Monday, 8 April 2013

Living a Foodie Kind of Life: Boston, Monday (3/25)

Two weeks ago today (wow, time has flown by!), I awoke with the last day of my recent trip to Boston ahead of me. Back on Thursday, Jared had suggested I visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where he and his roommate, friend and fellow opera singer Roland also work (in Café G, that is). After making a quick visit back to BU to learn more about Metropolitan College's Gastronomy program, I headed over to the museum. I got there a bit too early and found out that they don't open until 11am. I certainly didn't mind waiting, especially with Monday's weather being one of the most favourable of my entire visit. Indeed, Monday was a great day for the museum and especially one such as this. As far as the museum went, my favourite part had to be the garden around which it seemed the rest of the museum had been built. The plants throughout the museum were very well integrated (literally giving life to the museum) and not having known what kind of artwork to expect, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the familiar religious themes and artwork I had previously studied as part of my limited art history training at Albion. Walking away with relatively few photos (cameras aren't allowed in most of the museum), I left the museum filled and reinvigorated by its energy and the food of Café G, where cameras are allowed and where mine was definitely in use.

Gardner Cafe on Urbanspoon

From the moment I was seated at my table, I should note here that my experience with the waitstaff was wonderful; and from what I observed, the entire staff seemed to gel quite well together and seemed to be both supportive of one another and attentive equally to all of the diners. Moreover, and led by Chef/Owner Peter Crowley, the food that I saw being transported from the kitchen were in themselves pieces of artwork and melded very well with the flare and vibrancy of the museum and its surroundings. In addition to adapting to the availability of local, seasonal ingredients, Café G also highlights a special menu every month that features ideas taken from the Museum and its collection. During my visit, they drew inspiration from The Tapestry Room. To check out the most recent offerings, click here.

That being said, I decided against the special menu, in favour of an item off the menu, as informed by Roland, who I learnt earlier that morning from Jared was working on Monday. Soon after putting in my order, I received a small box of freshly sliced bread that had been baked in-house. With a delicate crust and a light and airy centre, the bread alone signalled I was in for a great meal.

From one form of bread to another, I absolutely enjoyed the bread of the sandwich (a word which just doesn't seem to do this much justice) set in front of me. Also baked in-house, it added structure and comfort without taking away from the stars of the dish, i.e., everything in between the bread. With each bite, the bread made way for the textural contrast between the tender, melt-in-your-mouth, locally-sourced pulled pork and the crisp, refreshing red cabbage slaw which cut through the satisfying meatiness of the dish. Frankly, it seemed a bit on the expensive side for what it was, but I think to an extent the fact that I can still taste this as I type elevates it to a different level of foodie fare. Plus, given the high quality of each ingredient, the dish as a whole is very much worth it, especially when this is also served:

I don't know what it is about me and fries lately, but these deserved their own paragraph. Served in its own mini casserole as pictured, the fries and portion size thereof were perfect. They were salted evenly and had a great bite to them which seemed to parallel that of the sandwich.

Yeah, I kind of enjoyed this pairing.

For dessert, Roland shared that his favourite was a chocolate cake made with almond flour. Interestingly enough, it wasn't the fact that the light yet rich texture of the cake came from the sifted Valrhona cocoa that sealed the deal, but rather what I suppose some might think is an "odd" combination: ground black pepper is folded into the freshly whipped cream.

Yeah, I kind of liked this dish, too.
The other part that I don't think I've mentioned yet is that Jared suggested that I ask Roland (who got into opera during his senior year of high school) to sing some opera, which I did at the start of the meal. After rummaging through his mental Rolodex of pieces, and just prior to dessert, he decided on Strauss's "Zueignung" which translates to "dedication." Imagine: a room full of diners in complete silence as he shares his talent, the reverberations of his control echoing throughout the restaurant (and the above is him with no warm-up). Though I believe the song to be about ones dedication to another, this seemed nevertheless fitting when put within the context of being dedicated to ones craft, as well. Bravo!

Following my museum experience and as I said earlier, literally filled with food, I met up with Jillian. For the longest time, we had talked about doing at least two things while I was in Boston: cook and get Shamrock Shakes. And so off we went in our quest. Surprisingly (and after much disappointment... if only you knew how much we love Shamrock Shakes), it took us three McDonald's before we found some still in stock (props to The Corner Mall).

And with that, it was time to bid adieu to Jillian and Boston (for now). Before heading over to the airport, where I had my final meal in Boston--(Berry Lemonade and Wendy's new Homestyle Chicken Asiago Club), I stopped by the Posse Boston office which I had randomly found en route to meeting Jillian for the Shamrock Shakes.


As I look back on my fortuitous experiences throughout Boston, I have come to further realise and appreciate the vast network, connections and friendships I have established since I started working at Denison back in October 2010, a group which has witnessed most closely my professional development and commitment to the field of food studies. Concurrently, I look further back and am grateful for the people and experiences that have shaped and continue to shape my foundation and present sense of self. And to you, the reader of this post (and any others throughout this blog), please know that I am especially thankful that you have joined me (whether you've realised it or not) on a portion of my journey with food. Together, I hope we can continue to learn together through this medium.


For the above photos, as well as the others I took throughout this last day of my Boston trip, click here.

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