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A Guide to Boston’s Best Outdoor Eateries

The streets of Boston are crowded and lively in a new, socially-distant way. With the help of live music and strung lights, Bostonians maintain some semblance of a night out pre-pandemic. As the weather turns colder and COVID-19 drags on, however, restaurants and bars across the city are adjusting their approach to outdoor dining in an effort to remain open. 

The expansion of outdoor dining was an obvious solution to the Massachusetts state mandates regarding the novel coronavirus. Food establishments quickly took advantage of parking lots and sidewalks to increase outdoor seating and bring in the profit that they lost when shut down. For the Bostonians hoping to ditch take-out but still hesitant to dine indoors, the following is a list of local restaurants and bars offering incredible and safe outdoor dining experiences.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Calendar

Burro Bar (Brookline)

On the corner of Beacon Street and Winthrop Road, Burro Bar is a “neighborhood Mexican kitchen” focused on tacos and tequila. Burro Bar has always offered a substantial amount of outdoor seating, which made adjusting to the COVID-19 mandates very manageable. With a covered deck raised up from the sidewalk, there is great potential for year-rounding seating.

“My favorite outdoor dining experience post quarantine has been Burro Bar in Brookline,” stated Veronica Moreno, MCAS ‘21. “They set up an outdoor tent decorated with string lights for an inviting and warm atmosphere. The crispy fish tacos were honestly the best tacos I’ve ever had!” Open seven days a week, including for brunch on the weekends, Burro Bar continues to serve incredible food and a huge variety of drinks in their inviting outdoor space. 

Photo courtesy of Cambria Hotel Boston

Six West (South Boston)

If you’re looking for a luxury outdoor dining experience, Six West in downtown South Boston is the perfect place. “It’s been my favorite place to get dinner and a drink mainly because of the beautiful view,” explained Natalie Hone, MCAS ‘21. “To make it COVID-friendly, the bar is closed, and the tables are spaced all along the deck with plexiglass in between each other.” 

The stunning views of the Boston skyline and harbor make Six West the perfect place to dress up for and make a night out of. Even if you’re just there for a drink, Hone says the truffle fries are a must.

Photo courtesy of Thanx

Cisco Brewers (Seaport)

No outdoor dining guide for the city of Boston would be complete without mention of Cisco Brewers, the pop-up beer garden in Seaport. Since its founding in Nantucket 25 years ago, Cisco Brewery has been crafting fantastic beers that taste of summers on the beach. Cisco’s Seaport location has been in operation for the past three summers. Although always wildly successful, its abundance of outdoor seating and relaxed atmosphere have made it the go-to place for a quality drink and a high-end slice of Oath Pizza.

“Enjoying a drink and good company at Cisco took my mind off the fact that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic,” commented Tiffany Santos, MCAS ‘21. “It almost felt like a normal night out with the strung lights and food trucks.” Local craft beer and a sense of eternal summer keep customers coming back to Cisco Brewers.

Each of these establishments offers a different atmosphere through their outdoor setups, providing those who want to dine out with something they haven’t had in a long time: options. While these outdoor spaces are currently a reasonable choice, the city of Boston is moving quickly into fall and winter; take the uncertainty that comes with the colder weather as an even stronger reason to take advantage of these outdoor experiences while you can.

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Features

Rethinking Food Waste

No one could’ve predicted that a not-for-profit that repurposes food waste from operating restaurants would expand and succeed during a pandemic. However, Rethink Food, based out of New York City, has defied the odds that have been set against them.

After working in the high-end restaurant and catering industries, co-founders Matt Jozwiak and Winston Chiu recognized a greater need for the skills they had to offer. In 2016, their efforts to address larger problems of food insecurity and hunger throughout New York City culminated in what has become Rethink NYC.

Since its inception, Rethink has established itself as a stable and growth-oriented force in the New York area. “Rethink Food built its name on taking millions of pounds of excess food from grocery stores and restaurants and repurposing it for meals for New York City families at low or no cost,” wrote Erika Adams for Eater NY. Rethink has made their services accessible with food trucks and cafes offering inexpensive meals and a delivery truck deployed daily to distribute free meals in different parts of the City.

image courtesy of givebutter.com

The huge gap between the amount of food wasted and the number of people who go hungry is one that is recognized by most chefs in the industry. Few, however, have actually taken the leap to commit full-time to solving this problem. “Granted it’s a lot of work, but it still gives us this freedom to actually, truly look at what food waste is,” said co-founder Matt Jozwiak about the work that they are doing. Rethink has alleviated the pressure for those who simply cannot commit all of their time to solving food insecurity. In partnering with restaurants and grocery stores, Rethink offers all of these employees a chance to contribute to their communities without sacrificing their own product or service. 

