Located in the heart of Boston is Haymarket, an outdoor farmer’s market which dates back to around 1830. Between historic pubs and restaurants, stalls line the cobbled streets of Haymarket, boasting a wide assortment of various fruits, vegetables, and other fresh produce. Haymarket opens every Friday and Saturday, from dawn to dusk, enticing passers-by with the vibrant and bustling atmosphere surrounding the outdoor market. Produce is sold for some of the best deals in Boston, and further encouragement is provided as after around 3pm on Saturday afternoon, all remaining produce is further marked down. In addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables of Haymarket, specialty grocers located along Blackstone street offer a variety of cheeses, eggs, fish, Halal meats, and more.
Recipe courtesy of New York Times.
Living in Baton Rouge for most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by good times, great people, and hearty foods. Louisiana specialties include gumbo, jambalaya, bisques, etouffees, and many other variations on the large-pot meal. As my Bostonian friend, Emily, came down to visit at the beginning of the summer, I introduced her to the bulk of what makes up Cajun and Ceole cuisine.
Starting with a Southern classic, she tried gumbo. Though this dish has no specific recipe, it is usually cooked with various mixtures of seafood, meats, and vegetables. It is a dish that is made for sharing, and will last you weeks. The gumbo that we had was from a local restaurant in Baton Rouge called The Chimes East; this is the place to be on any LSU game day if you want to be surrounded by Tiger fans that love to shout.
At the same restaurant, Emily was also introduced to a slightly less known, but just as memorable dish called crawfish etouffee. In Louisiana, crawfish is thrown in everything you could imagine: from fried crawfish in salads, to crawfish in soup, to just boiling it and enjoying it as a full meal. However, crawfish etouffee is probably one of the best, most unique crawfish dishes, usually served atop rice and with a side of bread. This dish is not only hard to pronounce, but also the best curated dish on any menu.
Louisiana is famous for its delectable desserts, but the biggest crowd pleaser is by far the famous beignets. Cafe du monde is a New Orleans large chain cafe restaurant that serves beignets, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. However, as a Baton Rouge resident, I have always preferred our local beignets from a coffeehouse called Coffee Call. Serving beignets day and night, Coffee Call differs in its beignet-making with the introduction of beignet fingers, which are smaller slices of the large beignet puff that are easier to eat, and, in my opinion, so much more delicious. When visiting Coffee Call, you can’t just get their beignets, but also a cup or two of their hot chocolate as well.
Moving onto our day in New Orleans, also known as the Big Easy, I took Emily to a restaurant called Superior Seafood, known for their happy hour, where raw oysters are only 50 cents a piece. Since Emily was not the biggest fan of raw oysters, she tried multiple kinds of chargrilled oysters on this trip, from both Superior Seafood in New Orleans and The Chimes East in Baton Rouge. These were topped with herbs and cheeses, served with bread, making for the perfect appetizer.
Another classic Louisiana dish, perfect for lunch, is the poboy. In other areas of the country, this type of sandwich might be called a hoagie or a sub, but Louisiana’s take on it is the poboy. Usually stuffed with fried shrimp, fried fish, or fried oysters, poboys are served in many restaurants, both large and small, for lunch and sometimes dinner. My personal favorite is the shrimp poboy, especially from Superior Seafood, where they give you the next meal’s serving of fried shrimp as well.
The last menu item on this food tour of Louisiana is the underrated shrimp and grits. Served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, grits are a classic part of any dish in the South. This dish is served in many different restaurants, but is definitely daunting to newcomers and visitors of Louisiana. This dish takes on multiple flavor combinations with each bite, and is a personal favorite of mine at home.
This concludes our mini food tour of dishes and cuisines served in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Louisiana holds a special place in my heart, and I was ecstatic to share it with friends from BC. Hopefully, this inspires you to book your next trip to the Big Easy to experience these big eats.
Cover photo courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler
The concept of flavor and preservation reached Europe around the time of the Roman Empire. By the first century AD, Rome had a thriving trade in spices, and pepper was one of its most prized possessions. It had become such a valuable good that, during the fifth century when the empire was in decline and almost invaded by the barbaric Visigoths, the Romans offered 3,000 pounds of pepper to buy back their city.
