5 Things I Won’t Miss About Boston

It’s hard not to dwell on all the things I’ll miss about Boston. We’ve had 10 great years here and even though it took awhile, this city really grew on me. I’m trying my best to not wallow in all the things we’ll be leaving behind but focusing on the adventures ahead. I’m training myself into the mindset that California will be different but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome. In that spirit, here are a few things that I definitely won’t miss about life in Boston.

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1. Geese – I’m not sure what these creatures contribute to the earth other than poop. Sure, they’re cute when they’re in the fuzzy little tennis ball stage but that does not last long. They grow at an alarming rate and enter that awkward teenage stage and then bam! Giant, evil goose. They invade Fenway each spring and poop EVERYWHERE. It makes our evening strolls a lot less enjoyable when we can’t talk to each other or take in the view around us because our eyes are glued to the ground and we’re hyper focused on not stepping in a fresh goose poop. I won’t even walk in grass during the summer because poop is hidden everywhere. I cringe when I see people lying on the grass in a goose field. I’m also creeped out beyond belief by the sound of a hundred geese tearing up grass in a silent field. It’s an eerie, end of the world kind of sound.

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2. Allergies – It was a rough spring for allergies. Our winter lasted for so long that spring came late. Once it did warm up, the trees tried to catch up and blasted all their pollen at once. Is it possible to become dehydrated due to overproduction of snot? I walked around work with a tissue box. I tried not to take Claritin because though it helped with the sneezing and runny nose, it also knocked me out like a horse tranquilizer. There were days when the air was hazy because there was so much pollen floating in it. Cars, sidewalks and my window sills were covered with a layer yellowish green dust. And my hair felt gritty because of all the pollen in it. I always complain that California doesn’t have real trees (a palm tree is not a tree) but this may actually be a good thing.

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3. The 3 H’s – Hazy, hot and humid. I dread these words when I check the WHDH weather page. Anything above 80 is unpleasant and if you toss in oppressive humidity, I just wilt. I feel like I can’t breath. Our apartment, like many in Boston, are antiques made in the early 1900s, which means no central AC. We have wimpy window units that spit out a little cool air but they’re so loud you can’t hear yourself think. And as soon as you turn them off, it’s like they were never on. Anything stronger would blow a fuse. No apartments in Santa Barbara come with AC but apparently it’s because you just don’t need them. We shall see…

4. Attitude – I’m sorry to say this but Bostonians aren’t friendly. Part of my misery the first several months was due to the people. I’m a midwest girl. I’m used to smiles and courtesy. You don’t really get that here. I’ve definitely met some nice people here but in general, it’s not a very friendly place. I’ve talked about this with some locals and they accredit it to the Patriots. They had that “Screw you, I’m right (even if I’m wrong) and I’m going to raise a ruckus until I get what I want” attitude that eventually led to the Revolutionary War and the birth of our nation. Midwesterners on the other hand were pioneers. They needed to band together and create communities in order to survive. Now, who knows if this is at all true but it sounded about right to me. I’ve grown accustomed to the whole New England attitude and in fact, I’ve definitely lost most of my midwestern-ness. I’m not sure when it happened but I noticed it most whenever I visited the midwest. I was at a grocery store in Illinois with a friend when it began to pour. My friend ran to get the car while I waited under the awning with our groceries. A man came up to me and offered me his umbrella. It was so nice it left me speechless.

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5. Drivers – Massholes. Everyone in Boston drives like a jerk. I nearly get hit by a car everyday. And my commute is just a seven minute walk from home. That is not okay! Drivers here don’t seem to understand the meaning of a red light. To most drivers (and the law), a red light means “stop.” To a Boston driver it means “still time for two more cars to go through.” You see the problem here, yes? Even worse, cops do nothing about this. I often see people run red lights in front of cops and the other day, I saw a cop run a red! Drivers who want to make a right turn are the worst of the worst. They seem to be offended by the presence of pedestrians who are crossing the street while the walk light is on. They will not stop for you. Whether they see you or not, they won’t stop for you. If you are in the middle of the street when they want to make a right turn, they will honk at you and get close enough to you to give you a little nudge. It takes everything I have each day to not scream at cars “I HAVE A WALK LIGHT! YOUR LIGHT IS RED!” I generally settle for glaring at them until they’re out of sight. I know I don’t have laser eyes like Cyclops but I hope that they at least feel a strange unsettling prickle as they drive by. So f-you Boston drivers. I wish you luck for the day when karma comes back to bite you in the ass.

