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Vegan FoMu takes the “cream” out of ice cream

May 9, 2014 02:24 PM


Adam Virnelson

Deena Jalal owns FoMu with her husband, Hin Tang. The couple run vegan frozen dessert shops in Allston and Jamaica Plain.

FoMu (pronounced “faux moo”), an alternative ice cream producer with stores in Allston and Jamaica Plain, has carved out a surprising niche: making ice cream without cream.

“I’m vegan, and they have a lot of ice cream options for vegans, which is rare,” said Natalie Kovalcik, a regular at FoMu. “It’s pretty much a dream.”

Instead of dairy, owners Deena Jalal and Hin Tang use coconut milk to create their frozen dessert, which they make from scratch at a facility in Watertown.

Jalal and her husband both grew up in small-business families. They left corporate jobs — she worked in international advertising for Bose, he was a financial systems consultant — when they decided to start a family together.

“We decided it was probably the right time to plan to do something purposeful in our lives,” said Jalal, “because if we were going to spend time away from each other, and away from a family, we really wanted to enjoy what we did.”

Both Jalal and Tand had dreamed of owning a business, and both loved food, but neither had culinary experience. The couple bought an ice cream shop, but they wanted to make their own product, so they sold the shop, bought a commissary and began learning the intricacies of ice cream production.

To circumvent customers’ dietary restrictions and make their product available to as many people as possible, they decided to forego the traditional dairy-based formulas and use a healthier, more natural substitute.

“Buying coconut cream or buying a nut cream allows you to build yourself,” said Jalal, “so you don’t have to add any of those preservatives or emulsifiers if you don’t want to.”

Unsurprisingly, the newly minted ice cream makers found themselves popular with vegetarian and vegan restaurants — Red Lentil in Watertown, Veggie Galaxy and Life Alive in Cambridge — and began selling in bulk to local health-conscious establishments.

Then the pair discovered a vacant property in Union Square in Allston, an area populated by a number of vegetarian businesses, and decided the location would be perfect for a store of their own.

“People with allergies were grateful, people who were vegan now had an option, and people who were just foodies and wanted to try a coconut milk ice cream that came in Thai Chili Peanut were really, really thrilled about it too,” said Jalal.

The ice cream at FoMu also differs from its big-name cousins in that it has low overrun, meaning there isn’t much air mixed into the product. Name-brand ice cream, the fluffy kind you’d find in a corner store freezer, can be made up of 50 percent air or more, according to Jalal; FoMu’s ice cream is only 25 percent air, which means it’s thick, like gelato.

The ice cream’s coconut base also gives it different properties than standard ice cream. For example, FoMu’s product is kept at a slightly higher temperature than normal because the freezing point of coconut milk is different than that of cream.

They also use organic ingredients and buy locally whenever possible.

Running the business is taxing but rewarding, says Jalal. She has seen parents come in whose allergy-afflicted children had never tasted ice cream. At FoMu, though, their kids have options.

“There’s really just something for everybody,” said Jalal, “and it’s dessert. I mean, who doesn’t like dessert?”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

Brighton’s Gifford Cat Shelter cares for cats one by one

April 8, 2014 11:13 AM


Adam Virnelson

Shelley stands atop one of the few shelter at the Gifford Cat Shelter. Cats at the shelter are left free to roam to reduce stress and allow them to stay healthier and happier, which in turn makes them more readily adoptable.

For a cat in need, the Gifford Cat Shelter is a safe haven unlike any other. The Gifford Shelter, which bills itself as the oldest cageless, no-kill shelter in the country, offers a home for any feline, no matter how infirm or unfriendly.

Take Amber, the cat born with undersized eyelids that required reconstructive surgery and medicated eye drops three times per day. Or Barney, the cat with feline immunodeficiency virus, who has needed repeated medical procedures to treat a chronic ear infection.

“That, I think, is what makes us a lot different than other shelters,” says Stacy Price, the shelter’s development manager. “We treat each cat that comes in for whatever they need.”

Founded in 1884 by Ellen M. Gifford, a local philanthropist, the shelter was opened as a refuge for any abandoned or unwanted animal, and it is part of the Brighton-Allston Women's Heritage Trail.

After World War II, the Gifford Shelter was forced to limit its housing to one type of animal.

“People make fun of herding cats,” says Debbie Schreiber, the shelter director, “but they’re easier to wrangle than other animals.”

Today the herd is substantial. In 2013, the shelter took in 310 cats, 248 of which were from the street. Of the cats there now, 68 of the 78 were once strays.

