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Thanks Boston Hounds! Reviews of my trip - long

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bdachow Nov 25, 2012 11:29 AM

As always, another fun trip to Boston aided by the great Hounds on the Boston board. Thanks as always for being so informative and writing thorough reviews, always super helpful and a big THANKS to OpinionatedChef who really helped out in giving us pointers.
An early afternoon arrival let us head out and grab a light snack before an early dinner. We headed over to the Prudential Centre and grabbed a quick bite at the food court. Given how nippy it was outside, we hit Boston Chowda to warm up. Clam chowder, corn chowder and a chicken pot pie. 2 hits and a miss. Both chowders were delicious, you could practically taste the cream in it, it was super velvety. The clam chowder had nice bits of clam and had that clam juice flavor that reminds you of the sea. My only comment would be too many potatoes but understandable, it is a cheap filler. The corn chowder was equally good with lots of corn and still a few too many potatoes. The chicken pot pie was average, I found the insides too runny and not quite thick enough to kind of coat the filling which is how I like it. But nice chunks of chicken meat, not overly dry and the crust was nice and flaky, reminded me of shortcrust texture, however there was only a top covered in pastry and I like it like a pie, nice soggier bits on the bottom for me.
Dinner was a return visit to Island Creek Oyster Bar, which I had previously visited on a separate occasion and had a really enjoyable meal. Returning this time, I again, started with oysters that were super fresh and delicious, only a small shard of shell from shucking. My personal favourite was the Sunken Meadow, crisp and briny and oh so right. My BF had the crab cake which was quite nice with the pistachio relish and frisee but was nothing particularly memorable. In addition, we had the blue cheese with roasted figs. I love blue cheese and figs and it was a really nice combination. My only quibble was they hadn’t removed the hard stem so we had to keep spitting them out. For mains, he ordered the lobster roe noodles and absolutely loved it which I was happy with since I wasn’t as keen on it from last visit. I settled for the halibut special that evening and was extremely pleased by the deliciously moist and flaky and nicely seasoned pieces of fish that came out. I always forget how big the portions are in the States and ended up only finishing half of the dish. Again, service was friendly, efficient and knowledgable and the room was buzzing with lots of people enjoying a Friday evening out. Oh yes, and of course we split a buttermilk biscuit and even when we were full, we kept nibbling at it. With all the nice crunchy crust and lovely layers soaking up the honey, how can you resist. Suffice it to say, we passed on the dessert menu, again. One of these days…I’d definitely return in the future again when in town.
Ok, I admit it, I’ve never eaten at a Cheesecake Factory (and neither had the BF) and there one was smack dab in front of me. Having read horrible things about the calorie count and the portions and blah blah blah, I was intrigued so why the heck not. Was I surprised? Yes, I definitely was. Ok, the portions were large and the menu does read like an epic novel but overall, service was prompt and friendly and the food didn’t taste that bad. It’s not revolutionary but it was fresh and tasty. I had the Asian lettuce wrap tacos which were tasty with nice sour tang from pickled veggies, crisp lettuce and nice bits of chicken which weren’t dried out. I didn’t like the gloppy rice noodles in sesame dressing at the bottom, didn’t add much to texture and was a bit overwhelming. I also tried the roasted mushroom flatbread which was nice, kind of a chewy type of dough, with a crunch to the edge and nice roasted mushrooms (real, not the canned kind). The BF had the mac & cheese burger with sweet potato fries. Fries came out nice and crispy (think McDonald’s fries texture) but a little underseasoned. He thought the burger was great, nice and juicy patty with the mac and cheese adding a nice creamy texture to the overall concept. With 2 alcoholic drinks, the bill came to slightly over 40 which I can understand is good value for the portions you get. Would I ever go back? Sure, I understand the appeal, the menu has a good variety of stuff and if you’re in a large group with diverse tastes, it has a little something for everyone. On my own, probably not, life’s too short to eat “safe” food unless it’s the only thing around.
Thankfully we were stuffed by our lunch as we were about to endure a wait for our dinner. We braved the crowds and headed to the North End to try Regina Pizza. We arrived around 5:30 and ended up in line for almost 50 minutes. It was the night of the Bieber concert so lots of “Bieliebers” doing a pre-concert dinner. I was not overly ecstatic about the soundtrack for the evening and was greatful when it neared concert time, they cleared out and the music changed back to anything but the Biebs. Note to future patrons, check the concert schedule at TD North else you might end up in line surrounded by bouncing screaming overly hyped up pre-teens. The BF had the broccoli and spinach with lots of garlic and it lived up to its billing of lots of garlic. I had the mushroom, artichoke, fresh basil and sausage (?). Both were excellent, the crust has a nice bounce to it. When you bite into it, it springs back into shape afterwards, not too thin, not too thick, just right! Not too soft, not too chewy, just right. I felt a little like Goldilocks. The sauce was nice and light, not that really heavy tomato sauce that comes from a can. Overall, everything came together in a nice package and we were both super happy, we even took the leftovers for breakfast the next morning and the BF actually didn’t mind the wait at the end of it.
After dinner, we went for a walk to try and walk off some of the dinner and to check out the area. The line-ups were ridiculous at Mike’s and at Modern so definitely skipped that. We ended up ducking into Caffe Vittoria for a little post dinner wind down. A cappuccino and pistachio gelato for me and an espresso and canolli for the BF. We saw a busboy walk by with a stack of crushed Modern Pastry boxes and were debating whether the canolli were from there. Either way, I can say I’m not a canolli person. I just don’t get it, it was a moderately thick, crunchy shell filled with a nice enough sweet ricotta cream but for me, I wasn’t jumping up and down. The pistachio gelato was ok, had nice pieces of pistachio in it but I think the texture loses something sitting in the gelato plus it had a lingering flavor of marzipan which I’m not a big fan of. The coffees were nice though and seeing the old coffee grinders on display was pretty cool. Go for the ambiance and the coffee is my recommendation.
Sunday morning was a slow start. We puttered off to Bom Café in search of pasteis de nata. It was a nice little morning start, not great since it was Sunday and I think it was leftover from the day before as there was a slight chew to the pastry. Still, the custard was nice, not too sweet and with a very rich creamy texture. We took a little stroll but were anxious to find a decent place to pass the time watching the Patriots game. Phoenix Landing was recommended but we walked past and it was packed with soccer fans so we ended up at Champions Sports Bar at the Marriott Cambridge. A couple of seats at the bar with a clear sight of every almost every game and we were comfortable. Clean, possibly considered sterile, every seat in the bar area was filled. The 50 cent wings were ok, not great but not horrible. We got medium hot (not that hot still) and the chili Thai wings (more sweet than spicy), well fried and not greasy and for the price, a decent enough way to spend the afternoon. A nice selection of beers on tap didn’t hurt. They had the Wachusett Blueberry beer on tap which was definitely intriguing. Ok, call it a girlie beer but I enjoyed it (being a girl doesn’t hurt).
For dinner we had tickets for a show so we went for an early dinner to Erbaluce. I opted for the specials, a braised sunflower head with breadcrumbs, ricotta topping with capers and raisin vinaigrette and the poached lobster. My BF had the risotto stuffed Cuban pepper with spicy shrimp to start and the pumpkin agnolotti in broth as a main. I now understand the love/hate it gets on the board. