Lee @ 30, Part 2 – Food and Drink


Lynn often says that I’m a bit snobby about my food. Conversely, I often say that Lynn isn’t nearly discriminating enough in her taste, though as she’ll be quick to assert, she has become much more critical of the food put in front of her in recent years. In any case, snobby or not, I enjoy food, and I enjoy drink. As I turn the corner on age 30, am I getting what I want out of this aspect of my life?

Eating Out

To see where we stand with respect to where we’ve been eating out, I took my credit card records for calendar-year 2008 and extracted transactions over $60 that involved dining out. Some of these are only over $60 because we were reimbursed by other people, but this still leaves me with about 20 entries to examine. This isn’t a tremendous amount, but that’s on purpose: we don’t go out to eat that often, and it’s more important to me that when we do go out, that the experience and the food be worth the money. So where did we go in 2008? Selectively and in no particular order:

  • Eastern Standard. We went to Eastern Standard over the summer to celebrate Barrett having completed the Bar Exam. We waited longer than we should have had to for our outdoors table, and while the hanger steak was good, it was not memorable. I’d go back, but only if someone else led the way.
  • Orinoco. We’d been talking about going to Orinoco for ages, and with Jordi’s encouragement Wing, Jen, Lynn, and I finally ate there near the end of the summer, before the Liao-Yung’s departed to the wrong coast. (Opposite of right=east coast, get it? Also semantically accurate.) It was very good, but again didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’d go back, though, as I seem to remember thinking that I ordered poorly.
  • El Oriental de Cuba. We ordered from here to feed the gang during April’s poker game. I had some beef something, and it was awful. Dry, tasteless, thoroughly unenjoyable. Disappointing to say the least.
  • Picco. Dodzie and Vanessa love this place, so I was glad to get a chance to try it. I had the macaroni & cheese, and it was great. Not too expensive, either. Atmosphere was energetic as well. I’m keen to go back and try the pizza.
  • Kaya. We’ve been going to Kaya for years, and I was glad to have the chance to take my cousin, Michael, there this past spring. We almost always get the same things: kalbi and bulgolgi on the BBQ, bibimbop in the stone pot, and an occasional order of sushi. It’s not quite the same as going with Eugene and watching as he manages to fluently order twice the amount of food he intended, but it does a good job of filling my craving for Korean barbecue nevertheless.
  • Upstairs on the Square. We took my in-laws to brunch at Upstairs on the Square in early March. The steak and eggs was enjoyable, as was the a capella performance by the Kroks. A bit too expensive for me to recommend for a return brunch visit, especially when compared with…
  • The Blue Room. OK, this was just recently for Lynn’s birthday, so not actually in 2008. But the $23 buffet was outstanding. Highlights were the avocado quesadillas, buttermilk pancakes, cauliflower soup, pear tart, and cheesecake. I ate enough for four or five days, and while I don’t intend to spend $23 for brunch often, I’d go back here in a heartbeat.
  • L’Osteria. We’ve now been to L’Osteria twice, and it’s safe to say that it’s one of our favorite North End restaurants. The food is fresh, simple, and delicious. Exactly what I’m looking for when I head to the North End. I’ll be happy to go back to L’Osteria at least once a year going forward.
  • Mizuna. Sabow and I treated ourselves to a joint 30th birthday dinner at Mizuna in Denver. It was very, very good. The appetizers in particular were tremendous: I had the chestnut cannelloni with braised rabbit, house-made ricotta, and wild mushrooms, and Sabow had the macaroni & cheese with poached Maine lobster. The entrees were great too, though not quite as memorable. For one of the most expensive meals of my year, I was pleased with the experience.
  • Blue Ginger. To celebrate their mutual PhDs, we headed out with Dodzie and Vanessa to Wellesley in September to enjoy Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger. The food was out of this world. It’s been my extremely limited experience that much high-end food is simple, but Blue Ginger’s dishes were anything but. They were elaborate compositions of meat, vegetables, salads, and sauces, and yet every flavor worked on its own and in conjunction with the rest of the dish. It’s not in our budget to go to Blue Ginger often, but I’ll be thrilled when the next appropriate occasion rolls around.

All in all, I’m pleased with the restaurants I’ve been eating at. I really think that peer-review Web sites like yelp have revolutionized the reliability of eating out. I can now go to new restaurants with a very high expectation that I’ll be having a great meal, and I’m rarely disappointed. We still have a huge list of Boston-area restaurants that we’d love to try, but we’re definitely not hurting for quality eateries.

