Friday, September 10, 2010

East Coast trip highlights

I was doing my Alaska writeup and realized that I forgot to write about last month's East Coast trip, except to detail our fine dining experiences.

The highlights (mostly food-related)...

I finally got to try a Five Guys burger. It was good, but I still prefer In-N-Out. I would say the burgers are juicier and heartier than In-N-Out, but less flavorful and with a soggier bun. I loved the free peanuts though.

When I visited my brother in Baltimore several years ago, he took us to Obrycki's for Maryland blue crab, and I loved it. I was determined to get more blue crab this trip, but we weren't really near Baltimore, so instead we went to Harris Crab House. I wasn't sure what "soft-shell clams" were so we got those too, in addition to the crab. Both were satisfyingly delicious.

We drove out to Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland. There were nice beaches where we found lots of seashells, and we saw the famous wild ponies. It seemed very un-touristy; we encountered mostly locals who were RV camping.

We spent one day in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. My original motivation was to go to Longwood Gardens and to see the "mushroom capital of the US", but it was a cute town to visit, too:

  • I was very impressed with the Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon, which served a wide variety of wild game. D and I had crab nachos, antelope, and wild boar ragout, all of which was yummy. I especially liked the homemade pasta that was served with the ragout.
  • For dessert we got ice cream from La Michoacana, where we decided against the corn and avocado flavors in favor of nutella and toasted coconut. The nutella was really good; both the chocolate and hazelnut flavors came through clearly. The toasted coconut was yummy as well, and had bits of bittersweet chocolate in it. I soon discovered that they were best swirled together, which was easy to do as the ice cream was very creamy/sticky (not sure what the right word is; easy to pull into long strands, kind of like gelato).
  • The next day we ate breakfast at the Country Butcher cafe, where they offered a variety of breakfast sandwiches as well as omelets and pancakes.
  • We spent the rest of the morning at Longwood Gardens. I'd last been there when I was about 6 or 7 months old, so needless to say, I didn't remember a thing. Both D and I were pleasantly surprised by how expansive and how beautifully landscaped everything was. We quickly stopped complaining about the $16 entrance fee.

  • Before leaving Kennett Square, we stopped at two little shops downtown. One was a used bookstore in which all the books were donated, and all proceeds benefited the local senior center. The prices were good and we bought several books. We then went to The Mushroom Cap, where I bought "Snack 'N Shrooms" - spicy dried mushrooms which were absolutely delicious. Unfortunately the 3oz bag was horrendously expensive at $8.50, so I only bought one, but I finished it before the end of our road trip. Sigh.
We drove through Philadelphia but spent almost no time there at all. We did swing by Cosmi's for some very tasty cheesesteaks and hoagies. The surrounding neighborhood is definitely working class, and Cosmi's itself is a tiny grocery store/deli, but the owner was super friendly. We had a pretty funny conversation with him (copying from Buzz): As we walk in, he says to us, lemme guess, West Coast? Everyone who comes here who's not from Philly's from the West Coast. So I say yes, and he says, is it San Francisco? Again I say yes, and this time he's surprised; he says really? I only guessed that because there were two other people from San Francisco in here earlier, or I might have guessed Seattle instead. I told him, what can I say, Bay Area people know good food and are willing to travel to get it. He was amused.

Despite having lived five years in Boston, neither D nor I had ever been to Nantucket, so we decided to go. We took the ferry from Hyannis Port, which took a couple of hours.

After arriving, we had lunch at Sayle's Seafood which was really more of a takeout counter and bait shop than a restaurant, but their fried clams and lobster roll were very good. Generally speaking though, we were not that impressed with Nantucket. The stores were obscenely expensive, and although it was cute and charming we quickly got bored.

I imagine it would be different had we gone with a large group and stayed in a house for several days, but I don't recommend going as a day trip. We did get some tasty chocolates from Sweet Inspirations but even those were unjustifiably expensive.

In Boston, we had a fabulous dinner with some friends at Oleana. I am quite fond of Middle Eastern food, and Oleana executed most of the dishes impeccably. My friend and I polished off a giant bowl of labne (hot yogurt?) probably before the guys got their fair share, and I also enjoyed the grilled octopus and even the moussaka, despite my aversion to eggplant. It probably helped that the four of us simultaneously drank through two bottles of wine and some after-dinner drinks. Yum.

I'd been back at MIT about three years ago, for campus recruiting, but D hadn't been in six years, so I took him there and showed him all the new buildings. We also spent some time just walking around campus, which was kind of fun and nostalgia-y. There was gorgeous weather that day.

We had several good food experiences in New York.
  • First we had brunch with our cousins at Five Points, where I liked my lemon-ricotta pancakes very much. We all enjoyed our pitcher of "morning punch", too.
  • Next, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar where D and I tried the soft serve sampler. It came with four kinds of soft serve: cereal milk, purple drink, creamed corn, and bbq. There were also three types of toppings: cornflake crunch, potato chip, and chocolate fudge.

    The cereal milk and purple drink flavors were pretty good (purple drink was really more like purple soda). The creamed corn flavor was okay, but I've had better corn desserts. The bbq flavor was terrible. It was well-executed in that tasted exactly like bbq sauce, but for me that did not work at all. The toppings were all pretty good, including (surprisingly) the potato chip one.
  • Finally, we went to Le Pain Quotidien. There's a bit of a story behind this: in July we attended a wedding in DC with a bunch of college friends, and they fell in love with LPQ's praline spread. They bought several jars of it, but it was all confiscated by the TSA on the way home, as it was deemed "gel-like". Since D and I are United Premier this year and can check bags for free, we decided not to bother with cramming our week's worth of stuff into carry-ons. Then, sometime during our drive, I realized that meant we could bring home praline spread for everyone! We ended up buying four or five jars. As an aside, it's really ridiculous that there are no good Belgian bakeries in the Bay Area, while there's one on every other block in New York City.

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