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Restaurant Critic Roundup: 'Time-Honored Cookery' Found in Boston

Restaurant Critic Roundup: 'Time-Honored Cookery' Found in Boston

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Every week, The Daily Meal rounds up a slew of restaurant reviews across America

As always, the ratings range from stars to bells to beans, but every review offers specialized insight into the food, atmosphere, and service of eateries in each city’s dining scene and the critics eating at them.

This week in Manhattan, Pete Wells finds lackluster and uninspired food at Le Cirque, but he hasn’t given up hope yet. Fortunately, the service is impeccable and the host will charm your pants off — or, at least, your wallet.

If you’re in Boston, Devra First recommends heading to Kitchen for a blast from the past. Chef Scott Herritt’s newest contribution to "time-honored cookery" throws diners into the 1800s, at least in terms of food, without a single foam or emulsion in sight.

Pasta Folies disappoints Jodi Mailander Farrell, from the atmosphere ("the only signs of dining life being food stains on the paper menus") to the service ("we might as well have stayed home with a box of Barilla"). I guess the "air of despair" got to her, too.

From the East Coast to the West Coast, from North to South, the weekly restaurant critic roundup is here for all of your dining out needs.

Restaurant Critic Roundup: 9/21/2012

Pete WellsNew York TimesLe Cirque1 star
Stan SagnerNew York Daily NewsThe Hurricane Club1 star
Devra FirstBoston GlobeKitchen2.5 stars
Jodi FarrellMiami HeraldPasta Folie's2 stars
Michael BauerSan Francisco GatePlaj
Tom SiestemaWashington PostSouthern Hospitality
Providence CiceroSeattle TimesCollections Cafe2.5 stars
Edmund TijerinaSan Antonio Express-NewsBig Easy Cafe3 stars

Check out last week's Restaurant Critic Roundup!

9 Awesome Okra Recipes to Enjoy All Summer

Okra is one of those vegetables you love or hate, and—we’d swear on a stack of our favorite cookbooks—any one of these okra recipes will put you squarely in the love camp.

When properly prepared, okra is subtly sweet and beautifully crisp-tender (though it’s also wonderful stewed to silky softness). While Americans are most familiar with it in Southern dishes like gumbo, it’s enjoyed elsewhere in the world as well. See Vietnamese sour soup (canh chua) or the Filipino vegetable dish pinakbet for some examples:

Share All sharing options for: The Very Best of Jonathan Gold

Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic known for his way with words, multifaceted mind, and dogged dedication to Los Angeles — the city he loved and lived in — died on Saturday at 57. He was a husband, father, and critic at the Los Angeles Times many, especially fellow writers and those in the food world, are still bereaving.

His longtime colleague and friend, the writer and former critic Ruth Reichl, wrote to Eater that she “can’t sleep” and is “devastated” by the loss. “He really got that food was a gateway into the people, and that food could really define a community. He was really writing about the people more than the food,” she told the New York Times critic Pete Wells.

Writers and editors from across the country were touched by Gold’s empathetic, excitable reviews, all of which contained references that reached far beyond food: British punk, Beyoncé, immigration, the Dodgers, jazz standards, Kobe Bryant, the sculpture artist Charles Ray, and “your late Uncle Morris” all had a shot of popping up in one of his pieces. Here now, writers share their favorite passages from Gold’s oeuvre.

Francis Lam, writer, editor, host of The Splendid Table

When I think of Jonathan purely as a writer, as someone who sees something about the human experience and articulates it in the most perfect way, I always think of this passage about eating live shrimp:

I have consumed thousands of animals in my lifetime: seen lambs butchered, snipped the faces off innumerable soft-shell crabs, killed and gutted my share of fish. I had, I thought, come to terms with the element of predation inherent in eating meat — and I am thankful to the beasts that have nourished me. But this was the first time I had ever come up against one of the most basic of nature’s postulates: You live your prey dies. In order to eat, you must first rip into living flesh . . . not by proxy, not from a distance, not with a gun or knife, but intimately, with your teeth.

I thought about the Hindu cabby who had driven me back into town from a Singapore seafood restaurant years ago, lecturing me the entire way on the spirituality inherent in a single prawn, and I thought about my vegan friends who refuse to eat anything that once had a face.

I bit into the animal, devouring all of its sweetness in one mouthful, and I felt the rush of life pass from its body into mine, the sudden relaxation of its feelers, the blankness I swear I could see overtaking its eyes. It was weird and primal and breathtakingly good, and I don’t want to do it again.

A great writer sees things and makes us see ourselves differently because of them. This was one moment, of thousands, where Jonathan made us understand ourselves more clearly.

So I was always in awe of him for that, and that was even before I understood what his real project was: not just to make us understand ourselves more clearly, but to make us understand each other more clearly, to bring humanity closer together. God, I’ll miss him.

Gustavo Arellano, writer, columnist, author

My favorite Mr. Gold review of all time was, of all things, a Tex-Mex spot: Arturo’s Puffy Tacos in Whittier:

My friend Julie is one of those kitchen samurai you sometimes hear about, a woman who spends her year flitting from hotel room to hotel room, imposing her will on corporate-owned restaurants in every corner of the world. The nature of the job can be brutal — she is required to instruct experienced Chinese chefs on the finer points of dumpling construction, French chefs on pâté, and sushi masters on the proper way to make a spicy tuna roll. She can go weeks without leaving the megahotel at which she is currently employed, existing on staff meals and postmidnight bar snacks. When she daydreams, as she did over a platter of spicy bo ssam at Kobawoo the other day, it is often about the local Mexican food she grew up eating on the rough west side of San Antonio, Texas.

Los Angeles, oddly enough, shares in the history of the signature San Antonio delicacy. Its own puffy-taco emporium, Arturo’s Puffy Taco out in Whittier, was founded by the brother of the famous Henry not long after the San Antonio restaurant first opened its doors. (The proprietor of Ray’s Drive Inn, where the puffy taco may well have been born, was father to both Arturo and Henry.) The customers seem to be mostly expatriate Texans, packed into the tiny adjunct dining room under the signed photographs of Tejanomusicians and basketball referees, putting away mounds of food that tower over the red-sauce-encrusted tables.

Gold becomes a convert, compares picadillo to terrine, and the review ends with him wondering why he had never heard of Arturo’s in his many years of criticism. Then comes the reveal: His wife, LA Times arts editor Laurie Ochoa, tells him she used to get them all the time growing up, and wondered why she had never told him about it.

”Twenty-five wasted years,” was Gold’s concluding line. History, food, love, and Gold undercutting his own status as LA’s food god. God, I miss him already.

Jeff Gordinier, food & drinks editor, Esquire

From 1993’s “Pie’s the Limit” in the LA Times: As with all good hamburgers, a Pie ‘n Burger burger is about texture, the crunchy sheaf of lettuce, the charred surface of the meat, the outer rim of the bun crisped to almost the consistency of toast. When compressed by the act of eating, the hamburger leaks thick, pink dressing that is somewhat more tart than it may look. Soft, grilled onions, available upon request — please do — add both a certain squishiness and a caramelly sweetness. The slice of American cheese, if you have ordered a cheeseburger, does not melt into the patty, but stands glossily aloof from it, as if it were mocking the richness of the sandwich rather than adding to the general effect. The burgers here come jacketed in white paper and are compact enough to generally remain intact through three-quarters of their life — it’s kind of a genteel thing, a Pie ‘n Burger burger, a Pasadena thing.

Isn’t that perfect? I grew up on the border of San Marino and Pasadena, a few blocks away from Pie n Burger, and used to ride my bike there as a kid. What was always interesting — and moving — about Jonathan Gold’s reviews for people who lived in Southern California was that jolt of recognition. Hey, whoa, the gentle sage of LA food came to eat at our local place — and he expressed love for what we love! He got it! It gave you a sense of community pride.

A crucial thing to remember about Gold is that when his writing began to appear in Los Angeles, there was no internet. For years, a lot of hungry folks in Southern California heard about great Oaxacan and Thai and Sichuan spots the same way you might hear about great new bands: via word of mouth. Then J. Gold showed up on the scene and, as Ruth Reichl has pointed out, it felt as though all these vibrant neighborhoods started being introduced to each other through his work. Oh, there’s excellent Armenian food right up the hill? Oh, there’s a world of deliciousness a few minutes away, in Monterey Park? His writing probably helped foster millions of meetings and conversations that otherwise might never have happened. Now you can use Google to chart your culinary path around a city like Los Angeles, but in the 1980s (and afterwards) J. Gold was our Google — only a lot more persuasive and a lot more poetic.