Like the Romans many centuries before me, I felt as if I introduced flavor into my palette for the first time on a recent trip to France. In Paris’s eleventh arrondissement, I ate a famous dish of boeuf au poivre in the small, yet renowned, Bistrot Paul Bert.
When I asked the waitress what was in the sauce, she looked at me dumbfounded and slowly enunciated the terms au poivre with her finger on the menu, as if she were teaching a child how to read. When the waitress dashed off, I turned my eyes to the middle of the table and stared confusingly at the wooden pepper grinder: that’s it?
For years, I thought of pepper as the last resort for bad food when salt was not doing the trick. But after Bistrot Paul Bert, not only did I crave to taste the peppercorn sauce again, I wanted to make my own boeuf au poivre.
After an early trip to the nearest market, I began preparing the recipe by setting two tablets of boeuf bouillon into boiling water. With tear-filled eyes, I chopped one onion and one shallot, threw them into the broth, and stirred while adding some fresh herbs and three cow bone fragments. Then, I let the broth stew and began grinding the peppercorns. When I released the peppercorns from the épicier’s brown bag, I admired their appearance; they were the color of tall grass in an untamed field. In a silver bowl, I carried the peppercorns from the countertop to the stove while they swayed side to side, as if dancing—but their waltz ended as soon as they were crushed into dust.
Afterwards, I poured 200 microliters of the stewed broth into the skillet and mixed it with 150 microliters of butter and 150 microliters of heavy cream. Finally, when the sauce began to get thicker, I added the last ingredient: a handful of pressed green peppercorns. I took a deep breath and gave myself a little pat on the back before picking up the wooden spoon to taste my creation.
Closing my eyes and touching the spoon with my tongue, I expected to be transported to the bistrot. Instead, 3,000 pounds of pepper punched, kicked, and tore off my tastebuds. My nose began to run, and I started panting like a dog. The words, hot, hot, hot, were all I could utter.
Just when I was about to give up, I looked at the raw morceaux des boeuf and decided to season them with salt, three tablespoons of olive oil, and 10 microliters of butter. Turning the steaks on the stove four to six times, I wanted to leave them as tender as possible but not too bloody. Once the meat was finished, it was pink and moist like the one at Bistrot Paul Bert.
I looked at the meat satisfied but understood that I had not done the pepper sauce justice. I thought of her, the French waiter pointing at the menu, and started anew. I poured the broth, sobbed over the onions and shallots, measured the cream and butter, put a dash of cognac and wine for luck, and added 50 microliters of green pepper instead of a handful. The new sauce simmered and thickened as cold sweat ran down my back and my stomach growled.
After giving the wooden spoon a final turn, I pulled it up to my lips, hesitated, and, finally, had a taste. I suddenly felt the weight of 3,000 pounds of peppers off my shoulders, and heard the deep, rowdy screams of the Romans and all the waiters at Bistrot Paul Bert cheering triumphantly. We had won back our city.
For the first 18 years of my life, I was spoiled rotten. I grew up on good food: tender mafaldine with luxurious lamb bolognese for my birthday;charcoal-grilled duck in the middle of a 15-day power outage; scallops and saffron-laced risotto on Valentine’s Day; fall-off-the-bone short ribs braised in red wine on any old Sunday evening. My dad, whether intentionally or not, has trained my siblings and I to expect a stellar meal at the drop of a hat.
Even though I haven’t been home in three months, Dad saves me a seat at our tiny dinner table. Every few weeks, I receive a plate of food in our text message conversations. I’m sharing some of my favorites in the hope that you too will be reminded of the taste of home.
