Monday, September 18, 2017
Ninety percent of the blog posts here will always be about food. However, we do have a sizable amount of readers who are visitors to Boston and are always looking for fun, interesting things to do. So, I thought I'd share a place to visit just outside Harvard Square and tell the story of my morning with Andy Warhol.
I have had an avid interest in Warhol since I was a teenager and learned about the concept of "Pop Art". Over the years I have read virtually every biography of Warhol written including the Andy Warhol Diaries, a massive tome that was basically a compilation of his daily notes on what he did last night with occasional philosophical quips. It was absolutely fascinating insight into what life was like in New York City in the 1970s and '80s.
Anyway, what I'm getting to is my recent stop into the Harvard Art Museums. You may recall it was completely remodeled a few years back with a stunning Renzo Piano design. I was in Harvard Square on a Saturday morning with some time to kill so I wandered over. It's a beautiful space with an impressive collection and is actually free to Massachusetts residents on Saturday mornings. I wandered around with the idea in the back of my mind to end up looking at the Warhols I knew they had. I'd seen them before.
Much to my dismay they were not there. When I asked an attendant I was told they were in storage. Some pieces are rotated out due to their delicate nature. I was clearly crushed. Eventually, the attendant returned and advised me that if I truly wanted to see the works I could set up a private showing with the Art Study Center. This, of course, led to my morning with Warhol.
Just Google search the name and you will be inundated with thousands of images. He has to be one of the most photographed modern artists ever. And then there is the oft-asked question: was he even a real artist? Which always leads to: what is art?
I got to select the works I wanted to see. I looked at a listing and chose a few familiar works and asked the curator to select a few surprises. It was kind of like ordering an appetizer off the menu then asking for whatever the chef would like to make for the entrée. If often works out best.
Obviously, everyone knows about the Campbell Soup Can series done by Warhol. The Jackie portrait is rather famous, difficult to see in this iteration where silver (a favorite Warhol color) was used. These are silkscreened prints. They had to be to produce the massive quantities Warhol wanted although he was quite aware that they would never hold up physically. In fact, he thought it was quite funny and would often joke about it. So much of Warhol was an understated tongue-in-cheek comment on society that was completely lost on most. I think that's precisely why I like him so much.
There was one piece, however, that I was immediately drawn to. This was clearly an early work done before Warhol became WARHOL. What gave it away to me was the very cursive signature that he used when he first began work as a commercial artist. Once the Pop Art began it was a much more angular signature, if he even signed them at all, or himself.
It is not Pop Art in any way. It is clearly the antithesis of it. Across the bottom of the pencil sketch dabbed with the lightest brush of watercolor is the message: "Happy December Bob." But who is Bob? The early date (1954) rules out Bob Dylan, who sought out a friendship with Warhol. It also rules out Bob Colacello, his editor at Interview.
After hours of scrolling and scrolling I finally found out some information. It is, obviously an early work. At the time Warhol had made the move to New York and eked out a living as a freelance commercial artist. He also did children's book illustrations and this, it appears, was one of them.
I loved it. It pictures a group of innocent children at play. It could not be further from the pulsating, energetic, often drink and drug-infused New York City lifestyle that Warhol would eventually become an impresario of. Nor was it anywhere near the mass-produced silkscreens and prints and portraits that sold for thousands. And it was actually used by Warhol as his Christmas Card that year, 1954. So, it was personal. You can learn more about this less-famous work here.
I will be back to see the Marilyn paintings. And the others. I'll continue to watch all the documentaries and read the books and articles. I'll probably even head over to American Repertory Theater to see WARHOLCAPOTE. From now on, however, this will always be my favorite piece of Warhol work.
Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Monday, September 11, 2017
Earls, the Canadian-based chain of premium casual dining restaurants, has opened at the Prudential Center in the former space of Legal Seafoods. The first level is a bar area with the innovative idea of what they are calling the "cocktail lab." Noted mixologists from other Boston restaurants will take turns at the bar creating new drinks on a rotating basis. Sounds like fun to us!
