Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Call for Cans: BSO To Hold Food Drive

Photo: cherrylet/Flickr

Abby Conway

Starting tomorrow, April 1st, and continuing through Saturday, April 3rd, The Boston Symphony Orchestra is holding a food drive to benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. The drive is taking place in connection with Orchestras Feeding America, a nationwide project started by the League of American Orchestras. The program was inaugurated last year as tough economic times left more Americans than ever struggling to provide consistent, adequate nourishment for their families.

Donations will be collected for one hour before each evening’s performance of Elijah and also during intermission. Those attending the concert are encouraged to donate, but all members of the public are invited to do so as well. Just drop off your donation between 7-8pm at either the Mass Ave or Cohen Wing entrances of Symphony Hall. Cash donations in support of The Greater Boston Food Bank can be made at any time online.

Taste This!

Alix Brewster, PRK Guest Contributor


Not long ago Alix Brewster used to eat only pasta with butter. Seafood was like eating fried worms and veggies were a phobia til she had dinner at Chef Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak in New York City. Her whole philosophy about food changed—new foods were fascinating and chefs were artists at work.
Now a hostess at one of Boston’s finest restaurants, the flagship of one of the city’s best chefs, Alix is learning Boston through its dining scene. She hopes one day to run a PR firm that works with restaurants and chefs. The following is a post she submitted to Public Radio Kitchen.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I work as a hostess at one of Boston’s premier restaurants. This isn’t necessarily something I hoped I’d be doing after graduating from college, but it helps pay the bills and it definitely gives me the background I need in order to understand the industry I plan on becoming part of. I am a “wannabe” chef and aspiring PR agent for a chef or restaurant. I want the opportunity to make a chef known, honored and respected through his/her art by way of my own passion about the restaurant world. Maybe one day I will own my own restaurant, but for now I enjoy being a part of one. I love food, wine and travel, so what better way to experience these better things in life?

I think I know what many of you are imagining: some brainless girl in trendy dress propped up behind the front podium of a restaurant with a fake smile on her face. Hey, that was my impression of a hostess, too, before actually becoming one. The thing is there’s more to this job than you might guess. Our goal is to make your experience – and dining is undeniably an experience – enjoyable and worthwhile no matter what venue you choose. Where I work, we try to give each guest a four-star experience each time. This means perfectly crafted food, compassionate and diligent service and a luxurious atmosphere. The way I am experiencing my work, though, much like the characters from The Wizard of Oz, a hostess needs the courage of a lion, a big heart and brains to get through the day, or night.

Why? We are the first ‘taste’ a patron gets when walking through the doors of a restaurant and into the dining room. Can you imagine being greeted with a frown? How many of you actually have? No matter how your meal goes, I bet that would leave a sour taste in your mouth. I do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. Some days, it’s not easy.

I have never before experienced such an array of moods and mannerisms. The demanding and pushy customer, the needy customer, the indecisive customer. I have even witnessed bread being eaten with a knife and fork! Though many customers beg and plead and explain how important they are, sometimes I have to tell them NO. And this is where it takes courage, heart and brains. Like a perfect storm of priorities, I am taking into consideration the wait staff, the kitchen and the guests, all the while booking reservations, hanging up coats, seating you at a table and being aware of how many diners the wait staff and kitchen can handle at once before your experience starts to suffer. Hostesses must be super-efficient managers of time, hospitality extraordinaires and puzzle-solving masters.

Here’s a story. One of my first weeks on the job, during an extremely busy lunch hour, I experienced quite The Difficult Customer. I was threatened (actually threatened!) by a patron who was unhappy with his table. He claimed he would make me the subject of a bad review on Yelp—which he did—and gave me lip about how we favor our regulars, how he should have the choice of whatever table he wanted, etc. Inside, I was fuming. This guy was being so disrespectful, nearly impossible to communicate with, and I already had one too many balls in the air. On the outside, I kept my cool. No need for the other customers to see what the stir was about, so I stood my ground and offered him one more table choice. Obviously still pissed off and showing VERY un-business like conduct, this ‘businessman’ stuck around, sat down and gluttonously ate his meal.

