Travel

Craft & Caro logo and nylon strap

Evolution is the process by which a species adapts to its environment, in order to thrive. It happens in small steps. It is catalyzed by chance. Each successful variation endows a lucky creature with new or improved abilities, ensuring the strength and endurance of its line. Homo Sapiens is subject to this natural progression, of course, but there is something that sets us apart.

Woman with wings manufactured for human flight

For some time now, we have had the distinct pleasure of playing a role in our own evolution, thanks to our unique creative faculties. We call this kind of progress innovation. Innovation is the means by which we adapt the world to our needs, in order to thrive. It also happens in small steps. It is catalyzed by inspiration.

Vintage flying invention

Innovation is what sets us apart from the other evolvers. It is what makes us human. We get a chance to impart our ideas, our values, our tastes, and our aesthetics into our very existence. We get to stand back, square up the canvas in our sights, and contribute our own brushstrokes, even as we live them.

Our deeper values, what we might call spiritual aesthetics, inform how we choose to live. They are reflected in those brushstrokes — in all the subtle ways that we manifest beauty, elegance, and refinement in ourselves each day.

True style is borne by the graceful fusion of utility — dictated by the practical requirements of evolution — and beauty — that more elusive sense of what pleases the spirit. The care we put into crafting ourselves evinces the grace that resonates within each of us. It is how we share ourselves with the world, and in doing so, we uplift each other.

Closeup of Nylon strap of Craft & Caro leather ruckpack

That’s why we do what we do at Craft & Caro. We celebrate creativity. We cheer on the people who nudge us forward with each new innovation. We see style as something that is part and parcel of good design and good workmanship. We seek out the choicest fruits of the artisan world, according to our own heartfelt aesthetic, and collect them in our stockroom. The items we choose share the virtue of innovation, whether they are classic or cutting edge.

 Top front of leather bag

So far, this has been our contribution to the cause. Today, however, marks the genesis of something much bigger for us.

For once, we have had the opportunity to stand at the drafting board and determine exactly what shape inspiration will take. We are quite excited to announce Craft & Caro’s first ever collaborative product. 

LTHR Supply x Craft & Caro ruckpack in Bourbon

 

In partnership with our talented friends at LTHR Supply, we proudly present The Ruckpack.

 

We teamed up with Jeremy Szechenyi and Travis Tyler, the makers behind LTHR Supply, to collaborate on the new model, based on their classic Rucksack. After no small amount of consideration, we arrived at something that we are proud to put our names on.

The Ruckpack takes into account the practical demands of everyday use, and shines as an example of the subtle panache that has come to characterize our company. This is an everyday bag, to be sure, but a bit more distinguished — sophisticated, simple, durably built and enduringly stylish.

Side view of Craft & Caro Ruckpack rolltop

This redesign is all about the details. It is in the details that you will find those very sparks of inspiration that excite the senses.

We chose softer leather for a more luxurious feel. The edges of the rolltop are unstitched and unfinished, allowing for increased flexibility and more casual styling. Eventually, the raw leather edges will develop their own unique patina.

Backside of Craft & Caro leather Ruckpack

High-quality nylon straps, designed to stand up to long-term stress, replaced the leather ones. They feature a slide loop instead of a belt buckle system, allowing for continuous adjustment. The design does away with loose strap ends for a cleaner look and function. They’re stitched right into the bag, instead of being fastened with a lot of metal hardware.

Backside of leather ruckpack

Overall, the bag has fewer structural rivets and more stitching. The remaining rivets and fittings are made of aluminum instead of stainless steel. The result is a lighter, more comfortable pack. The bag also has an increased capacity, making it ideal for the urban commuter, the casual outdoorsman, or the thrifty vacationer. The minimalist design makes for a wonderfully simple functionality.

LTHR Supply x Craft & Caro leather patch

To commemorate the series, each bag bears a handsome, manually-stamped leather patch, featuring the respective LTHR Supply and Craft & Caro labels, as well as our collaborative tagline, “everyday goods, timeless designs.”

This first limited run comes in two colors, Bourbon and Walnut. And of course, every single component, from the full-grain steer hide and the bonded nylon stitching, to the aluminum clips and rivets, was produced in the USA. The Ruckpack was designed and assembled with pride in Boston, Massachusetts.

Leather ruckpacks by Craft & Caro

Thank you for giving us a chance to share this little moment of evolution. We will continue to step forward, to inspire and be inspired, and to champion the work of makers across the globe. Their workshops are where the magic is happening. Our collective passion for progress is what keeps them at it. Here’s to much, much more.

Vintage Jet Pack man

Check out the Ruckpack here!

Filed Under: Boston, New Products, News, Travel

Father’s Day. It’s the holiday we were born to curate. Our vast selection of keepsakes and treasures will help you give Dad a truly standout gift. Here are a dozen highlights from the Craft & Caro stockroom that are sure to inspire you. 

Groom

Manicure set, Cologne, and Shaving set

1.) F. Hammann Stainless Steel Manicure Set

F. Hammann Leathergoods has been making world-class items since 1864. Five generations of the Hammann family have maintained a standard of excellence that defines their brand. Production is still carried out entirely on-location in Offenbach, Germany. The company processes its own leather, using only all-natural tanning agents. This handsome manicure set is complete, compact, and built to last a lifetime. The Eschenburg tools inside it are made with precision, for precision performance, year after year. $162

2.) MCMC Dude No. 1 Cologne

MCMC Fragrances makes all-natural perfumes and colognes in Brooklyn, NY. Founder Anne McClain studied aromatherapy and then perfumery in Grasse, France. Anne and her sister Katie oversee the manual production of each heavenly fragrance in their line. Dude No. 1 is a refreshing take on the masculine essence. A deep base of sandalwood, Virginia cedarwood and Haitian vetiver mixes with Moroccan rose, spicy ginger and pink peppercorn. Fresh, exotic, and seductive, for the James Bond in every dad. $75

3.) Mühle Sophist Buffalo Horn Shaving Set

These masters of heirloom-quality shaving accessories broke ground in Saxony, Germany at the conclusion of World War II. Over the decades, their commitment to excellence has endured and grown along with them. This gorgeous set is a gift Dad will cherish for the rest of his life. Beautiful, hand-turned buffalo horn and corrosion resistant chrome are painstakingly finished with a high-gloss polish. Famously soft silvertip badger hair makes the perfect lather every time, for a luxurious start to the day. A classic set of tools for the man who deserves the very best. $505

 

Travel

Frost River Bag

 4.) Frost River Overland Valise Weekender

Frost River makes beautiful, adventure-ready bags in Duluth, Minnesota. Their vintage style and high-quality construction are inspired by the trail blazers, prospectors and craftsmen who first explored the Northern Wilderness. In honor of that bygone era, Frost River’s methods and materials adhere to traditional production values. Each bag is made carefully from Martexin waxed canvas from New Jersey, quality leather from SB Foot Tannery in Minnesota, and finished with solid brass hardware. The Overland Valise Weekender is a ruggedly handsome, hardworking, sophisticated travel companion that you can count on to haul more than its fair share of the load. Sound like someone you know? $300

Leather wallet and Bottle opener key shackle

5.) American Bench Craft Hammer Riveted Wallet

Brothers Jason and Chris founded American Bench Craft in 2014, to honor “the heritage of [their] grandfathers and the products they relied on.” Every American Bench Craft product is made by hand with manually-powered machines and tools in their home workshop. The Hammer Riveted Leather Wallet is the flagship design on which they ran their Kickstarter campaign. Each wallet is made from a single piece of high-quality, naturally dyed leather that is folded and riveted, not stitched together, for unmatched durability and longevity. A sharp-looking, simple wallet that Dad can count on. $74

6.) Metal Shop Key Shackle Bottle Opener

Possibly the ultimate Dad gift. Simple to use, always handy for popping your favorite bottle, and entirely manly. Hand-machined from raw 304 Stainless Steel and then hand-finished, each Key Shackle opener bares unique production marks. Jon Fontane started Metal Shop in 2013 to honor the memory of his grandfather’s New Jersey machine shop. He eschews modern mass-production practices, and designs thoughtful, unique items, meant to honor authentic craftsmanship. He works out of his studio in Connecticut, in partnership with a collective of small, family-run machine shops. $45

