in which i am dead inside: my favorite food writer

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It used to be that all food writers wrote the same. When somebody tells me that their favourite food writer is M.F.K. Fisher, I’m like, ‘OK, you’re dead inside.’ That kind of writing is so stultifying. It’s like being stuck on a bus next to somebody’s grandmother for five hours.

Josh Ozersky, interviewed in GQ, 2013

Fisher’s autobiographical The Gastronomical Me (1943) includes the one of my favorite personal essays in the entire world, a tale of Fisher’s first oyster in 1924 that’s so cold and awkward and strange and familiar to those of us who have shivered in the New Yorker unhappy WASP narrative forever and ever and ever so much it’s like a family diamond or that first icy sip of a martini in a posh bar, and yet it’s warm and messy, oozy around the edges, going bad. It turns out, instead, to be about a dark, passionate, illicit underbelly of life that’s nearly Joycean in scope, one that the reader and narrator just get a glimpse of and then it’s gone again. I teach it to college freshmen from time to time and they never get it because they read skimmingly and trippingly, if at all.

So I as the professor, vicariously through these youngsters, get that pleasure again and again: what is happening here? Did we miss something? What are these hot glances and melting touches and tears and intemperate bravado – all hot, hot feelings in this piece that’s supposed to be about chilled shellfish, passed on a tray by servants in white gloves? It’s the pleasure of reading.

You miss that? You see Fisher as stultifying, dead inside, stuck on an Elderhostel tour. You miss that icy crust between what’s cold and what’s hot, what’s old and what’s new, what’s acceptable and what’s deviant.

You see it? You see the difference between Fisher and every single other food writer in her genre, her brilliance and subtlety, a critique of a society and class and feminine sexuality and the very circles in which Ozersky undoubtedly moves. It’s not about food at all.

Another example from the same work, though I could easily choose another.

In “To Feed Such Hunger,” Fisher explores the rifts in polite society even more oddly than in the oyster tale. Here, the narrative plays out a scene bristling with European cultural and political relationships in 1930, embodied in a foreign couple who end up in the same French boardinghouse as the American narrator. He German, she Czech, they fill the air with “moist Germanic hissings” and a host of displeasurable metaphors in “a strange kind of love affair” that involves food in an exquisitely subtle form of masochism.

Even the dullest critic will understand the personified animosity between the French and the Germans, the American’s awkward meddling among the European nations, but there’s more for the careful reader. Much more. Fisher mentions Klorr’s devotion to Uranism, a term she says she had to look up (and thereby suggests the reader should, too), and ends the piece in a litter of peeled grapes, champagne, and cake with a trembling Mademoiselle Nankova suffering a feverish episode of sur-excitation sexuelle.

This is most certainly not the same old food writing in the American mid-century. Not then, not now.  I can’t think of a single food writer who even barely grazes issues like this, much less one who writes of them well.  I am baffled by Ozersky’s “[T]hat kind of writing,” because it sure ain’t a genre I’m reading, and I teach this stuff.  I suspect “that” might mean ladywriting, and that, oh god for the last time already, is missing the entire point.

And speaking of favorite food writers, my favorite food writer who is still alive and kicking is the subject of a new, promising film on food in Los Angeles called City of Gold. Yes, that would be without question the Los Angeles Times‘ maestro of all that is edible, Jonathan Gold, who once, upon hearing I was looking for new texts to teach, sat me down for three hours and told me about every single worthwhile food writer ever, including, of course, la belle Fisher.

[This was originally published in a slightly different form at story.jml.is, a writing blog operated by none other than my friend, the force of nature, Jonas Luster, where I’ve been experimenting less frequently than I would like with new work.]

restaurants open for christmas in eugene 2014

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Looking for a roundup of restaurants open on Christmas?  I’m so thankful that Eugene Cascades and Coast continues to gather up a partial list of some eateries open Christmas and Christmas Eve 2014.  This year, I noticed more Florence and Junction City places on the list, and fewer places listed for Christmas.  Please note that these restaurants are also open on Christmas, among others:

  • Kung Fu Bistro
  • Sizzle Pie
  • Izakaya Meiji
  • SweetWaters on the River
  • House of Chen
  • Sixth Street Grill
  • Empire Buffet
  • Rennie’s
  • Centennial Steak House (Springfield)

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

 

separate two eggs: smashed patriarchy grilled pizza

IMG_8371Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

“Amanda cooks most of the food.  She says there’s no reason for her to grill.  Her husband is really good at it.  And she thinks for him it’s about more than just the food.”

