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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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Intentional Consumerism in the BC Food Community

The empty, desolate campus students left in March came to life (though masked and socially distanced) as many students flocked back for the start of fall semester. The palpable excitement of habitating the BC Bubble now floats throughout campus, but the obvious need for precaution and safety is intertwined within this enthusiasm. Students need to do what we can to keep campus open. This entails practicing responsible and safe behavior on and off campus as well as respecting the neighboring communities. With large gatherings at a halt but the desire for social interactions still persisting, the next go-to for many friends is to grab dinner. While supporting local restaurants and employees is vital to the success of neighboring communities, we as consumers need to ensure this activity is approached mindfully. The safety of the campus and restaurant employees should be prioritized, and many principles learned from quarantine can be used to do just this. 

Restaurants, having missed large revenues from the height of quarantine, have reopened, focusing on outdoor seating to ensure social distancing takes place. While tables are spaced apart and the fresh air erases the atmosphere of worry regarding the pandemic, the CDC recommends wearing a mask when not eating to ensure droplets are not spread. This acts as a  method of protection to those dining around you and serving you. As customers arrive in masks, ensuring that all servers also wear their masks enables both parties to protect themselves and each other. With social distancing practices, eating outdoors, and wearing a mask when not eating, we can dine while avoiding infecting ourselves and others.

image courtesy of Eater Boston

As of June 8, Phase 2 of the reopening plan of Massachesetts began. The anticipation for business and activities out of the house finally relieved, as outdoor patrons began enjoying their favorite take-out meals at sit-down restaurants.  

Having experienced the hustle and bustle of a Friday afternoon on Beacon Street before quarantine, returning to what once was the well-trafficked area after the reopening felt ominous. The previously hurried and fast paced passerbys have been replaced with stagnant and socially-distanced patrons situated on curbs, allowing restaurants to serve guests in the crisp, summer air. Dining outside and socially distanced felt odd. The pleasures of dining and being with those I was quarantined with returned, but the feeling of worry and precaution never escaped me. This sense of fear increased in many as indoor dining became available on June 22 in Boston. 

Such concerns over the worst case scenario were not a feeling confined to my family unit or to other patrons, as many restaurant owners experienced similar worries regarding the potential outcomes of reopening their indoor seating. “Our decision not to reopen was mainly about staff safety. Everyone is in danger all the time right now, and we didn’t want to put anyone into any excess danger,” Jason Bond, the owner of Bondir in Cambridge, told Eater Boston.

image courtesy of Vox

With restaurant workers speaking out about their concerns over the safety of their staff if they reopen in person dining, consumers need to ensure that they are acknowledging the risk employees are placing themselves in to make ends meet. Aside from following the COVID-19 precautions previously mentioned, generously tipping as financial support to those who served you is equally important. 

Another important facet of the reopening of restaurants in Boston is the narrative regarding food accessibility. Attention has shifted towards discussing eating in restaurants when many members of the Boston community are unable to afford or access this luxury. With unemployment skyrocketing and vulnerable communities continuing to face limited access to income and aid, many are left without financial and physical access to groceries. This is where mutual aids come into play. 

While mutual aids are a topic that are tossed around and shared via social media, the great impact of mutual aids derives from their grassroots focus on helping groups of people who are overlooked by government programs. “Mutual aid creates a symbiotic relationship, where all people offer material goods or assistance to one another. Mutual aid organizing is volunteer-run, transparent, and driven by the needs articulated by community members,” notes a VICE article detailing the rise of mutual aid organizations during COVID-19. 

Although existent before the pandemic, mutual aids have rapidly expanded and grown to accommodate and assist those suffering during isolation. By relying on social media to spread awareness of the mutual aid and Google Docs to sign up to volunteer or receive aid, mutual aid funds thrived on the interconnectedness the Internet provided the world throughout the worst of the pandemic. This reliance on strangers and volunteers found on the Internet contrasts previous models of providing and obtaining aid, demonstrating how quickly organizers adapted to the influx in need for new forms of assistance. In a time that feels so socially isolated, communities are quickly forming to provide a sturdy social network of aid. 

