Category: Boston Young Foodie Spots

Dinner at Island Creek Oyster

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post.  As you know, Boston has a very special place in my heart. It is where Tommy is from and currently lives and also where I spent eight years of my life in college and after. 

The attack at the Boston Marathon was horrifying and I spent the better part of yesterday glued to the TV, watching Facebook updates from my friends, and mourning the losses and injuries of the runners and bystanders.  The attack was very personal.  Not only because I knew a number of friends and family members who were either running the marathon or watching it, but because I used to live two blocks away from where the bombs went off.  Tommy and I watched the marathon from the exact intersection on Boylston just two years ago.  I am happy and thankful to report that all of the people I knew personally were not injured in the attacks, but am so saddened for the families that lost someone or experienced serious injury.

I spent this past weekend in Boston and left Monday morning around noon.  On Friday night, Tommy and I enjoyed a dinner for two at Island Creek Oyster in Kenmore Square.  The ironic thing about that dinner and the timing of this post is that Tommy won a raffle for this dinner while he was at a fundraising event for a runner in the Boston Marathon.  Tommy lost his cousin, Haven Quinn, two and half years ago to a fatal stroke.  One of Haven’s best friends, Jennifer Newcomb (her story is here), has run the Boston Marathon in his memory ever since (and raised a lot of money in the process).  Thank you to Jenn, Tedy’s Team and Island Creek Oyster for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this spectacular dinner.

Island Creek Oyster Bar is a new-ish restaurant in Boston that features an extensive oyster bar (duh!) and tons of fresh seafood.  It is an incredibly impressive with high ceilings and amazing décor.

(image courtesy of Google Images)

(image courtesy of Google Images)

They have one wall (top photo, left side) made up entirely of oyster shells and another (top phone, right side) that is a mural painted of oyster beds.  The bar area is also expansive and holds a large number of people.

Tommy and I weren’t sure what to expect when we came in last Friday for dinner.  The gift certificate that he won said “dinner for two,” but didn’t elaborate.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that that meant a five course dinner (plus extras) with wine pairings.  Woohoo!  Our waitress and one of the restaurant managers also told us that if we needed any “extra” pours of wine, to just let them know, and they would happily refill.  Do I need extra pours of wine?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Speaking of the wine, I couldn’t help but think how much my sister Sarah would have loved this place. Not only is she a seafood lover, but she is also a huge white wine lover.  And because Island Creek serves only seafood, their white wine list is extensive, and much longer than the red.  They had such unique options on the wine list and the waitress was extremely knowledgeable about each one that she poured.

Now – onto the food.  To start, Island Creek brought over six of the items that they are best known for – Oysters!

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The oysters we got came from Duxbury, MA (Island Creek Oysters, the restaurant’s namesake), Kingston, MA, Plymouth, MA, Smith Island, VA, Pope’s Bay, VA and Lillywaup, WA.  I can confidently say that these were the freshest and best tasting oysters I have ever had.  Tommy, who is not an oyster lover by nature, ate them all up happily.  In addition to the homemade mignonette and cocktail sauce, Oyster Creek also serves a variety of hot sauces and horseradish so that everyone’s palate is satisfied when they eat these tasty oysters.

While we were enjoying our oysters, we also got our first “official” course which was fluke crudo in an orange, sesame and chili oil. 

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Again, what really stood out about this dish was the freshness of the fish.  It could have been delicious on its own, but when soaked in a spicy orange and sesame oil, this dish was amazing.  I hope to make some sort of sauce that incorporates orange and sesame and put it over fish, because the combination was great.

Up next, we got in-house smoked trout over rye crisps and a walnut pesto.

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Get.in.my.belly. First off, I am a huge fan of smoked fish.  I can’t get enough lox, I love the house made stuff that Whole Foods sells.  Basically, if you smoke a fish, I will probably eat it.  When you add salty, crispy rye pieces of bread and a walnut pesto, I will probably lick the plate.  What is walnut pesto you ask? Who knows. When food is this good, you don’t ask questions.

