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eG Foodblog: Ninetofive - January in New England


ninetofive
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Just a question about your eG posting handle:

I'd hardly consider what you do a 9-to-5 job unless you block off that time for your paid pursuit.  (By this I most certainly don't mean it's not a full-time job: as I've learned from my own fitful freelancing efforts, freelance writing full time can easily eat up way more than 40 hours a week.)  Why did you choose this as your handle?

(If you've read my foodblogs, my own posting handle should be painfully obvious.)

Question for any trivia buffs playing along:  Is this the first time in eG Foodblog history that two professional writers have blogged in succession?

Good question, Sandy. First, I purchased the URL to ninetofive years ago when I was working 9 to 5; I'm guessing I picked the handle for my eGullet account just because it's familiar to me. And, in fact, I do tend to keep these hours devoted to my work, although it's more like 9:15 to 5:15 -- not a very elegant URL. It's one reason why I get up at 5am-- I like to make sure the gym, housekeeping, and kitchen prep are done, so that when I get home from dropping O off, nothing keeps me from my work. That's exactly how I treat writing, as a job to get done, just like any other job I've had in my life, the only difference being that I have much more control over projects I want to do and I actually like my job on most days. :biggrin: (Confession: I do have to lock myself out of my office on weekends because of my workaholic tendencies. This year I'm trying to keep more reasonable hours *and* increase income.)

(Not that you asked this Sandy; I'm just going on a roll!) I'm always puzzled by people who ask me about the "instability" of freelancing versus having a "stable" office job. As a freelancer, I feel like I have so much more control over my income than I ever did as a tech writer, marketing communications manager, or advertising copywriter, all jobs I've had in the past where I spent weeks, even months, worrying about layoffs or cutbacks or 2 percent annual raises, decisions that offered me little control. If I lose a client today? I send out proposals and get new assignments tomorrow. Want to make more money? Ditto. That kind of proactive-ness (icky word, sorry!) and self-motivation isn't natural to a lot of people, though, so I can understand why they think my job is so precarious.

Let me end this long-winded post (can you tell I have a lot to say about the subject?) that I usually have more work than I can handle. Some weeks are brutal (like last week); others, like this week, are more calm and give me plenty of time for marketing.

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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Diana, your son is a cutie!

:wub: Words that warm a mother's heart. Thank you Shelby. He's a pretty amazing kid, if I do say so myself.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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OK, I'm going to take a break now, finish dinner for the "kids," then get ready for my night out. I was going to keep it a secret, but I can't keep it in any longer.

Tonight, I'll be dining at Craigie Street Bistrot in Cambridge, one of the most respected restaurants here in the Boston area. Not only that, but Chef Tony Maws is letting me into the kitchen to photograph him and his staff in action. And to make things even more interesting, I'm putting my meal totally in Chef Maws' capable hands. Whatever he wants to cook for me, I'll eat. Sound like fun?

Till later ....

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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OK, I'm going to take a break now, finish dinner for the "kids," then get ready for my night out. I was going to keep it a secret, but I can't keep it in any longer.

Tonight, I'll be dining at Craigie Street Bistrot in Cambridge, one of the most respected restaurants here in the Boston area. Not only that, but Chef Tony Maws is letting me into the kitchen to photograph him and his staff in action. And to make things even more interesting, I'm putting my meal totally in Chef Maws' capable hands. Whatever he wants to cook for me, I'll eat. Sound like fun?

Till later ....

Oooooh I just looked at the sample menu. I'm excited!

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Last year his teacher had to talk to him because he was screaming at some of his playmates in the playground. Oliver explained to her, "Oh, I wasn't really yelling at them ... we were playing restaurant and I was Gordon Ramsay." Ooops.

I love it...that's hilarious.

I had a hard time learning to let my kids get involved in the kitchen. Before I became a cook, my kitchen was *my* domain, and others intruded at their peril. Especially to "help." When my kids got to the age of wanting to get involved, though, I decided I had to get over my big bad self. I wanted my kids to be at home in the kitchen as much as I am, and that meant encouraging and nurturing their interest in food. My daughter is now 14, and wants to follow in my professional footsteps (an ambition I'm decidedly ambivalent about, but we'll see). My son has his sights set on a more-lucrative career, but was the envy of his high school class by reason of his knife skills.

