The best thing I ever ate

This weekend, my mom and aunts came in to town to visit and to go out to dinner. My first thought was that it was yet another opportunity for me to procrastinate being a healthy, productive human being. The second thought was that the pressure was on.

I’ve brought up my aunts in this column before, because they are the foodiest people I know. They are both excellent chefs and have very discerning palettes. When their daughter, my cousin Caroline, was about six years old, her favorite food was lobster bisque. So, there’s that. And I was determined to give my mom some sort of redeeming Boston seafood experience that didn’t involve a waiter touching her food.

My mother is so charmed with being around me in general that she is not very worried about where we will eat, but I’m always determined to impress my aunts, as if it’s me that’s doing the cooking. (Side note: When we talk about cooking, they always say I should cook for them. Given my recent diet and tendency to mess things up, I don’t foresee anything less than disaster.) I trust Yelp with my life (and tastebuds) when it comes to restaurants, so I headed into Yelpland to find a restaurant near my apartment. And up comes Hungry Mother. It was one of the only restaurants I have ever seen with almost all five-star ratings. Hungry Mother cooks up an upscale southern cuisine, with a short menu, changing often. I considered it a good sign that there was only one early time slot open for reservations on Saturday night.

Hungry Mother was hard to find, with a swinging wooden sign on the corner of a remodeled home. When we got there, the doors were locked. My nerves were stretched thin because it was windy and cold, and we hadn’t had a chance to go home and change, so I was worried that we were underdressed in jeans. I was ravenous and deliberated abandoning propriety and banging on the door until someone took pity on us and let us in to shut me up. But soon it was five o’clock, time for them to open and our reservation, and we headed inside.

The hostess led us past the kitchen where people were donning aprons and up stairs. The décor was homey, and I immediately felt at ease wearing jeans. The tables were wooden, with lights meant to imitate candles on the tables. It was dim, but not too dim, and small, but not crowded. The hostess took our coats and hung them up for us. A server came over and filled our water glasses, which were not water glasses at all, but jelly jars. The adorableness was overwhelming.

Our waiter, John, was knowledgeable and recommended the salad with smoked lamb tongue (aged for 15 hours!) and their market side of roasted squash. Despite the way he managed to talk up TONGUE, there was no way we were going to ingest that, but we went with the squash. We also ordered the appetizers of deviled eggs, and biscuits with prosciutto and red pepper jelly. While we waited, we sampled several of their cocktails (I had the dangerously tasty no. 61 with Rain vodka, St. Germain, fresh grapefruit, and ginger Cinzano), which helped calm us, because expectations were really, really high.

The deviled eggs came with little pieces of bacon on top, which can only mean good things. They were creamy, with the perfect balance of mustard and mayonnaise and spice. One of my aunts grew up in the south, and gave the stamp of approval to the biscuits and jelly. Even after our meal was over, she was still thinking about them.

And then our meals and side dishes came. All at the same time, all hot. I had the chicken and dumplings, which was really a chicken, roasted to crispy perfection, on a bed of collard greens and carrots, surrounded by heavenly gnocchi. (Start counting: I have already used the word “perfect” twice.) The chicken was tender, the gnocchi fresh, and god help me, I enjoyed the collard greens. Eight-year-old me was appalled, and I have no idea what they did to them to make them so delicious, but I suspect something to do with butter. We were moaning and groaning and causing a general scene with our noises of deliciousness. My mother loved her cornmeal catfish and dirty rice dish, one of their signatures. She said that I had used the word “foodgasm” way too early in my column. Despite the fact that I don’t like hearing the suffix –gasm from my mother’s mouth, I would agree. My boyfriend had better watch out. That gnocchi was charming the hell out of me.

Not to mention the squash with skin roasted so perfectly (count: 3) that we could eat it all, meat and skin. Not to mention the cheesy, creamy grits. And the cornbread, which was roasted in some sort of sweet sauce and I think deep-fried, and served with sorghum butter, was so mouthwatering I wanted to close my eyes to eat it. I might have—pretty much all of my senses were dulled except for taste.

And then there came the desserts. Yes. We ordered four. A roasted pear and bourbon ice cream cake, a steamed apple pudding, a burnt caramel pot de crème, and a flourless Taza chocolate torte (with a side glass of almond milk to wash down the chocolate, which I would later spill and almost cry over it). I was having a serious dilemma with so many delicious things on the table. While every single bite was incredible, I decided the steamed apple pudding was my favorite. It came with whipped crème fraiche and, best of all, a salted piece of cornbread. I’m no expert on food pairings, but the salty cornbread with the sweet pieces of apple was divine.

I can say that it was, without a doubt, the best meal I have ever eaten. It eclipsed Restaurant Week completely. There was no low point. Service was terrific, prices aren’t outrageous, the food was incredible, and, best of all, unpretentious. Even the foodies went home satisfied and impressed. We wanted to curl up and sleep there. After dessert, we asked for brunch menus.

It’s been more than 24 hours, and I am still thinking about the food.

4 Responses to “The best thing I ever ate”
  1. Anne says:

    If you ever want a Hungry Mother partner, I am so there.

  2. Marian says:

    Your aunts seem really smart and nice. They must be wonderful.

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