The cats can spend anywhere from days to years at the shelter, located at 30 Undine Road in Brighton, before being adopted, according to Price. Most stay for a few months.

To cover medical expenses, the shelter sometimes turns to online crowd funding sources. Barney’s last surgery was paid for with contributions made through

“People really responded,” said Diane Toomey, the assistant shelter manager. “People love to get behind a specific cause for a cat.”

The shelter also holds events to bring in funds. In March, the shelter held an event called A Feline Affair, a silent auction that raised over $30,000—about half the year’s medical costs. They will hold another event in the fall.

The shelter includes a feral cat enclosure that houses a small colony of about a dozen cats, most of which will probably never be adopted. According to Price, a cat that spends more than about six months on the streets will likely avoid human contact for the rest of their lives. These cats are largely left to their own devices, though they are spayed and neutered.

In an effort to cut back on the feral population on the streets, Schreiber works to TNR —trap, neuter, and release — feral cat colonies in the local stray hotspots, such as Dorchester or Mattapan. The traps, made of wire mesh and baited with food, are a newer take on an old trapping method.

“It’s the old-fashioned box, stick and string,” says Schreiber. “You wait for them to go under, then you pull the string and the thing drops.”

The work they do to control the population is vital; cats can get pregnant at six months old, and the pregnancy only lasts eight weeks. The mothers nurse the kittens for eight weeks, and then they can get pregnant again. That means a single female stray can produce a litter every four months.

Schreiber attributes part of the problem to college students who get a cat for a year then release it, expecting it to fend for itself. She is working to educate students on the responsibilities of owning a cat in the hopes that they will refrain from adoption if unable to properly care for a pet.

Abandonment — illegal under Massachusetts law — translates to a lot of work for the shelter’s employees and a lot of new residents at the shelter.

Volunteers are encouraged to go and help out by working with cats that may be wary of people, cleaning up the facilities, giving tours to families, and serving as adoption ambassadors when the shelter is open to the public.

The shelter logged about 8,000 volunteer hours in 2013, by about 100 volunteers. The shelter has no age limit on volunteers, either; families can come in, children and all, to work with the cats.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.


Adam Virnelson

Abby and Grady stand in the outdoor feral cat enclosure at the Gifford Cat Shelter. About a dozen feral cats, most of which will probably never be adopted, live in the enclosure. A cat that spends more than about six months on the streets will likely avoid human contact for the rest of their lives. These cats are largely left to their own devices, though they are spayed and neutered.

New Balance reopens Factory Store in Brighton

March 26, 2014 01:52 PM

New Balance_Factory store_0053.JPG

(Nathan Fried-Lipski)

From left to right: Dan Craig, NB Retail General Manager; State Representative Kevin Honan; Jessica Nickerson (with scissors), store manager; Jay Rowe, NB Retail District Manager; Stephanie Smith, VP of Retail at New Balance.

The following is a press release from New Balance:

Boston-based New Balance is pleased to announce the re-opening of its Brighton Factory Store at 217 North Beacon Street in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.

The 26,000 square foot store offers a comprehensive line of New Balance performance footwear and apparel specifically designed for athletic activities such as running, walking, tennis and training as well as casual use. The store features styles for men, women and kids available in widths ranging from 2A to 6E, as well as New Balance athletic accessories.

Other New Balance family brands such as Aravon, Dunham and PF Flyers will also be available at the store. For the first time at a company factory outlet, there will be a dedicated retail space for the company’s Warrior brand and its lacrosse and hockey footwear, apparel and accessories.


Early morning workers, residents enjoy Twin Donuts in Allston

March 3, 2014 03:07 PM


Adam Virnelson

Sou Pang has owned Twin Donuts in Allston since 2001, and she and her children also own the Brighton Café in Brighton and Café Mirror in Allston.

In the center of Union Square in Allston sits a small, unassuming building with a name, Twin Donuts, spelled out in battered red letters. The building doesn’t appear to have changed much since it opened in the fifties, but today it is known for its cheap, delicious donuts and old-school diner feel.

Owned by Sou Pang, a Cambodian woman who bought the business with her late husband, Leang Sin Taing, in 2001, Twin Donuts is a quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast pastry or sandwich on a cold morning. The business opens its doors at 4 a.m., making it a beacon for workers whose shifts extend into the wee hours of the morning.

“Dunkin’ is good, but I like to support local businesses,” said Chris Love, a driver with Veterans Taxi who stops in at Twin Donuts when work has him out before dawn. “And the coffee’s pretty good,” he added.

