How I Survived Harvard Vietnamese Association’s Fear Factor

By Siqi Liu ’19

Last Friday in Ticknor Lounge, the Harvard Vietnamese Association (HVA) put on their annual Halloween study break, “HVA Fear Factor.” The members exhibited a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes ranked based on their level of “fearfulness.” These dishes ranged from “easy” (sticky rice with Chinese sausage) to “difficult” (balut, intestine).

“When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of something that’s very fresh—freshly made, freshly picked from farms,” said Tuongvan Le ’17, a member of HVA.

According to Le, Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by healthy, clean ingredients and an assortment of vegetables.

“In Vietnam, there is a lot of food that seems foreign to people here. That’s the inspiration for this event,” said Le. “It’s a great way to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to the U.S.”

Perfect, I thought. I have always been an adventurous eater, and I love trying foreign cuisine. As someone who lived in China for years, I am no stranger to dishes that may seem exotic to my American peers. Upon entering Ticknor Lounge, however, I realized that even as a lover of Asian cuisine, I have never heard of many of the foods on display. Excited, I braced myself for the challenge.

The first thing I sampled was the most familiar-looking dish: a plate of sticky rice with pieces of sausage poking out from the sides. The texture of the rice reminded of Zongzi, which is a traditional Chinese food item consisting of sticky rice and either red bean paste or meat wrapped in bamboo leaves. The sausage was nicely salted, and the flavor was not so different from my mother’s fried rice. So far, so good.

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Next, I came across a porcupine-looking fruit clothed in red spikes. I was initially afraid to even touch it—it was only after one of the HVA members picked up one of the fruits nonchalantly and began peeling that I dared to do the same (I was relieved to find that the spikes are actually very soft). The fruit is called rambutan, and it was surprisingly easy to peel—once you make an incision with your fingernail, the skin falls away like a loose coat. It has a sweet, fleshy interior that reminded me strongly of lychee, although suppler and less juicy. Definitely not anything to be afraid of.

I was particularly excited for the next item in line, the durian fruit, which I have always wanted to try. I’ve been told that these fruits smell really bad, but to be honest, I didn’t really mind the smell. Maybe it’s because the fruit has already been cut up for me and placed in a bowl, but either way, it was very benign. The fruit itself was chilled and sweet. If I could compare its taste to anything, it’d be a slightly smushy, overripe cantaloupe straight out of a fridge.

At this point, a HVA member handed me a cup and explained to me that it consists of basil seeds in sugary water. I have never heard of basil seeds being used for consumption, so I was delightfully surprised by the complex, soft-but-gritty texture of the seeds. The water itself was delicious; it reminded me of sugarcane juice from Cairo that I still dream about.

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“This is so good,” I heard someone say behind me. It was the member of HVA who just picked up a piece of intestine. I guess this is where the “fear factor” really amped up. Now, I have had intestine before in various Chinese dishes, so I was not paralyzed by fear. But it had been years since I actually had a piece of intestine. I gingerly picked up a piece with my fork, examined way the meat stiffened and curled, and put it in my mouth. It was good. The intestine was chewy but not too hard on the teeth, and it was salted to perfection. I’ve heard the intestines contain a high level of cholesterol, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to consume it in moderation.

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Take-away from this event: Vietnamese food is not scary, and scary-looking foods can be delicious. Either way, I think it is important for any foodie out there to be open-minded about cultural cuisine. You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you try it.

When I asked Le for Vietnamese restaurant recommendations, she mentioned several places in Chinatown, including Pho Pasteur and Pho Hoa. Now I know where I’m going next weekend.

Crispy Cauliflower

By Audrey Thorne ’19

Cauliflower is secretly one of the most delicious vegetables. It is good fresh, boiled, fried, baked, or broiled. Cauliflower is actually self-caramelizing, which means that the only seasoning it needs is a little bit of oil and some heat. In my family, when we make baked cauliflower with dinner, it is always the first dish to go. If you could just smell this healthy, surprisingly tasty treat you would be amazed.

What You Will Need:

Fresh cauliflower

Olive Oil

A pan

An oven

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Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

  2. Slice the cauliflower into small chunks

  3. Put the cauliflower into a pan

  4. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the cauliflower

  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until brown

  6. Enjoy

Vegan, Vegetarian != Healthy

By Estefania Lahera ’20

Disclaimer: I am by no means against vegetarian or vegan diets. That’s every individual’s personal choice, whether for ethical or health reasons, and not my place to comment. I myself am quite fond of vegetables, and despite recent indulgences for the sake of my sanity Crave articles, I actually probably eat around 70-80% vegetables. I love vegetables. In fact, I might be considered a bit of a health nut. Which is why this issue I’m about to talk about is so upsetting.

Over the summer I attended a Harvard pre-orientation program, and unsurprisingly the schedule was jam packed. One day, we had a catered lunch from a local restaurant.

“Okay, line up over here for food,” the program coordinator instructed, and added, “the vegetarian option is along the back wall”

I surveyed my options:

Chow mein.

A weird flat noodle dish.

Fried rice.

Was that a stir fry? I couldn’t tell.

In summary:

Carbs on carbs on carbs. On grease. With a smidge of protein.

Great.

