• Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Dewey Square Market Grows

    It's back and better than ever!

    Good news comes to the Leather District: The Dewey Square Market has expanded to include not one, not two, but three days a week.

    You can now shop Monday, Wednesday, and/or Thursday from 11:30 AM to 6:30 PM.

    Beef at the Dewey Square Market? You bet!

    Come support one of the new kids on the block. Austin's Farm. We bought a big chuck steak last week and braised it pot roast style with Madeira sauce. The meat was fork-tender and delicious. More soon on Austin's Farm.

    Austin's brings their meat frozen. You can buy it at lunch, they'll keep it for you, then you simply swing by on the way home to pick it up. They even have insulated bags.

    Sirloin steaks last night were terrific. Prices are great.

    Here's a sampling of other things we've found in these opening days:

    From Siena Farms:

    • delicious Easter egg radishes

    • Boston Bibb or butter lettuce

    • romaine lettuce

    • chive blossoms

    • scallions

    • rainbow chard

    And fresh, handmade mozzarella (from friends of Siena) which we had with the first of the season heirloom tomato from Savenor's. Some fresh basil, a sprinkle of salt, a dribble fine balsamic and olive oil. Heaven.

    From The Herb Lyceum:

    • lavender for a homemade version of the yummy lavender, cranberry lemonade found at the market

    • herb plants for the windowsill (dill, cilantro, Thai basil)

    From the Panorama bakers:

    • pastries from Georgia & from Russia - try the hachapuri an amazing cheese in puff pastry

    • spinach mushroom turnover

    • broccoli cheese turnover

    From When Pigs Fly Bakery:

    • Green olive and hot pepper bread

    • Sourdough bread

    From Keown Orchards:

    • herb plants (basil, chocolate mint, apple mint, thyme)

    • peony plant

    For hotdogs you can't beat the bread and butter pickles from Warren Farm.

    For a Snack or a Lunch:

    We noshed on a fresh spring roll today that was out of this world. The soft rice paper was wrapped around noodles, cucumber, fresh herbs like cilantro, scallions and a light peanut dipping sauce.

    Other new vendors include a Kettle Corn snack (looks so good, I'm trying to stay away!) and A Touch of Provence which brings Provencal table linens, cooking classes and more to the LD.

    Asparagus is in (see Nourse), baby greens, peas, strawberries and a big selection of baked goods from sweet to savory.

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    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Father’s Day

    Once you’ve lost your father, to death, illness or what have you, this holiday is hard to get through. Each year, the first little prickle over arrives simultaneously with advertisements for “great gifts for grads and Dads.” I know from that moment on until the end of the month, I’ll have a nagging little knot in my stomach and a few restless nights.

    Seemingly out of the blue, over lunch the other day, I recalled many of the dishes my father prepared when I was a child. I still have stained recipe cards for some, in his firm stylized handwriting. But these things are never really “out of the blue” are they? Of course there was the “Grads and Dads” reminder on the tube. Yes the TV was on while I was eating, but it was only lunch.

    Not unlike the other food-obsessed people I know, many of my first memories are food memories. Good and bad. Families tell certain stories over and over until everyone knows them by heart. Many of mine are about food. Funny how those stories repeated through the years, become a kind of trellis for your growing up. What they transmit is a bit of your family DNA – what is important to us and why, what is to be admired, or feared.

    My father made Bulgoki (his own recipe), Chicken Paprikash (with egg noodles made on the countertop), roast duck (my first ever was one he shot on a hunting trip), Coq au Vin. These were dishes that piqued my interest in food, in other countries, in stories about the families in other countries that ate such things. These were dishes that my father cooked.

    As I recalled all the different things my Dad would cook or could cook (he didn’t do it often) I thought how odd it was that he would have learned how to make such things as paella or kimchi.

    My father came from very humble beginnings. And by humble, I don’t mean that somewhat fuzzy, ultimately comfortable revised-memory sense. I mean really poor. Poor in an un-fun way, not a favorite threadbare flannel shirt way. He grew up in a part of New Jersey that can make grown men cry. I know it can, I’ve seen it happen.

    I thought about the ways my father influenced not only how I eat but my approach to food, too. He nurtured my love for good food and my curiosity about the world in unconscious ways - the only type of nurturing he did well. As every adult who survives an imperfect childhood hopes to do, I’ve achieved a small measure of forgiveness about this and a larger amount of gratitude.