Sound familiar?  A short podcast on masculinity and grilling, narrated by a cheery young woman, presents this description and a background on the caveman ethos that seems to undergird so much of the American rhetoric on man-with-fire-meat.  The piece goes on to comment that Amanda’s husband now lets his daughter grill.

Of course it’s about more than just the food.

I’d venture to say grilling is one of the last widely visible and critically unexamined bastions of mid-century masculist culture.  American girls are still raised with our dads or stepdads or uncles or self-identified-male-gendered individuals or manbuddies of our mom (or whatever configuration of masculinity operating in a family unit) at the Weber, joking, commanding, drinking a beer.  Manning the grill.

And the rest of us take pleasure in paying tribute to the priesthood by visiting and peering into the grates, smelling that meat sizzle, complementing the chef.  We are rewarded with the best of summer: hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks, all piled up on a platter and presented like an offering to Xiuhtecuhtli.  He’s the life of the party, the hero, the chef.

It’s so often among the happiest moments we remember.  It’s a peaceful time.  Sunny, family, “family,” bountiful, happy.  Fraying relationships are mended for the moment, and we believe it will be ok.  It’s almost magic. Why mess with that juju?

And we’re thus indoctrinated into the system.  Girls never learn how to grill because there’s no reason to grill.  I wonder about Amanda’s daughter, whose father “lets her” grill.  What’s going on there?  Is it an occasional thing?  A novelty?  Are things changing?

Are things changing.

It’s not that we feel oppressed or left out.  It’s a way to get the dad-figure involved in the party, and it helps him feel useful and central, reinscribing the patriarchal order in its most comfortable and pleasing form because here the order seems almost natural and harmonious, his place assured and his place needed and beloved. And for a change, everyone’s participating in meal preparation.

(I write this.  My heart aches.  The unbearable lightness of political consciousness, of feminist conscience. There’s no choice, really.)

IMG_8292 IMG_8293I have a reason to grill.  As previously and begrudgingly narrated, I’m negotiating singlehood and the unpleasant loss of an excellent griller myself. But as I assume the labor for two for the household tasks, I’m taking the opportunity that many women, even feminists, don’t have when they’re in heterosexual partnerships, even enlightened ones.

I’m learning how to grill.

And I kind of suck right now.  It’s not just another heat source to master, it’s a whole ‘nuther rhythm.  The grill doesn’t require an attentive sous chef, but it pretty much bites not to have one.  (See “Amanda cooks most of the food” and patriarchy, above.)  My excellent griller, and grillers across America, make grilling divine by a hidden system of support that includes hours of unacknowledged labor.  That labor is performed joyously in many cases (and it certainly was in mine) but I’m pondering it with some critical distance as I take on both roles.

IMG_1858 DSCF4114IMG_6193Just like in any performance, for any performer, the team behind the scenes makes the show.  For every piece of chicken or burger gloriously presented, there’s the planning and the shopping and the chopping and the marinating and the coordinating and the side dishes.  The side dishes.  Those take hours alone.

I figured that since I knew how to do all that, the actual grilling part would be a snap.  And you know what?  It hasn’t been that hard and certainly not that time consuming, save all the little things that no one gives me a hand with. Because any idiot can grill.  Think about it.

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I still have no reliable control over the heat, and I’ve burned a few meals because I’d forgotten to add something and had to run inside or whip up a sauce or chop up some herbs.  I try not to think about the danger of burning down the city because of my inexperience. My excellent griller would religiously rely on a thermometer and a cookbook, but I want to learn grilling from an intuitive angle, just like my cooking.

And then there’s the exquisite loveliness of freedom.  I had to argue for the inclusion of grilled vegetables since they take up space.  Pizza wasn’t even a possibility: he insisted I call it “grilled flatbread” and I was only allowed to make it for the privilege of the grill a couple times.  And there’d be no patience or need for delicacies like grilled peaches or plums or bananas or lemons or cheese or parsley or boquerones or onigiri or meatballs or omelets.

The world of grilling is open to you…and it’s fabulous.

