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: The quintessential Upper West Side brunch

I try to get to Compass by 11:30, when the restaurant opens. Brunch on the Upper West Side can get crowded quickly, and I enjoy that brief moment when the meal is its most peaceful. This Manhattan neighborhood is popular among brunchers and offers no shortage of choices. Yet, the most interesting by far can be found at Compass, on W. 70th Street, just west of Amsterdam Avenue. Be sure to make a reservation, because you won’t be the only person in the neighborhood to have this idea.

The brunch menu is not expensive: you’ll enjoy an incredible meal for $28. So, why feature it in the Daily Pampering column, which is committed to the decadent? Well, you don’t have to spend a fortune to live the life luxurious, and any local or visitor to Manhattan would be nuts not to sit for a meal here.

The Compass brunch menu is short on choice but not on variety. The first course to be presented to you includes salmon, bread, pastry and sausage. Bite-sized portions of all are presented for the table, obviating the need for difficult decisions. The flavors are incredibly well balanced, and the presentation is meticulous. Dessert is served the same way – small portions of everything. You won’t need to worry about leaving the table with the concern that you missed something delightful.You do have to select an entrée, and it’s a painful experience. You may be able to narrow it down to three or so that turn you on, but finding your way to one is brutal. If you live in the city, you can just go back a few times. I don’t envy tourists, however who don’t have easy access to this restaurant. On my most recent visit (last weekend), I ate the Lobster BLT, the first time I’ve tried it, and I’m glad I did. There are no good choices on the menu – they’re all beyond that.

The service at Compass is flawless. The staff is quiet, efficient and attentive. Dishes are brought at ideal temperatures, and water and coffee flow before you need to ask. I’d suggest a waiter, but that’s unnecessary – they are all fantastic.

You need a dose of pampering? Head out to Compass for a meal. This is among the most enjoyable culinary experiences in Manhattan, the price is downright shocking. Compass has a full menu for dinner, as well, which is not to be missed.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Lively-est brunch in Manhattan

In New York, brunch is more than just a meal. For most, it’s that one chance to indulge, regardless of tax bracket. You find an upscale restaurant, sip a champagne cocktail and order dishes you could never prepare on your own. Most important, you work hard to seem nonchalant, as if you live this way every day. Of course, if you’re visiting the city, you also want at least one celebrity sighting. So, if you could nab a celeb while scarfing brunch, you complete your vacation without tying up the sidewalk on 34th and Madison (and slowing my commute).

So, two birds, one stone? Try Norma’s, in Le Parker Meridien. The brunch is fantastic and expensive, so you will get the full experience. In addition to waiting 20 minutes past your reservation to be seated, you’ll enjoy the occasional star sighting. Men, if you want to score big with your wives or girlfriends, arrange to be there on a Sunday after noon. It’s no secret that Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively loves Norma’s, and I can confirm that she prefers an early afternoon brunch on Sunday (at least as of a few weeks ago).

Oh, and the coffee’s great, too.