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super Super88

January 25th, 2009 · No Comments

Thanks to my friends Tse Wei and Diana, I got a little bit of heaven in the gritty wilds of Allston-Brighton. For the mere price of a ride I got the unexpected treat of a dim sum breakfast with the added benefits of 1/4 of a roast duck and a boatload of wok-fried pea pod stems. Lest there be some impression of coercion, because it was their idea, I did offer the ride.

The ostensible reason was an errand on their part, to pick up their monthly allotment of a full farmshare of meat (steer, pork, and some other stuff—there were an awful lot of bits of tasty things in that big cardboard box). As Super88—the Asian food connection in that neck of the urban wilds, where Brighton Avenue splits off from Commonwealth, just beyond the megalopolis formerly known as the Boston University West Campus—is just down the street, it seemed a natural to chow down.

From Dim Sum Chef we ordered (in no particular order of importance or delectability), the tripe with ginger and scallions, the B.B.Q. pork buns, the rice noodle rolls with shrimp, the eggplant with black bean sauce, and, as a kind of dessert, the bean paste buns. Across the way, at Kantin, we ordered the roast duck and pea pod stems. And the cost, for the three of us gave us five bucks and change from two twenties. Not bad for a mini-banquet.

There was nothing to be faulted. Rather, it was as good as some feasible standard of what good dim sum should be. I’ll make special mention of the tripe (not for all tastes I realize, but if it were always prepared this well, and one can learn to overlook the esthetics of the dish… anything might be possible in opening new personal gustatory vistas), which was incredibly well done, light, toothsome, and tasty, with none of the shortcomings of the dish at the hands of anything less than the most deft cooks. The French and the Italians, who suck this stuff down, and when it’s good over there, it’s very very good, though that doesn’t always happen, could learn a thing or two in Allston-Brighton.

We then repaired to where the Stillman van sat, with a long line of customers waiting to pick up their monthly order, just outside the Clear Flour Bakery at the corner of Abbotsford and Hamilton Roads in Brookline. Tse Wei and Diana, who, it would appear, have a sweet tooth apiece (and the toothpick thin physiques to allow indulgence), wanted some pastry, and I wanted coffee, and saw a loaf of bread I thought might be interesting. So we stopped in at the bakery (with a somewhat shorter line, but a line nevertheless, on a sultry 18-degree noon).

The bread does not disappoint, though, as I find so often, the designation, that is, the mere naming of the bread was a tad pretentious. We were in Brookline after all, not Haut Provence (whence I have just returned). The loaf I bought was called a “pain meunier,” or in pseudo-colloquial French “miller’s bread.” Though I doubt it. I’ve never seen anything with such a name, here or in France. There’s that perennial classic fish dish, “sole à la meuniére,” or sole cooked in the manner of the miller’s wife (floured and quickly sautéed in butter, and finished with freshly squeezed lemon juice), but this bread has nothing to do with that and vice versa.

Other bakers, a little more honestly, or at least less pretentiously, would call it 5-grain or 7-grain, or however-many-grain it actually is. It’s a light loaf, with a lovely crisp crust, and good, even crumb, toothy but light, as is the loaf generally, with bits of coarser grain visible. The bread is described on their “Bread Availability” matrix (which lists 30 types of bread, not all of them available every day) in this way:

Each step of taking grain to flour is used: cracked wheat, whole wheat flour, wheat germ & white flour

I would have put it a little differently, that is, I think they meant, “the product of each step…,” although this can be said of any bread, in a way, as you cannot mill flour without doing something with the germ, without first cracking the wheat (if that’s the procedure you use), and white flour does entail some processing they’re leaving out. In short, it would appear it’s whole wheat bread with a much fuller pedigree, and some crunchy bits that milling usually pulverizes.

The bread is equally good of course, and pretense has no flavor, not perceptible to the palate, but gustatory pleasure is more than a physical experience.

As is evident at the Super88, where they put on no airs at all.

As for the coffee from Clear Flour, I will note only two things. They are, of course, a bakery, not a coffee house. And the coffee, in keeping with the general air of carriage trade pretention, was “Fair Exchange” or whatever it’s called, wherein the imbiber has some assurance that the original coffee grower wasn’t screwed in the process of getting you your 12 ounces of java in a paper cup for a buck-fifty, as you wait your turn in line to order your baguette or “Rustic Fougasse.”

What the imbiber can also be assured, and I don’t blame the grower, as there are, if I may paraphrase, a lot of “steps to take the beans to grounds,” before you can suck down that cup of nice hot joe on a very cold day, is that the coffee may not exactly taste like coffee. Indeed, as I pointed out to Tse Wei and Diana, who patiently waited while the car warmed up as I sipped my coffee (as I won’t drive drinking a beverage), the coffee, miraculously, had no aroma whatsoever. It seemed like a miracle. They had managed to manufacture opaque brown water, saleable for $1.50 a cup. The miracle ended with the first sip, for, as I again pointed out, I could attest that it also had no taste, except it was incredibly bitter.

We pay too high a price for assuaging our consciences, on the presumption that everyone involved is as vigilant about the quality of the product as those who produce real coffee, without also trying to make you feel good about it, separate and apart from the gustatory experience. And they don’t necessarily screw anybody in the process either. And certainly not the coffee drinker.

Political and social correctness, it would seem, comes at the expense of simple pleasure.

Tags: 02138 and environs · Local Food

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