The design of the space is a big factor, open and airy with a roof deck where the ceiling rolls back on those warmer, starry nights. It is, in fact, the biggest Earls in the chain so far.
Diners who have visited the first USA location at Assembly Row will recognize the upscale comfort food fare and if the crowd on opening night was any indication the new Pru spot will be every bit as successful. Although the spot is a bit noisy on the upper level the food, cocktails and crowd will make for a fun night out for everyone.
Earls Prudential Center
800 Boylston Street
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
We ventured out to Burlington recently which, as you may recall from previous posts, has become quite the dining mecca. We visited Temazcal just across from Wayside Commons in a small office park.
We felt compelled to order the sangria since it seems most of our summer was spent consuming these at various locations throughout the city. Here, they pack a punch. White, Blush or Red Wine is mixed with Bacardi Limon, Raspberry Vodka, Crème de Peche, Sprite and fresh fruit. A nice sangria and, as noted, a bit stronger than others we have sampled in the past few months.
Next up was the Lobster Guacamole. This appetizer featured lobster, tomato, onion, cilantro, and serrano chile. It was interesting in that one would think the delicate lobster flavor would get lost in the layers of other flavors. It did not. And there was plenty of lobster meat.
The Scallops Al Pastor, however, was spot on delicious. With sautéed sea scallop, grilled pineapple, kale, crispy plantain, and spicy citrus butter. We thought the pineapple would be a bit too sweet but there are really only small bits of it in the dish and the plantains were excellent.
Grilled Skirt Steak Tampiquena: rolled skirt steak, cheese enchilada, black beans, queso fresco, salsa roja, and Mexican rice. This was packed with flavor. The spices in the marinade were both subtle and compelling and the enchilada had that firm texture that is the signature of the bite. Great all around.
For dessert this Mexican Brownie was standard fare, served warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
The Fried Ice Cream was not exactly what we envisioned. We were thinking more of a frozen-solid as-a-brick slab of ice cream actually fried long enough to form a crisp coating on the cornflake and coconut crust. In reality, it was more like a pudding. Still good but not quite what was expected.
All in all, the drinks were great and the fare traditional if you are in the area and looking for a casual spot for Mexican.
2 Wall Street
Burlington, MA 01803
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Our food and drink was provided by Temazcal Cantina without any editorial consideration. All opinions are our own.
Monday, August 28, 2017
Yes, we will be back at our favorite food and wine event of the year this Fall, the Newport Mansions Food And Wine Festival 2017 and it's less than a month away! We'll be at Rosecliff on Friday for the always so elegant Wine And Rosecliff and then off to Marble House on Saturday for the Grand Tasting. The 2017 list of wineries, chefs and restaurants is truly impressive. It's the height of the season for food events and this is the true classic of them all. Don't be left out!
Monday, August 21, 2017
Despite many trips to Europe I can't really say that I was ever enthused about visiting any of the wax museums. I thought of them as sort of creepy to be honest, like walking through some kind of dungeon with ghosts or a horror movie.
So, I had to admit I thought it strange when I started getting press releases about a new wax museum called Dreamland opening in Boston. Do people even go to these any longer? And, if so, exactly what type of person does go?
The answer is yes, they do go, in droves, and patrons cross all ages and races with a decided nod to the young. It seems the current celebrity-obsessed, Instagram-addicted population has found a way to rub elbows with the famous even if it means that the lookalike might require a healthy dose of imagination. And it's really quite fun.
I mean, some of the wax figures are pretty spot on, Snoop Dog probably being the best of the lot. The Tom Brady is no Tom Brady. The Trump is no Trump. Some of the others look like maybe they have a swollen nose or their cheek bones receded. That hair on Bill Clinton? An emphatic no but I wondered if he was really that tall. A query to one of the very knowledgeable attendants (and they are all very well informed about the displays) assures us that, indeed, all of the figures are the actual height of the person represented.
It was an ocean of iPhones and cameras as we stood and watched the crowd. WCVB's show Chronicle was there broadcasting the Grand Opening VIP Reception live as if it were the Oscars. You could stand with historic figures and world leaders for portraits and selfies. It didn't seem to make any difference if they were alive or not.