Up next, we had a duo of fried items in the form of a crispy island creek oyster slider and a basket of fried clam bellies.

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The fried oyster slider was Tommy’s favorite course of the night.  How could something so simple be so delicious you ask?  Well start with an extremely fresh oyster, lightly fried it, put it on a homemade brioche roll, add a lime chili aoili and some pickled onions, and you have just elevated a simple dish into one of the best of the night.  I could have easily made room for another one or two of these babies (I could have done this despite the fact that that by the time the end of a meal rolled around, I was so full, I could barely walk.  What can I say? I make room for extra delicious food!).

The fried clams were also delicious.  Not only were the very fresh, and perfectly fried (light breading, light frying = perfect fried clam), but these were the whole belly version of the popular New England dish.  Often times if you go to a seafood place here in Boston you will get clam strips, which are essentially large clams that have been sliced into small pieces.  IMHO (in my humble opinion), I think that you really lose the flavor of the clam itself when you do this and you end up just tasting a fried food.  If you are in New England for a visit, I can’t emphasize it enough – get the full belies! It’s worth it.  If you can go to Island Creek Oyster Bar and get them served fresh out of the fryer with homemade tarter sauce – even better!

After our fried food course, we moved onto the “main entrée” of the meal which was a pieces of Gulf of Maine Halibut served over a mustard spaetzle, pancetta and broccoli raab.

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Hello lover.  The fish was seasoned beautifully (perfect amount of seasoning without being salty) and cooked to perfection.  I am also a huge lover of spaetzle, which is a German, freeform, doughy pasta.  The sauce, a beurre blanc, was also fantastic, and I plan to put these ingredients together for a restaurant recreation sometime soon.

To end the meal, we were served Island Creek’s Chocolate Ganache cake with malt ice cream and their Honey Crisp apple fritters with a bourbon caramel sauce.

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Both of these desserts were very tasty and I liked that we got a little variety! I often struggle with ordering a fruity vs. chocolate dessert, and this way, I got both!   The apple fritters were stuffed with chunks of apple, lightly fried, and rolled in a cinnamon sugar combo.  The caramel sauce on the side was rich and full of bourbon flavor.  The cake was very rich, but oh so tasty.  One of my favorite parts of the dish was actually the malt ice cream which was slightly sweet and salty, my favorite combination!  It tasted just like a malt ball.

Overall, I think you can tell, I absolutely loved Island Creek Oyster Bar.  The food was SUPERB, the service was out of this world and I just loved the entire experience, especially because it was free.  With that said, I will come back to this place on my own dime soon.  It is very reasonably price for the quality of food and service that you get.  Plus, I always have struggled to find a great New England style restaurant in Boston that wasn’t cheesy, touristy or an extreme rip off.  Island Creek Oyster Bar is none of those things.

Thank you to Island Creek and Jenn Newcomb for this wonderful experience.  My thoughts and all my love is being sent to Boston during this terrible time <3.

Blue Dragon Restaurant Review (Boston, MA)

I am so sorry for the delay in updating the blog.  I took time off while I visited Tommy in Boston over the weekend and then on my way back to Chicago, I got sick on the plane ride.  Since that time, I have been bedridden with the flu.  Considering I haven’t been able to eat over the last few days, I certainly wasn’t doing any cooking.  Now that I am on the mend, I plan to come back with great stuff this weekend and next week!

In the meantime, I thought I would share one of the major foodie highlights from the weekend.  On Friday, Tommy and I met for lunch at a very new restaurant in Boston called Blue Dragon.

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Blue Dragon is Ming Tsai’s new restaurant in Boston’s Fort Point Channel area. His original restaurant, Blue Ginger, is located in Wellesley, MA (where I went to college) and is decidedly more fancy. I have eaten at Blue Ginger many times and absolutely love it, so I was very excited to try out Tsai’s new restaurant.

