Archive for December, 2007

Nude Goddess in JP

December 30th, 2007

Seated Ceres statueThe secret animist who had protected the naked goddess of the harvest in the Forest Hills Cemetery must have moved on. The Kahlil Gibran statue Seated Ceres has often gotten a scarf in cold weather of recent years…not so yesterday.

The afternoon before the Pat’s game was odd in many ways. At the burying ground/park it was particularly so for the heavy fog. At the lowland near the caretaker’s house, someone could have filmed a horror movie. The stone buildings, iron fencing and unpopulated grounds were in a smothering fluff.

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It was not quite so opaque at Lake Hibiscus in the middle of the grounds. However, click on the image to get a sense of the heavy mists.

For Ceres, the white air with the snowy lawn and iced pond surface made the statue look all the worse equipped. I may have to take over the scarf duty.

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Private Dining Via the Pats

December 30th, 2007

Bless the Pats. Thanks to them, we had our own restaurant and wait staff last night. We were literally the only customers in JP’s Bon Savor and relished the quiet and attention as much as we enjoyed the food.

The timing and technique took me back to my years living in Manhattan. Come World Series, Super Bowl or such, you can often get a reservation and sometimes just walk in and have a seat at restaurants reputed to be impossible to get a deuce in.

In reality, of course, those restaurants always save tables for celebrity sorts and even the mundane rich. However, those fashionable or foody places often have severe drawbacks, such as long waits even with reservations, nearly buttock-to-shoulder chairs, damnable noise levels and overworked staff.

Come those few evenings though, you can have an after-the-apocolypse experience. With the potential diners terrified of being out of the loop by missing the direct or televised group experience, the elaborate infrastructure necessary to serve οἱ ὀλίγοι — the swells — does just fine for the rest of us.

Granted, JP is not Manhattan and Bon Savor is not a joint with Michelin stars. Yet, it is often very busy, difficult to reserve tables at, and has a waiting line. It’s a fair target for the special-event sneak-in meal.

You could say the same for the remarkable Ten Tables in the same block of Centre just north of Pond. It also has remarkable food and wine, also has only a small set of seats, and also is tough to reserve. In what is otherwise a pizza/touristy Mexican/pub grub neighborhood, these are two gems. If you haven’t been, hie thyself thither.

My wife and I had been to Bon Savor in various configurations for other meals. The hubby/wife owners started with the two early meals. We had not been for dinner. A chum in my professional society who rides home to JP from Burlington after meetings went on about it as excellent food very reasonably priced. He and his wife are from Poland and France respectively. They lament the local lack of such bistro food and service.

The first time they were in, the woman owner waylaid him on the way back from the john (more about that in a moment) and gave him a kitchen tour. That couple ended up devoted diners.

In fact, the bathroom visit is remarkable. That is true of many restaurants, from the terrifyingly unsanitary to the ostentatious. In the latter class, I think of the facilities at the Windows on the World in the North Tower of the World Trade Center as the paragon. They seem to have gutted an Italian marble quarry for the walls, floors and counters. Fred and Adele Astair would surely have done a fine dance number in the vast space with the gilded hardware in the background.

You won’t find any of that at Bon Savor. It’s in the basement (watch your head unless you’re about five feet four) and a one banger, any gender room. It is worth the trip because it leads by the owners’ office.

Actually, I don’t think you can bypass the office. Like very attractive trolls under the bridge, they call out to you from their open door. More restaurant owners should care so much about what the customers think of their food, service and restaurant.

The very outgoing Ibonne Zabala and her co-owner Oleg Konovalov definitely want to hear about it. In our case, we had ordered the only two entrées. She wanted to know who had the pasta and who the steak. I spoke of the judicious use of Gorgonzola to flavor but not overpower the firm noodles and how the grilled green and yellow squashed worked with the beef.

They seem charming by nature, but even more remarkable is that they wanted to know about the experience. We’ll be back.

It’s great that the Pats had gotten to the last game of the regular season undefeated. To me, it’s just as good that they offered me a great dining experience in the process.

