Tag Archives: newton

On Sunday, Kennedy Addresses Newton Town Hall

Residents of Newton, and surrounding communities, nearly packed the theatre at Newton North High School on Sunday afternoon to its 600-person capacity for a town hall meeting with Representative Joe Kennedy III. The third-term Congressman from Massachusetts’ fourth district is embarking on “Tour 34,” an effort to hold constituent office hours or town hall meetings in the 34 cities and towns that he represents each year in the House. In the meeting, Kennedy spent two hours answering questions and addressing concerns about topics ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency, the ethics of President Donald Trump’s administration, and immigration.

Kennedy began by speaking briefly about healthcare and Russia, two issues that have consumed the current news cycle and driven discussion in Washington since President Trump took office.

His takeaway from the recent health care debacle—in which Trump and the Congressional GOP attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—is that the voice of the people is often underestimated. Kennedy highlighted the important role played by citizens who called their representatives to voice opposition to the bill.

“For anyone who doubts whether that matters,” Kennedy said, “I point to [that] Friday and say it does.”

On Russia, the congressman took a more serious tone, stating that the recent events involving Representative Devin Nunes and the investigation into the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia have “cast a shadow on the House and its ability to do anything effectively” and that Nunes played “indirectly or by design right into Russia’s hands.”  

He also voiced his belief that the events that have transpired are a detriment to not only the GOP, but the Democrats as well, impacting the credibility and authority of anyone working in the Capitol. The hope for a good and thorough investigation, Kennedy said, now rests with the Senate.

In his answers to constituent questions, Kennedy joked about comments that the president has made, like the infamous “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” and expressed mock disbelief that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still existed when he was asked about the drastic cuts the new administration has made to the agency. His levity landed well with a crowd that appeared very supportive of its congressional representative, unlike many of his counterparts who have held town halls in other states and been met with open hostility.

Following a question from the audience, Kennedy also spoke on the EPA regarding the cuts that the Trump administration made to the agency. Attempting to quell worries that the cuts will set the country and the world on a path for destruction, he explained how budget negotiations could offset the cuts and that no one was entirely against clean air and water—painting a more hopeful picture.

Many questions centered around the ethics and potential impeachment of Trump. With regard to ethics issues, Kennedy spoke mostly in generalizations, explaining that the Ethics Committee deals mostly with Congress, and the Oversight Committee deals with the Executive Branch. Kennedy explained that the Emoluments Clause is where the president, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner could run into the most issues. The clause, which prevents gift giving and profiting within the government, has a foriegn application as well as a lesser-known domestic one, which Kennedy believes could trip up the Trumps and Kushner during their time in the White House.

Asked if he would support a move for impeachment, Kennedy spoke again in hypotheticals, stressing the need for integrity in the process. He explained that the early removal of a President of the United States is not a matter to be taken lightly. Impeaching the president on unfounded grounds could set a bad precedent, and taint one of the gravest responsibilities with which the House is charged.  

When questioning moved to immigration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, Kennedy commended Newton for its efforts in that area, referencing the passing of the Sanctuary City ordinance. Kennedy himself, who is descended from Irish immigrants, expanded on his backstory, saying that while his Irish ancestors faced persecution after arriving and settling in the United States, they were never told that they were entirely unwelcome. Now immigrants are being told through the actions of the law enforcement that they are unwanted before they even come. After drawing the meeting to a close, Kennedy left Newtonians with words pushing citizens to look toward the future.

“The federal government isn’t going to be standing up like it has in the past, communities are going to have to,” Kennedy said.

Featured Image by MaryElizabeth Mooney / Heights Staff

Rezoning Project Sparks Debate in City Council

At Monday night’s Newton City Council meeting, the debate centered around potentially rezoning the construction site on the corner of Walnut Street and Washington Place from a Business Zone to a Mixed Use-4 Zone (MU-4). A special permit and site plan approval were also discussed, so that a mixed-use development could be constructed.

The development would be larger than 20,000 square feet and would be made up of three interconnected buildings, including 160 total residential units, 5,000 square feet of commercial space, and 2,000 square feet of community space.

Four aspects of this building plan have generated the most controversy: the height of the building, the number of units, the mix of affordable with middle-income units, and the concerns of neighbors over shadows that the tall building will cast. Rezoning this building site will require 18 affirmative votes, two more than the usual two-thirds majority needed.

This rezoning will allow for the new proposed height of four to five stories, and a greater number of residential units. The MU-4 Zone was created in 2012, and was made to promote a lively pedestrian environment, as well as a space for businesses that serve the community.