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Tommy and I arrived slightly before 11:30 and there was already a line.  The restaurant had only been opened three days when we visited, so there was obviously lots of anticipation.  We were able to be seated right away, along with about 70 other people! By the time 11:35 came around, the restaurant was completely packed.

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To start, Tommy and I both ordered a cup of soup.  I choose the Coconut Chicken and Basil Soup that had tons of lemongrass, coconut and basil flavor.

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Tommy got the tomato hot and sour soup and it tasted exactly like its name – a hybrid between hot and sour soup and good old tomato soup. 

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We both absolutely loved the soups and could have easily eaten another cup of each.  I am glad we saved room though because we both had big sandwiches coming our way.  Although Blue Dragon also offers noodle dishes and salads, we were both in the mood for sandwiches.  However, we did have a bit of food envy when we saw big bowls of steaming noodles going by to other tables.  As for the sandwiches, Tommy ordered the Roast Pork Banh Mi (Banh Mi is the Vietnamese term for bread) with spicy aioli and house pate.

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I ordered the Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi with a dijon aioli and house pate.

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In addition to the meats on the sandwiches, each one also had fresh vegetables and spicy jalapeno peppers on them.  The chicken sandwich on its own, was pretty fantastic.  As I mentioned above, I love lemongrass and this sandwich had a lot of lemongrass flavor.  I also thought that the dijon mustard provided a nice spicy contrast to slightly sweet pate that was spread on the sandwich. 

Because the pork sandwich didn’t have any spicy mustard, I thought it needed something extra to counterbalance the pate.  I asked the waitress for extra jalapenos which made the sandwich perfect!  One other note about the pork banh mi is that although the menu specifies “roasted pork,” it also came with a cured deli meat of sorts (soprasata maybe?). I enjoyed it, but if you aren’t a fan of deli pork meats, this sandwich might not be for you.

Last note about the sandwiches is that they both came with a tasty Asian slaw and delicious tarro chips on the side.  My only complaint? There weren’t enough of the chips on the plate!  We each only got about 4-5 chips, and I easily could have had 10-15!

All and in all, I really enjoyed Blue Dragon.  It was especially fun seeing Ming Tsai in the kitchen!

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I have actually met him a few times before at Blue Ginger and he is extremely funny, down to earth and great conversationalist. When Kate and I met him a few years back, he told us he loved the Chicago restaurant scene (who wouldn’t) and reminded us that he beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America!  If you visit Blue Dragon at a less busy time, make sure you ask to chat with him – it is a very fun treat.

I can’t wait to visit Blue Dragon again for lunch and try all the delicious noodle dishes.  The dinner menu also looks quite tantalizing – Panko Fish and Chips, Hamachi Carpaccio  – yum!  Blue Dragon, I’ll be back!

Restaurant Recreation–Rosemary Chicken Pasta

There is a small restaurant located in Needham, MA called Sweet Basil, that Tommy and I have been going to for years.  We first started going as students at Babson College when the restaurant literally had less than 10 tables and you had to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom.  To make matters worse, Sweet Basil has never taken reservations, so if you wanted to have dinner there, you usually had to arrive around 5:30 to ensure that there wouldn’t be a long wait.  Luckily, since the early years of us going there, the restaurant has expanded.  While it still isn’t huge, there are more like 20 tables now.  There is usually still a wait if you go during prime time hours on the weekend, but it is definitely not as bad as it used to be.

Even when we have to wait, Tommy and I always think its worth it.  The food at Sweet Basil is delicious, reasonably priced and comes in HUGE portions.  The portions are so big in fact that you can’t even order an appetizer or salad and an entrée unless you want to bring a significant amount of leftovers home.  Additionally, Sweet Basil serves this AMAZING pesto dip alongside their fresh bread as soon as you sit down.  This pesto is so good, you cannot help but eat at least two pieces of bread with it.  Well, maybe somebody with extreme willpower could, but I certainly could not.