When the pandemic hit last March, the team at Rethink knew they had a lot of work to do. Unemployment spiked, especially in Black and Hispanic communities, throughout March and April, leading to an increase in food insecurity across New York City and the country. Rethink faced these growing needs without their primary resource: food excess from operating restaurants. What originally seemed like a setback for the not-for-profit soon became an opportunity to expand their business model and the people that they serve.

Unemployed chefs, including Daniel Humm of Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park, began searching for ways to use their empty kitchens. Humm set an example for other restaurants that soon followed suit. “The expectation of [Eleven Madison Park] is that they will ‘function as an extension of Rethink’ and work as a kitchen for the nonprofit for at least 45 days,” wrote Adams in her recent article. In addition, struggling vendors at the popular outdoor food market, Smorgasburg, are being offered compensation for partnering with Rethink and donating meals to those in need. 

image courtesy of ediblemanhattan.com

Rethink also shifted their focus in response to the increased recognition of racial injustice and violence. In partnership with Ghetto Gastro, a Bronx-based group of chefs and activists, Rethink aimed to bring nutritious food to “seniors, people of color, low-income families, and formerly incarcerated individuals.” As protests erupted across the city, Ghetto Gastro and Rethink adopted a new approach. “Ghetto Gastro and Rethink NYC recently sent food trucks to feed protesters in Domino Park, Brooklyn, and Washington Square Park,” wrote Elise Taylor of Vogue in early June. 

With the success and commitment they have found in New York City, Rethink has sparked nationwide interest. San Francisco-based restaurant Petit Crenn has just recently committed to using their kitchen in partnership with Rethink. “Everybody should be able to have good food and food that is good for you… This is a reality” said Michelin-starred head chef Dominique Crenn in a recent interview. Serving 300 nutritious meals a day, 5 days a week, Petit Crenn is setting the precedent for the future of Rethink NYC.

The uncertainty of the present moment is palpable. However, one thing is for certain: Rethink Food has faithful supporters and an encouragingly strong plan to address food insecurity across this country.

image courtesy of timeout.com
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Features

I Miss Eating, It Was So Real.

“I like eating, it is so real” – Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September

Eating was one of the last ‘real’ things that COVID-19 left after it disrupted normal life. In a matter of days, the whole country was stripped of the social interactions that go hand-in-hand with sharing a meal. From chats over a morning coffee to a birthday meal at a favorite restaurant, everyone felt this loss. More and more time spent at home with nothing to do drove some to productivity and some to insanity, but it drove the productive and insane to baking.

In December of 2018, Amanda Mull coined the phrase “anxiety baking” in an Atlantic article. Surely “anxiety baking” was a thing before Mull put a name to the phenomenon, but the phrase has only become more and more relevant as time has gone on. “Many [young Americans] seem to have turned to weekend baking as a salve for the ambient anxiety of being alive,” writes Mull. As weekdays have blended into weekends and the “anxiety of being alive” has been heightened, baking as a release has grown in popularity.

Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

The rise and fall of culinary fads has sparked the interest of the masses across social media throughout the past few months. Quarantine began with hopes of flattening the curve and being over sooner rather than later. People quickly jumped on the Dalgona coffee craze. “I’m looking for distraction anywhere I can find it. I wanted to try the trendy coffee,” wrote Alex Beggs in Bon Appétit. Interest in the frothy coffee died almost as quickly as it grew.

A few weeks into this sobering pandemic, around when people realized just how much time they were going to have in quarantine, sourdough bread began to gain traction. “A couple weeks into quarantine, I followed a recipe I found online to make my own sourdough starter from scratch… I named my starter “Tina,” short for quarantine,” said Nicholas Pietrinferno of Boston, MA. The therapeutic nature of kneading and shaping bread has given many an opportunity to forget the worries of a pandemic-ridden world. “The process of baking sourdough has been a relief. When I’m able to take my starter out of the fridge a couple days before baking, I feel like I’m prepping for a big trip with friends” Nicholas reflected. Although there was a great deal of ambition when it came to the sourdough trend, only the strong and stubborn remained committed to perfecting the art of the perfect loaf. 

