Aleppo Palace

2019-Feb-08, Friday 22:08
mindstalk: (food)
There's a new restaurant in Central Square, at 25 Central Square Cambridge. It replaced a previous Mideast restaurant the name of which Google has forgotten. It's very new: opened in the past three days (I didn't go out Wed or Thurs.) Pure takeout -- no seating, though there's a ledge if you really wanted to wolf your food there. Prices in the $9 range.

I was given two small falafel for free; I thought they weren't as good as Falafel King's, but decent. I ordered a lamb kafta pita with hummus and fava beans. The guy kept asking if I wanted the ground lamb and not the beef shawarma, which seemed odd; maybe he has no faith in Americans knowing what they want. It rang up oddly: $8.99 turn into $10-something with tax, then back down to $9.60 with cash discount. I thought total sales tax was 7% here, meaning $9.62.

The actual food? Pretty tasty. It was a stuffed pita, not a wrap; the pita looked small, but came out to a decent amount of food; I could probably have made 2 small meals out of it. Tasty and juicy: I was foresighted enough to eat over a plate, the tinfoil covering would not have saved my clothes if eating over my lap.

There are breakfast specials at $6.49, though all vegetarian.
mindstalk: (food)
I belatedly paid attention to the price on a second purchase: $9 for 6.7 ounces. Eek! $21.50/pound!

No wonder "buy components for a kitchen lunch" started seeming uncompetitive with "buy a cheap lunch out".

rarebit cheese

2018-Nov-24, Saturday 21:08
mindstalk: (food)
When I was a lad, one meal my parents made occasionally was Welsh rarebit, or 'rabbit', which I loved. Cheddar cheese melted with beer and mustard, poured over bread. I felt there was never enough cheese, nor had often enough.

As an adult, I haven't chased it too hard, and I never have beer in the house, though I have tried melted cheddar + mustard a few times. Still, I do like the flavor. Some years ago Trader Joe's had a month's special cheese that was "English ale cheddar with mustard", or so I have recorded in my diary. It tasted like rarebit. Alas it never re-appeared.

But I was shopping at Roche Bros last week, and found a cheese like it... or possibly the actual cheese, given how TJ rebrands things. Kilchurn Estate mustard & ale cheddar cheese. Tastes like I remember. No surviving price tag, so I can't tell you what it cost, but I'm charmed to know that I can have it again and again.
mindstalk: (food)
If I'm lazy, it's just brie and pate on bread from the bakery five minutes away.

With a bit more work, frying up some pepper steak in olive oil, then in the remaining oil frying up a grilled brie cheese sandwich.

Morning croissants from aforementioned bakery. They have varieties like kamut and vegan, though I'm good with regular.
mindstalk: (food)
Trader Joe's sells a cheap plastic grinder, full of black pepper, for I think $2 or so. I actually like it a lot. It gives a coarse grind with a lot of flavor; it seems to do better on the same batch of pepper than another grinder I had did. I left my old one when I started going nomadic, but after a month and a half I decided to travel with my own and bought another. It's even stronger than I remember, making me wonder if they also use better pepper than the refills I'd gotten from Harvest Co-op or Penzey's. Since I am traveling, this time I kept the cap, to reduce leakage in my luggage; possibly that also reduces oxidation as well.

Being clear plastic you can see how much you use. I bought this one on Oct 13 and I'm already halfway through. I knew I used a lot but this seems faster than I recall.


In the previous Montreal post I'd snarked about milk types. As recorded in the comments, I since learned that 3.25% is the minimum limit for "whole" milk in the US (though some say 3.5); also, "whole" homogenized milk is probably skim milk with the right amount of cream added back in. UK whole milk is apparently at least 3.6% fat.

I'd always thought of whole as 4%. I am tempted to get cream or half-and-half to add to milk...


A Quebec convenience store has packaged croissants. It doesn't necessarily have good croissants; I saw various oils and no butter in the list.


