Boston

Steel & Rye

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by Kitty Kaufman

SteelRyeInteriorIt's Thursday, it's late and we parked blocks away because the lot is full at Steel & Rye. We're good though; one of us thought to make a reservation so we're seated right away. The room, formerly a warehouse with 20-foot ceilings and huge windows in 7,000 square feet, is noisy and fun. This is a light supper night in an eclectic American setting and we're casual, having come from dance classes, but it doesn't matter at all.

Hungry as hippos after a big tap-out, now we have our menu and we're breaking out the flashlights. It's weird because you can't call it dark exactly and you better not call us old. I should have taken the menu because what's online is a "sampling of our offerings" since the selections change nightly.

We start with Domaine Pichot Vouvray. It's light and raisin-y with a tart apple finish. Good choice because now we're digging into cream-based squash soup with pomegranate. I'm finding ginger, maybe pumpkin, and apples. No clue what's making it so light and fluffy. (You'll see mushroom soup with duck and eggs for $11). We use brown bread to mop up; it's what they call in New England anadama bread which usually means wheat flour, cornmeal and molasses. Anadama bread turned up in Rockport, MA in the mid-1800s. Smooshed along the steel plate, the butter's filled with salt crystals and from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Steel & Rye for no olive oil, no honeyed spread and no hummus - it's just butter.

Boston: Bon Appetit at Aquitaine

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by Kitty Kaufman

AquitaineOutsideAquitaine's clever. They've got photographic food diaries on all their front pages. Even Twitter is crowded with savvy bartenders, one of whom reminds me of Ben Affleck in Argo; smart servers, one of whom has cool pink hair; the bar lit in warm golden tones, snazzy cocktails, shrimp with heads, gooey onion soup, bunches of greens and my shrimp sandwich. You can preview nearly everything but where are the waffles?

Today we've come over from the antiques show on Tremont Street at Cyclorama's Boston Center for the Arts. It's brunch and everyone in the South End's got the same idea. Since 1998 Aquitaine's been on a roll in a semi-converted industrial space that once housed a video store. Tables are close so watch what you say; even though it's busy know that everyone can hear. Cozy banquettes are backed with mirrors and your server will pull out your table so you can get in. All small children are well behaved, as in very.

New Shanghai Seems Like Old Times

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by Kitty Kaufman

playmepianoThings we like about Chinatown: it's close, you can park on the street and there's always adventure. This is one of those days: not only do we park but there's a piano on the sidewalk under the arch at the entrance. The Celebrity Series of Boston's placed 75 of them in Boston and Cambridge with an invite: "Play Me, I'm Yours." In 2006 there were cows everywhere and today it's pianos. No one's paying any attention so we toy with creating our own adventure like putting on a show: some song and dance maybe. Maybe not.

Where should we go? Oh, let's relive the '90s; to be clear, not my nineties and not Julie's either. She has stories about fun times at New Shanghai in the last century and you can never have too many stories when they're about someone else. So New Shanghai it is. Seems like old times with tales of old flames and late nights going way back to when this was the only gig after nine. That was Boston. (It used to be Faneuil Hall had two places and there was the No Name on the Fish Pier. We loved a Mexican bar in Cambridge beside the Orson Welles where someone stole the cash eight of us laid down to pay the check one night.) New Shanghai is still very good.

Boston's Flour Bakery: Eat Dessert First

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by Kitty Kaufman

FlourCaseFlour Bakery's got everything, including things you didn't know you wanted from a bakery, like model sandwiches, classy salads, soup, pizza and quiche. There are, of course, things you expect to find like pecan rolls and cookies; cakes with carrot, fruit, chocolate and mousse; tarts with fruit and chocolate, gluten and nut-free meals, and pies. Today I see no cupcakes. You will not care.

Flour opens weekdays at 7 and goes through early dinner. Sometimes chefs work up front so you watch them assembling your lunch. If the counter's too tall, drooling on bakery cases is permitted but don't waste time because lines form quickly. If you insist, it's okay to eat dessert first and it turns out that Flour people think so too since it's their slogan: "make life sweeter . . . eat dessert first." We always see people who cannot wait and although we are not those people, we could be.

