Sunday, January 4, 2009
Cookies and Creations: The Boston Children's Museum and Flour Bakery
I have fond memories of visiting the Children's Museum as a kid. I remember it as a place to run around, to make big bubbles and to leave with dozens of craft ideas after having spent way too much money at their "recycling center". Unlike the Aquarium, Raphael has enjoyed each of our 3 visits. However, by taking him once every 8 to 12 months, I have been able to watch him grow and have more fun each time. From my end, I have learned how to park, to visit at off hours and, most importantly, where to eat!
In terms of parking, about 2 blocks behind the Museum, on Farnsworth Street, is a decent lot that has validated parking. On a rare occassion, I have also found metered spots a few blocks away. To avoid crowds (and when the museum is crowded it is a total nightmare) once we went, no kidding, during a hurricane. This time it was December 24th so most people where out shopping. But I do think that arriving at opening time and just keeping the visit limited to a few hours may help to avoid the chaos, too. The musuem isn't particularly inexpensive, so I try to take advantage of library passes that reduce the price to $2.00 a person.
They have renovated the museum, so there is more room in the hallways. Each time I am impressed with the setting (great view from the elevator!). There isn't as much room to run around as there is at the Museum of Science, but there are so many rooms to play: to climb on construction equipment; to play with balls and tubes; to play basketball; to create music; to make bubbles; to play with different construction toys; to explore a Japanese house; to check out the set of Arthur and to play many different imagination games. There is a also a great area for babies which I took advantage of when Raphael was about 1.
This time we were also in luck as they were having a "Paper Festival." So, on each floor there were about 2 different projects (already set up with NO cleaning!) that Raphael could take part in. Even better was the fact that each project was designed so simply that any adult could recreate it at home with recycled paper. We walked away with a Japanese lantern, a "tree", snowflakes, paper dolls, Chinese New Year cards, a 3 D snowman and a whirligig.
We made a double pit-stop, before and after the museum, at one of my absolute Boston favorites: Flour. For years we frequented the site in the South End, but now there is another location, just opposite the parking garage. Flour's food is not cheap, but it is also labor intensive, using the best ingredients. And this means that the baked goods are simply fantastic. A perfect example is their oh-so-common-sounding "egg sandwich." What this means is you get a delicious freshly baked roll with an egg. It also comes with fresh greens, sundried tomatoes, cheddar, the best bacon (or ham) and a dijon-mayonnaise sauce. It is a heavenly combination of tastes and textures. And lest you think that this place isn't
"family friendly", they have healthy and delicious salads, warm soups, incredible sandwiches ranging from pb and j to curried tuna with apples.
Their other baked goods (from scones to muffins to homemade PopTarts and Oreos) are pretty fabulous, too. I enjoy their dark chocolate cookie (bittersweet and decadent) and their "vegan" chocolate cake which is both light and rich. This time we tried a new cookie and again, with the huge chunks of pecans, dark chocolate, fresh oatmeal and coconut I understood why it simply isn't cheap. But it is so worth it.
No visit is complete, though, without me buying at least 1/2 a loaf of their focaccia. The name seems to be a misnomer as it nothing like any focaccia that I have had. And if anyone has any idea how to make this, do let me know! I know it is vegan and is made with olive oil, but has a fine crumb and an incredible texture that is as fabulous slathered with Nutella as it is covered with cheese and pressed into paninis. It is never as good as that first day, but when we can't typically get out to Flour, having it in our freezer is about as good as it gets. And, in fact, it is so good, that my son was content to eat that (with some clementines for a some-what well-balanced lunch.)