Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boston, North Shore: Salisbury Beach and MA Seabrook N.H.

September 11th to September 17th 2006

The two seaside resorts Salisbury Beach, Massachussets and Seabrook, New Hampshire divides a long barrier island north of the old seaport of Newburyport. Here you find, in my opinion, the finest beach along the coastline on the North Shore. During the summer season the two towns and the nearby resort of Hampton Beach are crowded with tourist and summerguests. The two communities are predominantly summer resorts. Labour Day, in the beginning of September marks the end of the summer season, but the heat will last at least to the end of September. If you travel off-season you can get some good deals, either to rent a house, or a hotel room.

In 574 North End Boulevard in Salisbury, you can occasionally see a Norwegian flag on the 1st floor terrace. That is the home of my cousin Ann Eastman McDonnell, born in Oslo and left for the US with my uncle and aunt just after the 2nd World War.

The last four years we've rented a beach-front two-bedroom house. This time we rented a beautiful three-bedroom house a little further down, on the corner of Atlantic Avenue, that follows the beach, and New Hampshire Street.

There are a few restaurants by the beach, however the first evening my cousin Ann had decided to take us to China Buffet in Salisbury (picture). I have been there once before, and it is a great experience. You do not know where to start, and you do not know how to stop. There are so many delicious things to eat. Here are some. Crab Rangoon - Coconut Chicken - Panfried Dumplings - Fried Ribs - General Tsao's Chicken - Baked Shrimps - Fried Wontons - Crabs with cheese - Stuffed Mushrooms - Steamed Dumplings - Fried Noodles - Filled Lobster Roll, and this is only a selection. You can also get a selection of Sushi and Sashimi, and desserts. And do drink a bottle of Tsingtao with the food!

Wednesday we travelled along the coast to Portsmouth, then on to the Maine Outlets in Kittery - just over the state line. For the shopoholics this is the place to go. Numerous brand name stores along the road as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Izod, and Tommy Hilfiger. Then we travelled along the coast through the historic seaport of York ME, with its old historic houses on to Ogonquit, ME. Ogonoquit is a charming town and is, along with Provincetown MA, known for its large gay scene. So this is really a town after my heart, but sadly - we drove through heading for the first exit to the freeway back to the beach. But hunger struck - so we stopped for lunch at the Olive Garden, 2048 Woodbury Avenue, Newington NH, just outside Portsmouth.

At Olive Garden we were well taken care of, ordering Manicotti Formaggio. This after a delicious salad and bread with olive oil. I followed the recommandations of the house and ordered a glass of Straccali Chianti, described as
having "soft berry flavors that help bring out the full range flavor of the pasta and sauce." The others choose the eggplant parmegiana.

On Thursday we visited the wonderful historic seaport of Newburyport. Visiting this great historic seaport is a must if you travel along the coast. In the middle of the city we found Greta's Great Grains Bakery and Cafe at 24 Pleasant Street. This is an Austrian bakery, where you can buy Stollen, Strudel, Sachertorte and Napoleon. We choose the latter, with a good mug of coffee - delicious! The pastry looked great and it even got a favourable review in the New York Times.

Friday we decided to take a stroll to Salisbury Beach. This beachside resort is now is now rapidly changing. Old decaying houses are giving way for new expensive condominiums. If you go to Salisbury Beach you have to visit Jillys Pizzeria at 26 Broadway. Jilly herself is Lebanese but the menu is definitely italian. We ordered a spinach pie with sesame seed, and had a lunch in the beautiful sunshine. As I understood later, Jilly is an institution at Salisbury beach and runs the restaurant with her daughter.

Then we visited another institution - Uncle Eddy's on Ocean Boulevard. Uncle Eddy's dates back a long time. My cousin told me that the used to hang out there in the 60's. The last time I visited this bar was in 1999. Then it was charming, but rather shabby. Now it is run by Mike Pacheco, and he and his wife has redecorated the bar. The best thing is that it has been done in a way that you still feel the old atmosphere. The bar has a nice out area as well, where you can enjoy the fresh air with all the smokers that have been banned from smoking inside. So if you go to Salisbury Beach and want some nice place to have a drink - go to Uncle Eddy's. They have evening live music too. I had a glass of Seasonal Samuel Adams - Oktoberfest, very refreshing amber ale. Having problem with what then to drink, Eric gave me some samples - Blue Moon , a Belgian style white beer with citrus, or a blueberry flavoured beer from Sea Dog Brewing company in Maine. I usually keep away from fruit flavoured beers as they tend to be sweet, but this one was very refreshing. So I had two.

Saturday we took Ann and Pete out for dinner at Eastmans Docks Restaurant at River Street, Seabrook Beach. The restaurant and the deep sea fishing firm used to be run by Ann and her 1st husband Bill. Now it has been taken over by Lester Eastman and his sister Merrilee. This is definitely place to eat. I had the most delicious Baked Stuffed Haddock w/ seafood stuffing & lobster sauce.

Saturday evening the deep sea fishing prepared to take 80 gay men out to sea, and we were to meet them again as we went down to Salisbury beach that evening. After a couple of hours at Uncle Eddy's we ended up at Chef Howies Hobo Cafe at 5 Broadway, Salisbury Beach. At 9 PM the gay crowd on the barrier Island and beyond gathered for karaoke. What a great last night in the US! The place was clearly dominated by the gay bear-culture, i.e. the anti-trend for big and beautiful gay men. But could they sing? No, except for one. Did that matter - not at all. It was great fun!!!

