Conversation at the breakfast table
I enjoyed my friend Melissa’s post about eating her purse for dinner (spending more than she planned, saving the money on her grocery bill for a week). I thought of it because I did a similar act this week, though it was still in the name of sustenance. Rummaging in the pantry in the evening to make do without a trip to the store, so we could eat outside the kitchen as much as possible. I took the girls the greenway to judge how dead the grass is (quite dead) and ordered hot squishy squares of pizza for $3.30 from galleria umberto, served up by two old men who tie the box tightly with baker’s twine when you ask for it to go. Joan gave the pizza a cursory nibble before she switched to the grass. This made me very satisfied, “Here we are, all eating the same thing, what a happy family.”
Chocolate croissant, a brioche roll, “and some coffee for Mama” from The Thinking Cup, eaten slowly walking back home through the Common. It’s our usual, to the extent that Lux orders the croissant for herself. Do I have a spoiled city child? Potentially. Ice cream sandwiches and a movie with Joe, followed by belgians and sweet roasted nuts in the depths of State Park (“And one pickled egg please” ordered Joe. The waitress didn’t bat an eye and it arrived, bright pink, on a plate moments later). For a celebratory Friday night, Pad Thai takeout that came with a paper bag for Joan to chew on.
All in all it was quite well spent, and now I’m ready to restock the freezer with butternut squash cubes and blueberries and feel again that the house is well supplied with good and plenty. Good and plenty is a very brief feeling that I have for 48 hours after my weekly grocery trip, it dissipates at the same rate as the greek yogurt.
Things have felt a little crazy, but the kitchen has looked lovely which just goes to show you can judge a book by its cover in this day in age, but you can’t judge how someone is feeling by the the looks of their instagram account. The sunlight has been magnificent.
It feels as if everything is falling into place, even the earth and the moon, for a moment. There will be a lunar eclipse. You’ll have to get up at 3:08am in the morning to see it, but whatever it takes, right?
I’m feeling really really good about life these days.
The lunar eclipse is Tuesday morning–one of only two days this week, Holy Week, that does not have a church service at the end of it. A near week of church services, many of them in the dark or lit by candles with breathtaking music in movements of mourning and celebration.
However, it’s also my birthday week! So Joe and I will go out for to a long anticipated meal at O Ya instead of going to the Good Friday service. This amazing Japanese place has been on my list for a long time, several people have told me they had the best meal of their Boston lives there. We will not order any alcohol, the whole budget will be put toward tasting delicious things and watching delicious things be prepared.
How are you feeling these days?
Photos of Rishi Green Chai tea (my super favorite lately) and bread from a Deborah Madison recipe. I’m going to start linking to the foursquare of restaurants I mention. It disrupts the reading a bit, but it is worth it for those collecting places to try in Boston.
Lux: a big-sister dictator for sure, but a benevolent one most of the time.
Joan: crawling as of this week! She’s so much happier to be mobile. What a relief.
Two photos taken at Joe’s office, which we hadn’t visited in forever.
Frequently on Saturdays I have to take two or three hours to pause and jump free, as a swimmer would into a pool, for a clean kicky dive with the bubbles rushing past. There have been book cuddles and hugs and kisses and infant fingers grasping my hair and trailing across my chest. Every time I do a downward dog, Lux clambers below my arched abdomen and shouts “tent tent!” Every time I stretch out my arms in child’s pose, she climbs onto my back and joyfully shouts, “I’m riding you like a horsey!”
I’m not a runner anymore but I will be someday soon. I spent a number of years pounding the pavement at all hours of the day, running miles upon miles in the hot and cold weather, in the dark on cold mornings or in the late afternoons as the bugs gathered near the trees. I imagine I’ll take it up again. Perhaps in my thirties, as I like to say. I’m not sure how much I’ll manage to do in my thirties but the list is rapidly lengthening. I’m a better long distance runner, meaning I pass more people if you give me more time. I’m good at the long game and good at coming up from behind.
But back to the children. A run would do it, but for me in the city, it’s very nice to drift away for a few hours and flip quickly down the sidewalk with both arms swinging freely at my sides and the sun in my eyes and a place to go in mind. It’s nice to slip narrowly through an opened shop door and weld your way delicately between display tables, no stroller wheels to mind, no chattering to acquiesce your mental space to.
Here’s a dreamy itinerary: take the train to Central Square. Stop by Piccante for a horchata. Walk down Inman Street, get a chill at the overgrown homes and the old fashioned Cambridge living happening before your eyes, and take a left to go to Dwelltime. Order a cappuccino that must take at least ten minutes to make by their standards, and a few of the delectable macaroons. If they are pink, it’s from the rosewater, or the strawberries. Stop in at the fabric store Gather Here, and think about women owning small businesses and how wonderful they make them. Continue on your walk to the Cambridge Public Library. Take a right inside and pick out every magazine you’ve wanted to read for the past month to page through. Find a seat in front of the enormous glass windows that frame the even larger sprawling lawn. Leaf through beauty tips to your heart’s content. Walk to Harvard Square. Stop for a tranquil moment at Oona’s and debate becoming a lady who only wears jackets from the ’20s, with heels. Stop at Follow the Honey and taste, in succession, several of the best honeys you’ve ever had. Get a text that the girls are up, and hop on the T, homeward bound. The funny amazing thing is that it takes me so little time to reset. I think that’s why parents talk about looking at photos of their kids when they are asleep. They already miss them, though it’s been just an hour or two.