But perhaps the vegetarian options would offer me solace?

If only.

The vegetarian option was the exact same as the meat dishes, if you just swapped chicken (a sketchy, stringy chicken) for tofu. Considering that tofu is extremely absorbent, it might actually be worse.

This is a common dilemma I’ve encountered when attending catered events. I’m sick and tired of cold pizza, of fried and an abused salad (which is to say a salad overwhelmed by unhealthy additions).

Don’t get me wrong: I love to indulge. I love burgers and pizza and elaborate desserts, just not on the casual level. To me, those are treats, and should not be eaten during work or in a rush, only on special occasions.

And so it pains me that almost every time vegetarians and vegans are accommodated, but there are never any accommodations for straight up healthy food. I don’t mean fad diet healthy food, I mean common sense healthy food: vegetables and lean proteins with little if any grease, perhaps a minimally processed starch or carbohydrate. No preservatives, no MSG, no food colorings or chemical conditioners (check your bread labels… it’s there).  Organic would be nice too, but maybe that’s too far (even though it shouldn’t be).

This might sound elitist, spoiled, stuck up even.

But since when has eating healthy become a privilege of the upper class?

Why can’t everyone demand better quality food, and moreover, fight for it to be affordable? I understand that a major concern with healthy food is that it’s more expensive, but don’t tell me that companies like Kraft and Kellog and Kroger don’t have CEOs making extreme profits, who could probably all survive a pay cut that could trickle down and lower prices.

I don’t claim to have a solution, but for now I’m going to go with the assumption that everyone is entitled to healthy options.

So when you tell me my options are tofu soaked in grease, or chicken soaked in grease, I’m not happy.

Vegan diets, vegetarian diets can be great. They have every potential to be fulfilling and nutritious.

But sugar is vegan. Refined white flour is vegan. Speculoos cookie butter is vegan.

Pizza is vegetarian. Mac n cheese is vegetarian. Ice cream is vegetarian.

The problem is not the diet restrictions but the ways in which they can be misconstrued.

I had a friend a couple years ago who told me very seriously, “ I’m on a diet! I’m going vegan for a month.”

“Oh really?” I said, “how that’s working out for you?”

“Peanut butter sandwiches are my best friend,” she replied.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she probably wouldn’t be losing a significant amount of weight.

While I can’t say that peanut butter is unhealthy, per se, I can say that it’s extremely caloric, and too much is a bad idea, especially if you don’t vary your diet. Moreover, unfortunately the cheapest varieties or peanut butter and white bread are refined such that they are stripped of nutrients, and stuffed with sugar, preservatives, oils often derived from petroleum, and other creepy chemicals.

You might that that it’s different for vegans/vegetarians, because they might choose that diet for ethical reason, not just health reasons.

But guess what? I am too. I am ethically opposed to the corruption of the food industry, putting chemicals and other creepy additives in my food and expecting me to deal with it. That’s unethical, to trick the American public because they are too busy to read labels or can’t afford better, to have to settle for interior products.

And so while I realize that this post is unrealistic, that providing healthy options at catered functions is probably too expensive for complex reasons that are far too big for a college student, I long for the day that pure, wholesome, healthy food will be offered, and not just cold pizza.

 

 

Hummingbird Pancakes

By Maria “Majo” Acosta Robayo ’20

Growing up with a Chinese Jamaican family of 8, cinnamon apple pancakes were a Saturday morning staple. I used to gather around the older boys as they chopped apples into thin wedges and poured cinnamon sugar swirls on buttermilk batter. This typical breakfast delicacy has been a family tradition for years so I was surprised to hear earlier this month that a new pancake recipe was being introduced: Jamaican Hummingbird Pancakes. Here is the recipe, just as my family makes them. Enjoy!


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Ingredients & Supplies:

  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil or butter, for frying
  • Banana, pecans and maple syrup for topping (optional)

Steps:

  1. Heat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat
  2. In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, banana, eggs and milk, whisking until combined. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.
  3. Incorporate dry ingredients into wet, stirring only until combined.
  4. Once your griddle is hot, liberally grease with oil/butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto surface. Cook on one side until holes form around edges (about two minutes) then flip and cook on other side for additional 1-2 minutes. Don’t let the pan get too hot — you want a nice even heat.
  5. Serve with banana slices, pecans and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup!

 

Get it Plated

By Joseph Winters ’20

Personally, one of the most jarring things about the transition from high school to college was in the impersonalized food scene. No longer was I cooking my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, but loading up my tray at the dining hall. I recognize this isn’t the case for many college students. Some look at vegetables as they would an alien invader. “I have never eaten kale,” a Wigglesworth resident grimaced as he gingerly poked a pile of greens I was about to chop. In fact, he had apparently never cooked anything more complex than a piece of toast. Nationally, according to a survey by the DailyMail, one in three college students can’t even boil an egg. This is just sad.

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But, having grown up in a family where I was an active participant in the dinner-making process, mealtime at Annenberg was less fulfilling. There’s some degree of creativity you can employ in the dining hall—for example, making brown butter in the microwave—but it couldn’t quite replicate the joy I used to get from cooking.

