Monday, April 7, 2014

An Old Friend Comes To Town

When I was little, my mom used to sing me a song. It went, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." It's so cheesy, but it's true! While it's wonderful to make new friends, there's something special about those who have known you your whole life. One of those for me is Philip. He lives in Manhattan these days and took the bus up to Boston last weekend. We had a blast catching up! Our adventures began in Salem on Saturday morning. 

What we did:
The Witch House - The only house left standing with a direct tie to the witch trials. Built in the 1600s, it was the home of a judge who condemned the witches. It's an interesting (and quick) self-guided tour.
The Burying Point - This old cemetery would be creeeepy after dark. Lots of historical graves, including a Mayflower pilgrim who died in the 1690s and relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie - Said to be the country's oldest candy company and home of the Gibraltar, a hard candy with two flavors: lemon and peppermint. They also boast an impressive array of chocolates (I loved the dark chocolate-covered dried apricots).
The House of the Seven Gables - As a book worm, I couldn't pass up a chance to see the home perched on the Salem waterfront that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables
Places I want to go next time: Peabody-Essex Museum, Derby Square Books with its towering piles of books (sadly, it was closed the day we visited)

After wandering around Salem without spotting a single witch, we drove up the North Shore for fried clams at Woodman's. I'm so glad they're open year-round, because even in the colder months, I still need fried clams, clamcakes, and clam chowder!
Saturday evening began with drinks at Backbar, one of the last bastions for craft cocktails around town that we had yet to try. Located down an alley, through a subtly marked door, and down a hallway, you're served delicious cocktails and some fantastic spicy-sweet popcorn. My favorite drink of the evening was a rum hot toddy that my husband ordered -- it arrived in a dainty china teacup! We'll definitely go back to this place (and next time we'll be coming for one of their steaming bowls of ramen).
Our dinner that night was the highlight of the weekend: tapas at Casa B! Seated in their cozy downstairs dining area, we shared the chef's tasting menu. A steady stream of tantalizing small plates were brought to the table throughout the evening. Bacon-wrapped yucca-stuffed shrimp, ceviche, serrano ham piled high on potato slices, yucca gnocchi with tender pot roast, sauteed mushrooms, crisp roasted brussels sprouts, wedges of butternut squash, the plates kept coming. Each one was a surprise, and not a single plate disappointed. And I haven't even mentioned the sangria yet! Please do not pass up a chance to order a pitcher of their sangria!
Sunday morning we trudged through the rain for brunch at Coppa in the South End. Once we were out of the rain and I had an Aperol Spritz in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other, I was a much happier girl. I was even happier piling spoonfuls of scrambled eggs with peekytoe crab on buttered toast. And they totally had rutabaga home fries -- who has ever heard of that? Such a good idea!
Our last outing was a tour of the Taza Chocolate factory, where they make "bean-to-bar" Oaxacan-style stone ground chocolate. We donned hair nets (and beard nets for poor Philip) and set out to learn how they work their magic!
Taza uses stones called molinos to grind cocoa nibs (roasted and shelled in house) with sugar, turning it into a beautiful chocolate paste that can be poured into molds or mixed with numerous flavors such as cinnamon, almond, orange, roasted chiles, etc before it's molded and wrapped. It's not as smooth as traditional European chocolate, but it's every bit as delicious. And what a treat to see how it's made (and to taste samples at every turn)!
What a fun weekend reuniting with Philip a very long way from our little hometown in East Texas! Thanks for coming to visit!