Blogging Boston

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably know that I blog primarily about my culinary adventures in New York City, but when I’m in another city, you’ll be hearing about my good eats. This time I decided to take a few days off for what’s been a very busy January to enjoy some me time. Of course my journey to Bean Town wouldn’t be complete without exploring the city for its culinary and arts treasures. Enjoy!

Day One: Leaving a very snowy New York City and dragging luggage in tow was certainly not the most pleasant day. Friends questioned why I decided not to go to a sunny destination down south instead of another snowy city. The answer? I wanted a simple trip and I also hadn’t had a chance to explore the sweet treats of Boston. After a delayed trip (and having to get on a later bus as I couldn’t make it in time with the snow in the city), I arrived and decided to go the cheap route by riding the subway. Even though I had plotted out my destinations during my trip en route to Boston on Google Maps, it didn’t seem to matter. I still think Boston has one of the most complicated transit systems with multiple track numbers on the same colored lines, and inbound/outbound (yes, this is coming from a New Yorker and I think our system is the easiest to navigate but I could be partial. πŸ™‚

After finding my way to the right colored line, track and direction, I checked in at the Boston Park Plaza at 50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street. Unfortunately the hotel had to move me to three rooms because the first room wasn’t cleaned, the second room had no heat and by the time I reached the third room later in the evening I could finally settle. Despite the rough day, I had the opportunity to try a fantastic Boston Clam Chowder and the Park Caesar Salad with Jumbo Lump Crab for a light bite in the room before my dinner reservation.

Boston Clam Chowder at Boston Park Plaza

Park Caesar Salad with Jumbo Lump Crab at Boston Park Plaza

Following a late lunch (and a tip from a Boston Symphony rep) I headed over to try out the new Island Creek Oyster Bar at 500 Commonwealth Avenue (next to the Hotel Commonwealth). The restaurants design is notable as I was informed it’s designed from the oyster’s perspective (upside down in the ocean). The back wall of the restaurant was assembled using all oyster shells (it is somewhat reminiscent of the beautiful design of Bar Boulud in my opinion). The other wall features a rendition of Duxbury Bay where the oysters are grown. (Interesting tidbit: Duxbury is an ideal place to grow oysters as it never gets too warm, so the oyster maintains its creaminess).

Island Creek Oyster Bar

The service was fantastic and having never tried oysters before, this was the place to do it. My server thoroughly explained the various options which led me to choosing an Island Creek (Duxbury, MA) – and their signature oyster (far right in picture below); a Kumamoto (Puget Sound, WA) – one of the most prized West Coast oysters (middle in picture below); and a Peter’s Point (Onset, MA). If you’ve never had oysters or don’t have the background on them, there are two types of oysters – those grown on the ocean floor which pick up the tones of the body of water they’re grown in (hence the East Coast vs. West Coast oyster) and those grown above the ocean’s surface in bags which pick up tones from the water when the tide comes in twice a day (e.g. Island Creek Oysters).

Oysters at Island Creek Oyster Bar

I also enjoyed a baby spinach salad with cranberry puree, shaved manchego and spiced pecans, along with a Blizzard #4, one of the restaurant’s newly added signature winter cocktails featuring a crushed ice blend (reminiscent of a snow cone) and house made Irish cream, Galliano and Angostura.

Baby Spinach Salad at Island Creek Oyster Bar

I ended the evening by seeing a delightful performance at Berklee College of Music with the Rika Ikeda Group and β€œA Beautiful Release” by Jihee Yoon. These students are incredible!

Day Two: After enjoying sleeping in, I checked in at the W Boston on 100 Stuart Street for a modern respite from the historic Park Plaza which was taxing with the many consistency issues. While I didn’t have much of a chance to relax as I met a friend in Cambridge for a home-cooked Mediterranean lunch complete with all the spreads, grape leaves, pita, feta and more from a local Lebanese market, I sure took in a much-needed Blissage 75 massage, 75 minutes of pure bliss (with the special promo it also included a free hot cream manicure which was an extra treat).

