Archive for the ‘Favorite Restaurants’ Category

Originally, I was supposed to attend The Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival during my trip to Boston, but alas, it was canceled until next year. Luckily a Vegetarian Festival was going on the same weekend, so I decided to attend that instead.

I printed directions.

I found out the details.

I figured out the subway map.

I blame everything on Sam Adams.

The Sam Adams brewery was only 2 subway stops away from the festival. The plan– be there when the brewery opened and take the first free tour of the day then go to the veg festival. Mom and dad opted out and went to the JFK Presidential Library instead, so John and I were on our own.


After a crazy trip that involved a lost cabbie and no MTA, we reached the brewery just in time for the tour.

Not only do you get a free Sam Adams glass to take home, you also get a free tasting.

They teach you how to test the quality of beer while sampling their seasonal brews.

1)    Look: Is the beer clear? Swirl it around. Can you see your fingers behind it? If it’s murky, don’t drink it. You’ve got some bad brew my friend.

2)    Smell: I can’t remember what I am supposed to be smelling, but it’s important.

3)    Taste: Don’t sip it. Take a good gulp so it fills your mouth. You don’t want to just taste it with the tip of your tongue.

4)    Chew: This sounds weird, but it really works. Chomp your gulp of beer a little, this helps your whole mouth taste it and opens up the flavors.

Sam Adams is a friendly place that focuses on innovation, craft and bringing people together. I loved how they had us pass the pitchers round, pouring beer for each other and sharing our brief time together at communal tables. They even had free postage paid post cards to send to friends in the lobby! Great idea.

After a trip to the gift shop John and I hopped on the subway. Now here’s something you don’t know about me, once I’ve had one beer (and those were small glasses at the brewery) I really want another one. A snap decision was made. Ditch the veg fest and head to the countries oldest tavern, The Bell in Hand.

As if to question my judgment the train loaded up with a people who had been to the Vegetarian Festival, despite their tempting seed packets, I was fully committed to beer.

It turned out to be a very wise choice.

For some reason the staff all had on Christmas costumes for Halloween.

Santa was bar tending.

The Bell in Hand is on a corner across the street from The Union Oyster House. As we ate lunch we had a perfect view of Boston students participating in a Halloween costume beer crawl. It turned into an afternoon of great people watching, great food, and yes, more great Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer.

Hot Lobster Roll—SO good, so Boston. I can still taste the butter.

In Harry Potter Terms, Sam Adams was my Felix Fluciosus that day. Thank you, Mr. Adams.


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Ben and Sparky

It seems like Boston has the oldest everything and that’s so unusual when you’re from the Midwest. Being there in the autumn and seeing the city in its fall glory only added to the atmosphere.

Trying to pick where to eat in Boston wasn’t easy, but we decided to go the classic route and dine at the oldest continuously open restaurant in the country, The Union Oyster House.

When we first walked in we spotted the Oyster Bar and Julia’s spoon, all signs of a good time ahead.

The Union Oyster House serves local seafood straight off the coast and some of the recipes have been the same since they opened in 1826. Dripping with history, locals and tourists, our dinner at this classic Boston restaurant was a food connecting experience we will talk about for years to come.

No, I did not eat any raw oysters, but I wish I would have.

Guess we’ll have to back. Dang.

Here are some moments from our dinner:

Dad and his clam chowder.

Dad loves his pepper.

My dinner: Broiled Fresh Boston Scrod – A New England Tradition, so the menu says.

Yes those are Boston Baked Beans.


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One of my main goals during our sister road trip was to eat at Laurey’s, an established restaurant in Asheville, NC. As some of you may have heard (because I just can’t stop mentioning it) earlier this year I read the Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.

If you haven’t talked to me lately, the author visited some of the scientifically and unscientifically proven happiest places in the world. Asheville North Carolina was a part of that research and the author talked to Laurey Masterton, a local/organic restaurateur and a Vermont native now living in Asheville. Laurey’s moto is “Don’t Postpone Joy” and she believes in following the golden threads of inspiration that show up unexpectedly in your life. Because I am a big believer in all of the above and I really wanted to visit her restaurant.

Asheville is all about quaintness, so my sister and I stayed at the Wright Inn Bed and Breakfast. The communal breakfast setting seemed the perfect and natural place to connect over a food, so I made sure to scurry downstairs early for a chat with the cooks.

