Wednesday, April 3, 2013

TRIP: Boston 2013 Day 1


My wife and I took a long weekend trip to Boston to visit some friends. We had a fabulous time visiting various historical sites and getting to try out some great food and experience "big city life". There's definitely a greater degree of hustle and bustle in Boston compared to Austin. The one thing I wish we could have in Austin is a mass transit system. The "T" was a wonderful way of getting around Boston and our friends told us that it was basically un-necessary to own a car. 

Warning, lots of pictures on this post but this unexpected find at the end of the day generated most of the photos and made me dump some of the other pictures. We saw a bunch of stuff, but I'm keeping it all about the food here.

We stayed at the Omni Parker House. It's apparently been a hotel with it's doors open continuously (this is what the clerk told me) since 1854. It definitely has a lot of that "ancient" feel. It's located right outside of the famous Boston Commons (as pictured above). Anyhow, I knew the very first thing I had to have was a bowl of New England clam chowder. So I managed to order room service right close of service. Delicious, the clams were very tender and the soup was creamy but didn't feel to rich. I'm sure there's better but it's a good way to kick off my trip and ease the blow of the airlines losing my luggage. (Technically the clam chowder was received at 12:30am so my actual "day 1" was just the 1/2 day of air travel to get in at 12:00am.) 

We went out to the Prudential Building and checked out the skydeck panorama it's a great view of the city and they had a neat audio tour talking about the history of the city. The cool thing was this big sign (I took closer pictures of the content) of "What's for dinner" showing some notable culinary contributors and "boston favorite" recipes. Clam chowder, baked beans, and of course Boston creme pie were all on the wall. If I can find a main entree that's bento friendly (re: no microwaved fish) I'll try to produce a Boston Bento here soon.

For lunch we went to Legal Seafood, which was a New England chain that we got some positive feedback on. I had the Anna's boston baked "scrod", which I was told was a young cod. My wife had the lobster bisque. They had a nice selection of oysters from various regions. 

This was the fisherman's stew, mussels, haddock, clams, chorizo in a saffron based sauce. All in all a tasty lunch, but not stand out. 

We took a walk and toured the MIT campus. They've got a designated "food truck" parking area. There were only two today (spring break) but we were told there were only a few more usually. This truck actually has a restaurant and upon check their website they seem to be doing some interesting stuff in education and local sourcing. 

Anyways, @cloverfoodtruck is a vegetarian trailer. The person running the trailer confirmed that the trailer/truck scene is still developing but she was holding good hope the 60+ universities and colleges in Boston holds great potential. If I had known how big and all the different things Clover was about I would have inquired a bit more about their operation outside the food truck. This was only a snack/coffee stop I had their lentil soup which was really good, nicely spiced and very hearty for the chilly afternoon. It was a good afternoon pick me up from all our walking around.

Then on our way to dinner our friends took us to this local honey shop. I think global honey might be more accurate description. This awesome shop had honey from all over. (yes that is a blurry picture of a very cunning hat to the right)

I ended up blowing $90 here a few of the pictured honey definitely made the shopping bag. We did taste everything in the picture. It's amazing how different the flavor profiles can be. I always suspected but until you get a chance to start tasting stuff side by side PLUS have a guide to lead you around all of the different products you have no idea. Some of the differences between the honey are pretty subtle but others are "smack you in the face" different. It's amazing how different pollen can produce such a variety of flavors. Being a novice in Apiology (the study of honey bees) I asked how the honey producers guarantee that the honey is produced with the given pollen on the label. The answer was that given an ample enough food supply next to the hive the bees will not venture any farther than necessary so put enough of a given flower and you get that kind of honey (seems pretty obvious why you put it that way).

