With love to Movie Yelling and If X Were Your Y.


banner and stark



BOB: buy a toaster? I’m confused

MARK: The Toast? Mallory Ortberg and the Nicoles? Don’t play dumb, you know what I’m talking about.

BOB: OH MALLORY, the creepy kids stories that make my skin crawl, yes, got it. That’s really sad, but I’m sure she’ll post creepy stuff somewhere else, what’s the big deal?

MARK: But it won’t be THE TOAST anymore, and I’ve been really looking forward to the next installment of a bunch of things.

BOB: you’ll get over it


BOB: Let me get this straight, you’re complaining that one of your favorite websites never paid anyone to fantasize about you so they could publish it? That’s pretty self-aggrandizing, and when the person telling you that is ME, you probably need to, I believe the phrase is, check yourself before you wreck yourself?

MARK: The number of people who starred in MCU movies that were featured is pretty high, Bob. Hell, Evans and Hayley were two of the very first!

BOB: it’s not my fault that solanga prefers pitching content about captain america

MARK: Sulagna.

BOB: what?

MARK: SULAGNA, you got her name wrong. And she has more insight into this universe than some of the people who have DIRECTED some of these pictures, but that’s not the point. She’s not the only one who writes content about Marvel for The Toast! Nicole Chung wrote about Helen Cho, and I liked it so much that I even tweeted about it, even though I generally save twitter for content I think will help…

BOB: SAVE THE WORLD, yes, I know how worked up you are about climate change. Speaking of which, it’s sort of weird that climate change is the ONLY thing I’ve heard you get THIS worked up about. Okay, well, maybe that and when you found out that they really aren’t going to make a Black Widow movie. Although I suppose Scarlett making seven times more money than you did for Ultron probably softened that blow for her.

MARK: Says the guy who made fourteen times more than me for that film, we’re not having that argument again, you’re trying to distract me. Colbie. Gweneth. Idris. Hiddleston. Even PRATT. Lupita, before she even signed up for Black Panther. And none of them even read The Toast.

BOB: To be fair, the Gweneth one was pretty creepy.

MARK: The Gweneth one was pretty accurate, which, again, not the point. I love the way their BRAINS work. I want to know what the beautiful idealized version of me would be like. I want to read about teaching kids to ride bikes and getting arrested for protesting fracking and hanging out with Elizabeth Warren and the way I would kiss the back of their necks as they were doing the dishes and then help dry things and one thing would lead to another….

BOB: WOW, OVERSHARE, and also, assuming facts not in evidence.

MARK: despite what you tell instagram, we’re not actually science bros, what are you talking about???

BOB: You’re assuming it would be If Mark Ruffalo Were Your Boyfriend.

MARK: …. yes????????

BOB: It might be If Mark Ruffalo Were your Stepdad, or Professor or something. Colbert’s only a few years older than you and he got “dad” treatment.

MARK: [stiffly] Harrison. Ford.

BOB: They’ve been lusting after Han Solo for most of their lives, they didn’t know you existed until Avengers. You’ve always been old to them, and they’re not exactly big on the troubling power dynamic between a 22 year old woman with a middle aged movie star.

MARK: The idea that the audience of The Toast is exclusively early-twenty-somethings is a myth, there are PLENTY of older women, and besides–


MARK: What?


MARK: Well, at least now you’re as upset as I am.


Let me Remind you of the scene:  My life partner Matt and I love food.  We love making it, talking about it, eating it, and then talking about it some more.  But he has some health issues, and it’s been worse recently.  Until recently, he’s been on TPN and couldn’t have anything more than clear liquids.
matt and ashley at dobra tea

But he’s now had surgery!  He is veeeerrrryyyy sslllllooooowwwly becoming able to eat food.  At the moment, it’s slow going.  Bites of things here and there, small quantities, potatoes, eggs, crackers.  But it’s better than NO food, and it’s expected to continue to get better.

