Fall has officially arrived in Philly, with temps dropping as low as the 40s over the past few days. While I’m excited for the season’s arrival, along with fall foliage, apple cider, and pumpkins galore, the cold is certainly making me nostalgic for the warmth of summer.
Thinking of summer made me remember some of the truly great meals I had over the past few months, many of which I still haven’t written about (sorry for the backlog, folks!). Two of the most memorable meals were during my family vacation to Boston, and they couldn’t be more different from one another.
The first was at Bondir, an intimate 28-seat restaurant in Cambridge. Voted one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants in the country, Bondir is committed to locally farmed, sustainable cuisine that lets the freshness of the ingredients speak for themselves. The cozy interior matched the cuisine perfectly: rustic yet elegant and whimsical.
The meal started out with a selection of their homemade breads: 9 grain, The Sea, and cranberry walnut. All were excellent, but The Sea really stood out against the rest. Though I was initially skeptical of bread made with seaweed and squid ink, the combination was briny and pleasantly salty.
Next came the red norland potato and sweet corn chowder ($10). Topped with salmon roe and roasted red onions, the soup had a surprisingly sophisticated symphony of flavors. The intense saltiness from the roe was tempered by the sweetness of the corn and onions, balanced by the creamy broth.
For our entrees, we ordered farmed and foraged summer vegetables roasted and glacé with Teff polenta ($26), wagyu brisket sauerbraten with saffron glazed carrots, sorrell, and black lentils ($30), and pasture raised concord chicken over a white cornmeal cake, cipollini roasted with San Marzano tomatoes, and courgettes saute ($30) (pictured from left to right).
Every dish was absolutely delicious and carefully prepared. I was struck by how a dish as simple as roasted vegetables was elevated to elegance and refinement, highlighting the quality of the ingredients and skill of Chef Jason Bond. My favorite dish, however, was the wagyu beef sauerbraten (better photo available here). Fork tender from a long brining process, and slowly braised in a tangy glaze, the beef was luscious and flavorful, again highlighting the quality of the meat.
Our meal ended on a sweet note: peach trifle with thyme-buttermilk ice cream and meringue brulee ($10) and chocolate panna cotta with seville orange puree, rhubarb jelly, cocoa nibs, and pistacio ($10). Refined and not overly sweet, these desserts once again showed Chef Bond’s restraint and simple genius.
Complementing Bondir‘s casual-elegant cuisine is its excellent and knowledgeable waitstaff. Each server was warm and attentive, carefully describing each dish and happily answering any questions or taking any requests we had. All in all, a brilliant meal.
The second most memorable meal of the trip was actually 45 minutes outside of Boston, in the adorable town of Ipswich. Famous for the gorgeous Crane Estate (pictured above) and Ipswich clams, my family and I managed to experience both on our visit.
After our tour of the Crane Estate, we made our way over to the Clam Box, an Ipswich institution since 1935. Famous for their fried clams and fresh no-frills seafood, we knew we were in for a treat when we saw the massive line outside the restaurant.
Locals and tourists alike flock to the Clam Box for good reason. Service is friendly and efficient, and the interior is pleasantly kitschy. But the real standout at this place is the fresh seafood. The fried Ipswich clams ($14.25; pictured above) were the epitome of deep-fried deliciousness. Addictively crisp on the outside, the only thing that makes these clams better than they already are is the addition of tartar sauce. Other standouts include the lobster roll ($17), piled high with sweet lobster meat on a toasted white bun.