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Enter Plated. I had seen their ads on Facebook describing a meal kit delivery service to make cooking easier, and was intrigued. After contacting Plated’s marketing team, I found myself with a big box of temperature-controlled food that they’d sent me for free in exchange for a review. I picked it up at the Science Center and walked it back to my dorm, drawing attention from some of the tourists in front of the John Harvard statue. Inside the box I got not one, but two different meals: salmon poke bowls and shakshuka. Each meal came with pre-wrapped ingredients and a big recipe card with step-by-step instructions and photos.

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Before ordering on the Plated website, I had gotten to choose from a surprisingly thorough array of meal options, ranging from butternut squash pizza to Asian-style noodles, with options for every kind of diet, including gluten-free, vegetarian, low calorie, and “quick”. I had picked based on perceived difficulty; particularly, there was no way I’d ever think to make a salmon poke bowl from scratch in my dorm kitchen, so I was curious to see how Plated would make the task feasible. I unpacked the box to find every ingredient in its own conveniently-portioned container. Plated had accidentally sent me the wrong recipe card, but they sent the right PDF via email.

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Based on the card, my salmon poke bowl would be done within forty minutes. Just to fact-check. I looked at the clock as I started cooking. 5:45. First of all, something to know about Plated is that they provide the ingredients, not the tools; it’s assumed that you already have things like a knife, sauté pan, cookie sheet, etc. This is a fair assumption, but you should note that if you want to use Plated, you’ll have to rent this kind of equipment from the FDO (if you’re a freshman), which is precisely what I did.

 

As the rice was cooking in my improvised rice maker (a shallow sauté pan with a lid), I unwrapped this tiny bag with a single clove of garlic and got to work, cutting it on my improvised cutting board (a paper towel). I diced some garlic, scallions, and chopped a cucumber mixing them in a bowl with some conveniently prepackaged soy sauce, and combined some prepackaged mayo and sriracha in a different bowl.

I seared the salmon very quickly on both sides with a little package of sesame oil, crumbled it, and added it to the veggie/soy sauce mix with some furikake (Asian spice mix). After I made do with draining the rice by slowly pouring off the water, all I had left to do was “plate” the salmon poke bowl: half the brown rice, salmon/veggie mix, conveniently pre-made seaweed salad, and sliced avocado made for a beautiful and delicious-looking bowl! Plus, after all that, the time was only 6:45! A little longer than the recipe card had said, but I’d put the blame on myself; I was taking a lot of pictures, after all.

The shakshuka went well, too. It was probably a little easier than than the salmon poke bowls, but I did have to procure my own eggs and oil. Since I didn’t want to buy a big bottle of oil, I just substituted an equal amount of butter that happened to be in the fridge (sorry to that butter’s owner!). This time, I got a friend to help. We sprinkled a spice mix over the can of chickpeas and put them to bake while she tore kale and I chopped garlic, an onion, and a bell pepper. I sautéed everything for a few minutes, then added the canned tomato, tomato paste, and kale, sautéing until the kale was wilted.

It would have been better if we had had a cast iron skillet so we could put the pan from the stovetop into the microwave without being afraid of the handle melting, but due to a lack of foresight, this wasn’t the case. I broke two eggs into little nests that I dug into our make-do pan and cautiously set it on the top rack of the oven, watching it carefully to check for melting. I set the naan bread in the oven to warm up as well. The recipe suggested that I wrap the bread in foil, which would have prevented it from drying out, but there was no tin foil in the dorm kitchen, so we made do.

Once the eggs were set, I took the pan out of the oven and divided the shakshuka between the two of us. We were going to use bowls, but we only could find one bowl in the dorm kitchen, so we ended up using these small skillets. Sort of artsy, we thought as we dug in. The shakshuka was a delicious success, and with a whole piece of naan for each of us, it was a surprisingly large amount of food. I had heard reviewers of other meal kit services say the portions were meager, but with Plated, the portions were on the generous side. My friend and I finished the meal feeling very satisfyingly full.

Overall, I’d say the improvisational nature of my cooking experience is more of a testament to the effectiveness of Plated’s service rather than a detriment. Plated made it possible for me to put together an incredible meal under the horrible conditions of a dorm kitchen. The lack of kitchenware was just part of the initial struggle. If I had had to scour the web to find a recipe and then go all the way to Whole Foods and back to get the ingredients, this amazing salmon poke bowl probably never would have been made. Plated is about saving time and effort so you can continue being frenetically busy the entire day and then still cook a gourmet meal for dinner.

Would I recommend Plated to college students? Maybe not to students with an unlimited swipes meal plan, but for anyone who’s planning to fend for themselves for at least a couple of meals per week, I think Plated is an excellent option.  Whether it rekindles or introduces you to the joy of cooking, Plated is healthy, easy, fresh, tasty, and—I’d say—fun!

 

*I’d like to thank the Plated team for offering these two meals free of charge in exchange for a review!

Flour Settles in Harvard Square on Nov 1st

By Bovey Rao ‘19

Flour Bakery and Café will be open starting Tuesday, November 1st at 114 Mount Auburn Street from 7a-8p (based on website hours).

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From Flour Website

This past Sunday, Flour Bakery and Café held an open house event for their new Harvard Square location, and CrimsonCrave was invited to attend!