Not only are mutual aid funds being utilized to make groceries and essential items accessible, mutual funds in Boston were started to act as a “virtual tip jar” for restaurant employees who were laid off or unable to work during the pandemic. Although these were formed to assist with those who could not work during the height of the Massacheusettes coronavirus closures, restaurants are not able to fill to capacity, and staff are not receiving the tips they are accustomed to. 

Although all mutual aids are not directly aimed at assisting and tipping restaurant workers, this example of financially supporting the community truly encapsulates the importance of being an intentional consumer. Rather than merely taking the services and food you pay for in what can seem to be a disconnected transaction, consumers should acknowledge that restaurant workers rely on the tips and purchases from customers. 

With approximately 16,000 restaurants permanently closed due to repercussions from the pandemic, the need to support small, locally-owned restaurants becomes more apparent than ever before. Consumers need to support restaurants that have served their communities to ensure that local, small, and BIPOC-owned restaurants can survive. 

The more we return to normal habits of consumption, the more these habits need to be altered to better serve the current economy. When dining with your family units, always ensure precautions are being taken to protect yourself and others. Local restaurants in the community should be prioritized when it comes to spending your hard-earned money. 

image courtesy of Hopewell Bar & Kitchen

Finding and exploring new local restaurants can be difficult during the pandemic, but lucky for you many lists of local restaurants have been curated to help out. 

Black owned restaurants in Boston: https://www.boston.com/food/restaurants/2020/06/02/black-owned-restaurants-in-boston

Allston restaurants open: 
https://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/best-restaurants-allston/

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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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Wine Windows to the Past

Imagine yourself in 16th century Florence.  You peruse the cobblestone streets, balancing your straw-bottomed flask atop the mountain of goods you gathered at the market in the city square.  Your eyes scan the stucco exteriors of the palatial homes in search of the custom door of your favorite buchetta del vino.  The familiar tarnished family crest rests above the brick-outlined window, and you reach for the knocker.  After a few swift raps, the cantiniere, a skilled servant trained in the preservation of wine, greets you with a fragment of his face peeking through the window.  You pass your flask and payment through the opening, receiving a full bottle of red wine in return.

Travel over four hundred years to the present day.  You remain on the same cobblestone street, but instead of cloth wrapped parcels from the market, you carry grocery bags with food for dinner.  Wearing your reusable triple-layer cotton mask, you walk home and spot a line of people waiting before a window tall enough for a bottle of wine.  An anonymous hand passes glasses of red through the opening to the eager customers, many of whom snap pictures to prove their participation in one of Florence’s most unique wine experiences.  Assuming you’re of drinking age, you also hop in line.  You pass a few euros through the window, and receive a glass in return.  Quietly enjoying your wine with distanced strangers on the street, you have a strange sensation of 470-year-old deja vu.

photo courtesy of Buchette del Vino

Since 2015, Florentine residents Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini and Mary Christine Forrest have been working to brush centuries of dust off of Florence’s buchette del vino (wine windows), one of the city’s most unique architectural details.  Beginning in the mid 1500’s, these foot-tall arched openings were carved out of ground level exterior walls in the homes of the wealthy.  While many of these windows have since been cemented shut, several are being revived to serve their original purpose.

The three aforementioned locals founded the Associazione Culturale Buchette del Vino (Wine Windows Cultural Association) in effort to revive and rehabilitate these functional architectural elements.  First used in 1559,  the wine window was born from Cosimo I de’ Medici’s decree granting Florentine vintners permission to forgo distribution taxes by selling wine directly from their homes.  

Although few functioning wine windows exist today, they were especially popular during the seventeenth century when the bubonic plague epidemic necessitated contactless purchase of food and wine.  “Wine producers who were selling their own wine through the small wine windows in their Florentine palaces, understood the problem of contagion,” explains Associazione Culturale Buchette del Vino cofounder Diletta Corsini.  Centuries ago, wine purveyors facilitated contactless trade by filling flasks directly from the windows using a metal tube or alternatively by selling pre-bottled wine.  