This being one of my first lunches, I felt flustered and defeated. I ended up telling one of our managers what had happened because I was so caught off guard by the incident. Expecting a scolding, I instead received a refreshing response: “If you are ever treated like that again, give the customer the ultimatum…sit down and eat, or leave!” (Luckily, I haven’t experienced a person as over-the-top as The Difficult Customer, but at least next time I’ll know how to handle the situation with aplomb.)

As with most things, there is a larger lesson here. Even when you the customer are supposedly always right, BEND a little. One bad review won’t turn true food lovers away. On your next visit, clue me in. I’ll be sure to do my best to accommodate. And, remember, the next time you walk through the doors of a restaurant, pay particular attention to the greeting staff, the first ‘taste’ of your dining experience. There are brains, heart and courage behind the smile. And, at least for me, the smile is genuine.

Matzo Ball Bonanza

Photo: M Kasahara/Flickr

It’s tonight. The first seder, that is.  A favorite of Jews and non-Jews alike, matzo ball soup is a prelude to the seder meal.  You sit for hours remembering when we were slaves in Egypt and then, after the bitter herbs, charoset, and who knows what else, your lips are graced with that delicious, warm, gentle soup.  It’s a personal fave (can you tell)?  So in honor of that fabulous seder tradition, I’ve decided to post some favorite recipes below.  I’d love to know if you have any hidden tricks for your matzo ball soup…something that make it unforgettable? The new Executive Producer of Radio Boston, Iris Adler, volunteered her mother’s secret: soda water.

Happy Passover to all and whether you celebrate….or not….get yourself some soup.

Matzo Ball “Traditional Recipe” from Episcopalian Bridget Moloney. She calls herself a “cafeteria observer,” and despite not having a Bubbie (or in my case, an Oma) to train her in the art of Jewish cooking, her recipe from Bon Appetit is fabulous.   Here’s another great option from Smitten Kitchen.

For the Vegans out there, blogger Vegan Bits offered this great animal-free recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

And for our gluten-free folks, here’s an option for you from Elana’s Pantry.

What if you’re looking for other Passover-esque recipes? Boston’s own Kosher Camembert assembled a beautiful list of options HERE.

Q&A: The Old Foodie

Image flickr/SToppin

Photo: SToppin/Flickr

Emma Jacobs

Janet Clarkson is The Old Foodie. She blogs regularly on historic recipes and eating habits from her modern kitchen in Brisbane, Australia. Clarkson is also the author of Pie: A Global History. She agreed to answer some questions from Public Radio Kitchen about how she got interested in old food, and the highlights of 17th-century cookbooks.
I have been interested in food (cooking and eating it, that is!) as long as I can remember. I hated history at school. I just found myself reading more and more about it and, without consciously setting out to be a food historian, that is where I arrived.

PRK: Do you cook historic food often? What was the first item you tried to make?

I actually don’t cook [it] very often. It is more of an academic interest for me. To cook historic food faithfully requires an historic kitchen. Old methods are just as important to the final outcome as the recipe ingredients and instructions themselves. One of the problems (challenges) in cooking old recipes is that instructions in old books are very vague – quantities, times, temperatures, etc., are rarely mentioned, partly because kitchens did not have clocks, thermometers, scales, etc., – cookery methods were dependent on the experience of the cook.

The first recipe I did make was a 14th-century English dish of braised fennel with ginger and other spices. It was delicious.

For me, the interesting thing is to use the past to inspire the present. So many old recipes sound very innovative today, such as a 16th-century recipe for turkey with raspberries, or one for chicken with pears. I am surprised that more chefs and cooks don’t use historical ideas in this way. There is really nothing new under the sun. If you look hard enough, you will always find a similar idea that has been ‘forgotten.’ The 1970’s ‘chicken with forty cloves of garlic’ is not all that different from a medieval recipe.

PRK: How hard does it turn out to be to adapt these recipes? How edible do most turn out?

As I said, because of the very sketchy instructions in most old books, a lot of guesswork is always involved in trying them out today. We can never be completely sure we have made a dish in the same way as it would have been when the particular cookbook was written. It is not so much that dishes made from historic recipes are inedible, but more that tastes change – we probably don’t particularly want the heavy suet puddings of Victorian times anymore. There are, however, some amazingly elegant dishes, including for such things as salads in 17th-century books, so we could probably look to these again for inspiration.