Entering Flour, we were promptly greeted by the founder, Joanne Chang, as she shook hands and welcomed everyone in. I instantly noticed the classic menu in the back and the counter that is normally lined with pastries like in the other locations. On the left, there was the ubiquitous wooden table alongside shelves stocked with cookbooks and prepared pastries like biscotti. To the right, there is the sandwich counter and seats alongside the windows and a small alcove with tables. Immediately, I was impressed with the modern space and relaxed environment. Natural light poured into the café as it bustled with activity. Friends, family, and staff happily engaged in conversation, while snacking on savory and sweet treats prepared by Flour.

While I was exploring the space, staff frequently came by and introduced themselves. Despite this being an open house, the staff was happy to converse with the guests and attentively monitored the many platters. The general manager was clearly excited about opening this store as she gestured for us to try the food that was prepared.

Savory items ranged from pizzas to their signature sandwiches and large bowls of their salads. As I began sampling through the selection, I noted the soba salad and the stuffed breads as some of my favorites. The roasted lamb sandwich with goat cheese and tomato chutney is one of my old favorites.

For sweets, there was a wide selection of Flour’s specialties such as muffins, brownies, cupcakes, mini tarts, and their famous sticky buns. These expertly crafted treats can satisfy any sweet tooth as there is such a large selection. My favorites include the pumpkin muffins, pain aux raisins, and obviously the freshly baked sticky buns.

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My criticism of Flour was the size; however, this may be due to the activity and sheer number of people at the store. When I sat to talk to my friends, the alcove seating area was relatively cramped, so this Flour location is likely better suited for smaller groups. Most of the tables are designed for two people, which makes Flour excellent for breakfast or lunch meetings with a friend. At these tables, I conversed with some incredibly individuals, so I included their picture.

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If the open house was a trial event for Flour Harvard Square, I can only say that it was a tremendous success. The staff were warm and welcoming, and the food was clearly prepared with care. I am beyond excited for the official opening of Flour and welcome it to Harvard Square.

However, these are simply my musings, so for a true assessment, you must visit it yourself!

Author’s Note (Bovey Rao)

Two years ago, I was in Boston for a high school research program. While working on my final paper, I tried to see the city that I had essentially ignored over the course of the program. After a productive morning at the Boston Public Library, I went for a lunch break and began wandering the streets of Boston. For me in high school, I was not yet the intense food lover as I would describe myself today, but I still sought a good lunch. While wandering the vibrant neighborhoods of Back Bay, I stumbled upon Flour Bakery and Café. Seeing the long line, I was enticed by the promise of a popular lunch destination. After receiving my lamb sandwich, I found a seat at the communal wood table, took a bite, and the rest is history.

Flour Bakery and Café has been one of the staples of my time at Harvard. While the nearest branch is near Kendall Square and MIT, I frequently made the trek for lunch with friends, grabbing birthday cakes, or indulging in a sweet morsel (normally sticky buns or banana bread). In my countless visits to Flour, I can happily say that I only have positive memories associated with the space. When I heard Flour was coming to Harvard Square, I could barely contain myself with excitement.

Last week, I became communicating with Joanne Chang about interviewing her about the new Flour, and she graciously agreed. Furthermore, she invited me, Richa, and Caroline to the open house on Sunday. Joanne Chang is the founder of Flour Bakery and Café and a Harvard graduate in Applied Math and Economics in ’91. She maintains a strong connection with Harvard by teaching lectures for the Science and Cooking series. This past Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to have a conversation with her so we could discuss the path to opening the Harvard Square branch of Flour. Then on Sunday, we attended the open house to have a glimpse of what was to come. I cannot be unbiased when I talk about Flour due to my history of positive experiences, but I think it will suffice to say that I am exuberant to showcase the opening of my favorite bakery and café from Boston in Harvard Square.

Much love to Marcella Park and Cynthia Gu, who visited Flour with me this Sunday.

A Conversation with Joanne Chang

By Bovey Rao ’19, Richa Chaturvedi ’18, and Caroline Gentile ’17

BR:      Could you introduce yourself?

JC:       My name is Joanne Chang, and I am opening Flour Harvard Square.

BR:      What are your plans for the new location?

JC:       We are at 114 Mt. Auburn, this used to be the old Chili’s building. I don’t know if you guys were around when it was here. When I went to school here, it was a Chili’s, and I don’t remember what the rest of the building was. We started looking at this space about a year ago, when Harvard said that they were going to renovating the building, and possibly opening the bottom floor for a café. We were excited because we wanted to open a new store and this seemed like a great location.

BR:      How did you start your baking journey from Harvard student to applied math concentrator to consulting?

JC:       It sounds like you know it (haha). I studied math and economics here and graduated in ’91 and worked in management consulting at the Monitor Group for two years. I had always loved cooking and baking and eating. I cooked a lot at home and baked recreationally. At Harvard, I actually baked and sold cookies at the Leverett House Grille in my Junior and Senior Year. I didn’t think this would be a career for me. I did consulting for two years and unlike a lot of other consultants who went to business school, I decided to try cooking professionally to see what that’d be like. I ended up loving it. I started on the line as a garde manger, working on appetizers. Once in the restaurant world, I started to hone my interest as I really preferred pastry over savory, so I got a job at a bakery. Then I came back to the square and was the pastry chef at Rialto for a few years and went to New York City to help with the opening of Payard Patisserie. After a while, I came back to Boston to be the pastry chef at Mistral and then opened Flour.

