Downtown Boston viewed across the Charles River in Cambridge
Anyway, when it comes to food, there was a really signifcant experience I had. About 2.5 years ago I went to Boston for the first time and had a pastry called a 'lobster tail' from Mike's Pastry in the North End (you can read more about the lobster tail, or La Sfogliatella as it's known in Italy, from the Mike's website ).
Now at the time I first went to Boston I was really into cannoli, and so I was excited to go to Mike's, which was supposedly the greatest Italian pastry shop, to try the cannoli, not lobster tails, which I had never heard of. To make a long story short I was completely bowled over by the lobster tails, which are a sort of crusty, slightly more substantial than filo dough but kind of similar pastry, shaped like a lobster tail, filled with a cream that can be described as good, very good, wonderful, out of this world, heavenly, cute, etc.
A Mike's lobster tail on the left; a biological lobster tail on the right. Notice the similarities. Notice the differences, too, if you feel like it.
The cream needs to be discussed further. According to the history of the lobster tail, given at the Mike's website, the traditional filling is a white fresh cream, although in recent times some bakers have started using a yellow custard. I'm sure the yellow custard is fine, but I'm very happy that Mike's offers both versions, the fresh cream version being the only version I have tried, although next time I'm in Boston I shall try the custard version as well. I don't know, though, it's hard to imagine the yellow custard being as good as the fresh cream.
By the way, according to recipes I've found on the Internet, the cream is made using both milk and riccota cheese, which may explain the amazingly dense, yet ethereal, quality of the cream, as well as the flavor which is not as simple as a basic whipped cream, which uses only milk.
A section of a Mike's lobster tail that I pulled off, exposing the delicious cream filling.
After purchasing a lobster tail (and a cannoli for good measure), my friend and I walked to Faneuil Hall, where I ate my lobster tail (don't worry, I shared a small portion with my friend). Anyway, my friend began to speak, as if he had been meaning to tell me something but had been agonizing over whether he should tell me or not.
"You know, I'm sorry to burst your bubble," said my friend.
Immediately I knew what was about to happen, and I was proven correct. My friend proceeded to tell me that Mike's was not the best pastry shop in Boston. Now I had already ruminated over this possibility. I was quite aware that Mike's is a very popular place, perhaps a tad touristy. This is always a warning sign. For example, when I went to Philadelphia a few months ago I tried Geno's and Pat's, the two famous cheesesteak places. I realized they probably wouldn't be that great, that there would be better places to get a cheesesteak in Philadelphia, yet I still wanted to try them. Unsurprisingly, they were both fine but nothing too exciting.
Yet I knew Mike's was different. Even if it is a tourist trap, it's not so horrible to be trapped in a place that has, in my opinion, really good pastries. It's hard to deny that Mike's lobster tails are wonderful. Is there better out there? I suppose it's certainly possible, and I wouldn't be devasted if that were the case.
My friend's implication was that my pride might be hurt if the place that I thought had the best lobster tails was in fact not the best, but that's just not true. Nothing is sacred and I don't conflate my own sense of self with something completely independent of my own being, such as Mike's Pastry. Some people might get offended by this type of stuff (e.g. "Screw you, the Steelers are the best football team," or "Screw you, Joe Shmoe's Pizza is the best and you're a freaking idiot for suggesting otherwise and we're not friend anymore!"). But I'm not like that. I don't even get offended if people claim that food and/or pants are silly and worthless. Ok, perhaps a little offended, but not enough to get angry and end friendships.
Anyway, the name of the place that my friend said has the best pastries escapes me. It's also in the North End, actually on the same Street as Mike's. I will have to go back someday and try it. But even if it is better, Mike's is good and the lobster tails are really quite delicious. I recommend them!
Mike's Pastry, which may or may not be the best pastry place in Boston