March 28, 2004 - The Edge: Thailand RPCV Louis D'Angio says restarant wanted to support and create a vegetarian community

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Thailand RPCV Louis D'Angio says restarant wanted to support and create a vegetarian community

Thailand RPCV  Louis D'Angio says restarant  wanted to support and create a vegetarian community

Thailand RPCV Louis D'Angio says restarant wanted to support and create a vegetarian community

Closed eateries take Life out of Hub dining scene

By Jennifer C. Berkshire/The Veggie Table

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Spring is the cruelest season.

Those might not have been T.S. Eliot's precise words, but they certainly embody the way local vegetarians are feeling. Last month, not one but two of the area's few nonmeat restaurants closed their doors.

Life and Light, the popular Chinese eatery in West Newton famous for soy and wheat versions of everything from moo goo gai pan to Szechuan crispy ``beef,'' announced it was abandoning tofu and tempeh and would reopen as a ``traditional Chinese restaurant'' called the China Diner. And the Country Life vegetarian restaurant in Boston's Financial District served its final buffet-style meal on Feb. 15.

Country Life, run by Seventh-day Adventists Craig and Avis Ashton, ultimately fell victim to the Big Dig. First it suffered the decline in foot traffic that accompanied the massive construction project; then came a rent increase in anticipation of that traffic's return. The Ashtons now have plans to open a health retreat and conference center in Harrisville, N.H., featuring the vegan food for which Country Life was famous.

That's small comfort to local vegetarians, though. Engineer Bill Peregoy used to visit Country Life three to five times a week. ``I was a taco freak,'' he says. ``The food there reminded me of the food I had as a kid. It was very simple.''

Though he's tentatively planning a trip to New Hampshire to visit the Ashtons' new place this summer, Peregoy says he doesn't know what he's going to do in the meantime. ``There's so little vegetarian food around here,'' he says.

Peregoy isn't the only one who is feeling the loss. When Country Life held its last supper, some 450 people turned out for a final helping of vegetarian tacos and macaroni and ``cheese.''

``They ran out of food,'' says Brighton resident Blakely Sullivan, who used to make the trek to the Financial District eatery a few times a month. She was a particular fan of the Sunday brunch - ``It was just great. They had waffles, French toast, muffins and this really tasty carob cake that was very good.''

But talk to fans about what they'll miss and you'll quickly discern that it involves more than just TVP tacos and Asian-style stir-fry. Country Life had a great atmosphere, notes longtime patron Louis D'Angio. ``The format of the restaurant, its buffet style, really lent itself to being able to meet people there,'' says D'Angio, a Boston resident who manages clinical trials. ``You'd have investment bankers in line behind bike messengers, and all of them could afford the food.''

D'Angio first stopped by the restaurant in 1989. He was so moved by what he found there that he asked the Ashtons if there was some way he could get involved in the restaurant. ``I learned to cook there,'' he notes.

After years away from Boston, including a four-year Peace Corps stint in Thailand, D'Angio found himself back in town, and back at Country Life. ``I went in for brunch a couple of years ago and could tell that they needed help. Most weekends, I'd go in and do the dishes.''

He says the mission of the Ashtons was to provide nutritious vegetarian food to a segment of the population that didn't necessarily have access to it - in this case, the men and women who live and work in the Financial District.

As for another restaurant taking the place of Country Life, D'Angio doubts it can happen. ``What was unique about this place was its mission,'' he says. ``Craig and Avis Ashton wanted to support and create a vegetarian community. I don't know if there's another restaurant that has that underlying mission.''

Though Country Life fans such as Peregoy and Sullivan appreciated that goal, they now seem most concerned with finding a place to get a decent vegetarian meal. Peregoy admits being just a bit envious of cities such as New York and San Francisco, where nonmeat-eaters have their choice of dining establishments.

``Other cities have so many more restaurants for vegetarians,'' he says. ``The person who opens a friendly, pleasant, upscale vegan restaurant in Boston is going to do quite well. It's a market just waiting for someone to step in.''

Sullivan, meanwhile, has heard a rumor about a new vegan restaurant in Dorchester, Cafe Mosheh.

``I'll definitely check it out,'' Sullivan says. ``I need somewhere to eat now that Country Life has closed.''

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Story Source: The Edge

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Thailand; Vegatarianism



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