BR:      How do you feel about Rialto closing?

JC:       It’s such a bummer. It had such a great long run, but I’m excited about who’s going in there. Mike Pagliarini is an amazing chef and used to work with my husband at Via Matta. He’s a great friend of ours.

BR:      Do you have any favorite memories of the dining halls at Harvard?

JC:       I loved eating here, and this was before the dining service revamp. I know that you guys have all these special nights for food. I was involved with the dining program through periphery and heard about them. I went back to Leverett with my roommate, and there was just such great variety. When I was here, I don’t know if the food was amazing, but I just loved it. All the different types of food and I just liked it.

RC:      I think you are catching us at a good time because the strike just ended.

JC:       What’d you do during the strike?s

RC+CG: Spent a lot of money.

JC:       Did they offer any food options?

BR+RC+CG: There was frozen food at first, that was pretty bad, but got a lot better as time went on.

JC:       Did they reimburse you or anything?

CG:     They gave us some money that we could spend at their cafés and at a few restaurants in the square. I definitely took advantage of it when I went to Henrietta’s.

RC:      During midterms, we don’t realize how much we rely on HUDS for food, so it’s really nice that they are back.

JC:       Two years ago, when I went back to Leverett, one of the ladies still recognized us, and we hugged and all. They really have a great staff.

BR:      Did you have any dining hall hacks?

JC:       We didn’t have as much selection back then. There are so many things to choose from now. It was a hot bar and a small salad bar with just lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots, so I don’t have any dining hacks.

RC:      For your cookie business, how did you go about doing that?

JC:       There’s a kitchen in the basement of G tower. It was tiny, but I would walk to the Stop and Shop, where the Microcenter is now. I would buy flour, butter, sugar, and chocolate chips and walk back with as much as I could carry. I would make batter downstairs in the kitchen and bake it off every night. I sold them to the Grille for 25 cents, and they sold it to the students 3 for a dollar.

RC:      Do you feel you use your applied math background in your cooking today?

JC:       I’m sure I do without really doing it. In applied math, you learn how to think critically, so it’s been very helpful. And it seems crazy, but just knowing basic math skills are helpful. If you have a big recipe and need to reduce it 8%, to be able to move easily when doing that kind of stuff makes things a lot easier. So that’s not really an applied math thing, but doing the accounting, it is helpful.

BR:      What was your favorite place to eat in the square?

JC:       We would go to Uno’s. I was dating a guy, and we would go to Uno’s. I would get the spinoccoli pizza and a salad. I loved that. We also went to Grendel’s Den, if that’s still around. We didn’t go out a lot because all of our meals were paid for.

RC:      What about today?

JC:       It was Rialto, and now I really like Café Sushi, even though it’s not really in the square. I like Giulia too even though it’s not really in the square. I haven’t been to Alden and Harlow in a while, but I’ve enjoyed it too. The Square has changed so much with so many places like Café Algiers even closing. I’m sad about that.

RC:      I feel like it is getting more upscale.

JC:       I feel like it’s getting more chainy with places like Chipotle and b.Good. B.Good went into the sushi place, which I didn’t expect, but b. Good is a good chain.

CG:     I know there are a lot of bakery/cafes in this area, so what do you think separates Flour from Tatte, Crema, or Starbucks?

JC:       I think many things. I think our food is awesome. We take so much pride in our food as we put it through the “Mom Test.” If you don’t want to serve it to your mom, then don’t serve it to the guest. So we empower all the staff to look at the food in that way, and this all started from when I opened the first location in the South End. My mom worked at the bakery because we were short-staffed. It was my first business venture, and she wanted to help me settle in for the first three months. She was always a little skeptical about the career change from consulting, so while she was excited about the opening, I wanted to make sure that everything we prepared, she was proud of. That was 16 years ago and we still talk about it today. At yesterday’s staff meeting, we talked to everyone about the mom test or girlfriend test or whoever’s opinion means something to you. You want imagine handing something you made to them with a sense of ownership over this is my job and this is what I made.

We also differentiate ourselves through our service, warm and welcoming hospitality. It is a huge part of who we are. Do you know the TV series Cheers? “Where everybody knows your name?” That was something that impacted me as somewhere that everyone knew you, and we wanted to replicate that here. My hope is that the staff gets to know 50 to 80 percent of the people who come in. We want them to be able to greet you and know your order. I think that we have a big emphasis on making sure that the whole of Flour is working in a really strong way. Everything we do we want to be guest facing from the food to the service. We spend a lot of time talking internally about how we want a really good working environment. For some of the people, Flour is their first time job, so we want to teach people this is how you work and become part of the team. We have a really strong internal commitment to teach the staff, so everything melds together to have a great place. The other cafes in the square are great, but I think everyone here is just more aware of the guest and the food.

CG:     What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

JC:       Actually, my favorite savory thing on the menu is a new salad we have on the menu. It is a buckwheat noodle salad with tofu, kabocha squash, fresno peppers, and a nori sesame vinaigrette. We also have a hummus banh mi, which is fabulous.