While we absolutely love going to Sweet Basil (as if you couldn’t tell!), it was a wonderful surprise when Tommy told me that he had received the Sweet Basil Cookbook as a Christmas gift from his mom.  The ability to make your favorite dishes from Sweet Basil without having to leave my kitchen?  It was a dream come true!

When Tommy visited Chicago over the New Years holiday, he brought the cookbook with him and we decided to make something out of it while he was here.  And this wasn’t just any dish we were choosing, we selected Tommy’s all time favorite dish at Sweet Basil (and maybe even anywhere?!?): Rosemary Chicken Pasta.

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This dish is admittedly extremely rich thanks to the TWO CUPS of heavy cream in the recipe.  But don’t be deterred, because a little portion goes a long way.  Plus, I opted to up the veggie content from the original recipe to get a little additional nutritional boost.

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You could use whole wheat pasta in place of semolina pasta to increase it even further.

I served the pasta alongside a giant arugula and grape tomato salad.  I like to think that a big salad always negates a heavy pasta dish.  That’s how it works, right?  Don’t answer that.

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I have a feeling that this is just one of many recipes that I will be making from this cookbook as there are so many dishes that I love from Sweet Basil.  I thought that having this cookbook would reduce the number of times I would have to come face to face with the pesto dip because I could visit Sweet Basil less frequently, but as luck would have it, Sweet Basil included that recipe in the book as well!  I’ll just have to remember to make one recipe at a time and enjoy these delicious meals in moderation!

Restaurant Recreation – Rosemary Chicken Pasta – Serves 6 (Inspired by the recipe from Sweet Basil’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Rigatoni pasta
  • 3 round slices (approximately 1/4 inch thick) pancetta, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast (preferably organic), cut into large chunks
  • 1 TB EVOO
  • 1 TB butter
  • S+P to taste
  • 1 TB garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (approximately 12-15 asparagus stalks)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt.  Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, add chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan.  Turn pan to medium and cook pancetta until brown and crispy, but not burnt.  Drain the fat from the pancetta on a paper towel lined plate, keeping the excess oil in the pan.

In the same pan, add the butter and olive oil and melt together over medium heat.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan.  Brown both sides of the chicken. 

Meanwhile, mince the garlic and rosemary.

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Add the minced garlic, rosemary and reserved pancetta to the pan with the chicken.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the garlic is cooked.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the wine has almost evaporated entirely.

Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, chopped tomatoes and asparagus to the pan.  Cook everything together for 5 minutes.

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At this point I removed the chicken so that the sauce would thicken more quickly.  Once it is thickened to your desired consistency, add the shredded asiago and parmesan cheeses.  Stir until well combined.  Add the chicken back to the sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.  Taste and adjust for seasoning (we needed to add a little more salt at this point).

Add the sauce to the pot holding the drained pasta noodles and stir everything to combine.

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Serve a couple of spoonful’s (trust me that’s all you will need) in a bowl and enjoy!

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This dish makes great leftovers because the flavors seem to come together even more after a day or two in the fridge.

After Tommy and I were pleasantly full, instead of the usual overstuffed feeling we get after visiting Sweet Basil, we took some cider to the living room and enjoyed a nice big fire during a cold Chicago night!

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It was the perfect way to kick off our five day New Years Vacation!

Cooking During Hurricane Sandy: American Provisions, Baked Sweet Potato Rounds, Steamed Artichokes and Pork Paillards with Sour Cream Paprika Sauce

Because of Hurricane Sandy, I spent a few extra days in Boston this week.  I was supposed to leave Sunday, but my flight was canceled and was rescheduled for Wednesday.  Obviously, its inconvenient to be delayed, but it seemed like a small issue compared with what many people are dealing with as a result of the Hurricane.

Because I was stuck in Boston, I couldn’t really do a lot of work and was trapped in Tommy’s apartment (by myself while he was at work!).  What do you do when you are trapped in Boston? Do some cooking!

I also actually made a visit to the grocery store on Monday morning (before the heavy rain and wind) for some ingredients and essentials.  One place I stopped was a local artisan grocery store called American Provisions, which is located in South Boston, right near Tommy’s apartment.

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American Provisions has some absolutely amazing products inside ranging from fresh local produce and meats to fresh pasta and bread.

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They also have an amazing charcuterie and cheese selection, which draws me in every time!

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This place is truly a foodie mecca!  Because I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to go out to the store again as a result of the hurricane, I actually picked up dinner for both Monday and Tuesday night.

Monday night, I planned for a cheese + charcuterie (that included a blue, goat and cows milk cheese plus some prosciutto) plate with a big arugula and beet salad.  This is one of the easiest things to put together and Tommy and I love to have it for a quick and easy dinner.  For Tuesday night, I planned on making one of Tommy’s all time favorite meals: Pork Paillards in a Sour Cream Paprika Sauce.  I got the pork from American Provisions which sells meet from Kinnealey Quality Meats, a local source in Boston.

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These chops were a bit more expensive than you would find at a grocery store ($8.99 each), but it was important for me to buy local meat that is produced in a humane way, which Kinnealey strives to do.

I originally got the recipe for Pork Paillards in a Sour Cream Paprika Sauce after watching a cooking segment with Martha Stewart on the Today Show.  Tommy and I both saw the segment and came home that night saying we wanted to try it!  The sauce couldn’t be easier – it involves white wine, chicken stock, sour cream and paprika – that’s it!

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*Note the chicken stock in the tiny glass! Tommy’s apartment isn’t outfitted with all of the cooking gadgets that I have!

I served the pork with steamed artichokes (my all time favorite vegetable) and sweet potato slices that were baked simply with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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The sweet potato prep couldn’t have been more simple:

1) Slice the sweet potatoes (I used two big ones) into 1/4 inch slices;

2) Place slices into a big mixing bowl;

3) Add 2 TB of olive oil, plus 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper and mix everything together;

4) Lay sweet potatoes onto a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

5) Place the sweet potatoes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven.  Cook for a total of 30 minutes (or until tender and browned), flipping them over once in the cooking process.

As for the artichokes, I think some people find them to be a little daunting because of the trimming required, the long cooking time and the choke that you have to deal with to get to the heart.  However, once you make them a few times, you soon discover that the whole process is actually pretty easy.  I thought I would give you a quick, step by step, tutorial on how to prep.

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At this point, you want to clean the artichoke by spreading open the leaves, running water in them and then turning it upside down to drain.  In order to cook the artichokes, you can boil, steam, pressure cook or even microwave them.  If you opt to boil or steam them, plan on them taking about 30 minutes for medium sized artichokes, 45 minutes for larger ones.  The pressure cooker and microwave both take about 10 minutes.

You know the artichokes are finished cooking when you can easily remove a leaf from the heart and they are dark green in color.

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Although sweet potatoes and artichokes are some of my favorite foods, I have to say, that the Pork Paillards made this a meal.  As I mentioned above, the sauce couldn’t be easier and if you have a meat mallet, the pork cooks in just a couple of minutes.  Enjoy!

Pork Paillards with Sour Cream Paprika Sauce – Serves 2 (Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops (about 10-12 ounces each), pounded thin
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 TB of sweet or hot paprika
  • S+P to taste

Directions:

Cut pork chop in half to give you thinner pieces to work with.  Using a meat mallet, pound pork chops until they are approximately 1/4 inch thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Add the pork in phases (I did them two pieces at a time) so that they can brown.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on first side, flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the other side.  Remove from pan, and repeat with remaining pieces.  Set browned pork aside on plate.

