Monday, June 10, 2013

Boston: Sweek Cheeks Q, Fenway Park & Island Creek Oyster!

We purchased tickets a month before the Boston trip, because a visit to Boston isn't complete unless you catch a game at the historic Fenway Park!  Lots of food options around Fenway too so we planned a night around the area. 

Rather than eating ballpark food on Yawkey or the Fenway Franks (hot dog between slice of white bread), we decided to stop by Sweet Cheeks before the game, and then Island Creek Oyster for some late night grubbing with Peggy.  Sweet Cheeks is a Texas-style BBQ spot opened by Top Chef season one finalist, Tiffany Faison, and it was close enough for us to walk from there to the game!  

Sweet Cheeks Q
1381 Boylston St
Between Park Dr & Kilmarnock St
Boston, MA 02215

Menu.  It's all about using top quality local ingredients for BBQ.  We decided to get two trays and share so we can try a bit more of the menu.

lemon shandy
Leinenkugel Summer Shandy draft..  Not summer yet but the it's a great beer for summer!  Of course, served in mason jars.

No free biscuits so we had to order it.  Kinda sucks for a BBQ spot, but damn these biscuits are amazing.  For $10, you get a bucket of biscuit with their honey butter.  The honey butter is crack.

Sauces.  Texas-style original, Memphis-style vinegar based, and spicy habanero.  I liked the original sauce a lot, with a few drops of the spicy one mixed in.  When I first tried the habanero one, I didn't believe it was that spicy but damn it killed my taste buds for over 10 minutes haha. 

I like brisket, so I choose the Great Northern Brisket with BBQ beans and potato salad.

brisket & smoke ring
Thick thick slabs of fatty, moist brisket!  It actually is one of the best brisket I've had anywhere.  Love the color of that smoke ring too.

potato salad
Potato salad.  The BBQ beans was actually better, but the picture of the beans was corrupted :[

pickled items
Pickled cucumber and onions to give your taste buds a break from all the BBQ!  Much needed refresher.

ribs & pulled pork
The Big Cheeks Tray (2 item combo) with Berkshire Pork Rib and Berkshire Pulled Pork, along with carrot salad and mac n' cheese.

Berkshire Pork Rib!  Berkshire pork is a high quality breed of pork and you can tell from that first bite.  While the ribs may not be as good as what I had in St. Louis, the ribs are juicy, meaty, and tender.  

pulled pork
Pulled Pork.  Sorry for the shaky hands, but pretty good too!  Wish there were more of the outside pieces for the BBQ bark, but it is moist and very good with the BBQ sauce.

carrot salad
Carrot salad.  Probably the best side!  Very refreshing and the blue cheese works so well with the walnuts.

BBQ is probably forever ruined for me after Bogart's and Pappy's in St. Louis, but I gotta say, I did like Sweet Cheeks!  Even though there's nothing in particular that really jumps out at me, everything was tasty.  They definitely focus more on the quality of ingredients and it shows.  I was just glad we were able to secure a table before the game cause it was pretty packed!

The Red Sox was playing Houston Astros (one of the worst team in MLB), and the starting pitching weren't that great either, so I wasn't too interested in the game, but it is Fenway!  It was just fun walking around and taking in the atmosphere.

Yawkey Way/Gate D
Near Gate D.

Yawkey Way
Yawkey Way, where the food vendors are at!  They close off this alley next to Fenway Park so people can eat and relax before the game.


view from under the grandstand
View of the field, walking from Gate D to the bleachers.

astros to bat
Astros batting.

from bleachers
Our seats in the bleachers!  Not bad at all.  Of course, the bleachers are the cheapest seats so you get an interesting mix of people.  Definitely heard a lot of trash talking and foul language hahah.  Behind us was a family and you can tell they were a bit uncomfortable with the language :P

green monster
Green Monster!

green monster under the lights
Green Monster at night.

This game was excruciating slow!  3 1/2 hours in and it wasn't even the 7th inning, so we actually left before the 7th inning stretch since we had to meet up with Peggy at Island Creek.

