Boston: Beantown Blitz!

[my beloved camera’s out of juice, and I’ve managed to leave the charger back in Madrid – loyal readers, I do hope you’ll find it in your hearts to forgive the cell phone photography!]

Upon waking, MP (that’s Master Planner, for those of you recently joining us) and I dodge a pizza hangover by hitting up the hotel’s fitness center for a few reps. We feel the burn.

MP’s scoped a few choice potentials for a Boston breakfast, and after perusing the Yelp reviews, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe’s promises of turkey hash are what most clamor for our attentions. Tragedy strikes our wanting bellies, however, upon reading Charlie’s “CLOSED FOR VACATION” sign plastered on the door. Quick thinking and iPhone GPS-powered navigational technology lead us to option two, Mike and Patty’s Cafe.

Mike and Patty’s is quite possibly the smallest dining establishment we’ve ever seen, seating precisely seven hungry breakfasters. The kitchen is open and bustling with four very coordinated cooks, scurrying to piece together the sandwich orders that simply don’t stop coming in. Folks in the know steadily stream in from the street, mostly youngish sorts with a touch of hipster, and plenty congregate with their precious edibles perched on surrounding curbs.

We, however, are destined for a coveted inside spot, and soon enough manage to snag the catbird seat at the bay window.

I’ve repeatedly read that the Bacon and Egg Fancy is the sammie of choice, but can’t keep myself from the Breakfast Torta given the rundown of mexi-ingredients: fried egg, salsa roja, cheese, chiles poblanos, potato, frijoles negros, and (generous) avocado. While the cooks somehow squeeze it all into a browned, chewy bread roll, I eyeball the array of hot sauces and consider what species of tastebud masochism will most delight me this morning. Several healthy dashes of Tapatio later and I’m reeling.

MP opts for the Green Madame, a more vegetable-y take on the classic croque, most notably featuring garlicky broiled collards. Seen in the background is John’s simple Bacon and Egg, which he describes as the best possible rendition of an Egg McMuffin.

These are power breakfasts for sure, each of us prepping for an extended exploration day in our particular style (Americana, veg-head, Scoville points). We hoof it towards Faneuil Hall, which we noted buzzing with activity last night, but are sneakily sidetracked by DSW Shoe Warehouse on the way.

Three pair of strappy sandals later, MP queries if John’s interested in checking out a Verizon store. Nah… why…? She grins and reveals an early 21st brithday present: John’s getting a smart phone. The two of them check out possibilities whilst I shop for the perfect summer shorts next door.

Post-purchases, John and I are absurdly thirsty. Faneuil Hall seems ripe for smoothie time, which we seek out and discover within a gigantic passageway lined with the food stalls of dreams. Diverted by neither candy apples nor schwarma, we beeline for frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies, which are subsequently greedily slurped in the shade.

The sun climbs ever higher in the Bostonian sky, and it occurs to MP that Gucci might be an excellent place to take refuge from its penetrating rays. The hike back is long and arduous and sweaty, made still worse by faulty fonts.

By the time we near Gucciville, our dogs are barking much too loudly to consider upscale frivolities; a quick splash in the rooftop hotel pool becomes a much more attractive option. We lug our feetsies to a well-deserved rest back at the Colonnade. MP and I do check out the poolside scene, but decide the children:shade ratio is much too far outside our comfort zone to stick around long.

A quick nap later and we’re on the move, taking the T northward and across the Charles River towards Cambridge. I’ve been in this area several times prior for high school debate tournaments, but am by no means familiar with it; for one, my memories are blanketed in a thick layer of coastal snow. Harvard in the summer turns out to be beautiful, with colorful lawn chairs strewn about the fresh sprouts of grass. The red brick of the buildings is appropriately stately, imparting a sense of money and prestige. We’re particuarly attracted to this building, which upon closer inspection seems to be a Harry Potter-esque dining hall.

MP locates an openable door. Within lie stained glass murals and rumblings of a student orchestra warming up.

Similarly rumbling are our demanding tummies, so we mosy towards our second culinary destination of the day: Oleana, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant whose menu already has us dreading the prospect of having to decide. We wait briefly for the privilege of a table in the outside garden, replete with curled vines emerging from glass bowls hanging from branches above and firework bursts of blooms below. MP and I open with aperitifs, a Paopao (sparkling wine, strawberry, pink peppercorns) for her and a Champagne cocktail (champagne, lemon rind, sugarcube, bitters) for me. Delicious. We feel resplendent, and lucky to be here.

After a consultation with our waitress, we decide on sharing a selection of six meze – small exquisite dishes perfectly tailored re: Law of Diminishing Returns:

Hot Pepper Labne (yogurt) with Olive Oil and Dried Mint
Octopus and & Olive Shish, Smoked Green Wheat Salad, Skordato (pictured above)
Tuna Kibbeh Nayeh (tartare) with Turkish Spices, Pickled Onion & Herb Salad
Sultan’s Delight: Tamarind Glazed Beef & Smokey Eggplant Purée with Pinenuts (pictured below left)
Vermont Quail with Baharat, Barberries, & Pistachio (pictured below right)
Ricotta Loukoumades, Roasted Asparagus, Hazelnut & Maple Labne (pictured below center)

It’s exactly the sort of restaurant experience I adore – scores of new flavor combinations, both strong and subtle, all beautifully presented in small portions in an intimate, comfortable setting. The hot pink is beet, by the way, which is somehow spiked throughout with sweet and pungent citrus. We go wild over the texture of the octopus, which has clearly been grilled but bears zero resemblance to my rubbery Rocky Point attempt several years back. We guess at a pre-boil, which is later confirmed by our waitress; she explains that it’s also raked over a Spanish-style washboard such that the flesh is even further tenderized before hitting the coals. The short rib of the Sultan’s Delight falls apart when prodded into a heap of tamarind, the intensity of its flavor matched and augmented by the depth of the darkly-flavored smoked eggplant purée.

I’m skipping a lot of oohs and ahhs here, partially because I wouldn’t order a single one of these dishes again were we to get the chance to return to Oleana – each one of them was so outstanding that I feel absolutely obligated to sample six completely new plates next time, with enormous confidence that they will be just as extraordinary.

We began to be pelted with fat raindrops late in the evening, an a migration inside took us to the bustling kitchenside bar. It is busy but not hectic, and appears impeccably organized – a necessity given the volume of orders coming in all at once. For once, we’ve saved a spare space for something sweet (it was decided as soon as the waitstaff mentioned “Pastry Kitchen”); John, self-proclaimed hazelnut-fiend, selects the Chocolate Hazelnut Délice with Hazelnut Cocoa Nib Tartlet and Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream. MP and I split a goblet of Moscato and all three drift off into bliss.


5 thoughts on “Boston: Beantown Blitz!

  1. Your foodie lingo so baffles me that even “schwarma” fails to stand out from the rest. Is there a dictionary to go along with your blog? Glad you are all having a marvy time. Wish you could bomb down here before heading back to Espanola.

  2. You guys had such fantastic food all day, especilaly breakfast. The Breakfast Torta and Green Madame (as well as John’s Egg McMuffin) made my mouth water. Janel, your cell phone photography captured the essence of all the food specialties. And to top it all off……..three strappy sandals.

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