 

Work

Fisher Space Pen, Bull & Stash leather notebook and Almanac Industries Blueprint cards

7.) Almanac Industries Blueprint Notecards

Husband and wife team Jacob and Whitney Cecil make their exquisite stationery one sheet at a time on their antique letterpress. They find joy in all things old fashioned, including attentive craftsmanship. These classic cards are no exception to their efforts. Their Blueprint series features nautical images and diagrams, including boats, rope knots and lighthouses. Each set includes fifteen heavyweight cards, hand-stamped with your image of choice. Whether Dad is the sender or the recipient, he is sure to appreciate the extra touch that these elegant cards add to the occasion. $32

8.) Fisher Original AG7 Astronaut Space Pen

Probably the coolest pen in the solar system. This is the original Space Pen, designed for use by astronauts and tested by NASA. It accompanied the crew of Apollo 7 into space in 1968 and has been used on every American space flight since, including the first moon landing. The design has never changed. The AG7 is uncannily satisfying to use. Solid chrome-plated brass and steel components lend a healthy weight to the pen. The action on the click mechanism is fluid and substantial, an homage to classic analog mechanics, akin to the pleasure of using an antique cash register or cable clutch. Fisher’s proprietary pressurized ink cartridge ensures a smooth flow, flouting all atmospheric and gravitational conditions. Proudly made in the USA, for every boy, young and old, who still wants to be an astronaut. $50

9.) Bull & Stash Leather Notebook

Oregon-based Bull & Stash is new to the world, but their rugged notebooks are destined to be classics. A staple of the Craft & Caro selection, each notebook is made from a single piece of naturally dyed leather from free-range American cows, hand-finished at a family-run tannery in Santa Croce, Italy. The thick, oiled leather forms a flexible, spine-free, water-resistant cover. The refillable paper pad is held in place with two aluminum screws, for added durability and easy replacement. Every Bull & Stash will develop a distinguished patina over the years, each as unique and personal as the writing inside. A wonderful example of an everyday item elevated by imaginitive design. $5-$50

Relax

Flask, copper shot glasses and Sportes log stove

10.) Beier-Lederwaren Ostrich Finish Steel Flask

Another standard-bearer of fine German design, Beier-Lederwaren has been manufacturing high-quality accessories since 1922. Their stainless steel flasks are built to last a lifetime. While we carry an extensive selection of Beier-Lederwaren flasks, this particular one is our favorite. Rich cow leather, expertly finished to resemble exotic ostrich hide, lends a classic, debonair look to this little heirloom. Give Dad a touch of European flair. $89

11.) Jacob Bromwell Old West Copper Shot Glasses

Jacob Bromwell has been making iconic American goods since 1819. Their first Cincinnati factory opened to supply westbound settlers with the necessities of life on the frontier. Every heirloom item is made by hand in America, from materials sourced in America. These copper shot glasses are hot-tinned according to Jacob Bromwell’s proprietary method, making them the real thing, not just ornamental replicas. Worthy of the likes of Wayne, Eastwood and Bronson. Sure to add a touch of style to Dad’s bar. Maybe he’ll even break out some of the good stuff for you. $150

12.) Sportes MITI Swedish Log Stove

For the dad who loves the outdoors, even the one who thinks he has all the gadgets he will ever need to answer the call of the wild. MITI means “log” in the tongue of the aboriginal people native to Quebec, where Sportes is located. Their ingenious Log Stove is designed to perfect a concept developed by the Swedish Army in the 1600’s. Simply quarter a medium-sized log, stand the four pieces up, then position the Log Stove on top. Lock it into place with the included spikes. Suddenly a few pieces of timber have become a stable stove, complete with cooktop and steady burn temperature. Adjust the spacing between the logs to raise or lower temperature. Pretty cool, right? Dad will think so too. (Rib eye not included.) $65

Filed Under: Events, Gift Guides, Groom, Relax, Travel, Work
11 Fabulous Gift ideas for Mom from Craft & Caro

Craft & Caro strives to be the finest purveyor of gentlemen’s essentials, but many of our fine products are beloved by ladies as well! We put this luxurious Mother’s Day gift guide together for the fashionable mom in your life.

