Jenny Famewhore

Thursdays in the Heights: Orinoco

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on February 25, 2010

Orinoco’s Delicious Latin Flavor Is A Steal

By Jenny Liu

Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There are some restaurants that I believe could easily charge a higher price for their food without customers complaining, and I suspect that Orinoco may be one of them.

The entrance is set back in a thick curtain, but once I fought my way through it, off of sunny Harvard Street, I was faced with a high-ceilinged room, cozy in its dimness, with wooden booths. Old black and white family photos, nostalgic and fading, stretch upwards, and indigenous masks in bright colors cluster against an exposed brick wall. A long family table situated in the center of the room, flanked by 10 robin-blue chairs, subliminally suggests a grand family gathering. I could imagine the yells of children fighting over fried, sweet plantains as the grownups sip cold, spicy mojitos. Lively melodies of salsa and merengue ebb and flow, becoming less noticable if there is food present in front of me, at that point in time.

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Thursday in the Heights: Best Ramen in Boston

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on February 9, 2010

Who Prevails In The Japanese Ramen Battle?

By Jenny Liu

Men Tei: Tonkatsu Ramen

Ken's Ramen: "The Sapporo"

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The master sagely directs, “First, observe the whole bowl. Savor the aroma, jewels of fat glistening on the surface, shinachiku roots shining, seaweed slowly sinking, spring onions floating. Concentrate on the three pork slices. They play the key role but stay modestly hidden. Then poke the pork.”

“Eat the pork first?” the disciple asked, bewildered.

“No. Just touch it. Caress it with the chopstick tips. What’s important here is to apologize to the pork by saying, ‘See you soon.’”

That was the most famous bit of dialogue from the 1985 Japanese movie, Tampopo. Since its release, hundreds of new noodle shop owners have claimed to be deeply inspired by this classic film, and just as many have named their ramen joints after Tampopo. The ramen culture extends far beyond the packs of cardboard and powder that turn into a nutrition-less meal familiar to most college students. Like the discussion on where the best burger can be found, where the best ramen can be found is a passionately debated topic.

When I think about the criteria for a good ramen joint, I think about the many bowls of noodles I have consumed in ramen lover’s paradise, Tokyo. Ramen in Tokyo is available in many different styles, from Hokkaido in the north, to Kyushu in the south. However, despite the subtle and varied differences between the styles, there are essentially three components by which ramen can be judged: the texture of the noodle, the taste of the broth, and the quality of the toppings. Although, in the end, you do not need to be a professional food critic to instinctively know whether or not the ramen tastes good.

Unlike Tokyo, where ramen bars are as abundant as Starbucks is in America, Boston has less than a handful. I decided to eat at the two most talked about places in this ramen-deprived city — Ken’s Ramen House at Packard’s Corner on the B line, and Men Tei, near the Hynes Convention Center.

For more ramen imagery and the verdict, continue reading at: http://www.bcheights.com/arts/the-scene/bite-of-boston-1.1113196

P.S. Oh boy, this gets me geared up for some epic Tokyo ramen showcase entry.

Starbuck’s Clover coffee

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on January 30, 2010

Tokyo, April 2009

I will admit that I have this shameful habit of ducking into a Starbucks to sip a saccharine, spicy chai latte, with foamy whole milk or a creamy caramel macchiato on the occasion. I should feel twinges of guilty when I go, “wee,” when the red holiday cups make its seasonal debut, or when I walked into a Starbucks in Tokyo in March and April to find sakura pastries and strawberry frappes with pink and white swirls. Pretty.

Starbucks is so prevalent in the landscape of big cities, that sometimes, I miss it when I don’t find a store across from a store, cannibalizing each other. I even get angry when I really, really, REALLY need to pee, and I can’t find one within a block and I have to resort to using the restroom at, ugh, a McDonalds. Their job is to be everywhere, isn’t it?

It’s frustrating how it’s always crowded no matter how many stores there are in the city, and when Starbucks announced that it would close a few hundred stores in NYC a few years ago, the Times sarcastically wrote, “Now, New Yorkers will ONLY have 10,000 branches to choose from.” These stores never kick anyone out either, which serves as a great procrastination space to gossip with friends, cut class, and beg the barista for free whipped cream.

Yet, the company is so evil and so sinister, that it has conditioned college students to associate their brand with the delights of coffee, caffeine, and class by embedding themselves in the dining halls (“we serve Starbucks coffee”) and using whatever currency system the university accepts. Then, when everyone graduates, they will naturally gravitate towards the same provider of liquid stimulant that they have relied on for the last four years. (more…)

Thursday in the Heights: Bar Lola

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 17, 2009

If there are any college students still dating, a tapas bar is the perfect date spot; and a social reflection of our comparison-shopping tendencies, truncated attention spans, and a life of overwhelming choices. The tapas bar is a restaurant manifestation of the non-exclusive standard of love. Eating many little meals means you never have to commit to only one– one dish, or one lover. If the date sucks, just huff up those tiny appetizer-sized plates and beg over that check.