It's been Winter Wonderland here in New Brunswick, as well. Old-timers hereabouts are debating exactly how long it's been since we got this much snow, this early, but it's got to be at least 25-30 years. I have someone arriving from California in a little while, and she's been cringing my accounts of -24C and snow up nearly to my hips.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Since you're headed out Cambridge way, any chance of hitting Burdick's for dessert? :smile"

What do you think of the "ethnic" food in Boston (Boston proper--not including suburbs)? When was in VT, my sister (who lives in NH) took me to Boston once or twice for Chinese food because it was "the best in the area". I thought the food kind of sucked, but I suppose when you had a craving, it would do. I remember talking to someone in Brattleboro and when I asked about Chinese food she said, "If you want good Chinese food, drive up to Montreal! Even Boston doesn't have good Chinese food!"

My point...I got the impression from my experience as well as from what locals were telling me, that "ethnic" food in the NE pretty much sucks. Would you agree, or are there exceptions out there?

ETA--I forgot to ask this earlier--do you plan to change your diet at all when you start training for your marathons? I often wonder about how athletes eat, and I remember a friend in junior high school (competitive swimmer) used to have the weirdest diet before competitions--she'd eat carbs and proteins on alternate days, so she'd have something huge like spaghetti for lunch one day, then only a couple of hard-boiled eggs the next. I hope you consider doing another blog around the time of your marathon, because I'd love to see how you eat during that time!

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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...

gallery_28661_5601_8487.jpg

Cold vanilla pudding. Can you see the flecks of vanilla bean in there? I made it with vanilla sugar, plus I steeped a vanilla bean in hot milk for awhile. It's not much to look at in the picture, but the pudding was delicious, straight, no adornment.

...

I'm loving your blog, ninetofive! The shots of New England bring me home and the food looks delicious. I'm already inspired to make a roast chicken tomorrow night after seeing yours.

I want to make vanilla pudding too! Can you give any more details on the one you made above? Is it a cornstarch-based pudding or no? The simple recipe I found for stirred vanilla pudding has 2 Tbs cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, 1 egg, lightly beaten, 1 tsp vanilla (I'd like to use vanilla bean, though) and 1 Tbs butter.

Looking forward to your dinner tonight; the behind the scenes look at the restaurant and the "omikase" format will be very entertaining.

Thanks again!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Diana, I meant to add earlier that I share your early rising habit. I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise. I have an elliptical machine in my basement. Even though it's in my own home I have to force myself up! AND, wow on the marathon running!

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her only dislike is fish and seafood.

:angry:

I know, JohnnyD. It's criminal. Our last au pair wasn't crazy about fish or seafood, but by the end of her stay, she was eating plenty of it. (Rubbing hands together) I have plans, lots of plans ....

New England Seafood does that to people, doesn't it? :wink:

Blog on!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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This has been one of the best investments for my kitchen:

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You eGulleteers who've lived in Boston know what driving is like around here, so when you're on the prowl for a small Mexican market in Jamaica Plain that sells homemade tortillas or an Argentinian restaurant in Cambridge with renowned sweetbreads, this is the gadget to have.

At any rate, thanks to clogged traffic on 128 and around the Alewife MTA, I was a little late for my dinner reservation.

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Craigie Street Bistrot is a couple blocks away from Harvard University, tucked into the basement of a large apartment building.

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Entering the restaurant is a little tricky, going down steps, then up or down a step when you get inside the vestibule.