 

The Executive Collection

Executive Collection for Craft & Caro's Mother's Day Gift Guide

For the mom who means business.

The Lajoie Shoulder Tote (1) is simple, sharp and gracefully stylish. Laser cut Dutch leather, hand stitched with urban-farmed beeswax twine, gives this bag an elegant precision. A few modest accents add a touch of flair, elevating it from formal work tote to rock-star-chic fashion accessory. Built in Montreal to last a lifetime. $365

A handwritten note is always more heartfelt than a store-bought card. Think outside of the shoebox with Bohemia Correspondence Cards (2)! These colorful greeting cards from Prague are themselves a worthy gift consideration. The sturdy, bordered cardstock with matching tissue-lined envelopes makes versatile stationery for lighthearted hellos, holiday greetings or formal affairs. $32

Now let’s equip that bag with some accessories of its own. We recommend the Schon DSGN #0001 Metal Pen (3), made here in Boston. Solid, stately and classic. Its heft in the hand commands authority, just like Mom. Fabricated from your choice of silver or black aluminum, limited edition brass, bronze or titanium. Rolls Royce not included. $58

One of our Bull & Stash Refillable Notebooks (4) completes the set. A single piece of deliciously soft nubuck leather, hand finished in Italy, forms the jacket of this tough, travel ready notebook. Spine-free and very flexible, this attractive jotter is the professional way to scratch, scribble and brainstorm in the office, on the commute or in the park. Cut in three sizes, including two pocket-sized. $15-$50

 

The Vacation Collection

Vacation Collection for Craft & Caro's Mother's Day Gift Guide

Because motherhood is a beach.

The iconic Pendleton Glacier Park 5th Avenue Throw (5) makes a lovely keepsake for any room in the house. Its plush Merino wool is irresistibly soft — perfect for curling up on the couch, laying out on the beach or picnicking in the park. A gift to be enjoyed for years and years. Manufactured in Oregon since the 1860’s. $138

Mom can pack her Pendleton into a Revival Series Boston Bag (6) for her afternoon excursion. This historic design is tastefully executed with rugged canvas, hand-stitched leather and solid brass hardware. All the trappings of a good time can fit into this handy tote. A removable leather shoulder strap makes carrying heavy cargo easy. Buttons up or down for adjustable size, in case Mom’s afternoon off turns into a whole weekend! Proudly designed and made in Boston. (Check out designer Marie Thompson’s recent coverage in The Boston Globe!) $198

No sunny afternoon is complete without a nice cold drink! Owl’s Brew Cocktail Mixers (7) provide a fun and easy way for Mom to enjoy some DIY craft bartending. Made in Vermont from freshly brewed tea, fruit and herbs, each Owl’s Brew comes ready to mix with your spirit of choice. Add ice, give it a stir and you’re done!  Feeling more creative? Give classic cocktails a new twist or experiment with custom recipes! It’s even great on its own, as a refreshing artisanal iced tea. $10-$18

 

The Pamper Collection

Pamper Collection for Craft & Caro's Mother's Day Gift Guide

She pampered you. Here’s your chance to pay back the favor with some all-natural items, crafted to delight the senses and soothe the soul.

A standout addition to any culinary library, Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water (8) is filled with enough inspired infusion recipes to last all summer long! Mom will have a blast making her own garlic confit oil, peach bourbon, homemade limoncello and pineapple-mint-coconut water, to name a few. This beautifully illustrated guide even includes secondary food and cocktail recipes incorporating its luscious infusions! Another thing to look forward to next time you’re invited to dinner at Mom’s. $25

No Mother’s Day gift guide would be complete without a scented candle or two. MIZU (9) nails it with their perfectly balanced hand-poured candles. Made with 100% natural soy wax and essential oil blends. Each scent in the Mizuworld Collection captures fragrances from a particular region of the globe, like Lemongrass & Jasmine for Thailand and Fig & Olive for Greece. Yum! Brighten Mom’s world with something extra special. $22.50