One the pastry menu, the pain aux raisins is a long-time favorite. It is a brioche spiral that has pastry cream and golden raisins. A couple years ago, we introduced the kouign amann to the menu, a butter Breton cake, which is amazing.

RC:      Is there anything you’re going to roll out on the menu specially for Harvard Square?

JC:       We haven’t come up with any Harvard specific specials yet because our focus now is making sure that we make sure we do everything great like the other locations. Then, we’re going to let the chefs and pastry chefs know that they are empowered to make specials. If enough people come in and say “we really want this,” then we’re going to try it.

CG:     Is there a certain recipe that you had to tamper with to really perfect?

JC:       I feel like every recipe requires this. We were fiddling with our croissant for the last 12 years. I inherited a recipe from Payard and just kept working and improving on it. I feel like almost every recipe requires some tampering. The blueberry muffin recipe went through so many iterations for the first ten years. We would taste it every couple of days and think about how to make it more moist, more fruity, and just improve the little things. It is about always being involved, so we taste all the time.

BR:      I know you won the James Beard Award, so are there any future aspirations that you have?

JC:       My focus is on making sure this location get rolled out really smoothly. Professionally, I feel like I just want to keep doing what we do well. I want the staff to be happy coming to work every day, so that is what I want to focus on because it is really important to me.

RC:      Do you feel like this is a little bit of a homecoming?

JC:       A little bit! It definitely is great to be back in the square. When I was here, I never really left the square; in fact, I never really left the yard and Leverett House. I only went to Currier because of my boyfriend at the time, so I went only to Leverret, Currier, and the yard. During the dining hall strike, I was wondering what everyone doing because if it had happened while I was here, I don’t know what I would have done. I stayed in my house most of the time.

It’s fun to be back and connect with students and hear what people have to say about their experience. It’s fun to know all of the places and all of the dorms. It’s been nice coming back and working with Harvard. I had my 25th college anniversary this year with a dinner outside the Science Center. I also taught a lecture for the science and cooking class, so the professor and I went to eat at Annenberg. For me, it was Mem Hall, and it was for exams instead of a dining hall.

CG:     What were the biggest challenges of opening this location?

JC:       There were some obstacles regarding water because of the plumbing situation downstairs. We were originally planning on putting the bathrooms on [the right side], so the layout was challenging. It was hard to make it work, knowing that all water had to be restricted to one side of the space. It was just a logistical challenge.

Other than that, it’s been great working with Harvard as they have been super great to deal with. Construction has been going well, so hopefully, we’ll be opening on Tuesday!

RC:      Are you going to be here on opening day?

JC:       Definitely. I will be here on the first day to make sure everything is okay and probably stay for a while, but with the staff here from the managers to all of the chefs, we have a really great team, so I won’t do much. My coming is more to support everybody and make sure things are going well.

RC:      Do you have any game day rituals for opening a restaurant?

JC:       That is a really good question, but not really. In fact, I was just talking to Neil, the carpenter, who helped us open the Back Bay location. He reminded me that we opened Back Bay around 11am because we were waiting on a permit that finally came at 10. We quickly scrubbed everything clean and opened at 11, so we were just focused on getting it all going. So I don’t really have any game day rituals, but we should probably start something. We’ll keep doing what were doing.

CG:     I am so excited about you guys opening because I follow you on Instagram and always see all the chef’s specials. I always think they look so good but they are so far away. Also, the Flour at Kendall was also where I had my first date with my boyfriend where we got sticky buns.

JC:       Oh cool! We have had a couple marriage proposals that have happened at the bakery. A couple of them with our knowledge, so we knew what was happening. We could set up a little quiet corner for them. Others have happened to spontaneously, where they are spontaneous for us, but hopefully not for them. That’s been really cool.

BR:      I think that’s it!

JC:       Awesome! Feel free to take pictures and look around!

RC+CG+BR: Thank you so much for your time!

You Won’t Want to Miss Beat’s New Weekday Lunch

By Saranya Vijaykumar ’18 and Audrey Thorne ’19

Everyone is on the hunt for good food during the strike, and we finally found the perfect spot. We personally hadn’t had good meal in two weeks, so when Beat Brasserie offered to share their state of the art lunch with us, we could not resist.

Saranya had never been to Beat before, so she was pleasantly surprised by the open layout. Especially compared to the crammed restaurants in most restaurants in the square, Beat feels very spacious. Since it was lunch, it was not too packed, which meant we could hear each other over the other conversations and the jazz music that played softly in the background without extra effort. They closed off their extra seating area with a decorative light purple curtain that added to the upscale but alternative aesthetic and made the space feel full.  

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The service was incredibly friendly and helpful, checking in to see when we wanted to order what and how we liked our food. Our waitress also gave great food and drink recommendations. She said that they like to keep the minimalist decorations and the creative menu seasonal.

First we ordered tuna tartare and, upon the waitress’s suggestion, the buffalo cauliflower for appetizers.

The buffalo cauliflower was spicy, probably had the strongest flavor of any dish we had. Audrey liked how the sweetness of the cauliflower balanced out the buffalo sauce. The yogurt dipping sauce also neutralized the spicy exterior well.