He asked me to put together a list of places for him to choose from once he can eat food again. It includes some of our favorite places he’ll want to return, and some places we’ve been meaning to try.  It includes suggestions from blogs, and from all of you.  I’m linking to whatever I think will make sense to help him choose where we eat. I’ve put the ones I’m most excited about in italics.
If I didn’t add your suggestion, it’s probably not personal, I just don’t think that Matt’s going to think that going to your suggested place is a soon-after-surgery priority, and this list is going to be massive enough for him.
Supermarkets/Markets/Places to buy food for later- To Try:

Supermarkets/Markets/Places to buy food for later- Old Favorites:

Asian- Old Favorites:
Asian- To Try:

Burgers- Old Favorites:

Burgers- To try: 

Latin American- Old Favorites:

Latin American– To Try:

Veggie Centric- Old Favorites:

Veggie Centric- To Try:

Italian/Pizza- Old Favorites:

Italian/Pizza- To Try:

Beer and Ice Cream- To Try:

  • Picco (LG) (…. he named this category) (TM) (SE)

Fancy Pants Places- Old Favorites:

Fancy Pants Places- To Try:

Beverages- Old Favorites:

Beverages- To Try:

Sandwiches- Old Favorites:

Sandwiches- To Try:

Other- Old Favorites:

Other- To Try:

Pioneer Valley- Old Favorites:
Pioneer Valley- To Try:
Southern New England- Old Favorites:

Southern New England- To Try:

Let me set the scene:  My life partner Matt and I love food.  We love making it, talking about it, eating it, and then talking about it some more.  But he has some health issues, and it’s been worse recently.  At the moment, he’s on TPN and can’t have anything more than clear liquids.
But this is expected to have an end date.  As of right now, it’s expected he’ll have surgery, some time within the next couple months.  It’s expected that after that surgery, he will be able to eat again, and eat more normally than before.  We won’t know until then exactly what it will be like.  How quickly he’ll be able to go back to solid food, what he’ll want to eat, how much energy he’ll have to go out.  We don’t know for sure what on his list of prior sensitivities will be the same, and what might get better (although we have some educated guesses.)

So, here’s where we’re asking for help.  He’s asked me to put together a list of places for him to choose from once he can eat food again.  He does not want to hear about this project until then, so, please, help me keep this under wraps.  But I’m going to be posting various versions of the master list here.  It’s going to include some of our favorite places he’ll want to return, and some places we’ve been meaning to try.  It’s going to include suggestions from blogs, and from all of you.  I’ll be linking to restaurant websites, instagram accounts, reviews, including blurbs from y’all, whatever I think will make sense to help him choose where we eat.
So, let me help you help us:  He dislikes seafood and olives enough he won’t eat them, or eat around them. Let’s assume that everything else, however, is at least a potential “yes”.  He particularly loves burgers, Asian food, and tea. This is very much a work in progress.  And this is for HIM, so, when I say “you”, I mean him.  Most of the places will be in the Boston area (read: Mostly inside of 495) unless mentioned otherwise.  Please don’t eviscerate somewhere I added to “old favorites”, if you think there’s a better option, just say you like it better.  If I don’t add your suggestion, it’s probably not personal, I just don’t think that Matt’s going to think that going to your suggested place is a soon-after-surgery priority, and this list is going to be massive enough for him.
Supermarkets/Markets/Places to buy food for later- To Try:
  • Wegmans Westwood is scheduled to open in Octoberish.
  • Aldi is now local.  I’m not really sure how we didn’t notice this, and it has taken all the willpower I can muster not to mention this to you.
  • Savenor’s Market

Supermarkets/Markets/Places to buy food for later- Old Favorites:

  • Russo’s
  • H Mart
  • Harrow’s
  • Concord Cheese Shop
  • Verrill Farm
  • Cardullo’s
Asian- Old Favorites:
Asian- To Try:
  • Santouka Ramen (TUK) (LG) (B&PB)
  • Mei Mei
  • Yume Wo Katare (TUK)
  • Shojo Boston (TUK)

Burgers- Old Favorites:

  • Shake Shack
  • Tasty Burger (TUK)
  • Five Guys
  • Uburger

Burgers- To try: 

  • I plan on going through the reviews at Boston Burger Blog to grab  better places we haven’t tried yet
  • Wahlburgers- Because sometimes it’s fun to pretend to be a tourist

Central and South America- Old Favorites:

Central and South America- To Try:

Veggie Centric- Old Favorites:

  • Clover

Veggie Centric- To Try:

  • Sweetgreen– Okay, so I’ve tried it, and it wasn’t as good as Chop’t, but it was still pretty good.