Since the 16th century, wine windows have slowly grown obsolete.  Time filled the small openings with cement, and they became elements of the wine-drinking past.  That is until the work of the Associazione Culturale Buchette del Vino began five years ago.  In addition to spreading information and organizing events, their mission is to “to promote the study, census, evaluation, maintenance, and when necessary, the restoration of these historical architectural features,” as explained on the organization’s website.  The nonprofit has worked to encourage respect for this piece of Tuscan history by clearly labeling the windows and restoring those that have not been filled or otherwise destroyed. 

photo courtesy of Buchette del Vino

As of late May, several Florentine wine windows are in service.  In Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, gelato and coffee is sold through a buchetta by Vivoli gelateria.  Two restaurants, Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito and Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi, have restored their windows for their original use for the sale and purchase of wine.  While patrons no longer fill their pints from a metal tube, they do receive their food and drinks from gloved hands of restaurant employees.  Amidst the slow reopening and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, some Italians have taken comfort in this salute to the past.  As we face historically repetitive obstacles in our world, we find ourselves reaching back in time for old solutions to our modern problems.  Along the way, some may even grab a glass of wine.  

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Feeding BC: Dining Services’ Fall Plan

McElroy Commons has never looked so empty. There are no more than six seats to a table, but only half the tables are there. The other half are being used as barriers, turning the serving areas into mazes. Markers on the floor designate six foot distances, and even more plexiglass divides the servers from the diners. Sanitizing stations fill empty spaces, visible from just about anywhere in the room. BC Dining is embracing the new normal

Since July, Boston College students and parents have gotten an email a week (at least) from some administrator with some new detail about the school’s reopening. While these emails have provided much needed information, the constant contact becomes overwhelming and hard to keep in check; it’s all too easy to lose track of the new protocol and the ever-changing “new normal.” 

McElroy Commons, Corcoran Commons, and Stuart Dining are to be the main dining halls for students. They will each be open every day from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., with hour-long closures between mealtimes for deep cleaning. Each main dining location will have an additional serving area in the same building—Eagles Nest, the Heights Room, and the Yellow Room respectively—with the same menu to decrease density and expedite food retrieval. Corcoran and McElroy will serve the same menus to prevent students from trekking across campus and overpopulating one dining hall, and menu options will be limited, offering only a few of the more popular dishes at each meal while attempting to offer student favorites.

Image courtesy of bcheights.com

Other dining locations will be open periodically, as well. Brighton Campus’ Cafe 219 will be open. Lyons Hall, or the Ratt, will serve breakfast and lunch (8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) on weekdays. The popular location will have its iconic New England coffee, but, as with every other dining location, self-service will not be an option for students. 

Unfortunately, other favorites will be closed at the beginning of the semester, including Hillside, the Chocolate Bar, the Bean Counter, and the Eagle Marts. Late Night, too, will not be offered. BC Dining hopes to get some of these locations and services up and running once the semester begins; their reinstallation, however, relies on increases in staff. To substitute for the lack of Late Night, BC Dining recommends students purchase pre-packaged or grab-and-go items to keep in their dorms.

Right now, BC Dining’s largest concern is lunch, its busiest meal of the day. They have been subtly promoting the GET Mobile app to order meals for pickup in the emails and FAQs on their website—especially for midday meals. Perhaps to incentivize its use, GET Mobile will be the only way for students to customize meal orders. An email (yes, another one) from BC Dining will be sent the week before move-in begins with specific instructions about GET Mobile ordering. 

Until then, students can expect to pick up their food from the CoRo Cafe when ordering from McElroy, Addies when ordering from Corcoran, and the Yellow Room when ordering from Stuart. GET Mobile will be available from 10 a.m. until 8p.m. at CoRo cafe and Addies and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Yellow Room. Mandatory meal plan money, credit cards, and debit cards can be applied, but all meals must be retrieved—delivery is not an option. 

Image courtesy of bc.edu

Of course, BC will continue accommodating food restrictions, including vegetarian and vegan diets—the policies for meal accommodations and medically-restricted diets, updated last year, will be in place and can be found on BC Dining’s website. Menu items will continue to be labeled for allergens, with additional labels on the online menu, and BC’s nutritionist, Michelle Lucier, is still available this year for appointments.  

Many of the practices they are implementing this fall had been initiated in the last few weeks of the spring: markers on the floors, increased sanitation and grab-and-go items, required face covers, contactless payment, and plexiglass shields at all stations. Training and brainstorming for additional precautionary measures then continued through the spring and summer, Beth Emery, Director of Dining Services, and Michael Forcier, General Manager of Upper Campus Dining, explained in an email to Gusto. After the administration sent most students home in March, BC Dining was still in operation in McElroy. Dining employees cycled through positions for the small number of residents on Upper Campus while allowing management to evaluate the most effective practices for the future.  

