Summer in Cambridge: Happy Birthday Dear Julia 8-10-12
With Julia Child’s 100thbirthday upon us. Where better to remember her than her home town of Cambridge?
I came to Boston for several reasons. First was to spend a bit of time with my beloved daughter Katherine, and my grandchildren, Lily and Noel. They are doing the college tour thing and their trip to Boston just happened to coordinate with my own.
We went to Boston Commons for Shakespeare under the Stars. The lesser known Coriolanus was well played on a beautiful summer night, with a record breaking crowd. The sets were minimal and stark, the actors first rate, the costumes modern and stunning, the music noble and grand. It was totally wonderful.
Katherine found a fine B&B for us on the apron of Harvard University, on Harvard Street, in an old converted house known as Harding House, 288 Harvard Street, Cambridge, Ma 02130, www.harding-house.com. With no more than a dozen rooms, it’s comfortable, well located, and exceedingly well run. Our every wish was their desire and even when we screwed up the televisions in our rooms, they fixed them without a bat of an eye. They have adequate parking for their customers in a neighborhood known for NO parking.
One of the best features of Harding House was its location. Just a quick walk to Massachusetts Avenue and an embarrassment of riches in restaurants and cafes and bars and lively night life. Stroll past the Cambridge City Hall, post office and soon you have more choices than you know what to do with.
The sister B&B to Harding House is called Irving House at Harvard, 24 Irving Street at Harvard Square 02138, 617 547 4600 and it’s located on the same street where Julia Child lived. People in these environs remember seeing Julia, tall as a tree, walking these streets for all the years she lived in Cambridge.
Happy 100th Birthday, dear Julia. Happy birthday to you
No wonder she chose to live here. It’s idyllic, walkable, diverse, and offers intellectual, cultural, and gastronomic delights every place you look. Another trip I recommend is to the Smithsonian in D.C. to see Julia’s Cambridge kitchen in all its glory. The changes that woman made to this culture are incalculable .
I stopped off in a used book store right on Mass Ave. across the way from Julia’s house and picked up a Julia and Juliebook to give to Joan for her birthday which she shares with Julia. No, Joan is not 100. She’s barely half of that, but as a born and bred Massachusetts girl, she shares much with Julia in temperament and taste. Happy birthday, Joan. We promise to cook you a genuine Julia dinner. Scout’s honor. We;re cooking that 60′s iconic dish Julia made popular, Coquille St. Jacques and yes, I still have the shells left over from the sixties.
One night for dinner, I chose the iconic Rendezvous, a slightly Turkish, – it’s the art on the walls not the food – smallish and spectacular restaurant on Mass Avenue, at 502 near Central Square, which has that fabulous vibe of a sophisticated but down home room with food beyond measure. Chosen as one of 26 chefs and restaurants featured in the new and celebrated Boston Homegrown Cookbook, by Leigh Belanger, which celebrates local restaurants featuring fresh, locally grown, sustainable foods on their menus. It did not disappoint.
I had 6 raw oysters, briny, fresh and fabulous followed by a bowl of veal and pork meatballs swimming in a rich veal broth with a bed of spinach and – unexpectedly browned “little ears” pasta dressed with fresh parmigiano. For dessert we chose a meltingly perfect molten chocolate cake and a lemon mousse cake with raspberries. Everything was perfect.
There’s such a lot of good food in this country. And in the most unexpected places. Next night, I walked down Mass Avenue and was drawn to a corner of divey looking places under the umbrella of The Middle East. I popped into the middle room called Zazu and was immediately under the care and guidance of the aptly named Zazu with her cat eye make up and tasteful tats which she swears are 20 years old (impossible) Tendrils and traces working their way up her sinewy and strong arm.
The Middle East is mainly a multistage music venue, but it does serve food in several different dining rooms. See recipe under Paleo Power for Seniorsfor the stupendous seared tuna I ate there.
The bartender, under the protection of a huge Fro, had a large tatted bird perched on one bare caramel colored shoulder. She was strong and good and she made a mean Cambridge version of my favorite drink, the Manhattan.
But the most amazing thing about this slightly grungy room was the food. I had the seared ahi tuna which came napped in a sunchoke puree with seared spinach, thins sliced onions and pears with explosions of flavor from raisins and pignolis. Whoa. That was hot. I asked to meet the chef.
Out from the kitchen came a modest, white clad chef named Victor Subervi whose coat was clean and whose smile was ear to ear. He, like legions of his peers, learned his craft in the trenches, but omg, the work he’s doing here. Zazu said he’d only been hired 4 months to rescue a boring and bored food program. Singlehandedly, he’s turned the place around from the kitchen. Man cannot live on music alone.
The Middle East is a casbah like warren of rooms winding upstairs and down, around the corner of Central Square, 472/480 Mass Avenue at Cambridge, Ma 02139, which offers food until ten then music to the wee hours in four different rooms, music that spills out onto the street, and vibrates under the stars and moon.
Zazu says this corner is known as home to lost musicians who wander in from where ever. 617-864-EAST – TICKETWeb.com, @mideastclub-@zuzubar. As they say about themselves: tweet us, tumbl, review, check-in and buy tickets from your phone. www.mideastclub.com/blog. Oh yeah.
Depending on your needs, The Middle East has got you covered. Good food. Good music. Great hospitality. Whatever you need, they offer.
And I haven’t even gotten to the main event yet? The Ancestral Health Symposium I attended at Harvard.
Stay tuned. It’s coming.Pin It