Food in the Boston area

September 22, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have eaten very well on my vacation, having gone to several semi-upscale ethnic restaurants and also eaten well in the homes of two people who were kind enough to put me up. But I often forgot to use my camera when I was absorbed in the food, so I’ll present a melange of photos of different foods, restaurants, and the like.

First, though, a scene from Harvard Square, which has changed immensely since I arrived in Boston in 1972.  It’s gentrified now. My erstwhile favorite place to eat as a grad student, Elsie’s Deli (home of the huge “Fresser’s Dream” sandwich), has long disappeared. As has Steve Harrell’s ice cream shop, which made the best hot fudge sundaes in Massachusetts. The Coop is still there, and Cardullo’s is hanging on, but the magazine store in the center of the Square is defunct.

This is one thing that remains. If you listen to NPR, you’ll recognize the name of the fictional accounting firm on the third-floor window: “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.”

Yes, it’s from Car Talk. Wikipedia has an entry for this fictional firm, which was also used as a joke by others.

The name of the DC&H corporate offices (otherwise known as the headquarters of the radio show Car Talk) is visible on the third floor window above the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets, in Harvard SquareCambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, of NPR’s Car Talk radio program, named their business corporation “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe”. Their corporate offices were located on a third-floor office at the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Magliozzi brothers declared that they established DC&H in 1989.

We went out several times, first to this excellent Spanish restaurant in Brookline, specializing in tapas. But I forgot to take pictures of the food! We had a fine Rioja with the meal, and were full after dinner. (The first question you have to ask when evaluating a restaurant is, “Did I get enough to eat?” If the answer is “no,” then you need go no further.)

The flavor board at my favorite ice-cream shop in the world, Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge.  If you go to Cambridge and don’t go here, you are a reprobate. There are usually many more flavors, but I expect the pandemic reduced the choice somewhat. Still, there are more flavors than you could try on several visits. I had the very best flavor, “burnt sugar” (the world’s best ice cream flavor) with a scoop of ginger-molasses, itself a wonderful combination. It was a great postprandial treat. They make ice cream the real way, dense and with all natural flavors. I wanted green tea with a scoop of adzuki bean, too, but I couldn’t pass up the burnt sugar.

Every reader here knows that my favorite British beer is Timothy Taylor Landlord, which has won Championship Beer of Britain four times and is a wonderful, tasty session ale that is not overhopped. It’s hard enough to find on tap in the UK, but there’s a bottled version as well, and four bottles were available in the Boston area. Andrew, my host, tracked them down and then cycled 22 miles to get those four bottles so we could have some. What a kind chap!

And even though it was bottled, it tasted nearly as good as a freshly-drawn pint in England. (As it had been kept in the fridge, we warmed the pints, 500 ml., up to 11°C in the microwave.)

Yesterday I moved to my second set of hosts, old Harvard friends Andrew and Naomi. Naomi is a world-class cook, and never uses recipes. I begged her not to go to any trouble to cook for me, as she always does, but she ignored my instructions and produced a wonderful dinner, which included this shepherd’s pie (a treat with a pint of Landlord!):

We also had a half avocado with lime for appetizer, green beans and baby asparagus on the side, and the apple-raspberry crumble below for dessert, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

I am allowed only one breakfast at this house due to Andrew’s insistence: two cakes of Weetabix with bananas as well as a strong mug of superb coffee. But Andrew is absolutely insistent on how one eats Weetabix. (He buys them by the case, and sometimes eats them three times a day when his wife is out of town: two for breakfast, four for lunch, and six for dinner. He is a Weetabix fanatic.)

Andrew displaying the breakfast item to come:

First, put two Weetabix biscuits, round side up (there are two different sides) in a wide, shallow bowl so that the milk doesn’t saturate the biscuit. The point is to retain most of the crunch of the biscuit while also getting the milk. You must always eat two Weetabix (I like three) as there are an even number of biscuits in the box and you don’t want to be left with just one. Four or six are permitted at other meals, but neer an odd number.

Half a banana is then sliced atop the biscuits with a sharp-edged spoon:

Then add milk, making sure to splash some atop the biscuits so they won’t be dry. The milk should be about a quarter-inch deep in the bowl.

