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BC Food & Culture Writing

Wen’s Yunnan Noodle and Ramen

I am a lover of any type of noodles. Spaghetti, ramen, mac n’ cheese: they’re all my favorite. Sadly, I developed an addiction to the worst type of noodles (if they can even be considered that) CUP NOODLES. Not just the regular cup noodles full of sodium, but the ones full of sodium and artificial spice that undoubtedly wreaks havoc on your stomach lining. Since I developed my addiction in the cold winter months, I have been doing my best to wean myself off of the food that makes me feel guilty before I can even finish it. This attempt has led me to explore local ramen options, and though I know its not really REAL ramen, they are surely better than the type that comes in a styrofoam container. The Big Little Diner in Newton has a good ramen dish, but the noodles are so soft that they fall into pieces when you grab them with your chopsticks. Itadaki on Newbury St. has good noodles but the broth doesn’t taste very fresh. It wasn’t until I wandered into Wen’s Yunnan Noodle and Ramen next to Itadaki a few weeks later that I found perfectly cooked noodles and flavorful broth. After reading the reviews on the internet for Wen’s I realized that ramen is a sensitive topic for many foodies–many weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. Regardless, I’m happy to say that I have found my favorite ramen joint where they allow me to get chicken instead of pork, the noodles are on point, and the broth tastes fresh.  (Pictured is my friend’s Tofu ramen) IMG_3074.JPG

a little of everything

You know those times when you know you have so much good stuff in your fridge, but you know it will go bad if you don’t use it soon? Well, on Sunday night, I realized that was the exact status of my fridge. Thankfully, I knew all my roommates (and then some) would be wanting dinner from me, so it was the perfect excuse to make a bunch of different meals. Some might call this a chore. Some might call this silly. I call this capital F Fun

sunday fried green

First up was a classic southern favorite: fried green tomatoes. There’s a restaurant in my hometown of Atlanta called Horseradish Grill which serves all classic southern dishes, and their fried green tomatoes are unreal. They are topped with a remoulade sauce, goat cheese, and candied pecans. Sometimes when I miss home I start to crave them. Trying to recreate them was not easy, but I think I did alright. Hopefully I get the real thing sometime soon.

sunday caesar

Then I made my mom’s caesar salad. I had some bread that was a few days old, so croutons absolutely had to be made. My mom’s best friend gave her this caesar recipe about 15 years ago, and it is a staple in my house. It is more tart than it is creamy, but that dressing is so light and perfect as a compliment to a main dish or the star of the show. The salad is good, but it’s nothing without homemade croutons. I just toast them in a pan with olive oil and garlic salt. And a salad goes from drab to fab just like that.

sunday marsala

I made chicken marsala for a group of big football players who live next door. They tend to smell food and knock on the door. All you need is chicken cutlets, lemon, parsley, mushrooms, and marsala wine. This recipe comes from one of those old, brown, pictureless, storyless, cookbooks that my grandmother probably got at her church for $3 in 1955. There’s really nothing to it, but it feeds a crowd and tastes, well, like your grandmother has made it for 60 years.

sunday milanese

My roommates bought some veal scaloppine and herb pappardelle from Savenor’s the previous weekend, and she never used them. Can you imagine not using those the minute you buy them? Her excuse was that she spent the nights in O’Neill all week. Some people really just have their priorities out of whack. Luckily, I was there to save the day and make veal milanese before it was too late.

sunday ravi

My other roommate went to Eataly on Sunday and brought home fresh cacio e pepe ravioli, hoping that I would have time to make them for her for dinner. I’m not one to say no to cooking for people, so even though I was already making a million other dinners, I knew I could make it work. I had some sage, so brown butter it was. Only took about five minutes and 3 ingredients, and it was probably the best thing I made all night.

sunday platter

Finally, I just emptied the fridge onto platters. We had some cheese, we had some veggies, we had some store-bought cookies and brownies (eyeroll. who bought these.) and I had a pizza dough, so I threw some of the veggies on the dough and voila. We had about twenty people in and out all night to enjoy my lets-empty-the-fridge-and-make-voute-a-restaurant night. I think I had more fun cooking than I did eating. Gonna miss this dorm life.