PRK: Have our tastes changed very much?

There has always been a desire for fine, good quality food – but yes, our particular preferences have changed, I think. We don’t value offal, for example, on the whole but once upon a time, when nothing was wasted, nothing was rejected either.

PRK: Where do you look for vintage recipes?  Any favorite cookbooks?

I have a lot of old cookbooks myself. I have several hundred, I suppose, both modern and historical in spite of regular culling. But the really old ones (dating back to medieval times) are in online databases. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the number of historic cookbooks that have been made freely available over the Internet, thanks to such organisations as Google Books, Gutenberg and the Internet Archive, as well as a lot of libraries around the world. I am gradually putting together a list of these books and, when it is ‘done’ (it will never be ‘finished’), I will make it available to anyone who wants it. Sometimes I troll newspaper archives, too, for recipes and advertisements.

I have a number of favourites – too many to call them favourites, I think! A few of them are: The Accomplish’t Cook by Robert May (1660); Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845) – she was the first cookery book writer to list the ingredients separate from the method; and for sheer range and quirkiness I also love Domestic Economy for Rich and Poor by A Lady (1827)

PRK: Any favorite edibles? Or recommendations for Spring?

In Spring – bring back some of the fine 17th-century salad ideas, perhaps!

Thursday Tidbits

Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

Abby Conway

Home Grown Goes Urban
The Food Project’s Build-a-Garden program is now accepting applications from residents of Boston and Lynn who wish to start their own garden. The idea behind the program is pretty simple: once your application is accepted, The Food Project builds you a raised bed garden and provides support for how to grow what you want to grow. All interested residents are eligible and, the best news, no prior gardening experience is neccesary. For the urban farmer raised bed gardens have many benefits since they can be built on pavement, growing food in them is relatively easy and you can produce a decent volume in a small space. If you’re not interested in tending your own garden, or if you’ve already got one, consider volunteering with The Food Project and thereby help spread their mission: “to grow a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system.”

CupcakeCamp Comes to Boston
CupcakeCamp is bringing community and cupcakes together on April 15th at P.A’.s Lounge in Somerville. CupcakeCamp hosts gatherings in various cities where people with a passion for cupcakes (baking ‘em and eating ‘em) can come together. Local bakeries Sugar and Petsi Pies are already lined up to attend, but the event isn’t limited to professionals. Amateurs are encouraged to register their own cupcake creations and bring them on down on the 15th. Anyone can attend! The event is free, and P.A.’s will be offering a special lineup of cocktails. Since I’ve already confessed my love for cupcakes, you all know I’ll be there. And I’ll report back, so keep your eyes peeled for PRK’s upcoming coverage of Boston’s first CupcakeCamp.

Blogging School Lunches
Last week in Tidbits we wrote how Massachusetts is on its way to improving school lunches through a comprehensive bill passed earlier this month. This week, I came across a teacher who is making this issue a personal one, literally. Mrs. Q, as she calls herself, is an anonymous Midwestern school teacher advocating for improving school lunches by actually eating them, “just like the kids,” every school day in 2010 and documenting it on her blog Fed Up With Lunch. It isn’t pretty. Day after day Mrs. Q posts pictures of her lunch, which comes in individual, pre-packaged and often previously-frozen servings. Mrs. Q hopes that her effort will result in sweeping changes to school lunches throughout the country. Want a real eye-opener? Check out what she’s been eating. She has decided to remain anonymous in an effort to protect her professional career.

Conspicuous Calories
Restaurants will be making some noticeable changes with the passing of the new healthcare legislation. The bill that passed late Sunday night in the House mandates nutritional labeling at chain restaurants. Similar legislation already exists in some states, but this provision regulates that all chains with 20 or more locations must display nutritional information for standard offerings on menus and menu boards. The legislation also extends calorie labeling to vending machines. This is a huge victory for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been fighting for such legislation since 2003 (on a personal note, I dealt with this first-hand during my last trip to New York City. And while I knew that a giant chocolate chip cookie wasn’t good for me, I didn’t realize that some were that bad. No more guilt-free snacks for me).