So I bring you my Smashed Patriarchy Grilled Pizza, with an informal recipe.  Try it, ladies.  Pizza isn’t meat.  He’ll let you. Or just Occupy the Grill!  But don’t blame me for the divorce.  :)

(Oh, on the way, you might want to support the Kickstarter for the ladies who brought you the men grilling piece on the Feminist Fork. They’re fundraising for a new quarterly journal called Render: Feminist Food & Culture.)

Smashed Patriarchy Grilled Pizza

Serves 2-3, or one lonely feminist for three meals.

You’ll need two sides (hot and cool) for your grill and a lot of oil.  Don’t try this on a tiny hibachi, as you’ll be too close to the coals and the dough will burn rather than char.  A gas grill is easier than a charcoal grill, and make sure you pre-oil the grate with some paper towels dipped in a small bowl of veg oil, held by long tongs.

The easiest method is to use a pre-made store-brought dough.  Mix 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste with dried oregano, basil, garlic powder and a little olive oil.  Pour a few tablespoons of  olive oil in the plastic bag and massage it in the bag to get it pretty oily, then stretch out the dough on a cookie sheet so it resembles a pizza crust. With a fork, spread out tomato paste, concentrating on moving it to edges not middle of dough.  Layer on fresh mozzarella slices and sprinkle sparingly with toppings.

Heat the grill up to about 500 degrees, oiling the surface as you begin the grilling process and not later (FIRE!). Move your pizza outside on the cookie sheet; hopefully there will be enough oil on the bottom to aid transferring it over to the HOT side of the grill with a metal spatula.  Let cook there for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to char and blister and get stiff enough to move, then carefully move it over to the COOL side of the grill.  Close the grill lid to melt the cheese and cook the top of the dough.  Moisture is your enemy.  Dab away any liquid from the tomatoes or toppings with a towel.  Sprinkle on herbs just before removing from grill and serving.

Pro tip: clean the grill while it’s still hot with a wire grill brush.

 

 

 

 

kamitori sushi is dead, long live kamitori sushi!

IMG_7815 IMG_7814Had my last delicious sushi at Kamitori last night, on Chef Masa Itai’s last night before the joint closes for personal health reasons. Since it’s summer, I had to nibble on eggplant tempura, and I opted for the chef’s choice and a side of rather glorious silvery aji (horse mackerel) whose name I remember from a Japanese friend swooning about it: aji wa aji (horse mackerel is tasty)!

The chef has been battling hand problems for quite some time that make it very hard to press and turn sushi.  Without hesitation, I agree that he’s making the right decision, but it’s such a loss for Eugene it’s hard not to mourn.

The good news is that he’s decided to reopen after some rest and reconfiguration of the space as a coffee shop featuring Japanese breakfast pastries.  The planned opening is in the second week of July.  This, too, is sure to be excellent.  Masa has been trained in a number of cuisines and stations, so be sure to sample his wares.  The location next to the bus station at 11th and Willamette will prove to be advantageous for morning commuters, I think.  He’ll be open in the morning and afternoons six days a week.  Try the Kamitori website soon for more information (nothing’s up yet).

I’m deeply grateful for the quality and purist style of sushi Masa brought to town.  It was a wake-up call for many of us that Eugene can have nice things, and that there are enough people in town to appreciate excellent quality and simple and traditional Japanese food, and restaurateurs who forge forward with their principles for good clean high-quality food, even though it’s not the moneymaker of the masses.

Masa taught many new diners how much different sushi can be if we just experience the flavors of the sea and hold back on the garish rainbow rolls with fried bits and sweet sauce, but he also taught more experienced sushi lovers how to appreciate rice that didn’t have the compacted life squeezed out of it and soup that was freshly made from real ingredients.  I’ve sampled his homemade pickles and herbs and we’ve chatted many times about Japanese preservation and particular kinds of special fish that he endeavored to bring to the restaurant.  I’ll miss it very much and hope someone will come to fill the niche, even if they won’t be able to fill his shoes!

Masa did mention to me that he’s thinking of occasionally — perhaps monthly — hosting sushi nights once his hand has a chance to heal a bit.  So for those of you who are fans of mackerel, firefly squid, cod milt, and all the squirmy bits have no fear.

Good luck and thanks for everything, Chef!

tropical PUNCH!

