Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Poor Student's Search For Poutine in Boston

In case it's not abundantly obvious, the Poor Student is Canadian. One of Canada's contributions to the world in the culinary world is poutine, which consists of freshly cut fries, squeaky cheese curds, and gravy (preferably made from scratch). In Boston, even putting gravy on your fries is considered strange. Growing up in Toronto, fries with gravy was a something to be had at least once or twice a week in the school cafeteria. The cheese curds were an addition thought up by the French-Canadians in Quebec, where good food is a religion. If you're ever in Montreal, make sure you stop by La Banquise or if you're on a tight budget, La Belle Province for some authentically awesome poutine.

In Boston, there are at least three places where poutine is available: Saus (near Union Oyster House), Grass Fed (in Jamaica Plain), and All Star Sandwich (in Cambridge). Romano's in Roslindale has a version of poutine but they don't use cheese curds and they add bits of steak to it. Not bad though. Actually, Grass Fed didn't use curds either. The last time I tried to find cheese curds at a grocery store, I was unsuccessful. The lady at Roche Brothers in West Roxbury told me that they have 10-pound bags of curds and they use that to make their fresh mozzarella. I just could't imagine how I would use a 10-pound bag of curds!

Saus specializes in Belgian street food place and if you've ever been to Belgium, you'll know that they're famous for fries. Moule et frites (mussels and fries) is a very popular dish there. If you get fries on their own, they are usually served in a paper cone, which is what Saus does too. However, if you get the poutine, it's not served in a cone because that would be outrageously messy. The cheese curds are actually curds and the gravy is pretty tasty. Since they serve beer, you might as well have a beer with the poutine.

I haven't tried the poutine at All Star yet, so if anyone has, please leave a comment and let us know how it is!

For more places to find poutine, check out CBS's page:

Food Club Frozen Pepperoni Pizza Review

Frozen pizza has come a long way! The Food Club frozen pepperoni pizza from Roche Brothers (in the Boston area) is only $3.99 and it's worth it. I prefer to make my own dough but if if I can't be bothered to wait for the dough to mix in my bread machine, the Food Club pizza is actually a great alternative. Recently, I put up a video on how you can add a few extra ingredients to make it even better:

The Food Club brand is Roche Brothers' store brand and that's why the pizza is significantly cheaper than the other self-rising crust pizza brands. I've actually never tried the other brands, so I can't really say whether Food Club's pizza is better. However, I found that the crust had a pleasing soft bread texture and the pepperoni tasted pretty good. I added fresh mozzarella, sliced mushrooms, and a clove of finely diced garlic. You can add whatever you want and make the pizza taste gourmet. Try sliced olives, spinach, and maybe some feta to make it taste like a Greek pizza. Think of the frozen pizza as a basic canvas for whatever pizza creation you can imagine. The important thing is that the dough is good and whatever you add to it will make it even better.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Haymarket - Boston

For the poor student, Haymarket is the place that will keep you eating well without constantly asking your parents for money. There are a few of catches though:

1. Some vendors are a little rude.
2. The produce might be ripe, so you need it eat it soon.
3. It's only open on Fridays and Saturdays.

Catches #1 and #3 cannot be changed. However, if you become a regular customer, the vendors will probably eventually recognize you and share a joke with you every week. For example, the potato guy recognizes me and knows that I like the purple spuds. As for the days that haymarket is open, you'll want to go at about 4:30 or 5 p.m. to get the best prices because that's when they're trying to get rid of their inventory. However, if you want the best quality stuff, early in the day is better. Either way, you'll still get better prices than at the supermarket.

The ripeness of the produce is something that you can't really change but if you're willing to invest about $50 for a good dehydrator, you can create dried fruits and vegetables that can be stored for months in sealed plastic bags or air-tight containers. Keep your fruit in the fridge if possible. Dried fruit can be eaten as snacks or used for baking cakes. If you check the prices of dried fruit at the store, you'll see that you can create dried fruit for less with haymarket fruit. However, if you buy fruit at a regular store, it might be cheaper to buy dried fruit. For more information about this, see my blog post on dehydrating fruit.

Dehydrating your veggies is a good way to save space in your kitchen and can be rehydrated and used for soups and stews. You'll notice that the flavors are more concentrated and can make your own soup mixes to take to work. Mushrooms that are reconstituted with hot water will produce a nice flavorful and aromatic broth for cooking.

Positive things about Haymarket:
1. The food is very cheap!
This is probably the most important reason to shop here on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Even if you get one or two duds in your bag, you'll still be saving a lot of money and eating healthier than if you bought your fruits and vegetables at a regular store. A lot of the produce is perfectly good and can be preserved by either dehydrating it or putting it in the fridge. Vegetables and fish can easily be cut up and frozen in plastic bags.

2. Easy to find and convenient
Haymarket is accessible by public transit on either the orange or green line. If you go out the orange line exit, it's just outside the station. Walk past the t-shirt vendor and turn left when you get to the corner. The stalls start a few steps away and cover about a block.

3. Interesting people (who are not students)
Let's face it, if you're a student, you probably see the same people all week. It's refreshing to see a bunch of non-students once in a while, isn't it? Haymarket has a very multi-cultural mix of people and the tourists will come by to check out the place too, on their way to Faneuil Hall. Besides, where else can you see a sign like this:

4. Interesting products in the stores
In addition to the stands filled with cheap fruits and vegetables, there are a few stores with a lot of products that you probably won't find at your local grocery store. Goat meat, Middle-Eastern foods, and a great variety of spices await you in the stores down the steps. You can also get very reasonably priced fish in those stores! We're talking less than $5 a pound of tuna or salmon, depending on availability. If you need a whole salmon, they might have that at only $3.99 a pound. At the cheese place, they have a different variety of cheese each week. For the more adventurous, it's fun to try a couple of cheeses each week and it'll cost you only $5 for two chunks. The thing about cheese is that it's already aged - what's another couple of weeks gonna do?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Virtual YouTube Tour of Boston

The Poor Student has linked all of the Scootin' in Boston videos with annotations to let you see Boston in a "choose your own adventure" kind of way. Let's say you're watching the video of Hammond Street and would like to go straight on Beacon Street to see Boston College, instead of turning onto to Hammond Street. Just click on the annotation and a new window will open with the video of that ride. Of course we haven't covered all of Boston yet, so the coverage right now is limited. However, you can see quite a lot of Boston from the comfort of your desk, in case you're getting ready to visit Boston or maybe you're just nervous about driving around the non-parallel streets in Boston.
(Scroll down to see a map of some of the routes that have already been covered by The Poor Student.)

Playlist of all Scootin' in Boston videos:

Here is one of the annotated videos:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Scootin' in Boston - Scootin' around Boston area colleges

This is the playlist for the Poor Student's new series, "Boston area school tours". There are 4 parts:

  1. Schools in the Jamaica Plain area (includes Roxbury Community College, Northeastern University, Museum School, and Mass Art)
  2. MIT and Harvard (in Cambridge, MA)
  3. Boston College (Chestnut Hill)
  4. Berklee College of Music and Emerson College (art schools in Back Bay and Downtown Boston)