Italian/Pizza- Old Favorites:

Italian/Pizza- To Try:

Fancy Pants Places- Old Favorites:

  • South End Buttery
  • Blue Ginger

Fancy Pants Places- To Try:

Beverages- Old Favorites:

  • Boston Tea Stop
  • Bourbon Coffee
  • Petsi Pies
  • Crema

Beverages- To Try:

Sandwiches- Old Favorites:

  • Cutty’s
  • All Star Sandwich Bar

Sandwiches- To Try:

Other- Old Favorites:

  • Saus
  • KO Pies
  • Deluxe Station Diner
  • Fred’s Franks
  • Boston Tea Stop
  • Inna’s Kitchen
  • Flour
  • Redbones
  • Toscaninis

Other- To Try:

  • Union Square Donuts
Pioneer Valley- Old Favorites:
  • Hungry Ghost
  • Woodstar
  • Atkins Farm (cider donuts)
  • Rao’s
Southern New England- Old Favorites:
  • East Side Pockets
  • Haruki East
  • Pastiche
  • Caserta’s
  • Venda Ravioli
  • Patty’s Pierogies
  • Antonio’s
  • Nando’s– Okay, so, I know you probably don’t want to roadtrip to DC any time in the near future.  But I think it’s important that you know that we don’t actually need to travel to the UK to try Nando’s, Metro DC is crawling with them.  Technically we could go to Toronto or Vancouver instead, but that requires passports.

Apparently I don’t fly terribly well anymore.  My ears don’t appreciate the altitude/pressure change that happens on the Mass Pike from Boston to Northampton (a change so minor that most people don’t know there IS a change), so this is always predictable, but this flight was worse than usual, despite having the “flitemates” in (they worked well for one ear, which is better than nothing, because I can HEAR today!!).  But I was twitchy and unable to sleep and the In Flight Entertainment system was broken– stuck on the NY Times channel, and we couldn’t listen to it, so it was the same cycle of stories about an Asian woman who found fraud, the re-popularization of oysters, Mark Bittman making a tomato-and-egg scramble, a couple of music videos, and a few other things, over and over again.  We couldn’t turn it off, either. And let me tell you, Aloe Blacc’s The Man was annoying to me before (for the Elton John ripoff), but now that I’ve been subjected to just the video (which has bright flashes of light for the camera flashbulbs) while trying (and failing) to sleep?  That song is DEAD TO ME.  

Matt thought it would be a good idea to adjust more slowly to the time change, so I tried to stay up on Tuesday night, so that I’d sleep in on Wednesday.  That didn’t work, at all.  I may have gone to sleep at 1AM on Tuesday, but it just meant I was even more tired when I woke up at 6:20 AM on Wednesday.  And we had a late flight, so by the time we got to bed, I felt like it was 2AM.  Driving from the airport lateish at night, sleep deprived and grumpy, I felt like the world looked much like a newer version of Boston or Providence.  (No potholes.  Less dingy.  Roads banked correctly.  Light Rail that’s been kept up.  Etc etc). 

And then I woke up (after having slept for a reasonable amount of time.  We got an early and delicious breakfast (corned beef hash!! made out of real corned beef chunks!!) And as I slowly woke up and oriented myself.Image


I find myself in a lush green paradise, where the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom.  The Air BnB place we’re staying (a family’s basement apartment) has a gorgeous backyard, with raised beds growing lettuce, and a water feature.  Across the street there are chickens.  Portland is so…. Portlandy.  

walkathonTen years ago, I was seventeen.  I had broken up with him, but he was still the center of my life– he was in every high school club I was in, and he drove me to school every morning.  We went to school one weekend for an Academic Decathlon meeting, and then we went back to his house, and then he raped me.

