We had a nice comfy night, a spot of breakfast the next morning and headed out for Cape Cod. We enjoyed the scenery and drove up to Provincetown. They have a museum and a Pilgrim Memorial Monument, both of which we enjoyed (even though it was pouring down rain). Inside the monument (which is made of massive granite blocks) there are ramps instead of stairs. The picture is from the top looking down. The granite is so hard and impressive that this monument looks like it will last forever.
We stopped in downtown Hyannis to do a little strolling, shopping, and maybe find some lunch. We bought a few souvenirs, and chatted with some lovely ladies. I was even treated with a drum shop called Jack’s (which I gave a good going over). Poor Anna knows that when I go into a music store I may not come out for hours. Some locals recommended a place in the next town that is renowned for their chicken pot pies (which sounded perfect to us as the weather was drizzly, rainy, overcast, and cold). We managed to find the place, but they had just closed for the day. We pushed on to Plymouth and checked out all the sights there.
We rolled on into Boston and eventually managed to find a room for the next three nights (in Framingham). I struck out for the nearest place to find some dinner to go and found a Panera Bread. We rode the train into downtown the next morning and treated ourselves to a Sticky Bun at Flour Bakery and Café (which beat Bobby Flay on Throwdown).
We walked around a bit, taking in the sights and the onslaught of traffic. All that really mattered to me though was lunch. Before I tell you what we had for lunch, I’ve got to share a moment with you. I was watching episode 709, Blast from the Past. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but it’s the moments like this that make me such a fan of the show. The Nickel Diner was first up, and they made the maple bacon donuts. I was on the edge of my seat. I think Guy was moved speechless, and he said that he was blown away (I was too). Then they laid in the teaser for the next segment, which was the most incredible looking sandwich I had ever seen… the Chipotle-Honey-Mustard Pastrami at Sam LaGrassa’s. OMG I’ve had similar moments, such as the Onion Cheeseburger at Nic’s Grill in Oklahoma City. (Come to think of it, I’ll have to make a top ten list.) I was so moved by this sandwich that I literally fell out of my chair (and it’s a big comfy chair).
We opened the place and Sam LaGrassa himself was standing right there working and took our order. I told him we were there because we saw him on DDD and he knew I wanted the Chipotle Pastrami. I’ve got to tell you that it was and remains to this day the best sandwich I have ever had the pleasure and delight to eat. For those of you poor souls who are not familiar with this sandwich, it’s a masterpiece. It begins with a pillow-soft freshly baked Italian Roll topped with sesame seeds. The roll is split and dressed on both sides with a concoction of spicy brown mustard, honey, brown sugar, and chipotle powder. (Note: I haven’t tried to duplicate this dressing because I could never get such good pastrami where I live. It’s like if you’ve had the best, forget the rest.) Both sides of the roll also get topped with a generous layer of Swiss cheese. The top side gets a fresh crispy cole-slaw, and the other side gets the star attraction, their famous pastrami which is thinly sliced, super moist, and mouth-watering delicious. Some of the pieces that got a little charred almost tasted like pepperoni, and others tasted like bacon. The two halves are assembled and then pressed into a panini grill, which crisps up the bread and melts the cheese (genius).
Do not go to Boston without having this sandwich. I’m sad because I don’t have any plans to go back to Boston (but I do have an 8×10 glossy blow-up of this picture). Everyone who lives in Boston should sample every sandwich on the menu. Come to think of it, maybe I should go back to Boston and do that myself. I’ve had great sandwiches at other places, but Sam LaGrassa’s is a true stand-out. He must hire ninjas or something to get the pastrami sliced that thin. As Guy likes say, “It’s so thin it only has one side.”
