Boston

monkfish 1As I walk to where I'm meeting a friend in Cambridge at Thelonious Monkfish, I pass three places with sidewalk seating. I must sit outside today. I have café envy. Sadly, no one is sitting outside at the Monkfish tables. No one takes our order until I insist. This is so not what I expected.

It's a big menu. I understand wanting to have something for everyone. That said, we order one sushi deluxe and one sushi regular. Why is the regular $17 and the deluxe $20 aside from one shrimp? The fish is fresh and fine.

Monkfish Here's what we didn't have: mad monk noodles ("bring one to the edge of madness and creative genius"), soup, curry, stir-fry, duck, beef, pork, seafood, chicken, fried rice, vegetarian rolls, demi salads, donburi, party boats, fairy tale sushi ("what if your prince is actually a frog and not the other way around") or zensai, thankfully comment-free.

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Row 34 7Row 34 is party central for non-stop oysters. It's the place for shrimp, lobster rolls, ceviche, Cape littlenecks, pâtés of trout and bluefish, and mussels with fried green tomatoes. Drink? 25 beers from the tap plus 40 more locked up in bottles. Most popular: Trillium's Congress Street pale ale. I see one guy knifing his way into a flat iron steak and really, why not? It's a party. All the hoopla? Well deserved.

Row 34 is born of oysters and beer. High ceilings yield clamor but after all, it is a "workingman's oyster bar." It's Monday and a good thing we reserved. Roseanna and I have hot stuff: for her, Maine crab cake with a tall Ipswich Ale Brewery's Celia Saison. For me, citrus-glazed salmon atop pickled cucumber and fennel. Both preparations are spot-on. Sadly, no sides; won't someone would throw me fries? Dessert: it's a flaky strawberry rhubarb pie that's been fried, really, with a side of white chocolate anglaise: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, white chocolate and vanilla. We can't imagine anyone would pass it up.

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224 3Last year Boston Magazine named owner Kevin Tyo's 224 Boston Street: "Best Dorchester restaurant, neighborhood casual." Sadly, their website doesn't say when they opened. It's got to be 20 years and right from the start, the talk was good. It's your very own block party in the middle of the city three blocks off Mass Avenue and if it weren't so steamy, we'd be at one of those tables among the flowers on the patio.

You enter the red room with the bar to get to the green room with the chefs. It's an open kitchen that's noisy and friendly. The menu points traditional American: meatloaf, sirloin, mac 'n cheese, risotto, duck, pork chop, lamb along with salmon, cod cakes and scallops with sangría cold enough to induce brain freeze.

The big eater nearly always chooses pork chops on our food adventures. In her opinion, this one's tops and she easily meets her prediction: "I will eat it all." It's a hearty grilled double in a sweet apple glaze with asparagus. She opts for mashed potatoes that were cheerfully swapped for fried yucca. The chop's pink, moist and inspiringly, she finishes it with no trouble. I think she may have been dreaming of it all day or maybe it's the sangría.

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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.

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georgetownladiesEach night there is a line. I ask a young woman from Orlando, why? She says, "They're good." And what else? She points to the window sign: "They're on TV." They are on TV, on TLC: "All new episode! NY vs. Boston." Not baseball, cupcakes. The newly opened Newbury Street location of Georgetown Cupcake.

The number of people in line is 25 and sometimes more. Inside are two cashiers and five packers. They need them all. You pay first and wait to pick up. Everyone is smiling: the help, the people on line, the eaters, and we who'll soon have cake.

The concept comes from DC sisters Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne. Wikipedia says the cupcakes have 250 calories. Neither of the cupcake sisters look like they have ever eaten a single cupcake.

My first is chocolate with cream cheese frosting that's been rolled in coconut. (Be sure to ask for the ones with cream cheese). Cream cheese is frosting's best friend. It's like bacon. If you put bacon that's not crispy between two slices of toasted mayo-ed cardboard, it's lunch.

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