Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Parisians in Boston

Last week, we had special visitors. After driving from Paris to Richmond, VA to visit family, my mom and grandparents hopped on a train to Boston. Eleven hours and a few states later, they were here!  Hungry and road (and rail) foundered, we welcomed them to town with big hugs and a laid-back dinner at Moulton's in Medford (or as we lovingly call it, The Old People Fish Place). 

This was my grandparents' very first visit, and we were so excited to introduce them to Boston. With just a few days to work with, we did our best to squeeze in as much fun, food, and history as we could manage.

Thursday while we worked, my family took some time to rest from their travels. After work, we all gathered in the kitchen and started on dinner.  Beers in hand, my husband and grandfather manned the grill while the ladies worked in the kitchen. We're a family that loves to cook, and it was so special to have my mom and grandmother in my kitchen cooking with me. I cut the backbone out of a chicken (!!) for grilled butterflied (or spatchcocked) chicken using Jacques Pepin's rub served with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, roasted radishes, and cheesy zucchini rice.
The spatchocked chicken was a thrill for my family, as they had never seen such a thing, and they loved the roasted radishes. It's such a simple side dish, the bite of the radishes mellowed from roasting. Just clean, trim, and halve the radishes, place them on a sheet of foil topped with a couple pats of butter, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper, wrap them up, and toss the packet on the grill for about 30 minutes. That's it! We did the asparagus on the grill as well, wrapping each bundle in a foil packet and roasting them alongside the radishes. It was a wonderful meal!
After a hearty breakfast at Paul Revere Restaurant, a local greasy spoon diner, we spent Friday exploring Boston, beginning with a stroll around the beautiful Boston Public Garden, where George Washington and the mother duck from "Make Way For Ducklings" were sporting Bruins jerseys!
Next,  after four years of stubbornly resisting such a touristy activity, we went on a Swan Boat ride.  And you know what? The leisurely trip around the pond was surprisingly relaxing and fun. And cost only $3 per person!
Across the street in Boston Common, we walked past the golden dome of the State House and found the red line of the Freedom Trail.  We stopped into Park Street Church, meandered through the Granary Burial Ground (burial site of Paul Revere, Ben Franklin's parents, John Hancock, and Boston Massacre victims),  and were pleasantly surprised to hear the organist rehearsing at King's Chapel (burial site of Massachusetts' first Governor and the first woman to step off the Mayflower and onto American soil).
We worked up an appetite traipsing around town, so the gigantic pastrami sandwiches at Sam LaGrassa's were a welcome sight for lunch. We lucked out and found 5 empty chairs at the end of a busy table and dug in!
Ready to hit the road again, our next stop was Copley Square.  Copley is surrounded by beautiful old churches, the towering Hancock building, food trucks, and that afternoon a bustling farmers market. We ducked into the cool interior of the Boston Public Library, America's first public lending library, decked out in marble, tile mosaics, murals, and wrought iron. They just don't build libraries like they used to!
I wanted my family to see one of my favorite places in the city: the Reading Room. I think I would live here if I could.
I love the green lamps casting a soft glow over the tables, shelves lined with books, gleaming wooden tables, and the towering windows letting in sunlight.
After a stop at Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury Street to have a drink, cool off, and rest our feet, we headed across the Charles River to pay a visit to the MIT Museum. The first floor is kind of a bust, but head to the second floor where there's some great stuff! My favorites were quirky and fun interactive kinetic sculptures (including a walking wish-bone machine), the remnants of a piano dropped from the roof of a building, almost unbelievably realistic holographs, and the photography of Joel Tettamanti showing human presence and architecture in unforgiving landscapes.
Following a walk through the Infinite Corridor of MIT's Main Building and a few photos out front in Killian Court, we made our way back across the river for dinner at Al Dente in the North End. After barely making a dent in large plates piled high with homemade pastas, we snagged cannolis from Mike's Pastry, saw the Old North Church, and then caught the commuter rail back to Medford with only seconds to spare.
Saturday, after bagel sandwiches from Magnificent Muffin, we headed out of the city for strawberry picking at Tougas Family Farm. We were given cardboard trays to fill up, a bucket to toss out bad strawberries (this helps the farm minimize spraying), and a quick picking lesson.
It was an overcast morning, but the rain held off, allowing us to gather a little over 10 pounds of strawberries! Sampling as we picked, it was fun but hard work! And really addictive! The more you pick, the more strawberries you spot, and you feel the urge to keep picking as long as you keep spotting new bunches of vibrant red berries hidden under the protective green leaves.
But finally, the trays got full and our knees and backs begged for a break! We plopped down at a picnic table to rest, sipping on strawberry lemonade slushes and snacking on fresh strawberry donuts (in the interest of full disclosure, I hated the donuts, but my family loved them).
After sandwiches at Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord, we stopped by the Old North Bridge at the Minuteman National Park where the first battle of the American Revolution took place and the "shot heard round the world" was fired.
Three years ago, we took engagement photos here. My how time has flown.
That evening, our Texan guests needed a lobster fix, so we prepared the ultimate summer lobster feast.  At Market Basket, you can buy extremely affordable lobster (anywhere from $3.99 - $6.99 per pound), and they will steam it for you, free of charge. We brought home a lobster per person and broke them down, halving the tails, popping off the claws, and even rolling the meat out of the tiny legs (using a rolling pin). After brushing the tails with butter, my husband threw everything on the grill for a few minutes.
Along with the grilled lobster, we had boiled new potatoes, corn with chili lime butter, pesto pasta salad, and sweet tea (it's very difficult for my folks to have dinner without sweet tea). For dessert, we used our fresh-picked strawberries to make strawberry shortcake.
Sunday we took a drive up to Essex to visit the North Shore. We spent the morning and early afternoon antiquing, stopping for lunch at Woodman's because you can't go to the North Shore without getting fried clams and chowder. Our favorite antique shop was the Flying Dragon, filled to the brim with dusty and rusty odds and ends. The other antique stores lining the road to Woodman's (Main Street) are targeted toward wealthier clientele, so while still fun to browse, purchases were out of the question.
Behind the shops along Main Street, you can see the Essex Salt Marsh stretching out toward the horizon as it winds its way toward the sea.
That evening we drove back into Boston, visited Fenway Park, and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Eastern Standard, our favorite restaurant in town. Back at home, we put our feet up and watched tv over bowls of homemade strawberry peach ice cream topped with macerated strawberries!
We had so much fun this weekend and were sad to see my folks headed back south on Monday morning, but I know these will be memories I treasure for a very long time.

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