Julia Kramer, deputy editor, Bon Appetit

When I was a student at Pomona College, I read Gold religiously. I still remember the night my boyfriend and I drove to Glendora for doughnuts at Donut Man after reading this piece:

Have you ever seen a strawberry doughnut from the Donut Man? It is an iceberg of a doughnut, a flattened demisphere big enough to use as a Pilates cushion, split in two and filled to order with what must be an entire basket of fresh strawberries, and only in season. The fruit is moistened with a translucent gel that lubricates even the occasional white-shouldered berry with a mantle of slippery sweetness, oozing from the sides, turning the bottom of the pasteboard box into a sugary miasma in the unlikely event that the doughnuts actually make it home. The tawny pastry itself is only lightly sweetened, dense and slightly crunchy at the outside, like most good doughnuts, with a vaguely oily nuttiness and an almost substantial chew. It is the only doughnut I have ever seen that is routinely served with a plastic knife and fork. It is worth every penny of the $2.50 it costs.

John Birdsall, writer, author

I used to have a printout of this 2004 column pinned to the wall above my desk. I styled at least two early pieces I wrote on this.

A single passage is hard, since it’s a piece where the thoughts wrap so tightly around each other it’s like pulling a single twig from a nest, but here, after Robert Sietsema, drunk on the Basque brain shredder Amer Picon, makes a shameful comment to a bartender in East Bakersfield who reads the both of them:

She sneered at the lameness of Sietsema’s come-on, a world-class sneer, a sneer that would have served her well behind any bar in Silver Lake or on the Lower East Side, and the two of us were as smitten as any two drunk, married guys could ever be at 3 in the afternoon.

“You two are from out of town,” she said delicately. “Tourists.” She flicked the hair out of her eyes.

“You brought a wrapped loaf in with you, so I know you’ve already been to the Pyrenees Bakery. You probably stopped in at Luigi’s — for what? A plate of beans? Spaghetti with sauce? — but you had your main lunch at one of the Basque restaurants. My guess is Wool Grower’s, because you two are too pathetic to have gotten up in time for noon lunch at one of the better places. You have a bagful of Dewar’s peanut chews in the car. After this, you’re going over to the Alley Cat, because the place is for losers, because you think the neon and the Hirschfeld mural are ‘cool.’ Tonight for dinner, you’re going to . . . not here, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here now . . . to the Noriega. Definitely the Noriega. And I don’t blame you for going there: Tuesday is prime-rib night.”

On her way back to the regulars, she turned in our direction, pulled up her blouse, and flashed us. It was a friendly gesture, and we appreciated it. Even if she’d had us mostly dead to rights.

What was astonishing then, as now, is that this was Gold’s restaurant review column. He breaks every convention of the form still manages to pack a mention of, what, 12 dishes in here? He drops them like wasabi peas along the surface of a bar: distracted by the spectacle of his drunken picaresque, you eat each one up without noticing, and when they’re gone you wish you had just a few more to nibble on. Gold puts himself at the center of a low-life binge where even the simplest food — peanut candy, for fuck’s sake! — suggests that rapture exists everywhere and is possible anywhere.

Pete Wells, restaurant critic, the New York Times

Like everybody who’s written about Jonathan Gold over the past few days, I’ve struggled to convey the sheer breadth of his work. Yes, he was unmatched at finding cuisines that were brand new to Los Angeles. In the 1980s, before the Census Bureau had registered the influx of Salvadorans, he already knew who made the best pupusas. But he also wrote about cheffed-up creations. His take on the Peruvian-Japanese fusions cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa is still the definitive one.

And some of my favorite writing of his doesn’t have much to do with cuisine at all. His tastes in low-end dining were no more snobbish than they were in rarefied dining rooms where everybody pays with a Platinum card. He was drawn to places that were sui generis, where you could spend a few hours in a world that didn’t exist anywhere else, and sometimes that meant late nights in weird spots where the food was beside the point.

For example, this passage on a Polynesian extravaganza in Rosemead called Bahooka, which outlasted many classic paper-umbrella venues from the Trader Vic’s era but closed in the early years of the genre’s revival. You can find Bahooka in Gold’s classic 2000 guidebook, Counter Intelligence, assuming you can locate a copy of the book, which is out of print. Bahooka is listed in the index under “Tiki-American”:

Bahooka’s is the kind of place you’d expect to find near a scruffy tropical seaport—all rusted nautical gear, stolen street signs, and scarred dark wood. Lit like a navy-base bar and with more bobbing tropical fish than you’d find in a Jacques Cousteau special. Lifeboats hang out back — after the bar closes on a weekend night, you’ll always find a giggling kid or two waving from inside of one. There are fish in the foyer, fish tanks surrounding three sides of each booth, and fish swimming inside the glass-topped bar, but not much fish on the menu, unless you count some cod that seems to have sum all the way from Iceland through a sea of old oil. Fish puffs go with a Monsoon or a Jet Pilot or a Flaming Honey Bowl better than you might think, though the leaden deep-fried balls of food aren’t anything you’d want to look at by the light of day. There is no rumaki. Sorry.

When the steel-guitar lowings on the P.A. start to sound good, it’s time for a Shark’s Tooth or a Cobra’s Strike. Halfway into one of those, a sticky order of Exotic Ribs may seem like just the thing, because the ribs are moist, soak up a lot of alcohol, and come with fries, sweet baked hams, or cobbettes. The cobbettes, definitely the cobbettes. You can also get teriyaki chicken breast, ham with sweet-and-sour sauce, roast beef, or fried golf balls or shrimp, but you won’t. What will happen is that your date will suck up the last of his or her Jolly Roger Bowl and carve your initials in the booth. Don’t worry, it’s happened before.

Helen Rosner, food corespondent, the New Yorker

From 2006’s “Bring the Funk,” published in LA Weekly: There is a rhythm to an izakaya meal that is unlike any other. Glasses of cold sake and big bottles of beer appear at regular intervals, then bits of raw fish and grilled meat and savory custard are served individually or all at once. It’s a waltz-time snack-sip-chat, snack-sip-chat dynamic that can go on for the length of a Mahler symphony. animal-vegetable-mineral, warm-hot-cold, sweet-salt-funk. until, before you know it, the restaurant is empty, the lights have been turned high, and the waitress is suggesting that you might want to start finding your way home. It is cruel, the end of the evening at an izakaya.

Gold was never cynical, always precise, but a precision that had a wildness in it. I love this passage — from one of the LA Weekly reviews the Pulitzer committee cited for his 2007 award — because of how beautifully he ties together food and feeling. It’s never just what’s on the plate: it’s the patterns, the ebb and flow, learning and teaching, the wide emotional arc of being a person at a table in the fortunate position of being fed.

Gabriella Gershenson, writer, recipe editor for the forthcoming The 100 Most Jewish Foods

The first time I read Jonathan Gold’s work, it was an epiphany. At the time, I wasn’t a writer, I was a reader. As a reader, I never really paid attention to who was doing the writing, just to what was on the page. It was information to be consumed and I took for granted that it was just there. All of that changed one day when I was reading a restaurant review in Gourmet magazine, and the prose was so vivid, I wanted to know who had written it. It was Jonathan Gold. He introduced a paradigm shift that changed everything for me. I suddenly cared as much about who was telling the story, and how they were telling it, as I did about the story itself.

I wish I could remember what the review was on, or what the quote was… something about a chef’s artistry on the plate. Gold’s passing last weekend led me to a fruitless search in the hobbled Gourmet magazine online archive to find that passage. While I was not successful, I did fall down a rabbit hole of other stories Jonathan Gold had written for the magazine. He was poetic: “Hotel rooms are empty spaces yearning to be filled — with work, with sighing, with sex cool, perfect voids screaming for completion,” he wrote in an appreciation of Hilton hotels. He was funny: ”I waved toward the canapé, telling him that I had always considered truffle oil to be the Heinz ketchup of the overbred,” he wrote about an encounter with Gordon Ramsay. He was deep: In a story on Hawaiian cooking, he wrote that ”a proper luau, like a proper bouillabaisse or a proper paella, is an ultimate expression of community through food.” It seems fitting that the sentence that struck me so many years ago has become apocryphal. What’s most important in the end aren’t the words themselves, but the fact that they, and the person who wrote them, changed the way I see the world.

Brett Martin, correspondent, GQ

From 2009’s “Snook Attack: La Chente,” published in LA Weekly: Have you ever encountered pescado Zarandeado? Because it is as intimidating as an entrée can get, a vast, smoking creature split open at the backbone and flopped open into a sort of skeleton-punctuated mirror image of itself, wisps of steam rising around the onions and lemon slices with which it is strewn, served on the kind of plastic tray you may remember from your high school cafeteria, which is probably the only vessel broad enough to handle the fish. As served at Mariscos La Chente, a Westside restaurant specializing in the seafood dishes of Sinaloa and Nayarit, it is so menacing that you scarcely know whether to eat it or beat it to death with a stick.

A Gold review was the ultimate MacGuffin — a pretense for heading out in a direction you would never have gone on your own, except that the prize at the end wasn’t an illusion. It was a fish.