Now we hit the "sleeper"/totally unexpected highlight. I say unexpected but I really should have known better, my wife's friends are Japanese (born and raised in Japan) and they took us to this sushi restaurant that they really liked. We rolled up on this place, "Cafe Sushi" in the upstairs of a non-descript shopping building, it would easily be located in any "college drag". I didn't have any expectations, I mean Austin has well renown and award winning restaurants Uchi and Uchiko we've got some of the best of the best (Such hubris! I hang my head in shame). Our friends ordered Omakase translated "I'll leave it to you" where the chef gets to show his artistry and skill. This is when the fuse to the awesome rocket got lit and since I didn't buckle in, I was gripping on to try to keep up with every awesome dish.
Massachusetts sea scallops sunomono, the scallops were incredibly fresh almost creamy, the sunomono salad itself was very light in the dressing not at all overwhelming in either sugar or vinegar. 
Left: Tobiko (flying fish) fresh ginger, Spanish Mackerel with sliced kumquat, baby squid, Tuna with fermented tofu, Japanese Snapper. Visually very appealing but flavor wise delightful. Each sashimi (and I didn't take notes) was treated with a different sauce ranging from a citrus yuzu to a wasabi infused oil. I especially liked the baby squid, which I've never eaten before in this preparation. Usually these little morsels are smoked and eaten as "drinking snacks" here they were very tender and the flavors were very rich and delightful (at that size they weren't cleaned and the hard "shell spine" hasn't developed)


Shidido (sp?), can't remember the rest partly because I haven't heard of some of these fish. Each bite was unique and delicious. The rice was perfectly prepared both texturally and flavor. Not a drop of soy sauce was used all meal (which is tradition) each bite was perfect. I'm quite well known for my wasabi paste that I tend to mix when eating sushi but typically I only do this when I'm putting away a quick lunch with salmon and hamachi sashimi when the buttery flavor of the fish isn't overwhelmed by my need to open my sinuses (and my glutton for punishment). Here the delicate sauces and fish would have been lost if I used any condiment.

Uni from two regions: Left Maine Uni, right Santa Barbara Uni. The Santa Barbara seemed to have a sweet finish and my wife commented the Uni from Maine seemed richer and more firm. Both were among the freshest I've tasted. I never considered a flavor difference (although it makes sense, like everything else, sea urchin are what they eat) but I'm thankful to have had a chance to see the difference. I don't even think there's a place I've eaten that offers two different Uni.

I'm missing a photo and I can't honestly remember what I that course contained. There was just so much awesome food. So here's a random photo of the Tea Party Museum, they have a portion of the tour that lets visitors throw "boxes of tea" into the river. (the boxes are tethered to ropes to be pulled up and thrown again)

Summer vegetable roll (pickled eggplant, avocado, cherry tomatoes and cucumber) which was a refreshing pause to the fish. This was followed up by Salmon belly over ikura (salmon caviar), the "battleship" style sushi had a large layer of salmon roe between the rice and the Salmon belly, this was a play on roe and the fish that is usually right next to it. The salty roe (which I usually like to eat on it's own) was perfect complement to the fatty belly. Next to the Uni this was my favorite bite.

Umeboshi yellow tail hand roll. The sour note of the umeboshi and the flavor of the shiso leaf imparted this a very "clean" taste to end our meal. Despite being pretty full, I managed to put this away. I say pretty full but actually I have to amend that to say "comfortably" full. Dinner lasted three hours and it was a delightful time and perfectly spaced out.

I got to say goodbye to the Chef (I didn't get his name). I thanked him for a very memorable excellent meal. Our friends mentioned I was a foodblogger, which I apologized to the chef that it really doesn't mean anything, only that I intend on raving about and hoping great success to him and his restaurant. He went on to ask where I came from and when I replied Austin he cringed, "oh yeah uchi and uchiko" and in all honesty I told him that I enjoyed my meal every bit as much as I had in Austin. And as always, I'm not anything more than a food enthusiast, mine is just an unlearned opinion. My dinner experience that night was truly remarkable and memorable, with excellent pairing and flavor and new fish and flavors I've not had before.  I'm very thankful to our friends that shared this place with us.

Ok, I've got a "Day 2" hopefully I can get that done in a timely fashion.

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