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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.

Centuries-old milestones from Boston’s history still stand

May 1, 2014 12:01 PM


A map drawn in 1936 by the National Park Service shows the locations of milestones erected between 1729 and 1823 in and around Boston.

Facing northwest on the corner of Roxbury and Centre Streets in Roxbury, a peculiar stone reading “The Parting Stone 1744 P DUDLE” on its front side sticks out of a cement sidewalk.

Marked with black graffiti, the Parting Stone is different from all the other milestones around Boston because it marks an important crossroad: During Colonial times, the only way to travel into Boston was through Dudley Square.

The two routes the Parting Stone indicates go separate ways — down the hill leads to Cambridge and up the hill leads to Providence, RI.

“I think today it is sort of a neat aspect of the city that you still see there. It reminds you of old times gone by,” said Charles Bahne, a freelance author and historian.

Milestones were made to help stagecoach travelers and mail deliveries in the early days to determine their location and to adjust the rate of their speed they needed to stick to their schedule.

Paul Dudley, Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Boston, erected a series of granite milestones showing the distance from the Old Town House, known today as the Old State House, starting in 1729.

Dudley followed two major westerly routes. One follows Centre Street from Dudley Square in Roxbury down through Jamaica Plain and out to Dedham. The other swings through Brookline, Brighton and out to Cambridge.

A modern day re-enactment of the ride of William Dawes, a fellow rider with Paul Revere, follows the Cambridge route every Patriots Day on horseback starting at the Parting Stone.

Milestones can be found in Dorchester out to Quincy and along major routes between Boston and New York City.

“I’m less interested in the exact mileage than the fact that they are still there and they still indicate the growth of the city and its land transportation,” said Richard Heath, a volunteer archivist at the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. “It’s just something that is part of history now.”

On Harvard Avenue in Allston, a 285-year-old milestone was severed in half in May of 2012. The stone was glued back together and for weeks was surrounded by a fence. The milestone gets a lot of scratches because it is located right next to a parking meter.

Bahne inspected the milestones on this route as he watched the odometer in his car and determined that all of the milestones are at the proper distance. Bahne also said that a few of the stones were lost and re-found, including the stone in Allston and one in Brookline that was found about a hundred years ago.

One of the Brookline milestones was stolen in 1973 from its original location, which is across the street from its current location in front of the United Parish Brookline, once known as the Harvard Congregational Church, at the corner of Harvard and Marion streets near Coolidge Corner.

“It’s a little hard to know how accurate all the stories are, but one thing that I read is that stone at one point was incorporated into a house in Coolidge Corner,” said Ken Liss, president of the Brookline Historical Society. “It was 1825 and the stone was actually used as a door-step and was placed down, and when repairs were done to the house it was found and it was put back in its original location.”

No two stones are alike. Each stone was hand-picked and chiseled. John Goff, a historian and architect, said that carving stones is a huge ordeal and that one wrong move can cause the entire stone to crack.

“That’s probably why you get all of these funky descriptions,” Goff said.

The stone carvers had to figure out where to place the numbers and symbols that indicated B is for Boston, the amount of miles and the year it was made. Many of the milestones also had initials placed by the stone carver or the person who paid for it.

“They just serve today as a reminder of an olden time,” said Liss. “It is nice to have them there as markers, not necessarily so much of distance, but as markers of time.”

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

Not everyone impressed by Jamaica Plain resident’s front lawn art display

April 2, 2014 05:02 PM


Beth Treffeisen

Jonathan Handy of Amory Street in Jamaica Plain uses his front lawn to display art he creates from trash he finds on his morning dog walks.

Smiley-faced planks scatter the front lawn as a mannequin stares down at passers-by from the front window. Various put-together objects line the trees and are placed on top of trash cans.

Jonathan Handy, a systems analyst for the City of Boston, makes a hobby out of turning found trash and stickers in to art, which he displays outside his house at 225 Amory St.
“He’s one-of-kind and it’s an eye-opener,” said Ronald Yee, who frequently visits Handy’s neighbor Suemay Tam. “It looks good if you take a closer look.”