I prefer good oranges (sweet and juicy) to grapefruit (bittersweet and juicy) to bad oranges (unsweet and/or dry). Thing is, grapefruit seems much more consistent in quality, especially compared to navel oranges, but even to clementines or juice oranges. That or because I buy grapefruit individually, I'm better at weighing them in my hand to make sure they're heavy and juicy... It came up because I didn't trust the oranges in the store, so I have grapefruit again.

egg costs

2018-Aug-04, Saturday 21:51
mindstalk: (food)
Recently I was sick so got eggs at the corner store. $3.99 for a dozen of large! vs. $1.79 at the closest 'supermarket'. Expensive, they're not even cage free or anything.

But... 2 of the eggs is under 70 cents, giving 140 calories and 12 g of protein. So nutritionally comparable to a chicken sausage at twice the price (and granted, more flavor.) 3 eggs is similar in calories and price to a cheaper pork sausage. And these are the expensive eggs! The regular ones are 15 cents an egg.
mindstalk: (food)
When I have dim sum at Hei La Moon, I tend to get 4-6 plates and take leftovers. Or just eat them all if I have four, which tends to leave me stuffed. Today I had 6 plates, or 21 pieces; I carefully stopped at 10. That was around noon, and I haven't been very hungry since, though I did add a banana and plum when I got to work, and some late snacks before leaving.

$30 for the six plates, so $15 per meal; expensive for an eating out lunch but not hugely so, and both tasty and something I'll never make on my own.
mindstalk: (food)
Followup to

I've actually been back a couple times, but Friday was most recent. Had Szechuan pork, medium spice. Paid $2 for a tiny bowl of rice. >_< The pork itself was good, and a good spice level, and the bowl was large, if largely liquid -- was almost like spicy pork soup. I ate all the rice but took a lot of the bowl home; I just had 1/3 of it over pasta...

Astro Boy and Sakura were no longer among the posters, though there was less Mao too. I think there was a One Piece poster? I forget.

New Golden Gate

2018-Apr-11, Wednesday 14:54
mindstalk: (food)
Tried another Chinatown restaurant, this one advertising $4.95 lunch specials. I knew the odds were poor. Mostly Caucasian customers and my food coming with only a fork didn't improve them. I had shrimp with vegetables with pork fried rice, chose hot and sour soup, and added $1 for 2 "Peking ravioli". The latter were decently tasty, the rest bland. OTOH, free tea!

There were Chinese people visiting, and Chinese-language posters on the wall, so maybe there's a division between "food for residents" and "food for Caucasian lunchtime crowd". I don't think I'll repeat.

Hot Eastern

2018-Apr-02, Monday 21:37
mindstalk: (food)
I wandered into Chinatown for dinner, and decided to be adventurous and try a basement restaurant under Avana Sushi. At first I noticed $20 special entrees, then some more like $12 ones. Then a menu of cheap BBQ or something like hot pot, mala tang. I ended up getting beef mala bang, a spicy soup with lots of 'exotic' vegetables -- lotus root and some sort of fungus and whatnot. It was pretty tasty. Medium spice had me blowing my nose a lot but not in sense-obliterating pain. Would return. Also there's an $8.50 lunch -- though there's a $5 lunch nearby. :O

The alcove to the bathrooms had a lot of poster art. Mostly obviously Chinese -- martial arts movie, something looking Maoist, others. But also one of Astro Boy, and another of Card Captor Sakura. Nice to see Sakura in a random place, and it sure did feel random.

I wondered about the owners. 'mala tang' and 'mala bang' sound like Indonesian names to me. I saw 'Shohoku', likely Japanese, on something. Also saw a poster of German beers.

There were also multiple frog-based dishes. I was not feeling that adventurous.

Low sugar levels

2018-Mar-29, Thursday 09:36
mindstalk: (food)
It occurs to me that I haven't bought refined sugar in years. I've generally owned (raw) honey more as an anti-hay fever placebo or something. I've bought chocolate and ice cream, but not regularly. Right now the only sweetened things in my part of the kitchen are jam for PB&J, and some honey roasted peanut butter I bought by accident because Bfresh doesn't label many of its tubs.