I find the difficulties that Frank Bruni’s hyperbolic grousing about the “death of the entree” referred to (enduring 17 bites of one thing is a luxury for a food critic) hard to justify and a wee sanctimonious when juxtaposed against the rising global food insecurity. Let’s be optimistic. There are only three meals in a day, an infinity plus one array of food and ways to make them. I would probably never get around to 1/4 of all that exists even if I were to eat something different every day. For me, tapas are the perfect way to adventurously taste everything without resorting to, say, asking Andrew to awkwardly entreat his friend who works at Late Night at BC dining to sneak over a single fry, that’s all- just one, for me. Or having to look wide-eyed and innocent at my dining companions and cautiously (in a manner that doesn’t invoke a vision of an Orphan Oliver hover-crafting-over their food) beseech, “Are you going to finish that?”

One day, I may settle into the peaceful cradle of satiety- a truce with curiosity- and find my niche, like, on a dirty bar stool in the Lower East Side of New York with my 17 Coronas and 17 sliders, but until then, I will keep looking towards that horizon, wondering what’s on the other side, and rallying for those tapas to keep coming.

Sultry Atmosphere And Tiny Bites At Boston’s Bar Lola


bar lola

Published in the November 12, 2009 Edition of the Heights

My friend and I were to have dinner one night, and she left me the exquisite burden of choosing the restaurant, along with a few footnotes: classy, but not overly extravagant; conducive to a long gossip session; and adventurous. It was like seeking the necessary characteristics in a perfect partner, but I only needed this place for a few magical hours. (I’ll let you in on a trade secret – Menupages and Chowhound is the foodie version of Craigslist.) So it was with these parameters in mind that I came upon Bar Lola, a tapas bar a short four blocks from Copley Station, on a corner of a tree-lined street flanked by colonial brownstones.

At Bar Lola, we were faced with a formidable menu spanning upwards of 40 dishes, ranging from tapas frias, or cold plates, with classics such as the Tortilla Espanola and Manchego y Serranno, and tapas calientes, or hot plates, with anything from fried calamari to sea scallops to roasted duckling to rabbit.

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Thursday in the Heights: Houston’s

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on October 22, 2009

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I had been meaning to go to Houston’s/Hillstone for a few weeks (for food, for career research, for writing), so I lured Larissa into being my partner in crime with promises of expensive wine and Frank Bruni (departing NYT critic) approved burgers, and it wasn’t until last Monday 5pm, did we go on our restauranting date. 40 minutes later, we were in downtown Boston, and two hours later, we were still noshing on sandwiches of the lard-laden beef variety, triple-dipping our thin-cut fries in wasabi dressing, drinking the sweet bounty of Napa Valley, schmoozing with the staff, and getting lectured on the psychology of men by a 40 year old antique (read: used) cars salesman.

(Thank you, Larissa, for being my pillar of strength!!!)

Admittedly, I was kind of nervous. Who knew there was as much prep-work and depth of thought involved in grilling other people as there is in being interviewed yourself.

I had read all the reviews on Houston’s on menupages, NY Mag, Citysearch, industry zines, hospitality student blogs– everything within the first 300 results on Google was under my radar. I went in with enormous expectations– a loftiness usually associated with NASA space experiments; it was almost unfair.

On that note, this is my first published restaurant review in the BC newspaper, The Heights! While I was back in New York City this weekend on fooding adventures with Eric, someone (in the industry?) playfully asked us, “so which one of you is a food writer?” Eric laughingly replied, “Well, we both are.”  Word.

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Shake Shack: what all other burgers aspire to be

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on September 1, 2009

Burger and Ice Cream, those words are already repeating itself like a mantra chanted by Buddhist monks at five in the morning at a temple in the Himalayas. Except that my backdrop is Madison Square Park on a cloudless blue summer afternoon. I prance up to the Shake Shack line to meet Lisa Famewhore, who is already clutching a bag of Shake Shack cheese fries and saving me a spot on the twenty person deep line. Almost immediately, my vision locks into her cup of Berry Blue ice cream, and on cue, she spoons a bite-ful of intensely blueberry flavored, milky, frosty delicious into my mouth. My eyes rolls upwards and I moaned, “MMMM, SO GOOD!” to my audience of two women behind us, who had completely halted their conversation to watch this entire exchange, and the very intently staring man in front of us who (according to TJ and his male instincts) had thought bubbles visibly emanating, “mmm, yeah, so good, that’s right. You lick that ice cream off that spoon. Now, lick each other.”

Honestly, Shake Shack is SO good, it doesn’t even require two Asian girls and borderline lesbian food play to market it. Just look at this. Instantaneous mental food-gasm. The golden ratio redefined into: 2 butter-coated buns, 1 crunchy fresh lettuce, 1 thick ripe slice of organic tomato, 1 secret sauce (my kryptonite in any food menu. Just write ‘secret sauce’ and my curiosity drives me to own it) and primo-meat (“a proprietary blend of beef by Pat LaFrieda.”)

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Every single Shake Shack Burger consumed, past and present, undoes the heinous evil of Really Bad Burgers (such as the tragic fail that is the McDonald’s Mega Mac exclusively made for Japan.) It’s like every tasty molecule is dying for our gastronomic sins. Imagine, Jesus times 300 units of energy.