    I don’t remember if I ever asked how it was he came to learn about these different foods. The only dish in his repertoire whose origins I knew of was his paprikash. It came with one of the very few morsels of information offered about his mother. I understood the reason we heard so little about her was the same reason we heard so little about the Vietnam War: both had been traumatic for him, maybe on about the same scale. Questions were not invited.

    If some food memories came with pain, there was still the act of sharing that smoothes it over. Telling me about paprikash and how his mother loved it so, my father told me about her Hungarian origins, her family, about her sister that was killed by a streetcar in this new country. I learned that noodles don’t always come in a bag or a box. In the old country, a mound of flour and some eggs produce really good handmade noodles, perfect for the paprika-laced sauce.

    My father and I had few moments like these, heightening their significance in my memory. As he kneaded the dough, he told me how he’d prepared his mother’s favorite dish for her on the night of their planned reconciliation meeting. He told me how she’d died before that dinner took place. And still, he prepared the dish for me, told me the story and showed me how to make the handmade noodles.

    A story about the meal you’re preparing told to a listening and watching child, transmits more than a mere recipe. It tells her what is important to you. It tells her you are willing to share important truths about yourself. It shows her how to nourish.

    Apropos of what I have long since forgotten, my father lent me a short story to read. It was a 1935 short story by Allan Seager called “This Town and Salamanca.” Maybe this story was meant to tell me something about him. Was he trying to give me a key of some sort, a cipher to make sense of the distance between us? The story includes a character that has traveled to exotic places only to return to a decidedly un-exotic small town and settle down. His stories of Salamanca enthrall his friends.

    I had never heard of , nor much of Spain at that juncture. I knew even less about my father then, than I do now, I think. Perhaps the story was the impetus for my father learning to prepare paella. It is more likely that his love of the story and his love of good food were both outgrowths of something essential to him. What stories lay at the origin of his bulgoki dish, I may never know. What I am certain of, is that a gift-card to a chain restaurant is not the best Father’s Day gift.

    Instead, make a meal with your father and share stories. Or make a meal that your father taught you about and thank him for the gift he gave you.

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    Friday, June 01, 2007

    Ramen, Red (toe) Sox and the Matsuzaka-effect

    Blame it on the so-called “Matsuzaka effect.” Since the Japanese phenom pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Boston Red Sox, we’ve heard all kinds of crazy things are happening in the hub.

    If he’s really behind the resurgence of toe sox, it only seems fair to assume that he’s got something to do with the apprarent interest in a $13.00 bowl of mediocre ramen. That's okay, at least the Boston Globe is talking about real Japanese food for a change, not just the second-mortgage sushi spots.

    (Photo credit: Barton Silverman:NYTimes)


    On the plus side of the ledger we now have even the Boston.com folks talking about Onigiri. These are wonderful treats and not unlike the more familiar sushi. I love onigiri. In Japan, they are as popular as sandwiches are here. Maybe we will see them at Fenway? After all, Goya foods now serves Empanadas at Yankee Stadium. Why not.

    For Japanese food, including onigiri, head to Porter Square. Kotobukiya is an authentic grocery store, carrying ramen, onigiri and just about anything else you might want in the way of Japanese groceries.

    Recently, Boston was all abuzz with the Wagamama opening at Faneuil Hall. The first warning: it’s Faneuil Hall. Second: they’re a London-based operation. Serving not pub food, not Indian food, but Asian noodles. I was dubious.

    Since my husband and a very good friend went to check it out, I’ll probably never be able to report back to you about my first person experience. Two educated palates giving Wagamama a big thumbs down is sufficient for me.

    “Sodium intake for the month? Check." "Mad lines and bad service? Check.” Let’s just go to Chinatown, instead.

    Add to those ringing endorsements, the fact that I’d have to walk through Chinatown where a really excellent bowl of ramen is never more than $7.00 fully loaded, to get there... You can see that the likelihood I’ll make it to Wagamama is about equal to the chances I’ll be wearing toe socks again.

    Check out this crazy Japanese TV show as it's problem-solver goes to work for an empty ramen shop. (You may need to clear your cache before the link will work. Or, just go to Youtube and search for "Hard Gay Ramen". Yes, I'm serious.)

    For more on ramen generally: see Bento's article on the ramen museum.

    If you're on the road and want to know the best local ramen shop, check out Rameniac.com.

    Just Hungry always makes me, well hungry! It's a terrific site packed with Japanese food and recipes.

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