Tomorrow I'll share some New England Home cooking.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Boston, South Shore: Scituate, MA

September 9th to September 11th 2006

The south shore of Boston you escape from the urban jungle into another jungle. Lush woodlands hiding wealthy neighbourhoods with houses comfortably far apart along secluded country roads. If you choose to drive along the coast, take Jerusalem road south, where large mansions face the sea. You can enjoy a day at the Nantasket beach or turn around and travel towards Cape Cod. The South Shore is beautiful, charming, scenic, representing all what New England is supposed to be. I usually stay in Scituate on the Irish Riviera, where green, white and yellow flags compete with the Star-Spangled Banner. Here I stay with the Brady’s at 54 Kenneth Road.

And you eat well at the south shore. But I am also fortunate to enjoy some American home cooking. This as the South Shore is the nearest place to Norway for me to call home, and believe me – Erica Eastman Brady is a great cook.

But before we come to that, I mentioned that we missed our Dim Sum. Instead we decided to eat Italian, heading for a large mall in Hannover MA, where we found Bertucci’s, serving brick oven pizzas and pasta. At the end of the 80,s the only Bertucci’s I knew was situated a block away from Harvard Square. It was a charming small-scale restaurant. Now Bertucci’s is a chain found all over New England.

I am not very happy about chains. As the number of restaurants multiplies, the overall quality of the food seems to fall. But we decided to have a try.

Being seriously hungry, we decided to have a large meal (See menu). In fact we were so filled up after the meal, that we hardly ate anything the rest of the day.

First we were served wonderful crisp ciabatta with herb infused olive oil to dip. Then we ordered an antipasto misto to share, with of a large variety of different ingredients - Brick oven-roasted peppers, zucchini, artichokes, olives, prosciutto, fresh asparagus, broccoli, fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes served with baby field greens and balsamic vinaigrette. To share, this was perfect for three, with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. Then Laila and I ordered a favourite – Lobster Ravioli.

Oversized, home-style ravioli stuffed with sweet lobster in a cream sauce with diced plum tomatoes and fresh orange. Delicious!! The other members of the party ordered Eggplant Parmegiana – aubergines topped with marinara sauce, made al forno with cheese on the top. As we ordered the restaurants special choice of wine, we were offered free desert to share, a trilogy of Cannoli, Chocolate cake, and Tiramisu, but give me break. After a large antipasto and a substantial main course it was neatly wrapped and brought home to the refrigerator in Kenneth road. And the price? For a Scandinavian the neat sum of $130 for a three-course meal for five, with wine and soft drinks is dead cheap. And believe me – as chains go, this was a great surprise!
If you want to eat in Scituate, you have some nice places close to the harbour. The Mill Wharf is a wooden structure built by the seafront with large windows so you can enjoy the view. They have a traditional menu with steamers, fried seafood, assorted meats pasta and pizza and of course, if you are just a little hungry, snacks as fried onion rings, buffalo wing, potato skins.
Then you can go on to TK O’Malley’s, an Irish place to hang out. I’ve had a few drinks there and ended up with ”TK-O’Malley flu” more than once. Saturday we ended up there for lunch – had Buffalo Tenders (do not tell me that I’m predictable – I have a ritualized relationship to Buffalo chicken in all variations), a baked Cod Sandwich with fries and – two Samuel Adams on draught, and had a sip of a divine Bloody Mary. Food – good, but not great, it was the view on the deck in front of the restaurant that was great!

So – to the home cooking! Sunday evening was lobster dinner take 1. More on this later.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Staying at the Collonnade Hotel - the ultimate experience?

I was very excited managing to book two nights at the Colonnade hotel at www.hotels.com for less than $150 a night. Described as an elegant business class hotel situated in the Back Bay area with a gourmet restaurant and a rooftop pool.
Arriving at the main entrance, we were guided into an elegant reception by a busy porter - impressed by the huge flower arrangement under a large chandelier, soft sofas, stone floors, oriental rugs, deep comfortable sofas...... Finding out that one of the hotels main attractions, the pool, had been closed for the season. Well, I know that we travelled out of season, i.e. after labour day. But still the temperature outside was over 80F and were to stay at that level for the rest of the weekend. SO - what a disappointment for us!
We were guided to our room at the 3rd floor. A good-sized room with two large beds, a desk and two comfortable chairs. There were also one decent sized closet. The bathroom had terracotta coloured stone floors and tiles, and a bathtub with shower. Being situated close to heavy traffic the hotel had invested in isolated windows, and we slept in silence in the middle of the city. We enjoyed the wonderful gym with a large range of training equipment both mornings. I walked 3 miles - before we had even started to go shopping!
So far so good - but! In a strange way we did not feel like living in a luxury hotel. The small details saw to that. A phone out of order. Cracks in the stones by the bathroom sink, wallpaper in the bathroom starting to peel off close to the ceiling. We were two, but there were only one bathrobe in the closet and the supplies of towels were low - for one. These are details, I know, but to stay in the market as a first class hotel, these small details are important.
Still the most faboulous thing about the hotel was the location. Situated behind the Prudential tower, close to the large mall and with the Arlington T-station just outside the door it was dead conveniant for us.
Would I stay there again? Maybe - but I would have expected more - definitely yes!! So we´ll see whether there will be a next time.