Month: October 2013

I ate where John F. Kennedy ate

Seafood is essential to Boston’s very being. Living near the ocean affords you to have plenty of digs brimming with the catch of the day.  But only one place turns fresh-from-the-ocean fare into a history lesson: Ye Olde Union Oyster House.

JFK ate here. Already, I’m sold on the place. The American president and icon (and personal hero of mine) loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth “The Kennedy Booth” has since been dedicated in his memory.

Billed as the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S., the doors have been open to diners since 1826. The building itself was built around 1704 and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Before it became a restaurant, a dress goods business occupied the property. In 1771, printer Isaiah Thomas published his newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy, from the second floor. The restaurant originally opened as the Atwood & Bacon Oyster House on August 3, 1826.

During the revolution the Adams, Hancock, and Quincy wives, often sat in their stalls of the dress goods business sewing and mending clothes for the colonists. In 1796 Louis Philippe, king of France from 1830 to 1848, lived in exile on the second floor. He earned his living by teaching French to many of Boston’s fashionable young ladies. America’s first waitress, Rose Carey, worked there starting in the early 1920s. Her picture is on the wall on the stairway up to the second floor. The toothpick was said to have been popularized in America starting at the Oyster House.

Along with great history comes good food. Take a seat at the raw oyster bar on the main floor or try the dinning room which serves up rich and creamy clam chowder, sweet scallops and live Maine lobsters as well as poultry, baked beans, steak and chops.

As popular with locals as it with tourists, the Union Oyster House is ripe with history and awash in seafood standards. It’s a mandatory stop to complete your authentic New England experience.

 

41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, United States

Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Boobs, Whipped Cream and Sage Business Advice: Steve DiFillippo’s new book "It’s All About the Guest"


“Boobs slathered in whipped cream are great, but money is better. If you want to do well in your business, you should think the same way.” –Steve DiFillippo, It’s All About the Guest.

I love this guy. I’ve yet to meet him, but I am already quite fond of him. How could that be? It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life, the Davio’s Way is no less all about the reader than it is about the guest, and I came away from the book feeling confident that he and I could be bona fide old chums.

DiFillippo is a great raconteur. In the book, his “character” leaps off the page, and you can’t help but cheer for his obsession with food and admiration for people. You are left with the sense of a man who has given himself totally to this world and who has an insatiable appetite for life.

He’s an all-in type of guy, one who shows reverence and a profound commitment to his family, friends, guests and his people. He’s inextricably bound to his upbringing. “Warm and comforting memories,” he calls them. In the book, he recounts how he grew up in the kitchens of his mother and his aunts—both Portuguese and Italian. From his Nana (grandmother) he learned that food mattered, and how it was prepared mattered. “I’m not sure where I’d be today if it wasn’t for Nana.” From his dad, he learned that it was all about having good people in your life. “You can’t get anywhere without them. And you have to treat them right. Then watch, they treat you right.” It’s clear that both his dad and Nana have had a profound effect on how he runs his business and conducts his life.

DiFillippo’s instincts and deepest beliefs are on full display in his book. His narrative shifts as he recounts the highs and the lows from childhood fat-camp, to coffee clerk, to head chef, to a multimillion dollar brand. Part The Art of the Deal, part Kitchen Confidential, with cherished recipes and practical wisdom thrown in for good measure, It’s All About the Guest is a story-driven, passionate chronicle of what it takes to triumph in the restaurant business.

But, this isn’t just a story about how to make it in business. It’s All About the Guest is a tale of DiFillippo’s personal, passionate pursuit to own and operate a successful restaurant, a quest that began when he was a young boy growing up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. It’s a story of lessons learned along the way, and it provides a recipe for success for young entrepreneurs.

DiFillippo is a model of what it means to be focused and doggedly determined. “If you want to thrive for decades, you can never let up. Not even when a topless server flings whipped cream in your face.” Well put Steve, well put.

It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life, the Davio’s Way” by Steve Fillippo is available at Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.

Davio's on Urbanspoon

El Camino. Go for the tacos but stay for the salad.

El Camino is the most trendy, of-the-moment, “it” hot-spot in Ottawa right now. Imagine a taco stand that’s achingly cool and a haven for O-Town’s social butterflies. Taking no reservations and making eager diners line up forever-and-a-day to gain entry only serves to perpetuate its mystique. But make no mistake about it, the food is worth the wait.

This gourmand outpost built its fast-developing reputation on the strength of the tacos. The tacos are what has lured most. And the tacos are good. Delicious, in fact. We sampled four of the five on the menu: Beef, Cripsy Fish, Pork and Ox Tongue. Surprisingly, the latter was the favourite of the bunch. Tender charred meat was well married with the sloppy collection of sauces, spices and toppings. The fact that the “winning” taco was delectable helped with the reality that I was tasting something that could once taste me back.

But if you’ve come for the tacos, please stay for the salad. What was a throw-away suggestion (…wanna try a salad?”) turned into a gastronomical event of epic proportions. I’m talking about the
Green Papaya Salad. This noteworthy gem combines strips of green papaya, bean sprouts and tomatoes tossed with fish sauce, peanuts, garlic and lime juice. This salad cleverly achieves the artful balance between sweet, spicy, tangy and amazing.

Now, am I suggesting that you run to El Camino to set your place in line with the mob of foodies, stumble-upons and downtown hipsters? Uh, yes. But once you get in, just don’t forget to order the salad.

El Camino is located at 380 Elgin St. in Ottawa.

Starting from the left, pork, fish, tongue and beef tacos.

El Camino on Urbanspoon