“Why put yourself in a box?” Sweet Soprano questioned. “It could be about pie, it could also be about town.” The emphasis on town seemed sensible. Securing the velcro tabs on my parka with my one good hand, we set off.
Temptation lurked at every fork along the Freedom Trail. Just shy of 8 o’clock on Friday evening, Tatte bakery on Charles Street still had plenty of sweets for the offing. Fruit tarts and nut tarts are the showstoppers; excessive with nutmeats and jewel-like berries. Gargantuan meringues perched dangerously on white ceramic pedestals, holding on to each other for dear life. Master/Master selected a wild nut tart sticky with praline, overfilled with cashews and pecans. From the other side of the counter, a gingerbread morning bun called to me. I answered.
Our first stop on Saturday morning was Joanne Chang’s Flour bakery on Washington Street. Riding the tide of hungry, caffeine needy weekenders, we arrived at the counter. Struggling to absorb the information scrawled across the massive blackboard menu overhead, I fixated instead on the pastry case at eye level. Swirls of toasty meringue balanced carefully atop slices of lemon pie. One tray over, a solitary pleated white paper sleeve held a lonely wedge of sponge cake. Three layers tall, filled with pastry cream and cloaked in dark chocolate, this was Ms. Chang's riff on the city's classic. Was it too early in the day for Boston cream pie? Not if you consumed a morning bun the night before. Off to the side a worker bee was glazing the next cream pie, pouring liquid ganache over a half sheet of cake and cream. When it was my turn to order, I wondered how long it would be before that pie/cake could be sliced. Sadly, not soon enough.
Weaving our way through the South End, we stumbled upon a street sign emblazoned with my name. A sweet little bakery called the Buttery stood on my very corner. Bemoaning the missed Boston cream pie opportunity at the last stop, I paused for a quick look/see of the baked goods. It appeared the Buttery was shy on pie. We continued to make tracks.
Several cobblestone streets later, Blackbird Doughnuts called to us. Bonus! They were celebrating their birthday. The staff was sporting birthday hats and confetti sprinkle pinnies marking the occasion. The fellow in the party hat offered a cinnamon sugar miniature, still warm from the fryer. Afraid of feeling faint with hunger, we accepted.
At the Boston Public Market, it seemed imperative to pair a Union Square Donut with a cuppa joe from George Howell coffee. Brown butter hazelnut won out, but the dark chocolate glazed was a solid contender. For caffeine fiends it might be interesting to note that Howell is the man responsible for coining the name Frappuccino. A play on the New England milkshake, the frappe, Starbucks purchased the rights to the name from Howell in 1994.
Adjacent to Howell coffee, chocolate beckoned from Sweet Lydia’s, a small batch candy company. A box of dark chocolate caramels kicked up with Guinness stout and salt pretzels sounded like the perfect gift for my cronies back at the baker’s bench. I should have bought two.
Seattle pie-pal Dakota was in town and joined us for dinner at our favorite seafood haunt; the Daily Catch in Brookline. Convinced that miles logged on foot (calories burned) had well exceeded calories consumed, it seemed only sensible to swing by the Eastern Standard for late night drinks and desserts. Tucking into a big, curvy booth we hoped to find sweet potato profiteroles on the menu and maybe a little Boston cream pie. The New Year brought new offerings.
We consoled ourselves with four decadent alternatives. Butterscotch bread pudding with praline ice cream and salted caramel, Meyer lemon tart with meringue and candied ginger, warm pistachio crepes with blood orange and dark chocolate cake with fresh mint and cream. With each forkful I was reminded of the January cover of Bon Appetit magazine declaring 2016's new catchphrase, HEALTHY-ISH. That would be a contemporary take on what my father calls moderation. Sounds good to me. So does Boston Cream pie which I definitely see in my future. Thanks for the Flour Bakery cookbook, Sweet Soprano.