Note to reader: Read the text below as you would a text conversation. My dad’s words and pictures are on the left; mine are on the right. Italicized words have been taken directly from our messages. All non-italicized words are additional thoughts and comments.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Ina Garten’s Coquilles St. Jacques
A first in the Frias house, at least as far as I remember
Looks really good
Bay scallops, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and cheese
Ah the idea of baking scallops and cheese doesn’t sit right with me
I clearly have trouble reconciling the combination of dairy and fish
But I thought of a way to make it for you
He goes to great lengths to reconfigure recipes according to my dietary needs, and I could not be more grateful
How is that
No butter, gluten-free breadcrumbs, coconut milk, and skip the cheese
But I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d rather pass on this adaptation. Sorry Dad.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Wear a mask….
Dad jokes from 300 miles away are almost funny.
That’s kinda gross
What if it coughs?
Let’s hope it doesn’t
Roasted squash, fire roasted sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with walnuts and pomegranate seeds, pâté in the middle
Thanksgiving (minus the smoked bird) dinner modified to feed five; a step down from our yearly menu for 10.
Truth was, I wanted nothing more than to be home on Thanksgiving. Tom yum takeout in my dorm room wasn’t quite the same.
Thursday, February 4, 2021
Taiwanese popcorn chicken
This made me giggle. Maybe it was his way of telling me he missed me
You don’t have to make things gf when I’m not there you know
I could see him shrugging exasperatedly as he read this.
The final product w/ fried basil
Looks really nice
Does it have a sauce?
No sauce―but feel free
To think about sauce?
I made a mayo/sriracha dip
I’d be a fool not to request this when I go home for summer break.
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Pizzas! Made the dough with the sourdough starter
Plugging Mary’s sourdough pizza recipe from Mucho Gusto.
Send the finished product when you’re done
Hopefully I don’t fuck it up
Unfortunately, Dad has a long history with fucked up pizzas. On one occasion, an entire pie fell through the grates of the grill. There was a lot of swearing involved.
*four hours later*
Okay, I need more practice
The dough portion was way too small (and I don’t know how to properly stretch the dough) so the pizzas were very small. I don’t think they tasted bad, at least mine didn’t, but overall it was very stressful
I’m guessing there weren’t any pictures.
Monday, March 9, 2021
*Link to playlist titled “Pizza and Pasta*
A new playlist….Self explanatory
Some of my earliest memories in the kitchen were surrounded by the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis Jr..
I have one like that
I didn’t tell him that I stole most of the songs off of his playlist.
We think alike.
It’ll let me see what’s on the playlist but not play it
I’ll have to move it to Spotify manually
It’ll be good to play on a Sunday afternoon
A Sunday supper staple.
Or eggplant parm
A once-in-a-blue-moon treat.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
A shot from a 30-second video of Sunday red sauce bubbling on the stove. The gently simmering pot and “‘O Surdato ‘nnammurato” by Pavarotti can be heard in the background.
I bet Dad could find a way to mail a jar of sauce to Chestnut Hill.
If I do say so myself
It is great
Much better than “dinnatime.”
Friday, April 2, 2021
Yes―I’m going to try this again
Send final product
The perfect pizza is Dad’s kryptonite. This is a major win.
What about everyone else?
They’re all out there
All the same
I doubted that my brother Alessandro would allow anchovies on his pizza.
You did them on the grill?
A couple of new tricks
Used parchment paper to slide the pizza off the peel…and did a better job with the dough
Food is the way my family shows love. I can’t enjoy every dinner with my family from several states away, but these photos are the next best thing. While my dad doesn’t say “I love you” over text, he does send plates of food. And to me, that’s even better.
From our lost print edition last spring, these photos were meant to complement an article on charcuterie boards and its newfound popularity and growth, flavor profiles, and the community it creates. However, COVID-19 hit a few weeks after and we were all sent home. With the help of Valentina and Lauren, we perfected the art of the charcuterie board. The culmination of the soft and hard cheeses, the thinly sliced meats, the homemade hummus, and the crispy crackers created the perfect storm. Enjoy this archived photo series from our lost edition!
In a year where so much has been so frustratingly unpredictable, we’ve entered a period and an environment of relative stability. The grass is covered in a heavy blanket of snow, the sun has become a reclusive monk in the monastery of the sky, and our social circles have shrunk to where they more resemble social specks.
