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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Food War: Boston vs. Texas

Sooo…this is gonna be a LONGGGG post...

I went to Boston last month for a work conference. Decided to go there a couple days earlier to take in the sights and of course, try out their food! The last time I was in Boston was apparently like 15 years ago…I didn’t even remember being there. This time I gotta do it right. Hehe.

I was so glad I got to check out Boston before my conference. There’s so much to see and eat…and I had some great stuff! So I think I’m going to do a food battle between the places in Boston and comparable restaurants in Dallas/Texas.

DAY 1:
We went for lunch at Trattoria il Panino (in the North End – “Little Italy”). This place came highly recommended. It was a tiny little place, very much a whole in the wall, but had a lot of character. We were seated downstairs in basically the wine cellar…very cool!

We ordered the Mixed Salad (mixed greens, radicchio, cherry tomato, olive oil, lemon juice) $7.95~ The salad was very fresh but there was way too much lemon juice, which I didn’t like, that overpowered the entire dish.

For entrée, the waiter recommended the Pappardelle a la Bolognese (pappardelle pasta in a tomato meat sauce with a little bit of cream) $23.95~ It was one of their specials for the day. Pappardelle is basically Italian flat pasta cut into a broad ribbon shape…theirs was made with egg instead of flour. The pasta was wonderful…cooked perfectly with a nice meat sauce. Definitely filling but wasn’t too heavy. The pasta was very good but a little pricey for lunch.

I thought of Villa-O in Dallas uptown as a great contender. Villa-O also uses fresh ingredients and has some great dishes. Their pastas are also cooked perfectly. I’d say for this round…Dallas wins…ONLY because the salad at Panino was too sour… If just judged on the entrée, I would say it’s a tie.
Next we wanted to try some desserts. Everyone recommended Mike’s Pastry for their cannolis but they were too packed plus I’m not really a cannoli fan, so we went to Modern Pastry across the street. It was recommended by our waiter at Panino for good fruit tarts.

Got a Chocolate Mousse Slice and a Fruit Tart (strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, pineapple, blackberries, and apple). Epic fail… -_- The desserts were meh…I was expecting so much more…since it was a specialty bakery. They were like desserts you can get at La Madeleine in Dallas, but not as good… Nothing special about it….sigh… Dallas wins again.
For dinner our friends took us to Chilli Duck, which is Thai food. We ordered quite a bit of food and the portions were big….we were stuffed!

Spring Rolls (crispy Thai style vegetarian egg rolls, served with a sweet and sour sauce) $4.95~ and Thai Calamari (lightly battered and fried calamari, served with sweet and sour sauce) $5.95~ Thai Fried Rice with Vegetable (fried rice with egg, onion, green peas and scallions) $8.95~ Crispy Crispy Chicken Pad Thai (Thai rice noodles stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, Thai turnip and scallions topped with grounded peanuts) $9.95~ Green Curry with Tofu (green peas, bell peppers, eggplant, string beans, zucchini, basil leaves and mushrooms in green curry with coconut milk0 $11.95~ Curry Lady Mermaid (grilled tilapia topped with green peas, bell peppers and julienne lime leaves with spicy curry coconut milk served with steamed assorted vegetables) $15.95~

Overall the food was good…pretty similar to Thai food in Dallas. But the Green Curry was awesome!! It had sooo much flavor and with a little bit of heat to it. I’d have to say that’s one of the best Thai curries I’ve had ever. So with that dish alone, I’ll have to give the win to Boston.
DAY 2:
We went to Sunday brunch at The Beehive (on Tremont). Very cool place…they have live jazz during brunch, and the portions are huge.

Here are a couple dishes that other people ordered but I didn’t get to try…
Mezze Platter (Hummus, White Beans, Whipped Feta, Olives, Pickles) $11~ Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich (with tomato and Farmhouse cheddar) $9~ I was able to sample the Eggs Shakshuka (A Real Bohemian Breakfast) (three eggs baked over North African style tomato sauce served with creamy polenta) $12.50~ DE-licious!! The flavors were really great, everything worked well together. The polenta was super smooth and creamy and the tomato sauce was just perfect with the eggs.

We got the Beehive Eggs Spinedict (eggs Benedict with spinach, served with side of potato frites with sage & sea salt) $12~ The Benedict was very good, but nothing special. I really really liked the potato frites though. It was like fries but different…sprinkled with just enough herbs and salt….YUM!

Finally I got the Kiddie French Toast (thick cut French toast, Chantilly cream, maple syrup) $5~ It’s basically the regular French Toast but with 1 toast instead of 2. OMG. Seriously the BEST French Toast I’ve ever had in my life!!! It was a giant thick cut piece of toast (kind of like brioche or something) with the perfect crispy crust on the edges and super fluffy in the middle. With the giant mound of whip cream and syrup it was DIVINE!!! I wish the Beehive would open a location in Dallas…

I guess the place I can compare to this could be Original Pancake House…but with the French Toast alone…Boston wins big time!! I would have to say that was my favorite dish of the entire trip.
Next we went to check out Newbury Street, mainly so I can go check out the 2 famous ice cream places there! :P There was Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream (this seems to be the locals’ preference) We got the Deep Purple Cow (Black raspberry ice cream with white and dark chocolate chips and blueberries) with waffle cone. This place is so freaking tiny…no room to stand around and the service was pretty slow. But the ice cream was great. Good consistency, creaminess, and somewhat new combinations of flavors. Then we headed to J.P. Licks Homemade Ice Cream Café It was much bigger and had seating. They moved the lines through fairly fast too. Got the Kowlua (kahlua flavored) and also the Mint Chip. Also very good. The ice cream seemed to be a little softer here but equally good as Emack. I think both were good, the only plus with J.P.Licks is that they had more room.

