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Oct 29, 2008 08:26 AM

Back From Boston (lengthy)

I'm back from my memorable trip to Boston and New England and thought I would give you a brief overview of the Boston eateries I tried, many recommended by the kind folks here. I actually printed the pages with your suggestions and took them with me. They proved very useful.

First of all, try as we would, we could never get seated at Legal Seafood, and to be honest, it looked like too much of a chain restaurant for me to get really excited about it. We also opted to stay down-market and casual in our choices so we never made it to Sel de la Terre either, although it looked very good.

On to what we did do: Mare, in the North End was recommended to us by the concierge at our hotel and we loved it. I had wonderful Wellfleet oysters with limoncello sorbet and a divine seafood stew - zuppe di mare. My husband had striped bass and his very first-ever cockle. That was our first night.

The following day we walked the Fredom Trail and had lunch at the Union Oyster house. It was there that I realised I had never had good clam chowder before. Theirs was excellent; creamy but not overly rich, and sweet tender clams. The lobster roll was a bit disappointing; I could swear the lobster had been living in a freezer and the dressing was very bland. I jacked it with a squeeze of lemon and it was palatable. The roll was a hotdog bun in another life. But I was warned this place was more about the atmosphere than the food and that part was true.

We also dined at the Barking Crab, ditto on the food vs atmosphere thing but it was fun.

Pizza Regina was more than fun, it was surreal. We loved it but felt the toppings were overly ample and thus not cooked or even warm on the white pizza. The giambotta was excellent however and the crust was sublime. Great rec there and we considered it a highlight of our stay.

The last place we dined was a bit of a disappointment but we opted to roam the North End and just see what we could find that felt old school and family style. Those places were all either closed, jammed to the rafters or too expensive and we ended up at Artu which had zero ambience, wretched service, rocky, unstable (and not very clean) tables, hideous art on the walls and far too bright of lighting. The shrimp on my pasta was delicious and very, very fresh, but what passed for antipasto was nothing more, to my eyes, than stemed veggies dressed in some sort of vinaigrette. What the heck? The gelato I got later as we contnued to wander, was, however, sublime.

BTW, Harpoon IPA rocks!

We had a great trip and would love to come back, if only for the food. I'll post some of our New England dining experiences on the appropriate board, if anyone's interested.

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  1. It is always great to get a report back, and your experiences, good and mediocre, resemble those of the local board.

    You found Wellfleet oysters at a good time. New England seafood has been associated with summer, but the colder weather brings out the best in oysters, lobster and scallops.

    Harpoon IPA is a local favorite - come on back!

    10 Replies
    1. re: chowfamily

      I'm already adding up my airline points.

      1. re: Higgette

        And next trip, DO heed the local wisdom and get your Regina's pizza without toppings!

        1. re: pollystyrene

          And just sit at the bar at Union Oyster House, enjoy a few beers, a few oysters, and move on somewhere else for your main meal...:)

          1. re: twentyoystahs

            I knew I wasn't in for the meal of my life there but I loved the chowder.

          2. re: pollystyrene

            I guess I forgot the warning about the toppings. It was still very good pizza. The crust was outrageously light and crispy. We had an excellent view of the ancient oven too.

            1. re: Higgette

              It's true that many Regina fans prefer their pizza with few or no toppings, although that's influenced by the fact that many aficionados on this board prefer ALL their pizza with few or no toppings. There are others of us who like the toppings fine. However, Barmy and I have also had worse luck with the white pizzas than with those that have sauce, in regards doneness. Don't forget to ask for your pizza well-done!

              BTW, I finally looked back at your original post to this board - I stand corrected regarding Portuguese food in TO, somehow I've managed to miss that on my many visits. Where is "Little Portugal"? Wish I could get back for a visit - the airfare's gotten ridiculous and we haven't been since Sept 2007, but I miss Toronto terribly.

              1. re: Allstonian

                I did remeber, too late, that there was a 'well done' caveat in there somewhere about the pizza. However, we did really enjoy it.

                Little Portugal in Toronto is roughly the same neighbourhood as little Italy but further west on College Street. There are some outstanding places. We had what passes for a Portugeuse soup in Provincetown and I must say, you can get musch better here.

