If you’ve signed up for our How to Boston newsletter, you know that tips for tackling city life are delivered to your inbox every Tuesday (or, in this case, Monday — tomorrow is New Year’s Day, after all).
In 2018, the How to Boston newsletter aimed to help locals with everything from breaking the ice at dinner parties to finding the most delicious socially conscious chocolate in the Boston area.
In honor of the last newsletter of 2018, we collected the top 10 most popular newsletter stories of the past year. The gist of it: You’re very well-rounded — but also, you really like good food!
Julie King is the chef and owner of Villa Mexico Café, the Mexican joint in the Financial District known for its spice-laden burritos and house-made black salsa.
King moved to the Boston area 18 years ago with no plans to open a restaurant. She said that changed when, craving food from home, she realized there were slim pickings for authentic Mexican restaurants at the time.
“Whenever we went to get Mexican food, it was awful,” she said. “It was Tex-Mex or something else, not Mexican. I missed my food too much. I decided to open my own restaurant to teach people what real Mexican food is.”
There’s no leather-bound wine list at Cambridge’s Pammy’s, the eclectic, Italian-inspired New American restaurant that opened on Mass. Ave. in 2017. Instead, you’ll find a single, double-sided piece of 8½–by-11-inch paper declaring small categories of Italian and domestic wines with titles like “Refreshing & Mineral” and “Rustic & Bold.”
“I wanted to create something approachable,” said wine director Lauren Hayes. “Something that’s easy to just sit down and have fun with.”
Hayes, 28, is among the up-and-coming generation of wine professionals in Boston. She said the city’s supportive wine community helps foster shared ideas and information, and her wine program is among a growing number that is ditching lengthy lists for smaller, more curated selections.
The wines Hayes selects for Pammy’s are also all what are known as natural wines. Hayes defines natural wines as “small-production wines made sustainably in the vineyard, with minimal intervention in the cellar,” and said they are a fast-growing category among restaurants in the Boston area.
Amid intense work demands and bustling kids’ schedules, political news and reports of school violence, it’s no wonder so many people feel like constant stress balls. Mindfulness and meditation can help, but how can the practices be integrated into family life?
Award-winning Boston yoga instructor Amy Leydon has advice on bringing mindfulness into the home. In addition to being one of Boston’s most sought-after yoga instructors, Leydon is raising a 4-year-old boy with her husband in the city’s North End, and she’s no stranger to the pressures felt by parents today. Mindfulness, she says, is a “tool in the toolbox” for families hoping to communicate more effectively. Leydon uses mindfulness to reduce stress, open communication with her husband, and help her son learn healthy emotional management.
According to Leydon, mindfulness can be part of a formal practice, like meditation or yoga, or it can be as simple as asking yourself, “How am I feeling right now?”
Chef Andy Husbands, world barbecue champion and owner of The Smoke Shop BBQ in the Seaport and Kendall Square, grew up watching his father grill in the summer months.
“In my early 20s, I developed this real strong passion for fire cookery — anything from wood fires to ovens to, of course, smokers,” he said. “That intense heat coupled with that light, smoky flavor really takes food over the top, in my opinion.”
But the perfect flavor doesn’t just happen by accident — there are critical tips and tools behind the technique.
“You have to practice,” Husbands said. “It’s not something where you can just turn on your oven and go. But it’s fun practice.”
Dessert can come in many forms: a few scoops of ice cream, a morning croissant run, a handful (or three) of chocolate-covered almonds in between meetings, or, say, decadent pudding with caramel, shortbread, mascarpone, and Taza chocolate.
Brian Mercury, pastry chef at Fort Point’s Oak + Rowan and winner of Food & Wine’s People’s Choice Best New Pastry Chef, East Region 2013 serves that last kind.
According to Mercury, there are more than a few places around the city to find really good desserts and baked goods –– we have a pastry scene on the rise, he said.
Obviously some parties are more casual than others, but every invitation comes with a certain set of expectations around what to wear, when to arrive, and what to bring. Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette hosts classes across the country that aim to make those etiquette rules feel less stuffy and more modern.
Not sure if you’re committing some party major faux-pas, or just want to know once and for all when you should show up for dinner?
Chefs and married couple Deanne Steffen Chinn and Myron Chinn have been working together in some of Boston’s best restaurants for a decade. The pair met at celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s shuttered Blue Ginger restaurant, and they were married on July 4, 2013 — one of the few days of the year when they were both guaranteed to have the same day off.
Today, both chefs work for Tiffani Faison, chef and owner of Fenway’s Sweet Cheeks Q and Tiger Mama restaurants. Myron is Tiger Mama’s chef de cuisine, and Dee, as she prefers to be called, is the pastry chef for Tiger Mama and Sweet Cheeks.
We talked to the Chinns about how to balance careers and relationships in the workplace and at home, and their favorite places to eat in the Boston area.
Carla Martin fondly remembers eating leftover chocolate mice after-hours at LA Burdick on Cambridge’s Brattle Street, where her childhood best friend worked for almost a decade.
Today, the Weymouth native is a lecturer just around the corner, at Harvard, where her unsurprisingly popular class is titled, “Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food.” She’s also the executive director of the nonprofit Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, which she founded in 2015 to focus on education and applied research.
“There’s a lot of joy in the sensory experience of chocolate, and the social sharing of chocolate,” she said. “Sharing in that together opens a door to then address that there’s another side of [chocolate], one in which humans have made these really troubling decisions. This is a commodity that’s typified by inequality, and how might decisions that we make as consumers change this?”
There’s nothing worse than getting to a restaurant on a Friday night and learning that it has a two-hour wait.
Tony Messina, executive chef and partner at Back Bay izakaya Uni, spends a lot of his time in the kitchen. So on nights he’s not busy whipping up spring pea cacio e pepe with porcini mushrooms or Uni’s famous ramen (which only pops up on the late-night menu after 11 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays), he prefers not to wait around for a table to open up.
Boston resident Tara Foley is the founder and CEO of Follain, one of the country’s pioneering clean beauty stores. Foley opened her first Follain location in the South End in 2013 on a “bootstrap budget,” she said.
“My husband and I liquidated everything we owned to get started,” she said. “We painted those walls ourselves.”
She credits her fellow Boston-area female business owners with the kind of support she needed to stay afloat in her first year.
“There was a lot of sharing,” she said. “Everything from insurance brokers to questions like, ‘Where did you get the dog bowl that goes outside the store?’”
Today, Follain has three locations in Massachusetts, a robust e-commerce business, and plans to open new stores across the country in 2018. And Foley continues to believe in the power of supporting female-owned businesses in the community.