Tag Archives: Boston

Everything but the Pizza

 

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Those of you who spend time with me and are aware of my obsession with London may be interested to read this entry. You might call this is just a slightly belated love letter to Boston‘s recently departed and beloved Mayor, Tom Menino.

I have spent the past couple of years trying to find my place in my adopted home of Boston. Now, I’m not going to bitch about the weather, which is obvious (the weather just plain sucks here) or the restaurants, which are amazingly mediocre for such an affluent, educated, and diverse city.

It’s just that I missed the incredible intellectual, ethnic, cultural, and gastronomic diversity of my former home. It was in London that I realized that New York may be the financial capital of the world, but it is far from the world’s greatest city.

Today I am here to say that with each passing day Boston becomes more and more of a fantastic place to live, a world city. The diversity here across many parameters continues to surprise me in a positive way. I am beginning to feel like I did in London. Not a day passes in which I don’t have multiple interesting conversations on a world of topics with well-informed, thoughtful people. Most of these conversations involve people with ideas of how to make the world a better place. This desire is found in both the private and public sector and is something I usually found missing in New York where it is always about the money.

Every day with I meet people from different disciplines, different countries, different races and religions. Most are drawn here by the fact that unlike many other places in America, Boston welcomes different types of people and ideas. We have yet to fall into the myopic, nativist dialog that has gripped much of America.

This diversity and the fact that it’s welcome here has been highlighted to me twice in the past month or so. On the first occasion, I was looking at an apartment that was for sale in Brighton, a part of Boston. When I arrived the place was packed with twenty prospective buyers more than half of who were of Asian origin. Why were they there? Well it was to purchase a residence for their children who may attend one of Boston’s diverse colleges, or to move here for a career, or as an investment in a city with strong and stable real estate values, or perhaps, like London, Boston is one of the few global landing zones for people who’s homes are in places that may not always be so safe. This is increasingly the case for people from many places.

The why doesn’t really matter. All of these people add to our intellectual capital, they add to our diversity, and they make Boston a more interesting place to live. Oh yeah, they sure help real estate valuations. That apartment I was looking at sold for 15% above the asking price that day!

The second example of this diversity came this week. I had the pleasure of attending Tech Stars, which is an annual event in which 12 of the best new innovators get to pitch their ideas to an audience of investors, media, and other innovators. Boston is riddled with these events, from Tech Stars, to Mass Challenge (which now has international spinoffs), to Social Innovation Forum, run by Root Cause for innovations for with social benefit.

We got to hear twelve pitches, eight of which came from innovators born outside of the United States. The innovators came from five of the seven continents. It was great to see that all of these innovators came to Boston to pursue their dreams. Their ideas, hard work, and just their presence enrich Boston in many ways.

But why Boston? Well we have the greatest concentration of top universities in the world. We have access to capital both here and through New York a mere 200 miles away. We have a government led by people like Tom Menino, Deval Patrick, and our Senators Ed Market and Elizabeth Warren, who all understand that the nurturing of intellectual capital IS Boston’s and Massachusetts’s advantage and we don’t care where it comes from as long as it comes here and stays here. 10% of area college students are local products. 30% of all Boston area college graduates make their home in the area!

Perhaps most importantly Boston has a very large number of seasoned individuals from a diverse group of disciplines. An amazing number of them not only are willing to fund, consult, and mentor to people with ideas, we actively seek to do so. This passion for paying it forward is not only altruistic,  it keeps us fresh and involved, and it sets Boston apart as an area where we don’t care who you are or where you come from, what we care about is what you bring to our community.

So after two years, I get it. Boston is a small but very special place. Now if I could just get a decent slice of pizza…….

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Eastern Standard, Right on Time

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One night removed from a meal at Hamersley’s Bistro that could best be described as disappointing, we took a shot at Eastern Standard. This is the last meal out before the crush of holiday dinners so it was good to have a night that we didn’t have to do any cooking.

Eastern Standard is right in Kenmore Square and is part of the Commonwealth Hotel (as is Island Creek Oyster Bar).

The room is large with high ceilings, a long bar and lots of eclectic art. There are also nice tile floors in a number of areas. The menu is upscale gastropub. There is an extensive wine list with a lot of interesting wines and one of the most extensive beer lists that I’ve seen in Boston.

