Monday, June 6, 2011

Parker House Restaurant, Boston MA

With the first lecture of the day scheduled to be a good one I got up for an early run at 5:00am on Monday June 6th so that I could have a proper sit-down breakfast at a Boston landmark before the meeting and having already put ten miles of pavement under my feet by the time I arrived at The Omni Parker House I had thankfully worked up quite the appetite. With many (luckier) conference attendees apparently staying at the Parker House the room was full of familiar faces and nametags when I arrived and despite the early hour the classic grand dining room was already over 1/3 full. Approaching the hostess stand and requesting a table for one I was asked then if I’d be enjoying the buffet of a la carte and stating I was as yet uncertain I was offered a table close to the buffet so I could peruse the options.

With the room seemingly unchanged from its mid-19th century origins I was led past high ceilings, oil paintings, wood paneling, crystal chandeliers and hand carved molding by the hostess before reaching a comfy two top near the wall. Asked if I the seat was acceptable I agreed that it was and with that I was left to browse the menu and the room where John F. Kennedy spent many a nights. With the seats posh and the linens thick I will certainly agree with some that the room felt dated, but at the same time there are certain places in history that only need a little maintenance to maintain their charm.

Greeted next by my server my water was filled and I was offered coffee – a bold nutty brew that I often had to stop the bussers from “warming up” because the nearly continuous flow was throwing off my sweetened balance. With the online menu already browsed and the buffet underwhelming a quick perusal of the paper menu and a single question (with a surprising answer) confirmed my order and with that my server disappeared to the kitchen returning moments later to be sure my coffee was filled.

With my question being whether I could order the Parker House rolls as a side dish for breakfast and her answer being that I could simply go up and “take a couple from the buffet – but wait for them to come out warm” I took my cue when a young man carrying a tray of croissants, muffins, bagels, and rolls walked out to replenish the stock and with a small plate in hand I did just as I was instructed while also procuring a tablespoon of butter and a dollop of honey. With the rolls golden on the exterior and warm and soft with notes of yeast and sweetness within I will note that although good these certainly weren’t the quality of the gems that Eric Ziebold is making in DC, but at the same time it is hard to say that something is “better” than the original since, by definition, the original is how it is “supposed” to taste.

For my main course the decision came down to sweet versus savory and as usual the sweet won out when all was said and done. Arriving perhaps fifteen minutes after my order was placed and served hot from the griddle, “Banana Pecan French Toast with sliced Banana, Pecans, Apple Butter, and pure Vermont syrup” was an absolute knockout and despite my adherence to the house classics otherwise it was not only the best dish of the meal, but also the amongst the best breakfast items I had on my visit to Boston. With the toast itself featuring that all-too-rare balance of golden crispy exterior and custard soft center the dish was only improved by the addition of warm sautéed bananas, crushed pecans coated with cinnamon, and a substantial pile of apple butter that was more like apple whipped cream than butter. Finally, though the plated selection was already stellar the addition of an ounce of liquid gold from Sugarman of Vermont only served to gild the proverbial lily.

Working slowly on my main course while sipping my coffee my server asked if I’d like my next course readied to arrive while I enjoyed the French Toast and agreeing to this it would be mere moments after I finished before my dessert (yes, dessert at breakfast after a dish that could have easily served as breakfast) would arrive – predictably the Parker House’s original Boston Cream Pie with two layers of moist sponge cake divided by smooth pastry cream and topped with chocolate and almonds with a hint of rum. Often imitated and frequently duplicated this was perhaps as good as a traditional Boston Cream Pie can get and while I must admit a preference to the more elaborate version at O Ya two nights before it is, like the rolls, a matter of taste; and you really can’t argue with a place willing to serve a single serving cake for breakfast either.

Happy and satiated I sat for a bit while drinking yet another cup of coffee and hoping that the caffeine would overcome the pending crash after my pancreas caught up with the glucose load I’d just consumed. With the time drawing on 7:30 and the conference due to begin at eight I next requested my check and with it would receive one last sweet taste from the kitchen – a post meal palate cleansing shot described as a Strawberry-Banana yogurt cooler; tart, fresh, and delightful.

With the bill and my thanks to the server paid I soon made my way back through the grand room to the lobby where I browsed the classic yet understated interior of the hotel for a few minutes before taking my leave through the golden doors where a young man immediately offered to hail me a cab. With the offer declined and taking to the street I was greeted by the morning sun, Old City Hall, and more of the Freedom Trail as I made my to the conference center arriving just on time for the first lecture. With the lights not yet dimmed I found a seat near the middle of the pack where I’d ironically I’d find myself sitting next to an elderly physician I’d seen eating at the Parker House – a physician who would ask “Was that Boston Cream Pie you were eating for breakfast?” and to which I responded happily “Yes…but the French Toast was better.”

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