Bring a touch of the exotic to Mom’s morning routine! Wary Meyers Soap (10) is beautiful, festive and fragrant. Made with love by a funky pair of interior designers who left New York City for the rocky shores of Maine. Their dazzling all natural soaps sport bold, playful scents like Beachy Coconut, Grapefruit & Clementine, and Cedarwood & Vanilla. A gentle glycerine-based formula makes these soaps soothing and moisturizing, with a luxurious smoothing finish. $14

Thorn & Bloom Artisanal Botanical Perfume (11) redefines high-end fragrance. This premium line of all-natural eau de parfums is hand crafted by certified natural perfumer Jennifer Botto. Natural botanical ingredients create more nuanced and authentic aromatic profiles than conventional perfumes can achieve. Each intricate scent is inspired by Botto’s childhood memories of her family’s farm in upstate New York. A truly precious treasure to share, made just down the road in Somerville, Massachusetts. $65-$199 (Full interview with Jennifer Botto here.)

There you have it, friends. Eleven inspired gifts to help you show your mother just how special she is. The only thing left to figure out is how to out-do yourself next year.

Mother's Day Gift Guide from Craft & Caro

Filed Under: Boston, Gift Guides, Groom, Relax, Travel, Work
Bull & Stash featured image

A Companion for Life

Whether you know it or not, you are a writer. Every living, seeing, hearing, feeling, breathing person is a writer. YOUR brain is capable of an incredible alchemy. It can distill insane volumes of raw sensory input into singular events called “experience.” It can instantaneously code that experience into written or spoken symbols called “language” and transmit it to other receiving minds! It works like magic. I write “I ate chicken cacciatore at Donna’s last night” and you suddenly see chicken cacciatore in your head. You see the tablecloth. You smell the marinara. You hear the din and clink of restaurant patrons around you. I was there, now you are there. I put it in your head. Did I manage this through some trick or spell? Some hypnosis? No, I used something more powerful: the written word. I put words on the page, which project entire worlds behind your eyes. It is this unique ability to transcribe our rich, swirling sensory experience into words that elevates our species. Everyone has this ability. You might think your words and experiences are insignificant but you would be mistaken. Everyone has something interesting to share. The most mundane experience is novel to new eyes. Your words become part of the reader’s live experience, which he will share using his own words, and so on down the line. It is easily taken for granted, but it is an incredible power. All you have to do is put pencil to paper.

Bull & Stash notebooks

Such a sacred, primal craft demands tools deserving of the act — tools equally as elemental, as enduring. Enter this quintessential Craft & Caro item. A single slice of plush, naked leather, folded over a small stack of pure white paper. A little untouched landscape awaiting the creator’s hand. The notebook is a sensory experience in itself — gorgeous leather, soft to the touch, richly tanned, with that pure, earthy scent. The pliable material happily conforms to your grip, your pocket, your bag or briefcase. No hard edges, no stiff spine, no cardboard or pleather veneer to tear or crease. In fact the notebook improves as it journeys with you. The leather distresses gracefully, absorbing the same moments and impacts that you do, so you weather together. The lines on your weary brow, the dust under your fingernails, the myriad scuffs on your notebook beside you all become fine layers of detail in the experience you share in the pages. Take notes. Make lists. Sketch the birds, sketch the mountain face. Draw maps. Chronicle your hike, your traverse of the high pass, your ride on the commuter rail. Write a poem for the pretty girl in the seat across from you. This is her stop. Do you fold it up and give it to her? Keep a journal. Capture the suspense, the romance, the heartbreak.