Some of you knew that already.  There was never a moment when I intentionally chose to keep this a secret.  In fact, some people would consider me outspoken about it.  But for me, telling people, not telling people, it’s all been a program running up in the background, eating up RAM.
For a while, I couldn’t admit it, couldn’t use the word rape, couldn’t deal.  And then I started telling people.  My closest friends.  I told Ira, my psychologist.  I told him because I knew once I told him, he would call in my dad, who was sitting in the other room, and Ira would tell my dad for me.  That my father would tell my mother.  That my father would tell the school administration.
I was the one who told the police.
My mother started smoking again, which she hid from me, quietly sneaking cigarettes when she thought I didn’t notice.  We didn’t really talk about it.  Didn’t talk about the details of me being raped, or the relationship I had had with him beforehand.  We didn’t talk about healthy relationships, or red flags of warning.  We didn’t talk about how hard it was for me each and every day at school.  That every day was a calculated battle of how to best avoid him, that even though I could be coming out of a stairwell I thought was safe, I could hear him, from around the corner, saying my full name.  We didn’t talk about it.  And for a while, that was okay with me.  The silence meant I didn’t have to deal with the full reality.
And then I wrote a poem about it.  Nothing particularly amazing.  I was involved in slam poetry in high school, and I know some poets who can write, and that poem wasn’t a 10.  But it was stark, and honest, and my words.  My mother found it in a pocket of a coat.  She and my father decided to confront me.  She couldn’t understand why I would ever discuss anything so personal in a poem.  Why I would tell people.  She didn’t think I should tell people, and I played by her rules for years. I kept my mouth shut, not understanding the cost of staying silent all these years, even just within my family.
The costs were not always obvious.  There were certain PTSD triggers that were easy to figure out.  It had been very cold in the room where I had been raped, and so it took me a very long time to stop regularly getting panic attacks in the cold.  Sometimes I get a whiff of shampoo and I still swear he’s nearby.  But that was easy.  That was obvious.  It took me years to realize that I hadn’t been the victim of one trauma, but two.  The first was being raped, but the second was the hostile environment I was in every day for the 5 months after being raped, before I graduated and escaped.
A few years later, I spent part of a summer performing plays in the same theatre where I met him.  I was edgy.  Angry. I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around.  In retrospect, thinking that going back there was a good mental health choice was insane. I lost friends.  I didn’t go back to my parent’s house for more than two weeks after that.  I haven’t gone back to the high school ever again.
I have struggled with who to tell, when to tell, how to tell, for ten years.  In the beginning, it was a matter of survival.  I needed people who had my back.  I needed people to tell me that I was not crazy, and that what I was going through was actually horrible, and that my reactions were not overreactions.  I needed people to hear me, and support me.  In college, it was about explaining the nearly visible emotional scars to a new group of people.  People who were unsure why I was sometimes uncharacteristically quiet.  People who wanted to love and support me, but were unsure why I often kept them at arm’s length.
Now it’s about owning my own story.  This is part of me, and it’s not something that I need to be ashamed of.  Not something that I need to be silent about. I have kept silent when I would otherwise speak to make other people more comfortable.  I don’t need sympathy or pity or attention.  But if I had been mugged ten years ago, I wouldn’t have felt the need to spent ten years calculating who knows and who doesn’t, who I can tell and who I can’t, who needs to know.  It’s exhausting and strange.
Being expected to be silent was part of the trauma of surviving.  This was a rule of a game I do not intend on playing anymore.  Some people I’ve told have had some strange reactions, but I have never felt shame as a result.  I have only felt shame due to a lack of courage to speak up.
No more.
This is my story, and telling people is still about my survival.  The silence ends now.