The greatest concern of citizens attending this meeting was that rezoning this area would set a precedent for tall buildings to be constructed in Newton. A spokesperson for the Land Use Committee argued that this zone change would not set a precedent, emphasizing that the City Council still has to approve each new building constructed in Newton.

Supporters of the project and its rezoning noted that the construction of residential units would create more affordable housing in Newton for middle- and low-income individuals. Affordable housing would allow for a mix of people of various incomes the opportunity to live in Newton, creating the potential for upward mobility.

“This project promotes upward mobility in a way that no other project in Newton does, given that if you are a resident in an inclusionary unit and your income rises, there is the potential to move into a unit reserved for middle-income earners,” the spokeswoman for the Land Use Committee said.

The City Council listened, recognizing the important effect that increasing affordable housing could have in an affluent area like Newton.  

“Greater Boston does not have enough housing,” Councilor Jacob Auchincloss said. “If we want housing in Greater Boston to be less expensive, we need to build more housing.”

But Marc C. Lavardo, who was presiding over the meeting, argued that this project promotes a trade-off, as there would also be residential units for middle-income earners. He argued that by making more middle-income housing, there is less low-income housing space available.

Not everybody was impressed with the Land Use Committee’s presentation. Councilor Emily Norton noted that the presentation’s emphasis on the $200,000 net fiscal benefit that the project would provide Newton with was irrelevant, as the annual budget of the city is $447 million—the $200,000 net fiscal benefit of the project would hardly make a difference. Councilor Leonard Gentile also voiced his opinion.

“I can remember the days when the Planning Department was actually an impartial body,” Gentile said. “Over the years, the Planning Department has shifted to the point where they are trying to drive policy, that in my opinion, is supposed to be decided by the elected officials here in the City of Newton.”

Viewing the presentation as nothing more than a commercial, Gentile said “If I was a resident of Newtonville, particularly if I was one who was really impacted by this, I would be sitting [here,] and I would be furious.”

There were certainly a high number of critics of the project, but the project’s benefit to low-income individuals was noted by its supporters.

“The high price of housing is burdensome,” the spokeswoman for the Land Use Committee stated. Councilor Marc Laredo said that this project opens up a very important and very difficult public policy debate. “The breakdown of the building is going to be the difference for this project,” he said.

Councilor Ruthanne Fuller agreed. “We need this permanent affordable housing, [but] I am open to the discussion about whether it should be 20 or 25 percent low income,” she said.

While most of the citizens present were decidedly against the project, the meeting adjourned with councilors on both sides of the issue, and without a definitive decision made. Laredo noted the importance of having a careful discussion of this issue.

“We owe it to the citizens of Newton to explain why we’re for or against something,” he said.

Featured Image by Molly Duggan / Heights Staff

Newton Passes Sanctuary City Ordinance

Residents packed the doors leading into Newton City Hall prior to the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Throngs of people lined the steps and sidewalks, including members of the Jewish Labor Committee and former Newton Mayor David B. Cohen. Some wrapped themselves in Pride flags, with “PEACE” stamped across the rainbow banners. Others held signs, in both English and Spanish, declaring “We are All Immigrants,” “Newton Welcomes Immigrants,” “Welcoming city = safety for everyone,” and “Immigrants are what make America great.”

When the doors finally opened about 15 minutes before the start of the meeting, in flooded Newton citizens. People filled each seat, lining each side of the room—the Council room was so overflowed, the balcony became packed to the brim.

The crowd came out in support of an amendment to Newton’s Welcoming City Ordinance. The Welcoming City Ordinance makes Newton a sanctuary city, protecting unauthorized immigrants from arrest and deportation by the federal government. Many cities across the country have passed similar ordinances in reaction to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration. As addressed in an preliminary meeting regarding the ordinance earlier in the month, councillors stressed that ordinance will not make Newton less safe, as cities like Cambridge and Boston have had similar ordinances in place for years, and remain as safe as they were before. The amendment to the Welcoming City Ordinance was successful, as 16 of the 24 councilors voted “yea”—one voted against, and the other seven were absent—garnering a standing ovation from the crowd. 

According to the reports docket for this meeting, the goal of this amendment to the Welcoming City Ordinance is reaffirming Newton’s commitment to fair treatment for all, and to codify current community policing practices. The docket stressed that one of the city’s most important objectives is to “enhance relationships with all residents and make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of their immigration status.”