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Ha Ha Harrumph

December 19th, 2007

Sleeping on SantaEven harrumphing old guys weren’t born that way. I ran across this seasonal shot of the first time I saw Santa.

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We were just back from being part of the Occupation Army in Japan and it was the first time I met the magical Christmas elf. I was tired from wandering stores and fell asleep immediately on getting on his lap.

I must have been four at the time.

Kids stereotypically fear a bellowing, bearded and boisterous St. Nick. Instead, my mom said that this department store version seemed genuinely touched. I do know from my own children that nothing is as pacific as having a trusting child collapse in sleep on you.

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Chimney Crafts in JP

December 18th, 2007

Brick mason in the coldThere’s another job I don’t want — building a new chimney with tiny temperatures. A mason was on the very pitched roof of a neighbor this morning in JP working on a chimney. He wasn’t just pointing, a quick job. He was reconstructing the whole exterior.

The temps this morning when we woke were 11F not counting the windchill. A few hours later, I saw him with his level and trowel and bricks.

Pic Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail image for a larger view.

That’s the guy in the picture on the right. I drew a red circle around his location.

Brick mason in the cold closer It threw me back a lot of years to my summers on carpentry crews in Pittsburgh. My first day on the job was to climb to the similarly slanted roofs of four-story townhouses to shingle. I don’t like heights, but I did it. Hell, as the mason might say if I asked him, it’s a living.

Come to think about it, for the past several days, I clicked on my cross-country skis and headed first to the Franklin Park golf course and then to the socked in Forest Hills Cemetery. At the latter, I was out for a couple of hours in snow, then sleet. While, I had a great time, I didn’t get paid for it. So the mason is one up.

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Boston Private Ski Resort

December 14th, 2007

JP bird houseMy reward for my third shoveling session of this storm was the head to Franklin Park for my winter country club. When six or more inches fall, I hop over to a virtually empty cross-country venue.

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Even in posting this, I have little fear that the Devine golf course will suddenly become as jammed as a convenience store before the big game, like the Arnold Arboretum is. Over at Arnie’s placel, the SUVs that clog Bussey Street and the half dozen spaces have private school decals. I surmise that those tony folk would not be caught dying in Franklin Park.

So, let me sing the glories of the golf course. Actually, you can ski on the wilder, more forested side of the park too. Near the White stadium and the old (great stone carvings still there) and new zoos, you can ski through trees and take the couple of downhills.

The real, shirt soaking exertion is on the course though. It’s 18 holes of rolling hills, acking Canada geese, stone bridges, bunny tracks, and open fields. It has much longer runs and several better hills than all but one in the arboretum. Best of all, you can spend two hours there and see between zero and six other skiers, and maybe a few parents and kids with sleds.

This time, likely because of the storm, there were perhaps a hundred or more geese on the east side of the course. They nestled into the snow like dozens of soup tureens and didn’t move until I skied a few feet away. Oddly enough, these annoying critters had not soiled their snow beds at all. I guess they were saving that for our sidewalks and ponds.

This morning the air was still under 26 degrees and the fluffy snow was fast. Because there had been few skiers, I cut a lot of trails, and then doubled and tripled back to get good runs on them. Bless me.

I overstayed and when the temps hit 30, the skis slowed considerably. By them, I was soaking, overloaded with bucolic scenery, and ready for some seltzer.

If you go, you can sometimes park by the turn to the main zoo lot in the middle of the road through the park. Today, they had not yet plowed that and itsa gates still blocked access. However, the zoo guys are great about scraping the whole lot on the aviary side by 8 a.m. If you are afraid of the inner city, go home, or at least head to the golf course lot by the club house. There are always spaces there when it snows. Plus, you can ski a few yards from your car and just keep going.

I know a lot of folk are still terrified of Franklin Park, even more than Boston in general. I confess that I’m glad. There’s all the more ski resort for me.