All four Flour's are noisy and fun: high ceilings, concrete floors left over from this Farnsworth Street's former incarnation, kids (those pb + j's and grilled cheese taste nothing like home), with a kitchen four times bigger than where you eat. Twenty people are waiting for their meal. This is how it works: Step up, give your order to a friendly server of which there are at least 10, go through the line which moves right and pay. Gather napkins, condiments and straws before they call your number. My friend Ed worked nearby and he said seats were hard to come by but it turns out today Kim and I get a table.

Coppa Boston

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by Lisa Dinsmore

coppalogo.jpgThere are people who, when on vacation, go wherever the road takes them. I am not one of them. If I'm going somewhere new and only have a few days to explore a place, I'm going to find the best it has to offer, especially when it comes to food. I'm not exactly a foodie – though I've become way more adventurous in the last several years – but I am an eater. Which means I have a lot of meals to plan and thanks to the Internet, my planning compulsion is fueled to even greater heights. Why settle for second best?

I'm not really sure how I found Coppa though it was probably through Twitter. I don't usually follow restaurants outside of Los Angeles, why torture yourself, but since I was going to be in town this summer, I placed them on my radar for a possible dining choice. In the months leading up to our stay, they became the front runner. Everything they tweeted about sounded amazing. Their menu focuses on small plates with an Italian bent – they had me at arancini – fresh pasta, wood-fired pizza and plenty of cheese and charcuterie. The latter two things are irresistible to me.

Estelle's Southern Cuisine

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by Kitty Kaufman

estellesWe're on for a Saturday night special at Estelle's on Tremont St at the corner of Mass Ave. It's been a year since they took over this corner: Brian Poe, of Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, Parish Cafe and Tip Tap Room, is working with executive chef Eric Gburski, who logged big time at East Coast Grill. The menu is Southern and in interviews earlier, Poe specifies his cuisine as Gulf Coast-style: barbeque, seafood and grill with hospitality to match. I feel a drawl coming on.

We're greeted by the friendly manager who seats us right away. It's all happening: we've got football, backless bar stools and plenty of bench seating that looks out on one of the busiest corners in Boston's South End. Kim orders Falcon Perch pinot noir, rich with vanilla and yeast. Where the bread could be is a bowl of relish with sweet pickles, carrots and onions that go with soaking up the grape. Here's another stemless wine glass; maybe you're heating it, maybe that's okay. Only the drinker knows and she's not saying. Soda and tea come in Ball Mason jars and water, people, I kinda wish water didn't show up in plastic.

What to order, what to order? Kim's got grilled flank steak with mashed sweet potatoes and garlic spinach. 782 steak sauce is Worcestershire with sweet tomato, chili peppers, ketchup, cider vinegar, raisins, garlic and onion. One of us likes it a lot. The meat's generous with heaping greens and Kim's impressed with the crispy, peppery outside and that it comes out "really medium, not rare and not well done." She is, as you guess, our meat and potatoes specialist. All of it is gone in no time. Buttery sweet potatoes always make us think of Thanksgiving.

Boston: Tofu-teas at Blue Dragon

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by Kitty Kaufman

Blue dragon 7When Ming Tsai opens a new place it's news and Blue Dragon is news. Esquire lists Blue Dragon in its annual survey of best new restaurants. Yes, he's in the right place with the ongoing Boston Harbor redo, or vice versa, without being on Northern Avenue's tourist mecca. 'A' Street's off Summer and to find it we use GPS and one of us, ahem, was born here. There's street parking on industrial blocks polished with big windows, loading docks and ceiling beams that tell of old brick warehouses and lofts even as renovators rewrite Fort Point Channel.