Another goal of the amendment is to ensure that “no city official will request or seek information regarding a person’s immigration status,” and that “no city official will report to, respond to or cooperate with Immigration Customs Enforcement with regard to status of any persons who has contact with a city official or employee except in the case where that person has been convicted of a felony, is on a terrorist watch list, poses a serious substantive threat to public safety, or is compelled to by operation of law except as required by law.”

After a brief recess, Mayor Setti Warren presented his State of the City address. He started off his address by giving thanks to the City Council, activists, and community members who came to codify the ordinance. His view is that this ordinance has promoted what Newton has been doing and practicing for many years, and that it will continue to keep everyone safe. Warren explained that ordinance has “the right outcome for everyone in the city,” and it represents “people, resonance,” and “[people] coming together with [their] legislative body.” He recognized that we’re in a “complicated environment” and that it takes “patience and understanding” to make decisions for the city of Newton.

Another point Warren emphasized in his address was the Newton solar array project. Newton will be installing solar panels, and the city will divert energy savings made through the use of panels to low-income residents, as the residents will receive a discount on their energy bills.

Newton’s carbon footprint has been cut in half since he has taken office. Warren noted that the income gap in Newton is growing, and this initiative would help take some of the stress off low-income residents.

Climate change is a threat to all, and we can play a significant role in the environment while saving taxpayer money,” Warren said.

An earlier version of this article stated that the vote was 17-0 with seven absences. The actual vote was 16-1. The article has been changed to reflect this error.

Featured Image by Molly Duggan/ Heights Staff

Cafe Breaks Grounds With Vegetarian Treats

One of the newest food crazes that has grabbed the nation by storm is the juice bar, and for those living in and around Newton Highlands, the Broken Grounds Café might just fulfill their juice and açaí cravings, while still offering choices for those seeking more variety.

Nestled on the corner of Walnut and Floral Street, a short two-minute walk from the Newton Highlands T stop, the café’s appearance and backstory make its authenticity evident.

Prior to the establishment of Broken Grounds, this same street corner was occupied by another coffee shop that owner Amelia Childs worked in right out of college.

Her love for coffee and cafés kept her there for two years until she moved on to manage other juice bars. But calls from previous customers to let her know that the owners had left the coffee shop rekindled an interest for Childs.

At age 26, she put a bid down in August 2015 for the store and began her journey as a business owner.

After purchasing the space, Childs and her business partner immediately jumped into work.

All the tables and counters were built by Childs’s dad and friends. To add her own mark, Childs built the menu—not just what’s on it, but the physical menu posted behind the counter.

She spent three days nailing the frame together, repainting the board, and tediously, symmetrically writing out all the menu items.

During last Thanksgiving, another 18 hours went into it as Childs rearranged the menu with additions and changes.

She remains an active participant in the day-to-day operations of Broken Grounds, giving customers the same personal connection her family gave when building it.

The entire essence of the café focuses on impressing guests with the availability and accessibility of its healthy options, a core part of Childs’ background.

After becoming a vegan 14 years ago, she was focused on keeping Broken Grounds a meat-free zone.

As Childs created the menu, she wanted to provide customers with appealing vegetarian options, without forcing tofu and fake meat on them.  

Broken Grounds features a wide variety of juices, smoothies, and açaí bowls, as well as heartier dishes such as sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

In addition, local pastries are brought in every morning.

The menu also boasts quite a few coffee options that are all locally sourced from Jim’s Organic Coffee.

All of the menu options align with Childs’ philosophy regarding simple and wholesome food, but it still features enough that regardless of whether you eat meat, you are sure to find something on this menu that will satisfy almost any craving.

“I really do believe that Mother Nature is our best cook and that there is not really a whole lot that we have to do to change the food she provides,” Childs said.

Childs recognizes the Boston College community as a steady part of her patronage, making sure to point out that BC favorites are the “Strawberry Fields” açaí bowl and the breakfast burrito.

To make it more accessible to BC and the community, Broken Grounds now delivers through Foodler, Grubhub, and Doordash.

She believes this will eliminate the extra transportation cost that might inhibit students from making the trek out.

As the café gains increasing popularity in the community, Childs is optimistic about the opening of a second café within the next few years.

Watertown would be an ideal location, she said, so that it would be easy for her to travel back and forth between her two establishments.

And, while simultaneously running her café, Childs launched Manipura Body and Mind this past December—her company through which she sells high-quality vegan products such as body scrubs, balms, creams, etc.

Much like her philosophy about food, her Manipura products are created with wholesome, organic ingredients, and each harbors Reiki energy, which relates to the natural energy of the flow of life.