In Dallas we don’t have that many local ice cream shops…mostly chains like Cold Stone or Baskin Robbins. Boston’s were more unique with special flavors so I’d say Boston gets the point on this one.
As if we didn’t get enough sweets already…we went to a cupcake shop called SWEET. Haha. This is like your typical fancy/modern cupcake shop with nicely decorated desserts but ultimately is only good looking and not that great tasting.

We got the Dark Chocolate (rich chocolate cake baked with Dutch cocoa topped with buttercream frosting in chocolate) $3.25~ and Red, White & Me (vanilla bean cupcake filled with berry bash jam and vanilla buttercream) $3.25~ MEH~ they were small and expensive. Semi-dry in the cake part… Hey Cupcake in Austin is still my all time favorite. And Society Bakery in Dallas is a close 2nd. I have yet to try Sprinkles in Dallas… Texas wins! Unpretentious stores with super moist cupcakes. :)
DAY 3:
Dinner was at Picco (on Tremont) I had actually found out about this place on Google myself. Supposedly they focused more on the crust of the pizza saying that the crust makes the pizza. I TOTALLY agree. The crust is my favorite part of the pizza.

Green Salad (organic mesclun greens, tossed with lemon juice & olive oil) $5~ Super fresh and light…good start to dinner.

Make Your Own Calzone (Lioni fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, homemade meatballs, served with side of tomato sauce) $11.50~ Pretty good, the crust was nice...could’ve put a little more filling though.

Sausage & Mushroom Pizza (homemade pork sausage, Portobello & shiitake mushrooms, tomato sauce, provolone & Lioni fresh mozzarella) (small $13.50~) Also pretty good, but nothing too spectacular. Special: Corn Pizza (locally grown corn, fennel, potato, bacon, shallots, cream, thyme & parmesan) (small $13.50~) OMG…this will now be my favorite pizza. This was my first pick while looking through the menu just because it had corn and bacon. LOVE LOVE! The ingredients were so perfect together with the sweetness from the corn, and crisp saltiness from the bacon, and the cream was just enough, not overflowing. I’d have to say that while the crust was definitely good at Picco, the toppings on this pizza stole the show.

Alsatian Pizza (their version of France’s tarte flambé) (sautéed onions, shallots, garlic, sour cream, bacon & gruyere) (small $13.50~) This was a close #2 of the night. Creamy, cheesy, gooey and slightly sweet from the caramelized onions…the ultimate white pizza! So YUMMY it was crazy.

This place reminded me of Fireside Pies in Dallas…very good pizza, but compared to Picco…it becomes second rate. Picco takes the win for Boston. I would also like them to open a location in Dallas. Hehe :P
I was sooo stuffed after dinner but it was the last night to go try Finale Desserterie & Bakery. The also serve regular food but specialize in desserts. The décor was very cool and I especially liked the mirrors they hung on the ceiling to show the customers how the pastry chefs are decorating the plates. The presentation of the plates was so pretty!

We ordered the Molten Chocolate (baked to order warm chocolate cake with a gooey center, served with coffee gelato, milk chocolate covered almonds and Valrhona chocolate sauce) $10.99~ and Mini Dessert Sampler (features nine elements from eight of the desserts on the menu including the Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Boston Cream, Manjari Mousse, Gelati & Sorbet, S’more, Crème Brulee, Strawberry Shortcake, Orange Crème Caramel, Finale Cheesecake) $19.99~ The dessert sampler was so cute and delicate. It was a cool way to try all these different selections. Flavors were pretty good, but I’ve had better. I think because they shrunk the size down so much, it affected the textures and moistness as compared to the regular sized options.

The molten chocolate cake was wonderful! The cake was super moist and had a good amount of molten chocolate in the middle. It could’ve been a little warmer though.

I would compare the molten chocolate cake at Finale to Roy’s Chocolate Soufflé in Dallas…one of my favorite molten cake places of all time. I think it’s a tie between the two. While Roy’s is perfection, Finale is really close plus it’s bigger! Hehe But I’ll give it to Boston for the concept. We need a place like this in Dallas. I would probably be there all the time…
DAY 4:
For our final lunch in Boston, we checked out No Name Restaurant. It was right on the pier and very close to our hotel (Seaport Hotel). We haven’t had any seafood yet and No Name came highly recommended from a friend.

We ordered the Fish Chowder $4.95~ This is what everyone raves about, so we had to try it. Also got the Broiled Seafood Platter (swordfish, scallops, shrimp, scod, and salmon, with side of steamed veggies and cole slaw) $14.95~ This place pretty much sucked…. People called it a whole in the wall…but it was huge! Definitely didn’t look like a whole in the wall to me. Not clean…meh service. The chowder was definitely not a chowder… It was watery with floating oil on the top. Flavor was ok; it had a lot of fish in it so that was good, but just blah overall. The platter had a lot of different things but everything was overcooked… I liked the fact that it wasn’t too seasoned so the natural flavors were able to come through, but don’t like rubbery scallops and dry fish.

I think any seafood place in Dallas is better than this. If you go to Boston, do NOT go here…it’s totally not worth it. It was kind of a downer at the end of the trip…
So let’s tally up the points….and it’s a….TIE! I totally didn’t plan it out like this…5 vs. 5. But I think it’s a good outcome. Both have some great food places just different… Dallas is definitely more commercial with more chain restaurants while Boston has a lot of small/local eateries with a lot of character. I’m really glad I got to go to Boston and had some of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. I will definitely go back in the future to try more things!! :D


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