I have a history of scoffing at people who have been overwhelmed by the internet.  Some of which I still think is justified, but some is probably at the very least uncharitable. But it’s always seemed obvious to me– you figure out what you want to get out of “the internet”, what sort of time and effort you want to put in, and from there it’s just a maximization problem.  Webcomic you used to love is becoming unenjoyable?  Stop reading.  Vague Acquaintance posts too many quiz results in livejournal? Unfriend.  

I have been, at times, so effective at deleting content streams I’m not interested in that I’m sure I’ve offended people.  Like, there’s a person I really like, but I simply don’t need to know every single time any professional Boston sports team scores.  (And I’m not just talking post-season.)  I like her, and I’m interested in what she posts elsewhere, but I unfollowed her on Twitter a long while ago.

I deeply enjoy the internet community of friends I have acquired.  Some are people I’ve never met in real life.  Some are people I never would have talked to more than a few times without social networks.  But I have a list of people who consistently post really interesting things.  A list of people where I would love to read every single thing they post, on all social networks.  And then, if I’ve read all of that, and still have time, I probably want to read all of what the rest of my friends post next.  

I would love nothing more than if I could turn all of the internet into some sort of giant RSS-reader type thing– One centralized interface in which I could log in, and then categorize based on what I was interested in and was unread (IE, Facebook.  Or everything my partner has posted that day.  Or everything the celebrities I like have posted on tumblr.)  I love checking things off lists, I love completing things.

I don’t have a problem with cutting out the content I don’t care for.  But the popular internet is not set up to be able to easily create tiers.  I’ve done it before in Facebook, and it worked until a few months later when they re-did the interface, and then I was stuck again.  This has happened more than once.  But at least there are a few options on Facebook, at least Facebook understands that one of the big challenges they face right now is showing you what you want to see, by both creating smarter algorithms but also giving you some of the control.

As far as I can tell, Twitter and Tumblr are not meant to be read to completion.  Not unless you have a very small number of people you follow.  And that’s sort of the opposite of the point.  For a while, I had a sort-of solution rigged for twitter, which disintegrated when I switched computers.  So I basically gave up.  At this particular moment in time, I don’t know what I want out of twitter, or what I’m willing to put into twitter.  Basically, somewhere in the internal maximization problem, I had to divide by 0, and the solution was “stop using twitter for a while”.  This feels like failure.

This feels like getting old.  For the first time in my life, I feel like there are aspects of the internet I “just don’t get”.  I feel like what I want is just not on offer, because it’s not valued any longer.  But, hey, at least I’m not alone.

Food 101- Pasta


Food 101 is a series for my generally smart and curious friends who just never got around to learning how to cook for themselves.  Enjoy!

We’re going to start easy.  Real easy.  Pasta.

The short version is this:  Put a very big pot of water on to boil.  Add some salt.  It will not make it go faster, but it should make it tastier (source: among other places, What Einstein Told His Cook).  Wait until boiling. Dump the pasta into the pot, stir a couple times in the first couple minutes.  While you may save some time by covering the pot while the water heats, once you add the pasta, take the cover off.  It will help you make sure it doesn’t boil over.  Cook for roughly the time on the package.  When you think it’s about ready, get one out and taste it.  Now, if you want to be technically correct, you’re going for al dente, which translates as “to the tooth” because it’s supposed to have some chew to it.  But if you like it softer, by all means, cook longer.  If you’re going to go for a higher skill level, like fresh pasta or ravioli, again, follow given instructions.  Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.  Ravioli are often done shortly after they’re floating on top of the water (much like how you discovered that your pet goldfish was done).

When it’s done, the easiest way to separate water from pasta is some sort of colander or strainer.  If you don’t have one, you can try fishing it out with a spider strainer, slotted spoon, tongs… You can try pouring the water out very very slowly…  You risk steam burns whichever way you try it usually, so just be very careful.

We’ll get to sauce later (as in, the very next Food 101), but honestly, if you’re busy and not good at this yet, there are bottles of pre-made sauce that are tasty and don’t cost much.  I tend to enjoy sauce from Trader Joe’s.  Just microwave it until warm.

