MIT Senior Week (Part 3)

(6/06) Lunch cruise in Boston harbor! Our class rented out half of the well known Spirit of Boston cruise ship for a lunch cruise in Boston Harbor today. It was to be casual dress, and parents were invited to come along with the seniors if they so choose. I was excited to finally be on that cruise ship again during the daytime, so I could actually SEE the harbor (the last time I was on this same cruise ship for a nighttime cruise on Halloween, called Boo's Cruise). This lunch cruise was to last 2 hours, and would be serving a buffet style lunch with various entrees, as well as dessert afterwards.

Being the food lovers that we are, Greg and I made a beeline for one of the tables closest to the buffet area to be seated as we entered the ship (I'm not even kidding, we passed up tables next to the windows with great views just to sit near the food in the center of the room). Hahaha. The big shiny lids of the food trays were tempting us with their secrets beneath, we could barely wait to see what was inside.

The waiters came around to tell us that since we rented the deck as a group event, there was a complimentary soda and juice bar for the lunch. I didn't feel like getting soda for a lunch cruise (seemed less than classy, and I was feeling more brunch-y), so I asked for juice instead. It did come in a nice glass, with a straw no less. Weird, trying to drink orange juice with a straw.

So then it turns out that they send people up to the buffet area table by table, so as to prevent long lines from forming. They started sending up the people sitting on the opposite side of the room near the windows first, and we were pretty much doomed to be in the second half of the room to be called up. We were both super disappointed that we'd have to wait a long time to get food. The whole point of getting a seat nearby the area was to be able to get up there first, right? So here is my dearest boyfriend looking dejected while everyone in the background is getting the food we aren't allowed to touch yet haha. (Do you see how close we were to the table!!)

But guess what? By the the time we got to go up for food, we had realized that most of the dishes weren't all that interesting. They had pasta primavera with marinara sauce, Asian pepper steak beef, pan seared chicken strips with julienned onions and peppers, baked coated chicken pieces, and crabmeat stuffed sole. Sides were green beans and boiled red bliss potatoes. They also had a small salad bar. I of course got a little bit of everything just to try. But as to be expected with a lunch cruise, they tried to cater to as many different types of people as possible, and did a poor job of it. The Asian pepper steak beef was predictably bad and didn't taste Asian at all. The pan seared chicken strips with veggies tasted like chicken fajitas, only with less flavor and more dried up meat. And the baked chicken, which looked beautiful, just like KFC or southern fried chicken, tasted boring and dry. It lacked the punch of spices that makes other fried chickens delicious. The things I did like were the pasta primavera, which had gemelli pasta. It wasn't anything extraordinary, but compared to much of the other items it was pretty palatable. I also enjoyed the green beans a great deal as they were tender and crunchy, with a good cooked flavor. My two favorites of the lunch were the potato salad (white blob of stuff on the right side in the picture) and the crabmeat stuffed sole. The fish itself was overcooked, but I really liked the crabmeat stuffing, which is supposedly Chesapeake Bay style crabmeat stuffing. It had some real crab in it, but also some imitation crab and bread-based filler, which made it nice and savory. It was probably the most worthy item on the menu. They were very small though, smaller than the size of my palm, so most people took multiple servings. The stuffed sole is hump featured in the center front of the picture below. Clearly I got two of these on my plate. The baked chicken is behind the soul, and topped with the green beans.

Can't forget about the scenery! It was really tough to get nice shots of the outside when we weren't sitting next to any windows. Here is a neat ship parked in the harbor. It looks antique, and is so beautiful in black.

Next it was time for dessert. I got the creme brulee cheesecake, which is a slice of vanilla cheesecake that has a layer of vanilla bean custard on the bottom right above the graham cracker crust, and the top ot the cheesecake was caramelized with sugar. Honestly this cheesecake wasn't as great as I thought it would be. There was no creme brulee flavor. They basically just took vanilla cheesecake (this is the same kind, even down to the custard layer, that is sold in the Simmons dorm night cafe) and topped it with sugar to caramelize. That doesn't make creme brulee cheesecake, I'm sorry to say. It was just vanilla cheesecake with a crusty top. And the caramel that they drizzled looked nice, but didn't go well with the flavor of the cheesecake. It also made the caramelized top taste fake, because the fake flavoring of the caramel sauce was too strong. All in all, the dessert satisfied a sweet tooth, but it really wasn't very innovative in taste. I had some coffee on the side to go with it also, but the sweetness of the cheesecake made the coffee taste terribly bitter.