The fantasy of standing at the Presidential podium, shades on and wineglass in hand was irresistible. As was sitting at the desk in the Oval Office, red phone in hand.
Normally I'd say take the kids but in this case I'm actually going to say leave the kids at home and take the teens. They seem to love it more than anyone. You might even be surprised to find it a fun afternoon or evening yourself.
Dreamland Wax Museum
One Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108
Here's the Chronicle event coverage and interviews:
Dreamland Wax Museum Gala
We attended this event as members of the invited media. That means we didn't have to pay just like Chronicle (or anyone else) didn't have to pay but we have to say that and they don't. Silly FTC. As always, we call 'em as we see 'em.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
If Julia Child was still with us she'd be 105 years old today and in many ways she is more present than ever. I never had the pleasure of meeting this food icon but I have had the good luck to meet many of her proteges. I've spent many hours over great meals listening to stories about her. She was truly a fascinating woman. Did you know, for instance, that she was a former spy? It's true.
I've read all the biographies written about her, watched her shows endlessly and thought Meryl Streep did an excellent job portraying her on film. As many know, Boston is one of the few cities in the world where many of the top chefs are women. I credit this to Julia Child after hearing many stories of how she would visit restaurants here as the chefs sweat it out waiting for the verdict. She was typically quite happy with the food but then she'd ask to visit the kitchen and admonished all of the men that they needed to have more women chefs in the kitchen, too.
She is the most famous chef in America, maybe the world, a pioneer in television, a bestselling author and still an inspiration to cooks and chefs everywhere.
Happy Birthday Julia Child!
Monday, August 7, 2017
Parish Café on Boylston Street has been a stalwart of comfort food and fine drinks for quite a while now. In fact, it's been twenty-five years! To celebrate the anniversary we stopped by on an absolutely beautiful evening recently to revisit and enjoy the patio dining.
We began with a pitcher of White Sangria, a super refreshing sip on a warm summer's day. It looked so good that we actually inspired several other tables to go with the sangria, too.
As part of the anniversary fun the Café is bringing back some of the classic sandwiches created by local chefs over the years. What you're looking at above is known to regulars as The Lydia, as in Lydia Shire. More than just a lobster roll, this is a full lobster sandwich on a country white bread and loaded with lobster meat.
Then, of course, there are the famous beer-battered onion rings known as the Bowl-O-Rings. They are served with this house-made chipotle aioli. They are surprisingly light and a perennial favorite with diners.
The Vegetarian Corn Cakes are pan-seared then baked then served with pico de gallo and sliced avocado and topped with a scallion-mustard remoulade.
I opted for Sean's Meatball Club sandwich created by Sean Simmons the Chef and owner. A thick slab of stick-to-your ribs meatloaf sits atop a layer of applewood smoked bacon, again on a country white. It's served up with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. What could be more comfort food than that?
Sean's Simple Chicken is a take on chicken piccata and the most popular dish on the menu. A breaded cutlet sautéed in chicken stock, olive oil and fresh lemon juice with capers. Another comfort food classic, it's no wonder that it's become the most-requested.
Dessert, as if we needed it, was the White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Brioche bread joins a fresh custard with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle.
As we've been saying for the past month this is the time to fully enjoy patio dining and this summer has provided many cooler nights just made for alfresco dinners. Don't let the season pass you by. For comfort classics that have been bringing people back for twenty-five years you just can't go wrong at Parish Café.
361 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Our dinner was provided by the restaurant without promise of any editorial coverage.
Monday, July 31, 2017
This portrait hangs, like a ghost, over diners at the newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen in Kendall Square, part of a collection of original art works that grace the eatery.
We were recently invited to the preview reception for the opening of Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, the latest dining venue in Cambridge offering Chinese fare and craft cocktails. While it certainly was not a full dining experience it was enough to get a taste of what's to come.
It was no surprise at all that the place has a bright, airy, sleek modern design but there are four distinct dining areas each with their own ambiance and all centered around what I predict will be a lively bar scene.
