When I was a kid, Diwali was all about the sweets. My sister and I would fill up on just about anything we could get our hands on. I would always go light on dinner because I about the delicious treats that awaited me.
Growing up, Diwali became more and more about the Indian dishes. There’s food as far as the eye can see. Diwali dinner lasts for hours – you just keep eating. The colorful food brightened up the table and made you feel warm inside.
Coming to Harvard, I’ve realized that Diwali is mostly about being with your family. It’s like any other holiday; the food brings people together, sitting and talking in one place. The rest of the world is paused.
HUDS created that feeling for students missing home on Diwali this year. While nothing quite beats a home-cooked Indian meal, standing in the dining hall and smiling at familiar names of dishes created a place for me where time stood still. I told my friends what to get. I showed them which dishes tasted best together, but ended up mixing everything together because that’s what I always do. I was so excited to be able to share things from home with them. It felt like Diwali.
Props to HUDS, because I was pretty impressed with the Indian selection tonight. The daal was on point and the basmati rice with peas was a nice touch. The vegetables in the coconut curry and idlis also deserve an honorable mention. It’s probably also important to note that my friends who have never had Indian food before ate it and liked it – I’m not saying that this was authentic or anything, but HUDS did good work as an introduction, a transition piece if you will. While I’ll end the night at brain break eating a classic PB&J, it was nice to be reminded of home. So thank you HUDS, you did good.
Sometimes, after a grueling day of classes and office hours, all you need is a good dinner to make everything better. Annenberg definitely came through Thursday night with the New England Harvest dinner, presented as a precursor to National Food Day on October 24th. The menu, consisting of Maine lobster bisque, mussels in white wine and local marinara, and gnocchi with sage brown butter and diced butternut squash, to name a few, seemed like items off the menu of a cozy restaurant that I could bring my parents to for Parents’ Weekend. In short, my taste buds have never been so satisfied with an Annenberg dinner.
I decided the best way to go about the fare was to sample a bit of everything. I greedily loaded one plate with herb roasted all-natural chicken hailing from New York, scalloped potatoes from Maine, and mussels. Before I sat down, I told myself I would be rational about this and not force myself to stomach everything if I was full, but I cleared my plate quickly. The chicken was juicy and richly flavored, with just the right amount of saltiness. The potatoes were surprisingly soft and easy to bite into,. Eating the chicken and potatoes in little bites back and forth was such an amazing combination. I finished that plate by nibbling on the mussels I had scooped up, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the general positive opinions on New England seafood were true. The mussels were tangy and chewy, and balanced the hearty taste of the potatoes and chicken well.
My second plate consisted of Maine-based tomatoes, which I paired with the dining hall’s rice (a surprisingly good compliment to the tomatoes!) The tomatoes were fresh and well-cooked, bringing together the natural sweetness of the fruit with the salty flavorings.
I finished off my cafeteria quest with a bowl of lobster bisque soup and a breadstick. In all honesty, I nearly wept when I found that the breadstick was soft and warm – it was the best side to the bisque soup, which was one worthy of New England restaurants anywhere. It was creamy without being too thick, and definitely not too watery. I complemented the soup and breadstick, and everything prior, with a generous serving of warm apple cider.
The food doesn’t end there: in the Annenberg seating area were more options that I couldn’t resist. After cleaning my two plates and soup, I went for the wonderful spread of crackers and cheddar, pepper jack, and goat cheeses. The cheese was filling and a classy, appreciated additions to such a hearty meal. The freshly made gnocchi I went for after was equally great, and a total treat for my taste buds. I told the kind chef who was scooping the gnocchi that I was so full, but would love to try the gnocchi for the Crimson Crave, so he scooped a tiny bit (re: two little pasta pieces) for me. After I took my first bite, it was all over: I asked for a full serving. The gnocchi was a treat, far superior to the daily Annenberg pastas, with the perfect amount of butter and squash to balance the pastas.
Finishing off my extensive yet great meal was a sundae bar with Richardson’s Dairy Ice Cream. The sundae bar was just as extensive, boasting creamy and textured ice cream and a variety of toppings to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. I had one scoop of butter and one scoop of vanilla ice cream, lightly topped with caramel syrup. The ice cream had a firm yet creamy consistency that definitely surpassed typical soft serve. It all goes to show that Massachusetts knows how to do their ice cream.