Inside I was greeted by Chew Tony Maws, who was chatting with my dining companion. Since it was a Tuesday night and rather early for diners, Tony had a little time to give me a quick tour around the kitchen and beyond. I liked Tony when I met him. He could be in his late 20s, but he's probably early 30s or so, intense without throwing off the crazy vibe. And although he was a gracious host, I could tell he really wanted to get in that kitchen and cook my dinner! :raz:

The kitchen is maybe 10' x 25' feet -- maybe the size of an average home kitchen? But packed with a restaurant stoves and several chefs working individual stations, you can imagine how small it is. (And hot, even on a cold, quiet night such as this was.) Tony asked me if I've seen a smaller professional kitchen -- I have, but not one that's putting out food of this calibre. Tony told me on a busy weekend night, they're pushing 70 or so covers out through this tiny pass:

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Here at the cold station (I think that's what this is!), they do everything from put together salads to plate desserts. There was so little room for this chef, that it made me feel guilty about the big counter in my own kitchen.

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OK, truth be told, this is where my heart went aflutter, reading the words "pigs' heads," "sweeties," and "blood" written on this white board. Tony makes almost all (if not all) of his charcuterie on the premises. The board keeps track of different stages of production. I scanned the list for cabri -- Craigie Street is one of the few upscale restaurants in the area that serves goat, but Tony said it wasn't on the menu right now. This is where we got into our discussion of whether or not Boston diners have too conservative tastes and avoid menu items like tongue, cabri, or blood sausage. Obviously by looking at his white board, Tony disagrees -- his patrons come back time and again for these delicacies.

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Here's one of the sous vide stations. That may even be my Vermont quail taking a bath in there. Tony said each thermal bath cost $1K; in another room he had more sous vide equipment in use, as well as a dehydrator. Their cold storage fridge is amazingly small, so small that I couldn't even get in to take a picture. Recently, Tony bought the apartment behind the restaurant so they could expand. Before his office was a board on an overturned bucket. It is indeed something of a rabbit warren.

At this point, Tony excused himself and said he had to attend to my dinner. Hey, I wasn't about to stop him. I was hungry! As you can see from my posting yesterday, I didn't eat a lot during the day specifically so I could enjoy my blowout dinner. I told Tony not to give me a menu. I wanted to be surprised. So off we went to our table where a glass of wine awaited us ....

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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One big reason why I chose Craigie Street Bistrot for my restaurant adventure is that their food philosophy closely follows the theme of my eGullet blog this week. There's much food to procure locally in New England in the dead of winter. Tony buys his meats from farmers throughout the six N.E. states though two farming co-ops, for example. Fish come from boats out of Gloucester or shellfish from divers off Nantucket. And there's always plenty of squash and root vegetables this time of year. Just as I do in my kitchen from November to April, Tony augments his local supplies with a few items he can't get locally and spends a lot of time preserving for later on, everything from the sausages to wine vintages.

The wine awaiting us was a white 2005 Sylvaner "Villes Vignes" from Valentin Zusslin in the Alsace region of France. Our waiter (who bore an uncanny resemblance to actor Paul Rudd) explained the wine is one of the many biodynamic, organic wines they serve at the restaurant. It was crisp, light, slightly sweet, I thought. I'm not strong my wine knowledge, although I do like drinking it, so please forgive:

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There was also a basket of bread from Iggy's, a local bakery -- small epis, some rolls. I did not partake as I'm carbed out of recent.

Tony served us a "whim menu." Everything was in tiny portions, which I appreciated, because I wanted to make sure I could eat everything. Our first course:

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The scallop, from Nantucket Bay, was served sashimi style in a puddle of green olive-dashi vinaigrette and topped with paddlefish caviar. The first thing I noticed about the scallop was how sweet and soft it was in my mouth. Then a moment later I could taste some cumin. The caviar's saltiness complemented the sweet scallop perfectly (salty and sweet are an irresistible combo for me.)

Unfortunately, I was in a swoon after eating the scallop, so when the second course arrived I forgot to take pictures. It was the cheek of a monkfish with pickled peanuts and crispy shallots. The fish came off a dayboat from Gloucester and had been caught that morning. It was very tasty, and I liked when they put it down in front of me, the aroma of peanuts teased my nose.

