Spring Break 2012: The New England Coast
The Midwestern Gentleman and I have just returned from spring break in New England. It was a whirlwind tour of six states, five of which were in New England; we book-ended the trip by flying out of and into Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the Gent ran the 100% Irish For A Day 10-Miler to kick off our vacation. All of my vacations tend to be food-centric, but this trip was also filled with folks I love, which is the best combination of all.
We started our New England tour with my Mom in Connecticut, where we had just enough time to dine at the Captain Daniel Packer Inne, which is fast becoming a spring break tradition. Every one of us ordered the ahi tuna over shrimp and crab cakes in a chili beurre blanc sauce. None of us regretted the choice.
The next morning, we headed to Providence, RI, for Zakuski: The 2012 Edition with Cathy and Pete. I look forward to this annual event all year long. Cathy outdid herself with this year’s buckwheat blini, which we slathered with Plugra butter and creme fraiche. While the pickled herring and smoked Latvian sprats were as delicious as always, I found the salmon roe particularly irresistible this year. A generous dollop of salmon roe on a slice of buttered sourdough? Yes, please. We also noshed on half-sour pickled cucumbers, green olives, pickled beets, pickled mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy-wrapped olives, red pepper and eggplant spread, tvorog with sour cream, and creamy-tender baby potatoes generously seasoned with fresh dill. We washed it all down with three types of vodka: Ciroc, a French vodka made from frost grapes; Stolichnaya, our go-to Russian vodka, made from wheat and rye; and Hangar One’s chipotle-infused vodka, which paired surprisingly well with the Cadbury milk chocolate mini eggs to which both Cathy and the Gent are addicted. Finally, bellies full, we relaxed on the couch and sipped Russian tea from beautiful and delicate Iraqi glasses which Pete had brought back from an Army tour.
In Brunswick, ME, Shannon and Joe took us to the Lion’s Pride, a local pub with 30+ beers on tap at all times. Luckily, the Lion’s Pride offers half-pours, so we were able to sample a broader array of brews. One of my favorites was the unusual Strada San Felice, an Italian ale brewed with chestnuts. We shared a decadent appetizer of bites of brie cloaked in wonton wrappers and drizzled with two sauces (one was an apricot puree, and the other tasted like a balsamic glaze). Considering the number of Belgian beers on the menu, it seemed only fitting to order Mussels and Frites. The tender, briney mussels were steamed in a white wine and shallot broth, while the frites came in a faux-newspaper cone, a health-code friendly update on tradition.
Although we didn’t eat in New Hampshire, we did stop to walk along the windy shoreline and take in the view.
The Gent and I spent our last evening in New England in Boston, MA. Harpoon Brewery has long been a favorite of mine, but unfortunately, the brewery doesn’t distribute to Iowa.
We sampled Harpoon’s fabled IPA, Catamount Maple Wheat (still brewed according to Catamount Brewery’s original recipe from before Harpoon bought them out), Munich Dark, Imperial IPA, and Chocolate Milk Stout. Harpoon uses real baker’s chocolate in this stout, and it was easily the smoothest, most chocolatey stout either of us has ever tasted, with a rich aroma more akin to a chocolate liqueur than a beer.
After our visit to Harpoon, we took Shannon’s advice and headed to the cozy and surprisingly affordable Giacomo’s Ristorante in the North End for some good Italian seafood. Even though we arrived early (around 5:30 pm) and it was drizzling, the line to get in was already halfway down the block. After a wait of about 25 minutes, I ordered linguini with clams in white sauce (a childhood favorite), while the Gent chose linguini with scallops in “Giacomo” sauce, a tomato-based lobster sauce blended with bechamel. Both were delicious, but the simplicity and intensity of my entree won the night.
Since Giacomo’s North End location doesn’t serve dessert, we headed up the block to Mike’s Pastry, where you can buy a cannoli as big as your head in a dizzying array of flavor combinations. I’m a bit of a cannoli purist, so I stuck with tradition and ordered a sweetened ricotta cannoli dipped in chocolate chips at each end. It was perfection in and of itself, and also the perfect end to a delicious vacation.