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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Midsummer Night's Dream

Nothing makes me want to emerge from the pale cocoon of New England winter more than the prospect of dining outdoors. Here are my picks so far:

Westport, MA
Situated between Buzzard's Bay and the Rhode Island Sound is my favorite summer escape in the town of Westport, MA. An easy hour and a half drive from Boston, Westport Rivers Vineyard, is arguably one of the best local wine producers in New England. Do take advantage of their $7 wine tasting with a selection of sparkling and white wines. We are gathering quite a collection of their commemorative champagne flutes, which comes free with the tasting. They offer good discounts on their wines in their store.

We enjoyed a homemade picnic accompanied with glasses of bubbly overlooking the tethered grapevines, before hitting Horseneck Beach. Everyone, including baby Cassius, had a great time.

It started with an unyielding craving for Anna Sortun's famous deviled eggs. Since we live down the street, Alex, my sister Duckie and headed over to Oleana, hoping we could snag a spot before the dinner rush set in.

When we got there at 6:30 PM, we were told to come back at 8:30 to sit outside in their garden patio. What a stroke of luck! It was the opening night of their patio season.

In the interim our friend Tim called and we asked him to join us for an al fresco dinner. He had just gotten off work and was concerned that his attire would be too casual for dinner. I explained to him that in Cambridge no one cares about how you're dressed for dinner. For the most part this is true. My only rule is that a man should be wearing pants at dinner, unless they are of the cargo variety. Above all else do not bring out the cargo shorts at any meal. But this is my own personal prejudice that is not extended to strangers at all.

So the four of us arrived at Oleana to wait in the tiny, active bar area to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. They were out of the St. Genevieve Sparkling Rose, which is the perfect way to kick off a festive night of eating, laughing, and exchanging tall tales. Instead we opted for white sangria, which was a tad too sweet and viscous for my taste. But I drank it up because it was hot out and I was thirsty.

We ordered a bottle of 2005 Viognier from the Sierra Foothills, south of San Francisco. Is this a new wine region I didn't know about? I like Viognier because it's always surprising and the taste differs depending upon the terroir. The Condrieu that they had on the wine list at Clio is like drinking lilacs, and it's complexity begs for food. My all time favorite is the Miner Viognier from Napa, which I had last year at Sibling Rivalry. It hits you with honeysuckle, and a the perfect amount of acid to balance it out, while gaining a distinctive complexity throughout the meal.

Miner has built a reputation on creating surprising and bold wines that not only stands up to food, but seems to tease out its flavors, too. I try to avoid buttery, oaky, Chardonnays at all costs. It's just not my thing. However, Miner became known for its wild yeast Chardonnay. This stuff is powerful and memorable, an attractive lemony color. Unfortunately it is now sold out.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Cafe
The Cafe at the ISGM was hopping last Wednesday afternoon.
Situated in the tranquil garden of the Venetian palace, you will find it hard to believe that this was the site of the most famous art heist in history. The service is slow. But the food is simple and sublime. The roasted salmon with a beet and turnip salad with wasabe mayo was craveable.

I have a thing for hotel restaurants and bars. They attract an eclectic mix of visitors and locals which is good for people watching. Noir seems more like a local spot than most other hotel bars, but maybe because every time I go there I recognize someone I know. Sit outside between
5-7 PM on any weekday and sample their always wonderful cocktails along with great deals on their snack menu. I'm obsessed with the spinach, bacon and Gruyere dip.

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