In just six years, Boston has changed so much that there are certain parts of the city I barely even recognize. We stayed around the South End, near the water front area, and the entire place is completely unrecognizable to me. So many high rises, likely residences, are going up, and construction is endless. Streets are blocked off because they are being redone, and scaffolding is everywhere.
Other changes have happened, too, since I was last here. As in New York, San Francisco, and likely every other major metropolitan city, the constant catering towards people who are vegan and gluten-free is here in Boston and Cambridge. J.P. Licks, an institution of an ice cream shop, has dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan options. Juice Shop and Sweetgreen seem to be in every neighborhood we walked through. And even in the North End, there were multiple gluten-free handmade pasta options on the menus.
And now, Jamaica Plain is now moving from being semi hipster to being upscale and known for high rent. When I first moved to the Boston area in 2004, JP was considered dangerous and not a place to be at night. Now, everyone wants to move there. Chris’s friend’s ex-girlfriend, who recently moved from New York to Boston, now lives in Jamaica Plain. She and her dog love it there. That says everything about how much has changed here.
While in Boston this weekend, since we’d be stopping by the North End (Boston’s Little Italy), I knew I wanted to make a pit stop at Modern Pastry, my favorite Italian bakery in Boston. It was always a competitor of Mike’s, the tourist-overrun bakery that was always extremely disorganized with the most chaotic lines, but I always preferred Modern because their service was fast and friendly, they filled their cannoli to order (preventing a soggy shell), and their tiramisu was probably my favorite version in the world at that point in my life.
Well, it’s been six years since I’ve been to Boston, and I can’t even remember the last time I even visited the North End. Since the last time I visited Modern, they have expanded and renovated; they are not just a little bakery to grab and go, but they have a large cafe-style sit-down area where you can eat your dessert with your coffee at your leisure with table service. They still have the take-out section, but today, it was like nothing I could remember. It was a long and slow-moving line, and it was clear the cashier didn’t give a crap about any of us. She took a long time to fill orders, and she even wandered around the pastry area doing absolutely nothing while the line just got longer and longer. And when the cash register ran out of paper for receipts, she just stood there and pretended to fiddle with it (without a refill – so convincing that she was actually doing real work!). This is NOT the Modern Pastry I remember.
The cannoli was just as good as I remember, and so was the tiramisu. But this place really sucks now with service that poor. When you stop caring about your customers and start taking them for granted, that’s when you really don’t deserve my business.
Chris decided to book his parents a surprise side trip to Boston for this weekend, so we headed to the airport today. With my executive platinum American Airlines status, I requested that I be added to the upgrade list complimentary and use my 500-mile-upgrade credits to upgrade Chris and his parents. Eight people on this flight were going to get upgraded given the number of empty seats in First Class, and so we essentially bumped four people off the top of the list given my status. I don’t care; how many times has that happened to me?! Too many to count. And it honestly makes me even happier on the inside when I know that I, an Asian American female in her early 30s, is bumping down a bunch of over-privileged and entitled white men.
When we got on, as per usual, there were two other people of color sitting in first class; both were men who were at least middle aged. Everyone else was middle-aged, white, and male. Men always dominate the priority cabins. And as usual, I appear to be the youngest person sitting in the priority cabin, and the only East Asian person. Chris’s mom commented on that, too, after the flight, about the lack of diversity in First Class both in color and in gender. “Privilege” in this country tends to go to white males regardless of what people want to deny about systematic discrimination and discrimination in general. All you have to do is look at things like who’s seated in First Class; who gets pulled over by cops more often, and who gets worse treatment in restaurants than others.
Tonight, we had an early celebration of Chris’s dad’s birthday at one of New York’s top rated “romantic” restaurants, One If By Land, Two If By Sea. The food and the service were phenomenal; the portion were actually fairly large for a tasting menu, and although some dishes like the chocolate souffle were quite simple, the comforting flavors did not disappoint, proving that sometimes the best dishes really can be the simplest.
The funny thing about restaurants rated as “romantic” is that even in today’s day and age that welcomes the eclectic and the modern, the term “romantic” still seems to conjure the same images and notions that were thought of decades ago, things like long and lit candles, white or red roses, white linen table clothes, and dimly lit dining rooms. When I sat down at our table and took a look around the dining room, the top-top tables were what was most comical to me; they had long white table cloths topped with a little bouquet of white roses, with long white candles lit and flickering. It was just like an image out of those “romantic” dates that Jack Tripper used to do in the popular 80’s comedy TV series Three’s Company. I felt like we were in a very traditional dining room from the 80s tonight.
You know how most people say that the first two weeks of their job is supposed to be the breeziest and simplest? Well, I’d strongly argue against that at my current company, and not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve had a number of very productive meetings my first two weeks, and not only that, I’m actually learning new, valuable information that will help me properly get up to speed on the technology I will be supporting, in addition to the company in general. It’s been a refreshing experience to be at a company that is striving to be as organized as mine is. And for better or for worse (and really for the better), I have to complete a certification exam on the company product and have been spending a lot of time reading up and studying for it.
