Category Archives: My Favorite Places to Eat

New England Pietro Place Peter Jones

Back to School: New England Edition

Summer is over.  From my point of view, it finished around the middle of August when I couldn’t get a Sam Adams Summer Ale and the guy told me that they were only selling Sam Adams Octoberfest.  Are you kidding me?  I thought summer was defined through the summer solstice and the beginning of the school year, not the sale cycle of summer ales and availability in bars

Boston at this time of the year transforms from a cosmopolitan, small city into a mega studentopolis.

Approximately 250,000 students descend upon us between the end of August and the beginning of September, marking the transition from summer to fall.  Back to school.

Into the twilight hours of the baseball season and the opening days of the American football season.

Did Tom really deflate his balls?  I don’t think so.  In fact, nobody in Boston thinks so.  That is just a horrible conspiracy constructed by the rest of the world against our Tom.

So how does our city shape up and gear up for the influx of youth?  Even though the drinking age in the USA is 21 years old, it does not seem to stop the invasion of students into the sports bars around the city.  Let’s face it, if you are a Boston fan then there are plenty of sports to cheer about.  Hockey season is not far away and basketball starts in November.  For those of us who love the game of soccer, well, soccer kicks into high gear come the month of September.  The English Premier League is carried live in sports bars all over America along with the Spanish league, La Liga, and Serie A.  In other words, there are more sports bars and sports to watch on TV than ever before.

Where do people go in Boston?

The best sports bars in Boston have to be McGann’s Irish Pub in the downtown area near the Boston TD Garden, LIR, a great Irish bar close to the Prudential Center, Cornwall’s in Kenmore Square, one of my favorite English pubs, Jerry Remy’s in the new trendy Seaport area, and the famous Cask’n Flagon down in good old Kenmore Square right next to Fenway Park.

When I travel internationally, the first thing I do is look for an Irish bar.  My favorites in Rome are the Abbey Theatre just off of the Piazza Navona on the Via del Governo Vecchio and Scholars Lounge along the Via del Plebiscito.  Scholars stays open until 3:00 am and is the best place to watch American football games that start late.  The funny thing is that London is not quite as hip as the other European cities.  It’s either soccer or suck it in which is a drag because American sports fill the void between the end of the soccer game and 2:00 am.  If the patrons are watching, they are probably drinking and someone is making money.

Here are my back to school sports predictions: Manchester United will win the Premiership, the Patriots will win the Super Bowl even without Tom for those first four games, the Red Sox will beat the Cubs in the World Series (sorry Chicago), the Golden State Warriors will win the NBA Championship back from the Cavaliers by narrowly defeating the Celtics, and the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup.

Just my perspective, no bias intended!  Got to love the fall.

 

New York

I love New York.

I love the buzz of the city, I love the subway, the crazy yellow cabs, the skyscrapers, the tiny neighborhoods, and of course the theater.

The other evening I saw two plays back-to-back: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Father.  This was two days after I had gone with my daughter to see The Sound of Music. Nuns, nannies and Nazis, all intertwined around a delightful and timeless score. The Nazi bit was a little grim but it’s pretty light with the sing along stuff! So here I was in NYC taking in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, an intense play, three and a half hours long, by playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Father is a French tale by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton who was the one who single handedly transformed a 1782 Choderlos de Laclos novel to make the incredible play Les Liasons Dangereuses.  It’s pretty intense. It’s a study of the tragedy and gradual deterioration associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my father too.  And what to do after all of that? Head to a great restaurant of course and that would be Esca, my favorite restaurant in New York on 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenue.

The next day, I grabbed the metro and went down to the Empire State Building and took a stroll from 33rd to 14th street on the High Line, a fantastic community effort along the discarded elevated train tracks. It dropped me off right in the meatpacking area and I got to pop into Soho House for a quick bite and a view from the rooftop pool across the Manhattan skyline. I then took a walk through Central Park, saw the seals in the children’s zoo and thought how amazing to have such green space in between all of this bigness and towering glass structures.  Of course I ran out of time and jumped a yellow cab to La Guardia. I should have taken the Acela, but honestly, at three hours and 50 minutes, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense when you have an urgent appointment back in Boston.

Plea number 100: Open up this Eastern seaboard corridor Mr. President and run fast trains down the line.

The Acela is anything but accelerated! It’s slow and the service on board is dreadful. Why is Amtrak so bad?

