Thursday, April 19, 2012

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Cafe G

Back before the trees were green and the weather was warm, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened a new wing - a modern glass building with a glass tunnel that connects the original Fenway Court to the new wing, thereby satisfying the legacy and will of the museum's namesake.

Connecting Tunnel
On a relatively cool and rainy day we jumped on the E line (thank goodness that wasn't completely pulled on weekends!) and walked the quick trip to the Museum.  What is quite amazing is how unassuming the original Fenway Court is from the outside - its only upon entering the building to you see the inside out Italian Villa and architectural design Gardner created.

New Wing and Fenway Court

Gardner's dream was to create a museum that would live on far after her death.  Amazingly, (short of a terrible theft) the museum has lived up to the difficult legacy of Gardner herself.  In an effort to maintain the museum, since the continual stream of people does take its toll on the building, a new wing was built that would house the admission area, gift shop, a new reading area, and a theatre, among other things.  Unfortunately they do not allow photography in the main museum area - they stopped people even trying to sneak a quick Instagram photo!  I did not want to risk getting kicked out, but I can promise that the museum gets better with each visit.

Admission Area
The best thing about the new wing (in my humble opinion) is the new restaurant Cafe G.  I had head amazing things already and could not wait to go, but I found reservations were tough to get.  I called the day before and they were completely booked, but the hostess did say they keep tables open for walk-ins.  So, while Nick patiently waited to buy tickets, I went directly to Cafe G and added our name to the list.  They gave me a buzzer that would then conveniently work in the main museum - perfect!

Inside Cafe G
After an hour and a half, while in the Dutch Room, our buzzer went off (earlier than expected), which provided the perfect break from touring the museum.  Each item on the menu is inspired from Gardner's own hand written recipe book, many of which she used in her numerous dinner parties held at her home and the museum.

Nick and I took a bit of time to look over the menu because between the entrees, small plates and specials it was tough to make decisions.  In an effort to sample as much as we could, we decided to order a bunch of small plates - enough that our server almost cut off when trying to place our last order.  In spite of the quantity, our server timed the meal perfectly so that we fully enjoyed each bite.

To begin we had the corn crusted fried oysters with lemon mayonnaise.  From the plating to the light crisp on the oyster to the soft lemon flavoring in the mayo, this was perfection.

Fried Oysters
Next up was the grilled chicken sausage on a bed of maple spaghetti squash.  This was fantastic - our favorite dish of the afternoon.  The chicken sausage was moist and flavorful.  After biting into the squash, however, I wanted to figure out how to make ours taste like this at home.  The maple was strong, but not too sweet, just added a nice balance to the dish.  

Chicken Sausage and Spaghetti Squash
The hannahbelles cheese with the pear mostrada was the third dish and a nice break from the more substantial dishes before and after.  Once again, the plating was amazing.  The cheese was tasty and the crisp of the toasted bread with the pear flavors was lovely.  I believe we got some of this cheese in our CSA last year, so hopefully we do again this summer and I can try something similar at home!

Hannahbells Cheese Plate
For a more substantial dish we had the sweet Maine shrimp with potato gnocchi and pistachio - I mean, when an item on a menu has all that deliciousness in one bowl, you cannot pass it up!  Once we stirred it up and mixed the pistachio in a bit more, the flavors and textures were delicious.  Just the right dish for the cool rainy day outside.

Shrimp and Gnocchi
Nick, being the oyster lover that he is, had to order the Cape Cod oyster stew with tarragon and butter croutons.  The tarragon was such a fun addition to the broth and the oysters (as above) we fresh and cooked perfectly.

Oyster Stew
The last savory dish was the Old Bay deviled farmed eggs with a celery root slaw.  I loved the seasoning added to these as it literally spiced them up.  The slaw underneath these provided perfect inspiration for when celery root arrives in our CSA bundle, or if I decide to buy it at the store (if I'm feeling really brave!).

Deviled Eggs
Finally, out came the warm cinnamon doughnuts with a champagne creme anglaise.  This was actually the item that first caught my eye on the menu (of course!).  The doughnuts were light and fluffy with plenty of cinnamon and sugar to satisfy even the toughest critic like me!  The anglaise was delicious - I whipped every bit of it up with the doughnut.  I probably would have licked the plate if I thought no one would judge me!

Cinnamon Doughnuts
The overall experience at Cafe G was fantastic.  It was worth the new wing at the museum just for this cafe. I love the Gardner Museum in general, but Cafe G takes the experience to another level - something you normally see at a big European Museum (or its fancier new neighbor the MFA).  Even if you cannot make a reservation, try for the walk-in - it worked for us!


  1. I love Shy Brothers' Hannahbell cheeses! I love that you can put your name in and walk around the museum while you wait. I'll have to make a trip here soon.

  2. I really need to get to the museum. All of my years in Boston, and I have never been!

  3. Gorgeous photos! I haven't been to the Gardner museum in at least three years. The restaurant looks fabulous

  4. I haven't been to the museum in years! Your review is making me want to plan a visit soon and try out the cafe!

  5. I've heard such great tings about this place recently. The lighting and your photos are excellent!

  6. This food looks fantastic. What a fun day!

  7. I think that chicken sausage dish would be my favorite too. How great that you get to wander around the museum while you wait.


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