Following my massage, I enjoyed a couple cocktails in the W Lounge (thanks to Concierge Ken and the WeDriveU team!) along with the Rice Cracker Crusted Tuna with a Citrus-Chili Emulsion from Market by Jean-Georges before taking in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). BSO performed Ligeti’s Double Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218 and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Opus 70. The Boston Symphony was absolutely phenomenal and had a special guest conductor, Christoph Von Dohnanyi, an amazing flautist, Elizabeth Rowe, John Ferrillo on Oboe and Arabella Steinbacher (her premiere with BSO) – she is only 29 and one of the most gifted I have ever heard.

When I arrived back at the hotel I had a chance to enjoy a nice dinner at the bar including Jean-Georges Market Cheeseburger with Russian dressing, blue cheese and cucumber, hand cut fries and edamame, paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon and followed by one of the hotel’s award-winning cocktails (GQ award winner created by Domengo Barreres) – A Little Sum Sum (yes, that’s really the name) made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Star Anise, Raspberries and Shiso – the perfect nightcap.

Day Three: While it’s hard to top the great rooms, food and drinks at W Boston, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my trip with a tour of the Sam Adams Brewery at 30 Germania Street – everything you could ever ask for if you really want to know about beer!

Sam Adams Brewery Tour

Our guide Jessica talked us through the process which begins with selecting the barley.

Our tour guide Jessica on the Sam Adams Brewery Tour

Depending on the length of time you roast the barley, that will determine the color and flavor (scale is 1-100 and at 60, for example, you’ll get a golden amber). Following the selection and roasting of barley, the hops is then crushed (every hop has an essential oil), many which descended from Hollertown, Germany. Sam (A.K.A. The brew master creator who is really Jim Cook and comes up with the new ales and lagers) typically uses English hops for ales (earthier) or American (citrusy). Water is the next ingredient which is essential for having a beer (tidbit: 90% of beer is water!) otherwise you’d have to eat a bowl of barley and hops. The final ingredient is yeast which is the most important as it eats the sugar from the barley (more sugar raises alcohol level of the beer, less sugar = less alcohol) and gives the beer its carbonation. Yeast comes in two forms – 1) ale yeast (found in mild bitters, amber beers) and 2) lager yeast (found in Pilsners, typically Czech or German, in Sam’s case, Winter Lager).

A good beer ‘aint easy to create, folks! Read on…

After barley, sugar, water and yeast, the brewing process then starts with mashing to add complexity and to continue breaking down the yeast and sugar. Following the mash, the brewery uses a ladderton and filters with Wort – which is what is needed to brew – a brew kettle is then employed to begin the boiling process (at least an hour and a half), hops added (to give the bitter flavors and aromas) and at this point different spices depending on the flavor (e.g. cinnamon, cloves, etc.). It is then put in a whirlpool spin to remove the coagulated proteins, extra bits of hops, etc. and then cooled down. (Insider Info: An ale’s cooling process is warmer and shorter and lager is cooler and longer). Wort then graduates to beer (which is green at this point and not ready to be served – no, it’s not the colored beer you see with dye at St. Patty’s Day) and aged before it’s bottled (Sam churns it out with 3-4 bottles per minute) or shipped to bars and restaurants.

On the Sam Adams Brewery Tour

Sam Adams Brewery Tour

Sam Adams Brewery Tour

Now onto the fun – the tasting!

Tasting Room at Sam Adams Brewery

1) Boston Lager – The first beer Jim Cook (above, the brew master) made. Tip: Always make sure your beer is clear and not cloudy (which means the draft hasn’t been cleaned).

Jim Cook in the Sam Adams Brewery Tasting Room

Sam Adams Boston Lager

2) Winter Lager – Wheat beer. My favorite from the tasting.

Sam Adams Winter Lager

3) Farmhouse Ale – A new beer not yet released that’s in testing which uses caramel, pilsen malt and yeast (5.8% alcohol – wee!)

And if you didn’t read anything else on the process (or you just care about drinking a good beer), remember the ABCs – A – Abundance of malt, B – Balance of flavor; and C – Complexity of flavor. Thanks Boston!


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One Response to “Blogging Boston”

  1. Hamptons Part 2: B. Smith’s, Sen and Round Swamp Farm « Mojitos & Florentine Says:

    […] traffic in, complete with some of the best East Coast oysters I’ve ever had (if you know me, West Coast Kumamotos are typically my first choice), grown right from the bay, along with a fresh watermelon margarita […]

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