Beginning of the End – Thought #2 – Culinary Memories

Not to brag, but I’m a decent cook.  By that, I mean I generally understand recipes, pay close attention to my food when I cook it, and invest my self in my culinary endeavors.  I’m not great, but I manage.  This skill always comes in handy about this time every year, when I end up making some sort of food for Passover Seders and pesach dining in general.  My general explanation for my cooking “skills” is that you don’t keep a nice curvy figure like mine by eating matzo for eight days.

More accurately, though, I’ve invested time and energy into cooking because food has always been very important to me.  I know that seems like a strange sentence – I mean, we all need food – but the dining experience has always been particularly intertwined with my life experience.   When I think of growing up in Southern California, I think of drive-through trips to In-n-Out and Tommy’s at midnight and lunches at my favorite fast food Chinese place.  When I think of my time as an undergrad at UC Berkeley, the smells of Top Dog, IB’s Hoagies, and Smart Alec’s immediately come to mind.

Now that I’m leaving law school, I’m starting to wonder what my culinary memories will be for the last three years.  To be honest, this decision is more of a struggle for two reasons: law school is way too expensive and good and/or affordable food in Boston is much harder to find than I’d like.  That being said, here are the three restaurants that I will definitely remember longer than my professors’ names.

Nud Pob – One of my favorite fast food Thai places of all time, and it’s located across the street from the law school.  I ate here for the first time during 1L orientation on the advice of my student mentor and never looked back.  Great quantity, surprising quality, and you can get out for under $8.  Nud Pob actually moved locations and closed half way through my 2L year.  It happened almost without notice, and there was no time table as to when it would open back up again.  Lo and behold, on March 29, 2010, I got my Thai food back, and there were few happier days of my law school experience.  The pad thai is nothing special, but get the Pad Woo Sen or Kao Nah Kai.  I dare you not to be impressed.

Publick House – Technically in Brookline, not in Boston, but it’s public transit accessible and a short walk from my apartment.   Convenient location aside, this is one of my favorite restaurants – let alone gastropubs – of all time, and I’ve done my fair share of the DC gastropub scene.  Oak tables.  Double-sided bar.  Dozens of Belgian and domestic microbrew beers on tap and hundreds of bottled selections – none of them are Miller High Life.  The mussels are some of the best I’ve ever had, the frites and house mayos are fantastic, the Flemish Beef Stew is to die for – and, for those of you who are cheese aficionados, they will make a custom mac-n-cheese that will blow your mind.  It’s a must if you’re living here or just visiting.  You won’t get out of here for $8 a plate but the menu prices are surprisingly modest.

Cibo/Panza – North End Italian is hard to do badly.  There is too much competition in the neighborhood to be bad for very long.  But it can be hard to find fresh, or affordable, or the right ambiance.  Cibo changed their name to Panza a couple of years ago, but kept the same cook and menu.   It’s a fantastic meal, from the fried caprese to the amazing desserts – and, despite three years of effort, have never failed to have a bottle of wine that didn’t put me in the mood for an amazing meal.  It won’t cost you an arm and a leg, it’s usually not too crowded, it’s easy to get to but it’s a little off the beaten path, and the neighborhood is just gorgeous – the restaurant neighbors the courtyard for Rachel Revere Park and St. Leonards Church.