El Pelon: Pollo Taco

New Opening: El Pelon Taqueria

El Pelon Taqueria opened a block down my college hovel a few days ago, and it wasn’t until today when I was getting some milk and bread from the convenience store next door that my roommate Erin and I decided to stand on the lengthy opening-days-line for some Mexican grub.

The decor is an upgrade from Taco Bell. I’m kidding. I’m not even going to compare the two. For those who are sticklers for authenticity, here are the tallies: the staff is Spanish, they sell the glass coke bottles that are ubiquitous south of the border (but rare, and nostalgic around these North American parts), and the food is pretty cheap, as a taqueria should be. The tortilla on my pollo taco was perfect, and much better than the ones at the taco trucks in lower Manhattan, Nueva York (which tend to be weirdly stiff sometimes). The veggies in the taco are super fresh: cold, crisp cucumber, red pickled cabbage, bits o’ onions, and wedges of lime. No cheese, no oil dripping off the tortillas, incredibly healthy, tasty food for $2.50.

The Carnita Quesadilla was boring, and the salsa that it came with was just lime, tomatoes, and a little cilantro. For $3.50, I can’t be too demanding. I later used the salsa to add flavor to my mixed spring greens salad later, so it became two meals for one. Saving money is so hot.

Looking at its yelp listing, a one commenter remarked, “REST IN PEACE. this place needs to stop burning down -2008.” The sentiments seem to be in agreement. This taqueria has burnt down twice, but I can believe it: the meat did taste like it’s got some extra char on it. Rising from its ashes, the new El Pelon settled  across the notoriously inconvenient pedestrian death-trap intersection from Boston College.

Where I can stroll down at my own leisure on these sunny, 50 degree weather days. I need to give my love to those burritos n’ jarritos. Like, the El Guapo. We’ll soon see truly how handsome this bad boy is.

El Pelon
2197 Commonwealth Ave.
Brighton Ma 02135
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Jiao zi; Aug 2009

Thursdays in the Heights: Dumplings with Jenny

Dumplings With Jenny

my mama made these photogenic plush babies

Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Chinese call them “jiao zi,” and the Japanese call them “gyouza.” Boston College Dining might call them “Chinese ravioli,” although that name is a gross mash-up of cultures.

I call them delicious.

Plump, juicy, and in big bite sizes that ooze with umami, dumplings are the perfect comfort food that do not leave you feeling overwhelmed by lard and sodium. Once I start eating dumplings, it is very difficult for me to stop as proven by the fact that I devoured a little more than 12 last night — that is, over a quarter pound of pork, chives, and flour. Once the sizzling, hot dumplings were cool enough, my friends and I paused mid-cooking to sling back a few as if we were competing in a food competition, inevitably misjudging and scalding our tongues. It is far too easy to forget physical limitations.

[Continue at the Heights: rest of article and recipe]

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St. Patty’s Meal: Guinness and Stew

Irish in Boston

I wore green today, but you know, it’s not like I would have punch you in the face if you had not worn red for Chinese New Year.

When I experienced my first St. Patrick’s Day in Boston three years ago, Larissa, Eric, and I went into Southie, ducked under the barricades, and as freshmen in college with disregard for manners, strutted next to the bag pipers, random Irish children “football” leagues, and Star Wars space troopers. Then we ate Mexican food.

Sophomore year was getting drunk at the mods looking through clover-shaped green tinted glasses, and marrying a girl I had gone on a service trip with on Facebook.

This year was spent eating days old beef stew and pasta (topped with grated manchego), drinking Guinness from a glass bottle with a C02 canister and watching The Boondock Saints. As scintillating as global statistics are (not in any ironic sense, just my type of fetish), I’d like to not be vigorously studying population growth and capital investment in South America for tomorrow’s midterm. I’d rather me some Guinness on draught at that seedy pub we uni-folks love down in Cleveland Circle! Why must I grow up?!

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Helmand River, south of Kajaki village

Thursdays in the Heights: Helmand

Afghan Delights Done Impeccably At Helmand

By: Jenny Liu

Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

If there is one thing that will compel me to take two buses, one train, and then forge onward by foot through the frigid northeastern winds, it is very good food. Helmand, an Afghan restaurant in Cambridge, is capable of such seduction, singing its siren song.

Before making the intrepid trek out to Helmand, you must know that reservations are a necessity. Those who have the misfortune of arriving more than 15 minutes late will have their reservation brusquely passed on to the next lucky person on the waiting list. Dressed in earthy Persian tones, with the surrounding air fiery and thick from Indian spices and graced with a Mediterranean flair, Helmand is a pretty thing with many suitors vying for an opportunity to indulge in its goodness.

[Continue reading: education on the gastronomic state of Afghanistan, Middle Eastern Royalty, & hardcore metal references]

For visual reference and photos of frolicking grass-fed lamb post-application of heat, see earlier post.

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Orinoco: the entrance

Thursdays in the Heights: Orinoco

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.

[Continue reading]

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Helmand: Pumpkin Kaddo

Be still my heart

On Eric’s visit last weekend, we ate up Boston. Ate it all up. The experience was akin to those multiple orgasms that leaves you dizzy from all the blood rushing away from the brain towards more sensual organs, like the stomach.

