A Long Weekend in Boston


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.

Comments

  1. Hannah

    What a great way to honor a friend. It looks like you had a lovely time. :)

  2. Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home

    Oh, Boston is so close to NYC....I've been wanting to visit for such a long time!

    ps: I had no idea Wagamama existed outside of London. Good to know!

  3. marla {family fresh cooking}

    What a lovely post. I feel like I just visited all the places I would love to go in Boston. It is such a wonderful city. Your photos capture so much, they are gorgeous! Glad to see that your visit had a bright side.

  4. El

    I'm so glad you had a good time. It looks like you had a chance to revisit your old stomping grounds and remember the old days. There's a couple of places I would recommend on your return. One is Aroa chocolates- it's a few doors down from Flour in the S. End. It's about 1 year old and they bring outstanding hot chocolate to you in your own chocolate pot. The second is Lala Rokh on Mt. Vernon Street. It's fine Persian cuisine and it's consistently good. Glad you had a good trip. Welcome home!

  5. Manggy

    Ah, these are my type of travel posts :) Thanks for sharing - looks like you had a good, er, delicious time!

    (You had to stay in a hotel?!)

  6. megang

    Ed: you know, I'm not a huge chowder girl. So. much. cream!

    Hannah, Erika and Marla: thanks so much for stopping by and for your nice comments.

    El: Great recommendations. God, I had not heard of Aroa chocolates and can't believe we were right there...next time.

    Manggy: I do have friends there, but most are in teeny places or married and in teeny places (even worse). But I got a great deal on a hotel, so it worked out just fine!

  7. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    What a lovely recap of your weekend Megan. How fun to go back to your old stomping grounds. Glad you were able to enjoy and honour the memory of Jean.

  8. Chez Us

    Megan, what a wonderful way to celebrate your friend's life by going to to familiar places with the people he/she loved!

    Not to take away from the purpose of your post but I cannot wait to try some of these places out next time we are in Boston. I love the South End & spent a wonderful afternoon there a couple months ago - hitting Flour, of course, and then wandering and taking photos. Next time hit Cotta - fantastic!!!!!

    D

  9. Daniel

    What a cool trip. When I was in London a couple months ago I saw a Wagamama. I want to say it was on the south bank of the Thames kind of adjacent to the houses of parliament. I heard it was tasty but never had the chance to go there. Glad I ran across your page.

  10. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    So fun! I wish I'd read this earlier, I have more places to reco you should visit that probably weren't there when you were in grad school. We spend a lot of time in Back Bay and my husband went to grad school there too (before we met). I'm sorry it was for such a sad occasion, but glad you had a nice visit.

  11. A Canadian Foodie

    I am glad you found me, too - because I have now found you... our daughter just moved from Boston to Palo Alto in July. She did her Masters in OT at Tufts. She came home so often, we just got there last March. What a fantastic city. We all loved it... small, intimate - exploding with history and places to go and people to meet. Never got to Flour Bakery - wanted to - but got a tour of the Boston Food Project instead... a wonderful weekend for you - and a great trip back in my mind, for me.
    XO
    Valerie

Join the Discussion

Spring Desserts

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

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. 

Read More
Cherry and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

Cherry and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.

Read More
For Now, For Summer

For Now, For Summer

We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.

Read More
Good and Simple

Good and Simple

Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or  trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.

Read More
Visions of Greatness or Something Like It

Visions of Greatness or Something Like It

[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.

Read More