I wrote here of a walk down Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was just before Christmas in 2013 and early in the evening, when it was already quite dark, and the life of the place was to be found less in the predominantly low end ethnic restaurants the Moody Street was known for–the restaurant traffic would come a little later in the evening– and more in the hair and nail salons, boutiques and groceries, all brightly lit and colorful.
It is less than two years later but things change. At the time of Fenster’s visit, there were a few upscale eateries arriving to supplant the old-time ethnic stable of Central American, Indian, barbecue and Thai places. But they had not yet taken over. Less than two years later Moody Street is at or past a tipping point, on the way toward an upscale incarnation where food is concerned.
Fenster is of two minds of this, as he on most things.
On the one hand, F bemoans the loss of low end ethnic places since such places are his honest preference, and not only because they are inexpensive. A stint as an investment banker in the 1980s soured F to a great extent on the price-value proposition of many chi-chi places, and that bias continues.
On the other hand there is something to be said for upscaling cuisine when done right. And in one case, the upscaling seems to have been done very nicely indeed on Moody Street.
Fenster and wife had dinner recently at the Moody Street Delicatessen and Provisions. The deli itself is only about three years old and, while upscaling a deli breeds suspicions, this deli distinguished itself by being one of the few places in New England that prepares its own charcuterie from scratch. The results hang over the deli counter.
Recently a back room with a bar and tables was added.
The food is great. And here’s the thing: I think I am detecting a real paleo emphasis in some ways. And I am talking specifically about the treatment of fat, animal fat. It is not avoided. It is embraced.
It brings me back to my father’s admonition when polishing off the pig’s knuckle recipe he got from his German mother. “Of course you eat all the fat,” he told us. “That’s the best part.”
The tilt towards fat is apparent in the selection of items. Here is a small platter of pork belly. It’s been salted but not heavily cured or smoked, and it comes simply steamed, allowing its fatty quality to come through.
And here is the pastrami sandwich.
It’s called The Katz, presumably in honor of Katz’s Deli in New York, famed for its seriously large, old fashioned and uncompromisingly fatty pastrami, also steamed to the point at which the meat is coated with unctuous stuff when it hits the bread and almost melts it.
The Katz from Moody’s is not quite as voluminous as the sandwich from Katz’s itself but what is? And whereas the Katz’s deli version is unchanging in its simplicity (a pile of meat, a schmear of mustard, wilting rye bread suffering under the weight of the meat and choking on the fat and moisture), Moody’s pushes its version even further into fat terrain. The rye bread is grilled with butter. The sandwich comes with melted cheese and ample dressing. You know what it is talking about.
As newcomers the manager treated us to a house speciality: the “never the same meatballs”. These are made with only about a third raw ground beef, with the balance of the meat coming from the odds and ends of charcuterie on hand. Some days hotter; some days smokier, and so forth. The ones we got were delicious and, once again, happy to be on the fatty side, bathed in the juice and fat from the cooking process and topped with various soft and hard cheeses.
We thought the roasted cauliflower might come on the crispy side but even there the chunks of vegetables were nestled in a sauce that was separating from the butter used in its cooking.
Too much? Perhaps. Excellent? Definitely. And seemingly very much in keeping with the embrace of fat seen in the paleo approach.
I am willing to look the other way at some gentrification if this is the result.
Another walk down Moody Street is called for at some point, the better to assess the various costs and benefits.