It’s honestly a strange feeling to be studying again. The last time I truly studied anything seriously was in my last year of college, and that was almost nine years ago. I feel like I haven’t genuinely used my brain in the longest time, as work for the last 3-5 years really hasn’t been intellectually stimulating at all, and I spent most of my time putting out trivial “fires” over things that were not truly fires at all. I was respected at my last two companies, and people really looked to me for guidance and advice, but sometimes I felt so weirded out by it because I never though I did anything extraordinary at all; I was just being myself and getting my own work done. Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing at our jobs?
Tonight, we took Chris’s parents to see Arthur Miller’s play The Price on Broadway. Since Obama and his daughter went to see it months ago, the ticket prices have skyrocketed, but we got these tickets for Chris’s parents as a late birthday gift for his mom. The show didn’t disappoint either from a performance standpoint or a cast standpoint; Mark Ruffalo and Danny DeVito star in it, and their performances were extremely strong and convincing.
Arthur Miller has a special place in my heart as a playwright, as two of my favorite plays I studied, read, and watched in high school are by him. Death of a Salesman was his play that resonated the most with me, as so many of the family delusions and quest for the American dream painfully reminded me of my own family at a vulnerable and self-seeking time in my life. The Crucible, a favorite among many as a reminder of the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, spoke to me in how it brings up the theme of perception and reputation. What truly creates the reputations that we may be proud (or not) of, the name that we seek to have and have remembered about us regardless of whether we are living or have passed, and in general, what is our “place” in society?
In conjuring all these themes, Miller oftentimes uses family dysfunction as the mechanism to make us think about these tough questions. So I suppose if you think about constantly seeing family dysfunction on stage, you’d understand why I like him so much. It’s like he’s speaking directly to me about all the familial insanities that are possible.
Tonight, we went to Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen for dinner. Madam Zhu’s is a Sichuanese-influenced Chinese restaurant that started in mainland China and has locations in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou, and they’ve expanded to the U.S. with this New York City location. I knew that it would be a more upscale representation of Chinese food, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how modern not only the decor but the dishes would be in terms of the spin they’ve taken with the flavors and presentation. Not only that, another thing that was interesting was that the staff was very diverse; it was not all Chinese hosts and servers and bus boys, but a variety of colors. In fact, I think that only one of the wait staff who helped us was actually ethnically Chinese. It’s exciting to see this, as it means that more people are becoming open-minded to Chinese food and how incredible it can be. It’s not just the stereotypical Americanized corn-starch goop and sweet and sour pork that is so often generically on menus. This is real, beautiful, and tasty food.
You know you’ve been in New York City way too long when you go to a “fine dining” restaurant and marvel at how “inexpensive” the dishes are when the highest price points are $20-22. That’s what happened to me tonight when we took Chris’s parents, who just arrived from their multi-destination trip, to Tastings Social Presents Mountain Bird in Spanish Harlem. Maybe the lower prices are due to its location. Maybe it’s because the chef and owners are over the idea that quality food and presentation need to be so stuffy and overpriced. Whatever it is, the focus of the menu is around poultry, and the chef did an amazing job with all forms of the duck he used. This is probably one of the best and most reasonably priced meals we’ve had in a long time in the city. We really should be spending more time in Spanish Harlem, especially given how close it is to our apartment.
Here are the signs that you either grew up with half-glass-empty parents or you’ve spent too much time in New York: when a person approaches you on the street for directions, and you slowly start backing away because you wonder in the back of your mind whether this person is trying to con you into something or potentially steal your wallet without you knowing. That happened to me during a lunchtime walk today. This guy just wanted to know how to get to a certain area via the subway, and I really thought he was getting too close into my personal space, so I started backing away, even as he kept moving closer to me.
In New York, we get cramped on subway trains and platforms, and we’re used to being in massive crowds with little breathing room or “personal space.” Yet, as New Yorkers, we also develop defense mechanisms and forms of self-protection, and one of them is to never let anyone get too physically close to you unless it’s absolutely necessary (e.g. subway car during rush hour). I wonder if I’ll never get rid of this mentality once I leave New York… if I ever leave New York?
I never thought I’d be a granola person, nor did I think I’d ever make my own granola, but here I am, in April 2017, actually making my own granola. I’ve been enjoying the occasional homemade smoothie bowl at home, and granola always seemed like it would be a good addition for crunch. But when I bought a Nature Farms hemp granola box, I was so disappointed that I was driven to looking up granola recipes online to see how I could make this better. The ultimate granola recipe is crunchy, has a variety of nuts and seeds, and also has a dried fruit like cranberries or cherries in it. I used a certain base recipe I found online and added a number of additional ingredients, and it ended up totaling to about 16 different ingredients. It sounds a little crazy, but when I tasted it, it was seriously the best granola I’d ever had. The only issue is that I decreased the amount of oil, so there were less large crunchy bits, but the flavor was spot on. And given I used macadamia nuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, it wasn’t a cheap granola, but sometimes you really have to pay for things to make them worthwhile.