Eating In

I wish I cooked more. I work at home a lot of the time, but somehow this seems to result in me cooking meals less often rather than more often. I imagine it’s because I find it difficult to draw a line between work time and food time, which means that I continue working as Lynn arrives home from work and begins to plan and cook our dinners. The end result is that Lynn’s been making way more of our dinners than I do, to my disappointment. She tends to take care of most of our weekday meals (which, while simple, are almost always fantastically good), and then maybe once a week we’ll jointly prepare a more involved dish. We continue to rely on Cook’s Illustrated for most of our recipes, with a few highly-reviewed Epicurious dishes thrown in for good measure. We still love our turkey burgers, black bean burgers, potato wedges, chicken and rice, buttermilk biscuits, sautéed asparagus with garlic slivers, and Spanish rice, but I do have some goals that would make me happier with our overall eating.

  1. Cook new recipes more often.
  2. Plan for and cook more meals that can be frozen and used over time.
  3. Cook more meals involving our crock pot. (We hardly ever use it at all, which is a real shame.)

One of the best recent developments in our kitchen is our pair of aprons (or, as I think Lynn secretly thinks of hers, our pair of “wearable paper towels”) and our thermapen meat thermometer. I love that little thing to death.


I’ve been drinking more and more single-malt scotches recently, and enjoying them more and more. My year was full of plenty of Talisker, Lagavulin, and, more recently, Laphroaig, and while the budget hasn’t allowed for as healthy a stock of at-home scotch as I’d like, I’m currently enjoying a delicious 15-year Bowmore, courtesy of my cousin, Dan. I think that people sometimes think I’m joking when I tell them this, but scotch for me has been almost entirely an acquired taste that I forced upon myself. It’s been my personal answer to a warm, comforting drink that can be enjoyed after a good meal or a long day. It helped that I discovered the joy of peaty single malts a few years back in Edinburgh, and I haven’t looked back since.

It’s also good to have friends that share the passion. This means that Sean, Dodzie, and I were able to enjoy “the Macallan Experience” together a few months back, and that Sabow and I spent some quality time at Pint’s Pub in Denver, home of the largest selection of single-malt whiskys outside of Edinburgh.

I still wish I knew more about wine. I know more than I did, but I still don’t know very much. I’ve been enjoying malbecs quite a bit recently, for what that’s worth. Not much change recently in my beer taste. I still enjoy a pretty wide range of brews, with wheat beers (hefeweisens, Belgian whites, …) being the most notable exception.

Non-alcoholically speaking, I drink a lot less lemonade than I used to. I drink mostly water, though I’d like to drink more orange juice.

All in all, the 20-year-old Lee wouldn’t recognize the food and drink habits of the 30-year-old Lee, and that’s entirely for the better. I’ll go to just about any type of restaurant and find a wide selection of appealing options to consider, and I’m comfortable with the quantity, breadth, and quality of what I’m drinking. Good times.


I really enjoyed this writeup; thanks for sharing. I think a lot of our food themes (aside from the whiskey) are similar to yours. Hope you've been eating less mayonnaise these days. :)

This is a great idea -- particularly looking back at where I've eaten out in the last year. After my current crazy week is over I'd be interested to see how closely my list matches up with yours. Oh and I'd highly recommend a 2nd chance for Orinoco -- definitely one of my favorites.

[I'd love to see your list/comments, Jeremy. Lynn points out that I left a few notable places out, so I might write up a supplement at some point also. Good luck with your week. --Lee]

It's been an impressive progression over the last decade. You've done an quality job of maintaining your snobbery while dramatically expanding your palette.

So first beer, then single malts...is port really next? How about cognac?

Great post!

Eastern Standard's food I find to be pretty decent, but their cocktails are fantastic! Among the best in Boston, especially those that are bourbon-based (their specialty). Since you're into scotch, it might be worth going there for just a drink and an appetizer sometime...so what are you doing next week? :)

I hear you on the scotch. I never really liked it very much, but figured I could make it works since I've into bourbon for a while. My dad's been a scotch drinker for years and it tends to be the only whiskey that he stocks, so it's in my best interest (in some weird way) to enjoy it. Anyway, after many repeated attempts to like peaty scotches, my taste buds have finally succumbed to the idea, and I've started to seek them out, sometimes even over the bourbons!

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This page contains a single entry by Lee Feigenbaum published on January 25, 2009 3:41 AM.

Denver in December was the previous entry in this blog.

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