Gennaro’s at 5 North Square

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Insalata Verde

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Linguine Scampi & Clams

Gennaro’s at 5 North Square

North End, Boston, MA

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Drivin’ the Keys

Please excuse my tardiness in posting. I was driving down the Florida Keys this past week:

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And if you know me well, you know that the first thing I do when traveling is research where to eat.

Cue: Sparky’s Landing, in Key Colony Beach, at US 1 mile marker 53.5.

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The mojitos were fresh, but the conch fritters stole the show:

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Fried shrimp, a fish sandwich, and grilled shrimp salad were also enjoyable, and a fitting welcome to the Florida Keys:

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Of course, before we sat down to eat, we had to make a pitstop at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada at US1 mile marker 77.5. Whether ecologically-sound or not, feeding tarpon and getting attacked by pelicans was the most entertaining $2 of my life:

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After a long morning of eating, and watching tarpon eat, it was time to take a nap at Bahia Honda State Park. Despite being too windy to snorkel, it provided a great spot to rest in the sun:

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We arrived in Key West just in time for the perfect finale to our day:

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Eventide Oyster Co.

This place was meant for me. The instant I walked into Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, ME, the restaurant exuded freshness, uniqueness, and good fish. The bright aqua walls with ample bar space initially drew me in, but then the enormous array of oysters sitting on ice at the bar convinced me to try this new restaurant.

Instead of tasting the oysters, which I’m sure were fabulous, we chose to try small plates. The first plate was a Lobster Roll. But not any old lobster roll. No, this came on a steamed bun and with your choice of Hollandaise, house mayo or a brown butter vinaigrette. A lobster roll, in my mind, is not a lobster roll without mayonnaise. Since our waitress said the house mayo was very good and light, mayo was the obvious choice. My only complaint? I wish this were four times the size, it was so delectable. The warm bun with the fresh lobster meat made this the best lobster roll I’ve ever tasted.

Next up was Rare Yellowfin with soy, scallions, and radishes. While this dish wasn’t as outstanding as the lobster roll that we had just consumed, the fish had incredibly clean flavors. However, the Asian flavors were perhaps too startling, sandwiched between dishes with more subtle tastes. That being said, this was still an excellent dish.

Lastly, we enjoyed Artic Char with fried bagel bites and crème fraiche. This blows any traditional bagels and lox out of the water. The crunch of the bagel combined with the smoothy cream and of course the delicious fish made my head-spin. If you visit Eventide Oyster Co, this heavenly and different (a word used in the most positive way possible) dish is well-worth your money.

The drink menu and draught beers were something I unfortunately missed out on since we had to drive later that night. It should be noted that on our two hour drive home, despite a day full of eating, my boyfriend pulled over to purchase a Big Mac.

A Food Tour of Portland

First stop? Vervacious. This adorable shop was created by a couple who spent their work sabbaticals sailing the world. They ended up quitting their day jobs in order to start a travel inspired food business. Try the Espresso Balsamic Drizzle and Sahara Harissa Rub. Adding a bit of Spicy Chili Finishing Salt to freshly cut pineapple is mind-blowing.

We then wandered over to the Harbor Fish Market, which is a wholesale warehouse of fresh fish. I knew this place would be good the minute I saw two chefs walk into the slimy, gritty but definitely genuine fish market.

We tasted smoked mussels (check for them in the refrigerators on the right!) and learned about the laws regulating lobster trapping. Each fisherman must carry a metal measuring tool, which looks like a wrench. If a lobster’s claw is larger or smaller than the piece of metal, it must be thrown back into the water. The big lobsters are particularly important to keep in the water, as they are the ones that reproduce the most. Go figure.

Next up: Dean’s Sweets. Another husband and wife team, Dean’s Sweets offers unique truffle flavors such as Stout (which also happens to be vegan), Blueberry, and even Tequila Lime. Perhaps most creative is their version of the “Needham.” A “Needham” is a classic Maine treat composed of chocolate, mashed potato and coconut. Sound weird? Well, Dean’s Sweets takes it up a notch. Instead of using mashed potatoes, they use a potato derived ingredient: vodka.

To continue the sweets trend, we devoured blueberry ice cream samples at Captain Sam’s Ice Cream. The high butter fat count is what makes this ice cream so divine. I have eaten a lot of ice cream in my life and this surpassed most scoops. One word: wow.

Going full steam ahead with the new trend of blueberry, we stopped by Stonewall Kitchen. I’m familiar with Stonewall Kitchen’s products since it is a New England company, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a free sample of blueberry jam.

A fascinating place to visit is the Public Market House, and in particular, K. Horton Specialty Foods. The market is a co-op that gives chefs and entrepreneurs with little investment money a place to start their businesses. I enjoyed a sample of a freshly boiled bagel, as well as two delicious cheeses. One cheese, City of Ships, made from cows milk, has won many accolades.

And last, but definitely not least was beer tasting at Gritty McDuff’s. We had the pleasure of getting a behind-the-scenes look at this microbrewery, which brews beer only for the pub, not for wholesale. This was the perfect way to end our day of culinary, and caloric, wonders.

Mamma Maria, Boston

For Mother’s Day, I treated my mom to a wine tasting tour of the North End. My whole family ended the tour with a spectacular dinner at Mamma Maria, which is one of my parent’s favorite restaurants. This was my first visit and from the impeccable service, to the fabulous food, I can’t wait to go back. We were seated in a private dining room, since my mom had called earlier that week requesting a table near the window. They ended up seating us in a small room with just a four-person table–an awesome surprise.

The bread was fresh, and the pesto homemade:

We ordered the Antipasto Tower, which was a hefty $56, but oh-so-worth it. I tasted my first oysters ever, which were mind-blowing. The mozzarella is imported from a farm in Italy. The cheese was the creamiest, most delectable piece of mozzarella I’ve ever eaten.

Scallops cooked with blood orange were also a favorite part of the “antipasto tower.” Perfectly cooked, with a little crunch and citrus flavor.

My entrée was wild-mushroom ravioli:

My parents both ordered the Clam and Crab pasta:

The take-away message: wow.

If you are in the North End (and are willing to spend some dough on a meal), eat here. You will not regret it.