There are sweet things: oranges, cherry tomatoes, dates. But no candy or means for making it.

soft-boiled eggs

2018-Jan-26, Friday 13:53
mindstalk: (food)
I don't have a clear memory of how I was thought to cook soft-boiled eggs, which is sad given that I did it a fair bit. I have a dim memory of slipping eggs into boiling water to sit for a couple minutes, but I don't know. What I have done for years is to bring eggs in cold water to a boil, turn the heat off, and let them sit for 3 minutes. (For hard, sit for 15+.) That worked well.

Worked well with my old pot, anyway. Now I'm in a new place, with someone else's pots... so I tried making them against yesterday. "Bring to a boil" was a bit problematic, as the lid has a vent hole in it. And I let the eggs sit for four minutes because I got distracted. Result: eggs much closer to hard than soft, with no runny yolk. :(

I tried again today! I didn't even let the water come to a full boil, and waited exactly 3 minutes. Plus, instead of taking out each egg one at a time, I moved all three to a cold water bath before dissecting them. Result: some runniness, but yolks still partially hardened.

So I'm thinking the greater mass and size of the pot I'm using is a factor. Maybe there was something to the "slip eggs into boiling water" idea, though that has risks of splashing with boiling water, thus why I stopped.

Friends have suggested egg timers, though ones based on temperature sound more useful than simple timers. I can use a stopwatch just fine.

eating out costs

2017-Nov-30, Thursday 14:50
mindstalk: (Default)
There's a deli near my office where you can get a breakfast for $5-6. Say $5. 6 of them would be $30.

From the store, a dozen eggs is under $2, decent bread is under $5, call it $7 including butter costs. 6 sausages can be $6-9, so $13-16 for six almost-equivalent breakfasts.

Almost because I think the deli breakfasts include potatoes, which I'm not cooking fast for breakfast anyway. Unless I microwaved frozen hash browns. Another $3-5 for that.

Of course, this deli seems unusually cheap for Boston. Probably more common to be $8 menu, $10 after tax and tip, after which you're looking at $60 for 6 of those.

The same place sold me a basic pastrami sandwich for $7. From McKinnon's I can buy pastrami for $8/lb; a quarter pound in a sandwich would cost $2, under $3 including bread. I don't know how heavy the deli sandwich was, though it probably included a pickle. Again, it's cheap; other places would be $8-12.

Red Delicious?

2017-Nov-15, Wednesday 12:59
mindstalk: (food)
The Davis Square farmers' market is still going, mostly selling apples, squash, and fish. I got a bunch of apple varieties which I won't be able to identify when I eat them, apart from some outliers. They had a sign saying New England Red Delicious was the real Red Delicious. I was skeptical, as I few but horrible memoies of RD apples, dry and mealy. But I figured I'd give them a chance, bought one, and ate it.

It was a lot better than my memories, crunchy and moist. And... otherwise utterly bland, with some odd mucusy bits, unless that was left over cantaloupe juice in my mouth. While it was in fact the best Red Delicious I've ever had, I feel safe in letting it be my last.

At least all the other apples should be better!

birthday stuff

2017-May-09, Tuesday 21:30
mindstalk: (riboku)
I haven't been good at making birthday plans since moving to Boston, but today was good. I went in to work late, expxloring Malden center instead; the library had been described as distinctive, and it does have an older building, though Cambridge main it's a Franken-building. Unlike Cambridge, you can't even go into the older part right now. I took a picture, but the margin of this post is too small to contain it[1]. I also discovered that Malden and Chelsea are affiliated with BPL, not Minuteman. Checked out a book on Angkor and one on Armenian history, I keep running into Armenians.

Some cheap restaurants present but I didn't feel hungry until right after I'd decided to set out for the station. >.< Like the rest of the Orange line, all the interesting stuff is like 10 minutes from the station.

I found another bug at work, not in my code[2]. This is good insofar as we improve the product and I get a reputation as a magical bug finder.