The goal for most of you is to feed yourselves faster, cheaper, yummier, and healthier than you would be otherwise if you weren’t cooking.  Some of the time that WILL mean that I will advocate making some things and buying some things.  But cooking pasta?  You can totally do that!

For more information, I suggest Good Eats, Season 1, Episode 11, Pantry Raid- Use Your Noodle  There’s a link to the transcript, which also usually has a youtube video embedded, but if it’s not working, search youtube for the name of the episode.  Alton Brown also discusses whether to put oil in the pasta water in this episode, the answer is “no”.  Note– You do not need to be as hardcore as Alton Brown.  He’ll suggest things like buying a MASSIVE pot to cook pasta in, and storing pasta in something other than the container it comes in.  These are not strictly necessary.

Extra Credit:  Harold McGee (author of several food science tomes) posted in the New York Times about how you don’t technically need a lot of water to cook pasta.  There’s a more detailed examination at Serious Eats.  This is not the easy way, but if you really want pasta and don’t have a large pot, this might work for you.  It also gives you some hope that it all works out in the end if the water is too cold or there isn’t enough of it.

Leave any questions in the comments!

Penzeys Spices


Recently, on facebook, I mentioned making roasted chickpeas. It’s a simple idea, and quite popular even outside the food blogger world based on the abnormally large number of people who responded to me. But much of the discussion revolved around the spices– everyone had a favorite blend. There were several people who add sugar. Some go in the cinnamon/nutmeg direction, others who go in the savory/spicy direction with the sugar.

And then there was the paprika discussion. My childhood knowledge of paprika was based on an American Girl Doll cookbook, as something red to put on top of the mashed potato volcanoes. I seem to remember some sort of implication that it was largely flavorless. Hah. There were a couple people from facebook in the Smoked Paprika fan club, and one person inquired as to where I acquire mine… and I have to share. In long format. We’ll start from the beginning.

Mmmmm Smoked Paprika

In the summer of 2008, I was interning for a friend. Very long story short, I was in her kitchen, and made fun of her for having matching spice bottles. At the time, it seemed like the kind of thing one would do if you found a particular bottle that seemed pretty, and you wanted to decorate your kitchen with the pretty bottles, rather than use spices. And she is NOT that kind of person. And so she (lovingly) educated me. You see, they were all from Penzeys.


Penzeys has both a mail order/internet presence, and a number of physical locations. They provide great value and great quality for common and hard-to-find spices. There is a jar of each spice available for you to smell, which helps when trying to decide between similar options. They offer jars, but they also offer bags (which are cheaper, because you’re not paying for the jar, and easier to move with if you’re a twenty-something moving from apartment to apartment– lighter and less breakable!). Same spice/herb rules apply– try not to buy more than you’ll use in 6 months to a year, and if it doesn’t smell, you’re not actually adding flavor, you’re adding dust. But I’ll be honest, we’re on our second or third year for most of the bags we bought, and I haven’t felt the need to get rid of anything. The 6 whole nutmegs for $2.59 might actually last me for the REST OF MY LIFE. In 3 years, we used about half of one with aggressive use, and then it fell on top of some raw meat. Oops. So now we’re on our second.

Some highlights– They have four paprika options- Californian Sweet, Hungarian Sweet, Hungarian Half Sharp, and Spanish Smoked. We have the Spanish Smoked. It’s got great flavor and color, and adds a smokiness that’s hard to find without liquid carcinogens. I love cooking with rosemary, and there’s a particular bakery that makes a rosemary loaf close to my heart, but I’ve never been able to get the right flavor out of dried OR fresh rosemary to recreate it, partially because I don’t have a mortar and pestle. But I’m excited about adding the recently acquired powdered rosemary to… well… everything. (chickpeas? popcorn? bread? compound butter?) I love za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice mixture of thyme/oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac. Sumac, however, is hard to find. We bought some at a Lebanese grocery store, and it was missing something. The Penzeys stuff is NOT missing it. It’s acidic and fruity and pungent. We combine everything together, add it to olive oil, and make pita chips with it most often. Bay Leaves are often absurdly expensive, $6-$8 for however many fit in a small jar (not many). Here they’re more of a packing material for gift boxes, $3.15 for an ounce, and an ounce is a lot:

Bay Leaves

They offer spice blends, most without salt (better value!). Other than curry, I tend to prefer to mix myself, but there are a few I like– the lemon pepper is a great shortcut. At some point, I want to try making my own corned beef, and I’ll be using their pre-made mix, as I otherwise just don’t have a lot of other uses for dill seed and juniper berries. I also enjoy the premixed mulling spices.

