Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Living a Foodie Kind of Life: Boston, Saturday (3/23)

By some Bostonian influence/magic, I got up early on Saturday and made it in time to the ESS conference site for an 8.30am session (which would turn out to be my last session of this year's annual meeting) on the (de)construction of ethnic identity. After practicing some restraint by not buying nearly every book of interest at the book exhibit, I eventually met up with Cheryl, a theatre professor at Denison, who also happened to be in Boston that same weekend. As has been the common thread in this series of posts (and will continue as such), we began our journey in search of food.

Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Old-school style, i.e., without the comfort of relying on cell phone/texting communication, Cheryl and I managed to find each other amidst the crowd of Bostonians in Boston Commons. In search for a lunch site, we eventually made our way to Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen which coincidentally brought us in sight of the location for Cheryl's audition on Sunday. Aptly named (literally, you can purchase 2 oz sips of wine), Sip--complete with an in-house sushi chef--operates under the motto "Drink. Taste. Discover." Though we didn't take advantage of the drink options (sip, half glass, full glass, bottle), we certainly had a filling tasting.

To start off, Cheryl ordered from their lunch menu the "super Tuscan" style White Bean Soup, topped with prosciutto bits and a bright pesto sauce, and served with a slice of grilled ciabatta. The soup was deliciously puréed (richly textured and not the least watered down) with a great depth of flavour and consistency, followed by a brightness from the pesto sauce that was drizzled on top. And I imagine the crunch and grilling on the ciabatta added even more texture and flavour.

As Cheryl was finishing up her soup, our main courses arrived. Appearing in front of me was the grilled Margherita Flatbread complete with fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, passata di pomodoro (Tuscan tomato purée, e.g., qui e here) and a basil chiffonade. On its own, I'm sure this flatbread would be great. In this case, it was especially wonderful because of the tender Kobe beef meatballs I had ordered; it's a bit more expensive, but so incredibly worth it.

And not that we needed any more convincing on how great Sip was/is, Cheryl's California roll also made its way to the table, beautifully presented (mayo and soy sauce for those wondering about the design), and extremely fresh and telling of high quality ingredients and technical skill in putting together six pieces of art.

Realising that I hadn't really done too many touristy things the only other time I've been to Boston, and that it was also Cheryl's first time in the city, we walked over to the New England Aquarium with an aim to check out the wharf.

Soon after, Jillian met up with us and we embarked on an impromptu, local, non-tourist sightseeing tour of Boston. With Jillian as our guide and enthusiastic leader, we made our way to Boston's North End (Little Italy) and the Old North Church, to Haymarket and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, to the site of the Boston Massacre and the New England Holocaust Memorial [though not exactly in this order].

And then quite randomly, we ended up at the Granary Burying Ground (which was one of the few places I had previously visited) and were greeted [this was the random part] by another Denison professor, Jack, fellow Granvillian Leo (a professor at Kenyon) and Modhumita (a professor at Tufts) who were all in Boston for a separate conference. Now that's a bit of an interesting script to find four Granvillians in Boston on the same day in the middle of a burying ground, no?

Finale on Urbanspoon

By the end of our tour, we were starting to pick up the dinner bug and so we headed to one place that can easily rationalise dessert as a first course and which was certainly an appropriate ending to our afternoon of walking: the desserterie of Finale. Lo, and behold, Finale isn't only located within the same block of the hotel where the conference was taking place (how in the world did I not see it??), but it also happened to be situated on Columbus Avenue (surely, it was a sign...literally).

As you may be able to tell from even just the glimpse of the above menu, and especially via Finale's online menu, there were one too many desserts that read as incredibly decadent and worth tasting.

And so, Jillian and I decided to go with the one option that just made the most sense: the 9-piece dessert sampler featured at both the top of this post. Apparently some of the desserts rotate, so included in this version of the sampler, clockwise from the Whoopie Pies on the far right of the above right photo were the Black Currant Mousse, Manjari Mousse, Gelati & Sorbet, Apple Cranberry Tart, Boston Cream, Hot Fudge Sundae, Crème Brûlée and in the center, what I think is the Citrus Cheesecake. Hands down, and with somewhat of a blasphemous air given my past proclamations for the love of chocolate, I again found a non-chocolate dessert as my favourite, that one being the Black Currant Mousse (a large reason being the Granny Smith apple sauce that added a touch of brightness, acidity and texture that contrasted it against all of the wonderful desserts on the plate.

Oh yes, and while we were on sugar mode, we also got the Molten Cake, which is reduced in price--thankfully..I think..not in portion--when purchased with the aforementioned sampler. Warm, rich and dense, the chocolate cake paired beautifully with the coffee gelato that sat atop a bed of chopped almonds.

Of important note, should you be able to settle for one dessert and/or you know you eventually want to eat a non-dessert course following dessert, Finale has many great prix fixe options which includes many delicious selections for both main course and dessert (you pick one from each of the available sets of options for $18.99). Above is the beautiful presentation of Finale's full serving of Boston Cream Pie which Cheryl got with her entrée-size Chicken Caesar Salad).

Matt Murphy's Pub on Urbanspoon

After the dessert plates had been wiped clean, more or less, we eventually bid adieu to Cheryl and made the full stomached journey back to Jillian's. A few hours later (and by few I mean about three; about 9pm), we went with Christina to the only conceivable “bar” in the area, Matt Murphy's Pub. Eclectically put together, though very dimly lit and somewhat closed in (though I'm fairly certain there's some actual space to the place), Matt Murphy's has an interesting Brittanica feel to it (something like Spice Trade meets pub fare), especially as represented by the selections on the menu and accompaniment (most notably the housemade ketchup, the interesting flavour profile of which comes from anise).

Though Matt Murphy's specialities include the mussels (which really are good, and the broth is especially tasty) and fish and chips, I went with the white fish sandwich with French fries (in a weak attempt to go "healthy"). Now I haven't been to the U.K. (yet), but I have had similar food fare State-side and something seemed a bit off with this one. For one, what I imagined would be “flaky” fish actually had bit of a tough bite and was not-so-dissimilar in texture to the bread, i.e., this was a rather chewy. Arguably, the fries may have been soggy like "typical" English chips, but these were nevertheless a bit too limp for my liking, and contrasted greatly (in a negative way) with the much crisper and more enjoyable fries I had had at Uburger. And again, pair this up with the ketchup that also seemed to be a bit of a watered, chunky texture, and you've got quite the gastronomic experience.

When we got back from Matt Murphy's we watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and called it a night, all the while anticipating the dinner (yes, even more food) that would soon be two days in the making. For these and even more photos from my third day of my recent trip in Boston, click here.

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