MC Slim JB

Boston-based restaurant critic and food/drinks feature writer best known for writing budget-priced restaurant reviews for the Boston Phoenix, fine-dining restaurant reviews for Stuff Magazine, and the Boston food/drinks blog

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  • Location: Boston, MA USA
  • Last bite on earth: Whole roasted ortolan, with a linen napkin draped over my head.

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Cocktail 101: Five Essential Cocktail Books

I'd include Jeff Berry's "Beachbum Berry Remixed", a compilation of two of his prior indispensable volumes on classic Tiki drinks ("Grog Log" and "Sippin' Safari".) They're impeccably researched and great primers on the art of classic Tiki cocktail making in the 1930s-rooted tradition of Don the Beachcomber, which every serious craft cocktail aficionado should explore at some point. I carry the app version ("Tiki+") on my iPhone.

Crispy, Crunchy, Golden Shredded Hash Browns Recipe

Another tip: a potato ricer is a great tool for squeezing liquid out of the raw shredded potatoes, much more efficient than a kitchen towel.

Ask a Bartender: How Do You Prevent a Hangover?

Fine piece, except for the one barman's advice to take acetaminophen (Tylenol). This stuff should be avoided after heavy drinking, as noted in this Harvard Medical School piece: I use ibuoprofen (Advil) instead.

Ask the Food Lab: Why Does My Garlic Turn Green?

My issue is not so much with garlic that turns green, but garlic that is already green at the tip (and often beginning to sprout) when I peel it. I'm assuming this is garlic that is too old or has been improperly stored, but it seems like an increasingly common occurrence with supermarket garlic. I get better results from my local Chinese supermarkets, the best from local farmer's markets, but I don't always have those at hand. Is that really the cause, and if so, any tips on how to avoid the problem before I bring it home?

5 Boston-Area Chinese Buffets That Are Actually Quite Tasty

Very nice article, Kara! I'm a fan of Indian-Chinese food, was very gratified to see it start appearing on Boston-area menus a few years back. It's a sure sign our breadth of subcontinental cuisines is getting better. It certainly is a welcome addition to a list which focuses on localized adaptations of Chinese food (and it doesn't hurt that I love Biryani Park anyway).

While we're getting all pedantic on usage, I'll point out that Sri Lanakan-Indochine isn't probably quite what you were going for, as Indochine generally recalls a French usage, French Indochina, which refers specifically to the peninsula that includes Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. I'd guess a more accurate usage would be Sri Lankan-Chinese, an analogous construction to Indian-Chinese and American-Chinese.

The $1 Poor Man's Big Mac: Worth It Or Not?

When I suggest McD's is unworthy of Serious Eats, I'm not talking about $17 burgers. I write professionally about budget-priced dining in Boston, and I don't eat at national chain fast-food establishments, ever. Lean finely-textured beef, anybody? That's in there however you build your McD's burger. You're welcome to eat it; I just wish Serious Eats wouldn't promote it.

The $1 Poor Man's Big Mac: Worth It Or Not?

With great respect to Kenji and his great research on burgers, this topic seems unworthy of Serious Eats. McDonald's food is a prescription for nausea and regret, however you build these burgers.

Do You Spike Your Eggnog? With What?

Egg nog is a yuletide vice in our home, and we like to mix it up (by turns, not all at once): brandy, bourbon, American straight rye, Canadian, applejack, amber rum. Pretty much any brown spirit except Scotch whisky or Irish whiskey, and nothing too fancy: California brandy, not Cognac.

We keep threatening to make our own aged egg nog every year, too, but haven't mustered the foresight yet. A grating of fresh nutmeg makes a fragrant difference, too.

We also look forward to some of our favorite Boston craft cocktail bars serving up real Tom and Jerrys -- think egg nog as made by a professional pastry chef -- in vintage mugs: No. 9 Park and Drink start serving them after the first snowfall. (They didn't count this October's freak snowstorm, a good idea, as it's been mostly 60 degrees since. That drink only makes sense after you've come in from sub-freezing weather.)