And there is no end. You keep on living. So does the notebook, because its pages are replaceable. Instead of binding, a pair of aluminum screws function like rivets to hold the pages in place. More to say? A few quick turns and you can pop in a brand new pad. Mail the full one, laden with your dreams and your grocery lists, home in an envelope marked “CONFIDENTIAL.” Swiftly now — the boat to New Delhi is boarding. There is more ahead.MSCT Bullet Pencils openOf course you’ll need something just as suited to adventure to write it all down. Craft & Caro furnished this field reporter with a clever little piece of nostalgia for the purpose: the bullet pencil. Apparently, late-nineteenth century British soldiers in Africa started jamming used pencil nubs into spent rifle cartridges to write. (What a deliciously practical repurposing of two used up commodities!) It caught on. Get-rich-quick scavengers collected shells from the battlefields and shipped them back to England as souvenirs. They were replicated, then re-designed a little, so the pencil could be flipped around and stored inside the shell for safe travel. Princess Mary included these second-generation bullet pencils in care packages for her soldiers in the trenches during World War I. From here the trick made it back to the States and bam! The bullet pencil flourished in a post-war wonderland of commercial mass production. Mid-century car dealerships and industrial fertilizer companies gave them out as promotional keepsakes. They fell out of style eventually, as petro-plastics became ever more popular and the cheap disposable pen replaced the pencil. Hope you’re taking notes.MSCT Bullet Pencils sectioned

The timeless utility of this bullet pencil is inherent. A pencil nub is jammed into a metal cap resembling the actual bullet that’s at the tip of a round. The cap is threaded on both sides, so it can be screwed onto the cartridge facing either way — with the pencil encased inside the protective metal jacket or facing out, ready to scribble. Closed, it’s simply a bullet a few inches in length, easily pocketable, mess-free and non-threatening to other important equipment in the area. Pull it out, flip it around and now you have a pleasingly weighty, solid, full-sized writing utensil. Perfect for adventure. It will take the beating alongside your notebook and live to tell about it.

 

MSCT Bullet Pencils all

 

The question is not are you going to write, or even what are you going to write, but when are you going to start? Your world is filled with juicy details. Your head is percolating with ideas. You pulled out of the station a long time ago. Don’t let another mile slip by. Even as you’re reading this, you probably have something to say…

 

Bull & Stash and Bullet Pencil

Valentine's at Burdicks

Spending Valentine’s Day in Boston is a chance to kindle real romance, the special kind of romance borne from the shared agony of a grim New England winter. The elements are at their cruelest. Temperatures are at their lowest. Lovers clutch each other extra tightly to face down Arctic blasts, jagged snow mounds and black ice on every corner. Alleys become treacherous, shrieking wind tunnels. Drift-choked crosswalks become Olympic triathlons, some sinister combination of hurdles, balance beam and figure skating. A trip down the street for a slice of pizza is suddenly a matter of survival, of endless bundling. There are masked pools of salty slush everywhere, and everyone is wearing nice shoes. It’s a special time for this old city, one that encourages teamwork, perseverance and intense cuddling.

For those lovers who do brave it though, there’s no substitute for the reward — a chance to walk down those silent, snow-blanketed, colonial backstreets. To be alone together among the rows of brownstones, to share an embrace under the glow of the wrought iron street lamps. It’s a glimpse of a bygone world, an old seaport in hibernation, a rare urban tranquility. Here, when the wind is in between breaths, you will find that romance, shivering against each other while you wait for an Uber.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, my lovely partner Simone and I trekked to some of Boston’s cold weather hideouts to share with you. We hope they furnish a spark of inspiration for your date night, Valentine’s Day or otherwise. So comb your hair, put your parka on and get out there! Get that blood flowing to all of your romantic regions and share some warmth, in true Bostonian style.

 

Jackmauh’s Quintessential Spots for a Winter Date in Boston

 

LA Burdick Boston

L.A. Burdick

Our first stop on a blustery Wednesday evening was L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, on Clarendon and Newbury. Why save the candy for the end? Especially in this case — L.A. Burdick is one of a few elite chocolatiers in Boston, and a bit of a love story in itself. The company is run by Larry Burdick, who founded the brand with his wife, Paula, in 1987. They started with a single set of hand tools he collected on a culinary tour of Paris and Switzerland. Paula studied at The Fashion Institute of Technology and infused her passion for Parisian design into the brand. Thus the Burdick experience was born.