High Line Park

High Line Park

Central Park

Central Park

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Rome

I love Rome.

From the moment I jump in the cab, there is a sense of gradual transition as you journey into this incredibly beautiful city filled with dust, cracks, and occasional garbage bags. It’s all here.

For me it begins as we pass the Sheraton Hotel.  Out in the distance is Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), a 1930’s modernist vision community of how Rome should be in the new world.  It didn’t really work out that well but it left us some interesting buildings and now a trendy neighborhood with parks and metro access to both the beach and the center of town.  That’s the other thing about Rome – it’s a beach city.  The Roman port of Ostia is connectible by metro from the beach resort through Acilia and trendy living areas of Rome to the Colosseum.

Then for me the real transition begins.  The first sight of any significance is the white marble Pyramid of Cestius outside Porta San Paolo gate. Then you make that turn up the Aventine Hill with the Palatine Hill facing you.  Residential palaces in pink Roman stone look down on the vast field of grass that is the Circus Maximus, one of the largest arenas in the world during roman times.

It becomes frenetic and exhausting at this point with ancient fragments popping up every second it seems.  The right turn at the bottom of the hill takes you by the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth).  Opposite from that there is a Greek temple then a Roman temple and as the roads start to move around, you start to see what looks like the Colosseum but in fact is Marcello’s amphitheater, the Teatro di Marcello. Behind that is Octavia’s portal and the Jewish ghetto.  On the right side lies the most glorious juxtaposition of stairways anywhere.  There is the very subtle Capitoline Hill Stairs, the Cordonata, right next to the severe and steep medieval stairway that leads to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli.  On the right hand side beyond the stairways is the slightly incongruous, but ever faithful tourist site for lost travelers, the 19th century wedding cake built to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1870 named the Vittorio Emanuele monument.

We are now in the Renaissance period with the Piazza Venezia with Trajan’s Forum on the right and I have disappeared into Rome before even my first cappuccino.

Rome Pietro Place Peter Jones Rome Steps Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich

I had never been to Zurich before and probably will never go back.

Last year I was in Lausanne and promised myself never to return! I added it to my list of boring places – Deauville, Trouville, Biarritz. Places that I was curious about but couldn’t muster up enough energy or desire to return. Cross them off the list and add them to Cyprus and a few other places that I have been inquisitive about and will not go back to. But Zurich…I am torn.

This year we descended upon Zurich because I had heard some great things about it. A good nightlife, diverse restaurants, and an overall beautiful city. We stayed in the Stork Hotel. A fabulous location in a great part of town. Café stools outside overlooking the river made it utterly charming and even with cold weather, they provided blankets! I loved this hotel. A pure Swiss scene with beautiful houses over the Limmat River, three towering clock towers, and an extraordinary museum, the Kunsthaus Zürich, packed chock-a-block with masterpieces through the ages. There was a lot of Giacometti, in fact the whole family of Giacometis, a fair amount of Chagall, and a splash of Picasso and other xtraordinary artists. It had the lot. It was slightly overwhelming!

There were the two principal churches in Zurich with their stained glass windows rendered more spectacular by the artists whose paintings I had just seen in the museum. The walks were pleasant, the streets and squares were made with lots of cobblestones, all extraordinarily clean. Everything spilled onto the lovely river, even the Bahnhof with its underbelly filled with shops and eateries was decidedly clean and accesible. And of course there were swans. Lots of them.

This is a city with enough to do if you plan two or three days max.

On the restaurant scene, there are expensive places that have an iconic history in Zurich folklore like the Kronenhalle. The food there is pure Swiss with rösti, lots of meat, and fabulous desserts. The ambiance is extraordinary. Original artwork is all around – a Chagall here, a Miro there. Not far away there is Brasserie Lipp, one of Paris’ most reputable brasserie’s transplanted into the heart of Zurich. There are less expensive options and of course a few pubs where you can grab a beer, a burger, and watch a soccer game. The nightlife was a bit thin and daytime was a little quiet. Everything was very orderly and very Swiss. The tram system was incredibly efficient and very clean. As I walked along the narrow alleyways by the river and crossed one of the smaller bridges to get to the Church of the Grossmünster, I thought of how civilized this place is. Probably a nice place to bring the kids up. It’s a bit like Vancouver. But I really do not think I could live here!

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones

The Beauty of Sayulita

What a pleasant surprise to discover that just 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta is a cool, laidback, surfer’s town called Sayulita.