For further safety, seating has been reduced in all dining halls. As an independent purveyor, BC Dining will be following Massachusetts’ guidelines for restaurants, seating at 50% capacity with no more than 6 seats per table. As everything is in to-go containers, students will be able to take their food to other locations, including their dorms, other physically distanced spaces, and— weather permitting—outside eating areas like Stokes Amphitheater and the outdoor tables on lower campus.    

Students will be required to follow strict measures when entering dining areas. Face masks are required unless eating; phones must be away while ordering to avoid contamination, and supplies—hand sanitizer and wipes—are available for students to disinfect as they enter dining halls and to wipe down their eating areas before and after use. For now, there is no limit as to how long students can sit in dining halls, but as BC Dining management observes students’ tendencies this fall, much is subject to change.

During the Massachusetts- and BC-mandated quarantine period—the day or so that students will be awaiting their COVID test results—students cannot leave their dorms, even to run outside to pick up delivered food. After receiving their test prior to move-in, students will also retrieve three or four meals for this period. Further, students who test positive and are placed in campus isolation will receive food from BC Dining. The isolation menu will offer at least one vegetarian option for each meal, but many of the details for the delivery of these meals remain unknown to students. 

While BC’s sustainability efforts have been all but erased in the wake of the virus, Dining Services is doing its best to implement practices that are as sustainable as possible. Containers will be compostable, and students are encouraged to bring their own reusable utensils and water bottles to dining halls. FRESH to Table demonstrations at Corcoran have been put on pause, but FRESH-approved dishes (Fairly traded, Regional, Equitable, Sustainable and Healthy) will be on the menu. The farmer’s market on Lower Campus is set to continue through the fall on Fridays, and students will be able to buy produce boxes through the community support agriculture (CSA) farm share. 

The team anticipates the most difficulty coming with speed of service and variety in the menu, but one of the biggest factors is completely out of their control. Much rests on the cooperation of the student body, and, as much as the staff tries, BC Dining cannot force students to comply with the protocol. If students don’t adhere to the Eagle Pledge, they put not only themselves but other students and staff around them at risk as well. While Dining Services will be doing their part to safely serve the student body, it’s up to the students to uphold their responsibilities. As much as BC Dining has anticipated for the fall, it really is impossible to know how things will go.

Image courtesy of bc.edu

“We are very excited to have the students back on campus since they inspire us to do what we do. Just like most people during the pandemic, our team members are nervous and anxious at times,” said Emery and Forcier in an email to Gusto, “but our team members are feeling confident about our safety protocols after their experience this spring and summer and have mentioned that they are pleased with our focus on keeping them as safe as possible.”

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The Hall on Franklin: Modifying the Tampa Restaurant Scene

With a slight breeze coming off of the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk is filled with people aiming to hit their daily steps and others simply enjoying the sights and sounds of Downtown Tampa. The popularity of the Riverwalk is no surprise, as it winds down the river and connects the popular areas of Tampa. By connecting these seemingly distant areas, locals feel empowered to explore different businesses than those immediately near them. 

Only a few blocks inland from the Riverwalk resides The Hall on Franklin. As a self-defined “European Inspired Specialty Food Hall,” this dining experience strays from the mall food court and aims to provide a unique culinary affair. Without the typical limitations of food halls—where customers wander around the various food stalls, wait for their food to be ready, and then find temporary seating to gobble their food—the Hall on Franklin allows guests to sit down at a table with a server and order food from all stalls on one on check. With this innovative approach to dining, The Hall on Franklin paved the way for a multitude of dining experiences to later break down the stereotypical method of eating at restaurants. 

Photo courtesy of LemonHearted Creative

Guests are more than welcome to wander in and buy food directly from individual stalls, but owner Jamal Wilson wanted to provide guests with an innovative dining ordeal in his hometown of Tampa. Having grown up in Tampa, Wilson felt a pull to return there after playing basketball overseas. Upon doing so, Wilson entered the real estate business, opening his own firm and then his own mortgage company. After years of forging his eye for design, Wilson wanted his next endeavor to center around interacting with people. With the input of his cousin, he became enamored with opening a restaurant that housed a multitude of food stalls featuring local chefs. 

