Sunday, August 30, 2009

Steph’s Visit: Day Four

Monday started with a short (~6 block) trip down to the Waltham commuter rail station. This was my first time on the commuter rail, and I have to say I pretty much love it. 15-20 minutes gets you to Porter Square or North Station, after which you can get anywhere in Boston without having had to deal with a moment of traffic. Awesome. We were headed into the city to go on a duck boat tour, so thats how the late-morning was spent.
It wasn’t a bad way to show someone this beautiful city, and a good time was had by all. People quacked, kids were adorably excited, and many pictures were taken.
After the tour ended, we hopped on the T to head back to Faneuil Hall for lunch.
We weren’t sure where at the hall we’d end up when we started, but soon discovered that we were both craving a nice hot bowl of spicy noodles and headed straight to Wagamama. I have the Wagamama cookbook for some reason, but had never been to one of their restaurant locations. As we discovered on Monday, that was a shame.
We started with Duck Gyoza, which were incredibly moist and flavorful with a nice anise-y note in the background. Totally awesome.
We ordered basically the same soup (Kare Lomen), which features a spicy coconut-based broth. Steph went with chicken,
I went with grilled shrimp,
and we were both very very happy campers.
Lunch was followed by a trip to my old stomping grounds at MIT. The campus was much more beautiful than I remember it being, even if the dome was being repaired (thus preventing Steph from getting the all important Steph-standing-in-front-of-the-dome shot).
From there it was down the road to what is widely considered a “safety school,” which happens to feature a more traditionally beautiful campus itself.
Then it was home to watch the bunnies be adorable
and prep The World’s Greatest Sandwich (Chicken, Avocado, and Tomato Wraps).
Thus ended the first Boston leg of this vacation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Steph’s Visit: Day Three

Sunday was a mix of social activity and utter laziness. In the morning we watched a couple episodes of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (which I had successfully managed to get Steph hooked on over the first couple days of her visit), then did a bit of prep to throw together a few pizzas for a wine-tasting get-together thingy with a few of my favorite friends and co-workers in the early afternoon. The theme this time was Italian Reds, and the results of the tasting were a bit disappointing, with several of the wines performing quite poorly… Still a good time with great company, though, so no regrets.
After the guests returned to their homes and the kitchen recovered, Steph and I marathoned through the remaining episodes of Dollhouse… because we are crazy people and apparently needed a break from 2.5 days of non-stop activity (which is a lot of action for a couple introverts). A nice lazy afternoon was probably just what was needed before the day of galavanting around Boston that was waiting for us on Monday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Steph’s Visit: Day Two

So, Thursday night was absolutely gorgeous, and Friday at the Cape featured a bit of storminess in the air but nothing that could genuinely be referred to as “bad weather,” but the forecast all along had been predicting a rainy Saturday, and the weather gods did not disappoint. This was exactly the kind of weather I love, but doesn’t make for good touristy activities, so we spent a large portion of the day grocery shopping, cooking, and eating. Our first stop was Russo’s, which I have raved about here many times before. Steph snapped a few pictures of the gorgeous produce on display, and agreed that it is the most awesome produce store ever (I may be paraphrasing that one).
After our grocery quest took us to a couple more stores, we found ourselves at 1:30pm and in need of some lunch. With a fair amount of dinner-cooking still ahead of us, we decided to go out for lunch and stopped at one of my favorite places in the neighborhood: Watch City Brewing Company. We ordered a fried artichoke heart with garlic aioli appetizer:
which was pretty darned tasty. I realize this is a weird thing to praise, but the BrewCo is really good at frying things. Always perfectly crispy… Never greasy… This is an important skill for a brew pub kitchen to master, and they have done so. I ordered the Lamb Burger with Feta Spread (as I do almost every time I go there) and, as it has been every time since the first time (when it was a bit over-cooked) it came perfectly medium-rare, juicy, and super-delicious.
Steph went with their burger with bacon and cheddar, and was impressed by it as well. A big, juicy, flavorful burger. Who can complain?
While out on our grocery extravaganza, we once again picked up a couple new pets. Their names were Bob and Mr. Pinchy.
We didn’t introduce them to Pedro and Rico like we did with our last new pets, though. Pedro still has a betrayed look in his eyes, as if he’s wondering what happened to his new friend Mr. Pinchy and he suspects we had something to do with it… Anyway, Steph wanted a classic Clam Bake, but I feel like every component of a classic Clam Bake is better cooked individually (and Steph isn’t a potato fan), so this is what we ended up with:
Grilled corn. Clams steamed in shallots, garlic, and wine. A couple lobsters cooked Emily-style. A few slices of baguette for soaking up yummy sauce from the clams. I don’t think I really need to tell you that it was the bomb.

Steph’s Visit: Day One

Feeling a bit lazy on Steph’s first full day here, but also as if it was important to do something to maximize enjoyment of vacation, we decided Friday morning to head down to Cape Cod for the day. I remembered having great chowder there when I went with my parents and grandma in college, and great chowder seems like a key part of a visit to New England. Because we were embracing spontaneity, we decided to randomly stop at a winery in Plymouth on the way.
Turns out that wineries in Plymouth primarily make (non-grape) fruit wine, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless and the lady in the tasting room was quite nice. She even (shockingly, to me at least) sold us on a bottle of blueberry wine to serve with cheesecake. It was oddly sort of awesome. Overall, an educational diversion on our way to the Cape.
Because we were already in Plymouth, it seemed like we’d better head over and see Plymouth Rock, and we ended up stopping at another “winery” on the way. This one was much less enjoyable, although the owner definitely tried to make it educational, including tips on “fancy” ways to serve his fruit wines… The guy was a trip, and in an effort to keep these posts positive, that is all I will say about that.
Next up (a couple blocks away) was our stop at Plymouth Rock. I’m not sure why this thing isn’t considered one of the wonders of the world. It’s pretty spectacular. Behold:
Yep. That’s a rock alright… At this point we were starving and made a beeline for Captain Parker’s in West Yarmouth.
As I mentioned above, I had visited this place about 10 years ago, but I didn’t mention that we ate here three times in 6 days because we liked the chowder so much. Because it was getting on into the afternoon, we decided to order a seafood appetizer sampler to go with our chowder. This was… interesting. Clockwise from the left (pictured below) it included Clams Casino, Oysters Rockefeller, “Mussels Monterey” (the orange-ish pile of melted cheese) and “Stuffed Mushrooms” (the whiter pile of melted cheese next to that).
Nothing you would expect to be decent (how can you mess up clams with bacon?) was particularly impressive, and the “Stuffed Mushrooms” were two mushroom caps buried under a pile of seafood-y stuffing and cheese. We (surprisingly) decided that our favorite thing on the plate was the Mussels Monterey, which were mussels with garlic-butter, covered (for reasons that I cannot fathom) in a pile of melted cheddar cheese… Moving on: the chowder was absolutely fantastic. Not too many potatoes, creamy, not starchy/gummy, a nice herbal accent… Delicious.
As long as we were in Cape Cod, we figured we might as well drive out to the end of Massachusetts. Along the way were lighthouses:
and the stiflingly beachside-y town of Provincetown:
a few miles north of which lay the end of this fair state. It was quite lovely, and many pictures were taken.
We had originally planned on dinner in Provincetown, but the place was crushing my soul, so we decided to pick a place at random on the drive back. We (unfortunately) ended up at The Lobster Claw. Steph ordered the Baked Stuffed Sole in Newberg Sauce
and I went with the Broiled Seafood Combo.
Again in the interest of staying positive, I will just say that the scallops weren’t overcooked and leave it at that… Oh, and the beer was good. That is all. From there we drove home and collapsed, ready for Day Two of our vacation.

A Visit from a Friend, Off to a Good Start

Steph is here! Which also means I am on vacation! Woohoo! This happened to coincide with the first absolutely beautiful day in recent memory (so, of course, Steph assumes I'm exaggerating about how gross the weather this summer has been). I barely recognized my fair city without all that humidity...
To start things off, I picked up a couple new pets at the store. Their names (as usual) were Bob and Mr. Pinchy. We introduced them to Pedro and Rico, since it's important for all of your pets to get along.
(That's Mr. Pinchy on the left.) After introductions, it was time to get cleaned up for dinner. Bath time for Bob:
who was soon joined by Mr. Pinchy. Say what you will about the relatively small brains of crustaceans, but these guys were friends to the end:
Here they are waiting to meet their fate:
and (below) ready for the final cooking step. The Emily-style way of cooking lobster is one I picked up from an Alfred Portales book (before I got so irritated with him over the beet incident...). Because it's so hard to boil a lobster to the exact point of perfection, I usually pull them out of the water a little before I think they're done, then break down the bodies, dot the meat with (unsalted) butter, and finish under the broiler. This way you get perfectly cooked lobster every time, infused with a little extra buttery goodness.
Next we threw some steaks on the grill. (No, they don't have names. That would be ridiculous. And, yes. That is about twice as much steak as two people need. The meat guy came over when I was choosing between these two and we started chatting about how awesome rib-eyes are and what a great sale it was... so then I felt weird putting one of them back... Always better to have too much steak than too little, anyway...)
And plated up a kick-ass dinner
to enjoy in my "dining room."
Not a bad spread for a total of less than $30 in groceries... And not a bad start to vacation, if you ask me...