Famous for its beach break, Sayulita has a guaranteed supply of mixed level waves, perfect for the amateur and pro together.

It feels that Puerto Vallarta has been attacked by the overdevelopment syndrome, but Sayulita, with its year-round population of around 2,000, has remained relatively unscathed.

It was first discovered in the 1960’s and was (and still is) a surfer’s paradise.  The beach is a beautiful, huge crescent shape intersected by a river that seems to emanate from the jungle.  Grazing by the river by an old plank bridge are horses and donkeys.

This is a town where the beach is the magnet.  The beach is stacked in the center with surfboards, surf shops, and surf schools.  You can rent everything from paddle boards to boogie boards.  I sat under a very civilized umbrella easily rentable from Don Pedro – a restaurant come beach set-up where you can get fantastic grilled octopus and seared tuna.

Frankly, my idea of fun on a beach is to find a place like Don Pedro that sells umbrellas and lounge chairs and where I can get incredibly fresh and delicious seafood with a drink while watching other people do what I cannot do, namely surf and paddle board!  So I watched expert surfers, beginner surfers (who wore beginner’s t-shirts), paddle boarders, body surfers, and just regular splashed types like me.  At the far ends of the beach the fishermen and the pelicans went looking for their dinner.  I’ve never seen so many pelicans diving in between surfboards in my life.

There are numerous tiny seaside accommodation places and at the end of the beach is a very nice, but not glitzy, hotel called Villa Amor which is where I stayed.  Rooms range between $175-$300 per night for a one bedroom in high season.  Sayulita is loaded with fantastic restaurants, taquerias, and a whole slew of funky bars that stayed open way after midnight.  The crowd was mixed, cool, and very fit looking.  Surfers usually are.

I love this place.  The tiny shopping streets that stray off of the beach, the groovy restaurants, the mix of locals, old hippies, and newcomers.  The beach had a freer feel to it.

If the beach was a spectacular white coral sand beach like the one in Cancun, it would have been ruined years ago with high-rises and packaged tours.  This place never got there.  A fiercely strong local citizenry protected it and the beach was funky enough to not pull the developers in.  One of my favorite shops in Sayulita is Révolucion del Sueño which does an incredible trade with Zapata t-shirts made from beautiful soft cotton.  My only tip to travelers who discover this place, don’t tell too many people.

Sayulita flowers Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita sunset Peter Jones Pietro Place Sayulita water Pietro Place Peter Jones

A morning to remember in Barcelona

A Morning to Remember in Barcelona

We got into Barcelona on the Friday along with the commuter traffic but it really was a pretty smooth journey in.  There is only one thing to look for when you come in from the airport and that is the Sagrada Familia – now in its 134th year of restoration and due to finish in 2026.  On a side note, I have to say, and I am surprised, that they have not put up a Sagrada Familia in Las Vegas.  Let’s face it, if they were to do that it would be done in three months!

But seriously I love Barcelona.  I think what I love most about it is that there are no real iconic sites.  No major distractions to clog up your day.  Yes, there is Gaudi, Parc Güell, the Olympic Village, the Frank Gehry fish in Barceloneta, and Las Ramblas, but it is a city that is just so relaxing because you kind of wander through the neighborhoods without the need to see the Eiffel Tower, Roman Forum, St. Peter’s, the Tower of London, etc.  I grabbed a couple of hours sleep, took a bike tour of the city which was an absolute joy (Un Cotxe Menys Bicicletes), hung out a little bit at the beach area (the cleanest city beach in Europe), and walked back through the El Born district and Gothic Quarter.  In between, I got lunch at the La Boqueria market and had razor clams and more razor clams (navajas).  03

Irish Bars and American Football

Irish Bars and American Football

When you travel anywhere in January, especially in Europe, there is a good chance if you are an American and love American football, there is a major game going on.  As it happened, I was in Barcelona when the Patriots were playing Kansas City so of course my first inquiry on my smart phone was to find an Irish bar.

Irish bars are these remarkable institutions found in every city in the world from Shanghai to Istanbul.  The Irish understand the needs of the modern sports fanatic.  Yes, they sell you Guinness and Harp along with local brews and average food, but the thing they do the best is stay open late so that we can all watch an American football game long after the other bars in the neighborhood have closed.  Irish Bars and American Football simply go hand in hand. My favorite bar in Rome is Scholar’s Lounge and it is ironically next to Berlusconi’s house. I guess he doesn’t mind the commotion with all the parties he hosts!