 

The North End

A few weeks ago, my dad came to visit me for the second time since I’ve been at BC. A true Texan, born and raised, he openly abhors Northeastern weather and refuses to step a foot into Logan airport unless it is absolutely certain that the temperature will be above 60 degrees. Needless to say, there have been very few chances for him to come during the school year, so it was great that he made it up here while we’ve been having some of the best weather I’ve seen in Boston since my arrival. I swear, you never know when it’s going to be nice here. One moment, it is cold and rainy and the wind feels like ice. The next, the sun is shining brightly and there’s purple flowers everywhere and you can’t fathom where the hell they came from, you’re just glad that they’re there and you hope that they don’t retreat back into that frost that’s soaked into the sidewalk. Brrrr. We’ve had some cold winters here, but it sure does seem like Spring is on its way.

And that’s what my Dad said when he first got in. “Wow, I didn’t expect it to be this sunny.” I smiled and gave him a hug. It’s always nice to hear a parent talk about the weather. Older people seem to have an uncanny understanding of the seasons, probably because they’ve been here for so long- by now, I suppose that they’ve gotten used to it. The first thing that we did was go for a drive along the river, the Charles River, where already, Harvard and BU kids were rowing their boats along the canal, making trails that rippled behind them like the Slinkys that my Dad has always hated so much. “They’re too cheap,” he complained. “And they never work how they are supposed to.” I sighed. “They go to Harvard, Dad. I’m sure that they work as hard as they can.”

The sun eventually set and my Dad had long since stopped talking about the dangers of eugenics, so we decided that the only thing left to do was get some dinner and call it a night. I did a quick Google search in my phone and came up with a place called “Trattoria II Panino,” located in the North End. There was limited parking on the sidewalks so we navigated through the narrow alleyways in order to find a mythical parking lot that Apple claimed was real, but you can never be sure. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were promptly seated at a table for two, with a cramped kitchen behind me and an outdoor patio to my right, enclosed due to burgeoning rain. Beside the patio there was a narrow staircase that descended steeply into what I imagined to be the bowels of Paul Revere. I laughed about this, weirdly, and we ordered some pasta. They used the pans that the food was cooked in as plates, and Dad and I both agreed that Boston’s Italian food would be hard to beat, anywhere.

In all, it was a really good visit.

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James Masterson

One of the best nights of my year

Last Friday, April 28, 2017, was one of the best nights of my entire freshman year at BC. It had to do with a lot of things, like having fun with all of my close friends at least once during the night at my culture club VSA’s first formal, a GREAT concert, a chill afterparty, running around campus, and a sleepover. But, it started before the formal in one of my closest friend’s kitchen on Lake Street.

On the Tuesday or so before that Friday, I stumbled upon a Facebook video of Kimchi fried rice and corn cheese. You know, one of those flashy aesthetic videos with music and close ups and slow motion that you watch either to procrastinate or late at night when your stomach is aching with cravings and watching food videos is probably the worst thing you could do. Well, while I was supposed to be doing my homework, I instead sent that video to my friend Allison (who was probably procrastinating just like me since she responded a second later) and decided to make it with her that weekend. I was stoked.

She got the ingredients on Thursday, and on Friday, I went over with my backpack of clothes to change into for formal with extra energy flowing throughout my veins. I mean, can you blame me? I was going to cook delicious Korean food that I had been deprived of for so long. SO long. And it would be fun!!

Honestly, I don’t need to go into the process so much; it wasn’t that complicated. We cooked the vegetables and eggs, added cooked rice, kimchi, soy sauce, and other seasonings in the biggest pan that our other friend brought by. I’m used to somewhat sticky kimchi fried rice (not super dry and fried), so the others thought I put too much water, but I loved it. And, the flavor balance was just right so that it wasn’t too salty but still bursting on the tongue, so we were all happy. For the corn cheese, Allison and I both dislike mayonnaise and didn’t have it, so we just made it extra cheesy and buttery. When everything was cooked and scooped into a huge aluminum pan, we covered it with saran wrap while we got ready for the formal, allowing the steam to accumulate like a mysterious veil over our treasure.

Though we were late arriving at the venue, I still felt BOSS stepping in with my sharp heels and black slip dress on, carrying a shining tray of gourmet food. OK, maybe it wasn’t gourmet, but I was proud, and it showed because as soon as I set the tray down, I was begging people to come try it. Maybe I seemed a bit needy or extra as I watched each spoonful enter people’s tentative mouths, after which I asked with wide eyes, “Do you like it??” but seeing people pleasantly surprised and even excited to dig in for another bite filled me with ecstasy. Of course, I piled a plate for myself (two plates, actually). I thought I would eat even more (I hadn’t eaten all day), but I was surprised to find that bringing joy to and feeding my friends made me feel fuller already. That night, it’s true that everything else that unfolded really made it the special memory it was, but it certainly would not have started off so well without the chance to make and give what I love to those I love.

