Monday, March 17, 2014

eastern standard and the hawthorne

A couple weeks ago, Caitlin and I took a "freelancer's weekend" - Wednesday through Friday - in Boston, to do some of the things we'd meant to do and never got around to when she actually lived there, like the Aquarium (disappointing compared to New Orleans) and the MFA (fantastic). Blog-relevant: our lunch at Eastern Standard and drinks at the Hawthorne, both of which are located in our hotel, the Hotel Commonwealth.

Eastern Standard was crowded as shit, and our first attempt to eat there failed - we were tired and hungry, the place was packed, it was freezing cold, and there was a half hour wait. We tried again for lunch the next day - still packed, but there was a free table.

Cheese Plate

We started with the cheese plate, and I have an awful memory for cheese plates and always wish they came with a card to remind you what you've eaten. The sheep's milk and semisoft cheeses on the left and middle were great; the blue, well, I was able to finish it, but ought to remember to specify "no blue" when I order cheese plates.

Chocolate-cardamom egg cream; guayaba arabica (rum, guava, coffee)

The chocolate-cardamom egg cream Caitlin ordered was a highlight of the weekend, but my rum drink - Guayaba Arabica, Naomi Levy's award-winning combination of rum, guava nectar, coffee syrup, lime juice, and cilantro - was terrific too.

Pork belly, escargots, pickled mushrooms

Our appetizer was small - my only complaint - but maybe the single best bite of food we had all weekend: cubes of pork belly paired with garlicky escargots, some kind of herb puree, and very tart pickled mushrooms. It was Caitlin's first encounter with escargots and my best - I've only had them on their own before, but paired with rich pork they were even better.

I did the "two apps as an entree" thing and went all-raw: oysters and steak tartare.

Oysters
Steak Tartare

Both were great - the steak tartare was just right, the right temperature, seasoned just enough, not too busy. It's easy to get steak tartare wrong, especially these days when it's fallen out of favor.

Caitlin had the moules provencal, which were nice and fennelly.

Moules Provencal

We went to the Hawthorne twice - once for late-night drinks our first night there, and then just after opening the next night, for drinks and "a dinner of snacks." We were waited on mainly by Amanda (both nights), but also talked to, and were brought drinks by, bar manager Jackson Cannon.

The Hawthorne
The Hawthorne's menu

The Hawthorne serves mainly small plates, as you can see. It's a great space - really comfortable and low key, with great people. They treated us very well, and comped us some of our food and two drinks both nights. Not pictured are the pretzel nuggets we had with beer mustard, after our initial deviled eggs and mixed pickle plate:

Pickle plate and deviled eggs
That's pickled brussels sprouts, pickled cranberries, pickled mushrooms, pickled chickpeas, and I think I'm forgetting something. Turnip or something?

There's no way I'll remember what order we had our drinks in:

Naked and Famous
Mine. The Naked and Famous: mezcal, Aperol, chartreuse, lime. I have so much trouble mixing with mezcal myself, and Caitlin isn't a fan of it or tequila so I've stopped putting much work into it, but this was great.


Hanky Panky
Mine. Hanky Panky (gin, Fernet, vermouth). A classic, well-executed.

Amaro Nardini and soda
Mine. They had a lot of amari I hadn't tried and can't buy in New Hampshire, so I decided to try one of them, Nardini, with soda water.

Rum drinks: Marshall Islands swizzle, "something bitter with coffee liqueur"
Rum drinks. Caitlin's on the left - a Marshall Islands swizzle, with rum, ginger, honey, and lime juice. They really know what they're doing with ginger at the Hawthorne - that informed one of my later choices. My drink here was a special request - "something bitter with coffee liqueur in it." I think they used Campari, but I don't remember for sure.

Improved Bamboo Cocktail
The Improved Bamboo cocktail, one of our comped drinks they thought we'd like. Sherry, dry vermouth, and sweet vermouth. My first sherry cocktail, and it was fantastic - one of the best drinks we had.

Framboise Sour
Special request by Caitlin: something with the framboise eau de vie they listed in the menu. I suggested a basic sour - they went the extra mile by incorporating egg white. It focused the raspberry flavor perfectly.

"Something with ginger and Campari"
Mine. "Something with ginger and Campari." I don't know what else ended up in there, but it's so good.

Fino Swizzle
Mine. The Fino Swizzle - cognac, port, cherry syrup, lemon juice, sherry, and bitters. So so good. How are the sherry drinks the best drinks? Why haven't I been paying attention to sherry drinks?

I apparently didn't get a photo of Caitlin's Phil Collins, but it was really good - cucumber vodka, lime juice, simple, and chartreuse, topped with soda. Could drink those all summer.

Since it's St Patricks Day, I ought to also mention Irish whiskey! I haven't got a photo of it, but I recently picked up a bottle of Tullamore Dew Phoenix, and it's a fantastic whiskey - my favorite new whiskey in years, incredibly smooth given the 110 proof.

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