- The Southern Buffet of the Arroyo Wedding on Week 40: Saluting, Swinging, and Santa Fe, Baby.
- Lisa on Sorry Mom, You Suck at Cooking
- Rachamn Benhava on Brocato’s and Join Chickens, Like Your Aunt Nina Probably Had
- admin on Week 47: No Brunch: Just Some Vows, Goat Cheese Balls, and Neil Diamond.
- admin on Get your Happy Ending at The Wharf
Week 14: The Taste of New Jersey
March 23, 2011
And we’re off. Sunday mornings I can’t get enough of you. Moving forward you will be my only form of weekly palette satisfaction. That’s right; I’m finally putting my fat foot down. Eating out two or three times a week is no longer on the agenda. Sunday, you’re it. I feel like I have a reservation to the Last Supper, except my experience is going to taste a lot better than communion. Taste of Boston, here we come.
I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to take a huge bite out of home. As a Massachusetts native (a Masshole), I begin guessing what their menu is going to look like. If they are legit they will serve stuffed quahogs. I know better than to order one though. Even in Massachusetts, you’re stupid to order a stuffed quahog from a restaurant, because even the best don’t taste like mom’s. They are a tourist trap and chances are they came off a boat. I bet their mom didn’t wake up at 8am on a Saturday to dig through the muck and sneak 4 bushels into the trunk of her car before the warden made his rounds (with a quahogging license you are only allowed one bushel).
I laugh to myself as childhood memories come flying in and out of my head. As if shoveling heavy snow all winter wasn’t bad enough as a child growing up in Massachusetts, the summers had labor too. Maybe we had a vacation home on the Cape, and maybe to some I was a spoiled little brat, but for our family summertime meant quahogs and quahogs meant labor. When I used to crave stuffed quahogs and there was no meat left in the freezer, we’d jump straight into the inlet first thing Saturday morning. You want them meatball, you dig your fat little heart out. Quahogs live in the muck and contrary to clamming which is done during low tide with plungers, quahog missions occur in deep waters. My family clammed too but I never helped with that because I didn’t acquire a taste for clams until I was a teenager. Heaven forbid I help feed someone else.
Now, like I said, quahogs live in the muck so if you want one, you dig. Diving with a mask and snorkel is not an option because even if they weren’t buried in the muck, the water is too muddy to see anything. A quahogging rake (a wooden pole with a violent looking metal basket on the end) needs to be utilized. When I was a child with a vivid imagination I wrote a story called “The Quahog Killer” but that’s another story in itself.
Since I was a “small” child I was too short to maneuver a rake. They were taller than I was, and while adults were in waist deep water, us kids were up to our necks. We also weren’t able to wear waders because of the deep water. If the tide came up over our waders we would immediately drown. Looking back on all of this I wonder what my mother wanted more, stuffed quahogs for dinner or living, breathing children. SO anyway, my brother and I had a brilliant system. We really were smart kids. One of us would stand in the water up to our neck, with no shoes. We’d dig around with our toes in the muck and when we came across what felt like a quahog, we’d remain still and allow the other to hold their breath, dive down, and follow the leg to the pot of gold. When you find one quahog you often find many. They live in “beds” with one another. I know, I know, my brother “following my leg down” sounds like an awful incest documentary, but it worked. Some summers we’d get enough meat to last us through a few winter dinners.
With this massive preface, you can see how passionate I really am for “tastes of Boston.” We finally arrive and sit down outside near the water. I analyze the menu like a true Masshole. Immediately I recognize that this restaurant is not legitimate. These people clearly do not have a “Taste of Boston.” No stuffed quahogs, no raw quahogs with a rinse of beer, no clams casino, no striped bass. They have steamers but the steamers are only “sometimes available” and they are from Maine. Hey Buddy, Boston isn’t near Maine. I could have given you the names of plenty of Massachusetts inlets where you would have found them and at least they would have went along with your restaurant name. The only thing that was remotely legitimate was the fact that their lobster roll came in a hotdog bun. Every New Englander knows that’s the only route to go.
Instead of getting disappointed, I decide that I’m going to order something that doesn’t claim to be a “Taste of Boston” because I know it will just be a letdown. This menu is a joke. Where does one come up with claiming they are a traditional Boston seafood restaurant when their menu offers the “PHILLY cheese steak,” “red grouper from THE GULF,” “MARYLAND crab cake,” “GEORGE’s famous lobster roll” – Who the hell is George? There was no George Kennedy and in a state full of democrats we never would have named something after Bush. And what exactly is this “Shrimp Poor-Boy” – there aren’t any poor people in Massachusetts.
Whether their clam chowder is good or not, I’m craving it. Here in Tampa I often settle on chowder from a can, so how bad can it be??? I order the chowder, a basket of fried shrimp: half buffalo, half coconut with a side of coleslaw. I also get an order of onion rings. Ryan gets the seafood casserole with haddock, scallops, shrimp and lobster and it comes with plantains and sweet potato fries. He also gets a devil crab on the side.
The chowder and devil crab come out first. My chowder is cold but I’m not one to complain or send an order back. I usually just wait until I get home and ruin their reputation all over the internet. As our waitress walks away I laugh. She’s wearing Sketchers Shape Ups. You’re a long ways from Kim Kardashian sweet cheeks, especially with that red hair. The family next to us is getting on my nerves; they are trying to give their 5 year old boy some life lesson on how to treat girls. The waitress joins them in convo and shortly after they realize “what a small world it is.” They are all from Polk County. Shocker… I never would have guessed. You only look exactly like the people they interview on Bay News 9 whenever there’s a child missing, rapist on the loose or grow house that has just been confiscated.
The food comes. This is awful. Worst Meatball Chronicle EVER. The onion rings are extremely skinny and flakey. No onion, all batter. Bad batter. I ordered buffalo shrimp and coconut shrimp yet somehow my basket is full of regular fried shrimp—which I decide to eat anyway, but they suck. The coleslaw is warm- if I wanted warm cabbage I would have ordered corned beef too. The coconut shrimp was tasty but overall this is just a losing establishment. Ryan is sitting across from me, content with his meal and enjoying all of it but I don’t want to hear it. I’m bitter. He loves his sweet potato fries. He loves his plantains. He loves his scallops. He loves his shrimp. Shut up.
To add to my mood, there is a dog barking uncontrollably. His 9 year old owner is giggling and trying to muzzle his precious little mutt. I give him a death stare to let him know that no one else finds this funny and that I’m the bigger person here. Go play in the park over there little boy because if that dog comes around here again while I’m trying to enjoy my shitty meal, I’m gonna lose it. The boy looks concerned and I decide to back down after a good staring competition because there’s a chance he may tell his mother.
Ryan knows me all too well and knows what a shitty morning leads to: a shitty day. To combat my piss poor attitude he promises me two of my favorite things: A day of house hunting and ice cream. We (well, maybe just me) love to drive around and pretend we are interested in beautiful homes that we can’t afford. Ryan might just like the ice cream part.
Gone and never to return. I’m that angry. Taste of Boston, you’re a disgrace to the phenomenal seafood of Massachusetts and the hard working fishermen and shell fishers that make up our incredible and incomparable culture. Thanks to you, my inner Masshole that I’ve trying to control for the past 7 years in Tampa has resurfaced today. You need to rename your establishment “Taste of New Jersey” and relocate to the Turnpike.