This past weekend I flew to Boston to celebrate what would have been the 30th birthday of one of my dear friends who died this past fall. It was, fittingly, a long celebratory weekend filled with laughter, old friends, old haunts and–of course–food. I went to graduate school in Boston and haven’t been back since, so I did a lot of wandering my old favorite neighborhoods and checking out what had changed. I thought I’d informally pull together some pictures and highlights of what we were up to and where we ate in case you find yourself in Boston with an empty stomach and some free time on your hands.
Friday: I took a red-eye Thursday night and got in Friday morning. Those flights always sound way better in theory than how they actually play out: I was starving, exhausted, and needed a shower upon landing at 7 a.m. It was too early to check into the hotel, so we headed over to one of my old favorite breakfast spots, Zaftig’s in Coolidge Corner.
Zaftig’s is a classic Jewish deli and they do an amazing breakfast (all day long). They were out of my usual order: the strawberry pancakes with homemade strawberry butter. If you’re ever in Boston, you must try them. So instead, I settled for the Empire Eggs: two potato pancakes that would’ve made my grandma proud topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. My friend Linnea had the corned beef hash. We both had lots and lots of coffee as we planned our next move.
After breakfast, we ditched our bags and headed over to Boston Common and Beacon Hill to check out the skaters on Frog Pond, stop in for a mid-morning chocolate at Beacon Hill Chocolates (they have an amazing international selection and sweet vintage papered gift boxes), and browse funky cards and dishware at Black Ink. Then there was the world’s longest nap and catching up with old friends in the evening.
Saturday: I finally made my way over to the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. Next time you’re in Boston, do this. Trust me. It is literally a three-story painted glass globe that you walk directly into via a long footbridge. The acoustics are wild: you can hear your friends as they whisper all the way across the room from you. And it’s just an exhilarating perspective being inside of a globe and getting to see the world in it’s entirety with one glance. After that, we headed over to Flour Bakery and Cafe for BLT and turkey sandwiches and the best crinkly double chocolate cookie on the planet. I’m convinced.
Right down the street is a cupcake shop that opened right after I left Boston and I’d heard great things from friends. So Linnea and I strolled over there and shared a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese icing at the South End Buttery, did some dog-watching (the South End neighborhood is home to the most fabulous, well-groomed dogs in Boston), and enjoyed a much-needed break from the cold.
Before heading back to the hotel, we took the T over to Harvard Square to browse the shelves of the Harvard Book Store. They have an incredible used selection and I always find about ten new books I’m dying to read and have long debates with myself as I try to narrow down my choices.
Sunday: Started the morning with coffee at Diesel Cafe in Somerville. It’s a bit of a schlep over there, but talk about vibrant, contagious cafe energy.
I used to come here and study all day on Sundays. They have communal tables, comfy booths, incredible coffee, pool tables, couches, a lovely selection of treats–what more do you need? After that, I headed back downtown to meet up with some friends at Wagamama.
I first went to Wagamama in London with my Dad years ago, and I couldn’t wait to try it again here in the states. I remembered it having an appealing modern aesthetic, interesting raw juices, and awesome ramen. Maybe it was a chain back then and I just didn’t realize it, but it definitely felt more corporate and a little less charming this time around. But my vegetarian buckwheat noodle soup with tofu and sprouts was warm and filling. My friend Bill ordered the spicy ramen with chicken and actually broke out in a sweat. That’s a good sign…in my book. That afternoon, we headed back over to Harvard Square to amble around and hit up Burdick chocolate shop.
Remember the movie Chocolat with Juliet Binoche? Well At Burdick’s, they do that uber-thick, rich hot chocolate that’s a lot like drinking the best chocolate bar of your life. This is the place to warm up and regroup–it smells like rich dark chocolate, everyone’s smiling, and the pace is slow. We stayed awhile. Some of you wrote to me with a few Boston favorites and suggestions. I’d love to hear of any places you think we missed so I can add them to my list next time a’round–maybe when it’s a little warmer and the ground has thawed out.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
This past week we've had quite a heat wave in Seattle. I've been getting into the bakery early in the mornings so as to avoid the afternoon heat + hot oven combination, and it turns out the upstairs of our new house is quite a little hot box. I bought some aggressive blinds and a new fan and am hoping both will help cool things down a bit. The wool blanket is in the linen closet for the season, and Sam's been making iced tea like it's his job. Summer has arrived! A few nights ago, the thought of actually doing much real cooking seemed a bit overwhelming, so I figured it was time to dig out the ice cream maker and get to work. I'd wanted to do something with the beautiful strawberries we have in the markets right now, but it seems every time I get a little pint it's gone before I have the chance. They are just so incredibly sweet, and it seems a shame to do anything other than eat them right out of the container, preferably while sitting on the Moroccan picnic blanket you brought back from honeymoon on the lawn in your new backyard trying not to stress out about the incredible, insurmountable number of weeds. So. Many. Weeds. But cherries: somehow the bag of cherries made it safely through the weekend, so I set about to find a great cherry ice cream recipe.
When you have an eight month old baby, making social plans can be hard. Especially in the evenings. When I was pregnant, I read Bringing up Bebe and one of the big premises of the book is how the French feel strongly that babies and children can fit into your lives and that you shouldn't have to change and alter everything to accommodate them. I remember reading the book and thinking: YES! Life will be just as it was, except we'll have a small baby in tow. Obviously a few things would likely be different, but I didn't want to change our routines, change the way we cooked or approached time off together, or see our friends any less. Well of course I'm the fool. Or at the very least, I'm not as French as I thought I was. Today, we very much schedule things around Oliver's nap schedule and bedtime, but thankfully we have a lot of other friends with kids who get it. Friends who make homemade cookies, own ice cream businesses, and have really great taste in music. Friends who host the kind of occasion that warrants homemade hot fudge sauce and eating dessert first.
We're back! After a restful few days in Lake George, I ended up flying home while Sam spent a little time with his family in New Jersey and a few days in New York City by himself before taking the train all the way back to Seattle (a solid four day journey). If you know Sam, this isn't surprising; he loves trains. When he's gone, I quickly revert back to my single gal days of eating veggie quesadillas for dinner (over and over) and staying up working later than I'd like. We would talk on the phone often as Sam would narrate his very full days in New York City and the stops and layovers he had while on the train. After a few days of me lamenting the fact that I wasn't there to experience it all with him, he encouraged me to ditch the quesadillas and do something special for dinner. See a movie. Go to the museum for just an hour. In short: I needed to get better at dating myself.
I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I'd been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I'm honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara's book and pulled out a few peaches I've had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away -- having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up.