Boston

fairsteadintAndrew Foster and Steve Bowman dish contemporary American at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline. It's a young vibe with a busy bar and communal tables so be ready to party. Why not? Even I have given up thinking I must get in my car to eat. It's not that I eat in the car. It just turns out favorite places or ones I want to try are elsewhere. So it's newsworthy that within walking distance of where I live, there are choices. Andy Warhol said it better: "I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.”

Julie and I start with sumac-cured salmon garnished with pomegranate. For the record, we never had fruit on our lox at home. This is more lox than I've ever had in one sitting, assuming you're out of cream cheese. It's a time when bread . . . Of course I should have asked our server, Scott. And yes, I'm well aware there's not a chance in the world Nathan Mhrvold, the modernist chef, will be inviting me to a 50-course, lab-prepared whimsical meal anytime soon.

Julie's having what she calls a medium-bodied Malbec with her wilted kale salad that has shallots, apple and pecorino I can smell across the table. (Wilted kale is so big our Whole Foods has a waiting list.) When it comes to salads, we're curious how far inventive chefs will go beyond mesclun. At home, we make lunch a lot with arugula, croutons, Boston lettuce and avocado. You impress, chef Jason Albus, when you do us one better.

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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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gallows-490x329"We're a loud and welcoming hangout in the South End with a menu that changes weekly." It's Saturday and we can confirm the fun's here all right, along with everyone in the neighborhood. There's something about the South End we don't find anywhere else. You feel at home even when your neighborhood is miles away. The places are intimate, tony, casual, hip, and where the sidewalks are wide, there's outdoor seating. I've often wished I lived here.

Lan is ordering a mimosa. I'm not known for my noontime drinking especially but look at this: Les Boone's Farm Sunshine Pink NV CA. I've had it before, not in this century, so I order a glass. Andrew's in charge at the bar and wisely pours a small amount into a cup which is, now, how I feel it always should be served. It's kind of grapefruity in a lemonade way. Its nose is à la college dorm room and half a cup is just enough. Unless, of course, you're channeling high school, in which case have the whole glass.

The Gallows other wines are seriously regular, really, and if you're not sure, the wine list confirms: "These are the drinks, homie." Anyone who tries Boone's Farm will notice they have red beer: an "inspired mix of Pabst, lime & tomato juice." It's not a Bloody Mary, it may be inspired and we take your word for it.

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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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bg 3B & G Oysters is one of those places that took off on Day One or at least that's how I remember it. We've had lunch there for years, not years and years, but enough to know that every oyster's hand-picked and polished. You watch chefs pry and fry your oysters, baste salmon, jimmy clams, beer-batter fish, pan-fry fluke, hack your hake and steam mussels. It's like being in someone else's kitchen where you're close enough to inhale but far enough away not to get involved with dishes.

Summers we're partial to oysters, choosing one of each from everywhere. Winters we're into soup and entrées. Like other places with "oyster" in the name, it's fine to pass on raw; that's what the open kitchen's for. This brunch every seat is taken. After a short wait we decide it's not too early for a sparkler. Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, a chardonnay pinot noir blend, pairs with the spice bomb clam chowder and I get all the floating lardons. Our server, Mark, explains the chowder's not roux-based so clams lead. My Saturday's improving by the minute with chefs who know their way around a cast iron skillet.

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