I don’t know about you, but I’ve not much cared for this pandemic.
Having experienced life with and without, I prefer without. YMMV.
Still there have been many memorable food experiences, and I’m going to show you mine with the expectation that you will yours.
Forge Baking Company in Somerville. For fifteen months, they were my salvation, they were my rock. They delivered very good sourdough bread of various types, excellent fresh mozzarella, unusual produce (young turmeric anyone?), great sandwiches, croissants with shatter to equal the best (there was a separate thread on this that I haven’t the time to track down now, but I’d put Forge up against any competition), and, of course (hey they’re a “baking company”) their excellent ice cream with its Herrell’s heritage.
Tim Maslow’s FishyFish outfit. They supply cooked food, fresh fish, etc., every Friday, and as you might expect it’s all superlative. Two weeks ago the prepared food was themed around tacos, last week Mediterranean, this week Thai. They’ve recently added Theresa Paopao, most recently the wine director at Oleana, to their operation and she has excellent wine-pairing suggestions with their food. I’ve ordered from them pretty much every week they’ve been around and have never been disappointed.
These were my two major happy stories. I’ve others to share, but enough about my happiness. Yours?
We enjoyed the meal kits from Stir (Barbara Lynch Gruppo) while they lasted. Some of the recipes were surprisingly simple yet truly memorable, and we’ve added them to our rota at home. Favorites were asparagus soup and eggplant with a feta sauce.
Not a restaurant, but King Arthur Baking Company’s recipes of the year 2020 and 2021 worked a lot of mileage from me. 2020 was a deep pan pizza with lacy edges, and 2021 were cinnamon buns. Avenue’s Detroit-style pizza variations in Ball Square inspired a purchase from Lloyd’s pans which was a best-of, too.
Café Sushi or Momi Nomni when I couldn’t stand it anymore, or special occasions.
Bondir (Cambridge) had some very good meal kits, too. The components came in separate packaging, with clear instructions of what do to heat and assemble the final dish. A flatiron steak we had in February was particularly memorable, as was their St. Patrick’s Day dinner. They also had delicious pastries and cakes.
But the real knockout from them was their bread. You all may know this, but apparently Jason Bond grows his own wheat, etc., on a nearby farm. Although I’m a big, big fan of Forge, and I had some very good bread over this period from Clear Flour (curbside pickup), Iggy’s (delivery) and Hi-Rise (both curbside and delivery), the various Bondir breads (often delivered warm) were out-of-this-world good – the crackly crust! the open crumb! the flavor! They were in a league of their own.
Sadly, Bondir is closed for the summer but is planning to reopen in the fall, possibly in a bigger space.
I did so much hunkering down that I wracked my brain and can’t really think of that many things that I got excited about eating from outside during this stupid pandemic. I actually think that the food i most looked forward to when things were bad was simple takeout from Chilli Garden. It’s not the greatest Sichuan place in the world, but they have some really solid regular dishes and were so reliable even in the depths of this thing that I’ll always have a place for them in my regular rotation.
Also, I walk right by Forge a lot on my way to work, and I never go in there. What’s with that???
Great takeout from Sarma, which was highly lauded here! Amazing (& expensive) meal at Ivory Pearl in Brookline. Road trip to takeout pizza in New Haven at Sally’s, Modern and Zuppardi’s, which was the meal of the pandemic for us. Leftover pizza for days Nice meals for takeout at Coppa and JMP Fine Indian Cuisine, both in Boston.
Mostly fantastic home cooking, which is hard to beat
We had some great meals from Sarma (2) and Oleana (4), as well. We started wth Sarma, because some of their dishes --especially the fantastic fried chicken – travel well (even if it’s a short haul from Somerville to where we are in Cambridge), but we shifted back to Oleana because while Oleana allowed to you to order and pay online, Sarma required to you to come indoors to pay at pickup. My wife phoned them both times, explained that we are all high-risk and pleaded with them to let us pay by phone. They agreed each time, but the policy did not change (as recently as three weeks ago, it was still in place), so we went with Oleana. Their food, although also heavenly, did not travel as well in that the various dips and toppings tended to get smooshed around in transit. That’s why, although Oleana/Sarma are always at the top of my all-time Boston list, they are not at the top of my pandemic list.
Incidentally, within the last 2 or 3 weeks Sarma seems to have stopped doing carry out and seems to have switched to an entirely prix fixe style. (Click on “menu” after you get there, or see here.)
I agree about the home cooking. More on that in a bit.
A New Haven pizza crawl like that could really ruin you for Boston area pizza. The 3 you hit are my favorites down there. I mostly skip NYC pizza now and pick up NH on the way back.
I’m with you on the home cooking. During the height of the pandemic we were getting sick of our own cooking, However, everyone in the family definitely expanded and improved their repertoire. I actually think we may be doing way more home cooking and less eating out. We liberally supported local restaurants during covid. However, some of the prices have crossed the Rubicon while options have become more limited. Our eating out will become much more focused on things we love and maybe can’t cook at home. Also, we’ll save a lot of dining dollars for when we travel.
I am so over the pandemic live at work life style. I’ve actually been going to the office since last summer as I was deemed “essential.” Not every day but 3-4 days a week. I’m a fairly decent home cook, but one of the pleasures in my life is a good meal in a nice setting when someone else cooks, serves and most importantly cleans up. So when NYC shut down, I spent more of my time at the weekend place and got to take advantage of CT having more in the way of outdoor dining options.
Had the CT style hot lobster rolls at Lobster Shack at the new location in East Haven. Very pleasant to sit out at the tables by the salt marsh and watch all the birds.
I agree that the NH pizza scene is better than anything in Boston and gives NYC a run for the money. Did order takeout from Zuppardi’s several times. Phenomenal clam pie there. Modern was also in the mix.
Had lots of fried clams at Lenny’s since last fall. Very pleasant even when it got cold as they had plenty of propane heaters on the added outdoor dining areas.
Love Lenny’s. We haven’t been back since a visit a couple of years ago (I think). I recall very good fried clams, which pleasantly surprised me. On another visit, I think I had clams zuppa which was tasty, but a small portion (again, my recall powers may not be firing on all cylinders).
Love this topic! Wonder if you would broaden the region / make it a general one.
Re Boston area - did any restaurants / wholesalers start channeling directly to the consumer? I’m thinking of the fisherman in Montauk and CA who were hit by restaurant volumes plummeting and figured out how to deliver directly to home.
Didn’t hear about similar from friends/family in boston, but I did see a specialty mushroom foraging guy on IG who was making home deliveries once a week depending on his driving route.
Several oyster farms pivoted from wholesale and restaurant sales to mail order. I ordered several times from Island Creek on the South Shore. 100 oysters at a time. Also ordered their shucking knife. Best shucking knife I have ever used. I’ve gotten quite adept at opening oysters now.
We had a few really fun zoom dining experiences with the good folks at Juliet. There was a murder mystery cook-along dinner, a kids Wind in the Willows themed luncheon, and a dinner for one I treated myself to with a zoom cook-along. These are not thing we would ever have done pre-pandemic, but I loved how Juliet pivoted and was able to fill in both entertainment and food for us.
Interesting! We’re big fans of the oysters that Island Creek distributes. How long did take you and yours to go through that amount of oysters? How did you store them, if you needed to keep them for a bit before using?
According to the website, they harvest and ship same day and you get them the next day. Comes in a large styrofoam box with a bunch of ice packs. I put them in a large bowl and layered them in and covered the bowl with a damp towel and put them in the bottom of the fridge. Lasted 3 days. They were fantastic.