Island Creek Oyster is probably one of the most popular restaurants in Boston, and it is all about seafood here!  Of course, they are known for the oysters here, as well as a few other items, but Diana and Jadson were still full from Sweet Cheeks, so only Peggy and I ate.

Island Creek Oyster 
500 Commonwealth Ave 
Boston, MA 02215 

Bread.  No idea what kind of bread it was, but it was pretty tasty haha.

Brasserie D'Achouffe
Jadson ended up ordering a few beers.  Brasserie D'Achouffe La Chouffe.  Had a sip, very good. Definitely a Belgian Strong.

Sorachi Ace
My Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace.  I've been digging saison brews lately!

halibut ceviche
Halibut ceviche for starters.

fish sandwich with fries
My fish sandwich with Old Bay seasoned fries.  Forgot what kind of fish it was, but the spicy tartar sauce was good!

Peggy's Lobster Roe Noodle.  Braised short rib, grilled lobster, oyster mushrooms, Pecorino, and fresh egg noodle.  Holy hell I had a bite of this and I immediately regretted my sandwich.  Intensely savory.  No wonder this is one of their most popular dish.

Day one, done!  I originally wanted to go check out a few bars, but thanks to the red eye flight, we were beyond tired so we just went back to get a good night's rest!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Boston: Oysters, Lattes, and Cannolis in North End

April was a pretty crazy month since right after I got back from Philly, I took a red eye flight the next night from LAX to Boston.  Needless to say, 4 transcontinental flight, with two of them being red eye, took its toll.  Might even be worse than the time I flew to NYC right after I got back from Taiwan.

Tired from red eye
Me completely dead at 7am at the Boston Logan Airport haha (from Diana's Instagram @deltalove).  

To be honest, we didn't do much sightseeing since both Jadson and Diana weren't too into US History (sad face), so I focused all my energy into finding something to eat.  That's something I'm good at anyways.  In fact, I started off the first day in Boston with two breakfasts :P  

potbelly at airport
Saw a Potbelly Sandwich Shop located inside Boston Logan!  Decided to try it since there's none in LA.

egg & bacon on wheat with hot peppers
Decided to get a Bacon, Egg, and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich.  Got it with some hot peppers!

good breakfast
DEFINITELY get it with the hot peppers.  Bomb.

boston chinatown gate
After we got off the Silver Line that took us from the airport to the city, we had to walk through Chinatown.  As always, there's a gate.  Much cleaner than Philly's Chinatown, that's for sure.

101 bakery
While walking through Chinatown, I noticed this bakery, 101 Bakery, sells milk tea!  Yelped a bit and found out that it is a Taiwanese bakery so decided to get a morning drink.

Came out with a milk green tea and a bun.  Milk tea... was actually not bad at all.  Way better than the TapEx or the JJ Bakery near where I live.

chocolate bun
Chocolate bun.  A little dry, but very soft!  I'd probably come here a lot if I lived in Boston haha.

After checking in and freshening up at the hotel, we decided to head to the North End, Boston's famous Italian neighborhood.  We didn't really have a place in mind for lunch, but we knew we wanted to munch on some cannolis and Boston's also small enough that we can walk to where we want to go from the North End.

Right when we got off the T, the first place that we see is the historic Union Oyster House, the oldest continually operated restaurant in the US!  We weren't planning to eat here since I heard the wait can be long but when we peeked in around 11am, there were actually 3 spots open at the infamous oyster bar, so we sat ourselves down.

Union Oyster House
41 Union St Boston
MA 02108

union oyster house
Union Oyster House!  Probably the most historical thing we visited that whole weekend.

Established 1826.  Crazy.

national historic landmark
Built in 1717 and designated as a historic landmark. Since Boston's such an old city, a lot of buildings are actually under the National Park Service and you will see park rangers at various spots.

oyster bar
The famous oyster bar! They shuck anywhere from 3,000-5,000 oysters a day.  Dayum.

