New England city Boston has shrugged off its Puritanism to become a food lover's dream, writes LAURENCE WEINBERGER.
Boston is one of those rare places that looks just as you imagine it. From the cobbled streets and brownstone houses of Beacon Hill and the lively stalls of Quincy Market, to the skyscrapers of the financial district and the idyllic calm of the leafy common and public gardens, Boston is a beautiful city with a character that changes with the seasons. Visit in autumn and you’ll find the city ablaze with the fiery spectacle of the fall, while in winter it changes into a vision in white, with ice skating on Frog Pond and fairy lights everywhere. Spring tempts students away from the local hallowed halls of Harvard, MIT and BU and into the open air of neighbourhood cafés, while the summer heat has most of the city messing around on the Charles River.
And then there is history. Bostonians are passionate about their heritage. But the city’s Puritanical legacy meant that for a long time Bostonians were not allowed to drink anything as pleasurable as fine wine. Thankfully, a burgeoning micro-economy and a taste for the finer things in life have transformed Boston over the last 10 years into a hive of gastrodomes.
Where to Eat and Drink
The restaurant that has Boston’s beau monde chattering these days is Troquet, the new gastro-venture by restaurant gurus Chris and Diane Campbell. This French-style bistro in the heart of Boston’s theatre district has been attracting wine lovers ever since it opened in October. The menu is bursting with intriguing dishes and decadent desserts, and its impressive wine list encompasses nearly 300 wines. At Veronique, a lovely, welcoming restaurant serving traditional New American/French cuisine, owner Jim Apteker has made it his mission to educate Boston’s palates through ‘intelligent and frequent’ wine drinking. By pricing his wines with only a $10 mark-up, he encourages his patrons to experiment.At No 9 Park Cat Silirie has created an impressive wine list that perfectly matches chef Barbara Lynch’s inspired cuisine. Nearly exclusively French, Italian and American, you won’t find any ‘mindless Californian Merlots’ on her list, but delicious vintages such as the 1997 Martilde Bonarda ‘Ghiro d’inverno’ from the Oltrepo Pavese province of Lombardia. For more beautiful vintages, a trip out to the Waltham suburbs to try the adventurous wine list at Il Capriccio, as well as its Italian-with-a-twist cuisine, is highly recommended. Sommelier Jeannie Rogers has picked an intriguing assortment of wines you won’t find anywhere else .
Troquet, 140 Boylston Street. Tel: +1 617 695 9463 Veronique, 20 Chapel Street, Brookline. Tel: +1 617 731 4800 No 9 Park, 9 Park Street. Tel: +1 617 742 9991 Il Capriccio, 888 Main St. Tel: + 1 781 894 2234
Where to buy
Massachusetts’s laws on where, what and when wine may or may not be sold (or drunk) are draconian and often lead to Kafkaesque situations. Imagine the surprise, for example, when visitors to the US’s largest wine fair, Wine Expo, discover they cannot legally buy a single bottle. Forgive Brookline Liquor Mart its off-putting name and garish neon lights, for behind its downmarket appearance is a fantastic selection of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Californian wines at remarkable prices. If you prefer not to buy your wine in a supermarket atmosphere, try Marty’s, where local wine guru Tom Schmeisser is on hand with recommendations. Given its location on Newbury Street – Boston’s answer to 5th Avenue – Bauer Wine and Spirits was never going to be cheap, but you do get great service. If you don’t want big, bold American wines, head for Wine Cask. Perhaps Boston’s trendiest vintner, it specialises in small-production, quirky wines with a strong sense of terroir and individuality.
Brookline Liquor Mart, 1354 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston. Tel: +1 617 734 7700 Marty’s, 675 Washington St, Newton. Tel: +1 617 332 1230 Bauer Wine and Spirits, 330 Newbury St. Tel: +1 617 262 0363 Wine Cask, 407 Washington Street. Tel: + 1 617 623 8656
Where to Stay
The Four Seasons not only offers great service and those amazing Four Seasons’ beds, but it also has an exceptional restaurant, Aujourd’hui, a rooftop swimming pool and a lovely bar, The Bristol. But for those looking for a real New England experience you can’t beat the Charles Hotel across the river in Cambridge. This is New England at its best – American quilts, muted colour schemes and Harvard Yard within walking distance. For something less expensive, try the John Jeffries House B&B.
The Four Seasons, 200 Boylston Street. Tel: +1 617 338 4400 Charles Hotel, 1 Bennet Street. Tel: + 1 617 864 1200 John Jeffries House, 14 David G Mugar Way. Tel: +1 617 367 1866
Written by LAURENCE WIENBERGER