Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Google+ Local Harvard Square Lobster Walk 'n' Roll

When Google+ first debuted, I waited excitedly for my invitation and got on board as soon as possible, only to find that after the initial burst of enthusiasm, it kind of became a ghost town. I swing by every know and then to see what's changed. It's still kind of on the dead side, but it's a shame, because the design is really quite elegant. There's a lot that I like about it. Fortunately, the Boston community management team is doing a great job building up activity, so I at least try to leave restaurant reviews on Google+ Local when possible. And it doesn't hurt that "power users" get invited to some pretty spectacular events.

Such was the case this past weekend, when I was offered a pair of tickets to a lobster roll crawl around Harvard Square. My first reaction was OMG YES, immediately followed by OMG I HOPE THERE'S NO MAYO. Mayo/aioli/etc. has been one of my most persistent and strong food dislikes for as long as I can remember, but I'm very gradually learning to deal with it. I've been seen, on a few recent occasions, slightly enjoying an aioli or two. So, I figured a lobster roll crawl would be the perfect place to push myself further into the mayo discomfort zone. (As it turned out, none of the three lobster rolls had any mayo, or at least none that I noticed!)

Even though I'm forcing myself to get over the mayo thing - I think it's more in my head than an actual taste issue at this point - I still think this anti-mayo rant on Bon Appetit is perhaps the funniest, truest thing every written.

Anyway, back to the lobster! We began at Upstairs on the Square. I've never been, although I recently read a nice memoir about growing up in the restaurant (in its original location) by the daughter of one of the owners. We walk in, and it's pink and purple and zebra print everywhere, my childhood dream come true. (Ok, even at this age, I find it pretty awesome.) We're led into the Zebra Room, and it's pink walls and pink tables and zebras painted all over the walls, and I'm really wishing I had been brought here when I was six years old.

But at six, I guess I wouldn't have been drinking this lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

The mini lobster roll was simple and wonderful, hot and buttery. The bread looked like a hot dog bun, but upon biting into it, I found that it was something more elaborate. The top tasted almost sweet, like pastry, and it was a bit heavier than a standard hot dog bun.

Onwards to stop #2, Russell House Tavern, where I've been on a few occasions. Here we were able to choose a cocktail from a list of tempting options. I was swayed by the housemade ginger beer in the Tempest, which also contained Bacardi 8, lime shrub, lime juice, and orange bitters.

Meanwhile, Joel decided on the Vieux CarrĂ©: Old Overholt Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine,  Angostura, Peychaud's.

While the other locations on the tour just (just?) included alcohol and lobster, Russell House also threw in some baskets of fries. Fantastic fries. With the potato skin still present. Because I had yet to encounter mayo on the tour and I was determined to eat it, I began dipping fries enthusiastically into the aioli, which was quite garlicky. And I liked it.

Joel really liked the fries.

The lobster slider had no noticeable mayo but a lot of delicious flavor, particularly from the Old Bay seasoning and the buttery brioche.

Finally, we made our way to the final stop, First Printer, where'd I'd been only once before for cocktails, but I'd never had food. I really enjoyed the cocktails and ambiance that one time, but First Printer has been suffering from fairly mediocre food reviews, so I was curious to try their version of a lobster slider. (Apparently the menu and chef have changed very recently, so things might be improving!)

First, though, I came upon the best bathroom sign ever. (This was inside the bathroom, right by the door.)

Of a choice of three cocktails, Joel and I both opted for the Pimm's Creole Cup: British gin liqueur, ginger beer, Creole bitters, and a cucumber.

And the final slider arrived:

This tasted pretty similar to the Russell House Tavern slider, although this one drew a lot of its flavor from the celery remoulade rather than the Old Bay of the RHT version. And still, no mayo, as far as I could tell.

The event also featured some photography tips and tricks from Kristin Teig, who, among other projects, shoots gorgeous food photography for Boston Magazine. While her talk was focused mainly on using phones to take photos (due to the nature of the event, which was meant to encourage use of the Google+ app), I definitely picked up some useful lighting info that I'm excited to add to my repertoire.

Disclosure: This event was sponsored by Google. While the food and drinks were free to attendees, the opinions presented in this piece are my own. 

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