Photo courtesy of bakefromscratch.com

Those who came to the conclusion that they didn’t have as much time and patience for sourdough turned to banana bread. Being the ultimate comfort food, banana bread was what sustained bakers and non-bakers alike as quarantine dragged on and on. “If anything, I’ve realized that making some baked goods requires more precision than I’m willing to put in,” remarked Alicia Kang (BC ‘22). “But I like having something in the kitchen that I made with my own hands and that anyone can enjoy”. 

Photo courtesy of handletheheat.com

As the world has begun to emerge from isolation and ease back into social interactions, food has remained the focal point around which all else revolves. Friends and family around the country are able to partake in the realness of eating together once again. However, the power of physical labor and comfort as demonstrated by quarantine baking must not be forgotten. Climbing back down the rabbit hole of baking trends might not be such a bad thing. In fact, why don’t you start here.

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Features

The Faces Behind Our Food

It’s no secret that the food industry is currently hanging by a thread. 

While restaurants have seen a sharp decline in profitability in the wake of COVID-19, food media groups like Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street are trudging along, doing what they know best: bringing the hidden corners of the culinary world straight to your doorstep and changing the way you think about cooking. The growth in readership of food media parallels the decline in the rest of the food industry, giving ventures like Milk Street an opportunity and a responsibility to highlight those who are struggling.

Milk Street began in 2016 after Chris Kimball left the praised cooking show America’s Test Kitchen. Kimball spent almost 20 years building up the ATK empire before deciding to go in a different direction. “The point of Milk Street is to spend time with folks who view cooking very differently than I do,” said Kimball during our pre-pandemic conversation in February. “That is the joy of culinary travel—learning from home cooks who know more than I do”. 

With a weekly podcast, multi-season television series, bimonthly magazine, radio show, online store, and in-person cooking classes (now available online for free), Milk Street quite literally does it all. Instead of finding their niche by dominating a certain medium, they have established themselves in the culinary world through their worldly approach to cooking techniques, ingredients, and influences. 

The foundation of Milk Street’s movement towards a global approach to food is Kimball’s proposed ‘new rules’ for cooking. “Good cooking shouldn’t take hours,” states rule number 3, a contradiction to the basic idea that more time means more flavor. These rules are revolutionary propositions that have been inspired by home cooks from Mumbai to Oaxaca and everywhere in between. “We are moving towards a world, as we already are in music and fashion, where everything is going to be a mix, a hodgepodge of different cultures and experiences,” noted Kimball in discussing the future of the American food scene. The importance of food in every culture lends itself to laying a foundation for empathy and equality across cultures. 

In an effort to take advantage of their platform and highlight these different cultures and experiences, Milk Street has started #MilkStreetFaces, a social media movement that “shares the stories of the people who feed us.” 

Photo collection from Milk Street Instagram @177milkstreet

#MilkStreetFaces projects the voices of those who were previously limited in the communities that they reached. “Food injustice is racial injustice,” stated Vel Scott of Purple Oasis Farms in Cleveland, Ohio. “You’re not going to be able to fight and march and make change unless you have a healthy outlook.” The ideas that begin with food soon permeate every facet of life. 

Across the country, chefs are using food as a common denominator in the wake of intense racial discrimination and a relentless global pandemic. “If we get people to sit down, break bread, and talk, get to know each other, we can build the relationships to tackle the really tough things,” remarked James Beard award-winning author, Adrian Miller. Food is especially powerful in this way.

Milk Street has always worked through food to bridge the divide between cultures. Over the past few months, however, the urgency and necessity of this goal has only become more obvious.

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Features

The Gingered Peach is Here to Stay

LAWRENCEVILLE, NEW JERSEY – The mixers, ovens, and restless hands in the kitchen of The Gingered Peach haven’t slowed down despite no longer welcoming the typical lines of hungry customers. In fact, the bakery seems to be using quarantine to its advantage, further establishing their product as unparalleled and their voice as a call for change. The Gingered Peach occupies a unique position within the Lawrenceville community as a woman- and Black-owned business that works towards bringing Lawrenceville together to eat, grow, and commit to communal action.

The Gingered Peach has been supplying the surrounding area with pie, pastry, and pure joy for over 5 years. A smile spread across the face of local resident Kristen Heinzel as she recalled some of her favorite memories there. “For my family, it was a routine to make tea and bring back baked goods from The Gingered Peach on Sunday afternoons,” Heinzel noted. The fresh baked goods became the focal point of so many family memories for her.