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Incidental Rubifying in Rozzie

December 2nd, 2007

Japanese maple in Roslindale

Another color attack today in the cold was abutting the arboretum of recent mention. Leaving the South side of Peter’s Hill and onto Arborough Road, I got a red shock.

One small lawn had a ruby carpet — and no corresponding tree in the yard. The few small bushes and tree there were all evergreen or nude and with no red leaves.

Instead, a large Japanese maple on the next yard was the source of the beauty. It still had about one fifth of its leaves, and both those on the ground and still on the branches were bright red. Its own lawn had virtually none of the delicate, small red leaves.

I must say I am somewhat jealous. Our neighboring trees drop or blow oak or locust or maple on our little lawn, all large, brown leaves.

A friend who was by for Thanksgiving said he was removing volunteer Japanese maples from his lawn in Connecticut. When I said how beautiful I thought they were, he told me that he’d save me one with a root ball.

This is the way to prepare for winter. I don’t think I’d even rake these beauties. This is art.

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The Boston Vegetables Must Go On!

December 1st, 2007

Sing, Goddess. Sing the ruggedness of Haymarket vendors!

The latening sunrise and grumbling winds kept me abed today. I did not get to the Haymarket until 7:30. As usual, I parked a quarter mile away, at meters that don’t get hungry until 9:30. Even in that short walk, I wondered what I was doing there. While the car thermometer read 0 C, which shouldn’t have felt cold, the combination of steady, hard wind and the harbor moisture laughed at the mere numbers. I’m surprised I still have attached ears.

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I like the Haymaket early. Others come late. Then the produce is cheap and if you are serious about maximizing your buying power, you’d show up mid to late afternoon. Prices dip or vendors tuck in more for the same. They don’t want to take home what they might just have to store and then toss. The bargains are there late, particularly if you can use a 24-pint flat of cherry tomatoes or two dozen very ripe mangoes.

Worry was wasted. Blackstone (ask me about that apple-planting cleric and his white bull sometime) Street had its vendors corner to corner. The Haymarket vendors don’t seem to care how cold or strong the air is. Then again, that’s not quite true. Some Latinos have been known to long strongly for Caribbean places. Also, Jimmy, who has migrated from one corner to the Western one, hates cold. Give him the slightest opportunity and he’ll tell you about it. His exposed skin turns shares of red or purple. He hates cold.Haymarket fruits

Yet, Jimmy is there every week as he has been for decades. In all but the most atrocious weather or that rare Saturday that coincides with a major holiday, nearly all the vendors are. Each is a hardy.

This time of year, when arctic ridicules autumn its gentle pretense, the stalls change though. The four-foot to 20-foot wide rickety temporary stands put on their own seasonal finery. In this case, that means tattered and stained tarps on back and sides, leaving the front open for customers.

A few vendors go crazy for comfort, with small portable gas or kerosene heaters that seem capable of keeping their kneecaps warm, but more important, their veggies from freezing. (Never buy black-green romaine.)

Today, the row of stalls had an ice-fishing hut look. One had blue tarps and the next likely once was white.

A look inside proved why I came. Yes, it’s cheap and that’s essential. Moreover, I come early for the selection. They run out of some goodies, like asparagus or raspberries. Even early, I’m still getting ripe and ready foods for about one-third of supermarket price.

For me as the primary cook here, the real driver is never, ever having to put up with a supermarket’s permanent, never ripe or redolent tomato-like objects — hard, pink, Styrofoam feeling fruit that you get in a typical restaurant house salad. Ptui.

I filled my big messenger bag today with such as:

  • Plump and perfect red raspberries (buck a half-pint)
  • Navel oranges the size of a boxer’s fist (40¢ each)
  • Gorgeous, finger thick asparagus (75¢ a pound bunch)
  • Flawless cluster tomatoes ($1 a pound)
  • Deep red strawberries with no white ($1.50 a pound box)
  • Firm yellow onions ($3 for 10 pound; we use a lot of onions)

I planned menus as I made my picks. With my gathering done, the walk back to the car didn’t seem quite as cold.

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