Thinking and writing about food. Not always in that order.

For one night only, I have nothing to complain about.

In Cambridge, Restaurants, Things I like on June 18, 2011 at 2:27 am

Although I’m not a professional complainer like Jason Kessler, that lucky bastard who seems to be getting paid to bitch about things for Bon Appetit, I do have serious semi-pro status when it comes to whining — and not  just about food. (Ask me how I feel about old people in grocery store checkout lines or the drumming circle that meets along the Charles River near my house, but be prepared.)

Jason decided the other day to take a break from complaining to talk about the things he loves about food. He wrote: “I’m sick of Complaining, but just for one week.”

If he could do a week, I could manage one lousy evening of talking about things I’m thankful for related to eating in Boston.

So, here we goes:

Shopping at Farmers Markets four days a week. About 8 months of the year, living in New England sucks (that’s not complaining, it’s just a weather report.) But starting June 1, the students disappear and the farmers appear. Without taking a single step out of my way, I can shop at four farmers’ markets every week. Cambridgeport on Saturday. Central Square on Monday. South Station on Tuesday and Thursday. That doesn’t entirely make me forget about the atrocities of January through April, but it helps. By the way, New England was the first place in America to have Community Supported Agriculture and we still have more of it than almost anywhere else. (So California you can suck on that while you enjoy your “sunshine.”)

My neighborhood-ish in Cambridge is suddenly hot.  Craigie on Main. Central Bottle. Flour. Bondir. East by Northeast. Oleana. Rendezvous. Hungry Mother. East Coast Grill. Blue Room. Central Kitchen Thelonius Monkfish. Cafe Baraka. Four Burgers. Toscaninis. It’s not just me. Tony Mawes got a James Beard Award and was on the cover of Bon Appetit. The Boston Globe’s Munch Madness came down to an all-Cambridge final two.  Central Square/Area Four is now officially hot, just ask those hipsters at Chronicle who visited Craigie, Bondir and the hilariously named “Area Four.” As someone who lives in Cambridge, it’s hard to think of Area Four as “hot.” But I’m in a generous mood today.

Restaurants that serve big deal food but don’t make a big deal about it. I’ve eaten many fantastic meals this year in restaurants that take the food very seriously, but seem to be having fun and allow you to do the same. I’m thinking especially about meals I had at Meyers+Chang, Craigie and Bistro du Midi. I could go on Saturday night for a date or Tuesday night because I don’t want to cook. No one there needed to remind me that this was serious food; a few bites in I know that it is something I could never make at home. I could wear jeans and a sports coat and feel comfortable that no one was going to come around fiddling with my napkin if I got up from my seat (when I’m back to complaining, I will discuss how I feel about people touching my napkin while I’m in the bathroom. Here’s a preview: it’s gross.)

Big deal restaurants that make a big deal about every detail.  I do like going out to serious restaurants where they make a big deal about everything — it’s just nice to have a choice. Sometimes (like tomorrow night. Blue Hill at Stone Barns!) it’s fun to plan it all way in advance, get dressed up and go out of your way to go to a place that will go out of its way to make everything perfect. I want enough forks that I could play Edward Scissorhands if I wanted to.  In these cases, it’s all about the theater and the more perfect the better. I bought a new tie for dinner at Stone Barns, and that was part of the fun.

Going out to eat with my girls. My daughters like a nice dinner out. We’ve trained them well in that area.  And  there’s nothing better than a dinner out with all four of us. Sitting at a table with the most elegant, fun and funny women in the restaurant tends to take every dinner out up a notch. And occasionally it is just more than perfect.

Our Chart of Acceptable Birthday Cakes. After failing many times to remember who likes what while standing in line at a bakery – some of us like “fancy,” some like grocery store cakes, some love chocolate, others hate it – Ida made this chart. I will be thankful to have it on our refrigerator for years to come.

  1. K and I have also noticed the influx of “hot” restaurants into Central Sq, esp those of the ethnic variety like Olena (as you mentioned), Rangzhen, and Floating Rock, not to mention the gastropubs like The Plough and the Cellar, and (a little further away) The Independent. In the Globe not too long ago they had a whole article about the move of high-end, low-maintenance eateries to Cambridge, with one owner saying that the cost of his liquor license in Boston for a year equals his whole annual rent in Cambridge. I also tend to think that the community makeup in Cambridge is more conducive to that sort of culinary variety and experimentation than Boston proper.

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