Considering a trip to view the gorgeous fall foliage of New England? Skip the quaint country roads and stay in the city! Not only are there endless options for amazing meals (read on), but the cornucopia of colors and the brisk air coursing through the city on a sunny fall afternoon make it a spectacular place to be this time of year.
Best Tapas and Best Restaurant Overall - Tasca
1612 Commonwealth Ave. Brighton, 617-730-8002 www.tascarestaurant.com
This is the place I dream about on a regular basis. When I lived in Boston, it was always a short walk from home. Take the "B" line down Commonwealth to get to this always crowded, amazingly affordable spot, and you will not be sorry. They have entrees, but I have never ordered one. Get tapas. Our favorite is setas al jerez (above), or mushrooms in a broth deeply flavored with homemade stock, sherry and a touch of cream. On this visit we also had a wonderfully warming lamb stew (top of post); a salt cod and potato stew; fresh, marinated anchovies (behind the mushrooms); and a tortilla espanola.
Right behind the historic Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market has a massive food court, bars, restaurants and shops, as well as some of the more talented street performers you're likely to see. It is also in very close proximity to the following attractions...
The Holocaust Memorial
The Union Oyster House, the official oldest restaurant in America. It is a great place to get a bite and a frosty mug of Bass Ale.
The Bell in Hand, our favorite among the row of bars along Union Street that fill up on weekend nights or after games and concerts at the nearby Bank North Garden.
Best Restaurant Earning National Recognition - Oleanna
134 Hampshire St. Cambridge, 617-661-0505
Ana Sortun's cozy, yet elegantly designed place on a quiet street in Cambridge is a unique gem of a restaurant. The menu consists of creative interpretations of Turkish and other Middle Eastern Cuisine through a local, seasonal lens. The menu changes throughout the year and incorporates many foods from the farm that Sortun's husband runs outside the city. We ate light, feathery pumpkin falafel; veal that was shredded and so scrumptiously moist, that it was quite like duck confit; and lamb steak with a perfect crusty char that was accompanied by a wonderful, up-market take on moussaka. We loved every bite and hope all of these dishes are in Sortun's new cookbook, Spice, so we can try them at home.
Best Raw Bar - Jasper White's Summer Shack
50 Dalton St. Boston, 617-867-9955 www.summershackrestaurant.com
The great selection of mostly New England and Canadian oysters are always fresh and resplendent with the salty goodness of the ice cold Atlantic waters. All the food is good, but the most special item at summer shack is the fried clams. If you haven't eaten fried clams in New England, you may not be aware that they are completely different from the greasy fried clam sticks made from frozen strips of something that may have once been a shellfish. Fried clams with bellies are fat, juicy, fresh and amazing with tartar sauce. Summer Shack does them better than any place.That's me on Newbury. The picture isn't really blurry; it was just incredibly windy that day. I love how the Hancock tower in the background nearly blends into the sky. That is what the architect, IM Pei, intended.
Best Place to Shop - Newbury Street
I love hunting for bargains at Downtown Crossing (home of the famous Filene's Basement), but Newbury is where it's at. Whether you're more Gap and Niketown or Armani and French Connection, you will be happy here. There are also some unique clothing and home boutiques, a first rate knife sharpener, an independent book shop and a Hello Kitty store. It also wins the award for Best People-Watching. Get a table outside at Stephanie's or snag the window seat at Starbuck's and you're set.
Best Place to View the Foliage - The Esplanade
The stretch of the Charles River on the Boston side is a perfect place for a morning jog, or a quiet stroll with a cup of coffee in your mittened hand. The trees that shelter you are shedding their fall colors, but the views of downtown Boston, the Prudential and Hancock Towers and my favorite, the new Zakim Bridge, fight with the leaves for your attention. Start at Kenmore Square and go as far as the Longfellow Bridge to take it all in.
Best Bed & Breakfast - The Gryphon House
9 Bay State Rd. Boston, 617-375-9003 www.innboston.com
Staying here was one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had. We stayed in the Garden Room, one of eight unique suites in this beautiful brownstone a few steps from Kenmore Square. Coming from Florida, we were thrilled to have a fireplace, and the wet bar did not go to waste. I rarely think hotels are worth the high rates, but this place (less expensive than ANY of the Boston hotels) actually made our trip even better. We walked to the Charles to jog in the mornings, had easy access to the "T" at Kenmore and were five minutes from Newbury and Boylston streets.