Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ramen night at Uni

After the BSO, my brother and I walked back down Mass Ave and stopped at Clio for drinks and their sashimi bar Uni's amazing late-night ramen specials.  We put in our name for a table around 10:30pm, and enjoyed reading through the book of a bar list, finally narrowing down our choices to whiskey for him, and gin for me:
(thanks to Grubstreet for the cocktail list!)

The Boomerang
Rittenhouse rye, Dolin vermouth, housemade Swedish Punsch, bitters, lemon juice
(hey, it's Dolin vermouth again!   And Swedish punsch is spices and rum, and simply lovely)

Army Navy
Bombay, lemon juice, orgeat syrup, crushed ice
(I adore the almond and orange flower taste of orgeat, so this was perfect for me!)

We were seated around 11:15 into the cozy 20-seat section of the restaurant - and were immediately greeted by the cardboard menus:


We both went for a bowl of traditional ramen, the shishito peppers with bonito flakes, and pork buns.  And wow.  Delicious.  The ramen had this wonderful umami taste, with a runny egg in the broth that added a pleasant creaminess.  Obviously, I've never been hungover in Japan at 2am, but this is totally what I would imagine eating.

And, of course, upon seeing that they serve a singapore sling in a scorpion bowl, I had to go for it.  There is nothing like having a bowl of something scarlet and boozy with a fire in the center being brought to your table! 

Singapore Sling
Beefeater, Cherry Heering, pineapple juice, lime juice, triple sec, Benedictine, grenadine, bitters

And I was so happy with the flaming punchbowl that when we left for the night, I went back up to the bar to thank the bartender, and the guys sitting there asked, "Wait, hey, that was the one with the fire?!"  I laughed, "You just wish you were me!"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A night at the symphony!

I feel like I take a picture of the hall every time I visit...but I can't help it.  It's just a glorious place to be.

The evening started with Mozart's Symphony 41 (Jupiter) - one that you've likely heard before, even if as muzak in an elevator.  A review from the Thursday concert was disappointed with the start to the concert...and I think he accurately pins down the reason in the audaciously difficult nature of the program.  A full Mozart symphony, a new piece that fully utilizes the orchestra's talents that goes for 30 minutes without stopping, and then the killer full-of-sustained-notes Saint-Saens.  Yikes.  When you have this many heavy hitters, the Mozart became the easy starter, which is a little nuts considering the difficulty of playing Mozart well, especially when you have such pieces following it!  It would have made far more sense to do something simpler and shorter.  But it was a pleasure to hear, all the same.

The second piece was a new music pastiche by Augusta Read Thomas.  Called a cello for orchestra, it was more of a concerto for cello, percussion and orchestra (such liberal use of crotales!). 

A lovely elderly patron took this picture of us---her thoughts on the new music?  "It made me nervous!" 

The grand finale after intermission was Camille Saint-Saens' Third Organ Symphony - with a tune you may recognize!

The theme was given lyrics and a pop reggae beat in 1977's "If I Had Words"  (wow that hair!)

---and the song was also used as the recurring theme to the 1995 movie Babe, and jigged to by our friend Farmer Hoggett.

The theme comes in at 1:47 - now, just imagine it played by an organ with so much bass that you can feel it through the floor.  I live for that fortissimo ending.  It brings tears to your eyes, being in a hall surrounded by and swimming in such sonority.  No recording can ever match that, no way, no how.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brunch at Cafe Luna

I was excited to take my brother to my favorite local brunch place on Saturday---Cafe Luna!  Home to quite possibly the nicest owner ever, it has the added bonus of incredibly good coffee and food.


Buttermilk biscuits with honey butter.  Nom.

Stuffed berry French toast

Lobster eggs benedict.  Bacon, lobster, hollandaise, poached egg, avocado.  Basically all the best fatty things in one delicious meal. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MIT Museum

I adore the kinetic sculptures at the MIT museum...they're just so much fun!  (see here for more information on Arthur Ganson's gestural engineering works of art)



This is my favorite.  The viscosity of the oil dripping everywhere, it's just mesmerizing!

However, by far the most affecting exhibit at the Museum was the one about glaciers - the top picture was taken in 1921, and the bottom was taken in 2001.  What a difference 80 years makes.  Scary and sad.

There was also a photography exhibit of Joël Tettamanti - and I feel in love with these lovely photos of Greenland.  The colors of these little homes, they're like Lego painted ladies in the snow. 
Photo and review at the Boston Globe

Friday, March 22, 2013

Le sacre du printemps

I have never met a piece that was more intense to rehearse in the evening, but what a show! MITSO actually recorded the piece to release on CD, so if I'm able to figure out some magical way to put up the mp3s here, I will!  But - for those of you that need memory-jogging about what the Rite of Spring is all about, the three essential concepts:

Riot (in Paris, at the 1913 premiere; 40 people were arrested!)  - picture from here

 Dinosaurs!  ...made popular by Disney's 19 movie Fantasia

Killing a virgin in a Pagan Ritual (what the original ballet was actually about; picture from here)

If you've never seen the ballet, the version of youtube isn't great, but it's really cool to watch:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March - in like a lion, still a lion.

Winter Storm Ukko, welcome to Boston!


Wet snow.

Bostonians are not amused.  Well, neither am I, frankly.  If it's going to snow, I want it to really snow, and really stick around.  No more of this snow-melt/gross-bare-snow-melt/gross-bare nonsense.  Maybe I'll just have to move to Canada.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brookline Family Restaurant

On Thursday, Eric and I again walked across the bridge to get to the green line, this time heading towards Riverside, disembarking in the cute Brookline Village neighborhood. 

Burnt milk pudding (kazan dibi)

Baklava (don't ask me why there are just layers on top...strange!)

So ready for doner kebab sandwich.

Their bread is divine.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birthday dinner: Craigie on Main

I've always taken for granted how close I live to one of Boston's best restaurants, Craigie on Main.  It's only a ten minute walk from my apartment, right next to Toscanini's, in fact!  But - I've always passed by the doors somewhat wistfully, for Craigie is not only good, but also ungodly expensive, at least at my pay grade.  But I saved my pennies, and the day finally came where I was able to finally sit and eat (and eat, and eat, ha).  My brother and I both celebrated our birthdays here (he's February, I'm March) - and it was absolutely worth it.


We started out the meal with a cocktail --- I chose a drink called "Through the Looking Glass."  I was a bit shocked when an almost antifreeze-colored drink arrived to the table.  As someone who actually knows a fair amount about cocktails, it was a little unnerving to read a cocktail menu where I was only familiar with about 20% of the ingredients, so I just went for it and guessed.  My drink had Suze Gentian aperitif, Beefeater gin, dolin blanc, and tarragon. I was thinking okay, gin, tarragon, I can go for that.  But upon tasting the cocktail, oof.  Bitter, very bitter.  I found out later after some googling that Suze Gentian is a very bitter aperitif made from the gentian flower.  Gentian is also the fourth ingredient in your standard Angostura bitters.

image courtesy of Parish Hall

"Long the workhorse of the gentian family, Suze is also the most acquired taste. When sipped solo, we found the bitter finish overpowering--and it lingered for hours."  
Thanks to Tasting Tables Drinking the Top Shelf for confirming I am not a complete wuss.

Dolin Blanc, on the other hand, seems more my speed, apparently it's the St. Germain of vermouth, and I love elderflower, so I'm betting I would have loved a glass of that, neat.

General point of all this?  Ask your server for recommendations.  I would never have ordered that drink elsewise, but as luck would have it, the bitterness was a good foil for the rich meal. 

I didn't take all that many photos, mostly because it was fairly dark in the restaurant - but to recap:

First course - amuse bouche trio of fish
a rillette with a bagel chip (basically, the world's best tuna salad)
trout with roe
pickled mackerel (really fishy, not my thing)

Siblings!  So excited for our birthday dinner.

Second course - three pieces of tuna sashimi with pickled plums in a citrus and mustard sauce

Third course - slow-cooked salmon in a clam chowder broth (melt-in-your-mouth fish with lovely perfectly cooked baby turnips)

Fourth course - Homemade rye fusili with mushrooms and trotters (yes, those be pig's feet - it wasn't bad!)

Our fifth course was presented by Tony Maws himself, the head chef of Craigie on Main.  The course began with three small slices of perfectly cooked venison leg.  This won the prize for best bite of the trip here, from both of us -- it was buttery, warm, the most lovely meaty taste without being too gamey - I'm just so disappointed that venison leg is a very difficult-to-find cut of meat.  There was also a venison sausage with a roiboos-infused chutney that was also just so wonderful. 

We also went for broke and decided to have the bone marrow with toast, because when else do you get a chance to try such things?  Marrow, when it comes out, it looks gross.  If you think about it too much, it's gross.  But on crunchy toast, wow.  Wow.  Fatty and delicious. 

A much needed palate cleanser - grapefruit campari sorbet

Sixth course - dessert!

Beignets with a cream sauce

Citrus curd panna cotta with yuzu drops and an anise-torched meringue. 

And desserts just kept coming!  They served us these lovely little pots of hot chocolate with almond biscotti, and finally Moroccan-spiced chocolate truffles.

If you're curious as to how much all this cost, with the six course chef's tasting menu, a cocktail each, and a well-deserved tip (our servers were funny, attentive, and very good at their jobs) - it came down to $320 for the two of us.  Not an everyday meal, but worth every penny.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

S and I To Go

...also known as my favorite hole-in-the-wall Thai place in Boston. It seats 14 people, but you can try and cram in more...if you try realllly hard.  S and I is in the cheap foreign food mecca of Allston/Brighton in Boston, which unfortunately overlaps with Boston University's slumlord haven.  Every city has one of those, right?

Green papaya salad - warning, packs a spicy kick!

Red vegetable curry

Crispy pork and basil with noodles

Happy and full of Thai

No visit to Allston is complete without a trip wandering through Super 88, which unfortunately smelled like lab-strength bleach + cleaning agent + fish (not appetizing, yikes).  Apparently Tuesdays at noon are cleaning time?  It was potent in there.

Crab snacks!  (I am such a sucker for cute animal cartoons!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Area Four

Located oh-so-close to MIT, it's quite a feat not to go to Area Four three times a day...chai and craquelins in the morning, pizza for lunch, and their macaroni and cheese for dinner (with excellent local beer, obviously).  

Garlic knots.  Deadly.

Gorgonzola, walnuts, caramelized onions.  Italian sausage and peppers.  Tell me this doesn't look amazing...

Look at that cheese!

Friday, March 8, 2013

And the band played on.

I "lucked out" and received a grant with the important "you must take an ethics course" clause for this academic year...  (keep in mind, other clauses for student grants around the lab are "you must spend $2000 on something that assists you in your research" ---also known as the "woo new laptop" grants).

But I have to admit, even though it pains me, and even though I leave these ethics courses on Wednesday evenings simultaneously saddened and angry, I am most certainly learning something from these classes.

Last week's discussion centered around the ethics covered in the movie "And the Band Played On" - a docu-drama about the discovery of AIDS in the early 1980s.  The movie is available in full on youtube:

Now, I consider myself to be a fair hand at history.  I remember obscure facts easily, I love watching movies set in other time periods, and I studied a good deal of history in high school and college.

But this documentary made me feel so, so, ignorant.  I was raised to be tolerant, so the attitudes towards gays in the 1980s, wow, I just can't even fathom.  I mean, I do see bigotry today, but not the same sort of outright hatred that was portrayed in the movie.  Our generation is going to be the one that didn't grow up with instant disapproval and vitriol for one particular group just because of whom they decide to love.  And thank goodness for that.

(And yes, there is a fair amount of science ethics in the film, but a response to that would take me days to write...literally)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Disney movie nights

The former babysitter in me loves a chance to spend an evening watching Disney, old, anything-but-a-sequel.  I spent my childhood adoring the Beast's library, squirreling away treasures like Ariel, and while I wasn't raised in a forest with singing animals as friends, I sometimes felt isolated in the same way that Aurora did.  My relationships with princesses were much more about the things we had in common, not the things that were different---the braces, CCD classes, penicillin, my completely not-princessy looks. 

And the suitcase full of surprises that I brought babysitting always had a Disney movie or two, something special to watch after their parents had gone off on their merry way. 

So when my girls asked for some Disney movie nights, I happily obliged.  Two weekends ago was Lady and the Tramp.  Does anyone else remember that the main characters were named "Jim Dear" and "Darling"?  No one else?  Yeah, totally went over my head, too. 

This past weekend, we watched The Lion King projected on one of the living room walls, complete with popcorn and sour patch kids.  About thirty girls hung out, some working on their laptops, some just enjoying the respite from a busy life of work.  And can I just say, wow, that soundtrack!  It's still just as good.

Also-- the recognition of the voices behind animated characters was a bit startling, I don't really remember having all of these associations as a kid.  I mean, Zazu was voiced by Rowan Atkinson!  And Jeremy Irons played Scar!  It's so strange to hear Rodrigo Borgia as a smarmy manipulative lion, and Mr. Bean sing about coconuts. 

On Friday, I'll be screening Beauty and the Beast in my apartment, and I have to tell you, I'm so excited.

That library!  Even so many years later, I still want that library.  (though, to be fair, I don't think I'd mind if the package included a well-read Prince Charming...)

Monday, March 4, 2013

oscar-nominated animated shorts

"Girls are the best.  Romance is the best."

"Girls ruin everything."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Up Goer Five

A recent challenge has been proposed to scientists: describe their research in the 1000 most commonly used words in the English language.  It's not easy.

(and yes, I totally agree with this article that sometimes these sorts of vocabulary constraints make explaining concepts more confusing...but if you go beyond trying to replace complex words with simpler ones and instead try to re-imagine the concept to begin with, you're getting the point of the whole exercise)

So--without further ado, I explain my PhD:
 (I used this text editor that specifically tells you if you're using disallowed words)

There are many ways people can get sick. You can get sick from other things that are living, like dogs. Or, you can also get sick from things that aren't living, like lead. I study something living and very small that makes people sick.

This very small living thing is one hundred times smaller than a hair is across, and it lives inside human red blood cells. It causes lots of trouble and kills many people every year, most of them children.

We don't have many good ways to get these bad living things out of people yet. And even worse, we don't have the bits and pieces to look at this small thing easily or study them like we can other living things that make people sick.

So, my job is to think of ways to help us study these bad living things. And usually, this means taking something even smaller --- ten hundred times smaller than a hair is across --- and changing it in small ways so it can help us learn more about this bad living thing. Then, other people can take what we have learned and help people who are sick.