Cocktail 101: Introduction to Vermouth and Aperitif Wines

Great article! Worth mentioning a few others I quite like, including Carpano Punt e Mes (with a bit more amaro character than most sweet vermouths, kind of halfway between Antica Formula and Campari), and Spanish vermuts, which I first enjoyed "de grifo" (on tap) in Madrid tabernas, but can also be found at retail (in Boston, at least) in a bottling called Vermut LaCuesta, a sweet vermouth that is lovely as an aperitif over a ice with a green olive to garnish.

Not quite vermouth, but in the same aromatized, lighty fortified, and occasionally quininized neighborhood, and with similar versatility alone and in cocktails, are Lillet and Dubonnet, French aperitif wines in red and white versions that are also worth checking out.

One other thought: vermouth lovers will love their vermouth long time if they treat an opened bottle like the somewhat fragile wine that it is. Using an air-evacuation stopper (like VacuVin) and refrigerating it will extend its shelf life by weeks and possibly months. Put it back on your bar with the original stopper or screw-top and it will spoil in days, which is a very sad (and foul-smelling) thing.

Alan Richman, M. Wells, and the State of Service

I respect Richman enough to believe he was fair and correct in slagging M. Wells for his service experiences. Where he loses me is with statements like, "Critics like me deserve some blame for the current proliferation of impossibly low service standards in so many casual New York restaurants" and, "I wish I had never been so forgiving in my reviews of New York restaurants. I should long ago have paid attention to this disastrous decline in service." The self-aggrandizement here, the implication that Richman somehow could have single-handedly raised New York restaurant service standards, is risibly pretentious and out of touch. This is the kind of pomposity and egotism that makes consumers loathe and distrust many professional critics.

From Behind the Bar: On Cocktails & Superheroes

I have to admit, I like the superhero question. Problem is, my favorite superhero is Flaming Carrot: That's going to be a poser for most bartenders.

The Food Lab, Drinks Edition: The Ultimate Fully Loaded Bloody Mary

Kenji, I think either spellcheck bit you, or I'm missing the newest kitchen gadget, the microphone grater!

I have to say this recipe looks great, properly taking the craft approach of fresh ingredients wherever possible. I'm a fan of Sacramento tomato juice, as it has a real fresh-tomato flavor, even from a can.

I am a dissenter on the subject of horseradish, prepared or fresh. I think it turns a Bloody from a unique cocktail into something too closely approximating seafood cocktail sauce. Many ancient Bloody recipes omit this ingredient, and I encourage you to try yours with and without to see what I mean.

Drink: Boston's Single Most Essential Craft Cocktail Bar

Thanks for the kind words, all; I'm glad my enthusiasm for this place is shared!

Aphonik, I know we already connected on this via Twitter, but for everyone else's benefit, here's the In Vida Veritas recipe: 1.5 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, .75 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, .75 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, .5 oz Benedictine Liqueur, a dash of The Bitter Truth Xocolate Mole Bitters. Stir all ingredients over ice for at least 30 seconds in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled coupe, finish with a spritz of oil from a fresh orange peel; don't drop the peel in.

Boston: Braised Pork and Veal Meatballs with Toasted Orecchiette at Rendezvous in Central Square

I've long been a fan of Rendezvous in Central Square, but it's useful to note that they completed a lovely renovation of the exterior last year: It's now nice enough both inside and out to banish the memory of the Burger King that preceded it, which was indeed the scariest of its kind in Greater Boston.

Also, cocktailians should note that Scott Holliday, the bar manager at Rendezvous, is a very fine and mystifyingly unsung craft cocktail bartender. His work is worth a visit even if you're not hungry.

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: American Regional Lagers

Came here to say, "Glad someone mentioned 'Gansett." I wonder if it still qualifies as a CARL, given its reformulation five years ago into something quite superior to the original by new owners. But the price is right, especially in the 16-oz can. Old-time New Englanders like my grandpa will always have a soft spot for Narry for its longtime sponsorship of the Red Sox -- the inimitable Curt Gowdy saying, "Hi neighbor, have a 'Gansett!"

A jingle I can remember from my toddler days:

"I can see the sunlight shining over Narragansett Bay
So fill the glass, my friend, and talk to me of home -- of home!"

The Bar at Clio (Boston, MA): Todd Maul's Cannonball in the Craft Cocktail Pool

Thanks for the kinds words, BostonZest! I have a large armoire full of dining-out disguises. How do these meet-ups work?