While we were hoping for a nice meal, we really didn’t have high expectations. We began with oysters and a charcuterie plate. There were four selections of oysters, all local. Very clean and delicious although the Barnstable (Hyannis) were the best. The charcuterie plate was a very pleasant surprise. All meats are cured in house and included country ham, an thin sliced italian sausage, four gras (excellent), sweetbread, and the surprise of the plate, turkey terrine. The Terrine tasted like stuffing. It was delicious!

Of course, this whole review is an excuse to tell you about the otherworldly Pork Porterhouse Chop. Now I usually hesitate to order pork chops as they tend to be dry. Tonight the menu hooked me by listing the following accompaniments; quince, bacon vinaigrette, sauerkraut. So the chop arrives at the table and its HUGE, bone-in. Im terrified of dryness but as I take my first slice the juices just flowed on to my plate. My first bite was delicious moist, tender with a slight BBQ flavor, but delicate. I was told that the secret is cold smoking. Now I need to figure that out! All this is even more amazing given the fact that the chop was almost free of fat! This was the best pork chop I’ve EVER had. I could go on but it would probably seem a bit oddly obsessive and you get the point!

My wife and kids had fish and steak. They said it was good, bit to be honest, I just didn’t care!

Now after a meal like that no one really needs dessert. Unfortunately, the menu hooked me again. I saw Butterscotch Bread Pudding!! I’m a sucker for anything butterscotch if for no other reason that it reminds me of my father who always had those little butterscotch candies when I was a kid. So I ordered and I ate. Amazing!! Reminded me of very good Sticky Toffee Pudding (those of you who have spent time in the UK will understand). It was sweet but not so much that you wanted to stop before it was all gone.

So now I’m home full, sleepy, and very happy. This is definitely a place to return to and will certainly be on the HKS foodies calendar for the spring. At $50 including drink, tax, and tip, its certainly good value.

Anecdotal Evidence of an Economic Recovery (or do men always dance on tables?)

As I finally arise after 10 blissful hours of sleep to a balmy 12 degree day in Boston, I am happy to be home. This is for at least two reasons. For those of you who read my previous post you know that I no longer like being away from my family, I missed them from the moment I left. Not to mention that we have our first big snow of the year coming and it will be nice to do a bit of sledding.

The second reason is that the 10 hours of sleep I got last night was approximately equal to the sum of sleep of the three previous nights. When I signed up for the red eye flight, I completely forgot that during the holiday season in London, festive drinking begins at noon and ends when no one will fill your glass any longer.

It really was a fun trip. I got to catch up with almost everyone that I had hoped to see. As is always the case for me in London we spent lots of time in debate about just about anything. It’s always great to be able to drop in to a conversation as if you had just been there yesterday. Had lots of great food capped by my favorite Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster in Mayfair. The only difficulty was that by the time I got there I was either near or into double digits in terms of glasses filled (and emptied). To be honest, I’m not really sure as I am totally out of practice with competitive drinking.

This was the penultimate stop of the evening which led us to a bar that shall remain nameless in Mayfair. Upon our arrival at Midnight (legal closing time for bars in London) we were greeted by the sight of Fire Marshall’s entering the bar. Did that stop us? Nah! As we descended the stairs the sound and temperature climbed at a rapid rate. When we got to the basement we saw 200 or so people crowded into a barely lit room. It took me a minute to realize that the lack of lighting was a blessing. At the front of the room there were ten or so aged 40+ white men (bankers) dancing on tables. Not necessarily a sight for the feint of heart. This went on fueled by magnums of whatever the bar had left until one guy missed a step……

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This was my cue to begin the search for a cab. London isn’t NYC so you could imagine the pickings were slim…. Anyway, I survived and no I don’t dance!

The interesting take away was that the mood in London was nothing short of ebullient. Everyone I met was happy, relaxed, and hopeful. Now I get what you all are thinking, “of course they’re happy, they’re the 1%”. Thats fair but the past 5 years haven’t been fun for most of these guys and usually theres cynicism and a bit of resignation in their conversation. I saw none of that. Not to mention that the shops, restaurants, and of course the bars were filled with lots of people carrying lots of bags of stuff. BTW, if you haven’t been to London for the holidays, you must go even if its only for a few days. Similar to NYC but very different.

I keep hearing about GDP being up, unemployment being down, inflation staying low. I am always skeptical of any of these government issued statistics. now seeing people eating, drinking, and shopping in copious quantities……….that gives me hope.

Time Flies and so do I

photoI’m sitting here in the departure lounge at Logan Airport. Of course my flight is delayed as someone saw a few snowflakes this afternoon.

