"Square" Meals and Kickin' It (Really) Old School in Massachusetts
Thursday November 8, 2012
- I had been hoping to attend one of the Boston area meet-ups that Ayersian
have put together over the last few months and my timing finally worked out in early November. I had planned to spend the weekend with my friends on the South Shore and I came up a day early to make the dinner in Cambridge. Chris & Amy were the most generous and wonderful hosts and made up the spare bedroom for me. I rode Greyhound from Port Authority in NYC to South Station and then picked up my Charlie Card and boarded the Red Line to Harvard Square. Though it was an overcast day, this was always one of my favorite views, looking at the Esplanade along the Charles River from the T heading into Cambridge, with a view of the "Pru" and the Hancock Building.
The "Square" part of this thread title refers to the fact that many of my meals were in various squares (Harvard, Central, Kendall and Inman) and the "Old School" will be revealed later in the report... Since I had a couple of hours before I was to meet up with Chris, I decided to grab lunch at an old favorite, Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers
(aka Bartley's Burger Cottage aka Bartley's). When I lived in Boston I loved their food but was never a fan of the burgers as I had found them to be too charred on the outside and undercooked (for my taste) on the inside, but I figured today was as good a day as any to give them another try.
The power of the onion ring compels me! The power of the onion rings compels me! Huge, crispy hoops of wispy thin onion-y goodness!
And my "go-to" side dish of baked beans. Cooked until soft but not mushy with just a faint sweetness to them.
Each burger on the menu is named after a person of some or a lot of notoriety and/or in the public eye. Musicians, politicians, sport figures and others get their names on the menu. I think some of the burger have names that the owners/staff just find to be funny. My "Mitt Romney" burger described on the menu as "feeling really, really "BLUE"" yet oddly it didn't have bleu cheese on it but swiss cheese and grilled onions. I asked for BBQ sauce on top and for it to be cooked medium.
This was massive and messy burger to eat and really, really good. A pronounced beefy flavor and the toppings only added to my enjoyment and didn't get in the way. I happily finished every bite!
My waitress, Heather, suggested that I use this sweet pepper relish as a dip for my onion rings and she hit the bullseye with that one. What a great idea. A few spoonfuls on my plate and a swipe of the rings added another layer of sweet, peppery flavor.
The walls of this 52-year old institution are covered with all sorts of posters, artwork, street signs, etc (some of it Boston/Cambridge themed). One of my favorites (that I didn't see this time) was a caricature of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as babies in a crib wearing their respective team onesies. The Famous Brains On Drugs poster has been there for years.
On my last visit here I missed the chance to try the Grapenut custard but I was not to be denied today. Served chilled, this really reminded me of flan. It was tasty but not what I was hoping for. The Grapenut flavor was barely there and I think I really prefer my puddings/custards served warm as the flavor seems to be more pronounced.
That'd be a sight to see!
Ooh, free parsley! Wait, are they trying to tell me something?
Words to live by. That really is a great outlook to have!
Never really thought about that...
This was the most confusing/mind-blowing thing I saw during my visit. A crosswalk signal with 61 SECONDS on it? And this was at a tiny side street! Each intersection I walked across seemed to have a different amount of time on it that didn't appear to be related to the width of the street/road. Massachusetts Ave., a major avenue, had 34 seconds on it. It's almost as though they drew numbers out of a hat. In NYC, you get 20 seconds, maybe a few more, at almost every intersection.
On my way to Chris & Amy's apartment I came across these signs and realized that one thing I don't miss is PARKING in Boston. NYC is just as bad if not worse, but I sold my car before I moved here. Is it legal to park here? Let me know when you figure it out!
Chris met me at their apartment, which I absolutely love! I miss hardwood floors, light switches OUTSIDE of the bathroom and the way apartments in that area are laid out with rooms jutting off one another. Chris & Amy were incredibly gracious hosts, setting me up in the spare bedroom and knowing my love for them, they even had a sticker from the Canadian band Rush on the bed as a gift for me. Thanks so much for everything!!
Chris & I walked over to L.A. Burdick in Harvard Square to meet up with Bethgrd and Karilyn for some fantastic hot chocolate before dinner. They didn't end up going so we detoured to OTTO for an "amuse bouche" of sorts.