Photo courtesy of Nola Laleye

Opening in 2017, the Hall on Franklin featured a wide range of flavors and foods—from poke to Mexican street food to baked goods. With coffee vendors and mixologists, this food collective quickly became a popular spot at all hours and days. 

My own experience with dining at the Hall on Franklin has been limited. Walking in on a Friday night before I moved to Boston, I chose the traditional “food court” experience of mulling around until a stand caught my eye. At that moment, my eyes were fixated on “Bake’n Babes,” a local bakery with twists on traditional treats. Getting a warmed chocolate chip cookie with sea salt, I can recall the warm energy the entire restaurant exuded, as happy, satiated customers left and eager, hungry customers lined the street outside. 

Photo courtesy of Laura Reiley

Wilson’s visionary approach to dining is visible in the success of the Hall on Franklin. “Ultimately, people want to be able to craft their own food experience. Some want to sit down, others want to explore. Why not offer both in a space that is intimate and inviting?” Wilson remarked when asked by Creative Loafing, a Tampa-based news source, about his goals for The Hall. 

The impact of Wilson’s success is evident in the influx of other dining halls built in the downtown area. The Hall on Franklin, acting as a model for others, demonstrates the power of creativity and striving for more, even in an industry that is so well defined. 

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Kured Inc: Introducing the Charcuterie Bouquet!

The phrase “edible arrangement” tends to conjure images of whimsical fruit bouquets and kitschy commercials. Gillian Rozynek decided to play with this concept and make it her own by creating charcuterie bouquets. Rozynek, a Cape Cod native, marketing and psychology major, and Boston College Class of 2020 graduate, already has her own business fresh out of college, at only 22 years old. She is the founder of Kured Inc, a Cape Cod based, edible arrangement, e-commerce business that offers charcuterie bouquets of all sizes. 

Rozynek was first inspired with this idea while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain during her junior year of college. “Day after day in the city, I noticed how people gathered in the afternoons and bonded over a charcuterie board and a glass of wine. I loved this method of slowing down and enjoying life with loved ones.” She wanted to bring that feeling back to our fast-paced, workaholic American culture, and now makes charcuterie bouquets and delivers them to homes all over Cape Cod with the help of a trusted friend and a supportive neighbor. 

Kured Inc’s mission is to “foster relationships, bonds, conversation, and good times between friends and family by sharing a charcuterie bouquet.” Through her idea, Rozynek also wishes to “revive the gift-giving and edible arrangement business,” which has grown stale and littered with tired and predictable fruit baskets.

Photo courtesy of Gillian Rozynek

Kured Inc’s launch story began in April 2020 when Rozynek entered the Strakosch Venture Competition with her business idea and made it all the way to the semi-finals. One of the judges took a particular liking to Rozynek’s pitch, contacted her through LinkedIn, and helped her get involved with the SSC Accelerator Program, which provides seed money and mentorship to startups. With the program’s help and her own personal savings, Rozynek was able to turn her vision into a reality.

Rozynek creates her charcuterie bouquets with the help of an iGourmet wholesale account, through which she purchases her cured meats, and a loyal relationship with the North Falmouth Cheese Shop in Cape Cod, where she acquires her cheese and crackers, in support of local businesses. She builds the bouquets in a commercial kitchen and hand delivers them all over Cape Cod. Kured Inc. has partnered with a digital marketing agency that helped the young business with branding and marketing, including social media ad campaigns to increase traffic on its website.

Rozynek admits that there have been professional and personal challenges in launching her own business and becoming a young, woman entrepreneur. Professionally, she has faced the challenge of balancing finances and choosing where to direct money such as choosing between prioritizing materials or marketing. “Owning my own business also comes with the challenge of wearing many hats,” she adds, “I have to wear the legal hat, financial hat, production hat, and many others.” Personally, Rozynek fights to be taken seriously and achieve legitimacy as a young business owner. “There are some who view me and my business and simply think, ‘Oh that’s cute,’ but I am fully dedicated to continuing giving my business legs and proving its worth.”

As for navigating a new business in a COVID-19 world, Roznek says, “I completed a Food Service Certification to keep customers comfortable and reassured of my caution during the pandemic. I also adapted the product to COVID-19 by creating a downsized option, which is a small charcuterie bouquet that is enough for one or two people.”