This one is for the narrowest time slot: nestle into the open corner table at a coffee shop. I have four shops within walking distance so I can leave the apartment while the girls nap and still come back refreshed in time for the family to do something together. The coffee shops downtown have a speedy jive to them—so many people are passing through in a rush. When I take a table, with a book to read and mug in hand, I feel the envious eyes narrowing. Such simple thing, but you would think I’d set up a hammock with a side of strawberry daiquiri for the looks people rushing through give me. Get with the program and hurry on, they urge. No no, not me, I say. I’m doing something else here.
Last week, alongside six bloggers and a rather hip Twitter up n comer, I attended a Popup dinner for the launch of Soon Spoon. A new startup, they discover last-minute reservations at fine dining restaurants in Boston and tweet, email or text them to you. These are restaurants which would often need at least a week’s notice to get you a table. A super helpful service to locals, and for tourists who only have a few days to eat at Boston’s best spots.
People who book frequently with Soon Spoon are rewarded with invitations to popup dinners catered by local chefs. A twist on your typical promotion, it’s a communal local foodie idea that I love.
Our dinner was six courses, with wine pairings. Hello. Lucky ducks we were.
Soon Spoon introduced us to our chefs for the night: two guys getting PhDs in Immunology from Harvard Medical School start a side catering project. PhaDe Food Labs. They can only cook like this two or three times a month, but when they do, they brainstorm the menu for days, tweak endlessly, and throw in a few last minute dishes based on what they saw at the grocer the day before. It was my first real encounter with what I think of as “Modernist Cuisine” style cooking–foams, dried powders, and using the sous-vide method to cook one of the meats. It was fantastic. Everything was just a little bit quirky but delicious and satisfying.
And they were game to discuss their technique on just about anything, going into tangents about chemicals and taste, and explaining the tools they used. So, basically my dream come true in a cook: knowledgable nerds who love food and discussion.
The dinner was held at a lovely and warm South End brownstone. Each dish was paired with an equally spectacular wine, all of them selected by Jonathan Fenelon from Clio. Based on what we drank, evidently Clio’s wine list is dynamite.
I loved this “dish”–a puree made from the first fava beans of the season, underscored with pickled ramps from last seasons, finished with a salty crunch and a pretty flower. Fresh, tart and green–it tasted simply like Spring.
But, this dish was my favorite! Nantucket bay scallops wrapped in black pasta, a smear of uni, and what they termed “sea and sand”: froth made from clam broth (see the foam?) enriched with a little kombu for an extra seaweed kick, and brown butter powder which had the slightest sand texture to it. Yup, brown butter powder as the sand. It was delicious, and clever to boot.
⌃⌃Here are the cooks leaning out of the tiny apartment kitchen, mid-pro-con delicious debate.⌃⌃
At the very least I recommend that you follow Soon Spoon on Twitter to keep up (+ they retweet a lot of food Boston news). You can book PHaDe for a private event in your home using Kitchensurfing right here, and follow them on Twitter. Soon Spoon, call me again, anytime.
Lux: Three months short of three, such a complex age. By turns defiant, endearing, and infuriating, she keeps this mama on the tips of her toes.
Joan: so, so eager to be a walker, or a crawler, anything! It feels as if she can’t wait to grow up.
“A portrait of my daughters, once a week, every week, in 2014.”
Joan: Yawning post-snack. She loves to settle in and pivot in her chair so she can keep eye on everyone in the kitchen.
Lux: in a friend’s dreamy kid space. Sorting colorful buttons with glee.
Thanks to Anna for telling me to stick with this. She’s right, you know.
It’s a treat to visit a place you’ve been watching from afar. I saw Alden & Harlow, a new restaurant in Harvard Square next to Brattle Theatre, photographed on a thought for food, and then thoroughly written up on tiny urban kitchen. Between the two of them, and this Boston Magazine post about AH’s cocktail menu, I was positively desperate to check it out. Fortunately Natalie and Anna are always game to visit new spots and we got a date on the calendar quickly.
What is really fun about the menu is the fact that everything is a small plate, but very shareable and priced well. Three of our favorites–the kale salad, the butternut squash salad, and charred broccoli (with squash hummus!)–were priced at $9 and completely divisible by three. In all, we shared eight plates, including dessert. It was so nice to get to try so many flavors–especially when each plate was packed with different textures and tastes–nuts, seeds, oils, yogurt, seasonings of all varieties. The flavor medleys matched our conversation as we found ourselves talking almost exclusively about travel–past trips and future dreaming. Natalie, just back from Thailand, is planning trips to Turkey and Argentina. And Anna has a nearly perfect West Coast trip just a month away.