As it happens, in honor of the release, boss was taking us out to a fancy dinner, so I got a big thing without actually mentioning my birthday. $55 New York strip au poivre medium rare, quite good. Some other food too but it's a steakhouse, steak's where it's at. That's about as much as I've ever paid for an entire meal, back when I was working in SF and getting dragged off to some fancy places rarely. Usually $20 is my cap. But hey, wasn't paying!

Couple of Facebook people went above and beyond and sent cute and/or appropriate pictures with their greetings, and J texted me in lieu of calling, which was good because this wasn't a day for calls.

Oh right, a cute thing at work! I was wearing a Kyuubey shirt I got at Anime Boston this year, the first anime T-shirt I've bought. A guy complimented me on it, then I noticed he was wearing a FMA hoodie -- the complex circle on the front looked suspicious, but the squiggle on the back really gave it away. Demographic note: big black guy.

[1] Or I'm too lazy for my picture transfer workflow.

[2] So far I've barely written any code, apart from a logging module and a Frankenscript, it's been all learning tools and code and testing. And honestly I'd like to keep it that way, until I can read 13,000 lines of code and sort through testing them properly. brrr Python. My ideal gift right now would be a compiler.
mindstalk: (food)
I'm staying on the Blue Line for a couple weeks. Lots of Hispanic food stores, and I got some Goya pork skins. I looked at the nutrition label, as I do.

"Protein: 8g Not a significant source of protein."

Dudes, that's like a whole serving of protein. Something's off.

Well, supposedly 14 g to a serving, 8g protein, 5 g fat, 80 calories, 50 calories from fat... that's a pretty consistent set of numbers, if we assume dried skin is basically nothing but protein and fat, which seems reasonable. So I'm inclined to believe that the 8g is accurate, and the "Not significant" is BS.

Unless there's some subtlety like it's indigestible protein. Wikipedia instead says that it's an incomplete protein, very low in some amino acids. So, don't try to live on pork skin, I guess.
mindstalk: (food)
One last (probably) post inspired by Saturday.

A naive planner, trying to be considerate, might think "I'll have 40% vegan guests, 40% veg'n guests, and 20% omnivores, so I should have 40% vegan food... and 20% meat."

This is wrong! The vegans can only eat the vegan food, which will probably be poached by the other two groups. Put another way, if you locked the groups into only getting food from their own tables, then the omnivore table would likely *not* be 100% meat; even barbecues tend to have non-meat sides. 20% * (less than) 100% = less than 20%.

How *should* you distribute the food? I don't think there's a better answer than handwaving. But here's an illustrative model:

Imagine a vegan, two veg'ns who eat half-vegan and half-not food, and one omnivore who'll eat half meat, 1/4 vegan, and 1/4 veg'n. This implies that 9/16 of the food, should be vegan, 5/16 vegetarian, and 2/16 meat. One vegan, but more than half the food suitable for them -- again, because good vegan food will not be exclusive to them.

But of course it depends on your groups. If you know your veg'ns won't touch anything that's not dairy, and that your omnivores will only eat meat, then the naive approach is more valid. It can also apply to some main courses; if you're doing burgers in the first example, then 40% vegan, 40% veg'n-with-egg burgers, and 20% beef burgers, might make sense. Though there's still a chance of an omnivore trying the black bean or whatever burger out of curiosity, so poaching can still happen.

In my case, I traditionally have hummus and dates, and everyone eats those. I was hoping for 1/3 vegans at this party, and expecting 2/3 vegan or veg'n, and laid out entirely vegan food but for some camembert and some chicken. In retrospect I 'should' perhaps have gotten more cheese, to serve four people, though given actual attendance it worked out just fine.

I suppose that if you're planning a BBQ plus one vegan guest invited for socializing, it can make sense to just mark off some food as their territory while everyone else focuses on the pile of meats. Everything's situational; my main point is to caution against naive math.
mindstalk: (food)
(I'm not trying to 'win' Iron Blogger, I'm just having lots of thoughts.)

