Boston’s brunch and books

Though I’ve sworn off books in favor of my Kindle, there’s still something electrifying about an indy bookstore. Throw food into the mix, of course, and the experience can be blissful. On my recent trip to Boston, I sought out Trident Booksellers & Cafe for this reason. The Newbury Street establishment is home to a rare bookstore-and-restaurant combination, Trident, where you can peruse the aisles for something to read before grabbing a table or sitting down at the counter to read it while you munch on a meal. It’s a regular spot for me when I pass through Boston and is a great alternative to the major brunch destinations in the city, especially Sonsie across the street.

Despite the simplicity of the concept – a bunch of tables and a kitchen occupying part of a bookstore – the menu is extensive. Consisting of several pages of dishes, it moves well past diner fare and into the interesting and ultimately creative. It took me seconds to decide I’d have the apple and brie omelette (to tell the truth, it was one of the first things on the menu, and I didn’t bother looking any further), and had to order the “mega tots.”


I’m generally not a fan of “tater tots.” They remind me of the depths to which your grocery store’s freezer section can sink, offering up fare you feared while waiting in the elementary school lunch line. Thankfully, Trident’s menu includes descriptions. This side dish consists of three incredibly large “tots,” really comprised of excellent hash browns. In the middle, you’ll find gooey cheese which melts once you cut into the creation. They are very large and rather filling, even for someone with an appetite like mine. Order it for the table, and you’ll have the experience without leaving grub behind.

Trident offers outside seating, so you can take in the sounds of Boston and a bit of fresh air while you savor your experience, and there’s free wi-fi through the café, so you can turn your meal into productive time – if that’s what you prefer.

My only gripe about Trident was that the service could have been a bit quicker and more attentive. When I arrived, most of the tables were empty, but the restaurant filled quickly, which made the situation a bit worse. The staff was friendly, and my food came out promptly. Ordering took a while, though, and getting some water (well into my meal) chewed up a bit of time. And none of this was of a magnitude that would keep me from returning – it’s just something to keep in mind before you go.

On your next trip up to Boston, skip the usual brunch haunts and pick up a meal at Trident. It’s the sort of unique spot that can make a meal one of the most memorable parts of your getaway.

Daily Pampering: Dash off to the Bahamas in style

Travel would be great if it weren’t for airports, right? Even if you fly first class, there are still plenty of ways for the experience to go sour — from the morons in line at front of you at the security checkpoint to the long wait for your bags at the carousel. And on the plane, you have to cope with flight attendants and first class seating that falls short of the luxury you’ll experience at your destination. The solution, of course, is exclusive jet travel, and Linear Air has just what you need.

This upscale service takes the headache out of travel, making your experience top-shelf from start to finish — not just from arrival to departure. If you’re in New York or Boston and want to escape the cold for a while, take advantage of a special that Linear Air is running, with one-way fares dipping below $9,900 to the Bahamas. Once you set foot on one of the company’s Eclipse 500 jets, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered to fly with the

Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

[Photo courtesy of Linear Air]

Five Valentine’s Day deals in New England

Nothing says “romance” like a roaring fire on a chilly evening on Valentine’s Day. Through the windows, you can see snow-laden trees and pure white landscapes. From the warmth of your room, you can enjoy the winter wonderland outside, as you settle down for the perfect evening with the perfect person in your life. If this is how you envision your Valentine’s Day this year, turn your thoughts to New England this year. There are plenty of deals at your disposal through the New England Inns and Resorts Association, and a tough travel market is leading many properties to put together some amazing deals. Here are four to get you started.

1. Diamond & All Engagement Package (Kennebunkport, Maine)

Is this Valentine’s Day going to be the first day of the rest of your life together? If you’re planning to pop the question, let The Kennebunkport Inn give you a hand. This unique package includes robes, a four-course chef’s dinner with wine pairing, and an in-room couples massage. Your Mansion room will be adorned with three dozen roses, which you’ll enjoy while sipping champagne by the fire. Oh, and then there’s the one-carat diamond ring, which comes in a customized chocolate box created by the chef. The package starts at $6,500 for two nights … but that’s to be expected.2. Arts for Sweethearts Valentine’s Weekend (Chatham, Massachusetts)
The Chatham Wayside Inn will welcome you with two arrival cocktails (hot toddies or champagne cocktails) and a coupon gift back from local merchants which includes two $25 gift cards to attend the local Arts for Sweethearts art show. You’ll spend two nights in a room decorated with a red rose bouquet. A continental breakfast is served every morning, and you’ll enjoy a candlelit dinner for two at the Goose Tavern. On Sunday, dine on a Valentine’s Day brunch for two. Rates start at $429 a night, but you can add a third for half price.

3. Menage a Trois (Newport, Rhode Island)
Don’t worry, the Ocean Cliff Hotel isn’t as racy as you might think. For $225, you’ll get a night in a deluxe guestroom and enjoy the “Aphrodisiacs Delights Dinner Menu for Two.” The meal comes with a bottle of Folie a Deux Vineyards Menage a Trois wine and chocolate covered strawberries. If one night isn’t enough, you can book another for only $89.

