For 15 months , I'd been one of those adults with braces (I had a bad grinding problem ). But now that they're off, I can sink my teeth into any food I want -- the stickier and chewier, the better. No more cutting my pizza with a knife and fork; no more passing on the salt water taffy; no more forsaking a thick sub for the soup de jour. And so, this week we turn to foods that give your pearly whites a workout. If only caramel apples were in season.
1281 Cambridge St.
Inman Square, Cambridge
50 Dalton St., Boston
Bukowski's peanut butter burger sounds like something Homer Simpson might dream of, but it's a real menu item -- and shockingly good. ``We sell about a dozen a week. It's very, very rich," says bar manager Max Toste. ``We have a few diehards that add bacon. It's kind of like an Elvis burger then." Bukowski's chefs lather up a 6-ounce burger with chunky peanut butter just before taking it off the grill, so the peanut butter is gooey, not runny. Lettuce, tomato, and onion go on top. I was a bit afraid taking my first bite -- a normal reaction, Toste assured me -- but the reward was instant, as the peanut butter's creaminess melded wonderfully with the juicy beef. I might even try one on the grill at home. ($8)
Big Moe's BBQ Ribs
200 Geneva Ave.,
When I asked my orthodontist what food I should now tear into, he shot back, ``Ribs, of course," as if there could be no other answer. So I made my way to Big Moe's rib truck, a Columbia Avenue institution for 23 years. Big Moe Maurice Hill now parks his silver kitchen-on-wheels in a vacant lot on Geneva Avenue. His wife, Marian, has also retired from the business, handing over her duties to their daughter, Leona, and grandson, Giovanni. But they turn out the same juicy, not-quite-lean pork and beef ribs, served in aluminum containers with Big Moe's own special, tangy sauce. The collard greens, candied yams , and sweet potato pies are all homemade too.Fornax Bread Company27 Corinth St., Roslindale617-325-8852My grandmother chewed crusty Italian bread to keep her teeth strong (she still has them at 94), so fresh bakery bread was high on my hit list. Fornax didn't disappoint. I took home a thin, crusty white bread called sfilatino, which was shaped like a baguette but, to my pleasure, was so tough I had to flex muscles to rip it apart. Fornax's sandwiches looked so good I also ordered a roasted veggie on multigrain bread. Brimming with caramelized onions, bell peppers, roasted eggplant, and hummus, it was as chewy and flavorful as I'd hoped. ($7)
1632 Beacon St.
Washington Square, Brookline
Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is no longer listed on the menu at Café Nicholas. It's all about thin crusts these days, says owner Nick Chicos , but you can still ask for it. However, you'd better be hungry. For the café's version, the cooks top a layer of dough with sauce, cheese, and toppings, such as mushrooms or shaved sirloin steak. Then they add another layer of dough, another layer of sauce, and another layer of cheese. ``It's really almost like eating a pizza sandwich," says Chicos, who runs his homey pizzeria with his mother, Christina. I ordered the smallest size, a 8-inch personal pie with a golden-brown crust, and still took half of it home. But oh, was it good. ($5.50, with topping )Dairy Fresh Candies57 Salem St., North End800-336-5536With hundreds of hand-packed half-pound bags of candy and nuts at your fingertips -- from peanut brittle to pine nuts to Mary Jane s -- Dairy Fresh Candies is the place to go if you're craving something sticky and sweet. Like I wasn't going to eat a chocolate-covered pecan caramel turtle the minute I got my braces off. ``It's probably our most popular item," says owner Danny DiMare, who's worked at the store since he was 11 years old. A true North End shop, Dairy Fresh caters to local tastes, stocking chewy Italian ``torrone" nougat squares, imported black licorice, and dried, crunchy chickpeas.
Jasper White's Summer Shack
50 Dalton St.
149 Alewife Brook Parkway
I saved the best for last -- that ultimate summer treat, corn on the cob. Trouble is, this early in the season, it's next to impossible to find an ear. Enter Jasper's, which serves steamed corn with its traditional clambake dinners even on the coldest January day. Florida and California growers meet the demand in the winter, but starting this month , Jasp er's corn will be local again, with Verrill Farm in Concord sending over more than 100 ears a day. Last summer, with my braces on, I had to trim the kernels off with a knife. Settling into a seat at Jasp er's bar last week, I suffered no such indignity, gobbling a lightly buttered ear, type writer style, with unrestrained joy. ($3)
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