“It’s pretty rare to find a small town bakery with so much charm these days,” remarked Nancy Mckeon, longtime patron of The Gingered Peach. Many locals wouldn’t hesitate to say the same. With its signature red paint job and striped awning, The Gingered Peach stands out as a place of warmth, happiness and unity.

When businesses in New Jersey were forced to abide by distancing restrictions as a result of COVID-19, food industry businesses were among the hardest hit. The Gingered Peach was no exception. However, owner Joanne Canady-Brown refused to let quarantine stop the momentum they’ve been building for years.

In addition to the unparalleled deliciousness that comes out of their kitchen, The Gingered Peach bears an important voice within my community. In reaction to the racist murders of George Floyd and countless others, Canady-Brown wrote on Instagram,

“As a Black owned business, it is in our culture to foster a workplace of inclusion and awareness… But that is not the reality outside of our walls.”

She went on to thank the local police department for “hearing me and opening up a dialogue of how we as a community can move forward from here.” 

Lawrenceville falls very much into the category of “small-town America,” and the close quarters make it rare for residents to mind their own business. This creates a community of individuals committed to understanding and supporting each other in word and deed. Canady-Brown has taken it upon herself to create space for conversation and encourage action. Owned by a Black woman and boasting a devoted customer base, The Gingered Peach has a voice that stands out among the rest. There’s no doubt that this is how and where change will happen.

Canady-Brown is no stranger to using her position in the food industry to fight for social justice. In 2019, she participated in the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program. In a recent article, Canady-Brown found there “a network of [women] who made you feel comfortable and supported. No idea was stupid.” In an industry that leans towards masculinity, support from fellow women becomes so important for growth. Women giving other women tools for success is the future of the food industry, and Canady-Brown has made it clear that she wants to lead this movement. 

While they have used their voice to speak on national issues, The Gingered Peach has also committed themselves to local affairs, which is a true source of pride within Lawrenceville. When quarantine hit, the well-known brand King Arthur Flour started ‘For Goodness Bakes,’ an initiative “to help keep bakeries running by purchasing bread and pastries, that is then donated to people in need.” A suggestion of giving back to the local community was all it took for the small but mighty team at The Gingered Peach to pull out their donut fryer and buy up all the yeast that they could find.

Whether it’s through the impact of their voice on social media or the simple act of sharing one of their gooiest cinnamon buns, The Gingered Peach has discovered the secret to prosperity and progress: if you truly commit to improving your community, the people around you will not let you fail.

The Gingered Peach on 2 Gordon Ave, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648
Find their hours of operation and more information on their website here.

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Mucho Gusto

Mary’s Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This is the twenty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: sourdough starter, flour (whole wheat, bread flour, or all-purpose)

Makes 1 medium-sized round loaf

I’m sure, by this point in quarantine, you have come across mention of the elusive sourdough starter. As yeast shortages have hit supermarkets across the world, many have turned to creating their own leavening agent, the sourdough starter, in order to explore the expansive world of homemade bread. I admit that sourdough bread-baking is daunting at first. It may take you a couple of tries to get it right, but when you do, you will understand how this mighty little natural yeast has started such a large cult following. There is truly nothing that measures up to a loaf of homemade bread and this particular loaf is one of my personal favorites. 

If you are starting from the very beginning with your own starter, I suggest you take a look at the following websites:

King Arthur Flour

The Perfect Loaf

Or, even better, ask a friend who has a healthy starter or your local bakery to give you some of theirs! All you need is about 3 tablespoons to get you started. Before you begin baking, read through the whole recipe to ensure that you have planned properly in terms of timing. I promise, once you’ve dipped your toes into the world of sourdough baking, you’ll never again be able to buy a store-bought loaf of bread.

Ingredients:

1 ⅛ tablespoons (19 grams)    mature Sourdough Starter (at its peak)

3 ¾  cups (448 g)    Whole Wheat flour (if you don’t have Whole Wheat flour, use All-Purpose or Bread flour or any combination of the three)

⅓ cup (43 g)    All-Purpose or Bread flour

1 ⅔ cups (383 g)    Water, room-temperature 

1 ½ teaspoons (9 g)   Salt

Timeline

8:00 am 

In a small bowl, mix together starter, ⅓ cup of flour, and ⅓ cup of water. Mix thoroughly so there are no dry spots of flour. This is called the leavain, which is the natural yeast culture that will leaven our bread! Cover with a clean towel and let sit for 6 hours. 

12:00 pm 

Mix together the remaining flour and water either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until there is no dry flour. Cover with a clean towel and let sit for an hour. 