But for now, Childs’s main focus is her quaint, street-corner café, a place that she can finally call her own.

Featured Image by Simran Brar

Newton Community Presents Opportunity for BC Students

The Newton City Council held a meeting Wednesday night at City Hall to consider making Newton a sanctuary city. A sanctuary city pledges to offer protection to immigrants who might otherwise be deported by the federal government. This was the second meeting that the council had held on the matter, and they voted to bring the proposition to a third meeting before the entire city council in order to vote it into law.

Much of the discussion at the council meeting was centered around self-concern. Multiple council members were initially apprehensive of Newton becoming a sanctuary city due to concerns for the personal safety of themselves and their constituents. A number of Newton residents protested outside of the first meeting to express their disapproval for the legislation. Despite these qualms, the council members acknowledged at the meeting on Wednesday that the second draft of the bill was satisfactory, and each member threw his or her support behind the movement. It was voted unanimously in favor, 6-0.

In the past, The Heights has suggested that students who are participating in on-campus demonstrations and protests within the city of Boston seek to take concrete action regarding the causes they are supporting or speaking out against. The upcoming meeting of the Newton City Council on Feb. 21 represents a tangible step toward protecting immigrants within the local community, a goal for which multiple student groups on campus have expressed support. Attending the next meeting to endorse the measure is one way that BC students can contribute to the protection of immigrants within the community.

While supporting the rights and freedoms of immigrant students on campus is inherently important, it is imperative that students recognize that our campus does not exist inside of a bubble. There are immigrant residents within Newton that could benefit from the support and energy that BC students have shown in recent protests and demonstrations. Many students and faculty speaking at these demonstrations have placed an emphasis on the importance of coming together to combat oppression and discrimination, and one way to achieve this is for BC students to work with Newton. For student activism to have a greater impact, it should be extended beyond the barriers of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

Many of the goals of student groups on campus call directly for changes that can only be made by the University administration—in particular, a recent campus protest called for BC to become a sanctuary campus. It is worth noting that if Newton becomes a sanctuary city, the administration may be more inclined to act on student demands. Therefore, it is essential that those looking to bring change to BC also support activism in the surrounding community and beyond at the national level.

At the meeting, the Newton City Council epitomized American politics when it works. Legislators on the council with different political philosophies and backgrounds worked together to create a piece of legislation that works for everyone, depicting the value of cooperation and collaboration. Newton politicians deserve recognition for coming and working together on this important piece of legislation in this critical time. In this period of uncertainty, it is comforting to know that Newton’s government stands with its immigrant residents and opposes discrimination.

Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor

City Councilors Discuss Newton’s Sanctuary City Status

An unusually large crowd of Newton residents flocked to the Newton City Hall on Wednesday night. Many carried carefully illustrated signs emblazoned with “Immigrants Built This Nation,” or “Love Thy Undocumented Neighbor,” and some were wearing the iconic pink pussy hat or wrapped with brightly colored rainbow flags. Regardless of their appearance, these Newtonians all crowded into a large room on the second floor to attend the second city council meeting discussing the Newton Welcoming City Ordinance—an ongoing discussion that will ultimately cement Newton’s status as a sanctuary city.

Following the election of President Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, cities across the country declared their status as sanctuary cities. Through these proclamations, the cities cement their commitment to protecting their undocumented immigrant populations, promising that immigrants in violation of federal immigration laws will not only avoid prosecution in the city, but also have continued access to city amenities regardless of their status.

In Massachusetts, the cities of Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, Northampton, and Springfield are already considered sanctuary cities, and Salem and Newton are on the brink of joining their ranks. For Newton, which houses part of the Boston College Main Campus as well as the Boston College Law Campus, this issue came to a head on Jan. 18, when Newton city councilors first held a meeting on the proposed Welcoming City Ordinance.

According to The Boston Globe, when Newton city officials first debated the issue in the form of the ‘Welcome City Ordinance’—which was supported by Newton Mayor Setti Warren along with other city councilors—members of the public voiced their disagreement. Citizens who attended the debate “could be heard bickering with each other and with speakers,” and Newtonians protested outside of Newton City Hall, chanting about their displeasure and waving stark “No Sanctuary City” signs.

For a reputedly liberal city where 75 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, this pushback created a surprising tension within Newton. Online community forums have been actively discussing the proposed ordinance, which has been revised since the initial draft debated in December.

So at approximately 7:45 p.m, Newton city councilors met for a second time to discuss the current version of the Welcoming City Ordinance, which was released to the public on Feb. 3. A small contingent of Boston College students from Students for Education Reform attended the hearing as well, including Maria Khoudary, MCAS ’18.

