Moon Over Boston and a Year at Sea

Ben Franklin presides over lunch at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

So, last week we were in Boston and this was the view from our slip. Not too shabby, huh? This was the first opportunity I’ve had to spend any time in Boston and, once again, I am in love. I’ve never considered myself a city girl, but there is something intoxicating about all that energy, at least in small doses. Boston is the best kind of city, in my opinion. It is a perfect mix of old and new: public transit rumbles beneath cobblestone streets and glittering sky scrapers intermingle with buildings that witnessed the birth of our nation.

Old Corner Chipotle

Everything a city can offer is close at hand, while ample green spaces keep it from feeling too close. Sometimes the old and the new mix a little too much. Along the Freedom Trail, the historic Old City Hall now houses a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Another stop, known as the Old Corner Bookstore, was built in 1712 and once housed the publisher of The Scarlet Letter and Walden. It became a meeting place for many great 19th century authors, including Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne and Dickens. Now it is a Chipotle Mexican Grill. It just feels wrong.

We were lucky enough to stay at Boston Yacht Haven, which put us just blocks from the middle of the Freedom Trail and along the most sought after spot on the waterfront.  Just as important, it put us on the edge of the North End, Boston’s Italian neighborhood, and that means lots of food. We started our culinary exploration at the original Regina Pizzeria, a brick oven joint and Boston landmark since 1926. The charred, thin crust of our white pizza, covered in thick chunks of well-done peppers and onion and two kinds of sausage, served with red wine in water glasses, felt exactly right in the crowded, boisterous dining room that Arthur Frommer says, “looks like Hollywood’s idea of a pizza joint.” The local color continued on the way home, as we passed a guy in a cherry picker having a spirited discussion with his colleagues on the ground about the placement of street decorations for the upcoming St. Anthony’s Feast celebration.

The next evening, we tried the closer and less well-known neighborhood bistro, North Street Grille. My expectations were high, as I had read some glowing reviews and the potential was certainly there. Unfortunately, what could have been an excellent meal was thrown off-track by some simple but crucial steps in the kitchen. Mark ordered a steak dish that was on special and accompanied by a pan sauce and mashed potatoes that were downright extraordinary.  Too bad the steak was seriously overdone. I ordered a truffled lobster risotto that skimped on neither truffles nor lobster, but was in desperate need of a little salt and pepper. Parmesan cheese shavings helped but, once they were gone, I lost interest. It was a slow evening and the bartender was also our waiter. He looked like his other job was possibly cast member on Jersey Shore, complete with cryptic neck tattoo. After some initial sloppy service, it became clear that our complaints were not likely to be met with much concern. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Our persistence was rewarded the next evening when we passed over all the nearby options and sprung for a cab to a South End restaurant that sounded just perfect for us. Picco stands for Pizza and Ice Cream Company. What more could we want? Well, I’ll tell you. Picco has a constantly rotating beer menu that must be managed by an irrepressible beer geek because they offer some of the best, most interesting craft brews you can find anywhere. Mark couldn’t resist starting with a DFH Burton Baton, but then we delved into some new territory with an Allagash Tripel, a Uinta Dubhe and a St. Boltoph’s Town from the local Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. These are all big, hearty beers with relatively high ABV; good thing we had the food to stand up to them. We shared a rich bowl of mac & cheese studded with hunks of sausage and Picco’s take on the Alsatian Tart. It was a revelation: sautéed onion, shallot, garlic, crème fraîche, bacon and Gruyère served on their crunchy, chewy crust. I could have been happy with that, but it says right in the name that we must have ice cream. And it was the best ice cream I have ever eaten, seriously. I can’t stop thinking about it. After that, we saved the cab fare and walked the two miles back to the boat.

The next evening, it was back to the North End for Boston’s authority on Northern Italian cuisine, Mamma Maria. We started with the best beef carpaccio I’ve ever had, with generous shavings of fresh truffles. Mark got the signature veal osso buco with saffron risotto that was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Unfortunately, I threw some of it all over the white linen table-cloth trying to steal a bite. My dish consisted of large pockets of pasta stuffed with fresh lobster and finished with a light but savory mushroom sauce. We all but licked our plates clean. The service was elegant but not overly fussy. The dining room was a bit crowded and noisy, but I could see Paul Revere’s house out the window over Mark’s shoulder.

Fearing we might be overdoing the Italian, we couldn’t leave Boston without a visit to an Irish pub. The Black Rose has an authentic feel, right down to our Irish waitress. Our lunch of fish and chips and Guinness-braised beef stew were predictably well executed. It was a comfortable end to an uncomfortably full week of eating. Now that you know everything single thing I ate for a week, tomorrow I can tell you about some of the other stuff we did.

Since leaving Boston, we have arrived back in Stratford, CT (near Bridgeport). We’ll be taking a break from cruising to spend Labor Day with our Delaware people. It is a well-deserved break, since it was one year ago today that we left Miami on this odyssey. Okay, so it hasn’t exactly been a “year at sea,” but we never dreamed back then that we would still be doing this a year later. We don’t know what the near future holds for us, but you are welcome to come along for whatever it may be. In the meantime, I’ve still got some great stuff from the summer that I’ve yet to share with you, so get ready for the flashback.

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3 thoughts on “Moon Over Boston and a Year at Sea

  1. I certainly hope you can’t gain weight by reading your blog over and over because the food and fun just sound so good. Your decision to walk back after all the heavy beers was a wise one. Tell us more.

  2. Sounds awesome! A far cry from our visit to Boston such a long time ago. I am looking forward to the flashback of more details from your summer!

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