4. Valentine/Presidential Weekend Value (North Conway, New Hampshire)
Spend three nights at the Buttonwood Inn, and you’ll be treated to a full breakfast every day, afternoon tea service and a dinner for two at a local, premier restaurant — including a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider. Top off the meal with handmade local New Hampshire chocolates, and retire to the “Hot Tub Under the Stars.” The package starts at $509, but you can save an additional 10 percent if you book by the end of the month.

5. An Affair to Remember (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Liberty Hotel in Boston wants to make sure you remember this Valentine’s Day. For $295 a night, you’ll frolic in luxury, enjoy champagne at check-in and receive two tickets to the pre-Valentine’s Day party on February 13, 2010 — where you and your sweetheart will each receive psychic reading. A copy of “An Affair to Remember” will be waiting for you in your room, should you choose to enjoy it. Add a bit of decadence to your stay at the Liberty with the “Guilty Pleasures Romance Package. At $435 a night and up, you will sip champagne that’s brought to you in your room, snack on chocolate-dipped assorted fruit and have breakfast at CLINK or in the privacy of your own room. An intimacy kit will be provided … and the details aren’t being disclosed.

Papa Gino’s: a Massachusetts pizza that defies substitution

Massachusetts can be a strange place. It took forever for the major national chains to work their way into the state. I didn’t see a Target or Wal-Mart in my area until I got out of the army in 1999. Tastes and attitudes tend to be more than a tad provincial, so even the chains are usually local. When I left Boston several years ago, I was able to find replacements for just about everything I enjoyed – and was usually able to upgrade. How could I not? I’d moved to Manhattan, which is famous for having everything … except what it doesn’t: Papa Gino’s.

Papa Gino’s is a New England pizza chain. Most of its restaurants are in Massachusetts, though it has a few outlets in northern Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire. It’s the quintessential local chain – it’s big in the area and virtually unknown everywhere else in the country. So, when I knew someone who was heading up to Massachusetts, I asked him to bring back a few slices, which I ate cold the morning after his return.

To the pizza connoisseur, a slice from Papa Gino’s would probably be a disappointment. It isn’t exotic and lacks the character of its local competitors. Ask a Bostonian if he’d walk to the nearest Papa Gino’s or brave the Callahan Tunnel for a pie at Santarpio’s in East Boston, and he’ll have his car keys in his hand. But, expats view the world through different lenses, and a slice from Papa Gino’s is something we just can’t get – making it all the more valuable.

Eaten cold, a slice from Pap Gino’s is at its finest – unless you’re eating it cold and you have a hangover. It may not be a cure for what ails you, but it’s sure as hell a great diversion.

[Photo by Svadilfari via Flickr]

Some business travelers benefit from the recession

A growing number of business travelers is trading the appellation “road warrior” for “day tripper.” Tighter corporate travel budgets are prompting these frequent fliers to complete their roundtrips in one day, rather than assume the expenses of a hotel stay and meals while on the road. Also, it comes with the perk of not being able to entertain, which cuts travel expenses further. These jaunts tend to involve flights of no more than three hours, even though some people are going coast-to-coast and back without bothering to check in to a hotel.

For some, it isn’t just a case of budgetary discipline, though that factor will never disappear in a recessionary environment. Business travelers are also drawn to the notion of being able to get home at night. Even a late-night arrival means plopping your head on your own pillow and having breakfast with the family.

Of course, these one-day runs are grueling. Even for a two-hour flight, you have to get to the airport an hour early, and unless you live right next to the airport, you’re probably looking at another hour to get there. So, to catch a 6 AM flight, you’re leaving the house at 4 AM (with a wakeup of around 3:30 AM at best), and you’re not touching the ground at your destination until 8 AM … assuming there are no delays. Depending on traffic and distance, you get to the office at 9 AM and work the entire day. To catch a 7 PM flight, you leave the office at 5 PM to get there an hour early. After two hours in the air (again, assuming nothing goes wrong), you’ll probably get home by 10 PM. That’s an 18-hour day; it’s tough.While the actual cost savings is being questioned, in my experience, it’s substantial. In 2003 and 2004, I made frequent runs from Boston to New York. With the rate my company had with the Delta Shuttle, coming home at night was a no-brainer. On longer trips, the savings may not be as substantial — as you have a higher fare and likely a less expensive hotel than you’ll find in Manhattan — but you’re still looking at more than $200 a night, assuming a $150 room and meal expenses.

The cost savings, however, may come at the expense of your health. Some experts see this sort of aggressive travel as rough on your body … and I can tell you it’s a bit rough on the spirit, too. But, if you have enough time between one-day runs, it isn’t so bad at all.

And, don’t worry: even though you lose the hotel points, you’ll still pick up the miles.