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This was my favorite dish of the evening, a potage of gillfeather turnips with a slow-cooked egg, Tony's homemade rabbit sausage, honshi meji mushrooms, and black truffles. I literally scraped the bowl clean with my spoon. The egg was soft and runny, and when you mixed them in with the sausage and mushrooms and turnips, it was like the best eggs and sausage you've ever had making whoopie on your tastebuds. It was THAT good. And let me just say I usually like my eggs cooked a bit firmer, but this was sublime. I'm going to bug Tony for some tips on those eggs ....

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The photo of the next course doesn't do it justice. People at tables around us stopped to stare. Can you see the quail's tiny legs kicked up in the air? This little organic Vermonter was stuffed with boudin noir (blood sausage, made on premises). There was also some winter veg, red cabbage and potato puree on the plate. The quail was perfectly cooked, tender and pink, with a hint of gamyness, which I appreciated (I don't like strong gamy flavors, but a hint is delicious.) I ended up picking this guy up and stripping him clean.

OK, right after this is when I fell off my chair. Literally. I was scooting off the banquette to take the next shot, only there wasn't any banquette next to me and whoomp, down I went, ass to ground. In Diana's world, stuff like this always happens, so I calmly pulled myself up, laughed, and went about my business. I'm so used to God lobbing me these humiliating life experiences that I've learned to embrace them. At some point, maybe it'll dawn on Him that I'm no longer humbled, but merely amused by His teaching moments.

I guess I was a little shaken, though, because now that i look at the shot, it didn't come out very well. :wacko: It was a pear sorbet topped with cajetas made from local goats' milk. The cajetas had a tiny bit of saltiness to it. Big thumbs up.

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Ok, who am I kidding? I was seriously embarrassed by my tumble and my hands were still trembling for this shot. It's white corn grits with a demerera sugar brulee, hazelnuts :wub: , dried fruit compote and canela ice cream. My dining companion got a fruit crisp, but we didn't even bother sharing. Secretly I was glad because i wanted the corn grits all to myself.

At the end of the meal, we were served a tiny cup of hot cocoa flavored with ancho chile and cardamom. I couldn't taste any chile, or even cardamom in my chocolate, which was very, very rich. When our Paul Rudd-lookalike waiter came over to remove our cups, I wasn't quite finished, so my hand whipped out to protect my last bit of chocolate. Whew, my reflexes were back! What's interesting though is this was my least favorite course of the evening. Had i seen the menu before I ate, I would have bet this would have been my favorite, with the egg dish being my least.

A couple shots of the dining room:

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As I was paying the bill, I noticed Tony eating a late dinner with his wife, who's expecting:

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I *love* this shot because it's exactly how I like to eat, surrounded by piles of books. I think that's Alice Medrich's book at Tony's arm.

It was a very late night for me, so I slept in till 8 this morning. Now it's time to catch up on the rest of the day.

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Diana, leftover chicken -- was there any?  If so, what will you do with it?

Oh, and do talk about bread baking.  I swear that I'm bread impaired...

There was a bit of breast leftover, and I think I'll use it for lunch today.

Yes, bread baking is coming, either today or tomorrow.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I had a hard time learning to let my kids get involved in the kitchen.  Before I became a cook, my kitchen was *my* domain, and others intruded at their peril.  Especially to "help."  When my kids got to the age of wanting to get involved, though, I decided I had to get over my big bad self.  I wanted my kids to be at home in the kitchen as much as I am, and that meant encouraging and nurturing their interest in food.  My daughter is now 14, and wants to follow in my professional footsteps (an ambition I'm decidedly ambivalent about, but we'll see).  My son has his sights set on a more-lucrative career, but was the envy of his high school class by reason of his knife skills.

This is interesting to hear, Chromedome. I really have to rein in my here-let-me-do-it 'tude when cooking with Oliver. Like you with your children, I want him to have happy memories of the kitchen, not memories of his mother chiding him for not getting all the salt into the bowl. A big thing I struggle with is when I'm trying to get food on the table quickly and he wants to help. I try to have little things he can do so he feels part of the experience, not an obstacle to a goal.