The daughter of two Syrian immigrants, Khoudary expressed her anxiety at the thought of her family not being able to visit her following the immigration measure that the Trump administrations has put in place.

“I would like to make Newton safe for anyone who wants to come,” Khoudary said.

As the meeting was called into session, a beginning that elicited cheers from the public, Allan Ciccone Jr., Councilor at Large, addressed the large crowd, asking them to remain respectful and silent before highlighting the importance of this ordinance.

Former Newton Mayor David Cohen, who helped draft the ordinance, then summarized the document and the revisions that had been made over the past two weeks, also taking the time to explain the normal council protocols for the unusually large crown. Cohen explained that, for Newton, passing this ordinance would be more of a formalization of practices that Newton already has in place, just in case the new presidential administration changed their policies in the coming four years.

Ciccone then took the podium again, opening the floor to the councilors for questions.

Many councilors expressed their happiness at seeing the public outpouring regarding this ordinance before nit-picking the exact language of the ordinance.      

Some councilors expressed their full support for the ordinance, and encouraged their peers to vote yes.     

“We are not in the business of picking people up for immigration violations … end of story,” said one councilor.

For many councilors, their concerns mainly focused on the police department’s ability to maintain the safety of the current Newton residents, and whether Newton would remain in compliance with the federal law.

The writers of the ordinance who were present at the meeting, such as Cohen and Police Chief David MacDonald, assured the councilors that the Newton Police Department felt entirely comfortable that the ordinance would allow them to continue maintaining the safety of the Newton community. They also explained that following the careful language of the ordinance, there was no way of arguing that Newton was noncompliant with the federal government.    

The chairman of the finance committee also addressed the impact that this ordinance might have on the federal funding of Newton, which provides the city with around $12 million a year. The impact would be negligible, as the language of the ordinance ensures that Newton follows federal regulations.      

It was Ciccone’s final point, however, that stood out from the discussion. After confirming that this ordinance would not negatively impact the lives of Newton residents, Ciccone expressed his surprise and disappointment that none of his fellow councilors had discussed the next steps that immigrants in Newton might face, and how Newtonians might help them gain legal citizenship once in Newton.

“Let’s help these people,” Ciccone said. “If they’re having this much of a problem there must me something that we can do on this end.”

The discussion ended with a unanimous vote from the councilors present, meaning that the Welcoming City Ordinance must face a final vote of Feb. 21 before becoming an official ordinance.

In the meantime, the citizens of Newton are left to turn over Ciccone’s words and reflect on ways that they could aid those that they are eager to welcome into their community.

Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor

Lettuce Eat the Night Away at Walnut Grille

Contrary to popular belief, vegetarian offerings are not limited to solely leafy green salads and some version of tofu.

On Walnut Street near the Newton Highlands T station, the aptly-named Walnut Grille challengesand surpriseswith its globally-influenced vegetarian and vegan fare. The bright earth-inspired green and red decor, relaxing music, and welcoming atmosphere hint at, but does not prepare you, for the culinary adventure to come.

It began as a business venture among friends in early 2013. Walnut Grille’s culinary offerings aim to please vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike with its extensive menu and seasonal offerings. The owners envisioned the Walnut Grille as a unique, healthy, “global vegetarian” option for the Newton community. Newton, to them, was the right location because of the neighborhood’s reputation for health-conscious and family-oriented diners.

“If the vegetarian and vegan menu doesn’t work out, we’ll go for meat,” said Siva Kumar, co-owner and executive chef.

Originally from India, Kumar was inspired by his vegetarian upbringing, culinary training and experience, as well as his travels around the United States. Prior to the Walnut Grille, Kumar co-founded two other venturesa traditional Indian restaurant and Red Lentil, another vegetarian restaurant in the Greater Boston area.

The Walnut Grille is open daily for lunch and dinner with a different menu—and kids menu—for each meal. Daily and seasonal specialties are listed on a separate menuin fact, the menu changes three to four times a year so that each visit has an element of surprise. As a farm-to-table establishment, seasonal vegetables from local farms are delivered frequently throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This fall, the specials feature squash, root vegetables, pumpkins, and seeds. Diners find this restaurant as a “great alternative” and choose to come here to “try something new” or when they want something “healthy and fresh.”

Fitting of its suburban setting, brunch is only offered on the weekends. Savory selections like soups, salads, gluten-free omelets, sandwiches, and burgers are offered alongside vegan pancakes, waffles, and smoothies. Although the Walnut Grille is consistently busy, brunch and dinner Friday through Sundays are the busiest times.