Hardy’s front-yard art project evolves throughout the year as things go missing after a few days and the weather changes.

“I feel absolutely no regrets when things disappear because that means I can put more stuff out,” Handy said.

The artwork on Handy’s front lawn draws the attention of passers-by on their way to the Samuel Adams Brewery. It has also caught the attention of city inspectors, who have ticketed him in the past because much of the artwork borders the sidewalk.

“I have taken tickets from the City of Boston because they thought it was mine,” said Suemay Tam, his neighbor. She said she mails them back, explaining that the artwork is not in her yard.

Tam said she doesn’t have a problem with Hardy’s art — which others see an eyesore — because she doesn’t really notice it anymore when she goes to and from her house.

In the past, an neighbor of Handy brought this issue to the city’s Inspectional Services Department and Handy had to go to court. Handy said that the attorney from ISD accepted that he had a constitutional right to display art on his own property, and Handy said he was able to get the complaint dismissed.

Handy started his artwork gradually and placed it outside as a way for people to view it.

He doesn’t expect to make money or a career out of it but enjoys doing it in his spare time.

Every morning he takes his dog Buddy on a walk and picks up trash, which he brings home and rearranges. He said he gets his inspiration from all the trash he thinks should serve some purpose.

Lately his work has become more primitive and child like.

“I like to think that 8-year-olds would relate to it better than adults,” said Handy.

Handy also gathers inspiration from the sculptures located at the nearby Stonybrook Fine Arts Center.

“I think I started before they did, so I like to think that I inspired them,” said Handy.

His past work includes printed out pictures of local houses that he would put up on the wall and later a collection of 28 old non-working TV sets that he put up in a pyramid shape with a large drawn-on smiley face. Many of the TV sets are no longer there because people would take the valuable parts.

“Thank goodness he got rid of those dangerous TVs,” said Yee. “But the rest is safe.”

Tam said that many of her friends said that Hardy should get his own gallery, but she thinks it’s just his way of expressing himself.

Yee said, “So many people walk by. Everybody notices and they think ‘Hey that’s funny looking’.”

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

“Programs at an Exhibition” opens at Boston Cyberarts Gallery

March 3, 2014 01:54 PM
George Fifield, director of the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, with one of the Commodore computers used in the new show “Programs at an Exhibition,” which opens Thursday, March 6. Artists Nick Montfort and Páll Thayer use computer code from the 1970s and 1980s to represent iconic works of 20th century artists.

Beth Treffeisen

Artists Nick Montfort and Páll Thayer use computer code and computation as their medium to represent the works of 20th century painters and visual artists in the new show opening Thursday, March 6, at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery located in the Green Street MBTA stop.

Unlike today’s video games artists, this show uses older technology from the 1970s and 1980s — with programs written in Perl and Commodore 64 Basic — to create work that is more abstract. For example, one computer monitor in the show represents Damien Hirst spot paintings by creating a random set of 16 different colored dots that continuously evolve on the screen.

“I think that we are trying to put forth an idea that is more conceptual and also accessible to people,” said Montfort. “One of the things that I’m really interested in, aside from the relation to art, is demystifying programing and computing.”

All of the underlying code is available for gallery visitors to read, take home, type in and run or rework the programs themselves. 

One of the things that differentiate Montfort and Thayer from other code artists is the use of the programming language Perl, which many see as outdated. 

“But what I like about it is that it was created to be a very flexible language and very expressive language,” said Thayer. “That works well for arts, but programmers really don’t like it.” 

The Commodore 64 was one of the first early home computing systems and was typically used for word processing, games, manipulating data for budget plans and to write basic programs. Montfort stated that many people would type in code from a magazine to try them new software. 

By using code that can be typed in 80 characters or fewer in the Commodore 64 Basic programming language, an arbitrary constraint is created that allows Montfort to write a tiny program that takes advantage of what is already built into the computer. 

Montfort, who also works with poetry, is interested in how non-traditional constraints can be used to create art.

“Of course writing a metrical sonnet is a type of constraint. It’s a very traditional one,” said Montfort. “But choosing to write a text using the vowel ‘o’ and no other vowels is a much less usual type of constraint.”  

