Quality of Life: My Year in Food


This is the time of year when we all take a few moments before freaking out about finals to reflect upon the events of the past year. 1Ls ponder the vast quantities of legal seafood, I mean statutes, that have been stuffed into our heads by professors. 2Ls wonder if New York was a better choice than D.C. 3Ls either curse their choice of topics or laugh at those who didn’t know you could write a novella in lieu of the traditional 3L paper.

I, however, am left with a lingering question. Did I do my best? Did I try my hardest to find all the good restaurants and sample their cuisine? Eating on a student budget has been tough, and while I pulled out my Zagat guide on more than one occasion, when I look back at my year in food, it’s grub more than cuisine that has left me with memories.

Top grub memories include my many nights at Cambridge Common. In a spit in your eye to our first semester course load, my section managed to swing a Monday night happy hour nearly every week at the C.C. To my great regret, I did not discover the sweet potato fries until well into November. I’ll also remember it as the place where I first heard of the “Red Corona.” Now, there are those who consider Corona a girlie drink, but they have probably never seen someone order a bottle with a shot of grenadine. Pink beer? Just one of the many horizon-expanding experiences here at Harvard Law.

When I’m feeling like an adult, or merely old, I like to go across the street to Westside Lounge, the VH1 to Cambridge Common’s MTV. Although, the music at C.C. has had a strong 80s influence of late, so perhaps the Banana Republic to C.C.’s Gap would be a better analogy. My superannuation become clear when a friend and I decided to take dance lessons through the College. Having been an undergrad in ballroom dance lessons not that many years ago, and having taken my fair share of cracks at “sketchy grad students,” I should have known what it would feel like to be a law student walking into Adams House. We were old, ancient, standing on the edge of a dance floor filled with kids who I taught two years ago. It was like being a chaperone at a high school dance. We fled to the comfort of Westside and pomegranate martinis.

My roommate and I were frequent customers of a pizza and pita shack called, though the name seemed to change depending on the flyer we were using, Anatolia. We knew we’d ordered from the right place when an excessively hot Mediterranean man would arrive an hour later with a brown paper bag. I’m not sure where this food was coming from, but I like to envision a small storefront somewhere in Somerville with an upstairs apartment full of hot, Greek men.

For a more stylish Mediterranean experience, DalĂ­ is the place to go. The wide range of tapas, especially the deep-fried cheese dipped in honey with caramelized onions, combine for a different tasty meal every time you go. I recommend that you describe it to people as a “tapas restaurant” or “Spanish small-plates.” Too often, and this could be my accents, people have raised eyebrows when I say we’re going to a “tapas bar.” Then I have to explain that I said TA-PAS and not topless, which gets a good laugh, but gets old after the second or third time.

While I’m thinking about Spanish food, Grendel’s is a good place for semi-Mediterranean pub grub at student-friendly prices. Cheap food washed down with their fruity sangria makes for a fun and economical Friday or Saturday night. Or in the case of some of my friends, a good way to start off or cap an evening spent bar hopping around the Square.

If you want a classy (but pricier) way to spend an evening pub-dining in the Square, go to Daedalus. The uncorroborated background story, told to me by a College grad, is that the owners of Daedalus used to manage Grafton Street, but struck off on their own to provide better food and atmosphere. Hearing their charming Irish accents is atmospheric enough for me, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned their superb tomato bisque in earlier columns.

Perhaps nowhere on the Square is as aptly named as Smile Thai. Who knows what’s going on the kitchens because the wait staff there is the friendliest in the area. They are effusively friendly at every interaction, from the host who seats you, the bus girls pouring water, and the waiters taking your order. The quality of the food doesn’t put it far above any of the other Thai restaurants in the area, but there’s no place that is as consistent as Smile in delivering on service.

After taking a series of guests to Mike’s Pastry in the North End, I started to look for a pastry spot closer to home. Au Bon Pain and Finale both do a solid job for their price points, but for a special afternoon, I’ll never forget my tea at Upstairs on the Square. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as working down a tea caddy, starting with the sweets on top, sampling the savories in the middle, and finishing with the pasties on the bottom platter. I like to be methodical about it, but you can certainly jump tiers in the process. Don’t forget that it’s not high-tea without the champagne.

Memories for me revolve around smell, which is why so much of my nostalgic moments are tied to food, the smell of a dressing, or the restaurant’s brand of coffee, or fresh-baked rolls. When I moved back east, one of my biggest fears was that I would spend my time missing the restaurants back home, but I’ve found a new set of places here to make my memories. Let’s hope the restaurants in Philly are as fruitful.

This is what happens when Food Network is Erin Archerd’s only cable station. Have recommendations for her? Email Erin at earcherd@law.

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