Boston: Food, Friends, and Amanda F’in Palmer

Jill’s anniversary gift to me was a weekend in Boston, that we scheduled as soon as we could before the weather turned cold. Fail on that, methinks. We dropped the dog off at Club Pet Saturday morning, then parked at Dulles and got through security fairly quickly (although having Lady Gaga’s little sister behind us wondering why she had to take her high heels and designer belt off was interesting). The flight to Boston was easy, and we took the T over to Government Center. We were both pretty hungry, so we headed over to Neptune Oyster as I’d read they had the best lobster roll in the city. And it was pretty awesome, swimming in butter and washed down with a Harpoon Octoberfest. Jill went a little healthier with the Neptune Crab Louis salad, but she liked it, especially the almond vinaigrette.

After lunch we checked into the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, then wandered around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market across the street for a bit, Jill got some coffee and I picked up the new Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ CD at Newbury Comics. We were happy that although the forecast had called for cold and rainy like DC, we got the cold but no rain and some sun. We relaxed in the hotel lobby for a while, then headed down to Cambridge on the T to meet up with Chis and Jess.

The earliest dinner reservations I could get were for 9, so we went to the Cambridge Brewing Company first. We shared appetizers, the Mediterranean Plate and the Local Cheese Plate, and everyone but Chris got samples of beer. He went straight for the O.P.P. (Olde Pumpkin Porter), which I tried as well and is an outstanding mix of a pumpkin ale and a porter. I am so down with it. Their regular pumpkin ale was good as well, but the other standout was the YouEnjoyMyStout, a rich Russian stout.

By the time we finished everything it was time to go, so we walked the couple blocks up to Hungry Mother. Why did we go to Boston to have Virginian cuisine? Because it was excellent. Jill, Jess and I had the “bartender’s choice” to drink – mine was a mixture of rye whiskey and cherry bitters that was smoky and complex. Jill hadn’t filled up at lunch like I had and had a ham and biscuit appetizer and some parsnip soup, then the gnocchi for an entree. I went with the roasted chicken served with grits and gravy – the chicken was perfectly cooked, juicy all the way through. The pecan pie sounded good but I was getting full. When our waitress informed us they were sold out of the pie, I asked for the accompanying bourbon ice cream and got it, a perfect capper to a lovely meal. We parted ways for the evening after we got back on the T.

Sunday morning the rain finally found us again. We braved our way through it and took the T over to Chinatown for the traditional dim sum breakfast, now at Hei La Moon. We got all four Cannons (including two very well behaved little girls), plus my sister Sharon, who’s lived there for a month and had the exciting news she’s buying a condo in JP. The dim sum was all excellent, and all too soon we said our goodbyes to the Cannons. Sharon was able to join us for the rest of the morning, and our failure at finding a nearby yarn shop was closed on Sundays was overcome by our success at the Eddie Bauer outlet store: a new travel umbrella for me, a wind resistant umbrella for Sharon, and a new winter jacket for Jill.

We headed back to the hotel, Jill and Sharon picked up some coffee at Red Barn Coffee Roasters across the street while I tried to figure out where to go next that was hampered by only getting about three minutes of internet access. But Jill wanted to hit Newbury Street for shopping, so we figured out which end to start with and headed over. Sharon and Jill both got some purchases, having the most success at Chemistry. Sharon took off as she had a plans later, and we kept going until we got tired of walking in the rain and the umbrella dance every time we went inside a shop. We returned to the hotel and I got a little more internet access before it stopped again, and not even fifteen minutes on the phone with tech support helped. Still I managed to make dinner plans in spite of that.

The easy solution for that was my first choice for dinner, Craigie On Main. I’d seen their Sunday evening Chef’s Whim Surprise Menu and was intrigued, but our plans later precluded that, and they hadn’t had reservations available earlier. However I knew from checking reviews out online that if we got there when they opened we could get seats at the bar, so that’s what we did. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we could get the full menu there as well. Jill started with the Potage of Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, a hearty and delicious soup. I went with the bar tasting menu, which started with “quatre foie” – a meat loaf slice made with the livers of four different animals. Different, but not bad. For our main courses, I had the Organic Chicken Two Ways and Jill had the Organic Pork Three Ways. The breast from mine and the rib from hers were just superb.