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With the pan still hot, add the white wine and deglaze the pan.  Deglazing just means removing the bits of meat that are stuck on the pan by adding white wine (or red depending on the dish), chicken broth or water.  Reduce wine by half, about 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken brown and cook for 5-7 minutes until the sauce reduces by half again.  Gradually stir in the sour cream and paprika and combine until thickened.  Add the pork back to the sauce to heat through.  Serve everything together along with some melted butter for the artichoke!

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Fall Boston Trip 2012–Brunch at Local 149 and a Trip to Harpoon Brewery

Its no secret that Tommy and I love Local 149 in South Boston, as evidenced by our various trips to the restaurant for dinner.  And although I have only written about it twice, Tommy and I find ourselves there for dinner nearly every time I am in town.  One of the things we haven’t had a chance to do at Local 149 is have brunch there, despite hearing lots of wonderful things about it.  We decided to change that this weekend and made a trip to see what it was all about.

In the spirit of brunch, we ordered a couple of drinks – a “house made” mimosa for me and a Crispin Cider for Tommy, who isn’t a huge fan of traditional brunch drinks (think mimosas and bloody marys).

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If you are wondering what exactly a house made mimosa is (isn’t it just orange juice and champagne?), you are not alone.  I wondered the same thing, so the waitress informed me that Local mixed together fresh orange juice and bottle pomegranate juice to mix with sparkling wine.  It didn’t seem anymore special than a regular mimosa, but that didn’t make it any less delicious! Mimosas and brunch are a match made in heaven.

For food, we decided to order the Breakfast Pizza and the Lobster MacMuffin.  While in Rome!  I always love to order lobster in Boston because it is so widely available, fresh and incorporated in unique ways into food.  If I do happen to see lobster on a menu in Chicago, it is typically cooked steamed or boiled and served the traditional way (plus its usually VERY expensive).

The Lobster MacMuffin was definitely unique and I thought had a knock-out presentation.

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It was basically a stack of scrambled eggs that was mixed together with lobster knuckles and claws, atop a fresh english muffin, bacon and mizuna (similar to arugula) lettuce.  It was served alongside a “harvest vegetable hash” that was basically just boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes mixed together.  This was not what I was expecting from the description on the menu and it was very disappointing.  If you are going to call something hash, it better at least be browned up some.  These were not very good and I would not suggest ordering them.  I think that the random piece of toast you see on the plate was a mistake because it was cinnamon raisin and had no relevance to anything else in the dish.

Aside from the lackluster hash and random piece of toast, this dish was very good.  I think that the lobster was cooked with the eggs for some period of time because the eggs had a slight lobster taste to them, which I appreciated!  It actually made me think of the “shrinkage” Seinfeld episode when George makes the “best scrambled eggs’” anyone has ever had because they were mixed with lobster.

Tommy was very predictable and ordered the breakfast pizza which came with tiny quail eggs, cheese, mizuna and was served on Locals famous “everything crust.”  This worked especially well for brunch because it seemed like you were eating a very special bagel!

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The eggs were the perfect size for the pizza and every time you cut into one, you got a little bit of yolk on every piece.  They were also perfectly cooked – just runny enough – but not so much that the yolk got all over the plate.

Overall, we really enjoyed our drinks and food and the brunch experience further cemented our love for this restaurant.  If you live in Boston, you should definitely check it out.  It is great tasting, locally sourced food that is very reasonably priced (not to mention the beer menu is out of this world!).

After brunch, we headed over to Harpoon Brewery.  Harpoon is actually the second largest brewer in Massachusetts.  A lot of people assume that Sam Adams is the largest, but actually it’s Anheuser Busch, which has one of its five breweries in the Bay State.  Sam Adams doesn’t actually produce any of the beer that it sells in Massachusetts, although they do have the original brewery operational for tours (it is located in Jamaica Plain, MA).