The delay gives me time to think and that occasionally leads to something that could pass as reflective!

I’m off to London, my favorite city in the world (as I have told all of you a million times) to see some friends for a quick boondoggle. As an aside, I am convinced that this bout of eating and drinking will give me the inspiration to finish my remaining papers for the semester at HKS. Ironically, it is precisely two years and one day since I retired from my job as regional head of a large hedge fund based in London.

It was an exciting life in London, great food, great travel, loads of history and culture, great friends. Leaving was one of the hardest things we have ever done. Of course the job was hard work and hard play. In reality London was the closing act of a role that lasted for 20 years. That role involved lots of time, lots of thought, lots of talking, and not a small amount of ego.

For those of you who haven’t been there, finance is as Malcolm Gladwell says, a game of confidence. Being good and being effective means that you always need to “be the guy”. Of course that’s not always free. My family really didn’t care if I was the guy. They just wanted me to be the dad, the husband. Many times after 14 hours of work it was difficult to change gears. It’s not that my family life wasn’t good. Its just that I always knew that it could be better.

Retirement meant relocation and we chose to come to Boston. To be honest, I was reticent at best. I knew no one here and I wasn’t going to work, at least right away. How would I connect with people. Having the 53 year old dad running the PTO meetings could seem a bit odd.

To make a long story short, it’s worked out just fine. We have in a reasonably short period of time started to grow roots as a family in a neighborhood. Expats don’t grow roots, I think they grow lots of branches.

My daughters are happy. They have a great school, great friends, and lots of activities that they enjoy. Kim has good friends, is involved with the school, and is swimming again. As for me well I’m one of the oldest students in the world although I’m trying really hard to “act” like a grad student. School is fun and the people are great. I have found some good restaurants, some good friends, and a couple of causes to keep my interest.  I have translated my hatred of the Yankees to a like/love of the Sox.

Most importantly, I have found that the thing I love most is being a husband and father. before starting school, I had 18 months at home. I was worried about what I would do. The time went so fast. Now that I’m in school theres a bit of balancing but nothing like before.

My kids are amazing, smart, funny, caring. Now we have two cats. The girls care for them as if they were their children. Amazing to watch. And the best part is that I’m not missing it.

Kim and I had a transition period. Having me at home was at times (most) a pain in her ass!!! I tend to meddle in stuff that I’m clueless about. But being with her every day is great. It really doesn’t matter what were doing as long as its together. I look forward to whats next for US.

I guess that the point of all of this is that where my family is, is my home and now that home is in Boston. I have no idea what our future holds other than that we will live it together. And so I know that it will all work out.

In the past I have always thought that London would at some point be my home again. Tonight as I sit here, I know that I’m just going for a short visit and then I’ll be coming HOME. Why do I know that? Because I haven’t left and I miss my girls already!!

So thanks for listening. For those of you that I won’t see soon have a great holiday, whatever you do…..

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Thanksgiving week is upon us. This is, IMHO the best American holiday. Who doesn’t like eating so much that you fall asleep at 4:30PM while watching one of America’s legendary NFL franchises, the Detroit Lions lose yet again? Of course, most of us do this with our families, just the beginning of a 5 week period of reliving our childhoods, good or bad. The best news for those of us in the Boston area is that hopefully well see fewer mean turkeys roaming the streets on Friday.

To those of you away from home or new to America, I hope that you find a way to partake in the joys of the holiday and of the season in general.

The most exciting part of Thanksgiving to most Americans (and a lot of Europeans judging by the empty suitcases I always saw on the BA flight to NYC during this week) is that it is the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Back in simpler times, like five years ago, people would stuff their faces on Thanksgiving and go to bed early just so they could wake up early to get to Walmart for their $59 television or their $10 George Foreman Indoor Grill (“Limited Quantities Apply”). Oh, did I mention that every year someone dies running through the aisles trying to rip the last $25 DVD player from grandma’s hands!

Now America’s greatest retailers have solved the problem. How you ask? By opening their stores on Thanksgiving day. This will bring to ONE the number of days where underpaid employees are actually allowed to take the day off to spend with their families. I’ll let you all guess which day that is.

Now of course retailers have given all of those minimum wage employees the option of not working on the holiday. I imagine the memo read something like this:

“Crappy retailer XYZ has decided to respond to overwhelming demand from its fabulous customer base to spend their money ASAP. As a result we will be opening on Thanksgiving Day. It is optional for associates to join our family on Thanksgiving. For those of you who wish to spend the day with your families, we wish you a happy holiday season and best of luck in 2014″

The reality is that most of these people do not have the option of saying no to their employer and will need to go to work to keep their jobs.