The service style is spot on–no rush to continue ordering, we were encouraged to just enjoy and relish, and order more as we wished. The cocktails are wild–local, extremely seasonal, and unlike anything I’d seen. I hesitate to recommend a specific one for you, but I will tell you not to miss the house bitter with your dessert.
One last thing–I couldn’t believe how good the chips and dip where. You’ll hear from everyone all about their salads and amazing veggies, but I love a good chip & dip snack and this three-onion-dip was delicious and the chips were so crunchy and fresh. Best chips, best dip, respect for that.
I was out to a nice dinner with a bunch of girls the other day. Several of them are lawyers, though none of them bring it up every other minute, as I would for sure, if in their position. One of the girls works in the junior courts as an advocate, meaning if a five year old expresses an interest in returning to his mother, who everyone is aware is a drug addict, her job is to represent that wish in a convincing way to the court. This was received with some shock around the table, “really, a five year old gets to decide?”
This was NO news to me because I’m already delegating half our planning to Lux, with mixed results. The polls aren’t fully in, but I think it’s crimping our style. It seems to be a citywide epidemic among her peers to not want to go outside if asked, but once you get them outside, to steadfastly announce, “I don’t want to go home.”
“What are we doing? Not going home, right?” Lux quizzes me when we switch directions mid-walk through the park. It’s nice to know her geography skills will rapidly develop under the duress of trying to determine whether we’re headed home or not. “Oh, just walking in this direction now,” I murmur. Thus it is that we end up not going to the gym because it’s been deemed “too crazy” that morning, or put off a library trip until it’s too late. “Oh Baby Joan says she wants to go outside!!” Lux declares at the last minute, when I announce it’s nap time. Sorry kiddo.
But anyway, the list of nice things we like to do instead is steadily growing: books on tape with a book to page along with, painting, cookie baking, long bubble baths, a solid forty minutes of reading out loud with Lux loyally working to keep the books from Joan’s drooly grasp as we read. During Joan’s morning nap, Lux and I have begun a habit of spending fifteen minutes on my computer typing out words, with the typeface size set to 48. The words seem to always include “Lux Lou, Daddy, Bunny” but also sometimes “chickadee” or “cucumber.” Then we print out those pages and she can color them in.
Maybe I write all this so cheerfully because I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just looked up to see that carousel on the Common will open April 11th, which is so soon! That’s the day before the grand Easter Egg Hunt at our neighborhood playground, and two days before Palm Sunday which is heralded at our church with a march outside around the church. The fun things will be happening outside, and that’s a good good sign.
What I imagined to be the largest hurdle of two children has come to pass: they are sleeping in the same room. It was fine, fun even. Joe ramped up the thrill of sharing a room, and had Lux help him construct Joan’s crib. I briefed her that Joan would probably cry a bit and that Lux would have to ignore her, just like she does when Joan cries next to her in the car. She nodded solemnly. Honestly, I think Joan was very pleased to be in the same room as Lux, despite her five minutes of noisy protest. Joe and I congratulated ourselves and marveled at the convenience of using our closet in the evening again.
And this week we skimmed over another hurdle, though it was one I had not anticipated: taking Lux to a specialist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. A “toe checkup” as we pitched it to Lux. Children’s feels like a hospital crossed with a fine hotel that boasts great service. Art everywhere. Brightly colored walls. Valets waiting to park cars, enormous airlock doors steadily opening and closing, a garage with clean signage in several languages. It felt like there was one staff member per patient as security, nurses, receptionists, doctors, students and interns churned past us.
Most of the parents looked like hell because that’s what you look like when you feel as if it’s you v. traffic in order to to be on time to an appointment you scheduled three months in advance. The kids looked like mini professors, standing quietly in their zipped up winter jackets, trooping down the halls as if they’d done this many many times. As Lux and I waited to check in at our front desk, a woman swept by with a handful of bright pinwheels and handed her one. This pinwheel apparition from heaven only topped off the waiting room stacked with books, building blocks, a chirping television, a bright plastic box labeled “treasure chest”, and three enormous cylinders filled with bubbly water and bobbing plastic fish. Dream world to Lux but it only meant one thing to me: people have to hang out here a lot.
The doctors and nurse kindly treated us like the over-concerned parents we turned out to be. When you fill out that check-in paperwork and are faced with all those little boxes, you are reminded of all the things you could be checking off. No, she doesn’t complain about them. No, she has no trouble walking. It was clear we were small beans compared to what they saw every day. In fact, they pointed out that her gently curving toes, officially diagnosed “curly toes,” are usually genetic–which reminded me that I have them too, though to a lesser degree. Ah. Odd how I never thought of it that way when I was worrying over hers.
It turns out I’m terrible at estimating these things–the trouble or ease of future events with children. What’s that trick you learn to portray perspective in art? Vanishing Points? I finally get to my scary vanishing points and they turn out to just be smears of chocolate sauce on my favorite shirt. Leaving Children’s this morning we felt lucky, but also in it somehow with all the people who weren’t breezing back home with us, in this so-worried-over-something-you-love thing, for good.