We just returned to Dallas from a 11 day tour of New England and couldnt have asked for better preparation than that provided by fellow chowhounds on the Boston and NE forums. Many thanks.
First three days in Boston at Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro which included breakfast the chicken hash was quite good. Tried one dinner at the Bistro: the scallops were of high quality both in freshness and preparation; the Fennel Bouillabaisse was bland at best. Adequate wine list, but not extensive. Service both in the Bistro and at the Bar was quite good with good wine recommendation.
The chowhound brunch recommendation for Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge lived up to the billing. Both the Eggs Benedict and Steak and Eggs were winners (our cousins also thank Chowhound). The tarragon hollandaise worked very well with the eggs and the pancetta was a nice change from the usual Canadian bacon disk.
Tried carryout pizza margarita from the Upper Crust on Charles and learned back at the room that it was indeed possible to cook cheese into the consistency of soup. It made one wonder if it was originally mozzarella at all.
Sorry we didnt have enough time to try Pizzera Regina, but had to go to Pagliuca on Parmenter based on forum recommendations. My wife had the risotto ravioli which was superb. My choice of spaghetti with sausage and meatball was a poor selection. The meatball suffered from too much breading; the sausage was pretty bland. What passed for antipasto was a bowl full of iceberg lettuce with a couple of large slices of mozzarella, some sliced salami and black olives smothered in an oil and vinegar dressing. Uninspired and uninspiring. House wine was good value. My wife observed that it seemed that the locals in the place received different bread than did we tourists; ours was nothing special.
My wife tried clam chowder nearly everywhere we went and voted the chowder at Gordis Fish & Steak House in Lincoln, NH the best of all. We want that recipe!
Best overall food was found at the Wayside Inn, in Bethlehem, NH. Victor (the proprietor and chef who only cooks for his guests) advised us to wait for his scallops that came up from Boston on Tuesday. Boy were we glad. As a result, we had his Pork Victor the first night which was simply roasted and served with a mushroom reduction. Great. The scallops the next night lived up to the recommendation: my wife had them in a simple broil with breadcrumbs, shallots and tomatoes. I had them sautéed with mushrooms and sherry. We didnt want to share! Victors crab cakes were the standard for the entire trip; minimal if any breading, lots of crab and sautéed just enough to warm through.
Johnsons Seafood and Steak on Route 4 in Northwood NH had the best lobster roll. They have their own bakery. Minimal mayo, diced celery and overflowing lobster.
Lobster stew and biscuit at Maine Diner in Wells, ME. The biscuit was as big as the bowl, but nothing special. The stew was chock full of lobster. Noted the blueberry pancakes that were being served up at the next booth and they seemed to be about Frisbee size. They didnt last long.
Cape Arundel Inn, Kennebunkport. It seemed to us that with proper attire (jacket/no tie) and reservations, the table seating was better than those who just showed up in street clothes. The crab cakes were a disappointment after the Wayside; however the meat seemed to be sweeter in their version?? My wife had the sautéed lobster and loved it; I had the halibut which was overcooked. Service was excellent, the ambience wonderful and the wine list was extensive.
Good clams at Allisons in Kennebunkport but be ready for the sports bar scene.
Our best clams and oysters were at JT Farnhams in Essex. Lightly breaded, crisp on outside, a small box each, Nirvana!
Salem: Tried pizza again at the Engine House. Much better than the Upper Crust.
In a Pigs Eye was a great oasis after touring the House of Seven Gables for a sandwich and a beer. The bar was the most active of any we saw anywhere!
On our last night we did the tourist thing at Finz which included crabcakes and their clambake of lobster, mussels, clams, corn and sausage. The crab cakes were behind the Wayside, but still ahead of Cape Arundel. Their wine list is out of date so dont get your hopes up when you spot a bottle you want.
Again, many thanks to the chowhound posters who helped us eat our way through New England. Although the food quality varied, we noted that almost without exception, the service providers were consistently on top of the game and very personable wherever we went.
Thanks New England.
Jim & Gail