I think it's cool your daughter wants a cooking career and your son has amazing knife skills. At six, Oliver has two career goals: a vet and a UPS driver.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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gallery_28661_5601_60964.jpg

The braised endives were soft and buttery -- but very bitter. I didn't bother serving any to Oliver or my hubby. Christiane took one small bite and passed. Even for me they were too bitter, but I ate them anyway.

Suggestion...In Julia Child's "The French Chef Cookbook" she discusses the Belgian Endive, and I quote "...shave any discolored bits off the root end, being careful not to loosen the outer leaves"...."you may core a cone-shaped piece out of the root if you wish."

She also suggests blanching for ten minutes in boiling salted water before proceeding to any recipe, to remove some bitterness, particularly with end-of-season endives.

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Speaking of Oliver. From the mouths of babes:

Last night I told my hubby that my meal at Craigie Street was, quite possibly, one of the best restaurant meals I've ever had. Oliver pipes up with, "Even better than Pizza Hut?"

By the way, he's never been to Pizza Hut, but always asks to go because of the tv ads.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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What do you think of the "ethnic" food in Boston (Boston proper--not including suburbs)?  When was in VT, my sister (who lives in NH) took me to Boston once or twice for Chinese food because it was "the best in the area".  I thought the food kind of sucked, but I suppose when you had a craving, it would do.  I remember talking to someone in Brattleboro and when I asked about Chinese food she said, "If you want good Chinese food, drive up to Montreal!  Even Boston doesn't have good Chinese food!"

My point...I got the impression from my experience as well as from what locals were telling me, that "ethnic" food in the NE pretty much sucks.  Would you agree, or are there exceptions out there?

ninetofive, I hope you don't mind that I'm going to jump in here. I'm only going to cover Asian "ethnic restaurants" in Boston as an example of how "ethnic" food in a town of 800,000 pretty much doesn't suck at all.

Boston "proper" has great Shanghai as well as good to above average Cantonese seafood restaurants for Chinese. New Shanghai and Shanghai Gate and Wing's for the former, Peach Farm & Best Little Restaurant for the latter. There is no decent Sichuan in Boston proper, but Brookline & Malden both boast excellent options at Sichuan Garden and Fuloon respectively. Cambridge has Northern Chinese covered at Qingdoa Garden while Somerville (nearby) has Wang's, another excellent option. Taiwanese can be found at MuLan in Cambridge, though I also have a soft spot for Taiwan Cafe in Boston.

In terms of Cambodian, away from Boston, there's an excellent place in Revere - Floating Rock - that serves the best Cambodian I've ever had.

Vietnamese abounds in Dorchester, a lively Vietnamese neighborhood of Boston, with options of seven fish and seven beef at Angh Hong and Pho 2000 as well as the usual suspects.

Thai isn't great IN Boston, but Brookline offers the trifecta of Dok Bua (the best), Rod Dee (the best fast food Thai) and Khao Sarn (the best with a bar).

I've not found any Indian in Boston that wows me, but it doesn't suck - it's merely good.

Burmese has few offerings here either.

Korean is another I wish we had better of, but Somerville offers WuChon House and Buk Kyung, a Norther Chinese take on Korean, that both do in a pinch.

O Ya and Uni present gorgeous sushi and sashmi, and Oishii in Chestnut hill ain't bad either. For non-sushi Japanese, we could have more options, I'll admit.

Ok, that's too much information already, but I hope I've convinced you that there's lots of Asian "ethnic" to eat around -and I haven't even covered all the countries yet!

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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What do you think of the "ethnic" food in Boston (Boston proper--not including suburbs)?  When was in VT, my sister (who lives in NH) took me to Boston once or twice for Chinese food because it was "the best in the area".  I thought the food kind of sucked, but I suppose when you had a craving, it would do.  I remember talking to someone in Brattleboro and when I asked about Chinese food she said, "If you want good Chinese food, drive up to Montreal!  Even Boston doesn't have good Chinese food!"

My point...I got the impression from my experience as well as from what locals were telling me, that "ethnic" food in the NE pretty much sucks.  Would you agree, or are there exceptions out there?

