Saturday, May 28, 2005

real smoky BBQ in Maine, YWCA Boston, three sons' homage to their Italian mom

Here are some more great inns and restaurants in New England. Hopefully my fridnds won't get too jealous upon reading these... My mother did. Hah.

>Beale Street Barbeque and Grill
We dropped by this Memphis BBQ place in Bath, Maine, on our way to Acadia National Park from New Hampshire. It wasn't planned, but the wonderful smell of their smoke house in the back of the restaurant, which happened to be next to a public parking, was just irresistible. And it was a telltale sign of good Southern BBQ. The shredded pork literally melts in your mouth. The cornbread isn't one of those chokingly dry, pasty, yellow sponge, but a moist and flavorful delight. The excellent spicy smoked sausage has a perfect accompaniment of home made baked beans, rice, and refreshing cole slaw. Especially the taste-bud-caressing harmony of the spicy sausage and tomato-flavored rice, which is far from the usual overcooked, soggy, bursting-around-the-edges fare. With many choices under $10, it's a great lunch stop, especially when you've driven for too long without proper supply of food (like we did).

>Boston YWCA's Berkeley Residence
It's a YWCA, so there's no frill. And it costs you $90 for a double room. Then why bother?

Well, because $90 is an impossible deal in the heart of Boston. We did several searches for hotels under $100 in Boston, and all we got were two hotels in some unheard-of suburbs where the nearest public transportation is two miles away, if at all. On the other hand, the YWCA is on the edge of the South End residential neighborhood, and less than five T stops away from everything. Such hip streets as Newbury and Boyleston, which are studded with restaurants and boutiques and are fun to roam around, if a bit too overpriced to actually participate in their commercial buzz, are within walking distance. We enjoyed all the amusement of the city which should have been out of reach if we had stayed at one of the suburban hotels for twenty dollars more.

The rooms are bare. But it is cleaner than many hotels. It is also well-equipped for longer-staying guests (such as abundant towel racks and more-than-enough storage space), which cannot be a bad thing for a brief stay. Our room had two single beds, but it wasn't a problem--we could haul one next to the other all right. :-P For the public shower, flip-flops would be a wise idea. They would have made me much happier. Not that the shower room was filthy, but it just doesn't feel good to step in a little puddle with someone else's hair floating in it.

Full breakfast (extensive choices of cereals, breads and juices, coffee, cooked-at-the-order eggs, fruits) is included. With its minimalist and thrifty interior, dim lights, and several solitary, tired, older residents who seemed to have been there for decades, it is probably a very dipressing place to stay alone for an extended period of time. But if you have a company, male or female, a short stay will be just all right. (Yup, they now accept male guests.)

>Monica's Trattoria
We wandered into the North End neighborhood during our stay in Boston. It's been an authentic Italian neighborhood with probably the most European city scape. Unfortunately we didn't come across any "Italian grandmas chatting in the street" as our guide book stated it, due to the extremely cold and soggy weather, but the real deal of the neighborhood is its great Italian food. Ranging from cheap slices of pizza (probably excellent) to sophisticated modern Italian cuisine, with some bakeries and grocery stores, there's plenty to choose from when it comes to food. We chose the Monica's Trattoria on Prince St. Its red/green/yellow design of the wall looked promising. The menu features home made fresh pasta (such as musuroom-stuffed ravioli in herb cream broth) and brick-oven-baked pizza (roasted eggplant, plum tomatoes, and mozzarella is one of the choices). We had their daily specials--Sauteed Clam with Tomato Fettuccine and Homemade Italian Sausage with Mushed Potato Ravioli. Both were excellent--the flavors were robust, and all the ingredients were in a perfect, mouthwatering harmony. Even though it is only a decade old, it is rated as one of the best in the country. To know that the owners/chefs are three brothers, whose mom (the namesake, of course) has an import grocery store just across the street is a nice Italian touch.


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