Only then do you add the sugar, as you don’t want it dissolved in the milk when it’s poured:

Finally, tilt the bowl towards you so you can nip off a bit of biscuit and spoon it up with some milk, retaining the crunchiness but also getting the milk. For Andrew the consumption of the entire bowl takes about 40 seconds; he insists that speed is essential so that all the elements of the bowl are properly mixed with the right texture.

Here I am trying to eat properly. Note that I’m tilting the bowl:

I persuaded my first set of hosts to try Weetabix, and Andrew located one store in Cambridge that sold them. My hosts’ son-in-law went there and got a box, which was delivered yesterday by their granddaughter. I am curious about whether they’ll like Weetabix, as both of them eat only homemade granola (a different mix for each person) for breakfast. Son-in-law and second grandchild to the rear; photo used with permission.

I think this photo would make a great Weetabix commercial!

44 thoughts on “Food in the Boston area

    1. I used to find it at Binny’s when I lived near Aurora, IL, but that was back in 2012 and sadly, I haven’t been back since. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it here in Missouri. There has been a sad and severe contraction in the varieties of fine imported ales in this state since I quit the booze business. Lots of mediocre American stuff, all tasting much the same, micro to mega brewerie, no real flavor, just lots of hops.

      1. Binny’s still list it as something they sell, but have it as “Not Available” at any of their stores. Might be a covid-related supply chain issue. There seems to be a Branston Pickle shortage locally too!

        Banana on Weetabix seems like an abomination!

    2. “Andrew, my host, tracked them down and then cycled 22 miles to get those four bottles so we could have some. What a kind chap!” – kudos to Andrew for his dedication.

    3. Draught Landlord is surprisingly difficult to find outside its home territory. One of my locals occasionally has it as a guest beer; and there’s a pub in Lewes that usually has it (and other Taylor beers) on tap. The bottled stuff is, thankfully, widely available. Even Sainsbury’s stocks it.

      I can safely say, however, that I have never contemplated putting it in the microwave!

    1. And in “Car Talk”, it was a law firm and not an accounting firm.
      My favorite part of “Car Talk”, and I liked all of it, was the ending credits – I miss that show!

  1. Am I being whooshed or are you all mocking the ‘weetabix’ name by spelling the ‘wheat’ part correctly? Why not got the whole hog and call them “Wheatabics?! (final k optional!)

    Pause until some Aussies come by and remind us that it’s actually “weet-bix” and they invented it!

    1. Years ago I worked in Saudi Arabia with a bunch of Geordies. They taught me to stand the biscuits on edge in a small amount of milk and skive off small amounts at a time. This kept the cereal from getting soggy.

  2. I believe that I recall getting sandwiches from Elsie’s in the early to mid 70’s and taking them to an evening Red Sox double header at Fenway where we devoured them in the bleachers. A fine sandwich. Grand daughter is so cute. Certainly a made to order commercial.

  3. I’ve never seen a Weetabix biscuit with a round side and I’ve been eating them off and on all my life. I know they are made in different factories depending on where you buy them so I assume this only happens at one in particular. Or perhaps it is only one version of Weetabix.

    The tapas restaurant looks like a good one. I would have to try their Tortilla Española which is one of my favorite dishes of any cuisine.

    1. Yes, the round-sided Weetabix must be a USian perversion! (Though maybe the Aussie original product has one round side and the Brits are the heretics? I’m confused now.)

      1. I’m in the US and the version I get on Amazon hasn’t got the rounded side. I first had Weetabix growing up in England but I don’t remember any round side. I used to buy them at Trader Joe’s and no rounded sides on those either. It’s a mystery.

        1. Square sided Weetabix? It’s an abomination! I’m in the UK, have been eating them all my life and I’ve never heard of such a thing! I’m confused too now, but as far as I know round corners is the traditional form.

          Maybe in some markets they have been squared off to pack more efficiently? Who knows. I just hope ours stay round – I would find square Weetabix very unsettling!