Photo courtesy of Gillian Rozynek

Despite challenges, launching her own business has proven incredibly rewarding for Rozynek. She feels as if she has grown immensely from a business knowledge standpoint, calling this experience, “my own version of getting an MBA.”  Her hard work and devotion have proved fruitful as her business is now profitable. Apart from business success and growth, Rozynek has found her relationships with customers to be the most fulfilling. “I love making customers happy and seeing them love the bouquets and come back for more.”

Rozynek excitedly shares her short-term and long-term goals for Kured Inc, “In the short run, I want to keep expanding geographically and achieve the three Rs of customer satisfaction: Returns, Repeats, and Referrals. I want to run a customer-centric business. In the long run, I aspire to be the next Edible Arrangements, except a charcuterie version. There is no clear-cut market leader right now, and I strive to eventually be at the top.”

To the young, aspiring entrepreneur, Rozynek says, “Just go for it! It is risky, but I encourage you to do it, especially at a young age. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain as starting your own business will push you to grow, lead you to new opportunities, and advance your aspirations. There is no right way to turn your vision into a reality, just dive in.”

Photo courtesy of Gillian Rozynek

If you wish to continue following Rozynek and Kured Inc’s story, I encourage you to follow Kured Inc Facebook  and  Kured Inc Instagram.

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Teranga: West African Tradition Meets Fast-Casual Dining

The bustling crowds and cramped store fronts that are commonplace within New York’s eight boroughs offer pedestrians and foodies an opportunity to embrace cultural diversity unlike any other American city. Still, New Yorkers continue to learn more about new cuisines and restaurants opening up in their small neighborhoods everyday. In the borough of Queens alone, there over 6,000 restaurants represented by 120 nationalities.  

Harlem, a neighborhood of Manhattan that has long been a historic center for African American culture, is another dynamic food hub often overlooked by tourists and restaurant critics alike. One of Harlem’s staples is Soul Food–– fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, and shrimp and grits. But what many do not know about Harlem is that there is a cluster of blocks in the neighborhood that are filled with businesses run by West African immigrants, such as “Le Petit Senegal,” or Little Senegal. 

Though it is a 15 minute walk from Le Petit Senegal, Teranga is a cafe located right across from Central Park in the Africa Center, serving food that accentuates the traditional ingredients of West Africa.

Co-founder and executive chef Pierre Thiam started Teranga  in February 2019 and the philosophy that his team brings to their work is simple and holistic: serve food that is “rooted in traditional African home cooking” while welcoming customers with “good hospitality .” They serve coffee in addition to food and offer an open space to sit down and hang out. The furniture and interior decorations have colorful African-inspired patterns inviting the most unfamiliar of guests inside. Unfortunately however, the current COVID 19 set-up is only for take-out and  consists of a table near the front of the restaurant where customers pay and pick up their orders.

Photo courtesy of ny.eater.com

I had first learned about Teranga a few months back in an Eater New York article highlighting an evolving counter-service food scene in the city–– specifically one that serves Pan-African cuisine not found anywhere else around Manhattan. 

Teranga’s menu includes a choice of protein ––free ranged grilled chicken, roasted salmon with Morroccan spices, or sweet potato–– over any of their bases of jollof rice, fermented cassava couscous, or liberian red rice, and a choice of various salads, legumes, and roasted vegetables. 

On my first visit a few weeks ago, I sat on a bench in the park where I enjoyed the well-seasoned and succulent chicken breast with hearty red rice, a bright kale salad with locust beans, and mushy, sweet plantains. Then I added the mafe, a warm peanut sauce, as well as a hot sauce made of scotch bonnet peppers. The peanut sauce added nuttiness while the hot sauce gave the food an incredible burn with a hint of bitterness. 

A spontaneous snapshot of my Teranga Chicken Bowl

After eating the meal, I began to think that any combination of food available on the menu could offer textural and flavor varieties that topped most restaurants in resembling delicious home cooking. For $14, it may have been the most eccentric and comprehensive meal I had eaten in a while. 

Teranga also works to raise awareness of African culture within the eclectic New York community. It is an integral part of The Africa Center of New York, which hosts readings, music performances, talks, and film screenings by representatives from all over the continent. 

