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Every time I travel and every time I see a Bon Appetit magazine, my inner foodie comes out to play. My recent trip to Boston was filled with culinary delights, as well as some sad attempts at haute cuisine. I make it a point when I travel to always eat at local places. I avoid chains like the plague, with the exception of the occasional Starbucks coffee or a Panera scone. This is normally detrimental to my wallet, but we all have our guilty pleasures.
The first night on the trip, we were driving from Nebraska to Denver, Colorado. We stopped in Sydney for Runza. For those of you who have never experienced a runza sandwich, it’s a cabbage burger. This is to say that the sandwich consists of cabbage, ground beef, and cheese in a yeasty bread. It’s like a stuffed sandwich or a really glorified hot pocket. Runza is a purely Nebraska experience. This was the first Runza experience for many (non-native Nebraskans) in our group and those girls approached their sandwiches with a little trepidation. While Runza did not win any new fans that evening, but it was an above average fast food experience.
Arriving in Boston, we split ourselves into two groups, one that went to the Cheesecake Factory, a fine choice, and one that went exploring. My exploration group found a quaint little French restaurant, Le Petit Robert Bistro, and had the greatest dining experience of the trip. This is worth noting even though it has very little to do with English and a whole lot to do with stuffing my face and speaking French. We believe that it was the manager of the restaurant that we had met outside and who had convinced us to come in who kept returning to our table to check on us. Two of my group got the saumon grille ratatouille, another got the coquilles st. jacques, someone else had the poulet roti, and I had the coq au vin. Those of us over 21 splurged and tried the Beaujolais (which we were later informed was supposed to taste of bananas and fruits of the forest).The entire meal was delicious. The meat melted in your mouth, the wine was some of the best I’d ever had. We all decided to splurge and get dessert. We had already decided on a tarte au citron and creme brulee when the manager returned telling us we had to order the tarte tatin. He even chased down our waiter to inform him that this was what we needed, with both the creme fraiche and the ice cream. He was right. That had to have been the best tarte tatin of my life. It was a glorious combination of caramel and apple and sugar and with the creme fraiche; I was pretty sure I’d died and gone to heaven.
For lunch the next day, many in our group had never tasted sushi. Where better to introduce our Nebraska friends to sushi while in the contiguous 48 than Boston? Turns out, Boston is not actually the best place to do this. We ate at Symphony Sushi and I was encouraged by all of the Asian languages I was hearing the diners speaking, yet when we ordered our hot tea, it was luke warm and bland. It was disgusting. Our miso soup was below average and smellier than usual. The sushi we finally received was too warm and glommed in our mouths like warm, sticky, soft balls of rices with extra blandness. We were not impressed and the poor sushi novices were probably turned off sushi for life. It was really poor quality sushi. There’s nothing like warm rice and fish and avocado mushing together into a tasteless glob.
That evening we decided to taste some Mexican from north of the border. That was also a horrible experience if you ordered the chile rellenos. The chiles were a different chile than I have ever had with chile rellenos and while rellenos are normally stuffed with cheese, these were stuffed with a gritty, dry combination of rice, almonds, and shredded chicken. These strange packets were served in a deep dish with a white sauce. Nothing in the dish worked together. There were too many flavors trying to accomplish to many things and the result was inedible.
The next day, I was on the hunt for Boston’s best lobster roll. I had read about them in one of the summer issues of Bon Appetit and I couldn’t wait to actually taste one. I had only had lobster once or twice before. I remember my grandmother getting them flown in for one of our Thursday dinners and how she lifted them squirming out of their box and into the boiling pot of water. She deftly covered the pot and we waited to hear them scream. It was a macabre and wonderful dining experience all at the same time. In my pursuit of Boston’s best, I stumbled upon Gourmet’s list for the eight best lobster rolls in the city. I made us reservations at the Summer Shack, which I had earlier dismissed for it’s unassuming front and proximity to the convention center. When we were led inside that evening, I realized how misleading the front of the building was. It was delightfully cozy and fun inside, with large murals of lobsters leading groups of other marine animals to the shack and lots of dinners eating massive plates of food. My friend, Kali, and I decided to split a bowl of the New England clam chowder and then I would order the lobster roll and she would order the fish and chips and then we would split those as well. The clam chowder was a delicious, creamy soup that made me wish I had grown up on the eastern coast with clam bakes and my mom making this chowder on cold December days. The lobster roll consisted of an overloaded brioche role with the sweetest lobster meat. It was a phenomenal experience of the harmony of mayonnaise, meat, bread, and a few spices. I would definitely go back for a repeat performance of that roll. Kali’s fish and chips came out as a monster pile of fries with a single piece of fish, large enough to cover the majority of the fries. It was perfectly crisp and hot enough to make your mouth burn.
For our last night in Boston, Kelsey turned twenty-one. We decided that a fitting bar to take her to would be the Cheers bar from the old television show. Kali and I shared a plate of calamari that had an interesting twist of jalapenos and bell peppers. I then had my own plate of rather unremarkable fish and chips. I’ve had better in Colorado, to give some better perspective. I didn’t even feel the need to take a picture of my meal it was so unspectacular. The atmosphere of the bar was crowded and loud with lots of memorabilia on the walls. It didn’t feel very clean, but its was the Cheers bar so that made it bearable. What really sold the last night was the taxi cab tour of Boston afterward and not the food.
All in all, it was a delicious vacation with some places I would definitely return to. Where are some of the best places you’ve ever eaten?
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