              1. re: foodlover678

                My thoughts on pizza toppings, more vs. less:

                1. the more toppings you get, the more everything cancels each other out in terms of taste. Well, except the anchovies, which can overpower everything.

                2. the more toppings you get, the more likely the whole thing (crust especially) will be undercooked and soggy, with the added demerit that some of the very top items (especially onion slices) will be burned.

                3. having just sauce, cheese, and crust can tell you a lot about how good a pizza place really is. You can really experience the crust under optimal circumstance (too thick? too thin? too bland?), taste their sauce (tart? sweet?), and see how they balance the cheese-to-sauce ratio. The places I like best do all these things exceptionally.

                Yeah, once in a while a pizza with everything on it is just what suits a piggish mood. But it's not usually a chowish pleasure.

                1. re: bachslunch

                  What we did was order two pizzas from their combination menu. Somehow I thought we would be safe following their suggested toppings. I definitely agree with you on the 'less is more' concept but I was willing to let the house guide me on that one.

        2. Just fyi -- lobster rolls are traditionally served on New England style (bread on the sides, not crust) hot dog rolls. So, theres nothing wrong or unusual with this presentation. It should have been grilled on each side in butter before filling.

          3 Replies
          1. re: pemma

            I'm famialr with the concept of both hot and cold lobster rolls, having seen them on the Food Network, despite never having had one before. This was definitely a bun not unlike those they use for serving streetdogs in NYC and elsewhere and it was not grilled. It was, however a cold roll that I ordered so I did not expect it to be. I was happy enough to eat the lobster salad it was filled with, although it too was somewhat lacking, but sometimes the experience is more important for me than what I'm actually consuming.

            1. re: Higgette

              "This was definitely a bun not unlike those they use for serving streetdogs in NYC and elsewhere"

              Yep, that is exactly what most "new england" lobster rolls are served on. I'd say they are buttered and grilled about 75% of the time - but it's always worth checking, and it's okay to request it.

              1. re: chevrelove

                Okay, thanks. I wondered about that. This one was a tad stale. But as I almost never eat all the roll or bread from any sandwich, it was okay that I left most of it on the plate.

          2. Thanks for the report.

            There are several strong boosters of Artu on this board (I'm definitely not one of them), and it's interesting to see a report on this place that mirrors my experience there.

            Sorry to hear you went to Union Oyster House and Barking Crab. There are numerous better options locally. In these categories, would suggest Durgin Park (a definite improvement over UOH) and Neptune Oyster (a gigantic improvement over BC) as better choices if you return.

            My experience at Mare suggests that it's indeed good, but very expensive. It's definitely not my first North End choice, though one can do a lot worse.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bachslunch

              I didn't consider Mare terribly expensive but I might have been comparing it to Toronto prices, since we had only just arrived. It was our only dining experience that approximated fine dining so I wasn't overly concerned about the price. I loved the atmoshpere, if not the food at UOH and BC so it was really okay. I have a picture of me smashing the lobster with a rock that has my friends here in stitches. It was well worth going there just for that. As for my husband, he is not a serious chow-er like me - that is, he will eat anything and not complain and we really did have fun. We will definitely be back to Boston one day.

              1. re: bachslunch

                I would have to disagree. Durgin Park is not "a defininte improvement" over anything except maybe a Friday's or something along those lines.

                1. re: Dansoxfan

                  We have this discussion around here every several months or so.

                  There aren't a lot of places in Boston that serve old fashioned Yankee style cooking anymore, and I say Durgin Park does it best, certainly better than the Union Oyster House or the Parker House. I've eaten at all three spots on more than one occasion. Dansoxfan, if you know of a place that dishes up this cuisine better, please share with us. Please note that the Green Street Grill, which used to prepare an updated version of this food type, no longer does.

                  Some posters seem to have a problem with the cuisine itself ("geez it's just pot roast" or something to that effect). That's a different issue.

              2. wait - ou can't get Harpoon IPA other places? i didn't realize...

                3 Replies
                1. re: jylze

                  Bottled and on draft, it's available in the US. The OP lives in Toronto, not sure if it's available there.

                  1. re: Dax

                    Definittely not. My husband works for Brewer;s Retail, the only outlet for beed in Ontario and he would know. However, we have Mill Street tankhouse ale on tap in some bars and it com es close. Had some last night.