Comfort Food: The Next Generation

By Jane Black | Boston Magazine |

History repeats itself. So it wouldn’t be too surprising if, during another cold and snowy winter 20 years from now, some (equally) savvy food editor decided to fill the pages of this magazine with alluring photographs of comfort food. But instead of pot roast, you’d find balsamic-braised short ribs, while pillowy potato gnocchi will have edged out old-fashioned spaghetti Bolognese.

“Impossible!” you seethe. But is it? On the most bitter winter night, I’m just as likely to crave sushi as grilled cheese. And though the creamy, childhood dishes of 20th-century America still bring me comfort, European regional specialties and the pungent flavors of India and Asia are mounting a stiff challenge. For a guaranteed chill-beater, sit at Masāla Art’s Spice Bar, where the murg tak-a-tak —a spicy yet soothing chicken curry bathed in a blend of puréed cashews, ginger, and garlic—warms the soul on the $45 prix fixe menu. And forget chicken soup: I’ll take the Elephant Walk’s s’gnao mouan ($7.50), a zesty blend of chicken, lime juice, lemongrass, and Asian basil, or pho ($6.50), a steaming, slurpable bowl of broth, noodles, and bite-size meatballs, from Chinatown hideaway Pho’ Hōa. For soft and creamy, the cozy North End kitchen Sage offers a tantalizing prune gnocchi ($19) in a hearty porcini mushroom sauce.

The kids? They’ll just have a spicy tuna roll. / Masāla Art, 990 Great Plain Ave., Needham, 781-449-4050 / the Elephant Walk, 900 Beacon St., Boston, 617-247-1500; 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-6900; and 663 Main St., Waltham, 781-899-2244 / Pho’ Hōa, 17 Beach St., Boston, 617-423-3934 / Sage, 69 Prince St., Boston, 617-248-8814.

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