Both Thayer and Montfort said they hope this exhibition will lead to more discussion on computing in a different way and to engage people with understanding what the code itself means. 

Director George Fifield, who is working on installing the exhibit, talked about the care the two artists put into their code. “One of the things that I really like about this, is that they are riffing off of art history,” said Fifield. “But they’re doing it in a very witty and respectful way.” 
The Boston Cyberarts Gallery is the only New England non-profit gallery dedicated to the use of technology as art. 

It holds about six shows a year and has two other large projects, including the ongoing show “Art on the Marquee,” an 80-foot-tall, three-sided LED marquee, located outside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston, and an exhibition at the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion featuring “Phases” by Sophia Bruckner and Catherine D’Ignazio. 
The opening reception for “Programs at an Exhibition” is scheduled for Thursday, March 6, from 6-9 p.m. The show runs until Sunday, March 16. 

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

Waltham-based soccer club donates soccer balls to youths at JP organization

February 28, 2014 03:40 PM

The Waltham-based Massachusetts chapter of Global Premier Soccer, a youth soccer organization, donated soccer balls to the Italian Home for Children in Jamaica Plain today for the kids to play with on the site's soccer field.

The Italian Home for Children helps children of all nationalities between 4 and 14 years old with emotional and behavioral needs, according to the organization.

The organization was established in 1918 by Franciscan sisters who devoted their lives to raising and teaching thousands of children. As decades passed, the organization shifted its focus as the needs of the children arriving there reflected more complex crises.

"At GPS, we pride ourselves in being part of the local community," said Izabella Miranda, the soccer league's marketing manager. "Our philosophy is focused towards helping with the development of deserving young people and we cannot think of anything that epitomizes this more."

The soccer organization also has an inner-city initiative in Massachusetts, where they provide low-income communities the chance to play soccer.

For more information, visit the soccer organization's official website.

Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownwaltham, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Video Underground shop in Jamaica Plain to close

February 18, 2014 02:24 PM

A Jamaica Plain video rental shop specializing in independent, cult and foreign films will soon close, owners of the business announced on social media this week.

The Video Underground, located at 385 Centre St. opened 12 years ago and has described its DVD and VHS selection as offering "an alternative to the more traditional and mainstream world of Blockbuster-style video store."

Owners announced the impending closed on the shop's Facebook page on Sunday.

"The Video Underground would like to thank all of its patrons over our nearly 12 years in Jamaica Plain for all of their support throughout the years," the message said. "We will closing our doors for good in the near future and will be running a HUGE going out of business sale. Come on by and say hi and check out the savings on tons of rare, foreign, out of print, and music DVDs and videos! Thanks again for all the love."

The announcement was first reported on by Jamaica Plain News.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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Hyde Jackson Square Main Street annual meeting set for Feb. 25

February 10, 2014 12:11 PM

The following is a press release from the Hyde Jackson Square Main Street nonprofit

Hyde Jackson Square Main Street will be holding its annual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Nate Smith House at 155 Lamartine St. in Jamaica Plain.

Breakfast will be provided and attendees will be able to network with staff and members of the board, residents, business owners, and other members of the community.

Hyde Jackson Square Main Street will report to the community about its progress over the last year and its future plans.

The event is free (a small donation is suggested).

RSVP to 617-522-3694 or

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City Councilor Matt O'Malley announces February district office hours

February 10, 2014 12:01 PM

The following is an announcement from District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley:

Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley holds his district office hours at different locations in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury each month.

O’Malley’s February district office hours will be held on:

• Thursday, Feb. 20 from 4 to 5 p.m. at Roche Bros., at 1800 Centre St. in West Roxbury

• Friday, Feb. 28 from 8 to 9 a.m. at J.P. Licks, at 659 Centre St. in Jamaica Plain

O’Malley’s City Hall office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To reach his office call 617-635-4220.