My Annenberg dinner was a blessing and a truly great day to relax from a long day. While I’m probably just as uninformed about National Food Day and what it means, I’m now very informed about the godsend that is HUDS’ New England Harvest dinner. I’m looking forward to it in the years to come.
One week ago today, Liquiteria opened its doors to the public for the first time, its bright blue and yellow interior the only beacon of hope on the otherwise dismally cold June day. While the New England weather may not always show it, Liquiteria radiates the tastes and smells of summer, offering an extensive variety of smoothies, cold pressed juices, cleanse kits, and to-go food items.
Sitting on the corner of Mass Ave and Church St. (translation: right near the once 24-hour CVS, or 20 steps from Johnston Gate), this outpost is the first to open in Massachusetts. The original three locations reside in New York City where Liquiteria began as cold pressed juice shop. Cold pressed juices became very popular a few years ago, as big names such as Starbucks and ‘the west coast’ caught on to the trend, and Liquiteria seems to have benefitted from the juices’ widespread success.
So what’s the difference between cold pressed juice, and well, regular old juice? Chances are the apple juice your mom used to buy at Walmart is ‘hot pressed juice,’ made by heating, boiling, or steaming the fruit so that its skin and pulp will separate. The pulp then becomes very easy to press, making for a smooth, skinless juice. However, with the benefit of easy-pressing comes the risk of losing flavor and nutrients. When juice is heated, volatile flavor compounds are the first to go. (If you are familiar with the use of what are called glass, or cellophane, noodles in Asian cuisines, these noodles absorb the volatile compounds released while stir-frying vegetables, retaining the flavors that would otherwise be lost in the cooking process. This is conceptually similar to what happens when making a hot pressed juice, except these compounds are lost.)
Cold pressed juices are a different story. To eliminate the negative effects of heating, thousands of pounds of pressure go into squeezing all the juice possible from the fruit or vegetable, a method known as high pressure processing. Furthermore, as compared to hot pressed juices, much more produce goes into a single bottle of juice. For example, some companies claim that up to 6 lbs of produce can go into one 16 oz bottle of cold pressed juice, whereas Tropicana orange juice (a hot pressed juice) has less than 2 lbs of oranges per 16 oz bottle. Thus, cold pressed emerges as the nutritionally, and most likely flavorfully, superior choice.
Liquiteria offers twelve different juice flavors daily, ranging from the obligatory All Greens (Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Parsley, Celery, Cucumber) to some funkier blends, such as Turmeric Tonic (Turmeric, probiotic, lemon, maple syrup), the unfortunately-colored Skin Trip (Parsley, Spinach, Cucumber, Carrots), and my personal favorite, the refreshing, much-needed-wakeup-call-to -your-taste-buds, the Killer XX (Apple, Lemon, Ginger, Cayenne). As a seasonal extra, they are currently offering Watermelon juice, which essentially is like drinking the 4th of July from a plastic bottle. Each juice flavor comes in a 16 oz bottle, and is always available in the grab and go section.
A particularly intriguing set of options on Liquiteria’s menu are the fruit juice cleanses, sold in either 1 or 3 day packs. Four cleanses are available, ranging from the introductory/beginner level in which one is still allowed to snack intermittently throughout the day, to the final level which is described simply as “aggressive.” If you’re interested in giving your body a boost, or just want to see if you can “drink your body weight in ounces of spring or purified water per day”, check out Liquiteria’s website for more information.
While I was only able to try one smoothie flavor during my visit, the smoothie options seemed on the whole very promising. Whether you’re feeling fruity, craving peanut butter, dreaming of açaí, or still can’t get enough of kale, there’s a smoothie for you. Even if you’re not sold on the pre-made combinations, you can customize any of the smoothies to your liking, as well as substitute almond butter for peanut butter if you have an allergy. There is also the option to add boosters to your smoothie—chia, vitamin c, aloe vera, spirulina (a blue-green algae purported as a “superfood”), bee pollen, and flax seed oil, to name a few—and many of these ingredients are also featured in the 1 oz juice shots in the grab-and-go section.
Sure to be a campus-wide favorite, during my visit I decided to try the too-good-to-be-true Hangover Cure smoothie. While I admittedly did not have the proper qualifications to participate in a controlled study of its efficacy, I can attest to its perfectly blended texture, and mild, satisfying taste. I would say this smoothie as a whole lacked any sort of “wow” factor in terms of taste, but this may be mainly the fault of the typically milky taste of its main ingredients: papaya, peaches, and bananas.
