BOSTON FOOD FINDS.
one day back in september, i was scrolling through my twitter feed and read a tweet from @bostonfoodfinds that i could win tickets to one of their beacon hill/back bay food tours that weekend. hey, that sounds fun – i want to win. and win i did – score! so on a saturday afternoon at 1:00pm, i met in the lobby of the liberty hotel, where audrey (the owner/founder) introduced herself to me. audrey started boston food finds at the beginning of 2011 and now offers the beacon hill/back bay tour, as well as a greenway tour and one at faneuil hall/the north end. she plans to expand to cambridge and other neighborhoods as interest grows.
once everyone was gathered, we headed downstairs to our first stop, scampo. there we were greeted by carah mclaughlin, the well-known manager of one of lydia shire’s restaurants (she also owns towne stove and spirits). we gathered around the prep area and open oven, where carah spoke about the restaurant and introduced simon restrepo, the chef, as he prepared our tasting menu.
1) rum soaked wild king salmon, served with house made toasted sweet brown bread and garnished with capers, diced red onions, shredded hard boiled eggs, and sliced persimmon.
2) shrimp etouffee, made from mirepoix shrimp shells, ginger, green peppers, red jalapenos, lobster, lime juice, white wine, and shrimp stock, and finished with cream and butter.
now, for someone who doesn’t love seafood and is making strides to increase her seafood knowledge and palette, this was a bit of a surprise to have a lot of fish on her plate. not wanting to be rude, knowing that everyone speaks highly of lydia shire’s food, and attempting to try something different, i tasted each of the items. salmon and shrimp rank rather low on my seafood preference list, but the rum added a lot of different tastes to the salmon and the broth of the etouffee was delicious.
we also tried their famous lobster pizza, which was named the best pizza in massachusetts by food network.
the pizza really was very good, even though it wouldn’t top my list to order normally. they even gave us the recipe! the toppings include shallots, garlic oil, ricotta salata, lobster cream sauce, scallions, and chopped lobster meat.
after a stroll through the kitchen and the private dining room, we even discovered that none of the chairs in the restaurant make noise when you move them due to noise-reducing pieces on the bottom that can be found at home depot — nice touch! next up was savenor’s market on charles street.
the original shop was opened in cambridge and was a favorite of julia child (whom i’m told i’m related to by marriage, but don’t ask me to explain the connection). the cambridge market burned down, but was later rebuilt, and the one we visited was built in 2002. best known for their prime meats, they have their own line of bacon and true bacon lovers can become members of their bacon society, with specials shipped straight to your house.
you can also find a wide variety of exotic meats. personally, i don’t feel the need to cook up any python fillets, but word on the street (or in the shop) is that people come in specifically looking for rare meats to try. the butcher suggested his favorites: bear bacon or elk patties.
before leaving, we tried another fishy dish: a crostini with salmon something-or-other. that’s probably not the technical term, huh? i was rather surprised not to try meat since that’s what they’re known for (and i would have eagerly tried some of their bacon), but i did taste one and was ready for another type of cuisine.
luckily, i was a fan of what was coming next… we soon arrived at beacon hill chocolates.
you can’t really go wrong with chocolate and they certainly packed a lot of options into that one store. i’m not complaining. one of the employees gathered us at the far end of the counter to talk about the shop, the selection, and different kinds of chocolate.
then came the best part: the taste test. they were generous with their samples and even gave us some goodies (truffles and brownie pops) to take home. i resisted the temptation to buy even more chocolate (you get a 10% discount on the day of your tour), but it would be a nice place to visit for some gifts in the future.
our crew walked through the boston gardens (with a quick bathroom break – thanks taj hotel) to continue tasting at sabatino & co. on newbury street. although i had heard of the rest of the stops on our tour, i didn’t know about this place and was pleasantly surprised to find a shop full of olive oil, balsamic, truffles, and more.
it was more of a taste-what-you-want set-up with a brief history from the event coordinator. surprisingly, the standout for me was not an olive oil, but the pistachio cream. it was a creamy spread that tasted a bit like hazelnut and will definitely need to make its way into my kitchen for a special occasion.
the next stop was turner fisheries at the westin copley place. here i expected something with fish and we were served their award winning clam chowder (and again were provided with the recipe).
at this point in the tour, i was getting a bit tired… and full, so the picture-taking and history-learning dwindled a bit.
for our final stop, we walked back to newbury street and topped off the day at sweet cupcakes. i happen to be a cupcake lover, so i was a happy girl.
they had a wide variety of fall flavors, as well as their standard favorites. it was hard to pick, but i finally went with the caramel apple.
“seasonal apple preserves fill the sweet vanilla bean cake, caramel buttercream atop and a gooey drizzle.”
the little stick was a cute touch, but more importantly, it was really good. is it sad that this was my favorite sample of the day? i don’t think so. the mojito from kickass cupcakes may need to watch out. (actually, it would be hard to knock that one out of the picture.)
and that’s the end of the tour, folks! if you an afternoon to spare, it’s a great new option for both tourists and locals alike. pros: great concept, i got to taste test at five (i’d already been to sweet) new locations, personalized service from the establishments, and boston/food history. cons: the length was a little much for someone like me who doesn’t do very well with guided tours (i’m more of a tell-me-a-little-history-and-let-me-explore kind of girl) and the seafood samples were a little too plentiful this time around. for more information on the tours, you can get more information here. meanwhile, i’m going to go drool over that photo of the pistachio cream….
i also met some fun people on this tour, including erica, who is fairly new to boston. she talks about food reviews, day trips, and more at boston rookie. take a look!