Friday, September 30, 2011

Part 2 - Eating Our Way Through Boston; Fall Foliage Tour and Little Italy

Thursday was an all day "fall foliage" bus tour that started in Boston and took us to a state park in north central Massachussetts and ended up at a fruit farm in southern New Hampshire. There wasn't as much color to see this early in the season, but that was the price we paid for booking around the Red Sox rather than our actual anniversary in early October. It was still beautful nonetheless. Here is one of the better photos:
Our first stop was at a little place near Groton, MA called Johnson's Dairy Bar.
It's too bad this wasn't our lunch stop, because they were serving up some fried clams in paper bags with a bit of the grease soaking through that smelled absolutely divine. This was just a quick 15 minute stop though, so I settled for a scoop of their homemade pumpkin ice cream. If you love pumpkin pie, just imagine how good the first bite of the season tastes, then multiply that by about 1000. Just the right amount of spice packed into a scoop of creamy, frozen goodness. My straight-as-an-arrow-steady-as-a-rock husband had vanilla. It was a delicious vanilla beany vanilla, but vanilla just the same. They must have had at least 30 flavors to choose from, but the pumpkin definitely rocked.
We piled back into the bus and headed north through the beautiful tree-lined back roads into southern New Hampshire and a town called Rindge. This was our lunch stop, a rustic little restaurant called J.P. Stephens Tavern. When we first boarded the bus that morning, we were handed a menu:
Take note of the background photo on that menu - it's the farm we will visit later in the day. The bus driver came around and took our orders before he even started up the bus, then he called ahead so they would have everything ready for us. He makes that same trip several times a week during the season, so he was on a first name basis with everyone up there. We were running a little late on the tour, so we didn't arrive for lunch until close to 1:30. At first glance, the place doesn't look very exciting:
That's my husband Brad, and Francis the bus driver/tour guide in the parking lot. They had been chatting after lunch. The inside of the restaurant was a lot better, I loved the stained glass windows.
There were 18 of us on the bus, which was fun because it was a pretty diverse group. There were people from Israel, England and Scotland, and also folks from Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma. When we arrived we were welcomed by Lisa, the owner. It was formerly known as Lily on the Pond, but she bought it several years back and named it after her two sons. Sadly, our driver told us she recently lost one of them in a car accident. They had a private room all set up for us, and our meal started off with a small glass of apple cider and a basket of warm breads which included some delicious applesauce bread. We were served an incredible amount of food, and the price of $14.50 included tax and tip. Brad had the roast beef, it looked perfectly cooked and probably didn't need the gravy:
My Apple Brandy Walnut Chicken was delicious, even though the sauce looked a little funky at first glance:
I actually think I would have liked it better without the walnuts though. I was a big fan of the green beans, they were pretty and perfectly cooked. Our dessert was a peach/apple crisp topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Small as in a 1-1/2 inch melon ball sized scoop.
I felt a little guilty having ice cream again since I had just had some at 10 o'clock in the morning, but what the heck - I was on vacation! The whole dessert was the perfect sized serving, not too much after such a big meal. The "crisp" was more chewy than crisp, but it was tasty anyway. We boarded the bus again and headed to another small town, Hollis, New Hampshire.

Our last stop of the day was at the Brookdale Fruit Farm. It had been raining off and on all day and had just stopped when we arrived at the farm. I love how everything looks so washed clean and fresh after a rain, the colors seemed to pop even more than if the sun were shining.
I loved this place, it was absolutely beautiful! We shopped inside and came away with jams, maple syrup, apple cider donuts - I can't wait to try the MacIntosh Apple Jelly I bought. They had homemade breads, muffins, salsas, pies, honey, fresh veggies and of course, lots and lots of apples and pumpkins.
The rain started up again as soon as we boarded the bus to head back to Boston, but all in all it was a really fun day. After all the walking we had done the day before in Boston on the Freedom Trail, and then walking to and from Fenway Park, it felt really good to relax on a big, comfortable bus and just enjoy the day.

Our last outing was on Friday. We had missed seeing some of the places on the Freedom Trail either because of the rain or just didn't have time, so we decided to take on Boston public transportation. With the help of a map and the Sheraton concierge, we braved the subway and found it to be not only a cheap way to get around the city, but it was also easy and pretty fast. Our first stop was back to the North End neighborhood, where we walked through Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church. The North End is also known as "Little Italy", and just about every other business is an Italian restaurant. We stopped and looked at many of them, read their menus, and found that we really weren't in the mood for a sit-down-white-tablecloth type of place. The next place we saw was called simply "Express". It looked like more of a fast food place but in a nice open setting with no windows. Our clue that this was our place was the guy behind the counter in the white t-shirt and apron. I took this picture from across the street:
A nice, casual place that seemed to be a popular spot for the locals.
I chose a sub called the Panino. If I had known how big it was I might have reconsidered, but Brad helped me eat it. We ordered at the front counter and then they called our name when our food was ready, so there was no need for tipping. Another plus was that they made everything right there. That gorgeous, homemade roll had proscuitto, tomatoes, homemade fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil. What more could you ask for?
Is that not a thing of beauty? The bread was chewy in a good way, and everything was so fresh and good. Did you notice the cheap paper plates this was served on? It's a good thing we had trays available because there's no way that plate would have held that beast of a sandwich. Brad had a big slice of pizza, and with drinks I'm pretty sure we got out of there for less than $20. This was definitely a great way to end the week! My husband is already talking about going back to Boston someday... and I know there are many, many more yummy posibilities waiting for us when we do.

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