BREAKFAST BURRITO

First of all, I want to preface this post by saying that cooking is not my forte. Like, I’m not terrible at it- I have reasonable command over the toaster, and the microwave is even easier, but the oven has given me some serious problems in the past, problems that include, but aren’t limited to, innumerable fire alarms, charred skin, and broiled cookies. So, needless to say, I don’t use the oven anymore, which makes cooking kind of hard, especially given my already limited culinary capabilities. The stove, on the other hand, I can control pretty easily, almost easier than the microwave. I mean, all you have to do is flip on the switch and BAM- fire! But it’s not the type of fire that sets off the fire alarm. It’s a more somber type of fire; a fire that burns sweet and low and perfect like a campfire at dusk in the middle of summer and the sun is setting so the horizon is orange but gets light blue towards the top and there’s that smell in the air that smells like a campfire but might actually just be the oxidized air particles disintegrating into the atmosphere like those sparks that are imploding in miniscule bursts of heat that instantly cool and contribute to the darkening cool that spreads with the night as it finally falls over the world like a blanket on a bed that’s a little too close to the open window but it’s okay since cold sheets feel great at first, especially in the summer. Stove fires are kind of like that, but even better since the knobs can make the fire expand like blooming flowers, and what’s fire if not a really, really pretty flower?…

I can make breakfast burritos on the stove, but that’s about it. And of course, I can make the stuff that goes into the burrito, like the eggs and bacon and sausage. I can cook the eggs, easy, even though it is pretty hard sometimes to resist breaking the yolk and making the eggs scrambled. I usually don’t do that since I like breaking the yolk from the egg once it is already formed, because who doesn’t like egg yolk? It’s so silky and bright- it’s the best part. Besides, scrambled eggs are so boring. They look like the intestines of a radioactive rodent who survived primarily on cheese, which wouldn’t be that unusual, I just really don’t like the thought of eating rodents! But then I think- isn’t foie gras duck liver? As far as gross body parts go, it doesn’t get much worse than duck liver, especially since most ducks don’t seem to adhere to the strict, purely organic diet that I expect my meat-based foods to maintain. God, ducks are stubborn creatures. Narrow-minded, too. Just like cows. And that’s why I never feed them, even when the sign tells me not to.

So, I melt the butter on the pan instead of using PAM because PAM is so industrial it adds a strange metallic taste to the food that causes me to not totally trust it. Butter is fine, though, and after that’s melted I add the egg and the bacon all at once because it’s more efficient that way, and while that stuff is cooking, I take out the tortillas and avocado and tomatoes and I cut up the avocado and tomatoes and place them off to the side and by the time that that is finished, the eggs and bacon are usually more or less cooked, so I take them off the pan and place them on the plate and then I place the tortilla on the pan and let it cook until both sides are crispy with butter and bacon juice, which sounds gross but actually isn’t so long as there isn’t THAT much bacon juice left on the pan beforehand, and once that is done, I add all the ingredients to the tortilla and roll it up and BAM-

Breakfast burrito

James Masterson

Give Cooking a Try

After Winter break my mom sent me back to school with some red sauce from my favorite Italian restaurant to keep in my freezer. In efforts to ration this sacred sauce I said to myself that I will only use it when I’m making something worthy of it. It is not suitable for late night spaghetti. Now that the school year is making its way to a close I still have 3 frozen containers of this sauce. Realizing that it will go to waste if I do not actually cook something other than the three meals I’ve been rotating between all semester. So, I set out to get the ingredients for eggplant rollitini, something I have never made before. But, being that I am about the enter the real world in a month, I figured I should try to expand my repertoire of things I can cook. That afternoon was one of those rare afternoons with not much to do, so it was nice to actually take the time to enjoy cooking rather than just doing it because I have to.I made a whole tray of eggplant, most of it is frozen in my freezer, I’ll be having it for the next few weeks. The hardest part was slicing the awkwardly shape eggplant vertically in precisely 1/4 in pieces. I managed to cut 16 usable slices, probably about half of what the recipe called for. My favorite part was making the cheese mixture that baked eggplant would blanket. A little ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, garlic, and spinach. Even if I screwed up royally, there was no way it would taste that bad, it has all that awesome stuff in it, plus the special sauce.
After some little bumps along the way, I was very pleased with my final product and proud that I cooked an actual meal. There are things I would want to next time, but I guess you become a good cook through trial and error. My mom said you know how to cook when you figure out how to clean as you go, and I can do that…so I have hope for myself.  I think next on the menu will be some chicken parm.