Orion, my Confederate-expat (or in more P.C. terms, “Southern”) friend who entertained aspirations of culinary stardom before it was crushed by the economic shitstorm, formerly worked at the second Shake Shack on the Upper West Side where he’d punish French people for being French by forcing them to babble on in their hated language English, make eyes at the gay head-waiter at Dovetail across the street, and receive severe Shake Shack discounts as an employee. He still luuuuurves Shake Shack burgers; which is the most genuine form of compliment anyone can give as an insider to this industry (another acquaintance who had formerly worked at McDonalds, to preserve his sanity, became a vegetarian for 5 years.) Tragically, Orion has since quit, which leaves him nothing but dead to me (jaykay.)

Referenced Locations:

Shake Shack
Madison Ave and East 23rd St.
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

Artisanal Bistro

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on August 29, 2009

I was hung over in three different ways. I had also unrepentantly pre-gamed Gray’s Papaya’s infamous juicy hotdogs with all the fixings except for sweet relish. But even so, nothing stopped me from truly enjoying Artisanal Bistro, my first Chef Terrance Brennan dining experience (Picholine, raved about by my dining companion, is his other restaurant of well-repute). Nothing, except maybe the nausea that kicked in, and moved me to hand over the accompanying wine to others less peaky. Karma will reward me at some later date.

The really awesome thing about Artisanal, other than the amazingly high ceilings that make it seem like I’m eating in a chapel, the booth seats that sink half a foot down like sitting on foam, or the traditional bistro style weaved chairs, is the pre-/post- theater menu they offer for $25/ or $38 with the “sommelier picked wine accompaniment.” Also, it’s only offered really early (6PM) or really late (10PM), but it’s trendier nowadays to be like the Spanish anyway, with their late dinners and robust partying into the twilight. What other country has nationwide siestas, yet still have a currency stronger than the USD?

The menu was as such; I’ve bolded our fab choices (and noted why I ruled out the other options):

HORS D’OEUVRES

Choice of:

SOUPE DU JOUR (Lobster Bisque: too safe of a choice)

MESCLUN OR BEET SALAD (Personally never found any salad to be wildly gratifying)

SHEEP’S MILK RICOTTA CAVATELLI A LA CARBONARA

PLATS PRINCIPAUX

Choice of:

MOULES FRITES (Trans: Oyster and Fries)

SAUTÉED SKATE WING

SUMMER VEGETABLE RISOTTO (a simple, do-at-home dish)

DESSERTS

Choice of:

CRÈME BRÛLÉE ‘LE CIRQUE’

BABA AU RHUM

HOUSEMADE ICE CREAMS & SORBET


cavatelliThe first course was accompanied by a sweet white wine, a Torrontes from Argentina. This was fun to drink. The carbonara proposed in this pasta dish deviated from preconceptions– the consistency was not like the traditional Italian-style carbonara (egg-y, thick, and highly adhesive), but rather a really thin sauce that lightly coated the sheep milk ricotta cavatelli (hand-made pasta—truly artisanal!– rolled slightly on the edges, infused with ricotta cheese.) Small, soft chunks of bacon and cauliflower interspersed with the cavatelli gave it a smoky taste as well as a crunchy textural break. It was a decent dish, but slightly reminiscent of a soupy gourmet Mac and Cheese eaten with only a fork.

skateThe defining part of the meal was the Sautéed Skate Wings: a fillet of skate, browned and slightly crunchy, on a bed of capers, croutons, raisins, and oranges marinating in a pool of fruity sauce (blood orange grenobloise) with a dollop of pureed cauliflower blended with mascarpone cheese on the side. This was accompanied by a Grenache from Spain, a dryer red wine that had a deeply contrasting bitterness to the saccharine tanginess of the main course (stabilizing my blood sugar levels.) The sauce by itself may have been a bit too sweet for my taste, but when I add the cauliflower-mascarpone crème fraîche to it, pile it on top of a delicate piece of skate that I have separated by merely poking at the fillet with a single tine of my fork, and then having it melt together in my mouth in one delicious food orgy, all else becomes irrelevant.

babarhumSo irrelevant that I am almost reluctant to move onto desserts: The crème brûlée, and the Baba Au Rhum accompanied by a sparkling Muscat dessert wine (most likely from Portugal, but unsure) “Le Cirque,” follows the dessert title, and I suspected that it was a nod to the recipe that the restaurant Le Cirque created (after all, they don’t keep it a secret– the recipe is revealed on the bottom of the ramekin once the crème brûlée is eaten away and Terrance Brennan had served as sous chef for Le Cirque), but the waiter also seemed unclear on that point. The waiter did, however, offer an apt evaluation of the Baba Au Rhum, citing it as a “B/B+”

I would return to Artisanal for the Sautéed Skate Wings, and the Crème Brûlée (which is as solid as any crème brûlée goes), for the vast wine collection, for the yet-untried cheese intensive dishes, and naturally, not to overlook the cheeses that are aged next to the dining room, making it as local as it can ever get in a city.

Referenced Locations:

Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro
2 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016-5675
(212) 725-8585