We walked our butts off all afternoon, and rode the subway to get out to Rino’s Place for some authentic Italian food. Rino’s is in a converted house in an old neighborhood, with a small but attractive dining room. We had a short wait, but we didn’t mind. Anna ordered Pollo Carrozella, a chicken dish cooked in a white wine, lemon and sage reduction with butter and capers and topped with fried mozzarella. Thankfully they served Anna twice as much as she could eat so I get to help her finish. Anna loves chicken picatta, and this dish is like a picatta on steroids. The flavors were intense yet balanced, and the chicken was moist and succulent. The kicker is the fried mozarella on top. Anna loses her mind over melted cheese, so it’s a wonder she didn’t get up and dance on the table.
I ordered the veal, and I’m happy to tell you that it was the best I ever had. In addition to the entrees, we had bread, salads and dessert. All the food was great, and the service was good. Our server was friendly even though she was slammed. In case you didn’t see this episode, Rino makes everything from scratch in an old world tradition. I was hoping to meet Rino, but it seems he doesn’t like to venture out into the dining room. Nevertheless, Rino’s is a treasure for anyone who loves old world Italian food made from scratch. It would be a sin to hit Boston without going to Sam LaGrassa’s, but if you’re at the airport and only have a short layover, Rino’s is practically next door.
We drove our car into the city the next morning. We made a beeline for Bread and Chocolate to try the Boston Cream Pie. We phoned ahead and spoke to Mandy, so we asked for her when we got there. Mandy is a charming and beautiful young woman and, like us, a big fan of the Food Network. She let us heft the Boston Cream Pie and it felt like it weighed 20 pounds. I love the interpretation, and it beat Bobby Flay on Throwdown. I was unable to reach Mandy to approve posting her picture here, so Mandy, if you come across this blog, please get in touch with us. (Mandy is holding the pie in the picture).
After a busy morning, we headed out to Mike’s City Diner for lunch. We didn’t get to meet the owner, but our waitress was friendly. It’s a good sized place and I liked the checkered tablecloths. We shared a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a bowl of chowda—clam that is. The sandwich was good, but the clam chowder was dynamite. I’m picky about my chowder, so that’s saying a lot. It had an excellent balance of creaminess, flavor and potatoes, without being heavy. Good job.
We toured the Samuel Adams Brewery, which was not only fun and educational, but highlighted with about a dozen pitchers of free beer (and I should mention some of the best tasting beer I’ve ever had). Anna and I each got souvenir glasses, and I helped her finish most of hers every time the pitchers came around. A fun time was had by all, and I was feeling quite happy by the time it was over and we were unleashed into the gift shop.
The beer tasting was a perfect segue to head over to Cambridge and walk around the campus at Harvard (which is nearly 400 years old). The campus was beautiful with the manicured grounds, luscious lawns, stately old brick buildings, and lots of people milling about in their quest to make the world a better place.
The main attraction for the day was dinner at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage. Being a burger nut, I was looking forward to this for a long time. The dining room is tight, and there are no public bathrooms, but the owner was in and working the grill himself (just like on the show). The kitchen is open to the dining room, so the place had a very informal feel about it. In other words, it’s a spot for locals—people who want to get in, order a great burger, eat, and get out. It’s not the spot for a dining experience or lots of attentive service.
Although Anna likes burgers, she likes them cooked through on the high side of medium, and I suggested she order something else. My mistake. Anna ordered a turkey wrap with stuffing and cranberries. It was good, but it turns out she would have rather ordered a burger of her own. To this day I still feel terrible that she didn’t get one. I ordered a cheeseburger with bacon and jalapenos and it was just as good as it looks in the picture, gooey and juicy. I shared my burger with Anna. I’d be happy to go back, but next time we’ll make sure we’ve made a pit stop first.
We spent most of the next morning up in the Lexington/Concord area and enjoyed the rich history of those events that sparked the Revolutionary War. I picked up a likeness of the Minuteman Statue and it sits on my desk right next to my monitor.
Before pushing on to New Hampshire and Maine, we headed back into town for a late breakfast at Kelly’s Diner. I ordered corned beef hash (which Guy said he liked) and Anna ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich. We arrived just before closing time, and the food disappointed. It just happens that way sometimes. I’m sure the food is good most of the time, and I’d be willing to go back and give them another try. Our waitress was friendly and gave us good service. The place definitely has a lot of character, and is popular with the locals.