The Salon at Per Se

I love French food; I could eat a pate of foie gras with baguette every day for the rest of my life. There is something different about French food, it is calm and beautiful. French food reminds me of family.

French food in the US = Thomas Keller. I’ve had meals at Bouchon in Yountville and Los Angeles, both very great meals, but they haven’t prepared me for my quick dinner at the Salon at Per Se. On Monday afternoon right before my flight back to New York, my dad treated me to some quick bites at the Salon. It was amazing.

We didn’t have time for the whole prix fixe dinner, so we only had two dishes. It started with a salmon cornet with a sesame tuile and red onion crème fraiche, it was good but it inevitably reminded me of airplane food. Smoked salmon reminds me of airplane food.

Next, I had the salad of marinated sweet carrots. It was extraordinary. The carrot was soft and crunchy. There was this amazing mousse of a curry and crème fraiche that paired so well with the carrots. I’ve never had such an amazing vegetable dish in my life. Dad had the foie gras with strawberries. It was also extraordinary. The duck liver paired so well with the strawberry, it was the most amazing combination, I didn’t know if I was tasting the foie gras or the strawberry because the flavors blended so well. What was so mind blowing about Per Se was that there were so many different layers to the flavor. It was like that scene in the movie Ratatouille when Remy has the cheese with the grapes and he closes his eyes and the different colored lights are dancing.

For our main I had the halibut with green olives in a buerre blanc. Unbelievable. It was the right amount of creamy and salty and was just perfect. My dad had the lamb with mushrooms and peas. Also very delicious.

Looking back at this experience I now realize that food can become a work of art. But it isn’t just any delicious meal that becomes a work of art. It is about the ingredients, how its cooked, how it is presented, and the experience of eating.

Easter with Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay is one of my food celebrity crushes, and so when my family decided to spend our Easter vacation in New York City and made a reservation at Flay’s newest restaurant, Gato, I was more than ecstatic. Gato offers Spanish-accented Mediterranean fare in a trendy space in Greenwich Village. The dining area has ceilings with exposed brick, vintage-style tiled floors, and a bar that wraps around the entire restaurant. My favorite part about the location, though, was the glass wall that allowed you to stare right into the kitchen where the gastronomical masterpieces are born. Of course, the first thing I looked for when I peered through the glass was Bobby Flay himself (No, he wasn’t there) 😦

Our meal started with bread dipped in the smoothest olive oil I have ever tasted. We shared appetizers that left the entire table licking the plates. The meatballs rivaled those of my grandmother. The burrata essentially melted in my mouth. The pizza was dressed with a pesto so fresh it was as if the basil leaves were plucked from the garden only moments before.

By the time we finished devouring the appetizers, I was not even hungry anymore. However, that did not stop me from enjoying my vegetable paella. As soon as the pan was placed in front of me, my stomach miraculously became a little less full. The waiter scrambled the sunny-side-up egg with the rest of the ingredients right before my eyes. The beautiful, rainbow-colored dish tasted as good as it looked with a perfect flavor combination that only Bobby Flay could create.

This meal was definitely a highlight of my break. Thank you, Bobby Flay, for making Easter a little more tasty! -Maria Battagliapaella

Thoughts on Food Politics

Last weeks reading was very interesting. The only other encounters I had with food politics is from watching the documentary “Super Size Me”, learning about bugs being the alternatives to meat, and Impossible Food’s Impossible Burger.

I used to think the problem was just in healthy eating. There are so many different food choices like going vegan, paleo, and raw. Last weeks readings opened my eyes up to the problem that starts even before we choose what to eat. I was overwhelmed at the level of complexity with food politics. With the issues ranging from limited government supervision over the food industry all the way to just us consumers being misinformed. Not only was the problem just with the unsanitary conditions our meat comes from, but also with the mistreatment of our tomato cultivators.

The essay about the burger really hit home for me. I didn’t know life threatening diseases came from the home. I would think that these pathogens only exist in dirty food stalls, but realising that the problem can come from what is in our own fridge really frightened me.

-Suzy Kim

 

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