Blue Dragon: They do things uncommonly well; for one, there's a mid-afternoon menu along with lunch and dinner. And there's a lunch-to-go menu which means they only pack things that travel well like salad and bánh mì. Sidewalks are narrow for tables so they open windows and it's summer-friendly with street life from our window seats. They call themselves a gastropub. I would never say that; it sounds like something to see the doctor about, but I will go along with: "Ming's East West twist to many pub favorites."

One Foodie Night in Boston

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by Payman Emamian

ImageI have often found myself envious of some guys because of their wives. Not because of their looks, great figures or personalities, my wife has all that and more. Before any ladies reading this get angry, hear me out. There is nothing more devastating for a foodie than marrying a vegetarian who has more food hang-ups than a Italian meat locker. I don't want a mistress, at least not in the traditional sense. I need a food girlfriend or even food wife. Even California would allow me that bit of polygamy. When it comes to looks, many people tell me that I look like that famous guy Emeril Lagasse. It happens enough that when my son was only two and I took him to the local market to do the weekend shopping, he pointed and screamed "daddy" when we reached the pasta aisle and came upon a row of Emeril's pasta sauce. To my embarrassment most of the aisle looked and began moving to towards us. So if my son thinks Emeril is his daddy than it must have validity. Here is the irony, I am a good cook, love all types of food and even do the dishes.

This is where my jealousy begins. Until I can convince my wife to allow me to take up with a food wife, I have turned all of my latest business trips into food adventures. Unfortunately I don't have an unlimited budget, so I find the best places to eat for the money. I use tools like Yelp and Zagat online, a traveling man's best friend. A recent business trip took me to Boston. I was alone and by the time I checked into my hotel I was extremely hungry. I had not had a chance to eat all day because I was making my way from New Jersey to Boston and making sales calls on the road in between. I have been to Boston on multiple occasions, always for combo business/pleasure trips and always with my indifferent food wife. Now alone in one of the greatest cities for food, it was me vs. food. I had limited time and many places to try.

Seiyo Sushi and Wine Shop

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by Kitty Kaufman

seiyo sushi-barSeiyo Sushi & Wine Shop in Boston's South End on Washington Street has a patio where you can eat as well as watch ambulances shrieking their way to Boston City Hospital but all in a good way. Our eating adventures are mostly about food but sometimes it's not just food.

We're checking out this restaurant and wine purveyor housed together in a building called Minot Hall. It's been on our list of must-trys but the concept has me stumped. I look it up: the 1859 building was constructed as a social hall, according to Architect Week, and some years later became the Olympia Hotel and then a few other things before eventually turning into condos and retail not so long ago.

We have fear of winter in New England so we're wondering if this could be our last outside lunch. I'm hoping we're wrong because the day is perfect. Wait until you're seated. It's glorious to find this much outdoor seating with a tree awning in the middle of the city. You've passed Seiyo often on your way into the heart of the South End because we have. Its signage is so inconspicuous as to be nearly non-existent. We can't help mentioning it to our servers because we're surprised the place flew under our radar. They say they'll mention it to owner Steve Yung but we think he knows. Anyway, now the idea of somewhere to eat along with the chance to buy wine makes perfect sense.

Myers + Chang

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by Kitty Kaufman

changmyers 1We're at the popular "funky indie diner with interpretations of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese specialties." It's Myers + Chang in Boston's South End, a place we've been wanting to try. Friendly help seat us at a sunny table overlooking Washington Street. It's cozy, evoking a nice diner, and we like the zippy tunes. The bar shows lots of sake and Asian teas.

I'm up for Chinese chicken salad which now makes all other salads with mayo ho-hum. Who doesn't love cashews, orange and crispy wontons piled high with citrus vinaigrette? It's nuo'c cha'm sauce with heat. Our wait person is pointing out which items are three star, meaning really hot. The health coach wants Thai chicken salad with lemongrass, mint, cilantro and rice noodles tossed in fish sauce and lime dressing. This one has toasted rice, nothing like breakfast cereal because it's very crunchy. Both salads carry one-star heat and they're just hot enough to be fun.

 

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