I'm still bugged by the expenditures. You can live on like $5-6/day, surely I shouldn't be spending more than that per person for one meal? I spent $40 hoping for six people, that's nearly $7/person. In hindsight, given 4 people and what was consumed, I could have skipped the cashews, chips and salsa, less popular sausage, and one bag of pita, bringing cost down to $24, or $6/person, and we've probably have scoured everything clean except the chicken, due to lack of enough carnivores.

But, I guess it depends on what you get: eating frugally means stuff like pasta and rice and beans, or bread and peanut butter. Cheese, (good) crackers, and tomatoes are comparatively expensive: e.g. the crackers were about $5/lb. They're nutrient dense, being dry and fatty, but still twice the $/calorie of even overpriced whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes were $6, or $4/lb, which might be expensive even for tomatoes -- it's been a while since I bought any other kinds -- though as we ate nearly all, I have no regrets.

So basically, yes you can feed people cheaply if you prepare normal staple-based meals, but if you go for savory finger food, it'll be more expensive. Which is fine, it's just good to know and set my expectations accordingly. We probably still came in under restaurant cost, and finger food has advantages in prep (good for me as host) and not tying people to a table and large plate (good for guest circulation and freedom, though that's more relevant for larger parties.)

(Conversely it may be easier to overeat with finger food, if you just keep eating until it's gone or you feel dangerously stuffed.)

(I have a dim possible memory of realizing my old parties were more expensive than I expected, too.)

party retrospective

2016-Dec-10, Saturday 21:39
mindstalk: (squeee)
Back in SF and Bloomington, I was decent at throwing game-and-talk parties, with a good layout of hors d'oeuvre. Here in Boston, I fell out. Partly because the direction of my social life didn't lead to making close friends in the way I was used to, partly because my stuff spread out so that I didn't feel happy about having people over much. A couple years ago I got my living room clear enough for short term house guests, and then to have W over for dinner and anime, but I still didn't try anything party like. More recently I turned my second bedroom back into such instead of a storage room, which came at the expense of my living room, such that I didn't even have W over this summer.

But there's this Iron Blogger thing, and our last two or three parties were at Sacco's Flatbread, which is loud, and eating out eats into our budget quickly. We were debating what to do for tonight's party, and I decided damn it, I was going to get things into shape, so we could save money and have a quiet environment.

And I did! Not even by punting stuff problems too much: some stuff went into empty boxes in a perfectly sensible way, though I do have one box newly labeled "junk to sort through later". I could have deployed all nine of my chairs in the living room, though as it happened I only needed four. At this point I could have house guests in *both* rooms.

Of course, if I don't get a local job soon, this will have been a last hurrah for the place, but still, cool.

It's also an object lesson in the negative value of having too much stuff; I'd have been happier with more parties or tete a'tetes and less stuff I barely touch.

As mentioned, I've got a distinct style; I've never cooked much for more than 2-3 people (including me.) Instead, lots of snacks, leaning toward the savory; any cooking is more like "boil dumplings" or "fry some sausage to cut up". It generally works well.

Tonight required some adaptation: I was hoping for two vegans (got one), two vegetarians (check), and one other omnivore (who forgot we were happening), so I aimed for a pretty vegan spread, plus one wedge of camembert, and some drumsticks I fried for the two meat eaters. Most of the food got eaten, which means I'm pretty stuffed -- probably bought too much for six people, and four people put a big dent in it, so... I dunno about the vegan sausages, that's not something I'm used to. I boiled one per the package, which led to it falling apart, but people ate almost all of it anyway; I microwaved the other, which mostly remained, though the vegan took the leftovers home. First choice would have been grilling, but my cast iron was busy with chicken, and I didn't feel like wrangling with my older pans.

Some years ago I'd discovered Mary's Gone Crackers for a party, as a wheat-free cracker for my wheat-free friend lyceum. They're actually really good in their own right, though pricey.

There's some selfishness mixed into my consideration: I aim for things that I'd be happy to have as leftovers. As a corollary I tend to be weak on drinks.

Introducing people to foods I've found is also fun. The 1.5 pound box of "Wild Wonders" tomatoes was almost completely finished. This is something Star Market has been carrying for a while: they're cherry-tomato sized (more or less) but heirloom in variety; the label just says "greenhouse grown cultivar tomatoes" but they're a lot tastier than a lot of greenhouse tomatoes are.