John Shafranski, an employee at Spike’s Junkyard Dogs, works until 2 a.m. then waits for Twin Donuts to open. He comes in at least three times a week for a breakfast sandwich — sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin — and some donuts, a habit he’s maintained for about ten years.

“I go home, hang out for a while, come here, and fall asleep with a donut on my chest,” said Shafranski.

Part of what makes the shop’s popularity so surprising is the presence of a 24-hour combination Dunkin’ Donuts and Tedeschi Food Shop that opened next door about five years ago. Still, Twin Donuts manages to draw a crowd of regulars who eschew the nearby chain options in favor of the Allston landmark.

The restaurant’s success is a big win for Leang Sin Taing, who had long dreamt of owning his own donut shop. Twenty years ago Taing went to California to learn the business of donut baking from relatives; there are many Cambodian-owned donut shops in the Golden State. He came back ready to open his own store.

Taing had worked in the Boston Scientific factory in Watertown for many years before opening a Cambodian restaurant with a relative in Lowell. He eventually convinced his wife to invest in purchasing Twin Donuts in 2001. Taing passed away in 2002.

Today his family owns two other cafés in the neighborhood: the Brighton Café in Brighton and Café Mirror in Allston. Business is good, says Taing’s daughter Catherine, who helps manage the cafés along with her who brothers, Wayne and Woo.

“If you want your donuts, come in at 4, because right now we don’t have many left,” she said at 9:30 one morning. The business bakes its goods nightly, but the small kitchen prevents workers from baking donuts and preparing other breakfast foods simultaneously during business hours — the result is a limit to the number of donuts stocked each day.

For now, though, there’s no need to worry about missing out. The family has no plans to sell the store anytime soon. It’s easy to maintain, says Taing, and while she has seen businesses come and go in Union Square, Twin Donuts will be staying put.


Adam Virnelson

The façade of Allston landmark Twin Donuts hasn’t changed much since it opened in the 1950s.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

Harvard dedicates new ceramics studio in Allston

February 28, 2014 01:33 PM


(Rose Lincoln / Harvard Staff Photographer)

The following is a report originally published by Harvard University's official newspaper the Harvard Gazette, a publication of the university's Public Affairs & Communications office.

The Office for the Arts’ 15,010-square-foot ceramics studio was dedicated on Wednesday, with Harvard President Drew Faust addressing a large crowd at the Allston facility.

“This new home for the ceramics program provides cross-University learning and teaching opportunities open to all, including the Allston and Cambridge communities,” Faust told the crowd in the gallery at 224 Western Ave. “It is truly a place of discovery and creativity.”

The space offers classrooms for wheel-thrown, hand-built, and sculptural ceramics, as well as clay and glaze chemistry labs, plaster and mold-making design areas, and a large kiln room with gas reduction, soda, electric, and raku- and saggar-firing options.

“This is an extraordinary time for Harvard arts under the leadership of President Faust,” said Office for the Arts Director Jack Megan when the studio first opened its doors last fall. “This new, state-of-the-art studio is a signifier of her commitment and the University’s commitment to fostering arts practice. The Office for the Arts’ ceramics program has long been a creative intersection for Harvard students, faculty, administrators, and the community from across Greater Boston. This studio will enhance that connectedness and enrich the lives of artists and scholars for many years to come.”

The facility, designed by Cambridge-based Galante Architecture Studio, boasts a public gallery fronting the street. Click here to view a photo slideshow of the studio.

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For college students caught partying, a punishment that stays off the books

February 28, 2014 11:36 AM

community service 1.JPG

Jasper Craven

Community service equipment stored in the basement of the D-14 police barracks

On a recent Saturday morning in Brighton, Boston Police Officer Jerry Ajemian drove his cruiser down a quiet Gerald Road, pointing at houses that have hosted some of the city’s loudest college parties. On this street — a half-mile from Boston College — only a handful of addresses was spared from his problem list.

“If there are 100 kids we are going to write up the owners and the tenants,” Ajemian said, explaining how officers react when they encounter noisy gatherings. “But if there are 13 or 14 kids and the music is a little loud, we will just say. ‘Hey guys, please turn it down.’ ”

But, Ajemian added, “If we have to come back there are going to be problems.”

The consequences students face when charged with throwing raucous parties in Boston include fines, community service hours, and the establishment of a criminal record.

