Burying the Hatchet Job, Part II

On the Boston food scene before Todd English…

AMY TRAVERSO: Let’s start by going back to before Olives opened. What do you two remember?

ALAN RICHMAN: I had already left Boston in ’89 [when Olives opened]. I had lived in Boston twice and worked for the Globe twice, once as a sportswriter. When I was there, John Y. Brown owned the Celtics and he was the guy who owned Kentucky Fried Chicken. You think it’s hard to get you on the phone, Todd, try getting Colonel Sanders on the phone.

TODD ENGLISH: There really was a Colonel Sanders?

RICHMAN: There really was a Colonel Sanders. This is one of the great tragedies of my life. I had left a call for him because I wanted to talk about John Y. Brown and he called me back and I wasn’t there and that was my chance. I missed talking to Colonel Sanders by thismuch. Now there was a celebrity chef!

ENGLISH: I was going to say…

RICHMAN: By the way, there was a Chef Boyardee.

ENGLISH: I still claim he’s the smartest guy ever because he put ravioli in a can and made zillions. His grandchildren’s grandchildren are still living off those.

TRAVERSO: So you have some memory of Boston before Olives, before Michela’s.

RICHMAN: Culinarily, Boston before Todd—and, believe me, there will be plenty of time in this interview when I’ll give him no credit whatsoever…

ENGLISH: Really, and deservedly so.

RICHMAN: …but Boston before Todd was really just a terrible place to eat. There was no imagination. I mean, my favorite restaurant for years—and I liked it for odd reasons, of course I was the only person who liked it—was Anthony’s Pier 4 because it had a phenomenal wine list. It was at a time the greatest wine list in America. It had no mistakes on it and it was cheap. I used to eat at Anthony’s Pier 4. And it’s not like I was giving up anything to eat at Anthony’s Pier 4.

ENGLISH: If they happened to cook the lobster right, it was good. And the popovers were good.

Oh, they were beyond belief. It was the ladies in these little Colonial outfits with these little Betsy Ross hats…maybe I’m remembering wrong.

You’re exactly right.

RICHMAN: They had ice-cold butter in little foil packs and I’d prepare for it by unwrapping five or six butters so they’d be warm. And the minute the popover would hit the table you’d break it open and throw in the butter.

ENGLISH: The steam would come out of the popover. And you’d smush it down and eat it with a glass of Puligny-Montrachet.

RICHMAN: And the Puligny-Montrachet cost 30 bucks.

I went there a few months ago to see if there were any remnants of anything on the wine list. It’s gone.

RICHMAN: Yeah, that was a long time ago.