Tagged: 02144

The bottle is half full, but can you take it home in Somerville?

In 2006, I was one of many celebrating a change in the law of the Commonwealth allowing restaurants to send diners home with unconsumed portion of the bottle of wine they ordered. This opened up the full wine list to any casual tippler, assuming they would have occasion to drink the remainder in the future. While full bottles might be a better deal per ounce for the diner, don’t weep for the restauranteur, markups on whole bottles are still pretty rich, and now smart waiters can upsell you to a bottle with a sly, “well, you can always take the rest home…”

Since then, I’ve taken many a partial bottle home and become quite comfortable with the procedure. Until this weekend, when I was suddenly and without warning refused. A certain Somerville establishment told me that they were not licensed by the city to let me take the half full bottle away.  I even snuck off and got a second opinion from the bartender after the waitress turned me down – same story.

As I read the state law on wine to go, Massachusetts restaurants are allowed but not compelled to do this, so I believe they could have simply said, no sir, we don’t do that, and been in the clear. But they told me they were not allowed to, and I’m having a terrible time verifying that claim. Can anybody tell me if there is an additional license needed in Somerville for leftover wine carryout?  I’ve carried enough Somerville wine out to know that there is no city ban on the practice.

I won’t name the restaurant until I can figure out what the real deal is – I may well owe them an apology – but here’s what I think happened: I think they failed to get the equipment (not the license) necessary for letting patrons take leftover wine home. The equipment turns out to be a special kind of plastic bag and a stapler, and quick search found these wine to go bags available for $72 per 500 pack from a restaurant supply house.

In Massachusetts, the restaurant is required to recork or rescrew the bottle, put it in a clear plastic self-sealing bag made specifically for this purpose, and staple a copy of the meal receipt to the whole shebang. The sealing is to prevent exposing anybody to the dreaded open container laws, and the meal receipt is to substantiate that you ordered and ate food with your partial bottle of wine, another requirement of the wine to go law.  So I’m thinking that this restaurant didn’t stock or possibly ran out of these special baggies, and just took the lazy way out by saying that they were not licensed – which, unfortunately, is a pretty believable excuse for almost anything in Massachusetts.

If anybody knows the real rules of the Somerville wine take-home game, please clue me in so I can either try and help this place get the proper license or equipment, or self-righteously demand a compensatory half bottle of wine.  Because if I could take wine home in a bottle, that’s the first thing that I’d ever do.

KB, your True Grounds Scrabble legacy is safe with BLLMPPRU

Last week, I spent an engaging hour at True Grounds with the estimable YobYot (or is that yoByoT?) who wrote an embarrassingly nice post about that day on his own blog.  It’s shameful that I only just noticed.  I won’t bore you with the details of two guys geeking out and telling one another how great their glasses look, but I will bore you with an update on my ongoing quest to preserve and restore cafe Scrabble sets.

Since I had spied True Grounds‘ Scrabble set on a prior visit, I returned today to audit it.  The set’s general condition was good, the box intact and the original tile sack present.  Oddly, there were more than the regulation four tile racks, but sadly and typically, tiles were missing, eight of them to be exact: B L L M P P R U.  That’s 100% of the Ps if you’re minding them.

What makes this set special is the inscription on the corner of the board showing that KB donated the set to True Grounds on July 28, 2008, just a few months after my first cafe Scrabble audit and top-up.  Losing only 8 tiles in four plus years is pretty good based on what I’ve seen at other cafes.  Maybe I’m not the only one looking out for this set.  KB should be proud.  I will drop off replacement tiles soon.

At Nave Gallery Annex, the door to summer is a jar

I am sitting in a room probably very different from the one you are in now. I am sitting on a metal glider swing in the front parlor of a Somerville home facing two intensely bright lamps and listening to recorded sounds of nature. It’s artist Lyn Nofziger‘s installation, Home, at the Nave Gallery‘s new Annex on Chester Street, part of the group show, Picnic.