ETA--I forgot to ask this earlier--do you plan to change your diet at all when you start training for your marathons?  I often wonder about how athletes eat, and I remember a friend in junior high school (competitive swimmer) used to have the weirdest diet before competitions--she'd eat carbs and proteins on alternate days, so she'd have something huge like spaghetti for lunch one day, then only a couple of hard-boiled eggs the next.  I hope you consider doing another blog around the time of your marathon, because I'd love to see how you eat during that time!

First, you asked about Boston proper, then in the next graf talk about New England in general, so I'll try to keep my comments about each separate.

Ethnic food in Boston proper (I'll include Cambridge, too) is not my forte, to be honest. I've been for Indian food in Central and Harvard Squares, never had Chinese in Chinatown, and don't go to the North End for Italian because of the tourists.

But as for ethnic food in New England sucking? I totally disagree. One place I'm going to show in my blog this week is Lowell, which is home to the second largest community of Cambodians in the U.S. Long Beach, CA, I believe, is the largest. People come from Boston to eat the pho at a Vietnamese restaurant around the corner for us (Pho 88 for locals) -- it is that authentic and good. I adore Indian food and markets, so when I have a hankering for vindaloo or curry leaves, I head to Moody Street in Waltham. And with so many Indian families moving out to the 'burbs where the high-tech companies are, I'm finding more and more great Indian restaurants, such as Udupi Bhavan in Lowell, which serves South Indian vegetarian fare. I've heard there are some excellent Mexican markets in Lawrence. I'll go so far to say we've never had very good Mexican food here in New England -- I lived in California for awhile and my husband lived in Texas from 4th grade through high school, so the bar's pretty high for us there.

Chinese food specifically -- any Bostonians/New Englanders care to comment? I'm more partial to Indian, Thai, Vietnamese foods, so I feel I shouldn't comment any further.

Prasantrin, I'll talk about my training diet in another post.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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ninetofive, I hope you don't mind that I'm going to jump in here. I'm only going to cover Asian "ethnic restaurants" in Boston as an example of how "ethnic" food in a town of 800,000 pretty much doesn't suck at all.

Gini, grazie mille for answering!

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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ninetofive, I hope you don't mind that I'm going to jump in here. I'm only going to cover Asian "ethnic restaurants" in Boston as an example of how "ethnic" food in a town of 800,000 pretty much doesn't suck at all.

Gini, grazie mille for answering!

Prego!

So all the good Indian restaurants are in the 'burbs, eh? You darn car-people!

I agree that the Mexican scene is pretty dismal in Boston, but there's hope in East Boston at Angela's Cafe - a Pueblan restaurant so good, I almost lick the plates of mole and pippan clean.

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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So all the good Indian restaurants are in the 'burbs, eh?  You darn car-people! 

Haa! That's okay, we car people curse the MTA's crappy commuter lines. For all you out of towners, after you've had the pleasure of blue-knuckling your car into the city with some of the most aggressive drivers on earth, you get to drive around aimlessly down labyrinthine, narrow streets looking for the elusive parking space. When you finally give up and admit defeat, some garage will happily take your $20 for the pleasure of bopping into a market. I don't think I've ever paid more for parking a car than I have in Boston.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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The Renegade Writer Blog

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I'm loving your blog, ninetofive!  The shots of New England bring me home and the food looks delicious.  I'm already inspired to make a roast chicken tomorrow night after seeing yours.

I want to make vanilla pudding too!  Can you give any more details on the one you made above?  Is it a cornstarch-based pudding or no?  The simple recipe I found for stirred vanilla pudding has 2 Tbs cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, 1 egg, lightly beaten, 1 tsp vanilla (I'd like to use vanilla bean, though) and 1 Tbs butter.

Looking forward to your dinner tonight; the behind the scenes look at the restaurant and the "omikase" format will be very entertaining.

Thanks again!

