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A few weeks in Boston, at the beginning of the year.

There were enough exciting food shops, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, pop-ups, street kitchens, trucks and diners to make us wonder quite why we’d bought return tickets home. Experimental, exciting, foodie heaven! Every day presented us with another marvel-in-the-mouthful: pastries to get up early and queue for, tempura lemon skin with salt cod croquettes to remember forever, scotch eggs to defy all sense of just-how-good-can-a-scotch-really-be (answer: VERY), magical kale salad with poached egg and garlic crumbs. A few highlights, below, from an incredibly happy, snowy, blessed, fun and fruitful American adventure. . .

Sofra, One Belmont Street, Cambridge MA, 021338 t. 617.661.3161
Ana Sortun is a gem, her cookery book, SPICE, is a treasure and her bakery, Sofra, is the biggest box of delights of them all. Trusting that flavour can come primarily from the artful use of spices and herbs (rather than the fat others often rely on through cream and butter), Ana’s Middle Eastern-inspired cakes and pastries are delicate, delicious and very special. A breakfast here of olive oil granola with orange labne and local honey, semolina pancakes with seasonal jam and a cheeky tahini donut to round off the belly. An inspiration to all of us who think we know how to shake things up at the breakfast table.

Flour bakery and cafe, 190 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge MA, 02139 t. 617.225.2525
‘Make life sweeter. . . eat dessert first!’ is the bakery’s motto and so said both of us as we walked into what felt like the inner santum of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Move along Mister Wonka as we crown Joanne Chang, chef and owner of FLOUR, the queen of all sweet treats. Homemade oreos and pop-tarts, donuts sparkling with sugar, cookies the size of your hand, chocolate-stuffed croissants, sticky buns, lemon cake, chocolate chip and coconut macaroons, this place was a seriously dangerous discovery.

The Butcher Shop, 552 Tremont Street, Boston Mass. 02118 t. 617.423.4800
A tribute to the old world European boucheries, inspired by chef Barbara Lynch’s travels around France and Italy, far too many hours can be whittled away in this this neighbourhood wine bar and full service butchers shop. With homemade sausages on display, along with slabs of foie gras and exquisite marbled cuts of local beef, this is not one for the strictly vegetarian. I lost a fair few brownie points tweeting out my foie gras-induced delight but, between you, me and the fattened duck, I’d order it all over again and struggle hard not to proclaim. I don’t spread it on my morning toast but, honestly, once in a while?!: divine. . . For a more politically correct menu choice, my beet salad with blue cheese, almonds and citrus vinaigrette was also worth quacking loudly about.

The Gallows, 1395 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118 t. 617.425.0200
This is a restaurant which knows how to have fun, be confident, surprise, entertain, delight and wow. Gin cured salmon, Guiness fish and chips, scrambled eggs with fries, gravy, cheese curds and bacon, the menu is as loud and decadent as the restaurant’s atmosphere is vibrant. Karl’s absolute-dish-of-the-trip was his gallows’ scotch egg: soft cooked egg wrapped in crispy pork sausage.

Belly Bar, One Kendall Square, Cambridge MA 02139 t. 617.494.0968
Good wine, strong cheese and cured meats: apparently simple ingredients executed to perfection in a very chilled environment. Following the rules of the classic wine bar – small sharing plates of food to accompany your tipple of choice – the comforting formula is shaken up with some real surprises and delights from the homemade charcuterie which arrives on a weathered wooden chopping board. I can’t remember eating better Jamon Iberico and the veal terrine with hints of anise was also very special.

Toro, 1704 Washington Street Boston MA t. 617.536.4300
I adore tapas and I’m addicted to croquettes so thought I’d arrived in heaven here with Toro’s tempura meyer lemon skin with salt cod croquettes. We could have sat there all day, ordering plate after plate. . .

Neptune, 63 Salem Street, Boston MA 02113 t. 617.742.3474
For the freshest local seafood and an impeccable raw bar, Neptune is where it’s at. It’s a tiny joint so the atmosphere is always lively. First class oysters, lobster sandwiches or our favourite dish – the buttermilk ‘johnny cake’ with honey butter, smoked trout tartare and Californian sturgeon caviar all find their perfect companion in an equally focussed and impeccable wine list. These guys know what they are doing and are doing it very well.

Mei Mei
If I could have brought one Boston kitchen back to London it would be this on-the-move food truck. Run by the Li siblings – Andy, Margaret and Irene – they serve up a constantly-changing menu of what they describe as ‘locally sourced Chinese-American food made with love’. With confident riffs on Chinese staples and in-your-face flavour combinations – pork liver paté cone topped with mustard whipped cream, pickle brine sprinkles and a pickled cranberry – this is some of the most creatively delicious food being served in Boston at the moment. My ‘magical kale salad’ with poached egg, feta and garlic did indeed have something magical about it. Street food shouldn’t taste quite this good. . .

 

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