I just got back from a Women in Media conference in Boston. And I ate delicious food there.
We changed venues to the Radisson Hotel in the theater district. And – wow! – what a hotel. Aside from one concierge who sent me off a mile and a half looking for a PNC bank ATM, only to find that it was a CitiBank building (Fail!), all of the staff was generous and helpful. They had sleep number beds, which while I can sleep on anything so I don’t know about quality they sure were hilarious. They had showers I could marry: the bathtub was wide and deep enough to fully relax and submerge and supported your head comfortably while lounging and I am not a small person, but this was the best tub ever. And the shower head also provided just the right spray, and the water was hot forever. I would move in to this hotel.
Oh, and the hotel restaurant, the Theatre Cafe, had good food, too. I only ate Sunday breakfast there, but I heard several people at the conference exclaiming over the delicious soups available. So for breakfast I had the buffet, and for $16 it really should have had eggs to order. So overpriced, yes. The scrambled eggs, however, were surprisingly tasty steam table eggs – they were juicy without being wet. And they had the best breakfast potatoes ever (not hyperbole) – small wedges with the skin still on, onions, peppers, and the best combination of texture and flavor (soft, melting in the mouth, with still some texture and a hint of crispiness – I know that sounds undistinguished, but it was surprisingly addictive). Plump sausages and crispy bacon. I skipped the pancake and waffle option. But I did get a biscuit when they put out fresh after we were already full to bursting – and I ate it all because it was buttery and crumbly and had a simple sausage gravy that was equal to the best I’ve had. The fresh fruit (standard cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and watermelon) was tucked away in a corner, but was surprisingly flavorful for early spring. The pastries were the only disappointment – they were a bit stale tasting and not even slightly flakey. Note that I used the word surprising frequently – the buffet did not look promising at all through the window, and I had originally planned to try somewhere else, but the rest of my group was eating there, and I easily succumb to peer pressure.
Also, the hotel was directly opposite a Legal’s Seafood, a food court, and a whole bunch of other tasty restaurants. My group had packed a lot of food because the previous venue had very few eating options, but I ended up abandoning the cheap route in favor of trying new places.
Friday night, however, I took the T to Porter Square to meet my sister and brother-in-law at an old favorite, Elephant Walk (who seems to have uglified their webpage, but trust me that this is an elegant place). I had a special of duck and eggplant over napa cabbage in a light green curry and coconut sauce. The flavors were light and sparkling. I have yet to have anything bad from their menu.
Saturday lunch – P.F. Chang’s Despite being a chain, seemed like the perfect destination for a bunch of women who had only just met. The lunch bowls were tasty, but unexceptional. The sides, however, were amazing. I ordered the spinach stir-fried with garlic, and was glad to eat all that was left after it was passed around the group. Someone else ordered the spicy green beans, and I had to fight hard not to take all of hers, too. Next time, just sides! We were delighted by the $2 dessert shooters, but I sent back my great wall of chocolate when I found that it was contaminated with raspberry coulis – seriously, people, the 90s are over and we don’t need raspberries in everything chocolate.
Saturday dinner – Tantric. So when I was heading back from Friday’s dinner, I noticed this restaurant, but I couldn’t figure out whether it was a swanky nightclub or a bar for trendy trendsters, but there didn’t look like there was anyone in there eating or being unattractive, so I wrote it off. Luckily, my friends did not make this first impression and I am easily swayed. We were close to 5pm going to dinner, and there weren’t many people in the restaurant at that hour, which was wonderful. We had very generous service – not only did I easily persuade someone to leave us a pitcher of water, but also they kept coming by trying to refill our glasses. And people stopped by three or four times to make sure we were enjoying our food. And, boy, were we ever! Since I hadn’t budgeted on going out to eat this much on this trip, I ordered the soup of the day: tomato coconut. This was a lucky thing, too, because it was delightful. I have no idea how to make this soup, but it was a bit like a really comforting cream of tomato but with coconut and lemongrass flavors perking it up and making it almost delicate. Genius! My compatriots ordered Muttar Paneer (Mmmm! buttery), Chicken Vindaloo (delightfully spicier than most American restaurants), Uttapam (ordered by a woman who remembered it fondly from her year in (I think it was) Malasia and she was not disappointed), and a dosa (masala dosa, perhaps) (it was huge, as always, and served rolled in a cigar-shape instead of a cone. The slice I had was delicious and filling). I recommend this restaurant, and I plan to try their lunch buffet in two years when the conference returns… hmmm… though another shot at their soup would be good, too.
Sunday lunch – Maggiano’s. Another chain. Actually, I was wandering around Boston looking for an ATM for most of the lunch break, but I ended up* meeting people just as their food came. One of my friends was kind enough to split her huge eggplant parmesan with me. It was food and the company was lovely, but it was mushy and not exceptionally tasty.
*So after taking the T back, I decided to save time meeting up with people by hailing a cab. Only I didn’t have any cash because the ATM mission was a failure. Did you know that most cabs in Boston are not capable of taking credit cards? How are they more behind Philly? My city rocks. Anyway, the second cab I hailed ended up offering to drive me for free! Yay Boston! He was a sweetie.
Sunday dinner – Montien – a thai restaurant near the hotel. I ordered crispy Pad Thai because I had never had it before. Again, I was late to pop in, so I did not read the menu carefully when ordering. Sadly, crispy pad thai does not mean that they take the finished dish and fry it a bit in a hot skillet – no, it means they substitute delicious noodles for little crispy ones like you use to top salads. 🙁 And without a mess of hot noodles, the bean sprouts stayed quite crispy and didn’t meld into the dish at all. On the other hand, the other three dishes I tasted from the table were all excellent: Pineapple fried rice (not much pineapple, but the dark raisins in the rice surprised everyone by being just a mellow dark flavor of awesome without being obtrusive), tamarind duck (so I love duck, and I totalyl should have ordered this dish! – lots of slices of duck with very little sauce), Salmon Choo Chee? (I think this was the salmon dish. delicious!). The thai iced teas were only average. And I missed the appetizer course
Sunday dessert – Finale – Instead of staying at the thai restaurant for dessert, we went on a quest for a sexy dessert place one of my friends had passed earlier in the day. Instead of sitting down, we decided to go over the bakery side and get small things we could take back to the hotel. It seemed like all of their chocolate items had coffee incorporated in some form, so I just went for a hot chocolate – especially after I saw that their traditional bittersweet hot chocolate was made with Valrhona Equatoriale. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. Sinful and subtle and just the right balance of bitter and sweet. Other people had the lemon tart (butter to which lemon happened – pure hedonism made for tea), and a crème brûlée that’s the best one I’ve had on this coast. Seriously, Washing state has spoiled me for crème brûlée anywhere else – no matter what restaurant we went to there, always amazing crème brûlée. Finale was not quite as good, but it had the excellent quality cream and it had the temperature almost perfect (i.e. not cold, people!). It was delicious even if it was in a cheap aluminum tin. Ignore the packaging and indulge!