IMG_5729 IMG_5742 IMG_5713Hate your “friends” vacationing in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Carribean posting a bunch of pictures of themselves on gorgeous beaches?  Yeah, so do I.  But before you spend a frostbittered evening alone plotting their demise at the cold icy hand of karmic retribution, consider drinking to their health with a Tropical PUNCH.

IMG_5655Invented by my once-pro bartender friend Paul, the drink was surprisingly good, surely due to the high-quality ingredients from his frequent travels to warm climes.  And surely better than my roll of the Cocktail Dice.  You’ll be feeling less frosty in no time at all.

I hope you are all weathering the storm well.  Miraculously, the elm tree that spewed limbs that fell on my power lines last year is behaving well and has only shed a few branches this year.  We still have power in our neck of the woods, but tons and tons of snow and ice and tree litter making it all look ugly as we start Day 3.  My glorious flowering quince looks as if it’s kowtowing to the Emperor, I’m now positive I’ve lost my big beautiful rosemary, and the garden rows are buried in a blanket of snow.

But I can’t complain; no one’s hurt.  I’m watching my neighbors’ chickens while they’re away (yes, they are THE VACATIONING ONES!) and they all seem happy, if cold.  Fun and exciting plans were canceled for the weekend, and young Bruno is begging to go outside so he can revert to a feral state.  He doesn’t seem to feel the snow with his Maine Coon snowshoe paws, but the last thing I need is a kitten bonked on the head with a branch, so we’re hunkering down and annoying each other.  The perfect time, I’d say, for a…

Tropical PUNCH!

Serves 1.

  • 1 oz. coconut rum
  • 1/2 oz. Pisco
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • Fever Tree Bitter Lemon soda
  • 4 drops grapefruit bitters
  • One pack lurid turquoise Tropical Punch Pop Rocks for garnish (do not omit)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add coconut rum, Pisco, Cointreau, and lime juice.  Shake vigorously, then pour over ice (or dare I say packed snow?) in a double Old Fashioned glass.  Top off with a few ounces of Bitter Lemon soda and the bitters.  Immediately prior to serving, and preferably in front of the snowbird you’d like to impress, drop in a quarter of a packet of pop rocks for immediate fireworks.  Smashing.

separate two eggs: blossom end rot ketchup

IMG_4004The rain was ill-timed, for sure, and my garden is at risk.  Water has been an issue all summer.  Hubris and the bottom falling out of my life goaded me into believing that an overhead watering system was much easier than taking the time to put in the soaker hoses this year, so I’ve got powdery mildew shrouding the leaves of squash and cucumbers, cantankerous wilt encroaching on the tomatoes.  The soaker hoses I did lay down and test in June were either fixed too many times to work properly or just didn’t work at all.

My own eyes seem to be malfunctioning, too.  After those unspeakable hours when my beloved sidekick and best buddy had gone from seemingly healthy to “when they’re this far gone they usually don’t make it,” when I suddenly, terribly, intimately, finally understood the keening wail and hear-tearing grief of the ancient Greeks, they stopped knowing how to cry.  Something broke inside my head, and tears seemed to flow at their own will.

They didn’t come when I needed to feel some iota of resolution of a good life put to rest in the days that followed, stumbling around on the beach and begging for a sneaker wave to come take me.  They came and come while driving down Willamette or stepping into the fish market or making coffee or brushing my teeth, just enough to wet my eyes, and then go away again.  This pain births itself from you and rends you and makes you incomplete, absolutely paralyzed, sitting on your chest and not moving until — one hopes — it decides to climb down and go possess someone else.

You spend all your time still with the fear that there’s no consolation over the loss of a pet like him, and no longer consolation in your life. Instead of getting better, it just gets heavier and more leaden and more unreal. Even my subconscious has given up; the one fleeting glimpse of him I had in a dream I completely lost it and begged him to come back to me, saying what I had said thousands of times but not pleading, not in such high, hysterical, desperate tones: Come here, baby! Momma needs you!

It’s easy to say sorry about the job, sorry about the husband, sorry about the thousand other things you lost this year, just as easy as it is to compartmentalize these terrible things and deal with them one at a time as a series of tasks.  But no, we really don’t even know how to be sorry about the uncanny child-friend-mate-comfort blanket-lover-shadow bond one forges with a bright-eyed and utterly devoted feline with whom one has such a singular connection; we don’t know how to move beyond it…

And I’m just now getting around to mulching.