1:00 pm

Add your levain and salt to the flour/water mixture. Mix thoroughly. The dough should look a bit lumpy and should form one cohesive mass. Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with a towel. I have found it best to let your dough rise inside a turned-off oven with the light on.

1:10 pm – 5:10 pm

Throughout the 4 hours that your dough is fermenting, you will perform three sets of what are called ‘stretch and folds’. I suggest you look this up in order to visualize it, but it is basically a way of stretching your dough to strengthen the glutens in the flour. Stretch and fold your dough 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 1 hour and 30 minutes into the dough fermentation.

It may take longer than 4 hours for your dough to finish fermenting. You will know it is finished when it has a smoother, domed top and there are small bubbles across the top and edges.

5:15 pm

Once your dough is finished fermenting, dump it out onto a lightly flour surface. It will be difficult to work with so make sure you use flour on the work surface and on your hands. Form into a round-ish shape and let rest for 20 minutes.

5:35 pm 

Make sure that you have a small bowl prepared with a tea-towel inside. Generously flour the inside of the bowl/tea-towel. Shape your dough into a round (use above links for references on how to shape) and place in the bowl lined with the tea-towel. Flour the top of the dough. Place in the refrigerator to proof for 16 hours. 

8:30 am (next morning)

Preheat your oven to 500 F. Place your dutch oven or cast iron skillet (whatever you are using to bake in) inside the oven to heat up for an hour.

9:30 am 

Dump out your dough onto a sheet of parchment paper on a wooden cutting board. Carefully peel away the tea-towel from the dough. Score the dough with a very sharp knife. Slide the parchment into the vessel you are baking in and put in the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 475 F. If you are using something with a top (dutch oven/combo cooker), cover the bread with the top. (Optional: spray some water into the hot oven to create moisture, which leads to a better crust). Bake for 20 minutes with the top on. Decrease the oven temperature to 450 F and remove the top. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the bread is past golden brown. 

10:30 am (ish)

Remove bread from the oven and dump out of the pan to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least an hour before cutting into it (otherwise it will be gummy and taste undercooked). Enjoy!!

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Mucho Gusto

Mary’s Sourdough Pizza

This is the first installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: sourdough starter, pizza toppings

Makes 6 8-inch pizzas

Although this recipe is perfect for all skill levels, there are two things you should know about it before you begin. First, the dough takes 24 hours to proof in the refrigerator and about 1 1/2-2 hours to proof after you shape it. If you’re making this for a Sunday night dinner, I suggest starting the dough in the early afternoon on Saturday. Second, this recipe calls for sourdough starter. If you’re not familiar with it, I suggest you look it up online! You can start your own or ask for some from someone you know. The sourdough starter is the leavening agent in the crust, so it’s crucial to the dough. 

Dough:

1 cup sourdough starter

4 1/3 cups all purpose or bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/3 cup water

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

Sauce/cheese/toppings of choice

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine the water and the active dry yeast, mixing until it is dissolved. Pour the water, olive oil, and sourdough starter into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula, or your hands, until the dough just comes together and there is no more visible dry flour. 

Put the mixed dough into a clean bowl, seal with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After 24 hours, take the dough out of the refrigerator and dump it onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it all comes back together and is a bit smoother. 

Using a knife, divide the dough into 6 even portions. To shape into rounds, move your hand in a circular motion while pressing your palm into the dough. This may take a little bit of practice, but the dough is forgiving! If it gets too sticky, use a little bit of flour on your hands or on the counter. Place the rounds on a floured surface and cover with a clean towel. Let sit for about 90 minutes, until relaxed and risen a bit. 

Preheat your oven to the highest setting (mine was 475 degrees F). Place an upside down cookie sheet onto a rack in the middle of the oven while it is preheating. This will act as your “pizza stone”.

When the dough is ready, shape your pizzas. Make sure to use a good deal of flour so the dough does not stick to any surface — if you have cornmeal, that works well. Once you are ready to top your pizza, I suggest that you do so on a generously-floured cutting board. When your pizza is ready for the oven, carefully slide it from the cutting board to the cookie sheet. If this sounds too daunting, top your pizza directly on the floured upside-down cookie sheet and place it in the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until your crust is golden brown and your cheese is bubbling!

If you’re curious about sourdough starters, I suggest checking out the following step-by-step guides:

King Arthur Flour

The Perfect Loaf

Recipe adapted from Patrick Ryan’s No Fuss Sourdough Pizza