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While in Boston, discover the sex of your eggplant (hint: males are less bitter)

April, 2011

Boston is one of our favourite cities to roam around in.

This is best accomplished on foot or “T” (bus, subway), since driving there is a maze. To get the feel of the history of the city, what you should do is walk the Freedom Trail, where you follow an 18th-century costumed guide for 90 minutes through 16 historical sites that tell the story of the revolutionaries who dared to challenge Britain and eventually formed a nation. It is a tale of real desperate housewives and real American idols.;

To taste a part of history, try a North End Market Tour. This area has been Little Italy since the 1920s, when 90 per cent of its residents were Italian. Today they ring in at about 40 per cent. On the walk, you munch through Maria’s pastry shop and get to sample her famous sfogliatelle and torrone, as well as a half dozen other sweets. For dried herbs and spices, locals have headed to Polcari’s since 1932, and it is there that you can buy green coffee beans, if you’ve ever wanted to roast them yourself., 617-523-6032.

The surprise of the day was at Alba Produce, where we learned the gender of eggplants. Male eggplants are the ones Italians will buy, because they have fewer seeds and are less bitter. Their end has a dimple (penis). The female ones have an indent/line (labia).

To get a real taste for Boston history, take the North End Market Tour and visit Alba Produce, the Cheese Shop, V. Cirace & Son and many other food places. Photo courtesy of Sandra Phillips and Stan Posner

The Cheese Shop offers you a lesson on extra virgin olive oil, while you taste cheese and cured meats. While at V. Cirace & Son, in the same location since 1906 (the first liquor store to get a license after Prohibition), we were advised that if you drink Amaro at a meal, you make room for more food, since it makes the liver process fat more quickly. If you want to feel a part of history, you might consider staying in the Bulfinch Hotel. The hotel, with its distinct triangular flatiron exterior (like the Flatiron in New York), was named for Charles Bulfinch, the first native-born professional architect in America, who designed the first dome of the U.S. Capitol. We enjoyed the modern room design and central location near a subway station and within walking distance of Faneuil Hall, the North End, Boston Harbor, New England Aquarium and the Boston Common. They have a tapas bar and offer a price guarantee—if you find any lower rate than their site, they will beat it., 617-624-0202, 877-267-1776.

To dine really well on historically oriented food, head to tony Brookline for the unpretentious but delicious New England grill named The Fireplace. We loved the way the owner-chef, Jim Solomon, plays with sweet, salty tastes and crunchy textures., 617-975-1900.

You might start out with mini lobster rolls with green apple slaw, a raw bar or butternut squash bisque with blue cheese and pumpkin seeds. Their signature dish is the spit-roasted maple-glazed chicken.

To get into the interesting flavour combos, head for the duck confit and bok choy wrapped in a RI Johnnycake, or cider-glazed turkey with caramelized onion gravy, cranberry-orange relish and Grandma Gertie’s stuffing. And who can’t reach their inner child with desserts like peanut butter fudge on a classic chocolate chip cookie? This was one of the first restaurants to be certified “green,” and they continue their green life with a lot of attention to their vegetable side dishes. We counted 14, including sweet potato mash, chive vegetable barley, black lentil sauté, broccolini with roasted shallots, apple cider braised red cabbage, roasted turnips, parsnips, rutabaga and Boston baked beans, of course.



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