I will admit that the freeze dried chives didn’t appeal to me (chives are SO EASY to grow! Even without much sun!), and the dried cilantro frankly just smelled like leaves. But that’s about all I have against this place.

Outside Penzeys

Lots of locations! Including Arlington MA, Falls Church VA, Raleigh NC, Philly and Pittsburgh PA, and three in the Portland OR area.

Two Amys Pizza

I will miss my friends who are still in DC.  I’ll miss free museums.  I’ll miss Teddy Roosevelt Island, the woman who works at the amazing little Indian Place near the Crystal City water treatment place and the bus depot, and having a local Vietnamese shopping center.  And a few places I still haven’t told you about.

The pizza above is from 2Amys, a neat little Neapolitan pizzeria near the National Cathedral.  It’s a homey place with a wood burning oven and a great menu.  Pictured is the Marinara (no cheese!) with onions added.  The onions weren’t my favorite add-on, I have to admit.  Far better is the eggplant confit, or pairing a fatty meat like the pancetta with arugula (the fat acts like a salad dressing, as it basically looks like someone tripped and put a salad on top of your pizza!).  It can get busy, and it’s popular with families.  But the out-of-the-way (read: no close metro stop) location means you’re somewhat less likely to be sandwiched between piles of obnoxious tourists.  I’ll take local crabby urchins over exhausted grumpy tourist tykes any day of the week.

Their other bits are great too, from the Suppli a telefono (breaded and fried little balls of risotto-ey goodness) to the Potato and Prosciutto Croquettes.  While I thought the “stuffed pizze” (think calzones) had a bit too much ricotta, it might just be how easily I’m overwhelmed with dairy.  The Bruschetta is somewhat disappointingly really just… bread.  Really good bread, but not what I expected for $6.  Many thanks to my think-tank Evil Twin for introducing me to this place (we’re both the evil one, born on the same day, both went to Smith, both lived on Green Street).

Peruvian Chicken

Switching continents, we come to one of the highlights of the Virginia portion of the Orange Line-  Peruvian Chicken places.  There are a couple places near Virginia Square, and then there’s the place that used to be very close to Balston Station that’s now… a longer walk.  (There are also places up and down the Rt 7 area, and supposedly some in DC and Maryland).  They primarily serve chicken.  Charcoal rotisserie roasted with a blend of herb and spice I can’t even begin to recreate well.  The one Anthony Bourdain went to on the DC No Reservations episode is on a side street across the street from George Mason Law, and quite convenient.  Only, your only two options for sides are fries and coleslaw.  And usually when we went in, we got a faintly Imperialistic vibe, as the whitest guy there bossed around the nicer- and darker- individuals.  We usually went to the one near the Balston mall, and followed it down Wilson Blvd when construction closed the one we’d been going to (it’s somewhat unclear if this location was new, or had been there the whole time).  They have a lot more sides, our favorites being yucca, spinach, and plantains (pictured), as well as rice, chickpeas, fries, onion salad, and a bunch of others.  They even have things other than just chicken– the Carne Asada’s pretty good too. We’d get a whole chicken, eat somewhat less than half of it, and then remake the rest of the chicken into pot pie or enchiladas or something.

I’ll also miss Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Food Guide.  While there were a few situations in which his advice wasn’t very useful– I’m sorry, I just don’t like Ethiopian.  Call it a failing if you will, it’s just not our thing– We could count on his advice to at least find the better versions of any particular cuisine, and the better places in whichever area we happened to find ourselves in.  His advice was always useful and relevant, and while there are a lot of great blogs in the Boston area, I doubt there’s such an exhaustive list as Cowen’s one page html guide.