I moved the tomatoes to my Dissertation Draft Memorial Bed in the front of the house and the plants are gloriously erect and massive this year.  Huge, promising fruit have been developing well. There’s a grafted ‘Mexican,’ big luscious ‘Brad’s Black Heart,’ three ‘Amish Pastes’ sadly of the small and genetically muted variety, a nice ‘Carol Chyko’s Big Paste,’ my standard ‘Black Krim’ slicer, a ‘Hungarian Heart (which originated around 1900 in Budapest, like many good things), stalwart ‘Slava’, green and yellow ‘Grubb’s Mystery,’ Dawson’s Russian Oxheart,’ bright orange slicer ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast,’ and a deep yellow salad tomato, ‘Summer Cider Apricot,’ that I bought in a moment of weakness and don’t regret because of the unusual acidity.

At the first signs of blossom end rot, a virus we see every year on tomatoes as we transition from wet spring to dry summer in the Willamette Valley, we lay out calcium.  I’ve done it for years with ground eggshells dug in and dried milk watered deeply into the soil.  The first few tomatoes can be affected, but after they’re plucked and discarded, the rest are usually fine.

But this year, with the new bed and onslaught of trauma and my tragic confidence in watering methods against all portents from the gods, I didn’t see the early signs early enough.  Now most of the plants are infected, those big beautiful green lobes rotting from the bottom up like, well, there’s no point in veering off into the metaphorical direction, since you already get it.

I’m trying to cut my losses, then, with blossom end rot ketchup.  Safe canning practices say one’s not supposed to can with blossom end rot tomatoes, since the virus messes with the acidity, and since my crop is so damaged this year, I decided to make a batch of ketchup, which has enough acid and sugar added that slight variations in tomatoes don’t really matter.  And a little bitterness and salty tears just improve ketchup anyway.

And for sauce and paste and salsa?  I picked up a lug of organic ‘Scipio’ paste tomatoes from the good folks at Good Food Easy/Sweetwater Farm in Creswell, who are operating a farm stand on Sundays from 10-2 at 19th and Agate.  I ate one directly from the box and it was full and meaty and sweet and good.  Apparently, it’s also known as ‘Scipio San Marzano’ and ‘Astro.’ I’d warn folks off the regular ‘San Marzanos’ we grow in the valley.  It’s usually not hot enough and they take so long that they’re nothing like Italian ‘San Marzanos.’

Want the ketchup recipe?  Click here.

IMG_3421Boris Badenov Levin, RIP. 1997-2013.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

the best in donut shop thai food

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Cashew chicken at It’s Thai Food

Thai food in a donut shop seems to be the new Thing, since we’re largely ignoring the supermarket-donut-quality ridiculous sugarbombs at Voodoo and the “cronut,” which I simply don’t have the heart to Google and understand. Yelp tells me that they’re selling Thai food at donut shops in Santa Barbara, CA, Lawton, OK, and Annapolis, MD, so something cool is sneaking around urban centers and infiltrating small towns.  I love it.

And being on top of trends, I’m pleased to report that we have not one but TWO donut shop Thai places, and one of them is actually good.

I taste-tested both of them in a quick and dirty fashion, ordering a classic dish at each, Chicken Cashew stirfry (or perhaps pork, if I was scared to order chicken).

IMG_3684Master Donuts in Springfield (3177 Gateway), is in a little strip mall across the street from the big box annexes fringing the mall on Gateway.  The dish came out heavy with salt and very little flavor I could identify as Thai, including the taste of fish sauce.  There were a few tiny, broken pieces of raw cashew sprinkled on top of steamed low quality, tasteless pork swimming in soupy liquid and some tired steamed vegetables.  The rice wasn’t good, either, a cheap Chinese variety.  Although everyone was polite to me, the place was silent and heavy and almost sterile and cold. Neither the cook nor the clerk could care less about the food or their work, it seems, and the atmosphere was so toxic with unhappiness I left as soon as I could.  Avoid.  Not even worth the $6 an entree price.

IMG_3688IMG_3675It’s Thai Food was a different story. Inside Lee’s Donuts (1950 Echo Hollow Rd Ste A) in the same mall as Big Lots, it used to be a food cart in the parking lot, but they moved inside the restaurant.  It’s Thai Food is run by a couple, with the wife as cook and the husband as extroverted front of house.  A cute kid shows up now and again, playing quietly in the back. It’s an extremely modest place with no ambiance and a TV in the corner, with a constant stream of customers.

