Brunch: Island Creek Oyster Bar

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The thing about brunch on a Sunday afternoon is that you can enjoy a few special treats (even if you made resolutions that say otherwise) and enjoy a leisurely meal because it’s Sunday afternoon and if you don’t slow down now, you’ll never get through the week to come with grace.  Even if you resolved to eat healthy, exercise and be a better you this year, brunch is the perfect solution.  Brunch is at a time of day that most people can make.  We all need to spend more face to face time with our friends and loved ones.  Brunch is also at a time of day that allows you to get a good workout in before you head to brunch so you can enjoy both your workout and your meal.  If you were too busy in the morning, Sunday afternoons are perfect for a stroll around the reservoir or a late afternoon trip to the gym.  So now that you’re convinced…or maybe you’re not, but you will be…just take a look at what Island Creek Oyster bar has for brunch and you’ll be counting down the hours until Sunday.

Island Creek Oyster Bar (ICOBar) is located a baseball’s throw away from Fenway Park and basks in the glow of Boston’s iconic Citgo sign.  The restaurant is owned and collaboratively run by the folks at Island Creek Oysters, Skip Bennett and his entire crew, and Chef Jeremy Sewall of Lineage, Row 34 and The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes and also related to nearby sister restaurant Eastern Standard.  The restaurant ambiance is a great mix of chic and comfortable.  It has a young modern vibe, but not so young that you feel out of place at any age.  It is my 10 year old’s restaurant of choice for her birthday each year and we have been here with parents and grandparents without anyone feeling anything about well fed and completely at home (but with way better food and décor than home).

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The oysters piled on ice are integrated right into the bar. You walk past them on your way to your table. Island Creek Oyster bar does not only serve their own oysters because when it comes to oysters the more the merrier! We had Island Creeks (Duxbury, MA), Moon Shoals (Barnstable, MA) and Sunken Meadows (Eastham, MA) for our brunch.
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Before they got to our table…
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…at the table.
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Island Creek Oyster Bar serves their oysters with their own mignonette and cocktail sauce. I love mignonette, because I love anything with vinegar, but I like my oysters naked. So what I do first is eat my oyster naked then I pour a little mignonette into the shell and sip that, and then on to the next one. It sounds odd, it probably is odd, but it’s really good.

I don’t have a picture of the freshly baked pastries because I think I was too busy deciding what I should try first.  We started with an assortment of pastries (all baked at ICOBar).  There were walnut biscotti, chocolate cinnamon croissants, cheddar chive scones (a personal favourite of mine), coffee muffins (as opposed to coffee cake), and blackberry onion jam turnovers.  I know right?!  Pull yourself together now because brunch is just beginning here!

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As I mentioned before, I love savory things and vinegar. I also love what I have come to call “fish charcuterie” (I first heard that term at Will Gilson’s pop up at Adrian’s in Truro and now get it whenever I can here at ICOBar or at Chef Gilson’s own stellar restaurant in my home town of Cambridge at Puritan & Co.). This is a gorgeous board of ICOBar’s cured wild arctic dear, smoked bluefish pâté (I had to bring the rest home I was obsessed!), tuna confit and steelhead roe and some hardy, not too sweet, not too dense pumpernickel bread and of course some pickles.
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This my friends, is a donut. I am not typically a donut person, but make it savory and turn it into a breakfast sandwich and I’m on board 100% (squared). This is a jalapeño donut with bacon (of course), Cabot cheddar, a fried egg, and (yes I hate hot avocado but this totally worked so it’s ok) an avocado mousse. Now let’s talk about these fries. I was going to skip the fries because they’re just fries right? Well no, of course they’re not just fries. They are Sriracha fries so they’re amazing of course and with the slight heat from the jalapeño donut they just make sense.

But wait, there’s more.  For entrées, there was also a grilled peanut butter and concord grape jelly (made by ICOBar in case you thought otherwise) sandwich served with Shepody waffle chips. Shepody refers to the potato which is apparently the best for making French fries or potato chips in this case. This salty and sweet combination is a bit of wow and a bit of comfort food all in one.  For those who want a little more seafood with their ICOBar experience there is the Stoughton Shrimp Hash which was served with an Anson Mills grit cake and a fried egg.  I love shrimp and grits and I’ve only had them a few times at former M3 of Davis Square and here.  I worry a bit because I think I can only go down from here.  These versions of shrimp and grits will be hard to top.  If you have a recommendation for your favourite shrimp and grits let me know!  Last but certainly not least, because we’re talking biscuits and sausage here, there is the Biscuit and Pork Sausage Gravy served with my beloved poached egg.  Again, biscuits and gravy, were not really on my radar until recently (I’m a Northerner – born and raised with the majority of the US as South to me) and I was sold when I first tried them at M3 and now have fallen hook, line and sinker for them thanks to this version.

So now that you can’t possibly have room for dessert, you will make room because dessert is not an afterthought at ICOBar.  Henry is quite reticent about food and doles out praise even more stingily than the keepers of the Michelin stars.  After his first bite of raspberry sorbet (which he had ordered when we were here for his sister’s birthday) his eyes lit up and he declared it the best ever!  As for our brunch dessert, each bite was as good (and necessary) as the one before.  That’s the best thing about brunch isn’t it?  You go as a group so you can share tales from the week past and hopes for the week ahead…and so you can share lots of different things.

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You are currently feasting your eyes on a blueberry cake donut served with lemon curd and goat cheese (it’s that creamy white peeking out from under the satiny blueberry sauce.).  The salty creaminess of the goat cheese is a perfect way to bring the sweetness of the donut and the richness of the donut and curd together.  Then there’s the tart lemon flavor and the sweet/tart pop of fresh blueberries and sweet blueberry coulis and you don’t need anything else in the world…until you open your eyes and see that your friend across the table is eating something else that looks amazing.
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This mint lime sorbet was exceptional. I love and I hate sorbet. I love sorbet when it is well -balanced, full of flavour but not too sweet. I hate sorbet when it is just too sweet (which sadly is most of the time). This mint lime sorbet was perfect in every way: sweetness, texture, and flavour.
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And chocolate lovers, you have not been forgotten. This is a milk chocolate pot de crème with a caramel cream and a cocoa nib tuple. I am not usually a chocolate lover (I prefer fruity desserts, or cheese, or creamy vanilla type things). I could not figure out a way to hide this entire thing under my scarf and nonchalantly walk out into the Commonwealth Hotel Lobby to sit in one of their comfy leather chairs and quietly work my way down to the bottom of this coupe without anyone noticing (or anyone asking me to share it with them) otherwise I totally would have!


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