We’re now back in Boston.  Ish.  Finding a place to stay, finding a job… and revisiting favorite Bostoney locations.

One of the benefits of living in the DC Metro area has been the wealth of free things to do on the weekend.  We’ve been trying to fill in the gaps these past few weeks, doing the things we hadn’t yet done while we’re still here.  So we finally went on a tour of the Capitol Building.  It used to be that you would have to write your Congress Critter for tickets to the tour, but these days you can just sign up online!  And while the Capitol Dome really is quite pretty…  if you’re more interested in the politics of the Capitol instead of how a state gets a statue into the building, this may not be the tour for you.  We learned about the paintings.  We learned about the statues.  We learned a liiitle about the history and architecture…  But even though neither body was in session, all we got to see was a movie and some dome shaped rooms with statues in them.  Pretty rooms.  Pretty statues.  But not really my cup of tea.

After that, we headed to the National Botanic Garden, not to be confused with the National Arboretum (Although if you really like Bonsais, the Arboretum is a must see).  The greenhouse really does, oddly enough, seem bigger on the inside.  There’s the jungle room (pictured), but also cacti, medicinal plants, a children’s garden, and a room full of orchids.  It was much busier than the Smith greenhouse, so I wouldn’t go there for quiet meditation, but I would bring your camera.  It’s gorgeous and warm and very green.

Then we made the small hike back up the hill to Good Stuff Eatery.  This is probably my favorite burger place ever.  Sure, I’m a little biased because I like Top Chef, but it’s not as if Spike was one of my favorites during the competition–I like him a lot more since.  And the burgers aren’t very photogenic.  They’re just good.

What’s my favorite thing here?  Every burger I’ve tried.  Pictured here is the “Prez Obama Burger”, with bacon, blue cheese, and an amazing red onion marmalade.  The Coletti’s Smokehouse is also amazing, with bacon, cheddar, onion rings, and bbq sauce.  I also love the Chili & Cheddar (self explanatory). And those are just the ones I can’t stop thinking about.  They do have more standard burgers.  They do have a turkey burger, and a veggie offering.  But this is not a place that encourages you to mix and match whatever it is you might want like most places around here.  This is about a carefully constructed list of robust and even sometimes delicate flavor combinations created by a chef that really seems to care about them.  They look squishy and messy, and that’s because they are, but they’re so good.

But even better are the shakes.  In my lactardedness, I have a very distinct sense of what is worth taking a box of lactaid and what is not, and it is not often that I go crazy.  But these shakes?  OH-DEAR-LORD.  The toasted marshmallow actually comes with a toasted marshmallow on it.  The Cookies&Cream shown above, a seasonal shake, has got me on a Cookies&Cream binge. And the MilkyWay, and the Black and White (which seems to be Vanila with Fudge Sauce)….  They’re so rich and overwhelming for lactards that my boyfriend and I split the Kid Sized one.  But OH we enjoy it.

The fries and onion petals, while good, often suffer the effects of an overcrowded frier.  I still keep ordering them, though, because even if they’re not as crisp as they might be, and even if the onion petals get stuck to each other, they are the best vehicle for the various mayos offered.  I might eat the mango mayo with a spoon if I thought no one was looking.

Between being Top Chef related, being very close to the Capitol and Library of Congress, it’s a hot spot for tourists.  Being so close to the Congressional office Buildings, it’s a hot place for staffers.  So there are lines sometimes.  Quite a bit, actually.  I recommend going when Congress isn’t in session, and not during super peak tourist times.  And to make it worse, they’re closed all day Sunday.  But even when they’re busy, this is where I bring friends from out of town. Spike is often there, working the line, although not quite as much recently, as he’s trying to open a new place, We the Pizza, next door.  It may even open some day, although the opening date keeps getting pushed back.  I’m sad we’ll miss it.  And I will definitely miss Good Stuff when I move back to Boston.