Mooo: And What Does That Make You Feel?

In case you haven’t seen this already, check out MC Slim’s take on terrible Boston restaurant names.   I’ve thought about Mooo myself but never really knew the whole story.  He does make a lot of great (hilarious) points but I have to say, …I’ll always love “blunch.”  

The word is SUCH a gem.

From MC Slim JB

27 Really Terrible Boston Restaurant Names

Choosing a restaurant name has to be one of the most difficult and significant decisions a new restaurateur has to make. A lot is riding on it: the name represents the only opportunity many potential customers ever get to decide if the restaurant appeals to them in terms of its concept, atmosphere, price, and the other intangible qualities it may connote. So I’m always amazed when a restaurant chooses a really terrible name.

I’m not just talking about the widespread misapplication of bistro and trattoria, though that annoys the deuce out of me. Properly used, those terms denote rather specific forms of relatively humble restaurants in France and Italy, but in the USA, they’re abused to mean practically anything. In Boston, they mostly get slapped on places that are too fancy and expensive to fit the traditional usage, and the offenders on that score are too numerous to mention. Rather, I’m here to cite the garden-variety-stupid, the what-the-hell-were-you-thinking, the where-were-your-friends-when-you-picked-that kind of restaurant naming awfulness.
Read the rest of the post HERE.

Time for the Moldboard Plow


All photos: Courtesy of Powisset Farm

Meryl LaTronica, Guest Contributor
Powisset Farm

Springtime at Powisset Farm is marked by many things. Cool days spent in the warm greenhouse, music blaring, seeding our first trays of onions, lettuce and broccoli. Construction projects leftover from winter: last year it was building a chicken coop and walk-in cooler; this year it’s putting up a hoop house and building yet another chicken coop. And, time spent tuning up the tractors, hands covered in grease from working under the diesel engines all day. Springtime is all of these moments. But the one thing for me that truly marks Spring and the change from last season to this season is when I plow my first field of the year! Continue reading

AUDIO VISIT: A Taste of Teranga

Photo: Steven Greene

Emma Jacobs

Click to listen.

No one beats Boston for seafood, but the city’s not exactly known for the variety of its African restaurant scene.

Marie-Claude Mendy opened Boston’s first West African restaurant, Teranga, in Boston’s South End. When the restaurant opened last year, the next-closest places to get Senegalese food were in New York City.

Teranga stands for Senegalese hospitality. For some people, the storefront on Washington Street is a rare taste of home. Others–like one of the first surprised women delivered an entire fish last summer– needed an introduction to Senegalese cuisine.

Being a pioneer hasn’t been easy, but Marie-Claude is bound to win them over.

Pure Maple Love

A Grading Window (All photos: Susan McCrory)

Susan McCrory

When my brothers, sister and I were little, Saturdays mornings were really special. My mom would sleep in, her one treasured morning of the week, and my dad would make us pancakes for breakfast. We had one of those old-fashioned stainless steel griddles, the kind where you lift the top half off the bottom half to open the thing up, there is no On-Off button, just the cord, and you can switch the griddles from smooth (for pancakes or amazing grilled sandwiches) to bumpy (for waffles). My dad would whisk up the batter, grease the griddle with Crisco (yep) and pour out pancakes four at a time, sizzling as they hit the hot griddle. Heaven. All of us still LOVE pancakes, and so do our kids. Ever the breakfast chef, my dad still makes them on weekends at our summer house on Lake Winnepesaukee.

Now for the syrup. I don’t recall the brand, but I can guarantee you I grew up on store-brand stuff. That mix of artificial color, corn-syrup and whatever, with maybe a smidgen of pure maple syrup making a cameo in there somewhere. Not my kids. Last Sunday afternoon we feasted on homemade pancakes topped with the gorgeous-tasting pure maple syrup we had just carried home from Turtle Lane Maple Farm in North Andover.