Picture3.pngThe tuna tartare had a delectable texture and was served in a surprisingly large portion. The mayonnaise balanced well with the tuna and the gherkins, leaving the flavor light yet full. The textures of the fresh tuna and the crispy bread played well off of each other.

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Beat definitely proved a great spot for 21st birthdays and nice meals with parents. The cocktails are designed by the same man who creates the cocktails at the Beehive, both creative and delicious. The waitress recommended the Kombucha Collins, a mix of Letherbee gin, rhubarb, lemon, and turmeric-ginger kombucha, and the American Breed, which is made of bourbon, St. Elder Elderflower liqueur, and apple cider and tastes a bit stronger than the Kombucha. The later was more for those who enjoy the taste of alcohol, while she said the earlier had a more mild, ginger flavor. The cocktails are definitely some of the most creative in the Square. In terms of wine, she suggested the Flying Cloud, a sauvignon blanc with fruity accents.

The nonalcoholic drinks were great too. Audrey enjoyed the lightness of the lemonade, which washed her palate clean well between dishes and neutralized the spice of the buffalo cauliflower, and Saranya thought the iced tea was very well-brewed. Both tasted fresh and not too sweet, a difficult feat for both lemonade and iced tea, and both were served with a slice of lemon.

Lastly, it was time for the entrees. Saranya got the rabbit pasta, cooked in vegetable broth with kale, and Audrey added chicken to the Aztec bowl.

The rabbit pasta was amazing. Even with its slightly smaller portion it was filling. The rabbit was cooked perfectly and Saranya also liked that it was cooked in vegetable broth, so that it wasn’t overwhelmingly meaty. The balance between rabbit, kale, and pasta was also great. There was more rabbit than pasta, which added to the rich flavor and texture of the dish.

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The Aztec bowl had well cooked quinoa, which had a nice texture between soft and crunchy. On top of the quinoa was a slice of avocado and a generous quantity of squash. In the salad, in another third of the bowl, were multicolored cherry tomatoes, green beans, spinach, beet slivers, and corn. The spinach was flavorful with a neutral sauce. The beet slivers were sweet, with a naturally strong flavour and a slight crunch. The multicolored tomatoes served as another burst of flavour. The corn, cut right off the cob, was sweet and tied the vegetables together well. In the last third of the bowl was the chicken add on in a delicious green sauce. All parts of the dish meshed well together and tasted wonderful separately. With such a generous portion, she was able to get the protein and veggies she missed during the strike, and have almost half leftover for later.

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In terms of a student lunch, nothing compared to the bowls. The Beat Hotel offers a variety of healthy and delicious bowls that are incredibly filling and reasonably priced. These bowls are a healthy alternative to burrito bowls and salads, for around $14 with fresh vegetables and a variety of add ons, from falafel to skirt steak to tuna, for $2-9.

The two women sitting next to us remarked that when the Beat first opened up, nobody wanted to try to the bowls because it seemed so informal, but that day most everyone in the restaurant had ordered one. It really is the best deal on the menu

Boston Veg Food Fest

By Joseph Winters ’20
Back home in Washington State, there was an annual vegetarian fair in Seattle called VegFest. For an entire weekend, vegan and vegetarian foodies would congregate at the Seattle Center for two days of cheese-less, egg-less, meat-less wonder. Could it get any better?
To non-vegetarians, it sounds lame, I realize. I dragged one friend to VegFest last year who refused to set foot inside the building, instead asking where the nearest burger place was. But one reluctant step into VegFest quickly changed his mind—vegetarian fairs are not about flavorless deprivation from traditional animal products. There’s actually some really profound meaning behind them. But before mentioning that, the shallow truth of what really gets people to show up to a Veg Food Fest: samples.
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My first step into the Boston Veg Food Fest at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center on Tremont Street revealed that it was going to be everything I loved about Seattle’s VegFest—only in Boston. The gym was packed. I bought a tote bag and immediately began scanning the room for free samples. They weren’t hard to find; I quickly started scooping up packets of meatless teriyaki jerky, raw agave, granola bars, hummus. Other samples were meant to be eaten on the spot: spiced pumpkin seeds, whole-grain mochi balls, tomato goji chutney, sea salt-flavored popped sorghum. There were, of course, the stereotypical vegan substitutes of “Veganaise”, vegan butterscotch “pudding”, and vegan American “cheese”. As an omnivore, I’m never a huge fan of these substitutions, but I have to say the ones I tried at the Veg Food Fest could have fooled me.
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I was pretty hungry, so after my hors d’oeuvres—including Pizza Almonds, Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs, and an entire (free) So Delicious coconut ice cream sandwich (from a whole box of ice cream sandwiches I got for free)—I bought a Miso Bowl from Whole Heart Provisions, a sweet little vegetarian restaurant in Allston. Rice on the bottom, cooked veggies in the middle, and miso sauce with crispy chickpeas on top.
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I grabbed dessert at the FoMu booth. Ironically, they have a location right next door to Whole Heart Provisions’s Allston location. They were featuring some seasonal coconut-based ice creams, particularly Pumpkin Caramel, Purple Mu, and Apple Cider Donut. I mixed all three.
The interesting takeaway from the Veg Food Fest, in my opinion, is the variability of reasons for veganism. I walked past booths advocating the humane treatment of animals, booths about the “protein myth” that a vegan diet can’t provide enough nutrients for healthy development, and booths about the ecological benefits of an animal-free diet. For me—not a vegan, as I’ve said—it’s about awareness. I love vegan restaurants and organizations because there’s obvious care that goes into food sourcing (the ecological benefit), food preparation (the health benefit), and they’re often local businesses run by passionate employees (the human benefit).
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Take, for example, The Jackfruit Company. I met Alex Chamallas at the Veg Food Fest as he was serving up something that looked a lot like barbecue sauce-smothered pulled pork. “It’s jackfruit,” he explained to passerby who peered into his steaming crockpot. Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that grows in conditions too poor for other species to thrive, making it “easy to sustainably source,” according to the company’s website. Jackfruit is notably prolific in developing India, and The Jackfruit Company has taken advantage of the stringy, fibrous fruit to “provide income and opportunity for thousands of farming families” in the country. It’s high in fiber, and, subjectively, pretty delicious when stewed with a sweet and spicy sauce. The company was actually started by a Harvard College graduate, Annie Ryu, who calls herself a “socialentrepreneur—a business developer with a conscience.” To me, the jackfruit story is exemplar of the best reason for a vegan outlook on eating because it promotes the three lenses of environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and health, which is a heck of a lot more than a gimmicky low-cal pork substitute.
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With my tote bag—and stomach—full of wonderful vegan food, I left the Veg Food Fest still working on my bowl of FoMu ice cream. Unfortunately, my free box of So Delicious ice cream bars won’t last me until next year’s Fest, but maybe a solid day or two. Until then, I may look twice at some cool new products whenever I visit the grocery store, notably the strangely delicious and versatile jackfruit.
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Alive and Kicking’s Lobster Sandwich: A Subtle Twist on the Classic