Here’s the difference between the two donut shop Thai places: It’s Thai Food is actually a real neighborhood joint, with pictures of customers and letters on the walls, a menu that aims to educate with photos, and kind service-oriented ownership.  I overheard the owner talking about the increase in overhead for donut supplies to a regular customer, and it seems times are tough.  But then I heard him saying that when neighborhood kids come in for a donut and they don’t quite have enough cash, he gives them the donut because they clearly want it.  (And just a note to the few people who are excited by that: don’t be a dick and try to take advantage.  Instead, do what the customer did, give an extra buck or two in tips to offset the cost of this kind man’s charity.)

Anyway, wow, I’m getting grumpier and grumpier writing this.  Sorry.  The food at It’s Thai Food (top picture) is really the most appetizing of all the low-budget Thai I’ve tried in the past couple of weeks.  The cook uses dark soy to help caramelize the chicken, and the dish boasts an appetizing array of peppers and mushrooms.  It was too salty, a common problem for Thai food, but it tasted quite good, better than many of the more standard Thai places in town.

There were a number of less common dishes being served that didn’t appear on the written menu, especially noodle dishes, so I’ll be back.  I really appreciated little touches like the kind of odd aluminium foil boat in which my meal was served, clearly added so the sauce wouldn’t soak into the paper plate below, and the little cone full of fried tofu which helped keep it crisp.  The peanut sauce, something I don’t love, was actually notably better than average so I took it home to use as a dip with green beans. Also served: Eugene’s heroine, aka teriyaki chicken, and a few common dishes that would draw the same crowd: yakisoba noodles and orange chicken and kung pao. Prices were a skosh higher than at Master’s but still cheap — my entree was $7.50.

On a slightly different trend-spotting note, please be aware of our two Thai food carts.

I found Drumrong Thai to be adequate when I went a few years ago, and found the atmosphere in the middle of a hot triangle in the middle of two busy streets in the Whiteaker stifling and loud, plus it took forever to get my food, so I haven’t been back.  It may be better now; it’s been a few years.  Let me know.

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Cashew pork at Ubon Thai

Ubon Thai out on Highway 99 (670 Hwy 99) — a joint that many people swear by as authentic and wonderful — was ok.  It was, contrary to popular belief, not a rare outpost of different types of Thai food but the same stuff you get elsewhere in Eugene, a collection of Americanized standards using packaged shortcuts just like every other place uses.  It’s cheap, fast food, really, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  And it must be a great relief to the neighborhood, which is a depressed area way out on the way to the airport.  And to their credit, they’re honest about the prefab nature of the curries; you can see the plastic tubs of Mae Ploy curry pastes lined up above the prep space.  If you want to taste the difference that homemade curry pastes make in a final dish, go to Noodle N Thai in Springfield on Main around 5th.  There, you’ll start to learn about the wonders of authentic Thai food.

The vegetables in the stirfries are all a melange of pre-cut carrot, onion, broccoli, peppers, and snow peas, and they serve really standard dishes and the usual yakisoba.  They really need to remove the broccoli from the mix. Broccoli, a substitute for gai lan, has no place in Thai food and it’s revolting once overcooked and soggy in sauce.

Nevertheless, the cook has a pretty good palate, if my single dish (the same cashew stirfry with pork I ordered elsewhere, hold the broccoli) is a guide.  Way too much liquid pooled up on my plate and waterlogged my rice, but the dish was good enough, cooked at too low a temperature but still decent.  The fresh spring rolls had larger-than-average rice noodles in the stuffing, which was odd but not a dealbreaker, and the spicy peanut sauce was peanut sauce with spice in it.  Nothing unusual and a bit of a disappointment, given how much it was talked up. Oh well.

The atmosphere I did find oddly charming, mostly the outdoor plaza space surrounded by plants and tinkly sparkly things than the somewhat claustrophobic attached house interior, but they’re welcoming spaces.  Ubon is run by a couple, she of Thai extraction and he not, and they’re terribly nice.  I’d probably go again if I were in the neighborhood, and I’d urge them to branch out into more interesting territory in the specials, at least.  Different vegetables and not so many in one dish would be really welcome, as would be regional delights.