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal but his was very meh. The shrimp were a little “fishier” smelling than normal so we abstained from eating them and the risotto wasn’t so much creamy as it reminded me of Uncle Ben’s Spanish rice. The pumpkin agnolotti with orange in chicken broth was disappointing, the wrapper being quite hard, not al dente, just hard. The redeeming factor was a smooth pumpkin-y filling. My braised sunflower head was really great, I had no idea that you could eat the entire head and it was delicious. They described it like artichokes and texturally, it did remind me of it but the flavor was subtle and seemed very much like a sponge, absorbing the flavor of whatever you braise it in. The capers definitely added a nice punch of salt to the dish. My lobster poached in olive oil was very nice. Perfectly cooked, no rubber here but the presentation was definitely rustic or what I considered messy, it reminded me of a Jackson Pollack painting, spatters. Service was really great with the staff inquiring if we were seeing a show right off the bat and timing the kitchen so we’d leave on time. The room itself is a bit stark, the lighting provides warmth but the bar-ish walls give it a starkness that seems to conflict with the ambience they were trying to create. Would I return? Compared to an amazing trip to Prezza previously, I’d say no. I’d much prefer to go back to Prezza than Erbaluce.
Last day, this required a cleanse, specifically, an Asian cleanse and we were slower than molasses. Brunch, more like lunch, we hit Pho Pasteur in Chinatown for a restorative lunch. We had the wonton soup and salad roll to start. A “kitchen sink” pho for myself and a pork lo mein for my BF. And of course, a couple of coffees with condensed milk. The wonton soup was surprisingly good, the broth was clear and flavourful with decent sized wontons and quite a few, more like a full meal than a starter. The pho was really nice, again, light and clear, good spicing and didn’t leave you with the MSG parch. The tendon and tripe were tender with just the right amount of chew. The lo mein was pretty big with your standard mix of baby corn, straw mushrooms, celery, peppers and broccoli with pork. The noodles were fried with a nice crunchiness where the sauce could soak into. Coffees were good but I was sad that you don’t get to watch it drip slowly from the filter. Overall, it was pricier than I’m used to for pho (compared to home, being Vancouver) but overall, for Asian comfort food, I’d return.
Needing to kill a couple hours before a movie, we stopped into Thinking Cup for a little more coffee and a snack. Located conveniently close to the Boston Common, this little gem serves Stumptown Coffee, which I’d read about previously. Americano, pumpkin bread, latte and blondie with sea salt and caramel. The coffee was really good, if you like a slightly fruitier bean, which I enjoy. The pumpkin bread was moist and dense with a nice crunch from the pumpkin seeds on top. The blondie was also great, for 2 full people, it disappeared pretty quick. Big thumbs up, the only downside are the campers. Belatedly, I realize it was featured as a great place for uni students to hang out. Lots of books/laptops/study notes with empty drinks and thus, getting a table could be challenging.
4 days later, we opted to eat at the hotel restaurant, Zephyr on the Charles, with an early wake up call. It’s hotel dining, that’s all I will have to say. Neither here nor there.
Hits and misses on this trip but still a great fun city to visit with some really good food. Can't wait to come back again.

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  1. Boston_Otter RE: bdachow Nov 25, 2012 12:09 PM

    I had no idea that sunflower heads were edible. Wow! Now I want to go there just to try that one dish.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Boston_Otter
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      bdachow RE: Boston_Otter Nov 26, 2012 03:55 PM

      I had no idea either. They were saying that you could eat the stem as well, cooking it like rhubarb! Who would've known that it's such a versatile and delicious plant.

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      bear RE: bdachow Nov 25, 2012 12:39 PM

      Fantastic report! A really fun read, and very helpful for local hounds and future visitors. Thanks!

      1. opinionatedchef RE: bdachow Nov 25, 2012 02:38 PM

        hi there bda girl, so glad you had a great trip. And thanks so much for taking the time for the report; it will be super helpful in advising future visitors! As we approach winter and dip into the 30's F today, i envy you the beauty and warmth down there!

        1 Reply
        1. re: opinionatedchef
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          bdachow RE: opinionatedchef Nov 26, 2012 03:55 PM

          Thanks OC! Although I admit to missing the changing colour of the leaves and that nippiness in the evenings, makes it feel more like winter. Having said that, there's nothing like celebrating Xmas day on the beach with champagne, half the island and a sunburn. :)

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