The place smelled great and there are so many pizza on this menu that I need to come back to try. That butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry caught my eye.
We settled on sharing a slice of the mashed potato, bacon and scallion. It was a marriage between a really good baked potato and a really good slice of pizza. I don't think there was any cheese or sour cream on it but the potatoes were creamy which took the place of any dairy. The deal closer for me was the crust. Crispy, crunchy, chewy and it had a lot of flavor. I know the Boston area isn't exactly known as a notch on the pizza belt but if you're in the area, I'd highly recommend a stop here.
(I copied and pasted the text for these next photos of Mary Chung and Toscanini's from the Boston Monthly Feasts thread rather than re-write!
) Chris and I hopped on the T and headed to Central Square and walked a few blocks to Mary Chung
(Mandarin and Szechuan Cuisine). I asked Chris & Amy to keep my appearance on the QT and it was a real hoot to see the surprised looks when I walked in! RFers Bethgrd, Karilyn, Paulde
(with his girlfriend, Sandra) were already there and Amy arrived a few minutes later.
I think Bethgrd did most of the ordering for the table as she has been coming here for quite some time. Suan La Chow Show (sp?) which were steamed, meat-filled dumplings in a spicy sauce which really tingled the lips and I absolutely loved. I'd come back just for these.
The scallion pancakes were greasy, as scallion pancakes ought to be and they helped soak up some of that spicy dumpling sauce.
And some of the fried dumplings. My note taking was poor but I remember liking these.
The super spicy Dun Dun Noodles which had me chugging my water but I couldn't stop eating. A kind of heat that made me crave it even more.
I'm guessing that these are the Spicy Fresh Green Beans. As a child, I grew up on a LOT of canned vegetables and it wasn't until the last 15 years or so that al dente vegetables with a crunch really worked for me. These were just right and added even more spice to my already smoldering taste buds.
The Lion's Head Meatball. I wasn't crazy about this as it seemed a bit heavy to me and to be honest, I have preconceived notions about what I want from a meatball.
Yu Shiang Eggplant, which I believe is fried and served in a garlic sauce.
Stuffed Eggplant. I'm not sure with what this is stuffed or how the other eggplant dish tasted as I am a bit of an eggplant frowner and I didn't try it. Yeah, I need to be more adventurous. Perhaps the others can elaborate. I know Chris is a big fan of one of these dishes. Happily, my note taking was so bad as I was engaged in great conversation with everyone and it was a treat me meet Paulde and Sandra and to reconnect with everyone else after so long (too long!). I was even able to meet up with Dale & Sandra for a meal at the Second Avenue Deli in NYC a few weeks later along with their friends Joel & Ellen and my girlfriend joined in the RF festivities too!
After our most satisfying meal, we walked down the street to one of my favorite ice cream shops in the Boston area, Toscanini's
. I came here quite often when I lived in the area and I was soooo looking forward to this visit. They give out free samples and I tried one of the Burnt Caramel and one of the Salty Lemon. The Salty Lemon was like combining lemon curd and lemon icebox pie with a hint of salt. It made my lips pucker and was quite good.
Ultimately I went for a scoop of the Burnt Caramel and a scoop of the Grapenut covered in their homemade bittersweet hot fudge. That Burnt Caramel was just teetering on the edge of sweet/burnt and was just divine. The Grapenut has long been my "go-to" flavor here and it was just a amazing as I had remembered. They are generous with the Grape Nuts and some are soft while others still have slight crunch to them. A flavor that is very popular in Massachusetts and the version here is the yardstick for me. And their bittersweet hot fudge is something to be savored a tiny bit at a time so it will last as long as possible. The only complaint I had on this evening is all of this incredible ice cream reminded me that I no longer live here and I'm hard pressed to find ice cream of this caliber in NYC. Sniff. Yeah, first world problems, I know!
I had almost forgotten to get a group shot before we went out separate ways. Sorry Paulde, it didn't occur to me until after you had left! The reason we're laughing is the girls in the window decided to get into the photo too! From left to right: Karilyn, Wanderingjew, Sandra, Beth, Amy, Chris and Billyboy
. Thanks so much for a wonderful evening and Paulde and Sandra it was a pleasure to finally meet you both!
post edited by billyboy - 2012/12/14 00:47:02