In addition to being one of the few healthy vegetarian places in the area, the Walnut Grille combines locally-sourced ingredients and fresh produce with a global flair. It is hard to categorize the food since each dish has a unique flavor and presentation. Kumar acknowledges that although some menu items are inspired by his Indian background, there are also influences from Italy, China, Thailand, and Latin America.

Walnut Grille’s creativity with its innovative global vegetarian menu offerings and dedication to organic and locally-sourced ingredients appeal to families, professionals, and students. While I am not a vegetarian (and very far from being a vegan), the Walnut Grille most definitely challenged my tastebuds. Out-of-the-box menu items like Drums of Heaven vegetable lollipops, Indian-vegan fusion tandoori tofu, and the farm-fresh Flu Fighter juice also surprised me.

Gobi Manchurian, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, pleases the palate with its not-too-sweet and just-spicy-enough tomato sauce that complements the crispy texture of the cauliflower florets on a bed of arugula and carrot. Kumar recreates this popular vegetarian Indian dish with chickpea flour to make it gluten-free.

Even classics like beef stroganoff are reimagined. Last Friday’s lunch special was a vegan vegetable and seitan stroganoff. Seitan, Kumar said, is a meat substitute made from wheat. Since ingredients and meat substitutes like seitan are more widely available here in the United States, it is easier to create vegetarian and vegan versions of meat dishes like stroganoff. In lieu of beef, pan-seared seitan is used in the traditional creamy mushroom sauce. The egg noodles are replaced with a potato mash, which is on the side, as opposed to being served with the sauce. With the taste and aroma similar to a classic beef stroganoff, Kumar’s deconstructed seitan and potato mash interpretation is modern and one of a kind.

The falafel wrap is served with freshly-made hand-cut sweet potato fries in an individual fryer. Even though the crisp and flavorful wrap left me feeling healthier, the sweet potato fries dominated this dish. To achieve its perfect crispy and crunchy texture, these fries are lightly salted and seasoned before they are cooked in the container they’re served in. Paired with barbecue sauce, the sweet potato fries add a sweet and tangy flavor to the fresh and lightly seasoned quinoa tabbouleh, greens, hummus, and cut tomatoes. Meanwhile, the individual wire frying basket adds a modern and trendy element to the presentation.

To keep the menu up-to-date, Kumar “eats out, reads magazines.” Delicious, trendy, and affordably-priced, all the recipes are homemade and tested by both the staff and the regulars. The friendly and diverse staff is from over 10 different countries including Portugal, Romania, and Guatemala. The family-friendly atmosphere is accompanied by a full bar stocked with organic wines and beers from local distributors. Vegan ice cream from FoMu, local teas and coffees, and homemade sangria and organic cocktails also grace the menu. Catering for small-scale parties and office gatherings is also available.

Their vegan cakes are free of dairy, gelatin, and eggs are available on-site and by special order. The desserts, much like the appetizer and entrees, surprised my tastebuds. Made with cornstarch and rice flour, these gluten-free desserts are not noticeably different. What appeared to be a simple vanilla cake with a strawberry on top was revealed to be a delightfully light yet savory mango vanilla coconut cake. The chocolate cake was not too overbearing and unusually paired with a green grape. The mint and dark chocolate swirl garnish completed the sophisticated look.

Nearing four years since its inception, the Walnut Grille continues to deliver on its promise of delicious healthy food, and is considering expanding in the near future. What is the secret to the Walnut Grille’s success?

Kumar’s response is simple: “Buy good ingredients, buy local produce.”

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

Boston College, City of Newton Announce Partnership to Combat Economic Inequality

According to a recent report entitled “Making Ends Meet in Newton,” it is 15 percent more expensive to live in Newton than in a number of its surrounding towns in the Boston area. This is one of several reasons that the office of Newton Mayor Setti Warren, BC ’93, is teaming up with Boston College faculty to promote Warren’s “Economic Growth for All” Initiative, which is aimed at combating economic inequality in Newton.

At a press conference in the Yawkey Center’s Murray Room on Oct. 6, Warren, along with Health and Human Services Commissioner Deborah Youngblood, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, announced the new partnership.

“The issue of our time, I believe, is the issue of income inequality,” Warren said. “The idea that an individual or a family could work hard, take care of themselves, contribute to a community, be self-sufficient, and pass that onto their children may not be possible for future generations in this city.”

