On a mild Saturday evening in February, I met Meghan, Michelle, and Daisy (close friends who love food, wine, cocktails, and good conversation as much as I do) in the North End to embark on a progressive dinner. We defined a progressive dinner as consisting of five different stops, and we determined that we would start with cocktails, move to the next spot for appetizers, the next for entrees, the next for dessert, and finally come full circle and end with cocktails at the last spot.
We plotted and planned and carefully selected the first four locations, leaving the last to be more spontaneous. We knew we wanted to start at Ristorante Fiore, an old standby for cocktails. And the newly revamped Mare sounded like the perfect spot to grab appetizers. Mamma Maria called out to us as the place to indulge in entrees. And Prezza has been known to have some good desserts, so we opted to go there after dinner.
Daisy, the North End resident in the group, was our fearless leader, deftly blazing the trail from one restaurant to the next.
I met Meghan at the bar at Fiore, and after perusing the cocktail menu, I decided to kick off the night with a sparkling cocktail. Michelle and Daisy soon joined us and we all caught up at the bar before heading off to our next destination.
Mare sits at the corner of Richmond and North streets and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows around the street-facing perimeter. We were seated in the corner where we had a nice view not only out of those windows but of the whole restaurant.
We decided to share a bottle of Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut, which we knew would pair well with the oysters we knew we were going to order.
We opted for four Wellfleet oysters and four Pleasant Bay oysters so we could each try one of each. We definitely picked them for their high salt content and were all pleased with their brininess, and I loved the mignonette served with them.
Besides the oysters we knew we had to try a few more of Mare's appetizer offerings, and the polenta and clams caught all of our eyes. This polenta was the smoothest, creamiest polenta I have ever had. The sweet clams and salty sopressata were lovely accompaniments.
We also tried the steamed Wellfleet mussels with white wine, garlic, and preserved lemon. I loved the bright, zesty citrus notes the preserved lemon provided.
After chatting and eating and more chatting, we finished our Champagne, tossed our shells aside, and walked on to our next destination.
Mamma Maria is set in a 19th-century brick row house, and as soon as you walk in, you get the overwhelming feeling of being right at home. It's quaint, cozy, and welcoming.
We were led upstairs and seated in a small dining room. Here we decided to indulge in a bottle of red and went with the Umani Ronchi Cùmaro. This wine, made from Montepulciano grapes, was warming and spicy.
Our waiter started us with some fresh bread, pesto, and olives, which we happily nibbled on while we awaited our entrees (you'd think we hadn't just come from eating a spread of appetizers at Mare).
The rabbit pappardelle was the raved-about dish, and while I'd never had rabbit before, I thought it was as good a time as any to try it. The dish consisted of slow-cooked Vermont-raised rabbit, in the Tuscan-style, with homemade pappardelle, crispy pancetta, and fresh rosemary. I cleaned my plate. The rabbit reminded me of tender, gamy dark meat chicken. And the fresh pasta was incredible.
Then it was time for dessert, and off we went.
We arrived at Prezza unsure of whether we would be able to get a table, especially since we only wanted dessert, but the hostess graciously welcomed us and seated us within moments.
Daisy and Michelle started talking about ordering Bailey's on the rocks and, once the idea was in my head, I joined in. Meghan went with a glass of prosecco.
We decided to share two desserts: fig and cocoa turnovers with pistachio gelato and port wine sauce and white chocolate bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and creme anglaise. Besides a tinge of burnt flavor on the edges, the fig and cocoa turnovers were wonderful. The flaky phyllo dough gave way to soft, flavorful centers, and the cool pistachio gelato rounded out the dish.
This second dessert really wasn't one I would ever order. I just went with the flow. I typically am not a big fan of bread puddings, but I did try a bite, and I found this one to be more cakelike, which I appreciated.
We left Prezza with the idea to find a fun karaoke bar where we could sing some Whitney songs, but we never made it that far.
We ended the night with a final round of cocktails at Bricco. I decided to try the Left Bank, which is a combination of Hendrick's gin, St-Germain, and dry white wine. I probably would have appreciated this drink earlier in the evening, but for my last drink of the night, following much more mellow wine and Bailey's, I just found this drink too strong. A glass of prosecco would have been a better idea.
I haven't had as much fun as I had that Saturday night in a long time. Our evening was filled with not only great food but lots of laughter, smiles, encouragement, and fun. This was the perfect way to spend an evening with friends. We're already planning which neighborhood to head to for our next progressive dinner.
Have you ever participated in a progressive dinner? Or where would you like to have a progressive dinner?