Thank you, Ludja! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

I followed a recipe in this month's issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food (light vanilla pudding). Instead of using 3 cups of reduced fat milk, I used 3 cups skim to steep the vanilla bean, substituted 1/3 cup vanilla sugar for the granulated, and thickened with 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup cornstarch. It came out thinner than the picture in the mag, but was still very good.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

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Diana, I meant to add earlier that I share your early rising habit.  I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise.  I have an elliptical machine in my basement.  Even though it's in my own home I have to force myself up!  AND, wow on the marathon  running!

Shelby, I'm not an early-riser by nature. Are you?

And I do sprint-distance triathlons, not marathons ... a whole other kettle of fish. I like to mix things up with swimming, biking and running. 26 miles of straight running would kill me.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Awwww, now you've tripped the nostalgia switch!

ninetofive, I hope you don't mind that I'm going to jump in here. I'm only going to cover Asian "ethnic restaurants" in Boston as an example of how "ethnic" food in a town of 800,000 pretty much doesn't suck at all.

Boston "proper" has great Shanghai as well as good to above average Cantonese seafood restaurants for Chinese.  New Shanghai and Shanghai Gate and Wing's for the former, Peach Farm & Best Little Restaurant for the latter.  There is no decent Sichuan in Boston proper, but Brookline & Malden both boast excellent options at Sichuan Garden and Fuloon respectively.  Cambridge has Northern Chinese covered at Qingdoa Garden while Somerville (nearby) has Wang's, another excellent option.  Taiwanese can be found at MuLan in Cambridge, though I also have a soft spot for Taiwan Cafe in Boston.

In terms of Cambodian, away from Boston, there's an excellent place in Revere - Floating Rock - that serves the best Cambodian I've ever had.

Vietnamese abounds in Dorchester, a lively Vietnamese neighborhood of Boston, with options of seven fish and seven beef at Angh Hong and Pho 2000 as well as the usual suspects.

Thai isn't great IN Boston, but Brookline offers the trifecta of Dok Bua (the best), Rod Dee (the best fast food Thai) and Khao Sarn (the best with a bar).

I've not found any Indian in Boston that wows me, but it doesn't suck - it's merely good.

Burmese has few offerings here either.

Korean is another I wish we had better of, but Somerville offers WuChon House and Buk Kyung, a Norther Chinese take on Korean, that both do in a pinch.

O Ya and Uni present gorgeous sushi and sashmi, and Oishii in Chestnut hill ain't bad either.  For non-sushi Japanese, we could have more options, I'll admit.

Ok, that's too much information already, but I hope I've convinced you that there's lots of Asian "ethnic" to eat around -and I haven't even covered all the countries yet!

First, you asked about Boston proper, then in the next graf talk about New England in general, so I'll try to keep my comments about each separate.

Ethnic food in Boston proper (I'll include Cambridge, too) is not my forte, to be honest. I've been for Indian food in Central and Harvard Squares, never had Chinese in Chinatown, and don't go to the North End for Italian because of the tourists.

But as for ethnic food in New England sucking? I totally disagree. One place I'm going to show in my blog this week is Lowell, which is home to the second largest community of Cambodians in the U.S. Long Beach, CA, I believe, is the largest. People come from Boston to eat the pho at a Vietnamese restaurant around the corner for us (Pho 88 for locals) -- it is that authentic and good. I adore Indian food and markets, so when I have a hankering for vindaloo or curry leaves, I head to Moody Street in Waltham. And with so many Indian families moving out to the 'burbs where the high-tech companies are, I'm finding more and more great Indian restaurants, such as Udupi Bhavan in Lowell, which serves South Indian vegetarian fare. I've heard there are some excellent Mexican markets in Lawrence. I'll go so far to say we've never had very good Mexican food here in New England -- I lived in California for awhile and my husband lived in Texas from 4th grade through high school, so the bar's pretty high for us there.

Chinese food specifically -- any Bostonians/New Englanders care to comment? I'm more partial to Indian, Thai, Vietnamese foods, so I feel I shouldn't comment any further.

