"..won’t satisfy everyone’s tastes and wants. It is too small to do that and too smart to try." Boston Globe

MIT

A week with the kids in Boston and Cambridge

Our 12 year old niece and 17 year old nephew visited us this week from the Atlanta area during their winter school break. They were comfortably ensconced in the two-bedroom suite at Hotel Veritas, which provided them with their own bedrooms and bathrooms: perfect for keeping the peace between two loving siblings. Grammy chaperoned from her nearby Queen Balcony room.

Finding places to eat and drink has never been a challenge for Dan and me – and we spent the week in restaurants which the kids enjoyed a great deal.

Feeding

Tory Row offers the best people watching thanks to their prime Harvard Square location and floor-to-ceiling windows. The kids devoured the sumptuous burgers, while I snacked on the veggie burger and a Fisherman’s Ale from the Cape Ann Brewing Company.

Our niece and nephew are both huge sports fan (not a trait they picked up from me), so Tavern in the Square was a great place to watch a Celtics game and eat some decent bar food. Just a ten minute walk from the hotel, this restaurant is often packed – especially during game times, owing to the fact that it’s one of the few “sports bars” in Cambridge.

Our nephew first tried mussels at Via Matta ten years ago and he’s been hooked since. This trip, we took him to the Legal Sea Food in Harvard Square for mussels and the Treasures of the Reef from the seafood bar. This branch of the seafood chain is one of their smallest, providing a more intimate experience – which we enjoy. In the summer time, they have outdoor seating in the Charles courtyard, along with Henrietta’s Table and Rialto.

Grendel’s Den has been in Harvard Square since 1971 and is great little casual neighborhood restaurant.  They had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to be able to use their liquor license – and I was very appreciative as I sipped on my Harpoon IPA.  I loved the quesadilla loaded with cheddar and jack cheeses, black beans and chicken.  The kids devoured their burgers.

The Parish Cafe in Back Bay has long been a favorite of ours and has won numerous Best of Boston awards from Boston Magazine for their sandwiches created by well-known local chefs. I love the Schlow: roasted rare sirloin, sliced thin, with caramelized onions, tomato confit, arugula and a horseradish-cream sauce, along with a Harpoon IPA. Our niece ordered the mac-and-cheese, which satisfied her no-frills palette. Our nephew was a bit more adventerous with the Zuni Roll: smoked turkey breast, crisp bacon, chopped scallions, dill Havarti cheese and cranberry-chipotle sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla and served warm.

The Wagamama chain has three location in Boston and Cambridge, with one just a ten minute walk from the hotel. This was perfect for the noodle-loving kids. I opted for the beef cha han: stir-fried rice with beef, snow peas, carrots and leeks accompanied by a bowl of vegetarian miso soup and japanese style pickles – and a Sam Adams Lager.

With the kids festooned in their Celtics jerseys, we went to Jerry Remy’s by Fenway Park to watch the game on their dozens of large screen televisions. We asked our nephew if he’d heard of Jerry Remy and he gave us a stupid stare. He had. Along with nachos and steak tips, we enjoyed the trivia night which we weren’t expecting. We had a blast since the questions covered a variety of topics enabling us all to be involved – from the 12 year old niece to Grammy.

For some of the best ice cream in the area, JP Licks is the place. A five minute walk from the hotel, this small cafe was exactly what my gummy-bear-hungry niece wanted. I prefered the Pralines and Cream.

Back Bay Social Club was the most “grown up” place we took the kids on this trip. They loved the VIP treatment we received (thanks to my “cousin” who runs the place) and our leather banquet in the corner. I had a wonderful scallops appetizer, Dan ordered charcuterie, while the kids feasted on Chicken and Waffles with BBQ maple syrup. Grammy went southern with the Shrimp and Cheese Grits and pickled corn relish.

The 20-year-old Miracle of Science attracts a great local crowd and has a strong following of MIT students. Dan and I are here at least once a month. The kids, Grammy, Dan, and I all went with burgers and steak tips. Can’t go wrong – especially when paired with Ipswich Ale (for the adults.)

Shopping

Follow the Honey is a spectular raw organic honey store across the street from the hotel. Grammy and the kids stopped by and stubbled upon a Skype conference live from Kosovo with author, translator, educator, and beekeeper Elizabeth Gowing. She was discussing “Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo & Macedonian Honey Tasting.” Just a typical day in Harvard Square.

Of course, the kids wanted to hit some of the major stores: the Apple Store, NikeTown, H&M, Ugg Store – so we’re lucky to have those around.

The kids were particularly blown away by the service received when purchasing running shoes at the locally-owned Marathon Sports on Boylston Street. The staff here is extremely knowledgeable and patient in helping our niece find the perfect pair of shoes.

Black Ink is one of those shops where you wonder where their buyers find this stuff – and you want to purchase everything. Their tagline “Unexpected Necessities” is completely warranted. It was very challenging pulling our niece out of the store.

The Japanese shop in Harvard Square, Kofuku, is the place to go when you’re looking for that unusual little item. The kids loved it.

A quick stop by the Harvard Coop gave my nephew time to find the perfect Harvard sweatshirt that he had to have.

Educating

The kids visited two museums while in town: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

The MFA can definitely be a bit overwhelming for a couple of teenagers, so they focused on what interested them most: Art of the Ancient World. Our nephew was particularly fascinated by the Egyptian pieces – and I was happy to see his interest.

Our niece “loves giraffes,” as she told me when I mentioned that the Harvard Museum of Natural History has a fascinating, newly renovated Great Mammal Hall, “the oldest and most dramatic gallery in the museum, with a 19th century arrangement of specimens that includes a full-sized giraffe and three whale skeletons suspended from the rafters. In the balcony, you’ll find Harvard’s extensive collection of birds.” She also loved their gift shop and picked up some little trinkets for her friends at home.

Getting Around

The T was very easy for the kids to use alone. They only got lost once.

I believe they prefered when they were traveling with their Uncle Benson, who is now completely dependent upon Uber, a car reservation service which recently launched in Boston and Cambridge. For slightly more than the cost of a taxi, a black sedan or SUV will take you anywhere you want to go. I haven’t been in a taxi since I started using the service a few months ago. I’m pretty certain that the kids want me to arrange for an Uber car to take them to school when they return on Monday.

What a week. And I need a cocktail.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Valentine’s Day and Fencing

We’re not ones to go out to restaurants on Valentine’s Day (we prefer the 13, or 15th, or practically any other day), but we found ourselves back at the Russell House Tavern for an early cocktail.  When we arrived, a bartender from another restaurant in the neighborhood was sipping a bourbon in preparation for the busy Valentine’s night which he would soon face.

Shortly after we arrived, two proud MIT parents (she in jersey proclaiming “MIT MOM”) who were extremely engaging sat by us.  As they had been married for 37 years, they were perfectly content toasting their Valentine’s Day with two random strangers at a bar.  We had a blast chatting with them about children, failed romances, small business ownership, New Jersey, Central Square vs. Harvard Square, paying for college education, and on and on and on.  Cocktails extended into dinner at the bar.  Dan and I shared a House Charcuterie Board and a steak tartare, while our new friends enjoyed a Dirty Caesar and an Angry Queen Pizza (if I remember correctly.)

Cocktails, dinner, conversation, and laughs were so enjoyable that we tagged along with the parents to Harvard’s Maklin Athletic Center to watch their son compete in the Beanpot Tournament for fencing: Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, and Boston College.  We watched with great pleasure at all of the thrusting and parrying – which has us tempted to take fencing lessons.  We’ll keep you posted.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas