly-cut pineapple pieces swimming in vodka. They literally pour it “from the tap,” and serve it straight up, like a martini, or on the rocks. It’s delicious, and I’ve certainly had my share of them over time.

I decided to make my own at home one day, to serve to my friends at an upcoming party. But to my disappointment, I didn’t have any Stoli vodka in the house. I found a bottle of Stoli Vanil, the vanilla-flavored vodka, and it was a real game-changer! I used that instead of regular Stoli and I came up with a sweeter, smoother drink that is legendary among my friends to this day. I called it…

VELVET ELVIS

2 pineapples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1.75ml Stoli Vanil

Find a gallon-sized glass jar with a lid. Peel, core and slice the pineapples and drop the pieces in the jar. Pour the vodka in, mix well, and seal the jar. Keep it at room temperature for a week, giving it a gentle shake every day.

After one week, strain it, squeezing the pineapple pieces to get every bit of liquid out. Keep the Velvet Elvis refrigerated. Serve over ice.

It’s interesting how we sometimes stumble upon great food finds. After taking our daughter to the Boston Museum of Science on a recent Saturday, we decided to eat at a small family run Italian restaurant in a blue-collar neighborhood in East Boston, one that was featured a few years ago on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri. It’s called Rino’s Place, and we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to try the food there for a long time.

Rino’s Place opens at 3PM. We got there at 3PM. The line was out the door and down the street, with a 3-hour wait. (They don’t take reservations for parties smaller than 6.) I don’t care how good the food is supposed to be…I’m not going to wait 3 hours to eat pasta. So, disappointed, we drove off, hoping to perhaps visit Rino’s on a less popular weekday some other time.

Meanwhile,  my wife, the artist, was scanning the neighborhood and found an interesting art gallery, Atlantic Works, nearby. We decided to check it out. There wasn’t much to see, but the ladies that ran the joint told us that Rino’s, in their opinion, was good but overrated. The exposure Rino’s got from DDD was so huge that they even bought the convenience store across the street from the restaurant and converted it into a bar for those that chose to wait for their tables. Total cash cow.

Just down the road from the Atlantic works, the ladies told us, was a funky little joint that made authentic Australian meat pies. That sounded good. They said it was tucked away inside a funky old marina that featured bizarre metal sculptures on the roofs of the buildings. That sounded intriguing. Off we went.

photo

A few lefts and rights…a little loss of GPS at one moment…and we arrived at the Boston Harbor Marina. Definitely the slow season, as many of the boats were still shrink-wrapped, but you could see this place had potential in the summertime, with huge metal sculptures of fish and mermaids on the property. And sure, enough, tucked away in a far corner was KO Catering and Pies, our Aussie meat pie joint.

pie2

It was cold and windy outside, but some brave souls were sitting at the picnic tables outside, enjoying their meals. We chose to buy a bunch of frozen pies and take them home to re-heat.

They were awesome: beef with cheese, braised lamb shank, beef stew…all surrounded by some of the most delicious and flakiest pie crusts you ever bit into.

more pie

KO has another location in south Boston as well. Either one is worth a visit. Start here: http://www.kocateringandpies.com

M.C.Spiedo is a new Italian restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel by the Boston waterfront. It’s a massive, over-the-top (as in a bit gaudy) establishment that features rustic food from Italy’s historic past, dating back to the Renaissance period of the 1400’s. You’ll find no tomato dishes here: tomatoes were introduced into Italy in the 1500’s. What you will find are rustic, flavorful spit-roasted meats, pastas with rich sauces, and robust flavors.

MCSpiedo

This is a huge departure for chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, who come from acclaimed Maine restaurants Arrows (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary)and MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit. (They just announced that they are selling Arrows for $1.2 million.)

What’s in the name? The M.C. is from Marc and Clark, and Spiedo means a spit or skewer in Italian. Considering this is still a new restaurant, I was surprised that the two chefs were nowhere to be found on a recent Saturday night. Nonetheless, the staff seems to be knowledgeable, and our server, Daniel ,was eager to guide us through the many menu choices.

The Leonardo's Notebook Salad

The Leonardo’s Notebook Salad

Leonardo’s Notebook Salad, with garlic, fennel, lettuces and herbs was delightfully fresh and thoroughly enjoyable. The house made burrata: fantastic…just not enough of it. The duck rillette was good, but unseasoned. However, the accompanying house made mustard and pickles remedied that. The Grand Tortellini and Meat Torta, a mile-high meat pie featuring more meat than you can imagine, is a must. It sells out every night. The spit-roasted pig with sausage and shelling bean macaroni would have been delicious had it not been for a VERY heavy amount of salt…so much that I had to mention it to our server, who promptly whisked it away, tasted it, agreed with us, consulted management, and returned with an apology and did not charge us for the dish.

Grand Tortellini and Meat Torta

Grand Tortellini and Meat Torta

Thankfully, there are 2 parts of M.C.Spiedo that don’t stick to the rules of only serving ingredients from Italy’s Renaissance period: the bar, where you can find many wonderful house specialty cocktails as well as a wine list with only Italian wines…and the kids menu, which is a welcome surprise to find in this kind of restaurant. My daughter loved the meatballs and the grilled cheese.

Duck rillette with house made pickles, mustard, and Fiore Sardo cheese

Duck rillette with house made pickles, mustard, and Fiore Sardo cheese

There are a few kinks to work out, but that’s to be expected from a new restaurant. And they’ve got to lighten up on the SALT. But I can see myself coming back to M.C. Spiedo for another enjoyable dining experience.

MC4