The team conveys that hospitality transcends food as they have hosted music and art events, sponsored a community run and protests for racial equality, and donated over 900 meals to healthcare workers just  in the past 6 months. All of its events and initiatives are posted through a sleek Instagram account that continues to grow in engagement.

Post from Teranga’s Instagram page @itsteranga_

Many restaurants strive to become ingrained in their local communities, but Teranga is one that practices what it preaches. It represents a model for more immigrant restaurateurs to use their platform to creatively share the nuances of their home country’s cuisines and expand the types of foods that Americans eat.  Ultimately, they can serve delicious and wholesome meals while helping to transform the neighboring community and beyond. 

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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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Reservations

Aisles filled with vibrant vegetables and fresh fruits define the stereotypical outer layer of American grocery stores that occupy nearly every street corner in affluent, suburban areas. While this quick access to healthy produce may be expected by many Americans, a large majority of low income and rural areas lack such luxury. Food deserts, areas without grocery stores, negatively impact vulnerable populations and escalate the hardships faced by the residents of these areas. With a lack of access to natural, unprocessed food, populations that are already at risk of poorer health outcomes are at a higher risk of contracting diseases that are preventable. Native Americans, who have been historically and systematically oppressed by the American government, lack access to fresh produce and are at a greater risk for morbidity and mortality.

To understand the vulnerabilities that Native Americans face requires exploring the history behind the formation of reservations, as the original intentions and goals of the US government continue to impact its current relationship with Native Americans. Beginning with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, tribes across North America were forced to leave their land and move to undesirable areas that the US government assigned to them. “For most of the nineteenth century the policy of the U.S. government was to isolate and concentrate Indians in places with few natural resources, far from contact with developing U.S. economy and society,” states Gary Sandefur, a social worker and sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This intentional forced isolation from other upcoming economies led to worse qualities of life on reservations. Then, the Dawes Act of 1887 allocated small plots of land to individuals within tribes rather than to tribes themselves, and reservations were broken up and fractionated, leaving many tribes to share or have no reservation at all. This act was merely the beginning of decades of acts, treaties, and crimes committed with the intentions of isolating Native Americans. The blatant separation of tribes from the rest of society has directly led to the poor living conditions on reservations that exist today. 

The mistreatment of Native Americans went beyond geographical colonization and expanded into the white washing of traditional cultural and culinary practices. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans lived off the local flora and fauna, thriving on the culinary staples known as the three sisters—corn, beans, and squash. Their growing potential was maximized by farming the three together in harmony. Food waste was minimized by utilizing every part of the animal that had been hunted. These dietary customs were uprooted with the aforementioned forced migration; the land Native Americans settled on was devoid of the local agriculture to which tribes were accustomed. The inability to farm the plants they were used to led to the reliance on rations provided to reservations by the US government. Introducing sugar, lard, and other processed foods, the diets of tribes unnaturally shifted from seasonal and sustainable consumption to dependence on unhealthy, packaged foods. 

The lasting effects of where Native Americans were forced to settle and the numerous other atrocities committed against them are evident today in the living conditions of the 1.14 million Native Americans that currently live on tribal lands. With 28.4% of Native Americans living in poverty, the median income of Native American households is $35,062 compared to the median income of the United States, $50,046, according to the 2008 U.S. Census. Housing is another large issue on reservations, as 30% of housing is overcrowded, and about 90,000 families are homeless. While striving to assimilate and isolate the various Native American tribes with the formation of reservations, the negative issues that riddle reservations, including the lack of access to grocery stores, are not shocking.

Food deserts disproportionally affect Native Americans but are also present throughout the United States. Food deserts are “geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable healthy food options is restricted due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance,” as described by the Food Empowerment Project. Around 2.3 million people do not have access to a vehicle and live more than a mile from a supermarket, which typically sells less expensive produce than smaller convenience stores. Convenience stores and gas stations are present in areas without supermarkets, but these stores do not sell fresh produce. Individuals living in such restricted areas lack healthy and affordable options and are forced to purchase processed foods.

Graphic courtesy of medium.com

Native Americans are subjected to particularly high levels of food insecurity. With a low median income and geographic isolation of reservations from major cities, at least 60 out of the 326 reservations in the United States are food deserts. Furthermore, Native American families are 400 percent more likely to not have enough to eat at all.