I want to go back to languishing at: Orinoco in Brookline (Venezuelan), Helmand in Cambridge (Afghan), Neptune Oyster in the North End (Oyster bar), Sibling Rivalry in Back Bay (New American), and Sel de la Terre on Newbury Street (American).

I’ll let these photos write my thousand words for me: (click an image for slide show & commentary)

Yeah. Just hold on a sec. Need to get these pants undid.

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tape your mouth shut

40 days and 40 nights

Not eating out in Boston

I am: a severe glutton, and attending a Catholic-affiliated university.

I am not: Catholic. Nor an industrious kitchen wench.

Sabrina and Jessica separately pointed me to  Not Eating Out In NY within the same day. I took this as a cosmic sign that maybe there was something a little excessive about ordering in and eating out about eight times within the first half of February. And I’m not talking about picking up a Boston Creme at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m referring to blowout three courses, and tips in the double digits. In the spirit of Lent, I will give up eating out and ordering in. Maybe this will be the year I make it all the way to the end with better command of my self-control than years before (those were tough. You guys! I had to cut out cheese and baked goods. That’s like asking Kate Moss to give up cocaine. No one dares!)

The challenge:

No restaurant meals, no take-out, no prepared or frozen cuisine. Essentially, if someone else is cooking and I am relinquishing my dollar bills, mug me, gag me, give me stern spankings, whatever.

Inconveniently due to food column assignments, skiing trip in Maine, and Boston Restaurant Week– a gangbang of obstacles all rolling up in the next month, I will concede to several exceptions:

1. As long as the food is not paid for by myself (someone else is footing the bill).

2. Seven “cheat” meals for travel and restaurant week’s sake. Technically, it is 47 days between the start of Lent and Easter, because “Sundays don’t count,” so I am still doing 40 days.

45 days remaining  ’til April 04, 2010

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Armaggedon Burger

Thursday in the Heights: The Armaggedon Burger

The Armageddon Burger

By Jenny Liu

Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Originally Titled, "French Toast- Bacon Apple Turkey-Burger"

It is your last meal on earth. In these hours of armageddon, what will you eat?

I contemplated this for a while, and after toying with the concept of combining filet mignon, foie gras, and caviar into one expensive last stand, I instead determined that for a final meal, it would be more appropriate to salute America, the country whose fruitful bounty has sustained my past 20 years of existence. In keeping with the American spirit, this dish must be excessive. It should also include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for the opportunity to experience all three, one last time.

Those who are faint of heart or morally opposed to carnivorous feeding frenzies, you may want to cover your eyes.

It is irrelevant where the burger was invented and who served it first. What matters is that a burger is synonymous with the American food identity. But instead of the usual beef patties, it was only natural to include turkey and apples, as food items entrenched in American folklore with the pilgrims and Johnny Appleseed. Remember him? Who knew that his legacy would one day include inspiring recipes for heart attacks?

Instead of buns, let’s be daring and replace them with French toast, smothered in eggs and bacon grease. Did I forget to mention that there is bacon? Yes, before anything, it should be sizzling on that stove with the noble purpose of seasoning the pan with its grease for the egg-soaked bread and applesauce-infused turkey patties that are waiting to leap into that bath of piggy essence.

When the bacon, French toast, and turkey patties are cooked, assemble them in the way that is most logical to you, adding the condiments and cheese, of the American variety of course. Sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar over the French toast buns and liberally douse it in maple syrup — “like the Niagara” would be a suitable simile in this context. It would be wise to eat this monster of a burger with utensils, but then again, caution is for survivors.

After that, maybe down a few antacid tablets to ensure that the acid heart reflux will not interfere with the final pleasure of such decadence. Just in case.

You know you’re curious about how this baby was formed, continue here: http://www.bcheights.com/arts/the-scene/the-armageddon-burger-1.1124573

Btdubs, I wanna know, what would y’all eat in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

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I love my vajayjay

It can get me $5 Filet Mignon, Delmonico rib-eye, lobster orecchiette, and goat cheese mashed potatoes.


Aw, now I gotta pay for a $3 water. Vie de merde.

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cafe japonaise

A dessert a day

Iced Green tea with lychee jelly & Azuki Puff

It’s true what they say about sugar. It’s addictive, and your body craves more once you start. The trick is to never start, impossible!, or intake very limited amounts. I rarely drink sodas and juices (though not for this reason), sticking to teas (chai, jasmine, oolong), which normally tempers these terribly unhealthy pangs of want. But having access to an oven in the dorm room compels me to bake… carcasses of sugar and butter boxes pile up in the recycling bin at an alarming rate.

Some pastries however, are so worth it. This Azuki cream puff from Cafe Japonaise on Comm Ave, nr. Babcock St., is worth it. The outside is a crispy layer of croissant, with a dense buttery bottom holding in the smooth, silky custard and thick, sweet red bean paste. At $3.25, I could eat at least four more if I didn’t have an excess supply of recently baked lemon drop cupcakes. After this past weekend’s loaded “Armageddon Burger” (a recipe coming out in this week’s BC Heights, if all goes well) I should not have even looked its way to begin with. However, this little cream puff was so seductive and electrifying that after the first two bites, I was already sinisterly plotting on how to make it mine– replicating the recipe, and distributing it in the restaurant I may one day open.

Hm, maybe I shouldn’t state that in print.

Referenced Locations:

Cafe Japonaise
1032 Commonwealth Ave
Newton, MA 02459
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