Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Lesson in Gluttony

Not only do I live and love to eat, I value the memory of all that I've eaten, so that I may share with others the things I have devoured and so that the smells and tastes and memories stay with me!

So here is a chronicle of a food-filled weekend in Boston with my cohorts mcgillicuddy and chickiecc (I think I may have hit their limits of eating or come close to it! I on the other hand don't seem to have any! :p)

Chickiecc and I hopped on a late Greyhound Friday night, whiling away our dinnertime hours on a highway up to Boston. So naturally, famished upon arrival, mcgillicuddy picked us up at South Station and promptly took us to Pinocchio's Pizza in Cambridge at 1:30 a.m. At this drunken hour of the night, the area was bustling with young college students. My plan for a slice of sausage was dashed when I heard the guy ahead of us order two and the worker told him he only had one left. So we both ended up with Sicilian basil and tomato slices. Nothing could have tasted better at that moment. My slice was gone before we even made it to the apartment steps.

The next morning, after sleeping in a bit, mcgillicuddy smartly called ahead and put our names on the waiting list at Watertown's Deluxe Town Diner. A lovely old-fashioned diner popular for weekend morning brunches Deluxe has a wonderful selection of pancakes. I chose the fluffy sweet potato pancakes with walnuts, mcgillicuddy went with the blue corn, and chickiecc opted out, ordering an omelet with toast and bacon instead to fulfill her more savory cravings. A beautiful start to a cloudy morning.

With our tummies temporarily sated, we walked toward the car, but made a slight detour into Sevan Bakery, an Armenian shop with an assortment of refrigerated goods to deli counter prepared foods. Little did she know at the time, but it was there that chickiecc would first lay eyes on what became her most loved food item of the weekend - Armenian string cheese (more about that shortly). With that in hand we headed home for a brief respite.

But before making it home, chickiecc and mcgillicuddy made a pitstop at Hi Rise Bakery just diagonal from the apartment. What they came back with: a loaf of potato bread, two Italian sodas (peach-blackberry and raspberry-lime), and a chocolate cork.

We snacked on these and the Armenian string cheese - a braided hunk of white cheese studded with little black seeds known as nigella seeds. It's a tad salty and as it warms up to room temperature becomes pliable and stretchy and stringy.

After a couple of hours of rest, we hopped in the Subby toward Jamaica Plain. Our destination - La Pupusa Guanaca, a little Salvadoran hole in the wall. There, we grabbed a booth (the kind with rounded benches that remind me of hot dog places) and decided on our afternoon snacks of a cheese and pork pupusa, a black bean and cheese pupusa, and a chicken and cheese tamal. They were all made to order so we had a short wait. The pupusas, thick corn tortilla pockets cooked on the griddle, came with a small side of pickled cabbage slaw. We found a bottle of mustard-like sauce that accompanied our food perfectly to our delicious delight! Before we paid and moved on to our next food item, we ordered a cheese bread to go. We got back in the car and I broke off a small piece and immediately my taste buds lit up- mmmmmmm! chickiecc inquired as to whether it had a savory or sweet provenance - I was stumped, but guessed that it was more savory. I got some teasing for my hesitance, but when chickiecc took her bite, she laughed too for she wasn't quite sure! It was up to mcgillicuddy to settle it once and for all - savory it was! It had a rich cheesey flavor with a slight underlying taste of an egg custard, baked like a circular spongy muffin without a crown.

On our way out of Jamaica Plain we made a stop at El Oriental de Cuba and poured over the menu. We decided it wasn't right for our next snack, though we made a mental note that it was something to try in the future (a sign of a good foodie ;P). Next stop was La Mamma Pizzeria in Allston (with a short nonfood-related sidetracked trip to T.J. Maxx). Although, by its outward appearances it is a pizzeria, La Mamma is the place to go for empanadas! We ordered one corn and cheese, and one chicken empanada. We also got batidos, tropical fruit shakes. For me, tamarind; for mcgillicudy, mango; and for chickiecc, the recommendation of the La Mamma guy- mamey. We had no clue what mamey would be, but trusted that our adventurous taste buds would warm to it well. (It turns out that mamey is a fruit of Cuba and Central America, best suited for shakes! It had a fairly neutral taste, slightly sweet and a little bit tart.) The empanadas here are heated to order, so again we had a short wait. But soon, with empanadas and batidos in hand, it was back to the Subby and to Cambridge for Jamaican food at Ortanique!

Ortanique, a small, family-run restaurant, offers food that tastes homemade. Here we chose curried goat and a three-meat platter with jerk chicken, jerk pork and oxtail. Both orders came with a heaping side of beans and rice, and some cabbage coleslaw. We took our food home and dug in - the meats were all utterly mouthwatering, tender and flavorful. The jerk meats both had a slight kick to them. It was after this meal, that finally, we grasped our stomachs with groans as perhaps for the first time we felt our guts stretched to their limits. Despite that, it didn't stop us from venturing out for ice cream a couple of hours later, for how can a day of eating end without a sweet treat? It can't!