For Warren, such an issue hits close to home. His parents came from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx, giving him first-hand experience with economic inequality. He referred to his own economic status when talking about creating plans for his initiative.

“My parents purchased the home where I grew up with my dad’s GI bill benefits here in Newton,” Warren said. “I live in that house right now. I know that my wife and I would not be able to afford to purchase the home right now. This is personal for me.”

The partnership will create a new range of opportunities for BC professors and faculty to work with officials from Newton on research and policy projects relating to economic disparity in the local community.

“There is a real obligation to think seriously about how we contribute to the common good in our own research, teaching, and service.”

– David Quigley, Provost and Dean of Faculties

Warren described three major areas that the initiative will focus on: investing in human capital so that residents can become self-sufficient, creating more affordable housing and transportation throughout the city, and continuing to grow the “innovation economy” of Newton by seeking to create higher-paying jobs closer to the suburbs.

Warren, who spoke highly of BC, highlighted the University’s capability to help further the initiative’s goals.

“This University has the leading thinkers around all three of these issues, grounded in science, grounded in research,” Warren said. “You have the ability to work with a city like Newton to ensure that we’re putting the right interventions in place, growing the programs we have in place already, but then looking at creating new, bold imaginative programs for our citizens here in Newton.”

The University has already begun to contribute to the initiative, with Youngblood and her staff partnering with the Center for Retirement Research at BC to create a cost-of-living index for Newton. Youngblood hailed this project as an example of what the local government can achieve when working in collaboration with the University.

Leahy spoke about the importance of BC’s engagement with its local community, and hailed the newfound partnership as an exemplarily relationship.

“I think there are great possibilities for this partnership to enhance not only what goes on in Newton,” Leahy said. “But I think there will be lessons for other communities in the United States about how there are ways in which the economic and health well-being of individual citizens can be enhanced by partnerships with institutions of higher education and a caring, dedicated city government.”

As a graduate of BC, where he was Undergraduate Government president, Warren recognized that the goal of combating economic inequality aligned directly with the Jesuit value of working as men and women for others. Quigley emphasized this point, and described the correlation between the partnership and the University’s mission of furthering the common good.

“We’re really trying to push toward research and scholarship as an institutional commitment that has an orientation toward the common good,” Quigley said. “Thinking here in 2016, in metro Boston, in larger U.S. society, there is a real obligation to think seriously about how we contribute to the common good in our own research, teaching, and service, and I think this partnership opens up some rich possibilities for us.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Setti Warren / Creative Commons

Moldovan Cuisine: More Than Words

Owned by Artur Andronic, the idea for Moldovan Restaurant was born in 2015, after Andronic completed his MBA at Suffolk University. After returning to Moldova to spend a year deeply researching the cuisine and finalizing a business plan, Andronic came back to Boston with his wife, and put his plan into action.

Following a few delays and changes over the course of a year, Andronic finally opened Moldovan Restaurant to the public with huge success, as many had been watching the restaurant slowly come to life over the past few months. Customers, intrigued by the cheerful, traditional Moldovan music that drifts out onto the sidewalk and the modern yet colorful decor, were drawn to the restaurant out of curiosity, only to find their sense of wonder piqued once they looked at the menu.  

Andronic noted that the Moldovan cuisine is difficult to explain with words alone, for the ingredients and traditional flavors can seem simple at first. These flavors also resemble the hearty flavors found in Romanian and Russian cuisine—both cultures that influenced Moldova because of their close proximity and their strong empires in centuries past. Andronic emphasizes that although Moldovan chefs rely on fairly basic ingredients such a meat, potatoes, dill, tomatoes and parsley, their preparation of those ingredients is what sets the cuisine apart.

“It is very hearty, and it is comfort food if you would label it. I would probably use more comfort food than something exotic,” Andronic said. “By explaining it, by saying ‘pie’ there’s not really a good explanation in English when you try to translate that dish and say ‘pie filled with cow cheese’ and stuff like that … it doesn’t really give you an idea of how the dish is really going to be like. To help out with that, we developed our menu to have pictures in them and a short explanation, but pictures basically is the best way to portray how our cuisine would look like on the plate, and that makes the decision a lot easier.”

Those pictures reveal a world of beautifully composed dishes that customers cannot help but want to explore. In recent weeks, intricate pies with stunning tops made from overlapping pieces of flaky dough, and filled with everything from savory cheese to sweet cherries, have been popular, along with warm and filling meat stews. Andronic also notes the popularity of Sarmale, which are delicately hand-rolled cabbage and grape leaves stuffed with a chicken and rice mixture.

