restaurants

A Weekend of Good Eats in Boston

Two weekends ago, Reen, Karen and I escaped to Boston for a girls’ weekend. In the years since we graduated college, we’d made separate whirlwind trips back to catch up with friends. But the last time the three of us had been there together was eight years ago–and we felt we were overdue for a return trip.

Originally, we planned to have a ridiculous nostalgia fest. We came up with a long list of places to hit up to relive our college days: Cactus ClubВ (um, it was going to be Cinco de Mayo, after all), Whiskey’s, People’s Republik, Mike’s Pastry,В Anna’s Taqueria. We even considered going to Allston bars like Common GroundВ before deciding that would be too sad and embarrassing, nostalgia weekend or not!

But once we got to Boston, we scrapped those plans. The city had changed so much in our time away. Instead of drinking like college kids and going to our old faithful places, we decided to experience Boston in a more “age-appropriate” way–especially now that we’re no longer dirt poor, like when we lived there, as Reen said. (Though in my case, I’d say I’ve barely moved up one step from “dirt poor.”)

We basically ate and drank our way through the weekend. Some highlights–and lots of food pics:

Dinner at Stella: One thing hasn’t changed about Boston: the lack of late-night dining options. By the time we checked into our hotel on Friday, it was 11 p.m., past the hour most restaurants stop serving. (Our concierge actually told us IHOP was our only option.) We wanted a relaxing, sit-down meal, so we headed to Stella, in the South End–and were so pleased with our choice. The restaurant is stylish with a chill vibe and the crowd mostly 30-somethings. Plus, Stella has a great (i.e. girly) cocktail menu and fantastic food. We loved the short rib flatbread pizza and orecchiette with sausage.

Brunch at theВ South End Buttery:В When I lived in Boston, there weren’t many brunch options. There seem to be quite a few now, and Reen made a great choice for Saturday. We had Bloody Marys and amazing eggs Benedict with shaved ham on homemade biscuits. The dish was so good that I wish I knew a place in NYC that made a variation on par with it.

Dinner and Drinks atВ Island Creek Oyster Bar:В I love the decor here. The mix of weathered wooden planks with ultra-modern lighting fixtures really makes the space feel like a fancy seafood shack transplanted into a city. The cocktails were great (I’m planning to make/drink my own version of the Bergamot Buck all summer) and the oysters and lobster roll were among the best I’ve had.

Mint julep–because it was also Derby day.

Margaritas at Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar: We met up with our Cambridge pal Doug for Cinco de Mayo drinks. Loved the margaritas–especially the Diablo and Naughty Pineapple–but not the long line we waited on to get into the place. We had a great time once we got inside, though!

SoWa Open Market:В Apparently, this farmers/design/vintage market has been around since 2003 but I didn’t recall hearing of it before. It was totally cool and reminded me of Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. We browsed the artisans’ wares and had great sandwiches and tacos from the BBQ Smith food truck before hitting the road back to NYC.

Did I miss anything? What other places should I check out on my next trip up? (Boston peeps, I’m hoping to return sometime this year!)

First Crabs of the Season

I had such a nice weekend in Maryland with my favorite people. As I’d guessed, it was too chilly to go to the beach (will summer please start, already?) but we did manage to indulge in our second favorite Maryland activity:

Maryland’s blue crab season runs from April through October. The best crabs are, admittedly, in September and October, after the crustaceans have had months to grow and fatten up. But the first crabs of year are always fantastic, too–I think that’s partially due to anticipating them for six months!

Last year, we tried out a number of crab joints along the Atlantic coast and unanimously decided that the best blue crabs are not in Maryland, but in Delaware. They’re at the Blue Crab in Bethany Beach. We stumbled upon the restaurant about a year ago, on another chilly, pre-summer day. Little did we know that it would become our favorite crab place in the region. The crabs are always fresh and meaty and the hush puppies are amazing.

As usual, Peter and I got the All You Can Eat blue crabs and Mal opted for snow crab. As we eagerly awaited our meals, we readied our tools…

…and tried not to eat all the hush puppies and fried chicken they bring out first in an attempt to fill you up.

Finally, the main event arrived!

It’s funny; eating crab is like riding a bicycle–it takes a minute to remember how to do it, after it’s been a while. But once we did, we were cleanly breaking those guys apart, effortlessly extracting big chunks of meat and savoring the meal for a good hour or so.

Back Forty Crab Boil: A Crabby Start to Summer

I’ve been trying not to eat out as often as I used to (like when I still had a steady source of income), but when one of Ryan’s friends invited us to a crab boil at Back Forty, I couldn’t say no. Each Tuesday during the summer, the East Village restaurant holds crab dinners, where diners sit around communal tables and tear into round after round of steamed blue crabs. The cost is a justifiable $40 per person — which includes sides and dessert, though no beer, unfortunately В — and the idea of practically all-you-can-eat seafood seemed too good to pass up.

So on Tuesday night, we arrived at Back Forty for the last seating. Our group was placed around a long table covered with newspaper and scattered with wooden mallets.

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After an appetizer of salt cod hush puppies, a server told us that the crabs, potatoes, and string beans would be served in three rounds. A few minutes later, another server came out carrying two metal buckets overflowing with crabs. He then upended buckets and dumped the crabs right onto the table.

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It was at that moment that I realized I had never eaten crabs with my bare hands before. I also hadn’t considered that a squeamish feeling might come over me when faced with the crabs. I’m a recovering vegetarian, but I’m not at the point where I feel all that comfortable with seafood and meat still looking like, well, the animals themselves.

I was able to push the squeamish thoughts out of my head as I followed the veteran crab eaters’ instructions on taking the crabs apart. I tried not to think about the fact that I was bashing a crab’s head with a wooden mallet, ripping half its body off, snapping the remainder in half, and pulling off its legs one by one. Luckily, the restaurant was too dark for me to get a good look at the eyes, guts and lungs.В 

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After all the work dismantling the crab, eating the soft, flavorful meat was a treat. But since there wasn’t much meat in each crab, we had no trouble ripping apart and devouring all three rounds — as you can see from the rather gross-looking photo below.

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