This, the lede of an LA Weekly review of Mariscos La Chente, a Mexican seafood restaurant on Centinela Avenue, was “Snook Attack” and was one of several pieces Gold wrote over the years tracing LA’s cultish obsession with pescado zarandeado.

There are two lessons here: One is about the maintenance of enthusiasm, a harder thing than you might imagine, but something with which Gold never seemed to struggle, at least not on the page. The other is about truth: Gold’s writing may have been pyrotechnic, but it wasn’t Gonzo. You got to the restaurant and, by god, you wondered whether you should beat that fish with a stick. He needed neither hyperbole nor fabulism because, he proved again and again, as long as you were willing to go out that front door with open eyes and hungry belly, the world was more than enough.

Kat Kinsman, senior food & drinks editor, Extra Crispy, author Hi, Anxiety

From “Alone at Last,” published in Gourmet in 2000: One small confession: I think the New York Hilton may be my favorite hotel. Because the New York Hilton understands me and people like me: I am a man who enjoys creature comforts in moderation, but most of all, I like to be left alone. In the Hilton — and in the many hotels like it throughout the world — I feel like a citizen. The Hilton fits like a good blue suit off the rack. And in the Hilton I always feel as if I am somebody else, somebody whose company thinks my time is important enough to put me up in a $225 hotel room in midtown Manhattan, somebody who owns a good-quality raincoat from Brooks Brothers or another fine American firm, somebody whose boss probably won’t object too much to the $125 ($125!) steak dinner for one at Maloney & Porcelli, which one of those airline magazines called “One of the Great Steak Houses of the World”. somebody who just might need a bacon cheeseburger at a quarter to three in the morning. … At the Hilton, I am neither seen nor judged and there are no clipboards. But my room is equipped with Telephone with Dataport, Thermostat (adjustable), Clock Radio, Hair Dryer, Iron, Ironing Board, and Work Desk with Lamp. The Scald-Proof Shower/Tub has water pressure enough to knock me back a step when I turn it on, and it never, never runs cold. There is J&B in the minibar and ice just down the hall and a piano bar downstairs if I am in the mood for mild entertainment. Everything is perfectly, impeccably clean, as if I were the first man in the world. And it is enough.

It’s not often than Jonathan Gold graced the East Coast with his presence or his prose, so I sop it up greedily. He also tended to truck in the extraordinary — the dish worth driving hours from your home and comfort zone to experience. It’s jarring and glorious to see him, in this piece from the May 2000 issue of Gourmet, embrace the deliberate anonymity and smooth-edged blandness of a corporate hotel because it seems almost taboo for a man of his drive and appetites to celebrate such a thing. Gold reveled in shared humanity, evidenced often by the “you” present throughout his writing, and it’s somehow tremendously freeing to know that even he needed a break from it all on occasion.

Paolo Lucchesi, food and wine editor, San Francisco Chronicle

Oddly sad about Nate Dogg. His smooth yet vicious crooning was as vital to the early '90s as Biggie's lisp or Cobain's howl.

— jonathan gold (@thejgold) March 16, 2011

Gold tweeted this on March 15, 2011, on the occasion of Nate Dogg’s death. For a reason that I never quite thought too much about, I have never forgotten that tweet — the images and sounds of those three musicians in perfect juxtaposition. There’s a Hemingway-esque clarity and ease in each of those 23 words, but now that we’re reflecting on the countless things that made Gold so special, I think these 23 words say an awful lot about his greatness as a critic.

First, there’s the choice of inclusion: In expressing the essence of early ’90s music, alongside the two titans (Biggie and Cobain), he rightly celebrates Nate Dogg, the lesser known guy who sank in the background, singing hooks, a guy who was ubiquitous but not traditionally A-list. Yet Gold elevates him, taking a critical long view and declaring him every bit as essential as better-known headliners. And there’s the descriptors themselves: Vicious crooning, a lisp, a howl. Those utterly simple, evocative and unexpected details, in their absolute specificity, are haunting. Vicious crooning. Most of us writers would settle for the easier cliches — Biggie’s lyricism or flow, Cobain’s pain, his moans — and never know the power of going deeper to find the detail that captures something so precisely — and easily.

Alison Roman, contributing writer and editor, author of Dining In

From “Mr. Baguette Takes on Mr. Lee,” published in 2004 in LA Weekly: Henry Ford applied the concept of the assembly line to automobile manufacture August Escoffier to the vast hotel banquet kitchen. The McDonald brothers broke American diner cooking down into a set of simple, easily replicated procedures and transformed the world’s restaurant in dustry in the process. Starbucks formalized espresso drinks. La Brea Bakery proved that it was possible to devote a vast industrial assembly line to the making of slow-rise artisanal bread.

But there has never been a testament to the virtues of standardization quite like the assembly line for Vietnamese banh mi at Lee’s Sandwiches, a small chain of restaurants centered around bright kitchens, clean as an operating chamber, that seem to stretch into infinity. A study in balletic grace, teams of sandwich makers, all in white, slice hot baguettes in half, chop off the pointy ends, then neatly layer meat and condiments that are sized to the skinny bread. Bakers march across the kitchen bearing trays of freshly baked French bread for the sandwich makers. A sign in the front window, perhaps inspired by the display at Krispy Kreme, flashes Hot Baguettes in burning red neon.

This whole review of dueling banh mi spots he wrote in 2004 is the first thing I remember reading and thinking, I’m going to go find these places and I’m going to go eat these things, for no other reason other than I wanted to hang out with the person who had written the article. I figured if I, too, ate these sandwiches, then somehow we’d be considered members of the same imaginary club, and I really, really wanted to be a member of that club. I didn’t even really like sandwiches! That’s how good he was.

He was the best and I trusted him implicitly (still is, still do). I’ve said repeatedly that the only bad thing about New York is that we didn’t have a Jonathan Gold, because how the hell are we supposed to know where to eat?

Brett Anderson, restaurant critic, the Times-Picayune, New Orleans

Soundgarden’s first EP, Screaming Life, may have seemed like just another obscure indie record when it came out in ’87, but in retrospect the first bow-shot of the modern rock era was fired on the first ten seconds of that limited-edition, blue-vinyl Sub Pop masterpiece (in the opening measures of the song “Hunted Down”). Thayil’s riff consisted of bottom-string guitar notes that didn’t bend, exactly, as much as they refused to commit to a single pitch Matt Cameron’s drumming was spare and sort of thuddy, but also laid-back in a style common to metal drummers of the time but not to underground art bands. The bass lurked subliminally deep, and most of the space above was occupied by the powerful, piercing cry of singer Chris Cornell, who sounded like a goddamn trumpet. It was a record capable of making you forget everything but the overwhelming need to shake your long hair in front of your eyes.

When I began my first weekly restaurant column for the Washington City Paper, in D.C., in January of 1996, one of the many obstacles I struggled to overcome — I had never tried sushi, despised raw tomatoes and couldn’t operate chopsticks — was an ignorance of working food journalists who churned out prose in the knowing, culture-striding, slightly off-the-rails style of the music writers who inspired me to get into newspapers in the first place. Among them was Jonathan Gold, who at the time regularly wrote long features for Rolling Stone and Spin magazine, the premiere U.S. pop music magazines of the day. I’d heard Gold wrote some about restaurants in LA, but it seemed so impossible to me that his food writing could be as thrilling as, say, the Soundgarden profile he wrote for Spin in 1994. (Follow the link and note that the opening paragraph, set in Australia, name-drops curry stands and Malibu.)

There were no punk brainiacs writing about food back then — or so I assumed before I ultimately found my way to Gold’s Counter Intelligence columns on the LA Weekly’s website. As it turns out, Gold’s food writing was — well, anyone familiar only with it will recognize his voice in the passage above, forever emblazoned in my memory thanks to the whip-snap of the “goddamn trumpet.” Gold’s food columns regularly coiled around some set of observations, many of which sent me running (in those pre-Google days) to my reference library, only to offer up grin-inducing release, often in the form of an easily relatable revelation, like “the overwhelming need to shake your long hair in front of your eyes.” Jonathan left us way too young, but I’ll forever marvel at how long he sustained such brilliance.

Charlotte Druckman, writer, author

Here are two passages of his music writing, where you can see the brilliance of his prose, but you also get to see his range, how he started, his early driving force — and passion — and that he could NAIL a profile.

The first, an except from his feature on N.W.A. for Spin in 1989, shows you how much he knew about a specific genre of music, and the second, his profile of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails from Rolling Stone in 1994, shows him writing about a very different genre and how he zeroes in on a single performer:

Public Enemy is hard. Too Short is hard. Eric B. and Rakim are hard: raw, noisy, uncommercial. Hard beats are what you hear pounding from Oldsmobiles, boomboxes, skateparks and hardly ever from the radio spare, percussive backing tracks composed with cheap-sounding drum machines and short snatches bitten from old soul singles.

L.L. Cool J used to be hard until he recorded a love song, which no self-respecting rapper will ever let him forget. Run-DMC were hard until they jammed with Aerosmith. KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions, whose first album included an ode to his 9mm repeater pistol, wanted to stay hard so bad that he posed with an Uzi on the cover of his last album — an album whose hit single was “Stop the Violence.” The brutal calculus of hardness forgives lapses in taste, but never in form. “There’s a principle involved,” Ice Cube says. “The Weekly wouldn’t run a picture of a baby getting its head cut off N.W.A wouldn’t do a pop song.”

Hardness arose as a rap aesthetic at about the same time much of the music became essentially suburban. While artists from Harlem and the Bronx were still producing good-time party jams, middle-class kids from Queens and Long Island began to form the contemporary image of the rapper as an articulate gangster with a chip on his shoulder, a young black man hard by choice. (Every rapper suburban middle-class Def Jam mogul Rick Rubin ever had a hand in producing is hard: Run, L.L., PE, Slick Rick, even the Beastie Boys.) Hard rap, like punk, brought together a self-selected community of kids by becoming an image of what their parents feared most.

To paraphrase the late poet Philip Larkin, hatred is to Nine Inch Nails what daffodils were to Wordsworth.

Reznor is a master of control and a perfectionist to the extent that when the stage lighting did not work out to his satisfaction at the beginning of The Downward Spiral tour, he spent two days reprogramming the system’s computer software. “It was looking like a Genesis concert,” he says. “Somebody had to get the job done.”

In the light of day, maybe yelling at a soundman or discussing marketing strategy with his manager John Malm, Reznor looks pretty robust for a rock & roll guy. He has ruddy Midwestern cheeks and an athletic ease you might associate with the quarterback of a small-college football team. Perhaps surprised by his rude health, strangers meeting Reznor for the first time often describe him as normal. (He is more likely to describe himself as a “computer dweeb.”)

Onstage though, splayed like a St. Sebastian without the torturing arrows, Reznor resembles nothing so much as the Bronze Age man they dug from that glacier in Austria a couple of years ago, give or take a pair of fish-net stockings: rough-edged bowl cut, leather cod-piece thing, garters, tunic and pre-industrial boots. Though the subject of control is as central to Reznor’s collected works as the subject of marijuana is to Snoop Doggy Dogg’s — an early press release for Pretty Hate Machinetook pains to point out “Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails” — Reznor appears powerless onstage, buffeted by harsh, glowing fog, martyred to the noise and to the crowd, enraged by a world he does not understand.”

You and me, we could be there, in that audience, right now, 24 years later.

Matt Rodbard, editor Taste, co-author Koreatown: A Cookbook

You find your way into a dark parking lot off Berendo, walk up a wheelchair ramp that seems to lead to a dance studio, and walk through a deserted courtyard, down a hall past a dishwashing station and up a small flight of stairs into DGM (short for Dwight Gol Mok), a movie director’s fantasy of a smoke-filled Korean student tavern.

This is the start of Gold’s blurb for Best Kimchi Pancake from what many (me, possibly Matt Kang) consider Jonathan’s LA Weekly mangnum opus — a benign-titled Jonathan Gold’s 60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know listicle that was actually the deepest dive into one of LA’s most-interesting food culture/sub culture. I used this article (it ran several thousand words) as a roadmap when reporting Koreatown, and was lucky enough to dine with the guy on a couple occasions, his flowing red hair ending up in our plate of sticky pork ribs at Ham Ji Park. I suspect Koreatown was Gold’s favorite food destination. It’s so alive and always changing and just the best in a city of bests. He’d never admit this of course. Rest In Peas!

Tom Sietsema, restaurant critic for the Washington Post

Jonathan was so clearly in love with the city he covered, both old and current Los Angeles. His 2011 shout out to Musso & Frank Grill in the LA Weekly manages the neat trick of telling his audience everything they need to know about the place — why it matters, what to order, its place in history — in just a few lovely sentences. To read them is to be there, with Jonathan sitting across the table from you:

If you walk into Musso expecting to have the same kind of steak you had last week at Morton’s, you probably have the wrong idea. Because before the restaurant became a martini-fueled Hollywood clubhouse, the place where Faulkner blew out his liver and generations of character actors learned to show up on Wednesday for the chicken potpie, the restaurant was practically a showcase for what was then considered California cuisine, a genteel marriage of the local produce, abundant local fisheries and masculinized lunchroom cooking: avocado cocktails smeared with sweet, pink dressing and frigid bowls of chilled consommé fried smelts and dainty plates of crab Louie kidneys Turbigo. This is what the cosmopolitan life was like, before Cosmopolitans. Or if you happen to be of a certain bent, you could always try a long, drowsy lunch of Vicodin, jellied consommé and Welsh rarebit, followed by a desert-dry Gibson and a long nap — an experiment in what one friend of mine calls gout-stool cuisine.

Andrew Zimmern, television host, author

Jonathan Gold defined our food world in many ways. He was an explorer, an advocate, a mentor for individuals communities and cultures. He turned phrases and put forth ideas that changed the way the rest of us considered the cultural value of eating. His impact on dining in America is beyond measure. Personally I lost a lighthouse. Gold’s earliest work, before he won the Pulitzer and went on everyone’s radar helped me sharpen my own viewpoints and inspired me to trust my gut, eventually affecting all the work I do today. We swim in food, food is life, and it’s a cultural barometer without peer. One of my favorite quotes is one that parallels my thinking and experience.

I think the point of obsession with food means we’re healthy as a species. When we’re hungry, everything tastes good, hunger is the best spice. When you’re in a area that has few resources, you work incredibly hard to have something. And then you make the something taste good. The greatest food in the world comes from the inventiveness of great privation. What emerges is all the miraculous fermentations and all the strong flavors. You put it together in the right way, it’s delicious. That defines survival, and our human species.

Willy Blackmore, editor at Popula

From 2009’s “Moles La Tia: Beyond the Magnificent Seven,” in LA Weekly: Still, I always end up with the quail in the traditional black mole, so dark that it seems to suck the light out of the airspace around it, spicy as a novela and bitter as tears, a mole whose aftertaste can go on for hours. La Tía’s mole negro appears so glossy and rich that I am always tempted to test its consistency by stabbing an index finger into it, and the resulting stain lingers as long as the empurpled digits of patriotic Iraqi voters. The last time I was as inspired by glossy black, it was part of Charles Ray’s infamous sculpture Ink Box, and it was enshrined in a major museum of art.

I remember reading his review of Moles La Tia for the first time and having a kind of run, don’t walk feeling. There’s a sense of immediacy and almost urgency to the writing — like you (and it’s always you with Gold) simply have to eat this right now. That kind of earnest enthusiasm that came through in his raves always had me making dinner plans.

Jordana Rothman, food editor, Food & Wine

The first of the few times I met Jonathan Gold was in the backyard of Ivan Orkin’s ramen-ya on New York’s Lower East Side. Over the past few days I have been comforted to hear from friends and colleagues with similar stories: Encountering Jonathan Gold could be a stupefying experience, not only because he was a legend but also because, after all of our awkward bumbling, he’d always turn out to be so… gentle. Later, for the Los Angeles Times, he’d write about the evening at Ivan Ramen:

The taste, the crunch, and the purpose of the dish was very much that of a splendidly greasy okonomiyaki, and in fact it was called Lancaster Okonomiyaki on the menu, honoring both the Pennsylvania Amish birthplace of scrapple and the name of the Japanese snack it was meant to evoke. (I admire his restraint in not naming his creation Scraffles, Scrokonomiyaki, or Wapples, although admittedly all of those sound more like exotic skin ailments than they do like food.) It was a good dish.

This of course is many paces from the gorgeous prose and seeker sensibility that earned Gold a Pulitzer, that made him every food writer’s hero (and also, frankly, made the rest of us feel featherweight in comparison.) In his work, Jonathan Gold could rally cry, could daydream, could lob, could pierce. You might tap along while reading, as though it wasn’t a restaurant review but the lyrics to a song, sometimes Cab Calloway sometimes N.W.A.

But I love this one for its simple admiration, the way it shakes the hauteur out of food writing. Only Jonathan Gold could call something a “good dish” and have that be exactly right. Perfectly enough.

Corby Kummer, senior editor, the Atlantic

From 2006’s “Home of the Porno Burrito,” in LA Weekly: I was tipped off to El Atacor #11 by an unsigned e-mail a couple of months ago, a message instructing me to Google the phrase “porno burrito.” I did. A healthy percentage of the results pointed toward the restaurant. The potato taco may be El Atacor’s enduring glory, but its fame in the online world comes mostly from its Super Burrito, a foil-wrapped construction the size and girth of your forearm, which drapes over a paper plate like a giant, oozing sea cucumber or, perhaps more to the point, like an appendage of John Holmes. It is impossible to look at a Super Burrito without marveling at the flaccid, masculine mass of the thing. It is probably even harder to bite into it without laughing.

Jonathan Gold’s voice was like no other food writer: witty, rhythmic, erudite, slightly formal because he liked it that way and it let him make fun of himself. It’s worth subscribing to the Los Angeles Times to get access to more than ten. The Pulitzer Prize page devoted to his award gives a heaping helping of the pieces that won him the first Pulitzer awarded to a food writer, with the bonus of loading ten pieces with one click. A full and wonderful trove of his Counter Intelligence columns for LA Weekly were collected in a book I’m ordering another copy of before they sell out.

Joshua Gee, editor of Snack Cart

It’s cliched to say that a writer changed my life. But Gold wrote a specific essay that changed the actual course of my life. In early 2012, I had just gotten out of a bad relationship, and left an apartment we shared in Boston. Friends in both New York and Los Angeles were lobbying me to move to their respective cities. A member of the LA contingent sent me Gold’s essay on the anniversary of the LA riots. It blew my mind:

It’s one thing to decide whether you feel like burgers or pizza for dinner another to choose between bangus, empek-empek, or brains masala. It was hard to tell whether the most exotic of the restaurants was the place that advertised “Fil-Italian cuisine — stranger than fiction!” or the hot-dog stand specializing in a kind of red-hot previously unobtainable outside of Rochester, N.Y.

Before the riots, Los Angeles had been notorious in some circles as a kind of multicultural nightmare, a fever-swamp of global capitalism on a path to becoming the city portrayed in “Blade Runner.” An entire school of urbanism, sometimes called the “L.A. School,” had emerged to study our sunny dystopia.

But change in Los Angeles is often easier to track by looking at its restaurants rather than its boardrooms, and from the business end of a pair of chopsticks, extreme diversity didn’t look so bad. Sometimes equality, democracy and tolerance are virtues you fight for on distant battlefields, and sometimes they are as close as the frozen-food aisle at Vons.

I didn’t know who Gold was, but the essay made me ache to be the kind of person he was writing for. It hinted at the vast culinary and cultural landscape of Los Angeles. It showed me all I still had to learn about food. That essay brought me to Los Angeles. When it was time to leave, I started Snack Cart partly to force myself to keep up with Gold’s weekly reviews. Reading restaurant reviews from around the country, I came to realize how different Gold was from the rest. Most critics tell us where to eat. Jonathan Gold told us who we are.

Bill Addison, Eater’s national critic

On Wednesdays in 2006 I would fire up my desktop computer at the San Francisco Chronicle, where I worked as a food critic under Michael Bauer, and start my morning with a ritual: reading the latest Jonathan Gold review that had gone live on LA Weekly’s site. The review that ran the first week in December that year was called “Flesh and Bone” it was a review of Wolfgang Puck’s new Beverly Hills steakhouse called Cut. The lede left me short of breath:

A whole fillet of Japanese beef, as wrapped in ninja-black cloth and carried around by the beef sommelier at Wolfgang Puck’s steak house Cut, is as ghostly white as an alabaster slab, like steak as seen in a photographic negative, like something Francis Bacon might have carved out of soft stone. Cooked, a single mouthful of Japanese rib eye from Kyushu pumps out flavor after flavor after flavor, every possible sensation of smoke and char and tang and animal you can imagine until your teeth have extracted all the juices. If you happen to be at Cut, and you happen to have in front of you what would ordinarily be a perfectly splendid corn-fed Nebraska strip steak, aged 35 days, seared at 1,200 degrees, then finished over oak to a ruddy, juicy medium rare — or even an example of American wagyu rib eye — you would take one bite of your neighbor’s Japanese Kobe steak, cooked the same way, and look around for rocks to throw at your own hunk of meat.

I wasn’t at all surprised when he won the Pulitzer the following year, and that the Cut review was among the submissions for the prize. But on first reading, on that mild San Francisco morning back in December 2006, I just remember the excellence he inspired coursing through me like benign lightning: “Do better, Bill. Every week, do better.”

Gold became America’s defining food critic by reminding us each week to broaden our own definitions of community. He built his reputation by lovingly detailing the cuisines of the world, often served at mom-and-pops housed in strip malls scattered around the Los Angeles metro area. But the review of Cut reminded me that his poetic mind, saturated in all the artistic disciplines, could yield wonder describing restaurants of any genre.

Vencil Mares' Bohunk sausage

From Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook by Robb Walsh

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  • Categories: Grills & BBQ Main course Cooking ahead Cooking for a crowd Picnics & outdoors American
  • Ingredients: beef rump roast Boston butt hog casings


Pretty much every pizza lover knows the story by now𠅋ronx-born Chris Bianco ended up in Phoenix on a whim, back in the �s. He was only supposed to be visiting, but ended up deciding to stay, soon after opening a pizza place inside a local supermarket, which answers the question, how did one of the country’s greatest pizza joints, Pizzeria Bianco, ended up in the middle of the Sonoran Desert? Today, it remains one of the Valley’s most important restaurants, alongside much older greats like the mid-century Durant’s, a bordello-like (so much red!) steakhouse on Central Avenue opened by a former Vegas pit-boss back in the 1950s. Make sure to enter through the back door, like the locals do. At the much more casual Fry Bread House, an everyday Native American staple gets the royal treatment, served alongside good pozole and menudo since the early 1990s, which is nearly yesterday compared to Tucson’s El Charro Cafe, said to be America’s oldest Mexican restaurant, laying claim to the invention of the chimichanga, otherwise known as the deep-fried burrito.

The Santa Fe Railroad is very much a part of Northern Arizona’s modern history at the Fred Harvey-designed La Posada hotel in Winslow, The Turquoise Room pays tribute to peak train, and you can still ride the rails to get there𠅊mtrak’s Southwest Chief, connecting Los Angeles with Chicago, stops right out front.

What Makes Okra Slimy?

When you cut open an okra pod, it releases a thick, viscous, clear substance called mucilage. If you enjoy slippery textures, you might not mind. If you’d rather cut down on the slime factor, you can add a touch of vinegar, lemon juice, or acidic tomatoes to the okra, or quickly cook it over high heat:

Be sure to choose smaller pods at the store (or pick them early from your veggie garden), since they won’t be as slick.

The Wrap: A restaurant residency, Taco Tuesdays and a farewell to Bill’s Pizza

Also, Oakhurst Dairy plans events to celebrate its 100th anniversary, and a Maine chef needs your support in a contest.

Yellow Door Taqueria, a Boston Cali-Mex restaurant, will be coming to Kennebunkport March 5 and 6. Courtesy of Yellow Door Taqueria

You’ve heard of recording artists doing residencies in Las Vegas. (This year, the list includes Usher, Sting, Cher and Barry Manilow. Sting? I’m booking my ticket now.) Here’s the restaurant version: Yellow Door Taqueria, a cult favorite Cali-Mex restaurant in Boston, will be doing a weekend-long residency March 5 and 6 at The Burleigh Restaurant at the Kennebunkport Inn.

The menu, available for both dine-in (including outdoor dining in igloos) and takeout, will include some of the restaurant’s more popular seasonal items and tacos, which were voted “Best Taco” in 2019 by Boston Magazine. An important addition: a Maine lobster taco. Executive chef Cara Marie Nance will be cooking. Wash it all down (and warm up) with a selection of margaritas. Dinner service will run from 4 to 10 p.m., with the restaurant closing at 11 p.m. Reservations are through Open Table.

Yellow Door Taqueria is owned by Brian O’Donnell, Jarek Mountain (who, apparently, has a sister who lives in Kennebunkport) and Ken Casey, frontman for the Dropkick Murphys.


Athena’s Cantina in Freeport is to hold a free “take and taste” tasting event Saturday, and launch Taco Tuesdays in March. Kerry Michaels

Athena’s Cantina, a Mexican-Latin restaurant at 491 U.S. Route 1 in Freeport, will celebrate its first anniversary Saturday with a free “take and taste” event from noon to 3 p.m.

Customers choose among dishes from a special menu – including corn salad, Cuban meatballs, rib tacos, veggie tacos and a Mexican dessert called Carlota de limon – and small tastes of the items will be packed for them to take home. Only five people will be allowed inside the restaurant at a time.

Spartan Sea Farms, a new Freeport oyster farm, also will be on-site selling oysters “with Latin flair.”

Next week the restaurant – owned by Adam De Los Reyes and Tais Szpanderfer and named after their daughter – will resume offering its take-and-bake options online. The entire takeout menu will be available once again on March 9 (with take-and-bake still available), Szpanderfer said, and the restaurant will reopen on March 16 for dine-in Taco Tuesdays, featuring 10 varieties of tacos.

Szpanderfer said customer feedback from Saturday’s event will help shape the restaurant’s menu when takeout and dine-in service resumes in March.


Late-night Old Port revelers – what’s left of them – will have to go elsewhere to satisfy their after-midnight pizza cravings: Bill’s Pizza is closing.

Over the weekend, the pizza joint, at 177 Commercial St., announced on social media that its last day in business will be Sunday. (The Old Orchard Beach location remains open.) But by Monday night, another business had already claimed the real estate – The Holy Donut, which has been searching for a larger location in the Old Port since closing its tiny shop on Exchange Street in October.

Bill’s Pizza, known for its 17-inch jumbo pies, has long been a favorite of tourists and locals. It’s also been a popular late-night stop for bar patrons in the Old Port looking to soak up the night’s beer with carbs in the form of a slice or two. For years, it was one of the only late-night spots in town to grab a bite, staying open until 2 a.m. In addition to pizza, Bill’s serves fries, chicken fingers and chili.


Cheevitdee, the Thai restaurant at 363 Fore St., announced on Instagram Monday that it is closing permanently at the end of the month.

“Since Covid has emerged, our restaurant has been through a lot of difficult times operating the business,” the message read. “It is our regret to inform you that we will be closing our doors permanently at the end of February.”

The owners could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But fans of the restaurant may have a little hope to hang onto: The goodbye message ended with “The spirit of Cheevitdee lives on. Details in the near future.”


Crispy Gai, the Thai fried chicken takeout business that has been operating out of the Public Market House in Portland’s Monument Square, plans to move to 90 Exchange St., the former home of Eaux. The owners of Crispy Gai, Jordan Rubin and Cyle Reynolds, announced the move on social media Monday.

Sam Sifton of the New York Times Brendan McCarthy

Eavesdrop on a conversation between two restaurant critics – one from Maine, one from New York City – at an April 6 Portland Press Herald event, one in the paper’s Maine Voices Live series. Portland Press Herald restaurant reviewer Andrew Ross will be talking with Sam Sifton, the founding editor of NYT Cooking and former chief restaurant critic for the New York Times. The free virtual conversation begins at 7 p.m.

Maine Voices Live features in-depth, one-on-one conversations between Press Herald writers and notable Mainers. The online audience will have the opportunity to ask Sifton their own questions. The Sifton interview was originally scheduled for last March, but then the pandemic hit. Register at

One of the last Oakhurst horse-drawn delivery wagons, circa 1930. C ourtesy of Oakhurst Dairy


Oakhurst Dairy is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and the company is planning a lot of special events to mark the occasion, including an “Oakie kids challenge” that will ask children to do “100 Acts of Kindness, Goodness, and Maineness” throughout the year.

Oakhurst door-to-door delivery truck, circa 1945. Courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy

When the dairy opened for business in Portland in 1921, it delivered milk in glass bottles transported by horse-drawn wagons. Today, Oakhurst processes about a half-million gallons of milk every week, and its reach has extended to New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

The company is perhaps most widely known for being the first to label its milk free of artificial growth hormones. Agribusiness giant Monsanto sued Oakhurst over the labels in 2003, alleging that the Maine company misled consumers into thinking something was wrong with milk from cows treated with the hormone. Oakhurst prevailed, and the labeling practice spread throughout the dairy industry.


Arcadia National Bar, at 24 Preble St. in Portland, which has been closed for nearly a year because of the pandemic, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so it can move into the former Port City Music Hall, at 504 Congress St.

Owner David Aceto said he believes “this is the way to keep Arcadia going in a pandemic and come out the other side.” As of Tuesday morning, he had raised just over $54,000, well over his $42,069 goal. Some of the money, according to Aceto, will be used to expand the arcade to three times as many games, as well as hold performances, art shows and parties.


Six Maine food companies have been named 2021 Tastemakers, a four-year-old program developed by Coastal Enterprises Inc. and FocusMaine to support the growth of Maine’s food economy.

The businesses are: Bristol Seafood in Portland Luke’s Lobster in Saco and Portland Good to Go in Kittery Maine Crisp Co. in Winslow Ocean’s Balance in Biddeford and Windham Butcher Shop.

Each business has been awarded $20,000 to increase production capacity with “shovel-ready” projects that directly support Maine agriculture, aquaculture or fisheries, according to the announcement. The recipients also will receive consulting and networking opportunities.


Maine Squeeze Juice Café, in Portland’s Old Port, has changed its name, but the location at 5½ Moulton St. is still under the same ownership and has a similar menu.

Going forward, Maine Squeeze, which sells smoothies, bowls and avocado toast, will be The Juicery. The company is rebranding in order to unite all its locations: The Juicery also has shops in Kittery Portsmouth, Durham and the Pease Tradeport industrial park in New Hampshire and Boston, Salem and Newburyport, in Massachusetts.


Homemade pizza will probably go down in history, along with sourdough bread, as one of the most popular foods of the pandemic. Otto pizza dough is now being sold in Whole Foods Markets in New England, New York and New Jersey.


Bluet, the maker of wild Maine blueberry sparkling wine, will be a key participant in the first symposium on the future of wild blueberry wine from noon to 2 p.m. Friday. The Zoom webinar is free register at

The symposium, called “Next Steps in Building a Wild Blue Wine Industry,” will feature winemakers, growers, distributors and researchers. Speakers include Michael Terrien, founder of Bluet Joe Appel, winemaker at RAS wines and former Press Herald wine columnist Rob Tod and Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing Co. Jeremy Howard of Brodis Blueberries in Hope Tabitha Perry of Crush Distributors in Yarmouth and Mary Ellen Camire, a researcher in the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine.


Here’s a welcome sign of spring: The dates for the 38th annual Maine Maple Sunday weekend have been set for March 27 and 28, just over a month from now.

Last year, because of the pandemic, the Maine Maple Producers Association postponed the popular event until Oct. 9-11, with maple producers hosting both online and a few limited on-farm activities, following federal CDC guidelines. It was the first time in 37 years the spring event had been canceled. Sugar shacks will be open again this year, according to Scott Dunn, president of the association.

“Since each sugar house is unique in size and capacity, producers are adjusting their hours and purchase options, including curbside pick-up and online ordering,” Dunn said in a statement. “It is important for visitors to plan ahead by checking or calling your local producers about their plans for the event.”

In addition to buying syrup on Maine Maple Sunday weekend, visitors normally partake in pancake breakfasts, maple doughnuts and farm tours.

Maine has 450 licensed maple producers who make more than 575,000 gallons of syrup annually, making it the third largest producer in the country after Vermont and New York. The maple syrup industry generates $27 million a year for the Maine economy and employs more than 560 people, according to the Maine Maple Producers Association.


Attention local restaurants who use Uber Eats as a delivery service: This is the last week to apply for a grant of up to $5,000 that can be used for payroll, outdoor dining setups, personal protective equipment, and other needs during the pandemic.

Uber recently announced $4.5 million in small business grants for local restaurants that use its delivery service. (You may have seen the Wayne’s World commercial about the program featuring Wayne and Garth, two former Saturday Night Live characters.) Sunday is the last day to submit an application for one of the grants.

For more information on the grant program, go to, or to apply go to


The website Favorite Chef has invited chefs to compete in an online competition to be named the world’s favorite chef, and a Maine chef is currently vying for a spot in the top 15.

Dannielle Allen, executive chef and general manager at The Duck Pub & Restaurant in Topsham, is holding her own in the competition, which will award the winner $50,000 and a sponsored double-page spread in Bon Appetit magazine.

Vote for Allen here: Everyone gets one free vote, and you can buy extra votes for $1 each, with a portion of the proceeds going to the anti-hunger nonprofit Feeding America.

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Share All sharing options for: Remembering Josh Ozersky: Chefs, Restaurateurs, and Writers Pay Tribute

Still reeling from the devastating news that acclaimed food writer Josh Ozersky has passed away, Eater reached out to members of the food community to pay tribute. Everybody in this industry, it seems, has a Josh Ozersky story. He had an outsized personality, a prolific byline, and an undeniable talent. His voice and his singular point of view will certainly be missed. To paraphrase a sentiment Ozersky once wrote himself: He matters, and his writing will endure.

Below, the community pays tribute.

Anthony Bourdain, Author and TV host

"Josh, not unreasonably, aspired to be a literary figure of Lieblingesque importance and influence. He was to be disappointed in this regard. The fact that he was usually the smartest person in the room, and the best writer by far, endeared him to few. He was careless with his opinions and his associations, passionate about his likes and dislikes. To Josh, a badly made grilled cheese sandwich was a crime against all humanity. He never became A.J. Liebling, but maybe he went one better. Loved, despised, polarizing, in love with hyperbole, diplomatically awkward to be around — and the very best writer in his field, he was, in fact, the Lester Bangs of food writing. I like to think that comparison would have pleased him."

Pat LaFrieda Jr., Butcher

"200 chefs an hour, calling me to confirm the terrible news of Josh's death last night, speaks volumes to the impact that he had in our industry and beyond. He has created more food trends and styles of cooking than he will ever be credited for. He was a dear close friend and a piece of me has died with him. The world will seem very empty without him."

Andrew Zimmern, Chef and TV host

"Josh was my friend. We talked and saw each other as often as possible. He was a larger than life personality. Brilliant thinker, superb writer, insightful and curious. I was jealous of him. Everything he tried he was staggeringly good at. He even turned out to be an accomplished events producer!

Mostly he was a great friend: Never forgetting my kids special milestones or making my wife laugh for an hour in the corner of a room at a party. I loved his mind. There were very few ideas or opinions I didn't run by Josh for his two cent contribution that ended up being priceless. He was great to people watch with, a loyal guy and I will miss him very very much.

Josh Ozersky loved karaoke. Photo: Nick Solares

I just spoke to him Saturday because he was in Minneapolis and I wanted to see if he was up for breakfast or something before coming down to Chicago. He loved his family and extended family and he loved the food community more than anything.

There is one bittersweet element to all this, as someone who suffered from a slew of issues myself revolving around mental health and a few physical maladies. Josh's passing and Homaro [Cantu]'s death a few weeks ago is a great reminder that going for it all, living 25/8/366 while keeping everything we think and feel close to the vest is not in our best interest as human beings. I will be in love with Josh forever and miss him already. The world was a better place with him in it."

Michael White, Chef

"I don't know anyone that loved eating more than Josh. He truly loved NYC. If I had a question about food in NYC he was my go to . From chocolate cake at Eisenberg's to left over lasagna, Josh loved it all. An insatiable appetite. Articulate. I remember one evening testing to see if Mamoun's was still up to par before eating the côte de bœuf at Minetta. He was a funny, hilarious story teller. A mensch."

Robert Sietsema, Restaurant critic

"I first met Josh Ozersky when he showed up at a party we were both attending in the East Village in 2003 and handed me a copy of his book, Meat Me in Manhattan, which he'd just pseudonymously published under the name Mr. Cutlets. He was sheepish in demeanor, but once he opened his mouth his sharp intellectualism was apparent. The book was to mark a watershed in his life, as he repurposed his writing career to concentrate on food — he'd previously written mainly about popular culture, propelled by a Ph.D. in American History from Notre Dame. The book was part instructional manual, part restaurant guide, and part cri de coeur for the love of animal flesh, which was to be a guiding principle for the rest of his life: 'Meat is the morning sun and the evening star. It is a sausage at sunrise, a sandwich at noon, and a steak late at night.' He was a juggernaut, a gadfly, a unique voice, and above all a very talented writer, and he will be sorely missed."

John Tesar, Chef

"I loved Josh — he was not only a friend, he was my brother. He was a witty, talented writer and sometimes the poster boy for crass, but he could wax poetic in the blink of an eye. He was a restaurant and chef historian. A dear friend, a lover of food life and art. He was both in touch with the past and could often see into the future. He loved life, he loved chefs, he loved the restaurant industry, he loved his wife and dog. And most often told the truth."

Nick Solares, Senior editor, Eater NY

"Much has rightly been said of his prodigious talents as a writer, but more importantly, Josh was a kind and gentle soul who was loyal to a fault. It is ironic that he wasn’t there to see Aaron Franklin take the stage at the Beards, because he was such an important part of barbecue ascending to such lofty heights. He was such a larger than life character that it is hard to fathom that he is no longer here. I miss him terribly."

Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly barbecue editor

"Josh Ozersky was my favorite nemesis. I'm not alone in this, but when I saw that he'd written a new piece about bacon, or pastrami, or barbecue, I'd read it immediately scanning it for something to be pissed off about. He rarely disappointed. And that was the beauty in his writing. He knew how to push buttons, stir up controversy, and most importantly, make people question their entrenched positions. From his audience he summoned up defensiveness by the truckload. He reveled in the reactions his sometimes outlandish positions would create, but his sights were always set on teaching you something despite whether or not your sought his knowledge.

A couple years ago he challenged me to a brisket smoking duel. He backed out because he hadn't factored in the time necessary to pull off his first Texas-based Meatopia event where we shared steak by the platter full. It gave me great pleasure to chide him about waving the white flag. I'd always hoped to rekindle the idea of our face-off, if only for the spectacle. I knew there was a good chance I would have beaten him — something that would have never happened if it came down to a war of words. He used them far more creatively and convincingly than I could ever hope, and he'd laugh if he knew how often I had to look up the definitions of his insults.

I didn't spend much time with Josh Ozersky in person. I was content to wrestle with his words and ideas. Maybe I knew that too much chumming up would make me like him too much for a proper sparring session. He seemed like a man who was easy to grow fond of, but we just had too much fun arguing for sincere amity and civility to get in the way. So, good night my truculent adversary. Your enthusiasm and your humor will be missed, but thankfully your words remain so we can forever bask in your joyous provocation."

Ben Leventhal, Eater co-founder

"Once, Josh famously boasted about getting gout, a sign he took to mean that he was doing his job as well as it could be done (which he was). He found comfort in food the way other people lean on family. His knowledge of food subjects, and, in fact, of many non-food subjects, was dwarfed only by the strength of his enthusiasm around the specifics. Like, for example, the inherent beauty of the deckle or a hamburger done *the right way.* It was all infectious, of course, and one of the great ways to dine was to dine with Cutlets. All of his work — the essays, articles and videos the red meat counsel he quietly gave to many of the best chefs in the country his own narrative — will only get better over time. Rest in peace, buddy. May all of your meals in heaven be full comps."

George Motz, Filmmaker and Author

"I think people thought Josh and I were constantly at odds, competitive about our hamburger expertise. This could not have been further from the truth. We compared burger knowledge often and shared a profound love of the same burger style — the smashed patty on a white squishy bun with good old American cheese. And when I posted one on Instagram a few weeks ago he commented "weeping." I honestly believed that that burger could make him weep.

Josh spoke the way he wrote, in a deeply intellectual tone in which I would often roll my eyes. He was an excellent wordsmith that I was, frankly, jealous of. But when he spoke, and started to get wound up about a dish, a chef, or a cooking style, you could see that even though his words were powerfully grand he never took himself too seriously. If you noticed, he always delivered his sharpest manifestoes with a smile on his face. Always.

I'll miss Josh. There will never be another like him."

We'll be adding more tributes as we receive them. Feel free to share your Josh Ozersky stories in the forums.

15 November 2015

RIP, Ryan McGrale, Beloved Boston Bartender.

Photo courtesy of The Improper Bostonian
By now you’ve probably heard that Ryan McGrale, beverage director at Tavern Road, passed away suddenly, unexpectedly this weekend. The news left me stunned: I'd sat countless times at his bar at No. 9 Park (a late-afternoon weekend ritual for my wife and me for years), the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, and finally at Tavern Road. I cannot add much that has not already been said in the recent online outpouring of shock, grief and celebratory remembrances of this extraordinarily talented bartender, genuinely caring hospitality pro, and uncommonly vivid force of nature.

But I did get to feature him in my April 2014 cover story for The Improper Bostonian on Boston bartenders, entitled "Pouring Reign". (I so love his front-and-center badassery in Adam DeTour’s awesome cover photo, right.) In this piece, I talked with a dozen local pros I admire: six promising newcomers, and six talented veterans whom I felt didn’t get the press attention they deserved, in which latter company I firmly placed McGrale. I had to edit the interviews heavily for length, which left too many colorful, telling reflections from my subjects on the cutting room floor. One small thing I can do in Ryan’s memory is present his unexpurgated comments here.

Thanks, Ryan. You left a huge mark on a legion of patrons and industry colleagues. I will never forget your incredible energy, riotous good humor, fantastic cocktails, and above all, your dedication to making your customers feel loved and well cared for. RIP.


MC Slim JB: Measure or free-pour?
Ryan McGrale: Mostly measure, but free-pour occasionally.

MC: Drink that you wish more customers would order?
RM: I wish more customers would order gin cocktails (e.g., "Gin doesn't agree with me!")

MC: Drink you wish customers would forget existed?
RM: Wish customers forgot about a Margarita WITH SALT.

MC: What is your most prized bartending accoutrement, e.g., spoon, ice tool, ice mold, shaker, mixing glass, knife, Lewis bag, cocktail book, serving glass, other piece of barware or glassware, etc.? (Could be a work piece or something on your home bar.)
RM: First-edition “Bon Vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas.

MC: Most annoying customer behavior?
RM: Yelling drink orders at the bartenders while we are either making drinks, taking another drink order, or interacting with another guest.

MC: Every bartender has a collection of Fiasco Moments, e.g., the tray of glasses smashed into the ice bin, the flyaway tin that resulted in a guest wearing a shakerful of cocktails, the strangers you introduced at your bar that ended up in a murder/suicide, your proud original creation that customers hated, etc. What’s a particularly egregious / entertaining one of yours?
RM: My last bar shift in NYC. The bar was getting slammed around 10 pm. In NYC, that's early. This bar also does some of the most cocktail volume in the country. So things were getting pretty stressful. I had a guy from Jersey waving his credit card and cash at the opposite end of the bar. My nearest bartender was just getting stomped on with no end in sight. I looked down to check on her and locked eyes with this guy waving his credit card and cash in the air. I said, "We'll be with you in a minute." He continued to wave and be animated, insisting someone come up to him and take his order despite us politely saying we’d get to him in a moment. He thought we were ignoring him and started *snapping his fingers* to get anyone’s attention. I hate when anyone does that. So I figured I’d go out in a little blaze of glory for all the rough nights the Jerseyites had given me over the years, especially as a Bostonian. So I got down on all fours, walked down the bar, jumped onto the bar in front of the guy, crouched down, put my hands on his left and right cheek, and licked the left side of his face. The crowd was now seeing what was happening. I said, "We are here to serve you as best we can. We are people, not dogs. Don't you ever dare snap at anyone who serves you!” loud enough for people around him to hear. I hopped off the bar and took his order. The crowd started cheering like crazy! He smiled and said "You’re right, I’m sorry, never again in this or any bar!" Then he and I had a shot together and the night continued as it started.

MC: Spirit (or wine varietal/region or beer style) that more customers should be trying, and your favorite cocktail or bottling to introduce a newbie to it?
RM: Sherry. "Perfect Bamboo" cocktail: Amontillado Sherry, sweet and dry vermouth, Angostura and orange bitters.

MC: What’s the best day of the week and time of day for a customer to engage you in a leisurely, educational five-minute conversation about drinks?
RM: Any day at start of service except Fridays and Saturdays.

MC: You may have seen this article on the in-house lingo of certain NYC bars: What’s one of your house’s code words/phrases for intra-staff communication in front of customers?
RM: I worked at Clover Club when it opened, then went to sister bar Flatiron Lounge after. I still use NYC lingo at my bar now. I use "Staff meeting" and "Point." Lately we use the phrase "Bar tool!" Imagine what I’m referring to.

MC: What’s your typical end-of-shift drink?
RM: Usually a cold beer accompanied by an amaro (but not Fernet-Branca.)

MC: What’s a great book / film / record / play / TV show you’ve consumed recently and recommend?
RM: Been catching up on film, especially after the Oscars. I really liked "Gravity", saw it in IMAX, very gripping and suspenseful. I strongly suggest it.

MC: Do you have a guilty-pleasure drink, the kind of thing you wouldn’t want your peers or customers to catch you drinking?
RM: I'm an open book. Not ashamed about letting people know what I drink, especially when they think we drink cocktails or craft beer every chance we get. I do enjoy a NASCAR Spritz: Bud Lite Lime with a shot of Aperol in it and a lemon twist.

MC: What’s the last astonishing restaurant meal you had other than at your place?
RM: Erbaluce! By far one of my favorites, if not the favorite restaurant in Boston. Classic rustic Italian, amazing homemade pasta, awesome wine list and stories for days from owners Chuck and Joan!

MC: What are a couple of dives you favor on your own time?
RM: I love a good dive bar. Delux was one of my favorites until it closed recently. [N.B.: it has since reopened under new ownership.] I love Anchovies in South End and The Field in Central Square.

MC: Dr. Bartender, what’s the best cure for my hangover?
RM: Either Gatorade or a shot of whatever your last drink was the night before. If you were drinking beer all night and still got drunk, sadly, a good shot of whiskey with a hit of bitters.

MC: Most interesting current trend in cocktails (or beer or wine)?
RM: Mists and foams.

MC: Most ridiculous / overhyped / bullshit trend?
RM: National and local cocktail competitions (except for the Cocktail Wars and World Class competitions.)

MC: As a bar customer yourself, what’s one aspect of Boston’s bars that you wish more operators would do a better job of?
RM: Teaching humility.

MC: What Greater Boston bar (besides your own) is absolutely killing it right now? Of all their qualities, what’s the single standout attribute that makes you want to drink there?
RM: Blue Dragon. Somehow flying off the radar, though they have an amazing program of sprits, cocktails and beer, and a great meal at the bar to top it off. They are always busy and ready to show you a good time atop their knowledge and friendly service.

MC: What are the top two or three (or four or five) destinations on your Bars of the World Bucket List?
RM: Harry's New York Bar (Paris), The Aviary (Chicago), Tiki Ti (LA), Bar High Five (Tokyo), The Merchant Hotel (Belfast).

MC: What’s the most ridiculous thing a Yelper (or other amateur reviewer) has ever said about you or the place you work?
RM: I'm a very energetic and excited person, especially when I’m in the zone behind a bar: more than most, I can say. A Yelper once said that I had to be on drugs to like my job this much: literally on drugs. She was seriously saying that I was under the influence.

MC: What bartender or bar manager, currently working or retired, is your first-ballot lock for entry into Boston’s Bartending Hall of Fame?
RM: Tom Mastricola.

MC: Offer a sentence or two of advice to aspiring bartenders.
RM: It’s not about the drink. It’s about the WHOLE experience you provide them. Also: having respect and humility will lengthen your bartending career.

June 23, 2020: Burgers in Downtown Crossing, Asian Fusion Noodles Delivered, and More

A cheeseburger and more from Tasty Burger Tasty Burger/Official Site


Massachusetts allowed restaurants to resume indoor dining — with restrictions — yesterday, June 22, after over three months of takeout and delivery only in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. Still, most of the new restaurants opening in the coming weeks will likely stick with takeout and delivery only, or at least focus on it, and restaurants already tailor-made for that kind of service are at an advantage. So it’s no surprise that one of the first summer 2020 openings is a new outpost of local burger chain Tasty Burger, which is already experienced in the counter-service space. (It does offer table service at several locations, too.)

The brand new 48 Winter St. location, which was announced late last year and officially opened on June 19, brings the current location count to five (along with Fenway, Back Bay, North Station, and Harvard Square).

Fenway and Harvard Square, in addition to the new location, are currently operating with dining rooms open (full service in the Fenway location, both indoors and on the patio). The Back Bay location is expected to return in some capacity on June 26, and North Station is remaining closed for the time being.

The new Tasty Burger DTX is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with online ordering for pickup available. All the Tasty Burger classics are available — burgers, hot dogs, shakes, and such, as well as a small selection of beer and wine.


Forthcoming Asian fusion restaurant Nu Do Society, announced earlier this year, has quietly started to deliver pre-ordered meals on Sundays. Owner Wudthipong Guygaew is also behind Thai Amarin in Newton, but Nu Do Society mixes Thai food with other Asian cuisines, focusing on noodle dishes.

There will likely be a tom yum ramen on the menu, for example. “We think it’s a great combination between Japanese noodles and Thai hot [and] sour [soup with an] herbal broth,” a representative with the restaurant previously told Eater.

When the restaurant eventually fully opens at 123 River St., Cambridge, the longtime River Gods home, the intimate space will have room for about 28 diners (after COVID restrictions cease, anyway). But for now, the pandemic is delaying construction, and the restaurant is cooking out of temporary kitchen, with the revenue going toward rent and the Nu Do Society employees while introducing customers to the menu.

Nu Do Society currently accepts online orders from Tuesday to Friday for local Sunday afternoon delivery of a rotating, limited menu. (Delivery is free for orders over $35 otherwise, there’s a $5 fee.)

For June 28, options include a Northern Thai-inspired, mildly spicy linguine dish featuring chicken with red sauce a vegan rice noodle soup turmeric-marinated coconut chicken strips in pita bread with peanut sauce and Thai cucumber relish and more. The restaurant has been previewing dishes on Instagram as well.


Chef Linda Theth and Portsmouth-area restaurateurs Jay McSharry and David Vargas have opened Lin’s Little Kitchen in McSharry’s former Dos Amigos Burritos space at 24 Pleasant St. in Newburyport, serving a menu that embraces Theth’s family’s Cambodian and Laotian roots as well as a bit of McSharry and Vargas’s Mexican restaurant experience and Vargas’s heritage. (McSharry and Vargas are also behind Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, and McSharry runs other Dos Amigos Burritos locations aside from the now-closed Newburyport one, in addition to a long list of other restaurants that don’t serve Mexican food.)

The opening menu at Lin’s Little Kitchen leans more in the Southeast Asian than Mexican direction, with dishes such as Laotian beef jerky, egg rolls, banh mi, larb, and crispy rice salad with cured pork. But there are tacos, too, included one with seared fish and one with tofu.

This is Theth’s first ownership endeavor. The 24-year-old has worked under Vargas for years, starting at Vida Cantina as an intern and ultimately ending up as chef de cuisine. Vargas is reportedly bouncing around among Lin’s Little Kitchen, Vida Cantina, and two other McSharry restaurants for the time being but doesn’t expect Theth will need help for long.

Lin’s Little Kitchen is currently open for takeout, with online ordering available.