What should we do about this? I am vowing right now that I will not spend a penny at any of the retailers that are open on Thanksgiving Day. I hope that each of you will be encouraged to do the same. After all, its likely that manufacturers made enough stuff for all of you to get everything you want. Also, the best sales usually take place closer to the holiday when retailers panic that they will be hung with excess inventory.

Heres a list of America’s “finest” retailers who have chosen to be open on Thanksgiving. Please boycott these stores:

Walmart
Best Buy
Michaels
Toys R’Us
Sports Authority
Old Navy
Bon-Ton
Dicks Sporting Goods
JC Penney
Kohls
Macy’s
Modells
Office Depot
Office Max
Sears
Shopko
Target
Staples

Heres a list of the retailers who are allowing their staff a day with family. Please support these stores:

AAFES Exchange
Aeropostale
Ace Hardware
Bass Pro Shops
Bed, Bath, & Beyond
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Costco
Fred’s
GameStop
Gordmans
Half Price Books
Harbor Freight Tools
Havertys
Home Depot
JoAnn Fabrics
Lowe’s
Meandrous
Nordstrom
PETCO
PetSmart
Radio Shack
Rite Aid
Sam’s Club
Sportsmans Warehouse
Stein Mart
Tommy Hilfiger

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!!

O’Ya is Awesome!!!

Last night got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. As usual, I was dependent on my GPS to get us to our destination for the evening. Also as usual, I also didn’t listen to Kim who told me that the GPS seemed to be sending us in an odd way. Who knew that there was more than one East Street in Boston and that one of them was in an industrial part of Dorchester. The good news is that as I am so neurotic about being late, we still had time to drive to the right East Street in time for our 8:30 reservation at O’Ya.

What we didn’t know is that we could have gone to East Street in Southboro and back and still have been in time to be seated. O’ya is located in an old brick building in the Boston’s financial district. The decor is modern without eliminating some of the character of the original space. The dining area is small with seating for about 20 at tables with a similar amount of space at the sushi bar.

Upon our arrival we were told that there would be a brief wait. At 9:00 we were asked if we wanted a drink. At 9:15 we were brought some appetizers to keep us from passing out (amazing oysters with watermelon pearls and a cucumber mignonette). By 9:30 we were told that our dinner would be 50% off (not a small amount at O’Ya). The issue was a 2 tables of 5 each with 3 relatively young women and 2 old, drunk farts that had been seated at 6PM. Clearly they were attempting to improve their odds.

Finally, blissfully at 10PM we were seated. We were hungry and frustrated but that lasted about 30 seconds. Eric, our caring and knowledgable server promptly asked us if we had any dislikes or allergy issues. Rather than order off the menu, we just allowed Eric to bring us the best that O’Ya has to offer. That out of the way, the cavalcade of culinary pleasure began.

There were so many amazing tastes. Ill go over a few. Salmon Tataki with torched tomato and Onion Aioli. Very sweet and clean tasting. Hamachi with a spicy pepper mousse which complimented the fish perfectly. Homemade Fingerling Potato Chip with Black Truffle was amazing and something I never had imagined as Sushi. We had a few of those! My favorite of the night was Kyoto Style Black Trumpet Mushrooms with Garlic and Soy. These tasted just like Kobe Beef. Oh yeah, we had some of that too. Our dinner closed with Foie Gras Sushi with Balsamic Chocolate Kabayaki, Raisins, and Sake. I really struggled to tell Eric to stop bringing food even though we were all stuffed to the gills.

Of course there was still desert. This was led by a Sake that reminded me of a nice Tawny Port. Chocolate Molten Cake, Cheese Cake, Raspberry Sorbet, and Creme led the way of yet another amazing course. I usually skip dessert in Japanese restaurants as its the weakest course. Not at O’Ya.

I have been fortunate to eat at some of the worlds best Sushi restaurants: Masa and Sushi Yasuda in New York, Nobu, Yashin, and SushiSay In London, and numerous places I don’t remember in Tokyo. O’ya is the best of them all, hands down. It is a great room, with great, attentive service, and delicious, inventive food.

Now its not cheap. Im not sure what it actually costs as they ultimately comped our whole meal as an apology for keeping us waiting so long. I’m told that one should expect to spend between $150-200 per person. IMHO, its well worth it!