5 Things I Won’t Miss About Boston

Rod Dee 2

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You have no idea how hard it is to write this post. It’s kind of crazy how much a little Thai restaurant has come to mean so much to me. Rod Dee 2 is a small restaurant in Fenway’s Restaurant Row. I eat here way too often. It’s less than a block from my apartment so anytime we don’t feel like cooking or are craving Thai food, we just roll out the door and get a plate of noodles or rice (usually one of each.) It’s also just a 10 minute walk from where I work. And it so happens that my co-workers love Rod Dee so a nice Friday afternoon or a staff get together means we’re having Rod Dee for lunch. I wasn’t a huge fan at first. I preferred BU’s Nud Pob or Berklee’s Pad Thai Cafe. Those were my first Thai food loves but that changed a few years ago. I need to step back in time for a minute to explain.

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Restaurant Row is a block of small restaurants in Fenway. Anchored by Thornton’s Grill, a decent sized bar and restaurant, there were also El Pelon, Rod Dee, Umi Japanese, Greek Isles, and Sorento’s Italian Gourmet. In 2009, a fire started at Thronton’s in the middle of the night. By morning, the restaurants were all gone. It was pretty devastating. 2011, doors began to reopen. I wasn’t a huge fan of Restaurant Row until the restaurants reopened. For some reason, the burritos at El Pelon now tasted better and Rod Dee 2 quickly became our go to Thai place. Gyro City, Swish Shabu, Fiouna’s and Neighborhood coffee shop joined them and now I can’t imagine life without Restaurant Row. So, back to Rod Dee.

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The food at Rod Dee is delicious and the service is just as wonderful. My favorites are Penang Curry, Indonesian Fried Rice, Pad See Ew, Pad Kee Mao, Lard Nar and Basil Pad Thai. The staff is so kind! They recognize their regulars and greet them with such genuine joy. There’s one girl especially that is always smiling. I’m going to miss them and I wish I could tell them how much their food means to me without completely weirding them out. But really, they have kept us well fed for many years and their food always makes us happy. After a long flight home or an endless day at work, nothing tastes better than a giant plate of curry. I want to thank them for all the delicious meals over the years and let them know that they can never be replaced in my mind/stomach/heart. So, the next time you’re in Fenway, have a plate of Basil Pad Thai for me, okay? And let them know that the Thai food in SB cannot even compare to my dear Rod Dee.

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Rod Dee 2

Sapporo Ramen

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Ramen is big these days. It’s the hot, sexy, new food that everyone wants in on. I grew up not eating pork so a lot of ramen was off limits to me. I’d say that 99% of the ramen I’ve encountered has been made with pork broth. I’d sigh and order up some udon or agadashi tofu while my companions would happily slurp their brothy noodles. Then one day, I heard that there was a well established, well loved ramen place in town that made their ramen with chicken. Located in Porter Square, Sapporo Ramen is, for some strange reason, inside a Lesley College building with a handful of other tiny Japanese restaurants (and one Korean). The line can be long but the friendly staff is hard working and efficient, ladling up bowl after bowl of delicious ramen for a clientele that respects the fact that many other hungry ramen lovers are waiting for a seat. In other words, this is not a linger-over-your-empty-bowl kind of place.

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I worried that it would be a compromise. That I still wouldn’t understand the joys of a porky ramen and I would again have to settle for second best. I was wrong. It is so, so good that even my pork eating friends agree that this is some of the best ramen in town. They boil their broth for ages to pull out all the collagen and get their broth rich and creamy. The flavor is incredible.

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My favorite is the miso, my Mr. goes for the spicy miso. Out of curiosity, I’ve also tried the vegetarian ramen and was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful and savory it was. Bring your vegetarian friends! They won’t feel left out! The menu is short and the ambiance is… non-existent but that’s fine because they are focused on what they do best. Come for the food and delight in the steamy, comforting joy that comes with every bowl. By the way, the price is great too! It’s gone up a bit over the years but it’s still cheaper than a lot of the flashy new ramen places that have popped up. Sapporo Ramen doesn’t need any of the bells and whistles. With ramen this good, their food speaks for itself. The fact that with all the pork ramen available in Boston, people still queue up for a bowl of Sapporo Ramen is proof of that. Over the past year, I’ve caved and started eating pork broth. I’ve tried several different pork broth ramens and while they were tasty, they just felt too heavy and oily. Sapporo is still rich and wonderful but I don’t that that dense, greasy feeling of regret afterwards.

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This photo was from our last trip to Sapporo. I was nearly crying into my bowl. For the first time ever, I polished it off. We told our friendly server how much we love their ramen. We’ve had ramen in LA, NYC, and Japan and Sapporo is still our favorite. We know that there is no replacement for Sapporo. We’ll just have to come back to Boston.