Students can even be arrested under the Massachusetts General Laws as a “keeper a disorderly house”— the most common charge filed for house parties. That's what happened to four Boston University students, who landed in jail recently after allegedly hosting a loud, large party in Allston. A judge revoked their bail for violating their probation from an earlier party.

Party charges remain on record even if they are dismissed in court. And with criminal background checks now commonplace for most prospective employees, Ajemian said these charges could haunt students once they graduate.

“Even if they are dismissed, if I’m an employer I’m going to wonder if I should take a chance on this kid,” Ajemian said. “How serious did he take school if he went before a judge for partying too much?”


Boston Main Streets Foundation names recipients of Innovation and Impact Grants

February 28, 2014 11:21 AM

The Boston Main Streets Foundation recently named the recipients of its Innovation and Impact Grants.

The grants, which will support initiatives in seven Main Streets Districts, reflect the Boston Main Streets Foundation’s push for more direct funding of proposals that seek to stimulate growth and participation in Boston’s commercial districts, according to a statement from the organization.

“We’re funding a range of innovative projects through this initiative with the Boston Main Streets Foundation,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “This is a public-private partnership that really works; our Main Streets districts can enhance what makes them unique and support their business owners.”

Partially funded through federal dollars administered by the city of Boston, Main Street groups work to revitalize commercial districts in Boston’s neighborhoods. Founded in 1995, there are currently 20 Main Street Districts city-wide.

Ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, the grants support a variety of new programs and initiatives including cellphone apps, street pole banners, and farmers’ markets.

“These grants can have a profound impact,” Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, said in a statement. “Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a graduation of an ESL Business English Class that was funded in the first round. Business owners from Hyde Jackson and Egleston Square Main Streets collaborated to make their idea a reality, partnering with their local YMCA. It was a wonderful proposal, and one I’m sure will have far-reaching effects.”

The Mattapan Square Main Streets, the city’s newest Main Street organization, received $3,000 to support a series of local business fairs dubbed “Think Big!” The program aims to provide business owners with the tools and know-how to expand their reach.

The Roslindale Village Main Streets, the city’s oldest Main Street District, received $5,000 to develop an app that encourages and rewards customers for shopping local.

The Allston Village Main Streets received $5,000 to support the completion of a mural.

The Greater Grove Hall Main Streets, which recently named a new executive director, received $5,000 to develop a logo and banners to help brand the shopping district that straddles the Roxbury/Dorchester border.

The Uphams Corner Main Street received $5,000 for planters that will be painted by local artists and adopted by local businesses, to help support the neighborhood’s push for more green space and public art.

The Hyde Park Main Streets received $5,000 for banners and branding and the West Roxbury Main Streets received $4,600 to expand its farmers’ market.

“We sincerely congratulate these winners for their thoughtful proposals, and the hard work that they’re doing every day to improve their local Boston Main Streets District,” Joel Sklar, president of the Boston Main Streets Foundation, said in a statement. “I know that I speak for the rest of the Board when I say that I’m looking forward to seeing these innovative and impactful proposals become reality to the benefit of Boston's small businesses and neighborhoods.”


Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Allston, Brighton resident parking permits to expire March 31, city says

February 27, 2014 01:21 PM

The following is press release from the City of Boston's transportation department:

The Boston Transportation Department is reminding drivers that city-issued resident parking permits for Allston and Brighton will expire on Monday, March 31.

Notices have been sent to permit holders advising them of the process for renewing their permits by mail, on-line, or in person at City Hall. To further ensure the convenience of the resident parking permit process, residents may also renew an existing permit, or apply for a new permit, at Boston’s “City Hall to Go” truck, which will be stationed in the neighborhood each week during the month of March.

The City Hall to Go truck’s upcoming schedule is as follows.

Tuesday, March 4 at 300 N Harvard Street from 12:30 to 2:30 PM
Saturday, March 15 at 1229 Commonwealth Ave. from 4:00 to 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 29 at 60 Washington St. from 12:30 to 2:30 PM

Tuesday, March 4 at 40 Academy Hill Rd. from 4 to 7 PM
Saturday, March 15 at 615 Washington Street from 12:30 to 2:30 PM
Saturday, March 29 at the 1937 Beacon Street from 4 to 7 PM

To renew a resident parking permit at the truck, residents must make available their current permit number, the license plate number, and the make of their vehicle. If renewing for a leased vehicle or company car, the current Massachusetts motor vehicle registration, indicating that the vehicle is principally garaged in Boston, must also be provided. To request a new permit, the resident must present a completed City of Boston resident parking permit application, the vehicle’s Massachusetts motor vehicle registration, and current proof of residency in the form of a major credit card bill, utility bill, or monthly bank statement with the same name and address as on the vehicle registration.