[But then again, no one who actually needs this smoothie would want anymore surprises after hearing from their blockmates what happened last night…]
The service at the newly opened location is the perfect blend of excited and sassy. Having gone through an extensive training before the opening, the staff have memorized the ingredients of each item and are also capable of speaking to their health benefits. They also have had time to pick favorites. One staff member raved about the PB&J Parfait, as well as the Blue Velvet smoothie, which she said tastes like you’re sipping blueberry cake. Sounds good to me.
Besides the great staff recommendations, Liquiteria is notably staffed with enoughpeople, and also enough blenders, to get the orders out quickly. This cannot be said of all smoothie places— I know I have waited considerable amounts of time for blended drinks, as most places only have one or two blenders, and not always enough staff on hand.
So… what’s the catch? As you might have already suspected, Liquiteria is not exactly a bargain like our beloved Noch’s or Felipe’s. While theoretically we should all invest in our general wellbeing (remember, there could be up to 6 lbs of produce in one 16 oz bottle of juice), up to $9 for a juice or smoothie seems outrageous for the average college kid on a budget. With that being said, the staff were quick to mention that many of the smoothies contain whey protein, meaning they can serve as a meal substitute in terms of the nutritional content. In that sense, $8-9 does not seem too terrible, especially if you are in a rush between classes and don’t have time to chew.
Only time will tell if Liquiteria lives up to all its pulp and circumstance.
To give you a better idea of how Liquiteria fits into the current smoothie-scene on and around campus, check out the chart below!
*Walking distance with Harvard Yard as the starting point.
As my friends and I sat down for dinner on Thursday night, they had no idea what HUDS had in store in the servery. I, on the other hand, had been anticipating this meal all week: a Chinese New Year celebration. After doing my research, I learned that the traditional meal served on New Year’s Eve typically includes both meat and fish, as well as eight individual dishes which reflect the number’s significance as a good luck symbol.
HUDS certainly delivered its version of the traditional Chinese New Year feast. I walked away with a full plate, excited to try the dining hall’s take on (the vegetarian) Buddha’s Delight, the hoisin glazed salmon, spicy green beans, peking cabbage, and some egg fried rice.
While I might be alone on this one, I was most excited for the Buddha’s Delight (pictured below). The elaborate vegetarian dish is one often served by families on Chinese New Year, and the dining hall staff created a great replication. Their version included tofu, water chestnuts, carrots, pea pods, baby corn, broccoli, and scallions, with soy sauce and sesame oil tossed in, and topped with a nice blend of ginger, sugar, and garlic. While the ingredients created a perfect combination, the dish was a bit too saucy, but a tasty addition as it leaked onto the cabbage and green beans underneath.
Continuing to break outside the normal veggie offerings this evening, the Chinese New Year fare included spicy green beans (read: green beans with crushed garlic, diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and cumin) and peking cabbage. The green beans definitely had an extra kick, making them an exciting and delicious break from the usual, but not quite what I would call spicy.
The fried foods were all table favorites: vegetable egg rolls (top) and pork dumplings (middle). I can speak for the egg rolls, and they were spot on this evening. Perfectly crisp on the exterior, without too much breading, and enough to give all of the inside veggies just the right flavor. The egg fried rice (bottom) was also well executed – filled with celery and mushrooms for an added touch.
Last but not least on my plate was the hoisin glazed salmon, cooked just right. Hoisin sauce, similar to American barbecue sauce, is made from a combination of soybeans, garlic, sugar, sesame seeds, and chili pepper. The slightly sugary sauce adds a sweet and savory marinade to the dish without taking away from the main attraction.
HUDS’ Chinese New Year meal was a complete success if you ask me. With a few tweaks and improvements, next year’s edition could be even better, but watching my friends walk into the dining hall to find the surprise was worth my full week’s wait. While my Chinese friends were able to celebrate a taste of home, my American ones (myself included) were able to enjoy a cultural experience we won’t forget.
Since word got out about the opening in early November, the hype for Santouka Ramen’s opening on campus has been palpable. Today, Santouka will finally open its doors to the public, ready to serve its steaming blue bowls of broth and noodles.
Unlike the traditional fast food-style ramen shops of Japan, the Cambridge location is Santouka’s second full-service restaurant, the first having opened in Seattle last spring. Harvard Square, already a destination for those looking for a sit down meal, will surely be the perfect place for Santouka’s second restaurant endeavor. Accommodating both ramen diehards and insta-ramen makers alike, each member of Santouka’s staff has undergone an intensive, two-week training to master the nuances of Japanese culture and cater to the needs of each individual customer.
