24 Hours in Boston

My Hyatt credit card gives me each year a free anniversary night at a range of its properties, from the luxe Park Hyatt’s in Toronto and Saigon, to ordinary hotels in many cities.  They used to include a motel-like building off of 5th in the Twenties, but that stopped last year when they must have found that they could charge $200+ for the room.

So that left, for me, Boston and also Portland, Maine.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Crossing, behind Tremont Street, in Boston.  It was magical from the outset to be a hotel guest in a city I’ve called home for three decades.  I saw the city with fresh eyes and pretended I was a visitor who had not been here before.

Everyone was friendly.  The new and old architecture was beautiful and clean.

We walked to a hidden bar, Wink & Nod, in the South End.  It is inside the old digs of Icarus, a lovely restaurant at one time.  Wink & Nod serves as a pop-up for itinerant chefs who stay a few months.  We weren’t there for the food.  We sat at the bar and had good classic drinks: Manhattan, Martini.  First-rate.  But word to the bar: Stir the drinks, don’t shake them.

Then we walked to Bar Boulud, which is inside Mandarin Oriental, in Back Bay.  Delicious starters of a trout pate, gougeres, and tete du Cochon, followed by cassoulet and a cod dish with clams.  This is French food that is better than anything, bar none, I’ve eaten in Boston the entire time I’ve been here.  There are/were “French” restaurants here that are actually French in name only.

Bar Boulud is what you find in Paris, NYC, or Tokyo: Straight ahead bistro type dishes prepared with the best ingredients at prices that are meant to make regulars out of guests.  And a service-driven model that is unpretentious and flat out fun.

The next morning we walked through Quincy Market inside Faneuil Hall.  I hadn’t been since I lived in the North End in the 1980’s.  The food portions were huge: It was like being in a children’s movie where kids see everything as BIG.

Coffee at Paradiso in the North End.  You could have been in Italy.  Great veal from Sulmona Meat Market, great buffalo milk ricotta from Salumeria Italiana, and slices at Galleria Umberto–Ralph asked me, “How you doin’?” and shook my hand, which I still have not washed.

Back through Haymarket–a buck for a quart of strawberries, and then through Government Center to Park Street for the subway ride to Cambridge.

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