P&S_Burdicks_smiles

Sensitive attention to detail is apparent in every aspect, from the unique confections to the beautiful boxes they are packed in. Each of their three chocolate shops (in Boston, Cambridge and New York City) is also an elegant, French-inspired cafe, serving coffee, espresso, tea as well as all the handmade chocolates you could hope to eat. Every morsel is shaped by hand, without molds, including their signature chocolate ganache mice! That’s right. Adorable, delicious little mice with little sateen yarn tails.

LA Burdick Mouse chocolate

We sat by the window, sipping impossibly rich dark chocolate mochas and shared a small velvet box of bonbons. The cozy wooden benches, the brass lamps and scent of raw cocoa helped induce a heady chocolate buzz. Hopped up on the aphrodisiac, we eventually headed into the cold to find a cocktail.

Paul & Simone walking

 

Trinity Church

Outside the wind was getting fierce. A few stray raindrops came flying at us. We fought our way down Clarendon Street, huddling for a moment behind Trinity Church, the crown jewel of Copley Square. Up close, its presence is overwhelming. Trinity’s looming spires are captivating in the twilight. It looks like something out of Romeo and Juliet. In fact this is no coincidence; the Trinity Church is the singular archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque movement, a building style based on late medieval architecture from Italy, France and Spain. The look is characterized by elaborate masonry using massive, roughly cut stone blocks, detailed arches and extravagant towers. How sexy. Among other noteworthy works of art, the church features gorgeous stained glass windows designed on commission by the American painter John La Farge. It is the only structure in Boston counted among the “Ten most significant buildings in the United States” by the American Institute of Architecture. If you have time on your way to dinner, take a moment to steal a kiss (and maybe snap a Valentine’s Day selfie) under one of its arches.

 

Trinity Church, Boston, Night time

 

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen at the Copley Plaza Hotel

Luckily for us, one of the most impressive bars in Boston is right across the square in the Copley Plaza Hotel. OAK Long Bar + Kitchen is the central achievement of a twenty-million dollar renovation that was completed to celebrate the hotel’s 100th anniversary a few years ago. Two large dining rooms were joined to make one enormous, opulent hall. Why? So they could fit an eighty-three foot long bar of course! Behind it, for your viewing pleasure, lies a bustling open kitchen with a stone-hearth oven. Revelers enjoy the comfort of wide, cushioned leather chairs instead of barstools. Servers scurry up and down the aisles of assorted low and high candle-lit tables. The room feels more like a lounge than a restaurant. The renovation sought to modernize the space, making it brighter and more casual-feeling. That’s not to say it’s any less fancy.

 

Copley Plaza Hotel exterior

 

The original two-story windows lead your eyes up to the gorgeous Beaux-arts era tin coffered ceiling, dripping with chandeliers. A trip to the bathroom requires a stroll through the magnificent lobby hallway, known as Peacock Alley, punctuated by Italian marble columns. Bottles upon bottles overlook the bar from high shelves. This space is a treat for the eyes, if nothing else. We conspired at a low table by the window and watched the rain pound Huntington Avenue. Comfy in our nook, we took our time sipping three drinks from the menu: a Pomegranate Paloma, a generous Ketel One martini with incredible blue cheese stuffed olives, and the “How Do You Do,” a house spin on a martini with St. Germain, Aperol and grapefruit. For a moment we were Gatsbys. If not for our dinner reservations we might have stayed all night. It is, after all, the oldest, and one of the most prestigious hotels in Boston. We could have gotten a room, and joined the ranks of stars like Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the way, when you visit OAK Long Bar, ask your server to point out where the rotating merry-go-round bar used to be. Yes, seriously.

 

Oak Bar + Kitchen

South End Buttery

We waited under the Copley Plaza’s big red awning for a car to dinner. Our destination: The South End Buttery, a relatively recent addition to one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods. It was opened in 2005 by two South End residents with a passion for fine dining and gourmet food made from healthy, simple ingredients. I was a little disappointed to learn that a “buttery” is not actually a place where vast quantities of fine butter are prepared and served. The original term refers to the wine cellar of a castle, but its modern use connotes something more like an all-purpose pantry and canteen.