While it is not the first restaurant of its kind, founder Hitoshi Hatanaka was quick to point out that Boston and Shinagawa, his hometown, share a very similar climate (i.e. bitterly cold winters). In this way, a steaming bowl of noodles, broth, and pork, will warm you right up in the way that Hatanaka had intended when he opened his first shop in 1988. Even the bowl design is taken into account: the thinner, deeper bowls are designed to conserve heat in colder climates. In addition to being a salvation from the cold, the founder explained that the dining room was designed specifically with Harvard students in mind. With two large, cafeteria sized tables at the center, Santouka will be well-suited for blocking group outings, as well as a casual date night. The prices ranges from about $10 to $15 per meal and it’s worth every penny.
Once just a small, nine-seat ramen shop in the Hokkaido region of Japan, Santouka Ramen is now an international business with locations from Malaysia to California. Throughout all this sucess, Mr. Hitoshi Hatanaka seems to have maintained Santouka’s character, as well as his own. At Monday’s private opening, scenes from the hit Japanese comedy, Tampopo, which Hatanaka cites as the inspiration for the opening of his first shop, were shown to instruct the attendees in the proper way to both slurp, and cherish, their ramen.
Without a doubt, you will find the best ramen in Cambridge at Santouka. Santouka has only been able to expand from its humble beginnings to an international chain by staying true to its original goal: serving high quality ramen to its customers. Lots, and lots of hungry customers. Though the noodles are not produced in house, Santouka has decided to maintain an especially keen eye on its broth, which is considered by many to be the heart of any bowl of ramen. With a good broth, noodles are just as auxiliary (or important, depending on your point of view) as the pork or mushrooms. The Tonkatsu broth base is laboriously made by simmering pork bones for twenty hours, extracting every last bit of flavor and fat from the bones and concentrating it into a rich and milky elixir. The addition of other ingredients, especially vegetables, add a sweet tinge to the creamy broth.
The dedication to the broth can also be seen in the amount of space the restaurant has devoted to the simmering process. As one can see from the long, rectangular window along the south wall of the restaurant, most of the kitchen is taken up by eight huge vats of broth, each clouded with the capricious steam from the pork and vegetables simmering below. The vats, lit with green light to emphasize the true alchemical magic constantly at play, can even be seen from Bow Street, enticing any passerby.
Here Head Chef Igo-san stands akimbo, taking a moment of rest before jumping back on the line. A veteran team member from Santouka’s Seattle location, Igo-san is especially familiar with, as well as proud of, the quality of ingredients he gets to work with everyday at Santouka. The noodles are made from a unique blend of wheat made specifically for Santouka that creates a full-bodied noodle which holds onto the broth flavor. While the more traditional ingredients, such as nori, umbroshi, and miso, are imported from Japan, the pork comes from the US to ensure freshness before it undergoes the secret process of cha shu.
At the private opening Monday, Santouka served up their signature dish: Shio Ramen. With a Tonkatsu soup base, Shio ramen is given depth with the subtle addition of sea salt. The noodles are then carefully folded into the cradle of hot soup, and finally a variety of toppings are placed on the top. The result? An impressive steaming bowl teeming with colors, aromas, flavors, and textures, each carefully crafted and balanced for your dining experience. (More information about the ingredients can be found here.)
“Caress it with the chopsticks:” How to Enjoy Your Ramen to the Fullest
Tackling one of these mighty bowls can be intimidating– where does one start? The founder, being so inspired by the Japanese comedy Tampopo, introduced ramen eating technique through one of the movie’s iconic scenes in which an obsessive old man demonstrates with extreme affection how to eat ramen. (It’s definitely worth a look; check it out here).
The bowl, roughly the size of an expanded stomach (foreshadowing much?), is first placed in front of you along with the proper weapons of choice: chopsticks and a deep soup spoon. The soup is scalding hot, and the arrangement of toppings appears too beautiful to be disrupted. But be disrupted, it must! For nothing may stand against you and ramen in your face! First, you pinch off a half dozen strands of noodles, and then, being careful not to sever any indivdiual strand, start slurping them into your mouth. When slurping, it is important to make noise and slurp in air with the scalding noodles in order to cool them down. The noodles soak up and deliver the broth, combining the flavor of the rich opaque pork bone broth and the texture of the full, lush noodle strands.