Sapporo Ramen
1815 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge 02140

Sapporo Ramen

Kaju Tofu

Soon tubu is one of those wonderful foods that you just cannot replicate at home. It’s never as good! I’ve tried a few recipes and even some store bought soup bases but nothing comes even close to the soon tubu at a good soon tubu restaurant. Many standard Korean restaurants have it on their menu but it’s usually just so-so. You need to find a place that focuses completely on soon tubu. When Kaju Tofu opened in Boston, my soon tubu loving soul rejoiced. On a cold, wet day, this is the perfect meal! It will keep you warm and full for hours. If you’ve never had soon tubu, it’s a stone bowl of spicy soup loaded with chunks of silky, soft tofu that’s served boiling and nearly overflowing. While it’s still bubbling, you crack in your egg to let the heat of the soup cook it. Then you dig in and inevitably burn your mouth. It’s like swallowing lava. But you keep going because your mouth is already burnt and it’s just too delicious to wait for it to cool.

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For ages I got the vegetable soon tubu since I’m not a big meat eater. It came with broccoli which made me laugh the first time I ate it but it was tasty. But then I moved on to the beef soon tubu and there was no turning back. The flavor is so much deeper and richer with the beef. I just scoop the extra beef I can’t eat into my Mr’s bowl. His favorite is the kimchi and beef. I stick with a regular order of soon tubu but he likes to get a combo. You get a slightly smaller bowl of soon tubu with a plate of meat such as bulgogi or kalbi. Works out to be a good sized meal.

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There have been a few times when I’ve actually polished off a bowl in one sitting (I was uncomfortably full for hours) but I usually have some left over to take home. I love having the leftovers for breakfast with some rice mixed right in with the soup. I’ll have dragon breath for the rest of the day but it’s worth it. A day that starts with leftover soon tubu is going to be a good day.

Kaju Tofu has a couple of locations. The one I usually go to is in Allston. It’s smaller and they don’t take reservations so you often have to wait in line outside. Their newer location in Harvard Square is much bigger so if the weather is crummy and you don’t feel like waiting in the rain for a seat at the Allston location, it’s worth the trek to Cambridge. Both have friendly, fast service!

Kaju Tofu – Allston
58 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134

Kaju Tofu – Harvard Square
57 John F. Kennedy St
Cambridge, MA 02138

Kaju Tofu

Cafe Mami

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Located in the same random little plaza as Sapporo Ramen, Cafe Mami is place to go for curry. Rich curry, free rice refills, and a hot, crisp chicken cutlet, this is ultimate comfort food. It also comes with a little bowl of miso soup and a refreshing salad. Their curry has a deep flavor that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I like to get it with a chicken cutlet but my Mr. likes it with tatsuta chicken since it’s meatier. They also have several dons but we never got around to trying them. Like Sapporo Ramen, this place is teeny and the kitchen is even teenier. You feel like a guest in someone’s home kitchen and it’s wonderful.

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One afternoon, after a long morning of running errands, I started craving Cafe Mami real bad. My Mr. and I drove over and lucky us, we didn’t have to wait for a seat. With the first bite, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I put down my spoon and thought about how lucky we are to not only have easy access to food but to such delicious food. Not everyone is as blessed as we are and so many people in this world are hungry and lacking  nutritious, good food. That bite of curry made me realize how grateful I am for all that we have, curry included. Now that is some powerful curry.

Cafe Mami

Asian food. All of it.

I’m Korean-American, my Mr. is Taiwanese-American and we love Asian food. Asian food is important to us. That’s why when I think about moving to Santa Barbara, I start to get a little worried. There’s not a lot of Asian food in SB. Sure, there’s always a random Chinese restaurant wherever you go (read Fortune Cookie Chronicles if you’re interested in this topic) and I saw a tiny, slightly scary Asian grocery store somewhere but let’s face it, we’ve got it good in Boston. It’s no LA or NYC but there are H-Marts, mom and pop grocery stores and tons of Asian restaurants around here. I’m going to have to up my Asian cooking game once we’re in SB. We’ll also have to invest in a good cooler for Asian grocery shopping trips to LA. Oh gosh. What are we going to do… This week will be a parade of some of my favorite Asian restaurants in Boston. Farewell old friends. I’ll miss you so much.

First up, Blue Asia. Let me say right off the bat that this is not fancy, sophisticated dining. It caters to the college crowd in Allston so it’s cheap, fast, and homey. This is comforting, reliable, good food, a mix of Taiwanese with a splash of Korean. Perfect for us! It may not look like much and like I said, the menu is simple but it just makes me so happy. The Toyota dealership is right down the street so this place became a part of our oil change routine. I doubt anyone looked forward to oil changes as much as I did.

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Menu items include a variety of soups (including beef noodle), Shin ramen (with extras), little appetizers and a huge selection of rice plates.

