Thursday, January 31, 2008

Boston Cream Pie and Parker House Rolls at the Omni Parker House in Boston.

It’s known as the place where the Boston Cream Pie was born and the home of the original Parker House Rolls. But the Omni Parker House is also known for its elegance and refinement in the heart of downtown Boston.

The hotel is the longest continually operating luxury hotel in the nation, open since 1855. The hotel’s 551 well-appointed rooms feature newly updated beds, distinguished décor and well planned amenities.

A wide selection of American presidents, from Grant to Clinton, have stayed at this august landmark. Some of history’s most famous people have worked at the hotel. Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh worked in the bakery in 1911, and Malcolm Little -- who would go on to be known as Malcolm X -- was a busboy in the early 1940s.

Honestly, the place has a lot of history -- which you can read about here. History is a great and wonderful thing. But there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

I walked into the lobby of the Omni Parker House on a fine Monday afternoon in late January, hoping to find out something interesting. And I did... in a way. I got to tour the historic edifice with a member of the Parker House team, and that was cool.

We met in the Parker House restaurant, where I thought we would talk about the history of the hotel. Instead, my host has a plethora of questions for me -- who was I, how did I get started, and what my future held. I'm starting to get used to those questions.

But I also found out some interesting facts that you won't find in the guest book; not necessarily at least. Such as, this is where the Omni chain began -- today there are 45 Omnis around the world.

The hotel is being slowly renovated -- a fact that surprised me, since I heard that the building had been renovated in 2000. Each of the rooms is being taken down and re-everything'd -- new carpeting, new wallpaper, new furnishings, new baths, the works. The entire facade of the building was under renovation when I visited, which meant no exterior pictures!

The magnificent Parker House rolls were the creation of a German baker who worked in the kitchens in the nineteenth century. The rolls were baked and shipped out all over the United States until 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested the recipe for the White House.

The Boston Cream Pie perfected in the Parker House kitchens has been around for well over 100 years. It’s been named the official dessert of the State of Massachusetts.

There are a large selection of room types available, from the economy single for solo travelers to the bedroom suites. There are several dining options, including the World Famous Parker House, Parker’s Bar, and The Last Hurrah -- a traditional Boston pub known for its whiskey collection.

The Last Hurrah used to be on the lower level of the hotel. Now it's on the main floor, on the north side. You can walk into this legendary whiskey bar almost immediately after leaving the street. The bar is named after a book by Edwin O'Connor... about Boston area politics. The 1956 book isn't the only political tie you'll find here. The room is crowded with black and white photographs of well known politicians like John F. Kennedy and former Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, among others. My host told me the bar is world famous -- and in fact I have heard about it before.

Note: Time seems to have eaten the rest of this entry, which included a bit about experiencing the two creations from this epic center of Boston culinary tradition - the Boston Cream Pie and the Parker House Roll.  When I find the original, I shall post it here. For now, here's a photo tour of the place in January 2008.

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