We tried a cocktail and a number of dishes. The drink was called the "Ice Cold Fusion" and featured Baijiu (a traditional Chinese white grain alcohol rarely used in the States), Cognac, Triple Sec and Lemon. It had a strong yet not overpowering flavor, best in small sips.
Chefs Changchun Ji and Xinke Tan bring a wealth of experience (Nobu New York, anyone?) to the kitchen. The restaurant is a venture of Chen Sumiao, a well-known figure in both the local scientific and restaurant communities. The goal is to bring a more authentic Hunan cuisine experience to the Kendall Square area, something not being offered now. The cuisine is spicier and features more fermented foods than the current Americanized offerings.
We asked other diners what they thought of the food. Did it really taste any different than the typical local Chinese fare? The opinions offered matched ours. The food seemed cleaner, less drenched in oil , lighter and the heavy hand with sweet sauces and loads of salt was gone, too.
All in all a great experience. We'll be back for more.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
270 Third Street
Monday, July 24, 2017
It was a coolish Friday evening when we recently strolled through Harvard Square on our way to Parsnip for dinner on the patio. It's been open a few years now and has gained a reputation for an elegant dining spot with extraordinary food overlooking Winthrop Square. This would be a more casual experience but no less than excellent when it came to the food.
Of course, we started with selected breads and a quality butter as we people-watched, hearing snippets of other languages as the international summer crowd passed by.
We continued with the house made chips and a glass of rosé. It IS, after all, summer. Early evening clouds provided us with the entire patio to ourselves to begin but it would not be long before a few couples joined us then a larger party of what seemed like family members including children. It's a much different feel sitting out here than it is inside.
Salmon Sliders With Caper Aioli. Our usual finding with salmon sliders is that they are dry but not in this version. Perfectly moist and with a hint of fennel. If you are a fan of salmon or have tried different versions of a salmon patty or slider you will love these. It's one of if not the best version of this we've ever had, really.
The Charcuterie Board serves up three selections of meats and house pickles at a reasonable $18.00. Easily shared and with a glass of wine it would be the perfect appetizer on a warm night.
Roasted Bone Marrow With Charred Baby Leek And Truffle Vinaigrette. So, this was somewhat of a showstopper for patio dining. I think we are in the majority when we say that most people who have ever even had it are likely to enjoy bone marrow as a special treat. It is served here with a traditional Tuscan bread for spreading the thick, rich marrow upon. It was perfectly flavored with the toppings. Fattening, yes, but also an extremely healthy food. We loved it.
A gorgeous Gazpacho With Fried Octopus. That octopus seemed to dance across the plate and provided the perfect contrast of briny and crunchy to the cool cucumber and grape tastes in a créme fraiche base. A highlight of the meal. Just beautiful.
We just had to sample the burger, done up here with caramelized balsamic onion, truffle pecorino cheese and crispy fries. A great burger, moist and meaty. Great fries, too and you will be surprised and delighted to be reminded what a house made ketchup tastes like, refreshing and sweet. Again, a gourmet burger and glass of wine for dining alfresco on a relaxing summer night is ideal.
As the sun began to fade we indulged in dessert. There is a selection of house made ice cream and gelatos. These were the Vanilla Malt and Earl Grey/Milk Chocolate versions and both were heaven. Great flavor combinations, both, I especially enjoyed that salty, unique flavor of the malt. It reminded me of a Brigham's Malted Frappe.
And to finish out our feast we were served these very Instagrammable Hibiscus Marshmallows. I didn't know what to expect here. I thought maybe a crunchy texture not unlike a macaron. But, no, it was the soft, pillowy marshmallow feeling, a memory of 'smores and summer campgrounds, only pink and with the slightest hint of hibiscus. Very nice, indeed.
So, if you're looking for a nice treat while the warm weather is here we'd highly suggest the patio dining at Parsnip. The food and service is impeccable and the summer ambiance is fleeting.
91 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
We dined as guests of Parsnip restaurant to experience their patio dining without promise of any editorial consideration or coverage.