After two flights and eight hours, my Uncle Jeff, affectionately known as Fluffy, picked me up at Boston’s Logan International Airport with little patience and tons of energy. Still in his nice slacks and button-down from the work day, he coos at me like a tiny baby animal, does his best Elmo giggle, and prances ahead on his tiptoes like my fairy godmother.
He’s not at all an effeminate man. He’s big—”an eighth of a ton!” as he often reminds anyone who’s in earshot—with full facial hair and a deep baritone. This unlikely mismatch of clean, manly appearance and hysterical, carefree antics is no doubt perplexing to those around us who try not to gawk. To me, it is a comforting and familiar sight that invokes a sly smile and slight eye-roll, like an inside joke I know all too well.
When he’s not making crazy faces, busting chops, or cracking himself up, Uncle Fluffy plays a very convincing, serious businessman. He’s a self-made, successful realtor of the highest-end Boston waterfront properties with an office right by Quincy Market and a cushy black Lexus that whisks us out of the parking garage and into evening traffic.
“You ruined our plan!” he tells me. We have a plan? This is news to me, so I wonder how I could’ve already foiled it. “I told your mother I was taking you on a foie gras mission, and she said you won’t eat that!” I may have given up meat a couple of years ago, but a foie gras mission sounds well worth an exception. “Heck yes, I’ll eat that!” I say, and the wrinkle disappears momentarily from his brow, but then quickly returns as he peers down at my sneakered feet. “I brought other shoes,” I assure him, and the glee ensues.
Our first stop is Mistral, a very upscale French bistro with marble tables, fully suited waiters, and “Proper Dress Required” posted at the door. It’s a good thing he’d rejected my first choice of blouse, a colorful striped tank, because they ain’t talkin’ Austin proper. Everyone is dressed elegantly and conservatively—”it is Boston after all,” he reminds me.
The foie comes served atop a brioche tower stuffed with duck confit, the plate drizzled with a savory dried cherry gastrique. The flavors are absolutely incredible. It’s the first bite of foie gras I’ve had in a very long time, and while it wa everything I’d fondly remembered, it’s just a tiny bit too firm. I expect it to melt in my mouth, but it requires a few chews. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy. “Pace yourself,” he says, “we’ve got three more stops.” This is going to be an experience. We finish our drinks and venture on.
Next up is Deuxave, a slightly less stuffy, slightly more swanky joint with funky bar seating and trendy decor. We take a seat at a plushy high-top. “No menus,” he says as the bartender comes by, “we’re on a mission.” He orders his usual, a Macallan 12-year scotch on the rocks with a splash of water, and she recommends a Sauternes for me. I’ve never had the celebrated sweet wine and foie pairing and gladly accept. I’m not disappointed.
This preparation is much different than the last. Where Mistral’s is monochrome and elegant, Deuaxve’s is bright and playful. It comes with dots of strawberry Zinfandel jam and a smear of Marcona almond butter, garnished with chopped, pickled ginger, peach salad, and whole blueberries (pictured above). The tender goose liver is perfectly cooked—seared on the outside, smooth as butta’ on the inside. “Not butter,” Uncle Fluffy corrects me, “silk.” We savor every bite.
Then it’s on to the bar of the Mandarin Oriental, which he’s surprised I’ve never heard of. Alas, international luxury five-star hotels are not a part of my typical lifestyle. He excitedly describes what we’re about to indulge in, one of the best he’s ever had, served with a candied banana. But the bartender bursts his bubble. “We’ve just completely changed the kitchen staff,” she says and opens a menu so we can see how the new kids are serving their foie.
It looks promising—rosewater funnel cake, Medjool dates, and mustard greens. The food and beverage manager stops by and assures us it’s just as good, if not better. But what we get is hugely disappointing. The funnel cake is flat and greasy, seemingly not fresh. The mustard greens are missing. But the biggest travesty is the sad, tiny, shriveled piece of foie gras, which we can’t even find at first. We trade suspicious looks, each take a tiny bite just to be sure, and we’ve had enough. It’s overcooked to the point of no return, dense and dry like chalk in my mouth.
Our last stop is the Liberty Hotel, where we’ve just missed the Thursday night fashion show in the lobby. It is an old historic building converted from a former prison. This place is the spot, obviously a popular hangout for young and old with several different bars and restaurants. We make a diversion for crab cocktail at one called Scampo. The combination of fresh mozzarella, creamy avocado, and big chunks of crab meat is a welcome intermission from all that foie.
We linger a little too long, though—by the time we move on to the main bar for our last tasting, the kitchen has closed. I don’t mind at all; I’ve had my fill. We finish the night with one more drink at Alibi, where my generation is laughing and dancing and walking in and out of the still in-tact prison bars. Celebrity mug shots line the walls. The DJ bangs out a genius mash-up of Biggie, Ice Cube, and Naughty by Nature. I bop my head, Uncle Fluffy cooly sips his Macallan.
Four stops and a long, memorable night later, I’m so grateful for the all-star tour of Boston foie gras. Uncle Fluffy and I agree that Deuxave emerges the clear winner. We clink glasses one last time. Mission accomplished.