Day 4. Boston. Sneaker, Shirts, Steak

In which we take care of some tasks necessary for all travellers (shopping!), have an excellent sandwich for lunch, and dine out on some delightful steak.


One of the (many, many) fun things to do on holiday is shopping. Buying some stuff that is new, interesting, impossible to get at home or much cheaper to get where you are (art supplies in New York compared to Melbourne! We came back with a ton of paper, paint and pencils) or just different. Yay shopping!

One of the most annoying things to do on holiday is shopping. Away on holiday and you need to get something mundane but necessary. Maybe you forgot to pack it (I never, ever remember to pack a hat when travelling, which actually works out fine as baseball caps are readily available and make fine mementos), maybe you lost something important (somewhere in Arizona in 2003 I left my razor plugged in charging when we checked out of the motel), maybe something just broke or ran out. And then you have to take time away from your precious holiday activities, navigate strange foreign ways (How can I be sure the toothpaste will taste the same?) and after all that you are just back where you started in the first place. Boo, shopping!

Sneakers & Shirts

Which is to say that after a very busy day of walking, I discovered that the orthotic inserts in my sneakers were absolutely fine for a couple of hours casual strolling and even for a fair old workout at the gym. But after six or eight hours of pavement pounding, it turns out that chunks of firm plastic positioned to keep your arches up and your feet from splaying out like a distressed duck get quite sore and even a bit blistery. So first order of business was to find some nice soft gel inserts.

Which is, to be honest, not what you want to hear about. Enough to say that three different sports-shoe shops in downtown Boston didn’t have sneaker inserts but we found them at a pharmacy, and spent most of the rest of the day gently wandering around buying some nice shirts (I’m wearing one of them right now!) and a few other bits and bobs.

Speaking of wandering around Boston, here is a view of the Custom House Tower, an elegant early skyscraper dating from 1915. In the foreground is part of a linear park created on the grounds of an old railway line, now studded with greenery, art, water features and nice places to sit, relax and have a pleasant drink.

Tourist tip – make sure you have comfy, worn-in shoes for your holiday. I mean, everyone knows that, but holiday walking isn’t always the same as at-home walking.

It was a rock lobster (roll)

Our excellent sandwich today was a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster.

A lobster roll at its simplest is some good fresh lobster, lightly bound in mayonnaise, served in a hot-dog bun that has been split from the top down, buttered and lightly grilled. There are fancy versions with all kinds of toppings (we’ll see some of those when we get to Portland) but Luke’s serves the classic style with just a sprinkle of seasoned salt on top.

The meat was fresh, sweet, succulent and delicious. The slaw was fresh and crisp, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette, and perky with poppy-seeds. Even the soda was delicious!

Steak – Smith and Wollensky

So, one of the things we like to do when we travel is compare things. Compare things that are similar, compare things that are different, just as long as they are comparable they are fair game. It’s interesting, it’s fun, and it makes you think.

Another thing we like to do when we travel is eat. I know, I said I wouldn’t dissect every single meal we ate. But unless you want to see pictures of the shirts, there’s not much else to talk about this day. And bear with me, there’s a theme gently rolling into sight.

So put the two together. What are some things that are similar enough to compare, different enough to contrast, and common enough to reliably find?

I mean, yes, art, architecture, local throat-singing techniques. And also yum cha, burgers, and steaks. They’re everywhere!

Smith and Wollensky is a chain of steakhouses, technically an international chain with restaurants in London and Taipai, but most of them in the US. We love a plucky local hero of a restaurant, fueled by the love and passion of the owners. They can be unique, creative, and brilliant. But a chain can bring plenty of good things too – good staff training, good managers, deep corporate pockets for a high-end fit-out and a great wine list, and organisational buying power to source quality ingredients.

The Atlantic Wharf branch is a steakhouse in the old school mould – dark panelling, cozy booths and banquettes, a great big marble-topped bar, and staff dressed up in waistcoats and ties, very natty indeed.

The menu is also classic steakhouse. Classic cuts of beef, classic sauces. classic sides. Not a ton of creativity on display in the menu, and that’s okay – there’s definitely a place for the classics.

I’m not sure if it’s still available, but when we visited we had the After Eight menu – three courses from a slightly reduced menu and unlimited wine from a choice of four (a Spanish cava, a Chilean chardonnay, and Californian pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon the night we were there, all very nice). At $80 per person it’s an excellent deal.

Tuna “poke” – really a tartar, with pickled watermelon radish, charred avocado, lotus root crisps and a wasabi emulsion.

Bacon salad. I have to admit I was surprised by this. By bacon salad I was expecting some greens and some slices of lovely crispy bacon. What arrived was a huge slab of truly excellent belly bacon, with a complex burnt-caramel, orange and bourbon gastrique and some completely anomalous sprigs of Thai basil. This is manly steakhouse food taken to the next level.

Eye fillet, gorgonzola sauce, applewood smoked bacon. Cooked to an accurate medium rare, perfectly tender as eye fillet should be, the sauce was heftily blue-cheesy without being overpowering.

Eye fillet again, with a coffee rub and a pleasantly warm ancho butter drizzle and topped with a giant pile of crispy onion strips. I haven’t seen that much fried alium as a garnish since the ’90s, I think. It was a retro joy to go through.

We had side dishes of grilled mushrooms (simple, classic, delicious) and hash browns (sadly rather soggy and the least exciting dish of the meal. We should probably have gone with the fries, but were trying to eat things we couldn’t get at home, hence hash browns.). And with that we were quite full.

Unable to fit dessert, our excellent waitress insisted that it be packed for us to take home.

A very nice chocolate cake with a Bailey’s flavoured chcolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache. Mr. Cow was impressed.

Overall it was a classic steakhouse experience. Really good beef, well cooked, tasty sauces, very nice surrounds and excellent service.

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