The Taste of Harvard Square (aka Christmas in June)

1213199635Chowder can sympathize with the hordes of tourists now descending upon Boston, and the confusion they must feel with our myriad dining options. We find the best restaurant recommendations come from people, not guidebooks. So when the Harvard Square Business Association decided to take two trolleys full of Boston-area concierges — who direct countless tourists to area restaurants — on a culinary tour of the square last night (and invited us along), we thought it was a great way to pass on to tourists that there’s more to food in Boston (O.K., Cambridge) than just beans…

About 70 concierges from hotels all over the Boston area began the evening at Border Café – which we hear is in the process of applying for an outdoor patio – with some much-needed respite from the heat in the form of hefty margaritas and glasses of sangria, followed by the Café’s famous chili con queso.

As the concierges boarded the trolleys outside the Café, they were treated to entertainment courtesy of The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band and…Santa Claus, also known as Jonathan Meath, who was named by NPR’s Bryant Park Project as “America’s Next Top Santa” (and featured on the cover of this magazine in December). Spirits were high as Santa led the trolleys in a rousing rendition of “Let it Snow,” with a few weather-appropriate lyric changes. Maybe it was the margaritas, or maybe it was the heat, but we wholeheartedly gave in to the cheesiness and belted out, “When we finally kiss goodnight, how I’ll hate going out in the warm!”

From there, it was on to Om for lavender cosmopolitans and seared scallops with wasabi crème fraiche, and Korean beef with mint yogurt sauce. Then we braved the heat to sit on the lovely wood-paneled roof deck at Daedalus for seafood ceviche and braised lambchop.

Janet Wu of Channel 7 (who is much shorter in person than we expected) led one of the trolley tours, telling the high-spirited crowd about her days partying at the Hong Kong Restaurant while she was attending graduate school in Boston. The thought of Janet Wu slurping down Scorpion Bowls was, frankly, shocking enough to make us forget the scorching heat. Almost. The frozen yogurt at Berry Line – only 25 calories per ounce, we’re told – with toppings from kiwi to Oreo cookie, ultimately did the job. It’s no J.P. Licks, but it’ll do on a hot day.

Julie Onufrak