Irish bars are good for soccer in the afternoon, and American football or baseball into the late evening and early morning. Plus they rock.  They understand that one television screen is not enough – they have 10, maybe more – and everybody gathers there.  I often thing that some people never leave the bars.  In Barcelona, I’m not sure when the bar even closed.  It’s a late city and the Irish bars can outlast any city ordinance for closing.  It must be because my grandmother is Irish that I feel right at home drinking Guinness and watching an American football game in a beautiful city.

Irish Bars and American Football

The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamón

My daughter recently got married and among the many things that we had to eat, we elected to have a serrano ham on the bone as part of the entertainment. Why the Feast of the Jamón? Jamón serrano is a true cornerstone of Spanish gastronomy. It is a type of cured ham that is generally cut into very thin slices and can be seen at any good tapas bar in Spain.

So the wedding was fabulous and the food was delectable. As I had predicted, the jamón was getting a lot of activity. I have two dear Spanish friends who live in Madrid and were at the wedding. At one point, one of my friends noted that the catering assistant, which the caterer had respectfully provided, was not properly cutting the jamón. He stated, “I cannot take it anymore. I have to give this guy a red card and get him off the job. He’s killing the ham!” (Which was already dead of course). Within 5 minutes, he came back with a bright red t-shirt, and his brother sharpened up the knife but remained in his suit, sending the assistant on his way. The cutting of the ham began in earnest. In quite an extraordinary display of expertise, no matter how many times people came to the ham, because of the thinness of the cut and the way that he moved around the bone, we had ham all night long.

There was only one glitch, someone came up to him and said, “I love prosciutto.” He looked at them appalled and said, quite defiantly, “This is the feast of the jamón and prosciutto is for sandwiches. Jamón is to be consumed with the finest red wine. Prosciutto can be complimented with Coca-Cola!”

I got my ham from LaTienda.com. It was fabulous. If you really want to splash out and pay serious money you can get the jamón iberico but for me, the serrano was fine. Best of all, we all got to see an artist perform for the best part of 3 to 4 hours. Thank god the party went on until the early morning!

The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamon The Feast of the Jamon

I’ve followed up my insiders’ guide to Ashland, Massachusetts, with a tour of my second adopted home-town: Boston!

A lot has changed in Boston over the past few years, (hello, artisan coffee and cheese) but one thing remains the same: this city dominates in athletics. Whether your an superjock or a sensualist, Boston is ready for you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for Pietro Place in Boston, Massachusetts and dozens of other video blogs!

Asparagus Season

Asparagus Season

The season of asparagus is on us. In Germany it’s practically a religious institution. Spargel is everywhere. They put dollops of hollandaise on top to negate the healthy calories of the green, but what I love most about asparagus season is wandering through the supermarkets of Paris. In France the true delicacy of the asparagus season, is white asparagus. So how is it done? How do you sap the color from asparagus?

It’s simple, you deprive it of light, like in Plato’s cave. That process is called etiolation and it’s supposed to make the stalks weaker. There’s something fabulous about white asparagus, cultivated as it is, under a cover of earth. Its texture and taste are completely different. The season is now – it’s much thicker than a regular stalk of asparagus; more brittle and simply delicious.

So why does it taste so damn good? I have a theory. Imagine you’ve been buried under a mound of earth for the whole winter, and suddenly someone comes and shows you the sun. It brings color to your cheeks and a smile to your face…before of course you are plunged into boiling hot water and served to someone like me. Incidentally be careful of pairing with wine. Asparagus is not great with tannic red or oaked wines – unless of course you slather it with hollandaise.  Luckily for those who can’t imagine a meal unaccompanied by wine, Fiona Beckett at Matching Food and Wine – has put together a helpful list of wine and asparagus pairings.

Ski Diet Recipes

Why do people ski in Switzerland?  Because if they didn’t, they’d weigh 400 pounds.  I’ve taken the liberty of finding some links to my favorite Swiss recipes.
1.       Rosti potatoes with fried eggs and ham Eating Well Recipe.
2.       Fondue (melted cheese ) with bread and potatoes (photos)
4. I’m surprised there aren’t cheese doughnuts. Oh wait, upon further research, there are.
Thank goodness I only head to Switzerland on an annual basis – cheese in these quantities is not sustainable for any heart.

