Last week I was back over in Boston for business. Fortunately on this visit I had more opportunity to explore the variety of feeding holes this fine city has to offer. I am completely and utterly smitten with Boston. Although it’s not know for its fine dining necessarily, the city has a lot of good food to offer, as well as being very clean, cool and friendly.
What lead me from a mere crush on my last visit to full smit this time round was the discovery that Boston has a Little Italy area. Located in the North End area of the city, this was our first stop for dinner when we arrived. A thriving street full off gelatarias, late night bakeries and low-key Italian restaurants, the North End reminded my companions of New York (I’ve never been so couldn’t comment). We were recommended, by a Boston based colleague, to try out a little place called Strega. With our English accents we drew a lot of attention from the maitre de, who proceeded to tell us about the 7 years he’d previously spent in London, working in a restaurant in Berkeley Square waiting on the Queen, Freddie Mercury and varying other British royalty figures.
With 6 screens along the far-side wall playing a mixture of the Godfather series, and Goodfellas, there was no mistaking the Italian influence in this place. The menu was tempting and the wine list impressive. I relaxed in to some utterly delicious Nebbiolo D’Alba, whilst my companions worked their way through a very tasty Pinot Noir.
We started with an antipasto plate to share. Thankfully we decided to share just the one portion as what arrived was enough to feed two times our party. A mix of prosciutto, coppa, pecorino, salad (and another ham I couldn’t quite identify), we tucked in hungrily.
Next up, I opted for the Pappardelle All’Emiliana (ragu of ground tenderloin and porcini mushrooms). The dish was rich and enjoyable, unfortunately there was simply too much in the portion and I ended up leaving around half of it. The beauty of dining in the US however is that if you’ve ever left more than a single crumb on your plate, you’re immediately offered a doggy bag. Now, I could get used to that…
The following evening, our hosts took us out for drinks and dinner at a nice, contemporary place called Union Bar & Grille. Tucking into a nice bottle of 2009 Sauvignon Blanc J.Lohr ‘Carol’s Vineyard’, Napa Valley, California, and a mix of cocktails from their intriguing looking menu, the group studied the menu. The style of food available is bistro style American dishes with a heavy Mediterranean influence in parts. Price points for mains were between $14.50 for a pulled pork sandwich up to $28.50 for lamb mixed grill. To my great delight the first thing to arrive at the table was a cast iron pan, straight from the oven with some freshly made cornbread inside, served with some salted butter. The bread was sweet, crumbly and utterly delicious. After the experience of not making it through my food the previous evening at Strega, I passed on the starter, but then sat eyeing my companions dishes with envy.
When the mains arrived, everyone was impressed with the presentation and lots of “oohs” and “aahs” we’re heard from our table. Unfortunately, I found with my dish – IPA grilled chicken with chorizo cornbread, baby carrots and Kentucky bourbon sauce – didn’t quite stand up on the flavour front. I couldn’t locate any chorizo in the cornbread, nor bourbon in the sauce. Sadly, it was just a rather bland piece of chicken with some nice (but not chorizo flavoured) cornbread and some thin gravy. Everyone else seemed happy with their dishes however, so maybe I was just unlucky that time round. For dessert a colleague and I decided to share a chocolate fondant and a creme brûlée as we found it impossible to decide on either. Both were a darn sight more flavoursome than the main course which redeemed Union at the last innings.
For my last night in Boston we were recommended to take a cab out to Legal Harbour and visit the flagship restaurant of what is now a rather large chain of seafood restaurants called Legal Seafoods (which I thought was a rather interesting name choice).
Set over 3 floors, on the first floor is the casual dining area which features a sushi bar and raw shellfish bar, along with tables lined along the floor to ceiling glass doors that open out onto a gorgeous decking area overlooking the harbour. The convenience being, as we discovered, that you can sail your boat up to the deck, jump off, have a meal in the restaurant, before hopping back onto your boat and sailing home again. Oh how the other half live…
On the second floor is the smart dining area. We didn’t see that part unfortunately as we shot straight past it up to the third floor bar and roof terrace for our aperitifs. This was an absolutely super experience. The smart and attractive bar area is expectantly busy on warm Boston evenings, and we were surrounded by city workers relaxing and rolling up their shirt sleeves, sipping cold lager and staring out over the twinkling harbour waters. I enjoyed a glass of prosecco whilst we shared a portion of plump prawns in a spiced Tobasco sauce.
After a couple of drinks we headed back down to the first floor and took our seats. Having been informed that Legal Seafoods delivers its famous clam chowder directly to President Obama at the White House, I figured what was good enough for Obama, was good enough for us, so we started with the chowder. It was really exceptional, and I can now fully understand why you’d have that flown several hundred miles when you experience a craving. Absolutely the best chowder around. I then opted for a Lobster roll with ‘homemade slaw’ and fries as others picked from a wide variety of fresh seafood options. My Lobster roll was absolutely superb. Lobster is ridiculously cheap out in the US at the moment, so the Americans are filling their boots, and faces, whilst this bizarre price-drop continues. I’m tempted just to travel back there again to make more of it myself. For dessert the Brits at the table couldn’t resist trying the Boston Cream Pie. All I have to say on that is don’t ever be tempted yourselves. It’s not good. It’s really not good if you like your cream to taste like real cream and your chocolate to taste like real chocolate.
All in all, this was a great trip to Boston and I’m so pleased we got to try out so many new places to eat (as well as a couple of return visits to my favourite – Myers & Chang – for lunch). I can’t wait to get back and try out even more!