Posts Tagged ‘Hull’

Christmas Means Chinese Food

December 24, 2008

When I was growing up back in Hull, there was no bigger treat than a late-night Chinese feast. I’d rip open the white carton containers and grab spare ribs and chicken wings straight out of the hot foil bags adorned with dragons as a fierce wind blew off the ocean and made the windows shake. I’ll be thinking of that memory as I eat my usual Christmas Eve Chinese meal tonight.

Back then the cuisine was what we called “Cantonese.” But it was really much more solid Americanized Chinese food than the food of any region of China. It came, as most Chinese food then did, with little dinner rolls and butter.  (I’ll explain the origin of that New England tradition below.) The restaurant that served the food, Hull’s Sar Ho Village, sadly no longer exists.


In honor of the tradition of eating Chinese food at Christmas, I’m going to list some of my favorite places in the area. I invite you to write in with places I may have missed.

All-Around Favorite

Chinatown. Stoughton, MA – When my father visited last month from Las Vegas, he said he hadn’t had a decent Chinese meal in years. I drove him right down to Cobbs Corner. This is a restaurant that has mastered the traditional favorites but offers a great variety of newer dishes as well. I think it excels in freshness and quality. It crosses generation divides. My father went ultra-old school, ordering beef chop suey and boneless spare ribs! The Fabulous Dana has newer tastes with a palate that prefers moo shu and chow fun dishes. I like everything.

Chinatown/Sea Food 

Several years ago I went on a quest for the best salt and pepper squid in Boston. That quest lead me to a basement restaurant in Chinatown, Peach Farm Restaurant. I’ve since had the whole fried fish, lobster, and scores of other dishes here and never been lead astray.

Chinatown/Fast Food

Chinatown Cafe.  262 Harrison Avenue. This place offers incredible value for the taste. I love to get the black pepper beef. It’s also great for the roast duck noodle soup with wontons, a dish that really hits the spot on a cold winter day. I consider this more a lunch spot. You order at the counter and wait for your number to be called.

Weekday Dim Sum

Chau Chau. Dorchester.  This place offers Chinatown-level food with the convenience of free parking and an easily accessible location. I go when I have  a dim sum fix, when I need Chinese food on my way to the South Shore, or when I’m meeting somebody from the Boston Globe. The location is the same one I used to frequent when it was Linda Mae’s.

Real Szechuan

Mary Chung. Central Square. Cambridge. This is the place to go for as authentic Szechuan cuisine as you can get in Boston. I had the spicy beef broth and noodles, a perfect treat for a raw day, and the Suan La Chow Show, a dumpling dish. In addition to the food, this restaurant brought me back to the old Central Square. I remember the Central Square of when my father first moved to Cambridge as a funky, eclectic locale filled with new ethnic restaurants catering to the student community of MIT. (Remember how many Indian restaurants there used to be!) Mary Chung still has that vibe.

Best Alternative to Golden Temple

Mandarin Gourmet. Putterham Circle, South Brookline. I’ve got nothing against Chef Changs on Beacon Street other than its too inconvenient for me to frequent.  No question Golden Temple has amazing quality. But the prices have gotten so out of control that even former Bernie Madoff clients can’t go there any more. I find that Mandarin Gourmet has solid quality for an array of Chinese dishes. The dinner dishes are superior to the luncheon specials. The fine owners of Mandarin Gourmet have more than lived up to the reputation of the predecessor institution, Ho Sai Gai.

Best Newcomer

Kantin. The food court at the Super 88. Packards Corner. Allston. This place offers all the dishes I like at the Chinatown Cafe only with a parking lot.

Now for a final observations and a story. I’m concerned that aside from Asian Americans — many of them foreign born students — I’m not seeing many young people eating Chinese food these days. I’m well aware of the popularity of Thai and Sushi these days, but I could see Chinese food going the way of print journalism in a few decades.

I’ve heard all kinds of people mock the New England practice of serving dinner rolls with Chinese meals. Even as knowledgeable a source and passionate Kowloon aficionado as Howie Carr stated his befuddlement at it — and Howie, for reasons I’ll enumerate, of all people should know better. Back in the early days of Chinese food in Boston, Chinatown abutted Italian bread bakeries. In fact, it still dies. Wedged right between Chinatown and the Boston Herald is Quinzani’s.  Somehow that proximity lead Chinese restauranteurs to buy dinner rolls along with their meals. A sign of how old-school a Chinese restaurant is in Massachusetts is if they still follow this practice. If anyone has any more detail on the origin of this, please let me know.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah.




Hull MA — Wind Power Innovator

June 21, 2008

One of Hull's Wind Turbines

Back when I was on the Hull Pirates football team, practices ended with sprints. Look up, the coaches exhorted us, there’s no air if you’ve got your head down. I’d look up and perched at the end of the Gut was a windmill. I didn’t realize how novel it was at the time. But it turns out the little out-of-the-way peninsula town where I grew up is finally a leader in something, and something important. Hull, which now has two windmills, is a national leader in wind power. That’s a view now being vindicated by the Wall Street Journal.

“A recent Energy Department report said wind power could supply 20% of the country’s energy needs by 2030. Community leaders in this blue-collar town of 11,000 think they might be able to top that by building an offshore wind farm that would supply all of their town’s power…But with energy prices soaring and climate concerns on the rise, the days of such stalemates may be numbered. Although Hull’s offshore project still faces hurdles, the town’s embrace of wind power reflects how local control and tangible economic benefit can diffuse such tensions and lead to broad acceptance of alternative energy sources.”

And more: “Since 2001, commuters on the ferry into town from nearby Boston have been greeted by the 165-foot-high wind turbine that Hull built on the shoreline next to its high school. In 2006, with little opposition, Hull erected an even bigger wind turbine on a hill overlooking one of the main roads into town. Connected to the Hull municipal power plant, the two existing turbines now provide about 13% of Hull’s power needs and have kept local electric bills about a third below those of most surrounding communities…A faded tourist town still known for its long, wave-swept beach, Hull sits on a peninsula that juts out into Boston Harbor like a crooked finger. Local residents have been taking advantage of wind power since at least the early 1800s, when windmills were used to make salt from sea water. In 1985, the town erected a small windmill near its high school to help generate electricity for the building. It saved the town an estimated $70,000 in energy bills over its lifetime, but was destroyed in a 1997 storm.

Soon after, a group of local citizens and teachers began lobbying town leaders to put up a new windmill at the site, with high-school physics students doing some of the planning. Managers at the town’s power plant, which is overseen by an elected board, bought into the idea and the group got advice from a renewable-energy laboratory at the University of Massachusetts.

The wind-power group held multiple public hearings and sent detailed updates out with town electric bills. From the start, the emphasis was on the direct economic benefits the turbine would provide for local residents.

At the time, the Hull power plant, with no generating capacity of its own, was buying all of its electricity from elsewhere, paying about eight cents per kilowatt hour. Planners estimated the turbine could produce it for about three cents per kilowatt hour, shaving about $185,000 a year off local utility bills and paying for operation of the town’s street lights.

At public meetings, some citizens complained that the turbine would ruin the skyline and be noisy. But because local residents controlled the decision-making, opposition was minimal, says Susan Ovans, publisher of the Hull Times, a local weekly. ‘There was a sense that, if you had concerns, you could just go find your neighbor and ask him or her about it,’ she says. ‘It wasn’t some faceless developer coming in.’ ”