In Part I of my Boston series (The Rauch House), I began with thanks and a poem for my hosts. Part II was my tour of America’s Test Kitchen, the meat and potatoes. Now here we are, Part III, the last of my Boston series. Last only until my next trip out (hopefully much sooner than this last ten year gap). Here I offer you an edible tour of the city, finished with a new recipe chock full of New England.
Two years ago, my soon-to-be-8 year old made “Boston Cream Pie” with vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding, and chocolate frosting in her school’s summer program. Ever since, she’s been asking to go to Boston for the real thing. (She also asked to go to China when she found out that’s where her Disney princess toys were made.)
This trip marked many firsts for her. First: 1) plane ride, 2) subway ride, 3) trip to the East coast, and many more. Our first order of business when we landed at 5 p.m. EST? The Parker House hotel, home of the original Boston Cream Pie. We started with calamari as an appetizer (mostly to appear as if I don’t feed my child dessert for dinner). As picky as she is, she actually likes squid. Probably because it’s not green. Although I still haven’t talked her into trying crab or lobster, go figure.
Is it just me, or is there something wrong with eating seafood at an aquarium? I pondered this as I enjoyed my very first lobster roll (from a little hot dog stand called “Dogs N Claws” of all places) just outside of the aquarium. It was pretty spectacular, tons of meat, very fresh and simple.
That night for dinner we went to Tantric, an Indian restaurant in the theater district. They had some of the most unusual, amazing dishes. My photos don’t do it justice. The lighting was perfect for ambience, not so perfect for photography.
Freeze, a tiny ice cream shop way out on the green D line at the Waban stop, has the best ice cream I’ve ever had. They serve giant, old-fashioned scoops of ice cream. Picture perfect peppermint stick ice cream, heavenly blackberry frozen yogurt with dark chocolate chips…I’m telling you this because I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture before devouring it. Ice cream doesn’t make a good model anyway. You will just have to go and see for yourself.
The next day was the big tour of America’s Test Kitchen, which ended with a lovely lunch at Cutty’s. This deceptively simple sandwich shop is run by a former ATK test cook. Super fresh thinly cut Italian meats, paired with a carrot and olive salad that I must find a way to replicate at home, makes for quite the memorable sandwich.
Another fun discovery, at Cutty’s they were giving out free copies of “edibleBoston,” a magazine dedicated to “Celebrating the Abundance of Local Food.” What’s really neat is this magazine can be found in many other cities, including Sacramento! I will have to add “edibleSacramento” to my growing list of food-centric subscriptions.
As you may have noticed from previous rhapsodies, I have an affinity for farmer’s markets. I was thrilled to get to explore one near the Boston Common. I confess I didn’t have terribly high expectations since I’ve always heard produce outside California doesn’t compare. And while they didn’t have my favorite summer stone fruits, I was surprised with the variety and intensity of colors.
I tried my first gooseberries (sour!) and bought my first currants, mostly because I was so taken with their gorgeous color. I couldn’t wait, and began photographing them in my lap on the drive to our next stop.
Wilson Farm, a 127 year-old family farm in Lexington, MA, grows beautiful produce for sale in their little shop. They also supplement with a fair amount of produce from California, but I wouldn’t hold it against them. We bought some black mission figs, watermelon, and other fun things to play with for dinner later.
Mikele and I got to play in the kitchen. Cooking with someone who truly enjoys the art of it all is such a pleasure. This phenomenal salad summed up our day, and our trip perfectly:
Summer Currants Salad
Baby mixed greens, a little arugula would be nice
3 black mission figs, sliced
¼ cup of extra sharp cheese, slivered
¼ cup fresh red currants
Small handful sliced baby heirloom tomatoes and snap peas (if you have them)
2-3 Tablespoons mango nectar
2 Tablespoons orange Muscat vinegar (or rice vinegar if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby to find this yummy stuff)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 Tablespoons Kalamata olive oil (or your best extra virgin)
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked fennel seeds
Sea salt to taste
Black sesame seeds (optional)
1) Simmer ½ cup fresh currants and ¼ cup mango nectar on medium low until the currants start to break down, no more than 5 minutes if you start with a hot pan.
2) Place a bowl under a fine mesh strainer (or tea ball if your kitchen is in chaos). Pour warmed currants and juice into the strainer. Mash the pulp around to extract as much of the juice as you can. Fingers work well for this.
3) Add the rest of the dressing ingredients to the strained juices, saving the olive oil for last. Note-it’s much easier to crack fennel seeds if you drizzle a little water over them. This keeps them from hopping around while your knife does its job.
4) Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing resembles a gorgeous liquid watermelon. Season the dressing to taste. If it tastes dull, add a little lime juice. If the flavor is not quite there, add a little salt.
5) Arrange the greens in a nice bowl with sliced figs, cheese, fresh currants, and any other random veggies you feel like adding.
6) Dress the greens just prior to eating, preferably outside, before the mosquitoes begin to hum.