Part of the menu.

clam chowder
I started off with some clam chowder.

Creamy chowda.

sam adams summer
Jadson's Sam Adams Red Brick Irish Ale.  Of course, in Boston, must get Sam Adams.

seafood platter
Our Seafood Platter, with oysters, cherrystone clams, and cocktail shrimp.  Forgot to ask where the oysters came from, but they do have 3-4 farms they source it from.

cocktail sauce & horseradish
Cocktail sauce and their bombtastic horseradish.

oyster with condiments
I am not a huge oyster fan so this was the only one I ate, with a little Tabasco and horseradish.  

cherrystone clams
However, I do like cherrystone clams, so we ordered half a dozen more!

I just find I enjoy the texture of clams so much more than oysters.

lobster diner
The guys have fun when they work too. This guy took a lobster, made it grab on to a fork and napkin.  This dude's pretty awesome. 

beer elevator
The old school beer elevator.  Since the oyster bar is also where the draft line is at, they transport the beer upstairs dining room this way!

I actually enjoyed my time at Union Oyster House a lot, and I think a big part of it was being able to sit at the oyster bar (seen on TV so many times) and watch the guys just shucking away.  Quality-wise, I'm sure there's better shellfish or food elsewhere, but I can now say that I've dined at the oldest restaurant in the US!

After Union Oyster House, we wanted our dessert, which meant cannoli!  We were debating between Mike's or Modern Pastry, both famous for the cannoli.  Mike's is more well-known but we just didn't want to wait in the long line so we chose Modern Pastry.  Before that, the red eye flight was starting to get to us and we needed a caffeine fix first.

Thinking Cup
236 Hanover St
Between Richmond St & Board Aly
North End
Boston, MA 02113

Hanover Street, North End.

thinking cup
Thinking Cup!  A pretty hipster cafe with two locations in Boston.

Big Thinking Cup sign right when you walk in.

espresso machine
Their grinder & espresso machine.  Espresso here served as ristretto double shot.

Hazelnut latte and regular latte.  Thinking Cup's baristas has also won awards for latte art, and yea, they are pretty damn good :P

single origin
Jadson's single origin pour over.  Forgot where it was from, but very fruity!

As for the cannoli, Modern Pastry Shop may not be as famous as Mike's but it was also featured on Food Network, and the line was pretty long too.  A friend of mine told me that some preferred Mike's because it is bigger, but locals dig Modern Pastry Shop more?  I'm a cannoli noob so I just wanted a good cannoli.

Modern Pastry Shop
257 Hanover St 
Between Richmond St & Board Aly
North End
Boston, MA 02113

modern pastry shop
Modern Pastry, located on Hanover Street.

modern pastry shop
The neon sign would probably look really cool at night when lit.

Line at Modern Pastry Shop.  Very warm in there too.


pizzelli & cannoli
I decided to get a Chocolate-dipped Pizzelli and a Chocolate-dipped Cannoli with Fresh Ricotta.

chocolate dipped pizzelli
I did not know one of the ingredients for Italian pizzelli is anise seeds so I was pretty surprised when I took my first bite.  Chocolate and anise was a little bit weird, sorta like Chinese medicine to me.

crispy cannoli shell
The cannoli, however, definitely lived up to its hype!  The crispy cannoli shell is great and the chocolate only made it better.

chocolate dipped cannoli with ricotta
They fresh make the cannolis to order, so they don't pump it with the filling of your choice until you order it.  Very glad I got it with the fresh ricotta.  I was expecting it to be heavy but it was the opposite!  Very light and delicate.

Jadson ordered the same cannoli, except filled with vanilla custard.  Much much heavier and sweeter than the traditional ricotta.  I didn't like it as much haha.

After cannolis, it was off to the New England Aquarium to see some penguins since we had time to kill before our Boston Red Sox game at Fenway.  Here's a picture of the penguins!  Too bad the penguin exhibit was under construction so you can only view them through a small glass window in their feeding area.

Penguins all day every day.