But I, in this period of frigid confinement, have found a nice routine. I invariably get up and make my coffee to drink with a Trader Joe’s mini biscotti, and I invariably make myself some dinnertime Franken-meal grounded by rice, udon, or ramen.
So, in commemoration of the boring and the not-so-bad, I’ve compiled ten of my favorite food-themed songs of the moment. They range from the despondent to the blithely pleasant, much like life itself in this cursed decade. Enjoy in the morning, at night, or anytime in between.
One More Cup of Coffee for the Road- Bob Dylan
We all make our daily trudges to the valley below. The titular cup of coffee represents, to me, a respite before the weight we carry makes its load known to us. A quotidian struggle that we shrug off with stoically downturned eyes, faces buried in scarves and parkas. Enjoy that last cup before you go, my friends.
Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
If Dylan’s song is Wednesday at 8 a.m., Jack Johnson’s ode to the iconic breakfast is a lazy Sunday morning. Johnson knows that his song is nothing other than the backdrop to the spectacle of light hitting the fresh pancakes, a supporting actor in the performance we give to others and ourselves when we go through the work of making pancakes. It’s cheesy, it’s glorious, it’s replete with contentment.
Agua De Beber – Astrud Gilberto (or Antonio Carlos Jobim)
The grooviest melody on this list —and possibly of all time?— is reserved for a song dedicated to the most boring way of caring for yourself: Drink water. Beneath the melody that has squatters rights to your head, though, is a song about the importance of opening your heart. The act of vulnerability and opening yourself to the love of others is, as Jobim and Gilberto imply, a thing just as crucial and strangely quotidian as the act of drinking water itself. And just like drinking water, we so often forget to do it, going days without it until we’re too parched to ignore it. Wherever you are reading this, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink some water.
People Eating Fruit – Caribou
What does the color green sound like? In my opinion, it’s the gentle beep-boops of this song, a verdant song that, when coupled with a glance out of the window, becomes an ode to the beauty of mundanity. The way someone’s hair bounces when they walk, the way the bare trees cast a spiderweb of shadows on the snow, the beautiful geometry of the buildings we walk by every day. Or, someone peeling and eating a fruit, enjoying the bounty of the natural world for everything it has to offer.
Bittersweet – Lianne La Havas
The most direct way that food and taste relate to the human experience, at least on this playlist. Beyond Lianne La Havas’ effortless oscillation between the bitter and sweet sensation of a goodbye that hasn’t fully happened yet, the song is like biting into a square of 90% dark chocolate. Powerful, distinctive in its flavors, it’ll leave a gorgeous tapestry of taste in your mouth.
The Chocolate Conquistadors – BadBadNotGood and MF DOOM
One of the last songs MF DOOM recorded before his passing earlier this year, this song seamlessly combines BBNG’s signature jazzy odysseys with Doom’s ever-intricate flurry of internal and multisyllabic rhymes. It’s two artists working overtime to provide us with a 7-minute jazz analysis of colonialism. The title, itself a reclamation, references chocolate’s fraught history as the product of conquest in the Americas. Though not at all about food, it reminds us that food history is everywhere, inevitably.
Coconut – Harry Nilsson
Coconut Schmoconut. That’s what Harry Nilsson would’ve said about it, anyways.
Tasty Cakes – Idris Muhammad
What do you mean this song isn’t about food?
Savoy Truffle – The Beatles
A mystery: What’s George Harrison’s goal here? Ostensibly, this is a song about various fancy desserts. But then he hits you with, “You might not feel it now / But when the pain cuts through / You’re going to know and how / The sweat is going to fill your head / When it becomes too much / You’re going to shout aloud.” Is this the hangover after so many motley desserts? Is it a damnation of the gentry that takes these sweets for granted? Or is it just a nifty little tune?
What’s in a quarantine? Is it a chance to enjoy the minutiae or is it the swing of a sledgehammer on our passions and hearts? Like the Savoy Truffle, it’s both and it’s neither. Maybe it’s, as Wikipedia says, just about Eric Clapton’s fondness for chocolate.
Live on. Drink your coffee and eat your chocolate. Everything is changing.
Find the full playlist here: