President Obama’s Plate – Dining in Massachusetts

President Obama Charlie's Sandwich ShoppeI’m pretty excited to watch the State of the Union address tonight. Even though every president says it, no matter what the circumstances, somehow it always makes me feel good to hear that the State of the Union is strong.

Seeing gas prices dipping so low has definitely made me feel more optimistic. Since President Obama’s approval rating has been climbing recently, I’m apparently not the only one feeling that way.

While much of the country is eagerly waiting to hear what the president has to say tonight, TIME decided to examine something a bit different – The State of Obama’s Plate. The article looks at his dining destinations in each state. Take a look to see all four destinations in Massachusetts.

Since he vacations in Martha’s Vineyard, most of the restaurants are located there, but Boston did make the list too with his visit to Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe. While the landmark closed this past June, according to an article in The Boston Globe, it’s supposed to open again this year. We’ll see. Maybe President Obama will come back for the grand opening for some more dining in the Bay State!

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Photo Credit: TIME

Comfort Food: Boston Chowda Company

chicken pot pie When working onsite on a project, I usually bring my lunch. This week was too busy and I just couldn’t get it together, so I bought my lunch. It was cold outside and I didn’t have a lot of time, so I stuck to the Prudential Center food court.

I was in the mood for comfort food. Would it have made more sense to get chowder from Boston Chowda Company? Maybe. But I had a taste for chicken pot pie. It was so good that I had it two days in a row! There’s always next week to try the chowder.

Have a great weekend!

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*Updated 2/18/2020* Unfortunately the Prudential Center food court has closed down and Boston Chowda Company is no longer there.

Visiting + Eating on Nantucket: Part 2

Nantucket shrubs + oceanIf you enjoyed the first post from my trip to Nantucket, hopefully you’ll enjoy this one too! Since this was a fairly short trip, just three days, the second day was our only full day.

We planned to take a tour of the island, but first we needed something to eat. We went to Provisions to get something quick. The location was near where the tour bus would be picking us up. Also, I had read some good things about the place. I had a breakfast sandwich without the bacon and some coffee.

ProvisionsMy mom had the turkey terrific sandwich. We both enjoyed our food. Note that the turkey sandwich was super overstuffed and was basically Thanksgiving. It was huge!!

The tour was really fun and we learned so much about Nantucket! Here’s some trivia for you. Do you know where the red star logo for Macy’s came from?

Until this tour, I always thought of New York when I thought of Macy’s, but it actually began in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Rowland Hussey Macy was born on Nantucket and was a whaler in his youth, when he had a red star tattooed on his hand. The rest is history!

After our tour, we walked around. One of the places mentioned on the tour was Aunt Leah’s Fudge. We were told that you can sample their many varieties of fudge for free. So when we saw it, we decided to go in. It was some of the most amazing fudge that I’ve ever had. You can order online too.

The place is really tiny and there were always a ton of people in there sampling the flavors. So it’s cramped and you want to get out, but the fudge is so good you want to keep tasting everything! Quite the dilemma! We ended up getting some fudge to take home. They sell food besides fudge as well. fudgeI got some Nantucket Beach Plum Jelly, that I haven’t had a chance to try yet. Also I still have some Nantucket Cranberry Tea to try. According to the package, it’s made especially for Aunt Leah’s Fudge, so I don’t think you can get this tea anywhere else. I’ll have to pair these two and blog about it at some point.

yellow chairs

We saw many little shops and stores, but there is one store that was my favorite called Isobel & Cleo. The colorful scene above is how it looks to the left of the entrance to their store.

Oh, first I should mention that like many of the other little specialty shops, this place smelled amazing. They must all have similar scented candles burning. The smell is so warm and inviting that you don’t want to leave!

isobel & cleo signWhen we walked into Isobel & Cleo, also found on Etsy, we saw a young woman at the front counter knitting colorful chunky yarn with huge knitting needles. She said they had several other people on the premises doing knitting as well. Talk about handmade! You can see them making the merchandise! Below is a description from their website.

isobel and cleo began with a desire to perpetuate the endangered ideas of true elegance and long lasting luxury in bespoke hand made garments. We wish to preserve the intimacy, tradition, and quality that is the essence of a hand knitted garment. We use the finest luxury yarns from Scotland, England, Japan, Australia, Italy, and the US.

She finished the piece as we were there. It might have been a hat. I loved everything about this store!

As you can imagine, handmade luxury commands a high price far beyond my reach, so it reignited my desire to start knitting. I say this every fall, but maybe by the end of winter, I will have knitted something that really like and can use. We’ll see.candy + scarves

Isobel & Cleo also carries candy, oils and all sorts of other little pretty things. It’s a fun place to look around even if you can’t buy anything.

After walking around, we went back to our hotel and decided what we would do for dinner. My mother wanted some fried clams and found what we thought would be a good place. I can’t remember the name of it, but we had the hotel driver bring us.

When we arrived, we seemed to be at the end of an alley on the water. It was dark and nobody was around. I asked him to stay for a bit as I went in to look around. It was basically a seafood shack and retail store, but was not a restaurant as it was advertised. They had minimal outdoor seating on a small porch. Since it was dark, not a scenic view and was getting cold, we decided not to stay. I’m so glad our driver didn’t leave us there!

We asked if he knew of another place nearby with good seafood. He said that he had worked at The Nantucket Lobster Trap. A place owned by his friend’s father. So he dropped us off and in we went.