In addition, to both renew and apply for a new resident parking permit, residents must first pay any overdue City of Boston parking violations. Payments may be made by telephone with MasterCard or Visa by dialing (617)-635-3888; via the web at; or in person at the Office of the Parking Clerk, Room 224, Boston City Hall.

Vehicles displaying a resident parking permits are allowed to park in spaces designated “Resident Permit Parking Only.” Vehicles parked in violation of the resident parking regulations are subject to a $40 fine.

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MBTA to open rebuilt Yawkey Station in March, boosting service on Framingham-Worcester rail line

February 26, 2014 12:36 PM

Yawkey Rendering.JPG


A rendering of the soon-to-open rebuilt Yawkey Station.

The MBTA plans to open the rebuilt Yawkey commuter rail station in Boston next month, clearing the way for the transit agency to boost service across the entire Framingham-Worcester line, officials announced Wednesday.

The station is set to open and a new schedule for the commuter rail line is set be implemented on March 10, T general manager Beverly Scott announced.

“I would like to thank everyone for their patience,” she said in a statement. “We’re very excited about launching this new era in the continuing process of improving the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.”

Completion of the $14.9-million Yawkey Station overhaul was delayed by about two months while the contractor worked to address accessibility-related issues, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

That delay forced the T to hold back on implementing increased service across the Framingham-Worcester line. The Yawkey project includes constructing a second track allowing more trains to move through.

The new schedule will bring the total number of weekday round trips on the Framingham-Worcester line to 24, up from 22 roundtrips currently. The revised schedule also allows trains to stop at more stations while making those trips.

The line only offered 10 weekday roundtrips just before the state struck a deal in 2009 to buy a 21-mile stretch of the line’s tracks for $50 million from railroad company CSX Corp.

Since then, the T has incrementally increased train trips and stops, while improving other aspects of passenger service on the line that was once among the least reliable in the agency’s commuter rail network.

The rebuilt Yawkey Station, located steps from Fenway Park, features a pair of 700-foot-long train platforms that are fully accessible to people with disabilities, four new elevators and stairs, track realignments, an open mezzanine and a new main station lobby, or head house, at Yawkey Way.

More changes to the station are planned to be made if and when the long-delayed, yet-to-break ground massive Fenway Center mixed-use development is built around the station.

Those future improvements include building new entrance shelters on Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street and extending Yawkey Way so MASCO shuttle buses, which serve the Longwood Medical Area, can pull up to the station.

When a parking garage for the Fenway Center development is built, solar panels installed atop the garage will power Yawkey Station, which will make it the first “net-zero energy” rail station in Massachusetts, officials have said.

During the recent construction project, the station remained in use. Riders would use one side of the platform while work would take place on the opposite side, officials said.

State officials held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project in the fall of 2010, but the actual work did not start until June 2012, about when officials had originally hoped to finish construction.

The project’s start was delayed because the state needed to wait until the track purchase deal with CSX was complete.

The project was paid for by the state, including through the use of federal stimulus funding, officials.

The developer of Fenway Center, Meredith Management Corp., has agreed to maintain the station’s entrances and elevators after the project is complete.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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Sculpture to be installed outside Brighton branch library

February 20, 2014 02:11 PM

A new sculpture will soon be installed outside the Brighton branch of the Boston Public Library.

The artwork called “Wings of the Imagination” by Richard G. Duca will be comprised of three large winged chairs facing each other, making it interactive, according to an announcement about the plan.

“People are invited to sit down and relax, to read books, converse, or to simply contemplate,” the announcement said. “The sculptures are grouped together around a granite walkway that is engraved for posterity with grand ideas and concepts carried down from antiquity by librarians, generating curiosity and stimulating minds.”

The sculpture will sit outside the library’s Academy Hill entrance.

“The nature of the design will bring people together, facing each other and the big ideas, conceptions, impressions, hypotheses and theories of the ages,” the announcement added. “Overlooking the entrance to Brighton Center, the sculpture will also serve educators as a gathering place on the lawn for engaging both children and adults.”

The project is being funded by the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund, the Henderson Foundation Fund, the Patricia Gordon Estate and the Friends of the Brighton Branch Library.

The effort is being led collaboratively by the Friends of the Brighton Branch Library, the Boston Public Library and the Boston Art Commission.

Once the sculpture is installed, officials will announce a date for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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