  4. Wait, you go to Boston, do a food post, and we get seven — count ’em, seven — pictures of freakin’ weetabix?

    Man, that’s like taking a trip to Florence to see the art and bringing us back snapshots of the sidewalk. 🙂

    1. I agree, Weetbix (as called so locally) is a bland, carton tasting abomination, and full of starch too.
      My children, seven and ten, love them though: my 7 year old likes them warm and well soaked, pap , while the ten year old likes them cold and crispy. de gustibus non disputandum esset
      They come in boxes of 12 24, 48 or 60 here, all easily divided by 3, so 3 piece meals (as my sons insist upon) will not leave a lone ranger.
      Generally I hold our host’s gastronomic opinions in high esteem, but I do not follow him in praising this abominable stuff.

      1. You have to eat your Weetabix with precisely the right amount of milk and not let them soak at all for maximum mouth feel and taste. Kids generally don’t have the self control to do this. It’s an art.

        1. My 10 year old does that, he’s very particular about it,
          However, even his concoction tastes of carton, crispy carton, but still carton.
          As a newly diagnosed diabetic 2 starches are out, a nono, anyway, back to Banting (aka paleo).

        2. As a small child, I used to make sure the Weetabix were properly soft. If they were crunchy, I considered it a fail. But there is a point where they start disintegrating, which is too soft.

          The point about putting milk on before sugar is 100% correct though.

  5. “Fresser’s Dream”, hilarious!!

    Landlord Ale: Yum! I need to hunt that down. I love English ales, especially those that are not over-hopped.

    I’m sure you have tried Old Speckled Hen. One of my favorites. We used to be able to get OSH in nitro cans which were magic. The bottled version is also very good; but not as special.

    1. Nice, as is Old Crafty Hen, but at 6.5% ABV the latter isn’t for working day lunchtimes, although maybe I’m becoming a lightweight…

    2. With all possible respect, I can’t agree! OSH on draught is best, the bottled version is fine, but nitro cans (in fact any beer fizzed up with nitrogen) is frankly awful. Sorry!

    3. “Over hopped” is very much a matter of opinion. The best English beer in my opinion is Dark Star Hophead. This is a beer that is quite hoppy but I like my beer to be quite hoppy. Landlord is pretty good though.

      1. Depends in part on the hop variety, doesn’t it? Traditional English beers using Fuggles or Goldings are perfect, even when pretty hoppy. I personally find the hops used in many ‘US-style’ IPAs are far too citrusy.

  6. Wheetbix taste better with brown sugar (raw). IMO. Grew up on the stuff but don’t bother anymore. Burnt sugar ice cream sounds like it would go well with wheat bix…
    Breakfast and dessert in one serving?

  7. I never had the privilege to taste a ‘Landlord’ beer, but my favored beer was the Belgian Trappist beer from Orval Abbey. I do not drink beer or ales anymore , only wine, but I remember.
    Jerry, have you ever tasted Orval?

  8. I hope Bartley’s is still in Harvard Square!

    Unfortunately most of the good places from when I lived in Boston are gone. I especially miss El Phoenix Room in Allston-Brighton. Terrific chili.

  9. Weetabix takes me back to childhood. My grandma used to pretend to make it when she came to ours. There was a field of wheat on a farm about a minute’s walk from the house, and before breakfast she would ask me and my sister (we were probably about 5 or at the time) to run down and pick some wheat. We’d bring it back all excited, give it to her – only 2 or 3 ears each – and go play in the garden for 10 minutes. She then called us in and hey presto, there were two bowls on the kitchen table with two Weetabix in each! We really believed she had made it, it never occurred to us that we only gave her enough for about an eighth of a biscuit. That was 40 years ago and we still talk about it – such a lovely childhood memory!

  10. I appreciate the proper Weetabix game. I add a lot more stuff- blueberries or raisins, with brown sugar and cinnamon, and walnuts or pecans. It’s a progressive experience with lots more textures when the biscuits do go soggy to keep it interesting.

  11. If something is that hard to keep from getting soggy, isn’t it time to go back to Grape-Nuts? Also, if it’s ale, shouldn’t it be completely free of hops anyway?

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