And the food wasn’t even the best part of the meal. Since we were seated at the bar, we both took advantage of the Craigie Cocktail Whim, a “tasting” of four different kinds of mini cocktails made in front of us. And it was quite a presentation, crushing ice and herbs by hand. I think I need to call out each cocktail individually:

  1. Old Monk rum, pineapple syrup, lime juice and sparkling wine – the balance was tipped just slightly to the sour side by the lime, this is a flavor pairing I’ll be playing with
  2. rye whiskey, house made grenadine and grapefruit juice – refreshing
  3. rye whiskey, house made maraschino cherry juice and a cherry with Aperol – very nice complex but slightly sweet drink
  4. Colleen Bawn: egg, Chartreuse, rye whiskey, Benedictine, nutmeg plus a squirt of mint that was flamed – we were laughing as the bartender made this, since she started with egg which Jill doesn’t like, then added Benedictine which she doesn’t like either. But it’s a delicious dessert cocktail, on par with the Crema Catalana we enjoy.

Also the chef’s choice dessert for me was some homemade pumpkin ice cream between shortbread cookies, very nice and a perfect pair with the Colleen Bawn. We were sad to leave, especially since the rain now had snow mixed into it. As we walked back to the T, I told Jill one good thing about the weather being bad was I couldn’t forget my umbrella anywhere. Guess what I forgot at the subway station not ten minutes later…

We got to Brookline and walked over to the Old Lincoln School, where the “adventure theatre” production Sleep No More was being held. We entered into a pitch dark room, and eventually candles lit the way down twisty passages and eventually a bar. A “Zero proof” night as they weren’t able to get a license that night, we were given a card (Queen of Hearts) and waited for our card to be called (I did have a pineapple and lime juice cocktail). When it was, we assembled in a hallway outside the bar and were given masks to wear (identifying us as onlookers), then set loose through the four levels of the school as Macbeth was acted out in real time in sets that were apparently based on Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”.

We didn’t see all the pivotal scenes, but it was interesting what we did see: Duncan’s corpse being discovered, Lady Macbeth washing up and some kind of confrontation between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The trouble was the scenes drew large crowds and sometimes it was hard to see what was going on, especially as most sets were fairly dark. I liked wandering the sets and the spooky effects – I thought the ability of a row of evergreens and a fan was marvelously effective in evoking woods in winter. For a more informed review, see the Globe. We’d also dressed up in periodesque clothing, but unfortunately I never got a shot of Jill without her coat (too bad, the new dress is a real stunner).


But the show wasn’t the only reason we were there. I’d been looking for weeks to find some kind of concert that evening, but nothing I really wanted to do came up. Dar Williams was playing shows near Boston, but a) no car and b) we’ve got tix to see her in two weeks already. So when Amanda Palmer tweeted about a secret surprise show Sunday, I was ready. Apparently after the show is over, folks gather in the (normally alcoholic) bar and the “Annie Darcy Band” plays (the lead singer is also a cast member). They still played (and got in some nice standards like “All Of Me” and “Night And Day”), but soon they had Amanda join them, then she took over. She tackled standards like “My Funny Valentine” and “Makin’ Whoopee”, before breaking out the Dresden Dolls’ “My Alcoholic Friends” and accepting my request for “I Google You” (cowritten with beau Neil Gaiman). It was fun (especially from the second table back), but we’d walked a lot that day and were fading fast, left during the second time through “Summertime”.


Thankfully the rain and snow had stopped by the time we left. I’d been willing to take a taxi back, but that plan was foiled – the area was too residential and we didn’t see any. But we soon caught a train back, and not having to transfer was nice. The trip back seemed ok, got up early and got to the airport with plenty of time to tame the ginormous security line and grab breakfast (bagel for her, egg sandwich for me). But once we were on the plane, Jill realized she couldn’t remember repacking her keys. Kinda important since she drove and I’d misplaced my second set of car keys with her extra several months back. She called the hotel before we took off, and when we landed found they were indeed in the room, we had them mail the keys back. In the meantime we were carless, so we got a taxi home. We undertook a quick search for the missing keys, and Jill was able to find them, forestalling the need for some complicated car coordination. I dropped her at the airport and drove to work, it still was a really great weekend.