Remember I went to Boston and my internet didn’t work? The whole trip felt like a massive technology fail, from my iPhone camera with the scratched lens to the iPad that didn’t want to connect to the hotel wifi. Not to mention that on the way out I missed a plane for the first time in my life and found myself stranded overnight at Logan airport. There was something deeply weird about the whole experience: I used to live in Providence and so I spent quite a lot of time hanging out in Boston. I wouldn’t say I knew the city well, but I did know my way around and had some favourite places to eat. So to spend several days there and be repeatedly lost and disconnected was an odd feeling. I should know Boston but I guess I don’t any more. So there’s something appropriately vague about my eating impressions of the city. I was staying downtown, far from my old haunts in Cambridge or even at the cheaper end of Newbury Street, and so I generally went where people took me. Luckily, I have well-connected friends who hooked me up with some amazing food.
The only meal I had booked in advance proved to be the most memorable experience. Lemur friend GS had a connection to the kitchen at Troquet and snagged us a great table. Troquet is a high-end French oriented place overlooking Boston Common and, even though French food is not my favourite, it has a reputation that made me excited to check it out. I started with the langoustines with papaya and tamarind glaze, because of course I am going to order the dish with a clear Vietnamese influence. It transpired to be two incredibly light and crispy langoustine spring rolls, atop a Viet style mild green papaya salad, surrounded by a sweet-sour tamarind sauce and finished with a mango and baby leaf salad. It was very good; a refined version of a Viet dish that retained the complexity of flavour and the lightness of the original.
We didn’t order a pasta course but – surprise – the waiter brought over dishes of ricotta cavatelli, headily scented with black truffle. The dish looks small but it packed a punch – chewy fresh pasta with richly flavoured wild mushrooms, decadent quantities of truffle, all generously finished with butter and parmesan. We had barely recovered from our joy at receiving this gift of umami when the man himself, Chef Scott Hebert arrived at our table to say hello. GS’s connections had come through for us in a major way, and we were all a bit tongue-tied and swoonsome. As a self-torturing Marxist foodie, GS decided to see this conversation as a way to de-alienate the food from its labour and, it must be said, as a way to stick it to the much fancier people at the surrounding tables who probably wondered how wretches like us got the VIP treatment.
Next up were the main courses and here I went back to seafood. When I’m in locations famous for seafood, I tend to order it as much as possible and you can’t eat in Boston without taking advantage of the sea. So for an entrée I had scallops – giant juicy, perfectly cooked scallops served with Romanesco cauliflour, spinach and a citrusy sauce. I was less invested in the sauce here, and in fact I’m not 100% sure what it was at this remove of time, but what I do remember vividly is those plump scallops. God they were good.
I didn’t have time to work out a whole foodie itinerary in Boston – but I did somehow manage to have spectacular Italian food (at Via Matta – seriously, eat the cauliflour contorno, you will not regret it), decent Senegalese food and of course a Chilean chacarero while I was there thanks to Boston experts CC and KH. I don’t have especially good photos to prove it but in the midst of technological and aviation SNAFUs it was lovely to be repeatedly rescued and fed by old friends. You kind of need to know where you’re going to eat well in the centre of Boston, but once you’ve got some local intel, the food is really rather good.
Troquet, 140 Boylston St, Boston MA 02116
Via Matta, 79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116
Chacarero, 101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02108