If you need a guide for eating your way from Massachusetts up to Maine down to Connecticut and back, then Francesca Jestings is your girl. Her account, New England Food Explorer, showcases Northeastern cuisine — from the simple to the sophisticated — including artisanal donuts, fried chicken, steak frites, Cioppino, roasted duck and everything in between. The Rhode Island native took some time away from exploring to chat about her top ten favorite dishes around Boston, which local pastry chef has amazing dessert plating skills and the cozy North Cambridge hideaway that’s her current obsession.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I am originally from Rhode Island. I went to school in Florida for Aviation, moved back up to Massachusetts for a job and now can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love everything New England has to offer. Each state is unique and just a quick drive from Boston. Also, the summers here are BEAUTIFUL. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Once I was settled back in New England, I started exploring the region more and I always focused my adventures around food. From a donut to a high-end meal, I would take pictures of dishes and post them to my personal Instagram. I started following other Boston foodie accounts to find new places to dine at and then I realized I could share my food too with an Instagram account of my own.
Looking back, I have continued to maintain the account because I love being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I’ve met some great people, connected with some wonderful chefs and foodies and tried some interesting cuisines. The experience has been a blast!
Name the top ten dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
1. The Bootleg Special from Bootleg Special (@bootlegspecial)
2. Venison Tartare from Bistro du Midi (@bistrodumidi)
3. Bolognese from Pammy’s (@pammyscambridge)
4. Broiled Maine Lobster dish from Ostra (@ostraboston)
5. Szechuan Bolognese from BLR (@blrbyshojo)
6. The Burger from Craigie on Main (@craigieonmain)
7. Duet of Prime Beef Tartare & Wagyu Carpaccio at Deuxave (@deuxave)
8. Beef Wellington from Mooo… (@mooorestaurant)
9. Chocolate Buffet at Langham Boston (@langhamboston)
10. And about every crudo on the Saltie Girl (@saltiegirl), North Square Oyster (@northsquareoyster) and Bar Mezzana (@barmezzana) menus
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If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love crudo SO much. I’ve got to try it everywhere I can go. One of the absolute best places for crudo in Boston is @saltiegirl . Their crudos are beautiful, delicate and delicious! This is the scallop crudo, with jalapeño, lime, avocado, caviar, and radish! One of my new favorites!. • • • #newenglandfoodexplorer #newenglandfood #newenglandeats #eastcoastfoodies #bostoneats #bostonfoodies #bostonfood #bostonrestaurants #bestfoodboston #bosfeed #eatlocal #bostonbites #eaterboston #bostonfoodjournal #bostonfoodguide #rhodeeats #eatingfortheinsta #bostonfoodies #igmassachusetts #nomboston #bostonmouthful #eastcoastfeastcoast #scallops #scallopcrudo #saltiegirl #getsaltie #crudo
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I think smaller, intimate dining experiences with elevated cocktails and creative experimental food. In a world full of Instagram foodies, you need to set yourself apart and foodies are getting smarter. We want more than just “picture perfect” cuisine. For me, I like to see something beautiful, but also something that excites my taste buds. I am always impressed with a unique dish I can’t find anywhere else!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
I love following Chef Adrienne Wright (@ChefAdrienneWright). She makes amazing dishes for Boston Chops, Deuxave and dBar and has been highlighting her skills on Top Chef! I had the best meal of my life at Asta (@astaboston) and follow their culinary genius Alexander Crabb (@alexandercrabb). This meal was so special to me because it was simplicity at its best. Each course just blew my socks off. I also enjoy following Brian Mercury (@mercurybrian) of Oak + Rowan, I think his dessert plating is remarkable!
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
I can’t narrow it down to three! Emily from @stillcutedough and @forkingwitharmani really put their personality in every post. They make me laugh every day! They also just use their phones and take great pictures. Claudiane from @nailthecocktail. She makes every cocktail look like a work of art! Tiffany from @bostonfoodies. She goes EVERYWHERE. I love that about her account. She really has every type of cuisine covered on here. Vincent from @tasteofmassachusetts and Joey from @the_roamingfoodie have been the best resources for me. They take great pictures, have genuine followings, and provide great advice. They are so supportive and are great accounts/people to look up to!
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Diverse. Trendy. Approachable.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
Don’t overthink it. When I first started taking pictures, I would have hundreds of shots of the same dish and I would agonize over which picture to choose. The more comfortable I got, the more I realized I only need a few from my favorite angles. Natural light also makes a HUGE difference. Natural light provides such a clean, sharp picture and the colors always pop!
I try to use natural light when able or I bring a small light when I am unable to. Another tip I’ve lived by is limiting my editing. I adjust exposure, slight saturation to make some colors brighter, add some sharpening if I really want you to see the details of a dish. However, I try to stay away from over contrasting, over structuring and over warmth. Its so easy to go overboard with the Instagram editing tools and I see a lot of photos that are over structured or too orangey. It doesn’t do the beautiful dishes justice!
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It’s #wafflewednesday and I am still thinking about the chicken and waffles from @woodshilltable ! The chicken was perfectly crispy with a fresh fried egg and two sourdough liege waffles. Not to mention the peach-habanero infused maple syrup. This brunch dish was a flavor explosion! I stacked them up and let the yolk pour itself all over 🤤. • • • #newenglandfoodexplorer #newenglandfood #newenglandeats #newenglandfoodies #mynewengland #massfoodies #Pvdfoodies #eastcoastfoodies #bostoneats #bostonfoodies #bostonfood #bostonrestaurants #bestfoodboston #bosfeed #eatlocal #bostonbites #eaterboston #bostonfoodjournal #bostonfoodguide #rhodeeats #yelpeatsbos #nomboston #bostonmouthful #eastcoastfeastcoast #tasteofnewengland #woodshilltable #concordma #bostonbrunchguide #bostonbrunch
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Stephanie’s On Newbury (@StephaniesOnNew). They have a beautiful patio right on Newbury Street that is perfect for people watching. Scampo at The Liberty Hotel (@scampoboston). They have a hidden private patio that is intimate and quiet. Temazcal (@temazcalcantina) in the Seaport is right on the water. Banyan Bar + Refuge in the South End (@banyanboston). They have a pretty courtyard patio! Table 77 at Tresca (@tresca) The most romantic table in the city! Do food trucks count? If so @ShuckFoodTruck has one of the best lobster rolls and lobster grilled cheese in the city!
Favorite BBQ joint: Blue Ribbon BBQ (@BlueRibbonBBQ) in Newton, Arlington and Dedham. Their ribs are some of the best I’ve had, and the sauces are AMAZING. Sweet Cheeks in Fenway (@SweetCheeksBBQ). Their burnt ends are TO DIE FOR.
Favorite late-night: Drink in Fort Point (@drinkfortpoint) for the amazing cocktails and snacks. They do not have a menu and the bartenders create something based on what you like to drink or flavors you prefer in a cocktail. It’s fun to see and taste their creations. Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown for the juicy soup dumplings! I crave these dumplings daily. Oak Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont (@oaklbk). This is really an “anytime” spot with great meals to small bites to brunch. I just love their cocktails so much and always want to stop here for a drink and snack when in the city.
Favorite neighborhood for food: I love the Seaport/Fort Point because it always feels nice to be near the water, and the food scene is growing every day! The South End has a lot of new spots and the neighborhood is so charming. Lately, I can’t get enough of Boston’s Chinatown. Give me all the spicy noodles and dumplings!
Favorite new restaurant: Urban Hearth in Cambridge (@urban_hearth). Not necessarily a new restaurant, but new to me! Their prix-fixe menu changes frequently. I recommend sitting at the chef’s counter!