On the sweeter side, Moldovan Restaurant also offers Cusma Lui Gugta—pyramids of cherry-stuffed crepes covered with mounds of whipped creme.

But these detailed and intricate items of food are difficult to prepare due to the time and care they require, which make the huge rushes that Moldovan Restaurant has experienced on the opening weekends, although very exciting, stressful to cope with despite the restaurant’s more limited soft opening menu.   

“Everything was selling so fast. We worked the whole week doing prep for the opening, and we basically sold out every single thing within two days,” Andronic said. “We were so short on everything that we were constantly prepping per order. We were prepping the pies as we were getting the order in.”

Once they saw how that opening weekend went, Andronic said, they restructured and got more cooks and a better idea of what they were supposed to do in the back of the house, and how to prepare for the next day. He said it was fun to see that the products were so well accepted and that people love them so much.

As much as Andronic wants share to delicious food with the greater Boston community, he is eager to share even more about the Moldovan culture.  He reveals that at its heart, he hopes that Moldovan Restaurant will become a hub of Moldovan culture—something that is given little attention, as some customers have come in curious as to what exactly Moldova is. Given that this is only the second restaurant in the entire United States devoted to sharing Moldovan cuisine (the first is in New York), Andronic’s goal is certainly feasible.  

“We wanted to have this place as a cultural middle ground where locals would come in here and find something new about this cuisine, about the county,” Andronic said. “Ask us, we’re happy to tell everyone more about our country, about our history, about our winemaking, about our cuisine … and we [want to] get them excited about what they’re eating.”

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo/ Heights Editor


Housing and Finding Friendship

Freshman year at Boston College, among other things, is about housing. Are you on Newton? Upper? The decision is made before you show up. While these differing housing locations certainly impact day-to-day life at BC—Newton students have to take the bus every day to get to Main Campus, while Upper students have to deal with the much more manageable additional staircase—there are other, less observed, but more important effects: friends, and more broadly, friend groups.

Taking the same route back to your dorm after a weekend night out or after class, bumping into each other in the bathroom—no matter where you live your first year, you’re bound to have countless interactions with the people you live around And from these countless interactions, friendships are bound to grow. What I realized after my freshman year is that while I had friends from different dorms, my closest were those who lived in Gonzaga with me. Observing those around me, I realized that many friend groups were formed in a similar fashion, with those who lived in the same dorms.

This isn’t to say that all friends are formed in this way—obviously shared interests, classes, extracurriculars, and many other factors contribute to it. But it makes you wonder what would have happened if you had lived in a different dorm or a different campus freshman year. Would the friends you have now still be your friends? Or would you have met a different group of friends that you get along with? What if there is a group of people you would get along with, but you haven’t met, simply because you haven’t lived near them, or because of the large student body?

A lottery placed us freshman year and gave us our friends. A similar process happened for sophomore year, with even more stress: Friends are segmented based on the desired living arrangements—eight-mans on Lower—and then further with the nine-, six- and four-mans on Lower when the lottery doesn’t work in one’s favor. But many of the original arrangements of eight-mans are formed based on the assignment people received for their freshman year. It’s almost as if the people you live with your sophomore year are predetermined by the same system which determined your neighbors freshman year, excluding those who chose to go in as singles for a random assignment.

The year this all seems to change is junior year. Many students go abroad during junior year, and many live off campus, introducing sublets into the mix. While the houses might initially be filled with the same groups that were formed freshman and sophomore year, the students going abroad usually fill their gap with a sublet. This disturbs the relatively stagnant friend groups from the previous two years. Furthermore, living off-campus is almost like a campus of its own, where you run into other students on the various shuttles to campus. This is bound to influence the friend groups of freshman and sophomore years, as your view widens.

Seeing the way that freshman and sophomore housing works, there are bound to be students on campus that you haven’t met by chance of the housing system. While the off-campus mix-up certainly helps juniors meet others who they haven’t met yet, it won’t solve everything. If we want to find the people we get along with the best, we have to actively seek them out. We need to make individual efforts. Get lunch, coffee, dinner, invite them to hang out on the weekends. While the friends we made freshman and sophomore year might be great, they might not be the best friends we could have at BC. There’s no way of knowing—only by following some internal compass can we find people that truly support us and share similar interests and likes.

In order to find these friends, we must take part in activities and meet people we share interests with. BC offers an immense range of clubs, and capitalizing on these opportunities is what will help us find the friends we truly get along with.

 Featured Image by Sang Lee