Shirley, the innkeeper, and her assistant were prepping breakfast and I chatted with them a bit. I tried to explain the blog, but tripped over myself a little, and quickly backed away to take pictures of the teacups. At breakfast when I explained the project to the full table the guests spent the rest of the meal talking about how they connect through food. While we ate our biscuits and eggs I heard regional tales about grits, restaurants they love, and family traditions that immediately came to mind. Everyone really got into it and a few people asked for the blog address!

As the guests went their separate ways, Lynley and I finished our tea and coffee on the huge front porch. In the lingering smoky mountain fog, we waved at the trolley tours going by and slowly planned our day in Asheville. Suddenly the screen door creaked open and Shirley came out to join us. She asked me to explain the blog again and then just started telling me stories.

Shirley and her husband owned a restaurant at a country club. She ran the front and he did the cooking. He loved to cook and everyone loved his food, so Shirley tended to stay out of his kitchen. A few years ago her husband passed away and instead of hiring a cook, Shirley decided she would take over for her husband. Now she cooks his fried chicken recipe in the same cast iron skillet he used. Without saying it directly, you could tell she stays connected with husband through the food they cooked together (even though she has been told by the locals that her fried chicken tastes better than his). Seasonally, she splits her time between the bed and breakfast and her restaurant. Shirley’s story moved me so much that I asked her what made her biscuits so good. “Ginger ale,” she said and then rattled off the recipe.

As our conversation was winding down, I told her about wanting to go to Laurey’s for lunch. Low and behold, Shirley was originally from Vermont. She grew up eating food from the Blueberry Hill Cookbook written by Laurey’s mother, Elsie Masterton. Before she left Vermont, she picked up a copy of the family favorite at the Blueberry Hill Inn and it’s been well used over the years. She considers it her standard and she wondered if they printed them still. As we said our good-byes for the day, I promised to ask at the restaurant.

When Lynley and I walked into Laurey’s, there was the Blueberry Hill Cookbook sitting on a bookshelf next to local jams and jelly’s. I snapped it up and a book about Laurey and her mother called, Elsie’s Biscuits. I flipped it open to the entry titled, “Elsie’s Biscuits.”

“My hands now make my mother’s biscuits. And when they do, it is as if she is inside of me, guiding my hands, making me move. It is a remarkable and comforting thing. I know, of course, that they are my hands, but when I look down, they could very well be hers. I was with her so much then. I saw her make so many, many biscuits.”

I looked up at the big “Don’t Postpone Joy” sign on the wall and had a moment of food-is-love-project-golden-thread-full-circleness. Grinning, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Wright Inn and tell Shirley I bought the cookbook.

Shirley’s Biscuits:


4 cups of Bisquick

1 cup of sour cream

¾ cup of ginger ale


Preheat oven to 400.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and coat it with butter.

Mix all the ingredients together so the mixture is moist.

It will be lumpy.

Use and ice cream scoop to scoop out the biscuits on to the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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My home town of Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri, but I think it might have the largest appetite. I say this because Springfield has an unusally high number of restaurants for its population size…at least it seems that way.

A Farris family favorite is Cheddar’s. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s like a Ruby Tuesdays-Houlihans-style of restaurant and there’s always a wait to eat there because it’s so popular. There are so many good restaurants in Springfield, I don’t know why everyone eats there, but they just do. I’ve had many a Monster Cookie Sundae  (which we always called the cookie monster for obvious reasons) as a birthday treat and my family in particular loves the fried chicken tenders. Cheddar’s is a Springfield institution and one of those restaurants my family liked to celebrate at or just enjoy a good heaping plate of comfort food together.

When I moved away from home, I was shocked to find that Kansas City lacked a Cheddar’s. It’s a chain and this is a big city, so I just assumed there would be one. I’d see them in other towns (Cheddar’s Spotting) and it was like a little bit of Springfield was right there waiting for me. 

Believe it or not, after ten years of driving around looking for cookie monsters,  Cheddar’s has opened up next to Oak Park Mall. It’s been there for about a year and since I don’t go to the mall very often, I had no idea until recently. My mom, my sister and I took a pilgrimage there to see if it was just like the one in Springfield and of course have our favorite menu items.

Here is our reunion with one of our favorite restaurants.

Do you wish a restaurant from your past would just pop up in your neighborhood? Tell me about your favorite restaurants past and present and who makes them special  – comment or e-mail me at thepiesthatbind@gmail.com

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