And Kenji, I'm with you: I used to live a stone's throw from Clio; my old neighbors are overjoyed with Maul's makeover.

The Bar at Clio (Boston, MA): Todd Maul's Cannonball in the Craft Cocktail Pool

Aya, I suppose it's possible that the Hong Kong has some worthy Cantonese menu items, but I've never seen anyone eating anything but magenta spareribs, crab Rangoons, teriyaki beef-on-a-stick, and greasy oversized egg rolls there: pure American-Chinese junk. Ant that's only to provide a base for the nasty imitation-Tiki scorpion bowls (which I've likened to juice boxes spiked with Everclear) that they serve to the hordes of barely-legal kids that make up most of their trade. I don't remember what it was like 16 years ago, but "student hellhole" is exactly how I think of it now.

Impending Oscars: Favorite Food Movie, please

Tampopo is my favorite overall: a movie about the love of movies as much as about the love of food. But its food-nerd obssessiveness over the perfect bowl of ramen is a sentiment that really resonates with me.

Some favorite food-related movie moments:

Roast thief in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

Drunken prawns in Tampopo.

Five raw eggs, chugged, in Rocky.

Boiled shoe, with the laces as linguini, in The Gold Rush.

Machine-made breakfast and Mr. T. cereal in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

Scrambled eggs with forgiveness in Big Night.

Tropical-fish sushi in A Fish Called Wanda.

Chinese turkey in A Christmas Story.

Rant: What The New York Times Doesn't Know About Bánh Mì

Thanks for the much-needed corrective here, Kenji! Always amusing when the Gray Lady gets something so wrong.

I think it's worth noting that most Vietnamese bakeries are making baguettes with a mixture of wheat and rice flour, with the latter constituting anywhere from as little as 5% to as much as 60% of the flour used. I think it's probably tough to make a decent baguette with pure rice flour, and the adoption of baguettes into the cuisine is a legacy of the wheat-flour-using French, after all. But there's no mistaking the airiness and extra crackle that the rice flour adds.

First Taste: The McRib Is Back

If you don't think meat can be rubbery in texture, creana, you haven't eaten in many public-school cafeterias.

First Taste: The McRib Is Back

I guess I'd feel happier if you acknowledged up front that: a) this "news" is really only newsworthy because McDonald's spent millions promoting this re-introduction of an old product; b) you're slumming in terms of all the quality cheap foods you might be covering; and c) people really shouldn't be eating this kind of crap for a host of reasons.

I don't have a problem with coverage of junk food, unhealthy food and trashy food. I just expected that Serious Eats would have a higher standard when it came to choosing which junky, unhealthy, trashy foods it covers.

First Taste: The McRib Is Back

I spend most of my time eating and reviewing food that would hardly be considered upscale: my recent reviews have been of Haitian griyo joints, Salvadoran pupuserias, Vietnamese banh mi stands, roast-beef sandwich and fried-seafood joints, indie diners, neighborhood cafes, Peruvian charcoal chicken joints, Spanish bocadillo counters, Mexican taquerias, Dominican tostado sellers, weigh-your-plate Brazilian churrascarias, and so on.

Most of those places will feed you for the same or not much more than a McDonald's meal, except you won't get any mechanically-separated spinal chord fragments in them. There's a difference between quality inexpensive food and heinous mass-market crap: if understanding that difference is elitism, call me an elite. I just consider myself a serious food nerd.

In my mind, eating mega-chain crap is not keeping it real, it's being lazy and undiscriminating. To each their own: you're welcome to eat and enjoy McRibs. I just think Serious Eats can and ought to do better.

First Taste: The McRib Is Back

I'm sort of surprised that Serious Eats is giving serious consideration to this level of fast-food dreck. Hasn't anyone read Schlosser's Fast Food Nation? My own publication, the Boston Phoenix, where I write budget-restaurant reviews every other week, used one of my off weeks to review the McRib, too, and I can't say I thought it reflected well on us. Surely there are worthier, healthier, tastier, more sustainable foods to cover rather than encouraging Serious Eats readers to consider trying this level of mega-corporate fast food junk? McDonald's food strikes me as the opposite of serious eats.


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