Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
A friend of mine and I headed over to the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival over by Fenway Park today to try a number of restaurants and food shops that are located in the Boston area. We almost didn't make it over there, as the festival had been sold out since Thursday, but we were able to grab a couple of VIP tickets from someone who had a couple of extras.
The festival, which took place on Landsdowne Street and Ipswich Street along the perimeter of Fenway Park, was absolutely packed. Even with a limited number of tickets being sold to the event, it did seem like there were too many people in too small a space, and the lines at some of the booths reflected this. Fortunately, the lines moved quickly because most places were serving only one item and no money needed to be passed to the servers, making even the longest lines at places such as Salvatore's and Trani seem tolerable.
I tried several places at the festival, with mixed results, although keep in mind that the people behind the booths were making and serving food at a hectic pace, so perhaps it is unfair to pass judgment on the quality of the food. But here are my general thoughts on the places I tried, anyways:
Trani: Located in the North End of Boston, Trani is home of the injectable ice cream. The cupcake and cannoli, both of which had ice cream inside them, were pretty tasty, but I'm guessing that they paled in comparison to the freshly made items they serve at their shop.
Fuddruckers: With several locations around New England, Fuddruckers is famous for their burgers. I had never been to one and I must say that I was completely blown away by the burger I had at the festival. Steaming hot off the grill, this was a burger that I could eat again and again, which is exactly what I did at the festival, getting seconds just before I left.
Ivy: Ivy is a highly regarded restaurant in downtown Boston that serves, among other items, arancini (rice balls). And arancini was what they were serving at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival, but I can't say that I was overly impressed by the one I ate on my way out. It was a bit mushy and watery, and I wasn't crazy about the overall flavor. But again, it could be that the arancini is much better fresh, so I may have to give them another shot at their restaurant.
Kane's Donuts: Located in Saugus, Kane's has been voted on of the top 10 donut shops in the United States by one well-regarded Web site. And after trying their cinnamon coffee roll at the festival, I can see why. Their coffee roll was, in technical terms, "insanely good." I was almost tempted to get a second one before leaving, but I had had too many sweets at that point.
Edible Arrangements: Speaking of sweets, the chocolate-covered bananas and strawberries at Edible Arrangements were tremendous, with some of the highest quality chocolate I've had in awhile used for the outer coating. I could have eaten these all day long given the chance (and given a much bigger stomach).
Carl's, T.C. Lando's, Tory's: This small chain of sandwich and pizza shops is well known for their steak and cheese subs. I had recently had one at the T.C. Lando's in Hudson, and thought that it may have been the best steak and cheese I've had in New England (with all due respect to Doogies in Newington). The one I had at the festival was excellent, though not quite as good as the one I had in Hudson.
Beard Papa's: Known for their cream puffs, Beard Papa's was one of my favorite stops at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival. Their two-layer shells were filled with custard at the exact moment that they were served, and the freshness showed. The vanilla cream inside these pastries was exquisite, and little bits of vanilla beans helped give the cream puffs a pleasant aroma.
Salvatore's: Being familiar with both Sal's Pizza and Salvatore's, I was expecting decent pizza at their booth, and that's exactly what I got. With a thin, crispy crust, decent sauce, and a good amount of cheese on top, the slice I tried, while not nearly as big as the ones from their restaurants, was every bit as tasty.
Firefly's: More than making up for the dreadful food I had at the Firefly's in Quincy recently, the pulled pork sandwich I tried at their booth was lean, tender, and full of flavor. While not the best pulled pork I've had, I thought it was good enough to warrant another trip back to this small chain of Boston-area BBQ places.
Overall, I'm glad I went to the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival. The food at their BBQ Beach Party (held during the summer in Government Center) was generally better, but the lines at the food festival moved faster and there was a wider variety of food at this event. I guess my only gripes were that it was too crowded, at least one place ran out of food halfway through the event, and there were a lot of pretty rude people cutting in line, bumping into others, and generally acting like they owned the place. But it was worth going to, at the very least to try the many restaurants and food shops that had set up booths at the festival. My favorites? Well, again, it is tough to accurately judge these places because they were trucking out food so quickly, but my three favorites were probably Fuddruckers, Kane's Donuts, and Beard Papa's.
If anyone out there went to the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival, feel free to post a comment here. I'd love to hear what you thought of the event.
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