The Boston area is well-populated with local ice cream shops or local chains. For this evening we chose Toscanini's. When stepping up to the plate, sampling a couple of flavors is always in order. But as my choices would show, also can be dangerously deceiving. One of my samples was cardamom - that one bite tasted good, so I decided to go for it along with salty caramel. Sadly, more than a bite of cardamom turned out to be much too much and I kept wanting to spit out the little bits of the seeds. And while the salty caramel was tasty, the texture was too soupy; i'm a fan of solid, not melting ice cream. Happily, chickiecc enjoyed her Irish cream and burnt caramel, as did mcgillicudy who also chose more wisely than I with the simpler flavor combination of chocolate pudding and sweet cream. And so we concluded our first full day of gluttony.

Our second day of demonstrating the meaning of "pigging out" opened with a stop at the foggy-windowed Hi Rise. I had a blackberry Italian soda and chickiecc ordered a hot cocoa. Mcgillicuddy has managed to make friends with the bakery people and so we received some complimentary morning treats - a pumpkin muffin, a lime-poppyseed muffin (for the flavor, think fruit loops), and a citrus scone.

Minimally fueled we moved on to Darwins Ltd., a Cambridge sandwich shop, for breakfast sandwiches.

Chickiecc and I decided to split an egg, avocado, cheddar and bacon on ciabatta and mcgillicuddy went for a turkey, egg and cheddar on an everything bagel. Stomach warming food on a chilly morning. The fun doesn't stop yet. Our third stop of the morning was Petsi's Pies. The small bakeshop specializes in- you guessed it - pies. But they also have a variety of baked goods that are always worth making a trip in here for. We managed to escape with just a sliver of mixed berry pie (verdict: a very tasty pie but one that needed a more solid top layer rather than just a crumble) and a chocolate chip apricot cookie (an odd-sounding combination but a terrific one! The small pieces of apricot in the cookie were like bits of hidden treasure), AND to save these treats for a little later in the day, if you can believe it. While letting our stomachs ponder all we had given them so far, we took a tour of the Harvard Law School library. Chickiecc and I couldn't be more proud to have a friend at Haaaaahvaard! :)

After our midday break, I decided I needed to fill a craving for dumplings and there conveniently happened to be a Taiwainese restaurant called Shangri-La in nearby Belmont.

Though it seemed my companions were beginning to weary, I dragged them out for lunch here.A small place without much character in a random strip seemed authentic with lots of Asians eating and still busy at 2 p.m. despite its location in the suburbs.
I wanted to try everything on the menu but somehow we settled on these four: fried turnip cakes, taiwanese noodles with meat sauce, steamed pork dumplings, and steamed vegetable ravioli. My personal favorite were the pork dumplings. The pork in them was spicy- not so much spicy-hot, but more spicy-flavorful. While we waited for each of our dishes to come out, we observed the ones going to the other tables. We noticed a lot of orders of some kind of scallion pancake. We soon figured out that it was the five spice beef with scallion pancake. And by the time we'd tried all four of our dishes, we decided we needed to try just one more dish and we made it that. It was a worthwhile extra -it came with some sliced scallion that added a fresh pop to the little sandwich.

On the way home we stopped to browse at Formaggio cheese shop and had a few cheese samples. And to work off a calorie or two we followed signs to an estate sale down the street. Then, home to rest or at least for myself and mcgillicuddy. The Armenian string cheese continually beckoned chickiecc from the fridge any time we came home! We wasted a couple of hours of our lives watching a terrible movie - The Heartbreak Kid. After a brief afternoon walk, it was time for dinner! We stayed in Cambridge and went to Chez Henri, a French/Cuban restaurant previously written about by mcgillicuddy on In a Nutshell. We ate in the bar area. Chez Henri is known for its cuban sandwich - it is huge and comes with some greens, plantain chips and some yummy salsa. Because we felt the lack of vegetables in our weekend diet, we ordered both a spinach salad (that came with a duck tamal) and an arugula salad in addition to the cuban. Oh, and a side of scallion mashed potatoes for good measure.

For a happy end to our evening and our weekend, we went to Christina's Ice Cream.
Having learned my lesson the previous evening, I went for the tried and truely delicious coffee oreo. Mcgillicuddy chose a nice peanut butter chocolate flavor and Chickiecc had fig ice cream. We agreed that the ice cream itself (apart from the flavors) here seemed smoother and creamier and hit the spot a little better than at Toscanini's.

So ends our lesson in gluttony. Few consequences, except perhaps that I may have stretched out my stomach a bit and have had trouble filling it over the course of the week. I think it's just telling me that its already nostalgic for our fun-filled weekend of eating in Boston and that we need to go back again soon!

1 comment:

  1. yay!!! good report!!! i can't believe you remembered it all!!! and how suspicious that there are no pics of you!