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A must have is the Salt & Pepper Fried Chicken with Basil. Tiny bites of hot, juicy chicken coated in the thinnest breading, deep fried with basil and sprinkled with salt, pepper and five spice powder. It’s fried crack. Back at UIUC, we had a bubble tea cafe that sold this same dish. After a long night of bar hopping, we’d stop by for a bubble tea and gobble up plates of this stuff. Since then, I’ve searched high and low for a salt and pepper fried chicken as good as EVO’s. Blue Asia’s is the closest I’ve had. Each time I take a bite, I’m transported back to smokey bars, low rise jeans, honeydew milk tea, Green Street, blue hair and 606 parties. It’s magical.

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My favorite is the General Gao’s Tofu over Rice. The sauce is sticky, sweet, salty and spicy all at the same time. I love the sides! I think it’s the sides that make it feel so homey to me. Corn and green beans are my favorite but sometimes you’ll get cabbage instead of the green beans which is tasty too.

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My Mr. generally goes for the Fried Pork Tenderloin with Apple Curry over Rice. You get a huge amount of pork which makes my Mr. happy. Usually the rice plates come with a ladle of pork sauce over the rice but I always decline and they skip it on the curry plates since the flavors wouldn’t blend well.

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The portions are great. We’re always wonderfully full and we have enough for lunch the next day.

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Blue Asia is (from what I can tell) run by two women who work their butts off and are generous with their smiles and welcomes. I always feel so well cared for here and so do the students who fill the place. Watching them work, you get the sense that they want to bring in and take care of all the students who are far from home and their families and are missing comforting, familiar food.

Asian food. All of it.

Freedom Trail

We’ve been living in California for a few months now. I have to admit that I’m enjoying our quiet new life but I still do miss Boston very, very much. Here’s another post that I didn’t get around to posting before we left.

Boston has so much history. The Freedom Trail is an easy walk that takes you through some of the most historically important sites in the city. We’ve visited all the sites before but we did it in pieces. This time, we wanted to walk the whole 2.5 miles. Let’s go!

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Follow the red brick road. You’ll find spots where the trail seems to disappear or turns into a red painted line. It’s helpful to have a map just in case. Or just follow the line of tourists. Like lemmings. Remember those little green guys? I’m getting off topic.

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The State House. Shiny!

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Site of the oldest public school in the country.

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The old State House. See that balcony? In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston for the first time from that balcony.

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Site of the Boston Massacre.

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Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. I always have to look up how to spell Faneuil. Too many vowels in the middle of that word. This place has been a marketplace since the 1700s. I like to walk through the market food court and nibble on samples.

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Union Oyster House. One of the oldest continually running restaurants in the United States. And the proud birthplace of the toothpick. Or so they say.

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The North End, Boston’s little Italy. It’s the oldest neighborhood in the city. (Have you spotted a theme here yet?) Packed with restaurants and bakeries, this is a great spot to grab a little fuel for the rest of the walk. Perhaps some Boston Cream Pie, cannoli, or a lobster tail from Mike’s Pastry? Modern Pastry is just as delicious (and usually with shorter lines) and Lulu’s Sweet Shop makes my favorite cupcakes in the city. There’s also pizza, gelato, and enough pasta to keep you going for days.

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Paul Revere’s house. This was one of the of the first sites we visited on our first trip to Boston. I remember being bewildered by the fact that the city had just kept growing around these historical sites.

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Lots of churches on this trail. Back in the day, families (the rich ones) rented booths to sit in during services. The kids would face the front of the church, the parents the back so that they could keep an eye on their kids.

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Lots of cemeteries as well. These tombstones are incredibly old. During a tour, we learned that bodies would be buried in layers. Back in the day during a particularly bad flood, the bodies floated to the surface and washed down the street. Oh dear.

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It took my Mr. awhile to figure out the significance of this church. This is the Old North Church. I’ll give you a hint: “One if by land, and two if by sea.

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Bunkerhill Monument. Well, it’s actually on Breed’s Hill because that’s where they were during the battle. I don’t blame the Patriots for their confusion. I’m sure all the hills looked the same. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”

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USS Constitution. This giant, wooden frigate from the 1700s is staffed by a crew of active duty Navy Sailors, one of which gave the most amazing history of the ship to visitors. She was an incredible storyteller! I couldn’t believe how much she had memorized. She had us all captivated. The ship is currently dry docked for renovations but it’s still worth a visit. Stop by their museum while you’re there.

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2.5 miles later, we were starving and needed some pizza. This is only a portion of what there is to see on the Freedom Trail. It definitely should be at the top of any to-do list when visiting Boston!

Freedom Trail