By Estefania Lahera ‘20

I am a person that loves superlatives. Going through one of Food & Wine’s or Thrillist’s or Eater’s lists of, say, the best falafel in America and looking for a spot mentioned that’s in my city to try it out for myself is probably my favorite pastime.

Upon moving to Boston, I took it upon myself to put all those lists to the test and find the city’s best lobster roll.

Most of the lists echoed each other: Neptune’s Oyster, James Hook + Co, Yankee Lobster, Island Creek Oyster Bar, B & G Oysters etc.

But something was odd. I was looking for the best lobster roll, but on many lists there was tangential addition: a lobster sandwich, from Alive and Kicking Lobsters right here in Cambridge!

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It was a bit odd and I put it off until the end of my list. After a month or so, however, I had already tried all the most obvious choices (for the record, my money’s on Island Creek Oyster Bar) so in order to absolutely exhaust every possibility, to leave no room for doubt, it was time to try this wannabe sandwich, this pseudo-lobster roll.

The more I researched, I saw that the sandwich was the subject of decent acclaim (as most restaurants I visit are, because I don’t want to waste my time on mediocrity). I also found out that it’s within walking distance of Harvard! A long walk, about half an hour, but still walking distance, and altogether rather pleasant on a day with good weather as the past couple have been.

The restaurant is small, more like a “lobster shack” than an actual restaurant, but I think that’s part of its charm. It’s not meant to be a restaurant, it’s meant to be a source of really, really fresh seafood. Inside there’s a display case of fresh seafood, a freezer of things you can take home like chowder and ice cream (random!), while picnic tables are outside. They don’t give water, not even from the tap, which makes me sad; you have to buy it. However, they do make their own sodas in house, which is cool.

You order at the counter, and they bring the food out. The price changes with the seasons, with summer being the cheapest, but when I went the roll, which included a bag of chips, was about $17. It was pricey for a sandwich, but actually cheaper than the average lobster roll.

Now onto the substance of the article: the actual food itself.

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I was impressed by the quality of the chips: no preservatives, just pure potato in peanut oil and salt, nothing hiding in the ingredients list. Since the company didn’t make the chips, I don’t think reviewing them is really relevant, but  suffice to say that chips are rarely bad.

The sandwich bread was generic white sandwich bread, but toasted a beautiful, light brown and actually not soggy, which pleased me. The lobster meat was plentiful, fresh, and not overwhelmed in mayo, which I appreciated. But what it lacked in mayo it made up in globs of butter, which I did not feel were necessary. I couldn’t taste the butter anyway, so there was really no point in it being there. If you like the sweet, slightly one-dimensional flavor of lobster, great. That’s a common flaw I’ve noticed in most lobster rolls, so I can’t fault this sandwich in particular, but still. Seasoning.

Compared to lobster rolls? This was definitely equivalent to many of the lobster rolls I’ve had. The toasted bread was a welcome twist on the original roll, and I found something to be appreciated about a higher lobster to carb ratio. Rarely do rolls have a nice crust, and there is a higher probability that they will be stale.

Given this overall pleasant experience, it begs the question: why aren’t lobster sandwiches a thing? Why only lobster rolls?

But as long as Alive and Kicking stays in operations I guess it doesn’t matter. One good lobster sandwich in this city is enough for me.