Lunch at Da Fortunato al Pantheon in Rome

Lunch at Da Fortunato al Pantheon in Rome

I’ve been coming to Rome for a long time, yet every time I want a great lunch I always end up at the same place: Da Fortunato al Pantheon.  It seems as though the waiters have been there as long as I’ve been going there. They remember you, they’re nice. The most important thing is that the food is simply out of this world.  I always have the same thing, depending on the season: either untarelle, a chicory dish with anchovies, or radicchioalla grilla, the spaghetti alla vongole veraci and a large bottle of sparkling water.  It’s quite simply the greatest lunch experience I’ve ever had in the world.

It’s simple; the restaurant is discreetly tucked away behind the Pantheon Square, the Piazza della Rotonda.  I am sort of a chaotic kind of guy and I know Rome really well – I like to experiment, try different restaurants, and discover new things in cities. But there’s never been a time where I’ve been in Rome and not gone to this marvelous institution; because in the end, there is simply nothing better than the food at this restaurant.

 

The Rialto Fish Market Five Course Dinner

The Rialto Fish Market Five Course Dinner

I needed to prepare a five course dinner for New Year’s Eve. As luck would have it, I was in Venice and a friend of mine knew a fish guy.  My friend had arranged to meet with me earlier in a bar for a cappuccino and we walked fast-paced across the maze of streets of La Rialto, where he introduced me to another guy who knew the fish guys that sold the good stuff. I felt a little like Jason Bourne. Abutting the Erberia, the vegetable market, is the Pescheria, one of the highlights of any visit to Venice.  You will see fish you’ve never seen: eels in the winter time, scallops in their shells, swordfish with their beaks on and razor clams called cape onghe.

I had decided that I would wait to prepare the menu until I saw what I had. I was introduced to the Fish Guy; I looked around. I would start with 10 large scallops. I would grill them in their shell with some oil and garlic. Then I was going to follow this with grilled razor clams. I would follow the razor clams with two pastas, one with small shrimp and zucchini and the other using artichoke that were in season that I planned to grab from the Erberia, and then finish off with a zuppa di pesce, which sounds decidedly better than its name in English – Fish Soup.

He asked me how I would do it. I felt the answer had to be good or he might turn me away. I would start with a fennel and onion base (he nodded slowly), add some tomatoes (ok)…then I told him I needed a good fish head or two for the broth (I’ve piqued his curiosity!), and then I would create a broth that I could empty the raw fish into for the last 10 minutes of preparation! He looked at me and said come back in 15 minutes. I returned and he’d neatly prepared bags for every course. In the fish soup there were scallops and langostina, a little monkfish, and all placed in at the very end, topped with tiny toasted pieces of bread with a dollop of aioli on them. We served the soup at 1am in the morning, having celebrated the fireworks in St. Marks at midnight. It wouldn’t have been possible without “my guy. “

 

Airport Lounges

Airline Lounges getting Lazy?

Airline Lounges Getting Lazy?

Clubs and places to hang out at airports are reaching a troubling intersection. Once the harbor of calm and safety, where you might feel like a million bucks, airline clubs are fast becoming overcrowded and unreliable.

Take American Admiral’s Club for example. What Admiral are they referring to? Certainly not Nelson! Please. It’s awful. Or the Delta Sky Club– there’s not much to eat: a few pretzels and some awful nuts that even if you’re not allergic to, you should be! You have to pay for the alcohol and if you were planning on a meal before a long flight…good luck! And what’s worse, Delta won’t even allow you in with stuff you have been forced to grab outside – probably for fear that others will catch on that there’s absolutely no value inside! You’re better off taking your chances in the vastly improving terminal buildings.

New concessions have opened, healthy and actually decent – places you don’t mind hanging out at. The other day at Chicago O’Hare I even noticed that Starbucks, the only bastion in days gone by, of decent coffee and half decent sandwiches, had no line. People had found healthier options and better coffee!

So, McDonald’s and Auntie Anne’s and those awful places that are still hanging around, watch out! Your concession license may cost more than your daily take – at least let’s hope so!

But it’s not all bad. Has anyone been to a Virgin International lounge recently? It’s actually good. There’s food to eat – variety, free drinks ! And if you have an American Express platinum card there’s a great club called Centurion Club. Sadly it’s only in 4 locations: LAS, DFW, SFO, and LGA. But the service is great, food decent and it made my transit and the vastly improved Dallas airport actually pleasant. Did I say Amex did something nice for its customers? Where’s the Visa lounge!?