For the latest Jamaica Plain updates:
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And connect via Facebook by clicking the “Like” button on the top right hand corner of the Jamaica Plain homepage, here.
For the latest West Roxbury updates:
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In defense of the Green Line

February 6, 2014 04:43 PM


John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The MBTA announced today that a number of its bus lines will receive a countdown clock system to alert riders to when the next bus on each route will arrive. Last week, the transit system completed its 18-month installation of 314 of these countdown clocks at 53 stations along the Red, Orange, and Blue lines. While by all means good news for the T, the announcement left me and the nearly 220,000 daily riders of the Green Line wondering: What about us?

The Green Line gets a pretty bad--and in my opinion, undeserved --rap.

What other line serves more than 60 stations, covering 12 Boston neighborhoods and parts of Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, and soon Somerville?

What other line touches Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, the Colleges of the Fenway, the Downtown universities, and even (with a 15-minute walk) MIT?

What other line drops you off steps away from Boston's biggest landmarks--Fenway Park, Newbury Street, the Science Museum, to name a few?

Why will it be one of the last lines to get the countdown clocks? The MBTA said it will introduce the technology on the Green Line by the end of this year.

It's time to reclaim the Green Line, Boston's and America's first subway line. Sure, the rides may be bumpy and the trains may be delayed (though that problem's not exclusive to Green Line,) but it excels at taking you where you need to go. What else can we ask of it?

I am a proud Green Line commuter. It's the line that ferried me around the city as a college student. It's the line that still does that today. The Green Line and I may not always get along, but day after day, it keeps showing up, and I keep riding.

Today, we asked you what you love about the Green Line. Here are some of the responses:

Sarcasm aside, the Green Line touches a lot of this city's population. Let's embrace Boston's only streetcar, subway line.

Lastly, as promised on Twitter, a Green Line poem:

O fairest of T lines, you take me away
From Park Street to Lechmere, Riverside to Fenway
In rain, sleet and snow
You still manage to go
Though often you run on substantial delays.

Agree? Disagree? Hate my limerick? Share your comments below, email me at, or tweet @cmcloutier.

MBTA to bring countdown clock system to bus stations

February 6, 2014 11:19 AM



The MBTA plans to soon install countdown clocks at a number of bus stations throughout its system to notify riders when the next bus on each route will leave that station, the agency announced today.

The bus way at Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain will be the first bus location to get the electronic message boards, according to T spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

Signs are also planned in bus ways at Dudley Square and Ruggles stations, she said. Eight other stations have been "tentatively" chosen to receive the signs: Harvard Square; Haymarket, Ashmont; Kenmore; Maverick, Wonderland, Jackson Square, and Central Square.

The signs should be operational by summer, Smith said.

The signs, using real-time bus tracking data, will provide information about when each route serving that station is next expected to depart. The signs will feature both visual and audio messages.

The project is funded through federal stimulus money, and each sign costs about $50,000, a price tag that includes the display, hardware, software, installation, maintenance and a push-button activated sound system so that people with visual impairments can access the information on the sign, she said.

Most stations will have one sign each. Dudley, because of its size, will have two, she said.

"I've often said our buses are the work horses of our system, serving more than 375,000 people on a typical weekday," T general manager Beverly Scott said in a statement. "The countdown signs at our busiest bus stops will provide customers with information that will make their public transit experience easier and more convenient."

Last week, the T completed an 18-month-long project to activate a total of 314 countdown clocks at all 53 subway stations on the Red, Orange and Blue lines, which officials said made the T one of the first transit agencies in the country to equip all heavy rail stations with train-arrival information.

Officials said the signs have been popular and well-received by riders, and since they were introduced in the summer of 2012 the agency said it has made regular improvements based on rider feedback, including making the signs more accurate and easier to see.

The T said it expects to introduce the countdown clock system to the Green Line by the end of this year. The light rail line is undergoing work to upgrade its less-sophisticated train tracking system with GPS and sensor technology to allow for countdown clock capability.

The agency has also said technology upgrades on the Green Line will allow smartphone-carrying riders to be able to track in real-time the whereabouts and expected arrival of the line's trains by 2015.

Trains on the Red, Orange and Blue have been tracked by mobile applications since the fall of 2010, when the agency made real-time train location data on those lines available to private software developers, who have created numerous smartphone applications. The T made real-time data on bus locations available to software developers in fall of 2009.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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