A few weeks ago, Miss Love and I took an excursion to Boston to check out the Renaissance hotel, enjoy the music of a local funk band, and try out their new menu from Blue Ribbon Classics, a New York-based restaurant company partnering with New England hotels to teach them their award-winning recipes for usage in their restaurants. It delivers an interesting concept- instead of selling the food directly to the hotels, they sell the recipes and techniques so that each hotel can deliver a fresher, tastier product based off a famous recipe.
I’m not sure if I’d ever stayed at the Renaissance before, but it’s close to the water and in an accessible area near the Boston Convention Center. Our room was bright and nautical, and we lounged on the striped chaise and bed and watched a few episodes of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and talked about boys and the mall. We don’t have a TV back home. Things get pretty intense.
Here’s the view from our room, looking out on the water.
After our television binge, we headed down to the bar area, the Capiz Lounge, for a few drinks before the show. The drink list was wonderfully eclectic, using ingredients like Tabasco, grilled fruit, and one that really caught our eye, creme de violette. Such a vintage flavor! This drink, the Aviation, was a fresh, fruity beverage with vodka, club soda, lemon, and the aforementioned creme. Really refreshing and pretty potent, too. Miss Love enjoyed a cava cocktail with raspberries and lime. This was a little more muted in flavor, but after a drive in 75 degree weather in Memorial Day traffic, it was incredibly quenching!
We decided to whack up a bunch of appetizers from the Blue Ribbon menu along with our drinks, and started off our meal with some barbecue pulled pork sliders, fried rock shrimp, Northern fried chicken wings, manchego and honey toast, and smoked salmon toast. The five appetizers were generously proportioned and loaded with toppings. I think that three of them could have easily sated us. With five, we left stuffed!
Surprisingly, our favorite part of this smorgasbord was the manchego cheese toast. The thick slices of warm white bread were saturated with honey yet not sticky at all, and the lacy slices of cheese on top were creamy, but not overwhelming at all. A very provincial, yet delightful dish. I could have eaten this for breakfast, lunch, or dessert and loved the combination of flavors.
The salmon toast was made from the same bread, but suffered from an overzealous hand with capers and onions, the loose toppings falling over the side. The composition of this was precarious and unwieldy, as the cream cheese anchored the salmon to the bread, but the remaining toppings were left to fend for themselves. While the presentation might not have been as striking, mixing the vegetables in would have made for a more compact, evenly distributed bite.
As we ate, the band played a few sets. They were really good! It was an eclectic mixture of funk and rock, and they seemed to have a great time playing.
There are many words to describe these wings, but only one seems to fit the bill: pornalicious. For once, this dirty Fieri-ism hits the nail on the head. The wings were crazy, huge mastadon tendons drizzled with a honey cayenne sauce. We were told they were made with a matzoh-meal batter, which explained the airy, light texture and sweet, yeasty crunch. These were wonderfully seasoned with garlic, onion, paprika, and thyme.
The real downside to these, unfortunately, was their size and preparation. Because they were served whole, they were really difficult to eat without making a huge mess. Cutting them also proved to be tough as they batter easily flaked off. The only alternative was to pick them up and gnaw on them- extremely fun, but the bar is well-lit and it tends to be a bit of a date-killer. Aside from that, these were winners. I just wish they’d been easier to eat.
The fried rock shrimp were poppable, tender, and tasty, made even better with the lemon cayenne aioli. Nothing too crazy here, just a basic and reliable appetizer with a spicy kick.
Miss Love’s favorite dish of the night was a surprise! I ordered the barbecue pork sliders expecting that they’d be relinquished to me. Little did I know that we’d end up eying the last one territorially. With homemade pickles and a sweet, Carolina-style vinegar sauce, these were both filling, but not too indulgent. We loved how buttery the brioche bun was without being too dense. The sandwiches were really perfectly proportioned and had a bright, zesty flavor thanks to the citrus zest in the pork and sauce.
After all of these salty appetizers, we really needed another drink! We asked our waitress for a recommendation and was told that the bartender, Cathy, had a special sangria that she made on request. We asked for two and were told that it might be best to share one- Cathy’s recipe has twelve kinds of alcohol! It was bright yellow and studded with pieces of lemons, oranges, and lime when she brought it out. Despite the booze, this was a refreshing, crisp, lemony drink with a very smooth finish and not a hint of burn at all. Well made- I’m quite sure this made TLC 200% funnier after we shared it.
It was a fantastic trip, and I was so glad to test the new Blue Ribbon appetizers. Like I said, I think that the concept is wonderful and it’s clear from what we ate that they’re doing a great job of executing it at the Renaissance. I look forward to coming back and trying the rest of the menu, and can’t wait to get back to Boston! Thanks again to the hotel and PR team for facilitating our visit. We had an amazing time!