It had the feel of an old pub with lots of wood everywhere. The feeling of a place for men returning from the sea to go and have beer and watch TV. That was not the feeling we were looking for and we started to regret our decision. But our waitress was really nice and we just wanted to relax and eat. So we stayed. And I’m glad we did.

clam chowder

The Nantucket Lobster Trap does not have the ambiance that I prefer, but the food and service more than make up for it. I highly recommend this place! The bread basket was underwhelming in comparison to Brant Point Grill. But the seafood was outstanding! Delicious and very large portions! Man sized portions I would say.

The clam chowder might have been the best I’ve ever had. My mom had the fried clams that she wanted and she loved them! I had some too and was quite pleased. We had some other things as well, but I don’t remember everything right now. Also, we had dessert, which was another pleasant surprise. As I think about our time there, we kept getting more pleasantly surprised with each thing that was brought out. That is a good meal.

So that’s the end of our trip. It was a good time and we’ll both have plenty of wonderful memories for years to come!

Is Legal Sea Foods a Restaurant Chain?

poll about restaurant chainHave you seen any of the commercials that are part of Legal Sea Foods “Not A Chain” campaign? They’re rather clever. But after watching them, I can still only think, “Really? Thou doth protest too much.” As much as Legal’s doesn’t want to be considered a restaurant chain, it is considered a chain restaurant by many, if not most. At least according to this poll pictured above. Boston.com’s article, “When Does a Restaurant Become a Chain?” discusses this very issue.

For full disclosure, I cast a vote in this poll and said that I consider Legal’s a restaurant chain. When I took the screen shot of the results, there were 601 votes and 87.69% also considered it a chain. Also, at least at the time of this writing, if you look up Chain store in Wikipedia, there is a section for restaurant chains. Below is an excerpt with links removed.

A restaurant chain is a set of related restaurants in many different locations that are either under shared corporate ownership (e.g., McDonald’s in the U.S.) or franchising agreements. Typically, the restaurants within a chain are built to a standard format through architectural prototype development and offer a standard menu and/or services. …

Fast food restaurants are the most common, but sit-down restaurant chains (such as Timber Lodge Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, T.G.I. Friday’s, Legal Sea Foods, Ruby Tuesday,and Olive Garden) also exist.

Legal Sea Foods is listed as an example on the page right now, although I would not be surprised if their name is soon removed.

I remember when Legal Sea Foods was new and special, because you could only find it in the Boston area. Going to the Park Square restaurant was a really big deal. At least to me. The food was always wonderful. The service too. I haven’t been to a Legal Sea Foods in years, although I have planned to try one of their new concept restaurants. They do know how to keep things fresh! While their locations may be branded differently, they are still under the umbrella of Legal’s and part of their family. That is why it seems like a chain to me. Their restaurants are all still related.

Years ago, when I learned that you can find Legal’s restaurants not only outside of Massachusetts, but also outside of New England, I was a bit disappointed. They were no longer special to us in this region. One of the things that I love about travel is trying someplace that I cannot find at home.

If I’m in Florida or California, I generally don’t want to go places that I can find here in Massachusetts. Unless of course, I need a quick cup of coffee before my caffeine withdrawal headache starts and I can’t find a local coffee shop. Then I will go into a Starbucks.

What do you think? Do you consider Legal Sea Foods a chain? Have you been to one of their locations recently? Tried one of their new concept restaurants?

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Photo Credit: Boston.com

Recipe: Brant Point Grill’s Oatmeal Molasses Bread

oatmeal molasses bread

One of my favorite columns in Bon Appétit is Rsvp, where readers can get recipes from their favorite restaurants. I immediately thought of this column as I was diving into the bread basket at Brant Point Grill.

In Part 1 of my Visiting + Eating on Nantucket blog post, I mentioned that I had dinner there recently. They had savory flatbreads, almost cracker like and a sweeter bread that I kept trying to figure out. Turns out it was oatmeal molasses bread. I would have loved to take a few of these bread baskets home with me!

When I returned home, I decided to try and get the recipe for the sweeter bread. Brant Point Grill, the restaurant at the White Elephant, was more than happy to share the recipe. When I received it, I discovered that it was the exact recipe they use at the restaurant, which calls for 22 cups of flour. Eeeek!

Seeing that I’m not baking for dozens of people, I realized that some recipe adaptation was in order. Luckily, shrinking down recipes is one of my specialties!

I was surprised to realize that it was a quick bread recipe, which has no yeast. Also, it had buttermilk and the only fruit was raisins. Somehow I thought the bread contained a bunch of different fruits! Maybe because the recipe calls for golden raisins which taste a bit sweeter.

When I bake, I use what I have in the house instead of going out and buying ingredients for a recipe. Unless, it’s for something very special.

So not only did I shrink the recipe down to make a tiny loaf, but I made some other substitutions as well. I didn’t have raisins, but I had some dried papaya and dried pineapple. I don’t use buttermilk, so I used vanilla almond milk. I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I used buckwheat flour. Also, I added some ground ginger just because.

This bread was truly quick to make, because of the tiny amount of ingredients. I loved it and think it tastes quite like the bread in the restaurant. At least to how I remember it. Here is my adapted version of the recipe below. I hope you give it a try!

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Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Ingredients + Instructions
(Makes one tiny loaf.)

1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
2 T oats
2 tsp. molasses
2 tsp. oil (I used grapeseed oil.)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1 T sugar
scant 1/4 tsp. baking soda
scant 1/4 tsp. baking powder
scant 1/8 tsp. salt
scant 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
3 T dried fruit

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Place the dough in the pan and sprinkle a few oats on top. I used a 3 x 5 mini bread loaf pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. I used a toaster oven, which may impact the timing. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Slice and enjoy plain or with some butter.