I’m too stuffed up to know if there’s an olfactory component, but except for the temperature, Home does in fact deliver on the promise of Picnic, to glorify “the lush serenity, the ripe thriving growth, the vibrant color of what’s living in these sultry days of summer.” In January and February, of course.  It’s a bit like a sunset but maybe even brighter and yet it makes you want to linger.

There’s almost too much going on the four or so rooms of an otherwise typical apartment that the Nave Gallery has taken over. The card lists 16 artists and there are almost certainly more if you count the dozen or so conributors to the open call to “preserve summer” where local artists were asked to “capture the endless and invincible season of summer in a mason jar.” This is at least as cool as when you could seal anything you wanted into a can at the now-gone Museum of Useful Things.

In an awesome three-part sink next to the jars of summer you might notice Sophia Sobers’ installation Abandoned Nature, a series of organic forms whose shape recalls coral or some kind of fungus, but whose location and color also remind you of flora that flourish in the dark corners of some ill-attended kitchen or bathroom.

The lith prints of photographer Adam Gooder are sprinkled around the galleries (and some prints in a bin are for sale at criminally low prices, by the way) and depict flowers in closeup with a delicate sunshiney tonality and delicious grain.  I don’t know if Gooder has a stash of old Kodalith paper or has an alternate chemical or digital method, but it works for me.

There’s a tremendous amount more work in this show, it could take you till summer to digest it all, but since the show closes on February 8 with a reception and mason jar auction, I suggest you get over there soon and join me in welcoming this art space to Davis Square.

Chicken hearts and parts, even pupik, in parts of Somerville

Earlier this Autumn, my local source for artisanal home-made house-made tofu near Powerhouse Circle, East Asia, was replaced by a strange newcomer called Doowee (Doo Wee?) and Rice.  I mourned the loss of East Asia’s homey no frills atmo and amazing layered tofu but I popped in to Doo Wee to see what was up.  I found out that what is up is vaguely blade-runneresque decor chicken hearts.  Crispy fried chicken hearts, that is.  With fries and sauce. And scallions, but really, I’m mainly talking about the chicken hearts.

Did I mention they were crispy and fried?  Sure, they have other stuff, spicy chicken wings, fluffy bao baos, rice bowls, noodle dishes, soups, but really, once you’ve had the “Heart-y Fries,” a sort of deranged fusion poutine, the rest all seems trite.  And I say “deranged” with a great deal of love.  For $8 you get probably more chicken hearts that you really should have, plus a serious helping of french fries and “great white sauce” (I didn’t ask, and you probably shouldn’t either)  Maybe if I had not been distracted and ordered a bao bao I could have finished it, but the leftover helping was nearly as good for lunch the next day. [Dear colleagues, I will not apologize for microwaving chicken hearts at the office and neither will I share them with you!]

These are the best chicken hearts I’ve had since that night in Sao Paulo when I was almost killed by soccer fans, and that’s saying something.  (And now that we have Fogo de Chao in Boston, maybe you can get those a little more conveniently, but be warned they are not mentioned on the website)

Back to our story, such as it is.  I also had some tasty chicken hearts at Moksa in Cambridge, but I’m going to have to put Doowee’s hearts on another level, and that’s not only on a price-per-heart basis.  The trail of chicken offal continued last week at Casa B in Union Square, arguably the Brooklyn of Somerville.

Casa B offered “corazones de pollo en licor 43″ (that’s the number of the licor, the price was $9)  but I was drawn deeper into the chicken guts by the next item, “mollejas de pollo” because as it turns out, “mollejas” is spanish for “pupik” and who can resists a chicken pupik? Not I.  For those late to the limeduck, we’re talking gizzards.

Yes, that secondary stomach full of rocks, when skillfully prepared with sautéed onions can be a transcendant treat.  There’s no photo because Casa B is a dark sort of place and I refuse to pop a flash inside a restaurant, but let me tell you, the presentation was superb, and the gizzards light and tender, not at all organ-like, even though I guess they really are organs.  For about the same price as Doowee’s hearty fries, Casa B delivers a much smaller portion with just a big a taste.

I strongly recommend you think outside your usual chicken parts, in Somerville and beyond.