It's fair to say we're spoiled by choice in Boston, as far as eating goes. It's a land of plenty, culinarily speaking, and we're well aware that we're lucky to have our pick of whatever cuisine we want, when we want it. The tricky thing about all those options, though, is that sometimes we're too damn lazy — or overwhelmed — to make a decision. The neighborhood, a cuisine, a name you recognize, a chef you follow . . . the decisions are endless, and we're starving.
What, we found ourselves wondering, might it be like to relinquish freedom of choice for one day, to put our gastronomic fate into someone else's hands and trust them to steer us straight? With that in mind, we came up with this rather novel idea. You, the reader and diner, are getting out of town for a few days on a culinary adventure. You'll wander from bistro to bar, entrée to cocktail, letting the cities' bartenders, chefs, and servers choose what you consume. Fare thee well, intrepid traveler, and have no fear: we'll be right there with you every bite of the way.
COMMUTER RAIL: 45-50 MINUTES, $20/ROUND TRIP
LODGING: BILTMORE PROVIDENCE
After an hour on the commuter rail, listening to older couples have empty conversations about their beach homes, you stumble out of the station and blink in the sunlight. Hot damn, Providence is quiet. Alone on the street, you're suddenly too aware of the sound your shoes are making.
Ditching your bags, you strike out for Matt and Kate Jennings' joint, FARMSTEAD & LA LAITERIE BISTRO. It's a near-vertical hike up and over College Hill — but word is the chicken livers are not to be missed, so you power on to Wayland Square.
Fanning yourself at the bar, you ask for anything that will cool you down in a hurry. Your bartender, Dave, places "the Forager" in front of you. He's switched out the drink's standard rum and replaced it with crisp gin, shot through with cucumber and purple basil, and after a few sips you decide you trust this bearded maker of drinks.
The cheese arrives first, perfect wedges lined up on a slate, dashes of local 4Town Farm rhubarb jam and Matt's herbed candied nuts alongside. The tart jam explodes the buttery texture of the Cremont, a pasteurized cow and goat's milk cheese from Vermont Creamery, into a million feathery shards in your mouth. You clear out your palate with a swig of your Grüner before going for the Brigid's Abbey, a Trappist-style monastery cheese. You dribble a little of the accompanying honey over it, and it's like falling into a thick down duvet, warm from the sun.
You snap out of it to find the infamous seared chicken livers steaming before you. Coated in pan jus and house-cured bacon, they retain a distinct iron bite, and when combined with the salt of the bacon, become something both hearty and comforting, yet alien. You decide that the beer-battered onion rings on the side are the best you've ever scarfed down.
Sea bass at Nick's on Broadway
The next stop on this crazy food train isNICK'S ON BROADWAY. At a request for tequila, the bartender plops down the single spiciest firework of a drink you've ever ventured to taste. She tells you it's the house "Citrus Spice," a blend of white tequila, mezcal, Aperol, grapefruit, and pickled local chiles. Well chosen, lady.