Setting up is pretty easy, at least when not doing a year's worth of de-cluttering in a couple hours. Afterwards... I could almost be tempted to use my dishwasher for the first time since the landlord installed it. Almost, but not quiet. Probably don't even have the right soap. And four people's worth of small plates isn't that much.

As for the party aims: success! We could all understand each other without fighting a loud restaurant's worth of noise. And I spent $40, which feels like a lot for 5 people (RSVPed) considering groceries) but probably still less than what four people would spend in a restaurant. Our budget was $60, so...

I dunno about vegan protein next time, if there is one. My first plan had been various flavored compressed tofus from Trader Joe's, which I know from experience are pretty tasty, but I balked at the price/lb. Though I guess they're about the same as the cashews. I guess at least one of the 'sausages' was mostly devoured, even if I feared otherwise.

We ate 90% of a 10 oz bag of pita. Yes, I weighed the remainder, and it's 1 oz. Also I cut the pita into 24 pieces and 2 are left. Though the other bag isn't quite 10oz, so the weights are a bit weird.

Oh right, one new thing! Usually I don't worry about healthy veggies for these things. Maybe baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, maybe occasionally a store tray of crudités. But this time I microwaved a pound of frozen broccoli, and added oil salt and pepper. I'm not going to try weight the wet remainder, but I'm sure we ate more than half. That's neat.

Tangentially, I don't know why both sets of parents I've seen close up try to get their kids to eat unadorned steamed broccoli to earn their desserts. It's much tastier with a bit of seasoning.

Tonight's crackers were TJ's Some Enchanted Cracker, tasty in its own right if totally different from Mary's Gone Crackers, and significantly cheaper. Also, totally consumed, along with the camembert.

The hummus isn't gone but greatly diminished (and it wasn't even the really good TJ hummus, which wasn't on the shelves); the chips vanished faster than the salsa. This is something I'd observed at ohanami parties: if I brought hummus it would get inhaled, while salsa would sit around, especially the hotter varieties. Some of the chips tonight were used for hummus, at least before that reminded me I'd been warming up pita wedges in the microwave but forgotten them.

Actually, yeah, I should make a distinct list of what hit and didn't:

+: pita and hummus (but maybe less pita... though if we'd had the fifth person we could have opened the second bag), runny cheese and good crackers, good cherry tomatoes, well-prepared broccoli, the dark vegan "Italian sausage" from TJ.
-: hot salsa, cashews (hard to judge, but I think I may have eaten most of what did get eaten, which wasn't a lot), the lighter colored sausage.

Plus there's various other things I could have tried. Dumplings, bread+oil, bread+butter, veggies and yogurt+dill dip (TJ European yogurt would work great for that), bread and salsa "bruschetta", frozen samosas (experimental), seasoned chickpeas (though not a finger food), chips and queso (not classy, but hey, not unpopular... dunno about this crowd, though), dates, or any other form of dessert.

I'd thought about just salt-and-peppered hard boiled eggs, but the TJ pre-boiled eggs felt too expensive, and I didn't want to peel a whole bunch myself, it's pretty hit or miss whether they peel easily.

One drawback of the evening: everyone coughed a lot when they came in, and I'd been coughing before then, though it faded. I suspect it was smoke from the fried chicken. But it wasn't that smoky: I really suspect cayenne powder on a high dry heat (I put some in the pan to get the underside of the chicken, but didn't bother adding oil.) Accidental chemical warfare...

Zeno's Diet

2016-Nov-01, Tuesday 20:40
mindstalk: (food)
Open a container of something tasty, like fresh strawberries. Eat half of it.

The second time around, eat half of what's left.

The third time around, eat half of... you get the idea.

This is a behavioral pattern of mine that I'd vaguely been aware of but realized more explicitly the other day. And "half" is an approximation, of course, plus it breaks down at the tail end.

I think the process is a tension between "pig out on the tasty stuff" and "don't finish it all."

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