After dessert Greg and I went onto the observation deck to enjoy the view and the beautiful weather for the rest of the cruise ride. I've never really seen this side of Boston, since I'm always looking at the ocean from the city. But this port city is really quite lovely from the ocean, and considering that it is one of the oldest cities in the US, it sure stands up to its fame! Enjoy the following photos:

(6/07) It's the day before graduation, but I wasn't interested in going on the senior week events for today, which were Boston's famous duck tours (really just a tourist gimmick) and a Boston Pops concert. Well, I would have loved to see the Pops concert, but the tickets were extravagant despite being a class event. So I spent the day relaxing, mentally preparing for the long graduation day ahead and just enjoying my last day as a carefree undergraduate.

For dinner I went out with Greg to one of our favorite cheap eats place, Pho Pasteur in Harvard Square. It's a semi-trendy Vietnamese restaurant that caters to the American crowd while maintaining the authentic flavor of good Vietnamese food. Recently Pho Pasteur changed its name to Le's, which I find to be an annoying and unattractive name for a place that I am so fond of. So don't be alarmed that I continue to refer to it by its former name. Pho Pasteur is a quick bus ride down the street from MIT, and is located in the heart of Harvard Square in a cluster of stores called the Garage. The food is amazingly cheap for the quality and quantity, as long as you enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. A bowl of pho that is enough for me to eat costs only $5.25. Last time I went with Zheng I showed you the pho and summer rolls that I got. This time I decided to get something different for the sake of variety. Greg and I started off with an appetizer of Vietnamese spring rolls, which have a ground pork mixture inside, served with a side of fish sauce. These are delectable to start with, because they are fresh and crispy, and their small size (similar to a cigar) makes them easy to eat. Unfortunately the waitress misheard our order and brought us both the spring rolls as well as an order of summer rolls. Oops. At least they were both appetizers we liked haha.

For entrees, Greg got a big face bowl of pho (the bowl being bigger than his whole head), and I got a traditional Vietnamese rice dish whose name is "Com Suon, Bi, Cha" (I'm sure that is just a description of the dish rather than a real name). It is a plate with steamed white rice, a honey-grilled pork chop, julienned pork skin, and tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce. The plate comes with a side of fish sauce as well, which goes really well with everything on the plate. I know julienned pork skin sounds pretty weird, but it's a Vietnamese thing and it's really good. It's not strips of fat, it's the actual skin, which has a lot of collagen, so it's a little bit like eating small strips of tendon dusted with some sort of powdery seasoning. The pork chops are delicious too. They are thin and juicy, with lots of sweetness from the honey. I generally dislike American steak-house style pork chops, but these are so fantastic I pick up the bone and try to get off all the meat at the end haha. This dish usually also comes with a steamed ground pork, egg, and vermicelli meatloaf square, but sometimes it doesn't get served, and no explanation is given. Why???

After dinner, Greg and I wandered around Harvard Square for a while, and went into CVS where I bought myself a bottle of Olay Regenerist daily serum (I heard it works wonders… and it cost me $17 for 1.7 oz or so… so let's see if it really does make my skin look beautiful). Then it was time for dessert! :) We had a coupon for a buy any sized ice cream cone or cup and get one of the same size for free. So we got 2 medium cones, one in strawberry cheesecake flavor, and one in vanilla heath bar flavor. The strawberry cheesecake (in the picture below) was pretty good, and not too rich. It tasted more like vanilla and strawberry ice cream mixed together, with some chunks of graham cracker crust. The heath bar flavor was much sweeter, with indulgent pieces of crunchy heath bar in vanilla ice cream. Yum! Greg and I shared the two cones, but I'm pretty sure he ate more of the heath bar one before giving it to me to finish off. Grrr!!

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