Boston

bistromidiBistro du Midi is all about location. Facing the Public Garden and adjacent to the Four Seasons in Boston, it lives on Boylston Street not where you live, at least not where I live. But it's where you stroll for a south of France lunch. We like the downstairs where you'll meet Jenna who's minding the bar. Have the café menu at the bar and on the patio and if you can score a tiny table outside, take it. (Upstairs, Chef Robert Siska does it up big starting at 5 but we're partial to light fare). After two visits I'm on to this being one of those cafés where you think you're looking at someone you know from the movies. Today I think I see Dermot Mulroney. I ask Jenna and she agrees it looks like him: him in 10 years maybe. Still.

Quiche: It's Julie's choice with Languedoc Hecht & Bannier, better than good. This is a traditional quiche; the creamiest we've had since forever. It's topped with potato crisp and goat cheese, spinach, leek, and tomato fill it out but it's mostly cream and eggs. She says it's one of those lunches that taste like summer, even more with these bright greens. The last time I had my own quiche was a long time ago. I take just a bite; eggs are no longer mine and I miss them. This quiche is, as you expect, filling with the taste of France now that Maurice Chevalier is keeping us company.

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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.

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McCormick 3Sometimes you just need a big restaurant in the middle of the city to warm you up on girls night out. We're at McCormick & Schmick's in the Park Plaza Hotel in Back Bay. Everyone is glad to see us and it's bright and cheery. If you're upstairs in the hotel, what could be easier? It's Friday and we suspect it gets frantic when there's a convention but this is not one of those nights. How happy are we that we crossed the street? Just ask me.

It's six o'clock, and their happy hour bar menu is ranked #1 by USA Today. Get it from 4-6:30 and it picks up again at 9 pm. (Saturdays it begins at 10 pm only). Janet's ordering and she's got her eye on ahi yellowfin tuna. It's puddled in pepper sauce they went to Mongolia for and if it doesn't take you out, there's no shortage of jalapeño. It's smoky suited in black and white sesame seeds and pepper, lots and lots of pepper. This dish lays to rest, once and for all, my/your happy hour stereotypes whatever they are. The tuna stands on its own. We will concede, because we're big fans of hot, that the sauce is good though I feel bad the star fish is wearing a mask. What a question, of course we want another Pinot Noir Mirasson.

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hallie ephron
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hallie ephronOne of the first things you discover early on, dating someone new, is whether your stars align. If you're a serious foodie like me, the key question always involves food. 

Mine: Shall we go out for steak or soup dumplings. 

Knowing the answer early on eliminates a lot of futile hope and wasted time.

Evie Ferrante in my new book THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN has my passion for Chinese soup dumplings. I order rack of those succulent babies just for me. Anyone who encroaches on my share gets stabbed with a chopstick.

For my money, the best soup dumplings in Boston these days are in Chinatown at the (cramped, noisy, worth the wait no matter how long) Gourmet Dumpling House.

On the menu they are the Mini juicy pork dumplings. The woman in that kitchen -- once, when we were the first customers in the door, she came out to take a bow wearing a black dress and pearls and an apron -- really knows what she's doing.

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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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