The Great Food Ambassador Challenge
In late December, my french boyfriend is coming to visit America ( for the very first time!) and we will be staying in Boston for about three days. He is an excellent host when I visit France, helping me to discover the diversity and deliciousness of french cuisine. I would like to return the favor and make sure he gets a proper taste of what American and New England cuisine is and enjoy the Boston restaurant scene.
I currently live in Boston so I know the area very well. I naturally have my own list of restaurants, but I would greatly appreciate some outside opinions on what you think he should experience. We have a blank-slate to work with (McDonalds IS the premier American cuisine to him) so he really does not know much about the food here.
He is French. Which means:
a) The taste and pleasure of food is of upmost importance (aka food snob)
b) There better be wine (for dinner at least)
c) Absolutely no french restaurant suggestions. I don't care if the foie gras or the steak tartar is simply transcendent at L'Espalier. It's better in France, trust me.
d) We are students aka Poverty! We are willing to splurge on one meal, but please generally give places with entrees in the $20 range (if not less for dinner) and maybe some fun cheap eats suggestions for lunch
e) fortunately he is very open and will try anything
So, it is now up to you to help strengthen the cultural ties between France and America. Please aid me in teaching our tres cultivated friend from across that Ocean that America, and especially Boston, has some pretty incredible cuisine to offer.
774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
If your boyfriend judges our food by his rules, all is lost. In your price range we are talking about what people eat every day, not fine dining. Everyday dining in America has a whole different set of expectations and goals than everyday dining in France. Of course both can be very enjoyable, but the "rules" for what is good are different. It would be like judging a pie the way you would judge a cake, and taking off points because the center is wet.
Because of this, I think you need to stay far away from any restaurant setting that is formal or even smacks of it. Plus, rather than eat food that comes from overseas cultures, which he might dismiss as not being American, I would suggest that you give him some great examples of what makes our food special and unique. Some general ideas:
- A nice boiled lobster with drawn butter and corn on the side served at a North Shore or South Shore lobster pound. Or perhaps a great steaming bowl of the local version of clam chowder with some spanking-fresh baked cod as the main course at some unfancy seafood eatery.
- A trip to Bartley's (or some other non-chain burger place) to introduce your bf to the glories of what a hamburger can be.
- A wonderful breakfast with blueberry pancakes and real maple syrup (or moral equivalent) at a great diner.
- Hit up Formaggio for some great charcuiterie and cheese and then visit an artisan baker (at the source so the bread is nice and fresh) and have a picnic lunch, even if the weather means you have to do it indoors.
- Consider seeking out some other regional American cuisines for him to try, such as TexMex or Southern.
- For your splurge, consider a good quality (but not upscale) steak house. Very American.
we have french friends who visit and always seem to love: American diners with pancakes (Deluxe Town would be my choice); fish and shellfish of any kind (I'd go to Neptune, Island Creek, or East Coast Grill for oysters and fish) and American beef (hamburgers and ny strip seem to delight them). They've seemed to enjoy Thai food but complain that most Asian food seems very sweet to them.
East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139
I think you have to do a burger. We are lucky to have several very good burgers in this town, in venues as varied as the very casual Highland Kitchen (best burger I've had in a long time) to the more upscale Craigie or Radius. Given your financial constraints, I'd go lowbrow. He'd probably get a kick out of Bartley's for lunch.
As for good wine that wont break the bank, I'm stumped on this one. I'm hoping someone like hotoynoodle will chime in. There must be some good wine values in town (that is good value wines in venues that wont wreck your budget not places like Troquet). I'd like to know about them myself.
140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
I read the original poster as wanting to enjoy wine with the meal, but more like vin de table or vin du pays as opposed to a flight of AOC wines. A few random thoughts, keeping in mind some of the things PinchOfSalt says.
The burger could be had at Central Kitchen which has a reasonable markup on wines.
Places like the original Regina's (sit at the bar) and the Daily Catch are very Boston and offer basic wines daily catch may still be in plastic cups. Until a few years ago wicker chianti bottles were still common. :-)
Neptune might be worth it as a splurge and offers interesting mid-range wines (no great bargains, but its a splurge). If you go Friday early you might be able to go to a Wine Bottega tasting and still not wait too long.
Legal seafoods has reasonable markups, a wide selection, perhaps not so inspired food.
Several mid range restaurants are now offering carafes (Coppa I think was the latest). Bergamot offers local food (in season) with more unusual French wines than other restaurants.
Portuguese restaurants have inexpensive wines and the OP will probably get Portuguese recs, but France is so close to Portugal. So for the most part ignore those, but if you can go down to the South Coast there are restaurants there which are special (Churrascarias Aveirense which grills over wood for instance).
Tango in Arlington represents something from this hemisphere, its romatic when not crowded and has fairly inexpensive but new-world oriented wines.
It could be fun to go to a place with an Enomatic like the Wine Gallery(ies) or Julio's.
Try to get him to try our beer at the Cambridge Brewing Company or somewhere like Atwoods or Tupelo.
567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Interesting challenge. I would avoid anything European which is better in France, but a real strength here is the diversity of ethnic foods not easily available in France. I think our Chinese places especially Sichuan (sichuan gourmet/garden), Taiwanese (taiwan cafe) and even Cantonese (Peach Farm, Best Little Restaurant) are good choices. South American (Rincon Limeno) Mexican (Angela's) are also relative strong and good choice for European DCs. Our seafood (Neptune Oyster, Island Creek) take advantage of simple preps of good seafood. I also find that my french friends always enjoy a superb hamburger (controversial) while here. Wine isn't strong at any of these places.
I recommend Asian; the choices of ethnic foods in France are quite limited; I do no think Mexican or South American food is our strongest point. (I like Mexican and Chilean food, by the way.) They do a great job on simple seafood in France and our Fremch food is not up to the standards of New York let alone Lyon or Paris.
Many Asian restaurants will allow you to bring your own wine though some charge a corkage fee.
Liking food that tastes good does not make him a snob in my book.
I agree about ethnic in general - Peach Farm is great, albeit with zero decor. We are lucky to have not one but two excellent Spanish restaurants in town, Taberna de Haro and Estragon, run by now-divorced Deborah and Julio de Haro, respectively.
There's also Bergamot, which has been blowing people away since it opened last summer. It's pretty moderately priced for the quality, and they have $39 three-course offerings during certain days & hours - check with them for details.
All but Peach Farm have excellent, affordable wine lists.
4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111
Taberna De Haro
999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446
700 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118
118 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143
Not really - I'd label it New American if I had to call it something. There are at times a few French (or Frenchish) dishes on the menu but that's not the predominant theme and it doesn't remind me strongly of anywhere I've eaten in France.
Examples of recent specials:
Grilled Quail w Chorizo, Cabbage, Chickpea & Manchego Puree (actually that's being planned for the New Year's Eve menu)
Slow-Poached Turkey Roulade
Prime Rib w Duck Fat Roasted Carrots & Meat Jus
Cold-Poached Nantucket Scallops w Satsuma Tangerines, Farro, Roasted Red Beets, Shaved Fennel, Champagne Sauce
Lola Duck w Spaetzle, Brussel Sprouts, Rutabaga & Ginger-Allspice Sauce