After a very brief stop in New Hampshire (so that I could buy some souvenirs that read, “Live Free Or Die”) we headed into Maine with an immediate stop at Bob’s Clam Hut. Given the name of the place, we weren’t expecting much. To our surprise the place was quite large, clean, and charming. We split an order of the fish and chips, which were good, and enjoyed the Giligan’s Island mural. Yes, we should have sampled the fried clams, and looking back now, I don’t remember why we didn’t.
We stopped and played at the famous beach in Ogunquit and then pushed on to the Maine Diner where we sampled a slice of (get this) chocolate chip cookie dough pie. Not surprisingly, the place was super busy so we took our pie to eat later. As you can imagine, the pie was scrumptious. It’s hard to go wrong whenever you mix pie and chocolate.
We pulled into Portland, Maine which marked the end of our outbound leg. We logged about 4,800 miles so far. After getting settled into a room, we headed downtown for the waterfront and dinner at The Porthole Restaurant. It was a beautiful Friday night and the town was jumpin’ with diners and revelers a plenty. We were excited too, and so you can imagine our surprise to find the Porthole Restaurant was closed! I just hate it when my plans are dashed against the rocks. We could have went back the next morning for breakfast, but I was so upset and disappointed that I didn’t want to go back.
We regrouped and found our way down the road to Becky’s Diner. We were rewarded there with a nice casual atmosphere, a friendly waitress, and our very first Lobster Roll. We also ordered one of our favorite standbys, a BLT. Both sandwiches were golden, brown and delicious. We were pleased to have the Maine lobster in Maine. We never order lobster out here on the west coast as there’s too much other better seafood. The dining experience at Becky’s capped off our evening well and, sated, we settled in for the night.
It’s a shame we couldn’t have spent more time in Portland, as I’m sure we would have had a great time and sampled lots of good food. If I ever make it back, I would like to try the Porthole Restaurant. Their website says they’re open every night till 9:00 p.m. and I’m sorry that we missed it. As it turned out, our breakfast plans in Lowell, Massachusetts didn’t work out, and so we could have had breakfast at the Porthole Restaurant after all. Bummer.
I’ll be the first to admit that we barely got to see New England. I would have liked to spend more time in Maine, and I wanted to drive up to the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire. I also wanted to take Anna to the factory tour at Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, Vermont and then head up to Burlington to sample some of that incredible looking Lasagna at Bove’s. We got to see a lot, but we missed a lot too. We just didn’t have time to see everything, or we would have been gone for three months instead of two.
We drove to a charming little town called Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. There is a company there (which has been in business for nearly 200 years) called Lamson Sharp. The sales manager, Jeff, met us there on a Saturday and gave me a tour of the whole place, which was fascinating. I bought a full set of kitchen knives that are absolutely stunning with hardwood handles (Silver series). Although the blank forgings come in from Solingen, Germany, everything else is done by hand right there in the factory by skilled artisans and craftsmen. I’m calling them made in America and that means a lot to me. You can see these knives for yourself at their website www.lamsonsharp.com (Fair warning, when you see how beautiful these knives are, you’re going to want to buy them for yourself.)
We then headed north for Brattleboro, Vermont. We found a Chinese lunch buffet which we both enjoyed. Vermont is just gorgeous, especially if you love trees. I never fancied myself a tree lover, but looking out over the mountains is like looking at an ocean of trees. We headed west for New York on Hwy 9 and ended up making two stops. The first was a beautiful antique/old-west home décor store full of great stuff. The second was a little ice cream stand/creamery. We drove past it for a few miles before we turned around; but turn around we did because we’re suckers for mom and pop roadside eateries. Anna ordered a sundae and I got a generous serving of butter pecan ice cream. We planned to stop for the night in Albany, but it was early enough in the day to push on for Syracuse. Turns out though that we couldn’t get a room anywhere because of the graduation ceremonies. We drove into the night.
Next DDD destination: Buffalo (DDD count: 85)