It's nice to see that the variety of Asian food available in the Greater Boston region (which I define as anywhere you can get to on the MBTA, so Lowell's definitely included -- and, I think, so's Worcester now) has expanded greatly since I left there for Philadelphia in 1983, and when I was last there in 2005, I even ate at an Ethiopian restaurant in the South End, something I could do in Philadelphia but not Boston when I moved south.

Even with the influx of South and Southeast Asians, though, I'd still say that New England as a whole, though Greater Boston less than before, is less ethnically diverse than either the rest of the Northeast or California, and that is reflected in its dining scene. I'm aware of the Portuguese immigrant population around Narragansett Bay (and thus encompassing New Bedford/Fall River), but beyond that, there's not much of an Iberian or Hispanic presence in the region -- or at least not one I can discern from the restaurants. Here I can find Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian and Venezuelan restaurants, for instance; I'm not aware of instances of any of these South American cuisines in the Boston area. (I'm sure there must be some Caribbean places up that way by now.)

However, I must give props to Redbone's -- or whatever the name of that place is in Davis Square, which went all upscale on me between the time I left and the time I returned for my 25th reunion -- for attempting to spread the Gospel of Barbecue to those without the Word. To borrow some obscure U.S. Senator from Nebraska's remarks about Shanghai in the 1950s, "We will lift this place up, up, ever upward, until one day it is just like Kansas City." :smile:

So all the good Indian restaurants are in the 'burbs, eh?  You darn car-people! 

Haa! That's okay, we car people curse the MTA's crappy commuter lines. For all you out of towners, after you've had the pleasure of blue-knuckling your car into the city with some of the most aggressive drivers on earth, you get to drive around aimlessly down labyrinthine, narrow streets looking for the elusive parking space. When you finally give up and admit defeat, some garage will happily take your $20 for the pleasure of bopping into a market. I don't think I've ever paid more for parking a car than I have in Boston.

You are the first person I've run across in quite some time who refers to Greater Boston's mass transit agency with (1) more than one letter (2) the initials used to refer to it from 1947 to 1964. You must be a longtime New Englander -- I didn't learn about the "T's" former identity until I read some local transit history and heard that campaign song made famous by the Kingston Trio.

I'm guessing that the spotty nature of the MBTA's commuter train service is the main reason you drive into the city. SEPTA Regional Rail does much better in this department, though you still need to be back at the in-town station by midnight to make it back to the boonies. But there's hourly service at minimum at all times on all but one of the 13 Regional Rail branches; I don't think the same applies for MBTA Commuter Rail.

Did Charlie get his CharlieCard™ yet? Or is he still trapped on the Green Line? :biggrin:

Edited to add: I used to have a rule of thumb for driving around Boston (yes, I did do some): If you get lost, simply continue in the general direction you are headed. You will eventually arrive at one of two places -- Downtown Boston or Route 128. From either of these you should be able to reorient yourself.

In truth, that last part wasn't even guaranteed.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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I even ate at an Ethiopian restaurant in the South End, something I could do in Philadelphia but not Boston when I moved south.

Even with the influx of South and Southeast Asians, though, I'd still say that New England as a whole, though Greater Boston less than before, is less ethnically diverse than either the rest of the Northeast or California, and that is reflected in its dining scene.  I'm aware of the Portuguese immigrant population around Narragansett Bay (and thus encompassing New Bedford/Fall River), but beyond that, there's not much of an Iberian or Hispanic presence in the region -- or at least not one I can discern from the restaurants.  Here I can find Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian and Venezuelan restaurants, for instance; I'm not aware of instances of any of these South American cuisines in the Boston area.  (I'm sure there must be some Caribbean places up that way by now.)

That would be Addis Red Sea you went to in the South End! They also have an outpost in Cambridge. Over in Somerville, Fasika serves up some tasty Ethiopian too.

There's actually a huge Central and South American community in East Boston, Sandy. I can walk off the T and get Columbian roast chicken, Peruvian ceviche, lovely Mexican moles. Of course, there's been a large Brazilian and Portugese population here for some time. And you're right, we also have a lively Dominican and Jamaican community here in Boston, particularly in Dorchester and JP.

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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