Zephyr on the Charles

is the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. It overlooks the Charles River, which on this night was frozen still. My parents came up for the weekend and managed to secure a reasonable nightly rate there, and mentioned that there was a $39 seafood and dessert buffet. Knowing how frustrating and time-consuming finding parking in Cambridge can be, we decided to check it out, sacrificing a little money in exchange for the peace of mind of hassle-free parking. By the way zephyr means breeze or a slight wind.  You know you did not know that.

As I mentioned, the main body of the restaurant looks out onto the Charles, as the Hyatt sits right on Memorial Drive. The Boston skyline is not as spectacular as Hong Kong’s but there is something peaceful and subtly attractive about it. The view was worth the few extra bucks, especially since we could linger for as long as we wanted on a slow unharried night. The seafood and soup aspect of the buffet was supremely solid– the creamy clam chowder was slightly gritty but one of the more satisfying I have had in the city. I don’t eat clam chowda often so when I do I am a stickler for consistency and seasoning. They had plenty of mussels, clams, and raw oysters, but shame on me for not eating raw seafood so I cannot attest to the quality of the oysters. My uncontested favorite of the pickings was the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were EEnormous, so plump, and cooked flawlessly, just so they developed that slight firmness that bursts blissfully as you bite in. The cocktail sauce tasted homemade, sweet and refreshing with a little heat. The only sadness was realizing I fulfilled my cholesterol quota for the month, sad especially because Christmas is around the corner.

They also had a self-service salad bar, which looked passable but I didn’t dip my fingers in. More appealing were the numerous prepared salad-type dishes, including a piquant potato salad with baby fingerling potatoes, a sesame noodle salad, and a Mediterrean-y eggplant dish with raisins that called me back for seconds. Can you believe after all this we still each had an entree (choice among prime rib, salmon, swordfish, and lobster) and unlimited desserts? We told the waitstaff to pack our entrees w/o even bringing them to the table, which drew an exaggerated roll of the eyes but whatever my parents are Asian and if they are paying you, deal with it. I was very glad we did that because the desserts there should not be passed over. The coconut macaroons were finger-sucking good, crusty and caramelized on the outside, soft and sticky on the inside. I have no clue if thats what a traditional macaroon is supposed to be like but to hell with supposed to’s b/c it was one delicious fist-sized treat (oh right, I succumbed to two). Also present were a trio of cakes, two tarts (one nutty and one fruity), ginormous gingerbread cookies, numerous bite-sized tartlets or mini-tarts (adding -lets makes me think of a smaller version even if it’s not a word). I could only sample so much without bursting, but I approved of all that I had and left very satisfied.

I have been a negligent food blogger of late as a result of a combination of things, though none being because I haven’t been thinking about food.  I really have been considering how radically my outlook on food has changed since TLG was conceived. Writing changes, indeed shapes perspective, and I approach food in so differently than I did a year ago. My fundamental relationship to food has evolved into a downright obsession, which may or may not be healthy, as my life is dictated by food now more than ever– what I read, what I look at, what I talk about, who I commingle with, what gets me going. At a certain point, as with most relationships, I think it’s reasonable to question how viable one’s interests are, to evaluate your investments and re-adjust if necessary. This is what I have been doing recently, which has not been the easiest thing to food blog about– hence, my silence. But I don’t want my silence to be mistaken for a lack of engagement with food. Obviously I’ve needed to eat to live but I meant that it has been on my mind perhaps even more than usual, if that’s possible. I think the collision of new and old that takes place at the end of each year has put me in this especially reflective state.

I am leaving for NJ next week, then on to Philadelphia for a work conference that is conveniently located within walking distance of the Reading Terminal Market, where I’m told Amish bakers proffer their delicate sweets and cheap, tasty food abounds. I am excited and excited for the blog posts to come.

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