The central concept behind a good bowl of ramen is combining the variety of flavors and textures found in the soup. When the soup, noodles, and toppings are eaten in flavor-texture combination, innumerable sensations are possible.
The cha shu pork (1) is “the best pork I’ve ever had” (said Dana Ferrante, self-proclaimed pork specialist). Made with the fatty underbelly of pig, the pork is unbelievably tender and bursts with the hot fat flavor before melting away in your mouth. The bamboo shoots (2), harvested as young bamboo and then steamed, offer a subtle earthy taste with a pleasant fibrous texture that stands in contrast to many of the other ingredients. The fish cake (3), a new sensation to those unfamiliar with ramen, is a loaf of pureed whitefish with a very light flavor, standing out not only because of its decorative pink swirl, but also with its chewiness. The wood ear mushroom (4), with a flavor reminiscent of the woods, has a texture similar to the bamboo shoot, but it a bit softer and smoother. Finally, the hard plum (5): with its sweet, vinegar, pickled bite, cuts right through the fattiness of the broth and refreshes the mouth. With so many combinations of flavor and texture to try, there is a new experience in store every time you eat a bowl of ramen.
One last suggestion: eat it fast. The ramen is best when it is piping hot and first brought to the table. When the soup gets cold, the broth will dehomogenize and the noodles will lose their firmness.
“Happiness in a Bowl”
In the words of the owner, Ramen is “happiness in a bowl.” As I took my first loud slurp of ramen and chewed, I could not prevent a smile from spreading across my face. Delicious, hot, and comfortable. The ramen made me feel, well, happy. What can bother you when you are warm and have eaten your fill?
Here I am, Santouka. Signed, slurped, delivered, I’m yours.
There’s nothing like going from HUDS café to HUDS café and realizing that each one, as you feared, is serving the same assortment of lackluster pastries. With the integration of Hi-Rise Bread Company items on its menu, the reopening of the Barker Café seemed promising, yet the jury is still out on whether or not the Barker Café is really worth one’s precious Board Plus.
For these, and many more reasons, I am excited to announce: there’s a new pastry on campus. Better yet, pastries.
It’s called Feel Good Cake, and it comes in two equally tempting flavors: Chocolate and Orange Chia. Not your average cupcakes, these creations are completely guilt-free, meaning no matter if you’re gluten free, paleo, vegan, or just generally concerned about what you put into your body, you can enjoy the cupcakes without a second thought. Despite the common misconception that healthy versions of desserts never live up to original recipes, these muffins are rich, moist, and full of real flavor. Best of all, they are convenient, and will soon be available in Lamont Café, Cabot Café and Sebastian’s Café at the School of Public Health.
The masterminds behind these muffins are none other than two Harvard students. A little over a year ago, juniors Alice Han and Nina Hooper launched their company, The Holistic, in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and have been perfecting their recipes ever since. Substituting avocado and ground chickpeas for the traditional butter and flour, Han and Hooper are committed to using organic, nutrient-dense ingredients in all of their products. Instead of sugar, the muffins are sweetened with agave nectar, meaning they are free from refined sugars, and have a lower glycemic index than normal cupcakes. In this way, Han explains, The Holistic products are also a good transition food for those with diabetes as they try to cut out foods that will raise their blood sugar too quickly. And the icing on the cake? A creamy chocolate ganache made from avocado, agave and cocoa.
Aside from being super-foodies, the duo has traveled around the world, most recently with a portable oven and suitcases packed with more ingredients than clothes, sharing their creations with people all over. Han explains, “we wanted to see how people reacted to our product,” while also trying to figure out “what makes people feel good about the food they eat.” Whether it was Dubai or Finland, Australia or Japan, Han says they spent a lot of time learning how other cultures eat healthfully and alternatively to the stereotypical American diet, with the hope of incorporating this knowledge into their future recipes.
Last year, The Holistic competed in the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition, making it to the second to last round with their guilt-less treats. They were also recently featured in Boston Magazine and hope to present their product to the regional division of Whole Foods later on in the semester. In the meantime, The Holistic continues to offer catering for on campus events.
As previously mentioned, The Holistic recently approached HUDS about stocking their products, and the muffins will soon be sold in Lamont Café as part of a trial run. Based on their reception, HUDS could begin offering them at more locations on campus — now that would be a sweet deal.