Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blizzard in Boston

My most recent fellowship interview brought me to Boston Children's Hospital.  Unless you've been living under a rock, then I'm sure you've heard about the record-setting snowfall they've seen over the past month.  And because it would have been far too much to ask for a weekend of good weather, another winter storm was forecasted to arrive during my visit to the city.

Mom joined me to make it a girls' weekend in Boston.  We arrived on Thursday and wandered Newbury St to do some shopping, exploring, and marveling at the 70+ inches of snow the city had received in the previous few weeks.  

The first priority upon our arrival was food.  I'd received several recommendations to try Flour Bakery, so we made that our first stop.  Our lunches included a spinach quinoa tofu salad, roasted tomato soup, and a tuna sandwich.  We had no complaints and made a few more visits for breakfast and snacks that weekend.

Another mandatory stop was a local coffee house - Thinking Cup - where I had the most perfect vanilla ginger latte and a few macarons.

To our surprise, the streets and sidewalks had been cleared quite well and made for fairly easy walking.  The plowed snow was stacked high along the sides of the roads and sidewalks, burying the parking meters and covering cars.  My interview events were Thursday night and most of the day on Friday.  Friday night's dinner was at Atlanta Fish, where Mom and I shared several different dishes, including fresh bread, raw oysters, clam chowder and fish stew, lobster ravioli, and crab cakes.  

Saturday evening was advertised to bring a blizzard to Boston, so we set out that morning to do some exploring while the weather remained decent.  But first, another stop for coffee and breakfast at Thinking Cup.  This time I had their hazelnut latte (made with hazelnut paste) and a cherry ginger scone.

The Charles River was frozen solid and the winds along the waterfront made the subfreezing temperatures feel that much colder.  I layered with two layers of socks, snow boots, thermal tights, jeans, a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, ski jacket, two pairs of gloves, a scarf, and knit hat, and was still only comfortable for short periods of time outside.  Fortunately we enjoyed the warmth of a trolley while touring the city and limited our exposure to the elements.

The Charles River
Courtyard of the Boston Public Library
Lunch on Saturday was at James Hook & Co, where we heard they had the best lobster rolls in the city.  We shared the large lobster roll and a cup of the seafood cioppino.  The toasted roll was piled high with succulent lobster meat that was lightly mixed with a creamy sauce.  Wow - it was delicious!

The trolley next took us to the North End, which is famous for Italian restaurants and bakeries.  Mike's Pastry and Modern Pastry were both highly recommended and the crowds confirmed we were in the right place.  All of the treats - a Boston cream puff, pistachio macaron, cookies, and cannoli - exceeded our expectations.  The afternoon took a tailspin when I received a message from US Air that our flight for Sunday night was cancelled.  After 2 hours on hold, the best the airline could do was rebook us on a flight Tuesday night.  Suddenly we had just bought an unintended 48 hours in the frozen tundra of Boston.

Since it was Valentine's Day, we had planned a nice dinner on Saturday night at Bricco in the North End.  We were seated in a cozy room upstairs next to a window and were able to watch the blizzard roll in while staying warm and enjoying a great meal.

To start, I had the mixed greens salad with poached pears, fresh beets, and goat cheese.  Mom's appetizer of octopus over string beans, however, stole the show.

For my entree, I couldn't take my eyes off the Pappardelle Al Cinghiale - wild boar roasted in red wine with porcini mushrooms.  There simply are no words to describe the richness of the meaty sauce paired with the perfectly al dente homemade pasta.

The peak of the blizzard came through overnight and morning brought sustained winds upwards of 50mph and an additional 16 inches of snow.  The city had literally transformed to a white out overnight.  Needless to say, the day was spent staying warm and dry inside.  I tried repeatedly (a grand total of nearly 6 hours on hold in a 24 hour period) to find another flight back to Charlotte on Monday, but everything was sold out.  The concern was that an impending ice storm into Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday could potentially keep us stuck in Boston even longer.

Eventually we settled to take our chances and attempt to fly standby on Monday.  Despite a seemingly frustrating day stuck in a hotel room, we rallied and had a fantastic dinner.  Since the city was largely shut down by the blizzard, there weren't many dinner options.  Fortunately, Atlantic Fish had opened their doors for the evening and I feasted on yet another wonderful lobster roll and a giant serving of french fries.  Comfort food at it's finest!

As it turned out, luck was on our side on Monday when we flew standby and caught one of the few flights back to Charlotte prior to the ice storm.  From Monday evening through Tuesday morning there was a steady mix of freezing rain and sleet, resulting in a sheet of ice on the streets, cars, and trees.

The Charlotte Knight's baseball stadium looked more like an ice rink than it did a summertime venue.

Although the temperatures remained in the low 30s for the day, the sun came out by noon and melted much of the ice on the roadways.  Hopefully there won't be too much black ice in the morning as the city tries to return to normal.

And finally, despite the seemingly endless winter, lunch today reminded me that spring is just around the corner.  A colorful arugula salad filled with local veggies, a fried egg, and a juicy orange brightened up the otherwise cold and dreary day.

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