The Navajo Nation, which spans 27,000 square miles and houses 300,000 people, has 13 grocery stores. For context, the Navajo Nation would cover all of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire if it were in New England. With a quick Google search of grocery stores in Boston, a map with over 20 grocery stores spanning the Charles River alone pops up. While these may not all be in walking distance, public transportation makes many grocery stores that are a few miles apart much more accessible. The Navajo Nation, however, lacks public transportation, lacks the multitude of options for fresh produce, and lacks the accessibility to supermarkets that students of Boston College have. Meanwhile, the average resident of the Navajo Nation must drive three hours to even come in contact with a supermarket filled with fresh foods. 

While geographic distance limits those who are able to go to grocery stores, the poverty and low average income of residents makes it extremely difficult to then afford the expensive fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods available at said stores. An updated report completed by the First Nations Development Institute found that Native American shoppers pay $7.51 more for a standard “basket of groceries,” which contains bread, ground beef, eggs, milk, tomatoes, and coffee. This reality in which Native Americans struggle to buy affordable fresh food prevents many from obtaining quality ingredients. 

The impact of inaccessibility to fresh produce is evident in many of the health outcomes in Native American populations. Native Americans are disproportionately affected by non-infectious diseases, known as non-communicable diseases. Many of these diseases are preventable based on lifestyle factors, specifically diet and weight, but the disparities that Native Americans face leave them more vulnerable to the same non-communicable diseases.

With the forced loss of traditional food sources and the deficiency of affordable fresh foods, their diets now are filled with high quantities of foods with high added sugar content and sodium, which is reflected in the high percentage of diabetes in the population.

Photo courtesy of lpbstores.com

Compared to the 8.7% of non-hispanic white individuals, more than 16% of Native Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. While this alarming rate of diabetes appears within a small population, this rate has been attributed to dietary rather than genetic factors. “Several studies have shown that unhealthy, nontraditional foods like canned meats and fast-food, are a large part of the problem,” notes Dr. Amanda Fretts, an epidemiologist who has studied the dietary habits of Native Americans. With scientific evidence attributing poor health outcomes to diet, the impact of the lack of access to fresh food is apparent. 

With numerous resources attributing the poor health outcomes and high prevalence of disease in Native American populations to poor dietary habits, it is time that the American government is held accountable for the history of systemic oppression. To begin to improve health on reservations, federal funding for Native American programs needs to increase. In 2019, the GOP recommended that for the 2020 fiscal year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would decrease by $17.2 billion, and families with an income of at least $90 per month would have to receive half of their SNAP benefits as canned or shelved items. Potential decreases in funding to programs aimed at mitigating the absence of fresh produce is only perpetuating the harm to Native American communities, and these programs need to receive better federal funding to enable those who rely on their benefits to adequately feed their families and to begin repairing the damages done by colonialist actions. 

Furthermore, the federal government needs to utilize its power to provide incentives for supermarkets, who sell affordable produce, to open stores in areas that may traditionally be seen as unprofitable. When opening these grocery stores, incentives and programs that educate and encourage shoppers need to be an integral aspect of the shopping experience. Simply introducing accessible produce will help address the issue of food insecurity but may not immediately eradicate dietary habits. 

In tandem with increasing federal funding for nutritional aid programs, additional non-profit organizations have been created to fight food insecurities rampant on reservations. The Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program, which was started in the Four Corners region in partner with Partners In Health, provides patients with a “prescription” that is worth a month’s worth or free fruits and vegetables at their local store, and Partners In Health then reimburses the local stores. This has made produce more accessible and has demonstrated direct impacts on individual’s health, as one-third of children who were overweight at the initiation of the program are now at a healthy weight. Even though it is an example of a small scale intervention, the program demonstrates that change can be made and the health of a population can be improved with more affordable and accessible options. 

While innovative programs are popping up on reservations and amongst other vulnerable groups to address food inequality, the federal government ultimately needs to take greater responsibility to solve the unequal access to healthy food. The 2020 elections offer an opportunity to vote for politicians that are dedicated to advocating for health equity for all populations and equitable health care options. Make sure that you are registered to vote and have signed up for your mail in ballot, if you need. We as voters need to ensure that our voices are heard and that all populations have equal opportunities to live healthy lives.