The Evaporator

We braved the pouring rain, flooded roads and veritable rivers coursing through the Turtle Lane property to reach their sugar house and we weren’t alone. We packed ourselves in with about 20 others to listen to the super-informative, super-friendly tour given by owner Paul Boulanger and his wife Kathy Gallagher. What we learned: the sugaring began unexpectedly early this year, around Feb. 18, catching maple farmers off-guard; sugar maples, followed by black and red maples, produce the most sap; on average, 40 gallons of sap go into making one gallon of syrup; maple syrup and maple-flavored products really took off in popularity after World War II, when imported cane sugar again became available and farmers could devote their sap to products other than sugar; the darker the syrup, the more intense the flavor.

Sap boiling in trays

Farmer Paul anticipates that this weekend, March 20-21, will be the last sugaring weekend of the season. If you plan on visiting one, call your sugar house first to make sure they’re still boiling (check this directory of sugar houses put out by the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association). Included below is a quick recipe for pancakes, thanks to the MMPA brochure. Enjoy!

Pre-filtered syrup


1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

PS: my dad’s recipe, which I still use, is similar but it includes two no-no’s: sugar and salt. LOL. And, though I don’t use Crisco to grease it up (!), I am the proud owner of my grandmother’s old-fashioned griddle.

Steam rising

Thursday Tidbits

Photo: adactio/Flickr

Abby Conway

O.N.C.E. Brunch: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
There are a few seats left for the O.N.C.E. “Sproing” Brunch happening Sunday, March 21, 11 am. Reserve a place at their so-abundant table and get the deets on the eats at Cuisine en Locale.

Kick-Ass Cupcakes
Out strolling on a beautiful Spring day? Need a treat? Every day is a new flavor day at Kick-Ass Cupcakes in Davis Square and Wellesley (today: German Chocolate) and they offer gluten-free cupcakes as well. So what if you’re not alone. They make pup cakes and kittycakes, catnip of course, to bring home.

Cape Ann CSF
The gals at North Shore Dish recently blogged about their own experience with the Cape Ann Fresh Catch. The stated pros, cons and readers’ comments show the complexity of the issue of real sustainability and how to achieve it.

Massachusetts State Senators Vote for Healthier Schools
Late last week the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill that bans the sale of unhealthy snacks and high-calorie sodas in public schools. The bill requires the Department of Health and the Education Department to work together to develop nutrition standards for all foods sold in public schools. In addition, schools must sell fresh fruits and veggies (preferably locally grown), ban deep fried foods and educate students on nutrition and exercise. These standards must be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 academic year. This is great news for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, launched earlier this year.

This Isn’t Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese
The simple grilled cheese is a sacred tradition for many but Restaurant Dante is taking it up a notch. Every Tuesday through April 4th Dante will offer $2 grilled cheese at their bar and lounge from 5:30p to close. The twist: each week’s creation is inspired by a favorite Italian film. Here’s a list of their upcoming creations; more info at their website:

  • Tuesday, March 23rd – La Dolce Vita: Aged vermont cheddar, pancetta, honey crisp apples and sage
  • Tuesday, March 30th – Under the Tuscan Sun: Buffalo Mozzarella, roasted tomato and pistachio pesto
  • Tuesday, April 6th – Roman Holiday: Petit jesi, robiola and peperoncini

Starbucks: frills if you want ‘em, no wait if you do
Starting this summer Starbucks will allow customers to customize their frappuccino orders. Starbucks hopes the sales of what they are calling the ‘however-you-want-it frappuccino’ will help offest the seasonal slow down in hot-coffee sales (personal aside: I’m just hoping it won’t make the line longer. During my short stint as a barista I learned quickly that frappuccinos are time intensive and always slowed down my line). Starbucks says they’re teaching their baristas a more efficient production process and installing more efficient blenders. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Annie Young-Scrivner, global chief marking officer for Starbucks, said the further customization of the beverage “should not increase” wait-time for drinks. Wahoo!

March Munch Maddness
Not a fan of college basketball? Feel like your missing out on the fun as those around you fill out their March Madness brackets? Fear not, has the answer for all you foodies out there, and they’re calling it Munch Maddness. The first round of voting is happening through tomorrow, March 19th. Log on and have your say in which Boston restaurants go to the final four and who wins the title of Munch Maddness Champion.