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Tommy and I have been to Harpoon before – maybe 4 years ago – when Sarah, Ben and Kate came for a visit to Boston.  Unfortunately, the actual brewery was closed to the public during our last visit, so we were unable to take advantage of the tour that Harpoon normally offers.  Fortunately, the beer tasting was still an option and we took full advantage!

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This time around, the brewery was open for touring, so Tommy and I were able to see how Harpoon’s brew process works, which was very interesting.

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The first thing we learned on the tour is that there are four major ingredients in all beer – water, yeast, malt and hops.  While different flavors can be added, and the proportions of these ingredients will vary for different beers, these are four required elements.

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Harpoon had malted barley and hops on a table for people to try if they so desired, but warned that a mouth-full of hops would destroy your pallet for about a week!

While we were learning about the first stages of the brewing process, we were served a sample of Harpoon’s Octoberfest beer, which is one of their most popular.  This was a deliciously hoppy and full-bodied beer that I really enjoyed.

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All of the huge tanks that you see in the background of these photos are full of beer as Harpoon’s Boston brewery is active and produces 60% of all Harpoon beer produced.

After we learned about the beginning processes of beer making (malting, milling, mashing, boiling and fermenting), we headed downstairs to hear about filtration and packaging.  While we were listening, we got our next sample of beer – Harpoon’s IPA.

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Suffice to say, this was the freshest IPA I have ever drunk because it was poured straight from the barrel it was processed in.  Craig, our tour guide, said that this beer would be ready to bottle and ship in three days.  From a taste perspective, this was also full of hoppy and malt flavor and was quite bitter (as can be expected from an IPA!).  Despite being more full bodied, I thought that this was an easy drinking beer and tasted great very chilled.

During this time, we also learned about Harpoon’s UFO beer.  I have had many UFOs in my day, but never knew what made it special, until the tour.  UFO stands for Un-Filtered Offering and is a wheat beer that is brewed with orange peel and a unique blend of spices.  Harpoon actually also makes a raspberry flavored UFO that we sampled later that is both refreshing and delicious.

From here, we went to Harpoon’s bottling and packaging area where we saw the “assembly” line as well as many empty beer bottles that were anxiously waiting to be filled!

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After the tour, we headed upstairs to continue on with the tasting.  The tour guides got behind the bar and provided the guests with unlimited samplings of beer for the next 30 minutes!

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The beers that Harpoon had on tap were extensive and ranged from Hoppy IPAs to Harpoon’s seasonal varietal: Pumpkin UFO (a personal favorite).

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I tried just about every single one and am not sure I could pick a favorite – although the Pumpkin, Cider, and Rye IPA are definitely up there!

If you are visiting Boston (or even a local) and want a fun activity, I could not recommend the Harpoon tour enough.  It was $5 a person for an informative beer tour and unlimited tastings of beer.  Plus the tour guides are so smart and engaging that the “science” of making beer becomes very accessible.  Make sure you tip your guides/bartenders at the end, because they do a fabulous job!

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The only thing I should caution about is that weekend tours are very popular and often sell out.  We got to the brewery at 12 and were able to snag the last tickets for the 1 PM tour.  Everything else was sold out! 

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I would advise going early (when they open at 11) and getting tickets for a tour later in the day.  There is a lot to do in the Seaport District and you can spend many hours walking the water front.

After the tour, we ended up walking to Boston’s Long Warf for an autumn boat tour around the Boston Harbor. 

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We got tickets through LivingSocial for a two hour tour that took us around Boston and up the South Shore. 

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We got extremely lucky with the weather (which ended up being around 70 degrees) and it was the perfect way to end a busy day.

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After brunch, the brewery tour and the cruise, we were absolutely beat and decided to have a low key dinner at a local bar in Boston.  Also, we had to make sure we rested up because we had a big day ahead of us at the Patriots game!

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50 yard line behind the Pats Bench – not bad seats!

As usual, I had a wonderful trip to Boston spending time with my favorite guy.  Until next time Boston (which incidentally is next weekend for our friends’ wedding!)!

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