Summer is for adventures, seafood and sunshine, and I managed to accomplish all of these in one week (and one taste!) I managed some comfort food in Boston, from my dad's house cured salmon to pizza and pancakes. The summertime whiskey drink is an art oft left to the ubiquitous Mint Julep, but I managed to find another one that ticked the boxes. Enjoy!
1. Lobster - Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier (Kittery, ME)
What's a summer trip to New England without a lobster-filled jaunt to Maine? Celebrating my mother's birthay, my brothers and I planned a daytrip to "Vacationland" with hopes of shellfish, beach strolls and minimal travel time. Located just an hour from Boston, this indoor-outdoor spot is right on the water, filled with picnic tables and serving of the freshest lobsties I've had. Fortified by IPAs and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, we pregamed the main attraction with steamed clams, peel and eat shrimp and briny Northeast oysters. My butter-dunking skill far surpasses my ability to break down hard-shelled crustaceans, and I was given ample opportunity to showcase my talents. Encased in a shell so red it appeared cartoonish, was sweet, silky flesh, delicate in flavor and texture. With a soft breeze from the overlooking creek, an obnoxious bib around my neck and my mouth filled with butter-drenched lobster, I pretended winter would never come...and then Googled nearby Ice Cream Shops.
2. Gravlax - Parents House (Cambridge, MA)
Long before "New Nordic" became as pervasive as photos of Amanda Bynes losing her mind, the family Bhabha was chowing down on herrings and gravlax. Knowing my affinity for his home cooking, my father welcomed me home with his special gravlax, having spent the prior days pressing and curing the salmon . Studded with peppercorns and prepared with a mixture of salt, dill and sugar, gravlax is the ultimate summer meal; light, filling and tankini-friendly. We consumed the salmon in many iterations through the weekend, including shreds of the stuff atop a mixed green salad and as the star of homemade smørrebrod (open-faced sandwiches) glistening on dense pumpernickel bread and a slick of honey mustard. Back in the town of bagels and smoked salmon, I'm still thinking of its cured sibling.
3. Potato Pizza - Cambridge, 1 (Cambridge, MA)
Potato pizza might make the Italian nonnas and traditionalists squirm, but it's a truly tasty and unique creation that I've enjoyed since Cambridge One first opened. Paper thin and charcoal grilled, the crust is like a hybrid pizza-flatbread, substantial enough to support myriad toppings, but without the heaviness common of many a pie. The base is anointed with three varieties of Italian cheese: Fontina, Parmigiano and Romano, the flavors ricocheting between salty, nutty, and pungent with each bite. Thick disks of boiled potato lie above the cheesy layer, accented by crumbled sprigs of rosemary and hints of roasted garlic. Dabs of creamy mashed potato artfully provide the final flourish to the Pollock-esque pizza, while slivers of scallion add a hint of freshness. The result is an explosion of texture and flavor, as the crispy crust is contrasted with the duo of potatoes, both luscious and toothsome. The layers of toppings work in subtle harmony, as the cheeses complement the potatoes, invoking that age old combination, and the fresh and dried herbs,add complexity and depth. Its worth the sacrilege, I promise.
4. Blue Corn Pancakes - Deluxe Town Diner (Watertown, MA)
Much as resemblance belies this, all diners are not created equal. Compared to the limp-fry-and-omelette -mongers all too ubiquitous, Town Diner is a bastion of honor, serving classic fare both comforting and inspired since 1946. While I stick to savory breakfasts as a well-worn rule, sometimes a sweet counterpart enhances the experience, and some (read: numerous) bites of my friend's blue corn pancakes were an ideal companion to my breakfast burrito. While not a conventional pancake ingredient, blue corn made a wonderful addition, creating a heftier texture and tempering the sweetness so often overwhelming in this breakfast staple. Juicy blueberries were strewn freely in the 'cakes, enhancing the body of blue in appearance and taste. As always, the pancakes functioned overwhelmingly as a vehicle for ungodly amounts of butter and Maple syrup, but their esoteric star ingredient ensured a departure from the oft'cloying demise of a short stack.
5. Teddy Bear- Pouring Ribbons (New York, NY)
My cocktails of choice usually feature dark brown liquor, large square ice cubes and a tumbler accented with a simple garnish. I rarely stray from these beverages and consume them with my brand of Don Draper panache. I am not sure how this appears to other bargoers, and it's probably best if I don't find out. Imagine my surprise (very un-Draper) when my Scotch-based drink arrived purple tinged in a high ball filled with crushed ice! After I regained composure, I sampled the concoction in question and found it boozy, refreshing and rather swell indeed. Blackberries provided the fruity notes and mauve hue, while the Scotch was smooth with a kick. Herbal and slightly bitter Amaro Ciociaro added depth to the drink which had a slightly unctuous quality due to the addition of cream sherry. A twinge of lemon seemed to tie all the elements together, cutting the intensity of the whiskey and the richness of the sherry. I'm probably more of a Roger Sterling anyway...