The South End Buttery dons its designation coyly. It describes itself as a “quaint neighborhood cafe.” That’s not wrong, but that’s not the whole picture. The Buttery is a cafe, a bakery, a celebrated brunch spot and a boutique prepared foods market… and a bar and a restaurant. Somehow, it is still cozy and quaint, neatly laid out a over a few small rooms. The market, cafe and bar sit on the ground floor of a charming brownstone on the corner of Shawmut and Union Park. The cozy dining room lies hidden in the basement, built into the old stone foundation itself.

Winter Smash Cocktail

Dinner started at the intimate six or seven seat bar, which was pleasingly well-stocked with bourbon and a nice collection of digestifs including a couple of ports, amaros and assorted Luxardo liqueurs. We shared a Winter Smash, a bourbon cocktail with muddled cranberries and rosemary. The result is a tangy aromatic concoction that flirts with all the tastebuds at the party. We’ll be back in the spring to try their Mezcalrita — a concoction of silver tequila, mezcal, grilled pineapple, jalapeno and lemon. When it was time to eat, our server led us from the peaceful bar down a little stairway to the basement.

Paul & Simone at the Buttery

It really does feel like dining in a wine cellar. A live fireplace sets the tone just a few feet from the tables. Exposed brick and granite are carefully illuminated. The Buttery’s seasonal menu is pleasantly simple and well-rounded. It would be hard for any diner to go hungry with choices like hanger steak frites, shrimp fra diavolo, The Buttery meatloaf, or the chickpea falafel burger. Incredibly, the price points did not suggest we were nestled in the heart of one of Boston’s ritziest neighborhoods.

Buttery Pork Tenderloin

I settled on marinated grilled pork tenderloin with roasted Brussels sprouts and fries with truffle aioli. Simone chose insanely rich wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sage. This is comfort food at its best, designed to touch the heart as much as it fills the stomach. We took our time with each bite, enjoying the fire and a bottle of Cabernet. Later there would be a custody battle for the two leftover mushroom raviolis. A quick shot of Cardamaro Amaro for dessert and we were off again, into the night to catch some music.

Mushroom Ravioli

 

Wally’s Cafe

A few blocks away at the edge of the South End lies Wally’s Cafe, the only place of its kind in Boston. Wally’s is a venerated jazz bar. It is not a cocktail bar or a restaurant that occasionally features live music as a bonus. It is a hole-in-the-wall venue with live performances 365 days a year!

Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

It has been operating continuously since Joseph Walcott opened it in 1947, the first African-American-owned jazz club in New England. Wally’s longevity is probably due to Walcott’s tendency to pair renowned professional acts with aspiring local musicians from Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory. This cafe is still a proving ground for talented students, but it is not a college bar by any stretch. A large bouncer greeted us at an unassuming door with a barred window. He checked our IDs and let us inside. When the door opened we were blasted by a blazing saxophone solo and hot, steamy air. Suddenly we found ourselves in a Kerouac novel. We took the only empty seat by the foggy front window and peered through the crowd at the band at the back of the room.

Dancing at Wally's Cafe

The place was jamming! Actually that’s normal. Wally’s has an open jam session from 6 to 9 every night of the week, then rotating acts ranging from funk to blues to Latin salsa. A funky, energetic jazz quartet was on the stage tonight. We sipped cold Brooklyn Lagers, surprisingly refreshing in the crowded room, and let the notes carry us away. We were swimming — happy, full, warm and content. The crowd was friendly. Some were neighborhood regulars, some were clearly students, some were curious first-timers from other parts of the city. The ages ranged from freshman to senior citizen. Everyone seemed united in understanding that this is something special, a miraculously preserved piece of the past that is still very much alive. The band played on, taking turns soloing, swooping and soaring between low and high tempos. It was too loud to talk but that was ok. We leaned back in our chairs shoulder to shoulder, no need to speak.

After one more beer and a couple of rowdy Michael Jackson covers, it was time to fly through the rain and city lights one more time, arm in arm in the backseat, and then off to bed. We squeezed the night to its last drop, in spite of the cold, the wind and the rain. No matter that we didn’t get to romp in the snow. We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope for a blizzard.

 

water droplets on car window

 

 

Filed Under: Boston, Culture, Relax, Travel