It is with great excitement that I present our first ever guest post!! Lainey Rabinow is a bon vivant, mother of three, second generation New England-er, and my friend. While our tastes differ (she tends toward established, refined cuisine while I love anything served on a tray or out of a food truck), we’ve bonded over a shared love of food and the experiences that love can bring. Lainey’s recent food adventures include a Russian cruise, numerous trips to New Orleans (her daughter just graduated from Tulane, congrats Lily!), and an overnight trip to a Maine cheese farm. This post is part of what I hope will become a thriving series on Boston’s food memories. -Crystal
My earliest memory of “falling in love" with a restaurant was at age four. It was with Hot Dog Annie’s in Holden, Massachusetts. In 1959, my siblings and I and all the kids on our street, nine or ten of us, would pile into one of the monstrous station wagons that were popular at the time and go for hot dogs, then eight for a dollar. What I remember is that I become infatuated with the chutney, or barbecue sauce, that Hot Dog Annie herself had created. As we ate our hot dogs we wondered aloud to each other just what was IN that sauce that kept us so captivated. Hot Dog Annie’s is one of those love affairs that became a lasting lifelong friendship. I have visited Hot Dog Annies in the years since and although now, $2.50 each, that sauce remains elusive and primal.
I think I have since fallen in love, or at the very least, become infatuated with hundreds of restaurants from Worcester to Boston and then to New York when my older brother enrolled at Columbia. In 1972 the Upper West Side of New York City, had a burgeoning restaurant scene. Although we rarely ate at those fancy restaurants, since I was twelve and he was on a college budget, we would walk by, read, the menu, and imagine what we’d order. I visited him often in (how my mother and father let a twelve year old get on a bus by herself to go to New York seems impossible from where the world is today.) I remember the first time I had eggplant pizza at Rays- I thought Ray was a genius. I “dated" Ray seriously for about two years while my brother was in the city, that is until eggplant pizza was no longer my heart’s desire. I remember the sensation of standing in Zabars, looking at those long rows of prepared foods and gourmet items and being endlessly fascinated. To this day, I still find those kind of places incredibly fun and interesting.
When my best friend moved to San Fransisco after college, I widened my love affairs…Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, became famous for using local, organic foods and credited as the inspiration for California cuisine. There were so many others: Jeremy Towers at Stars, Greens Restaurant , a pioneer in establishing vegetarian cuisine in 60’s and 70’s, Fog City Diner, Michael Mina and first restaurant Aqua. Another one of our favorite things to do was to drive north up the coastline along Route 1 and stop for barbecued oysters and beer, in little shacks that were sprinkled along the Pacific ocean. The beaches were always desolate, unlike what I knew on the East coast, and felt romantic. I ate oysters, drank beer, listened to local conversations and looked out at that beautiful, expansive ocean. I still visit San Fransisco and the tastes I want to experience always outnumber the days I am there.
That was 25 years ago and I still seek out restaurants after reading something that intrigues me, either about the food, or the chef, or the location, or some unusual ingredient or style of cooking. I think discovering a new restaurants is a lot like a first date: exciting, unknown, mysterious. Sometimes you know that you have fallen deeply and madly in love with the chef and his/her food and that the initial experience will be the first of a “long and beautiful friendship." Other times, you know that you had fun together, but you don’t feel that commitment. The restaurants that I still visit are the ones I fell in love with long ago and still feel a spark of excitement when I’m about to visit.
You can catch more of Lainey in The Worcester Telegram circa early 1960s, where she had a regular column detailing the adventures of her cat, Fluffernutter.