Long shot request about Jim Becker | Rauxa's Spanish Olives
Over ten years ago there was a Spanish place where Precinct stands now, at 70 Union Sq. It was called Rauxa.
Jim Becker the owner/chef, had these absolutely amazing olives that he marinated himself. I have never eaten an olive like it again. They were served on the house at the bar, but I would literally go every week and buy a to go carton for 6 or 7 bucks, I was a kid obsessed with his olives!
So Rauxa didn't last long, much like the fate of Elephant Walk before it, and Jim Becker went on to a place in the South End which I forgot the name of, it is or was next to Pho Republique/Morse Fish.
Anyway, does anyone know of Jim Becker, remember these olives, or tell me anything about them? I never met Jim Becker. Over the years I've occasionally asked in the biz foodies, but no one's been able to tell me anything.
You may have better luck if you tell us more about the olives. I felt that way about the herbed olives that they used to serve at Spoletos in Easton and when they closed that's what I missed most. Years later I was browsing the LaTienda site and found some that sounded like they would be similar so I placed an order. I have been happily ordering them ever since.
Fair enough, was hoping to find someone who remembers, but here goes:
The olives were a mix of spanish greens and tiny spherical blacks, mostly green. I can't really recall the herbs, they were not present in the final product, so it was probably done in cheesecloth satchels or filtered out. I don't recall a garlic or citrus note, but perhaps a touch of herb du provence? I may be mistaken? I really could not tell, the mix was magic. Occasionally a smallish longhorn red pepper would be in there. The greens glistened with the olive oil made from the same green olive, a trick I used in curing my own olives later on in life. (Not the same!)
But mostly I was awed by the texture of the green olive. It was very much like a hot dog of all things, very "meaty". The taste was sublime, not bitter, but again, meaty! It must of been a pretty special curing process? After Rauxa closed, I would occasionally buy spanish green olives from Zabar's in NYC, but it wasn't the same either. I would also add that the color of the green olives from Rauxa was gorgeous, not bright, but a muted olive green with an extremely smooth, tight and smooth skin with no discoloration or blotching anywhere, they had a lot of "curbside" appeal, very perfect looking fruits.
Does that help?
Fate is a funny thing. This is Jim Becker, and I just happened to log into Chowhound 3 minutes after you posted. I am home with the flu, and just got up from a nap, and imagine my surprise!
Thank you for the memories. Yes, those olives were amazing. Most of the olives in my "mix" were pedestrian, and changed depending upon availability, but there were two that remained constant. The small round, slightly bitter, drab brownish olives were Arbequina, from the Catalan region of Spain. But the olive that really pushed that mix over the edge was a Provencal olive called "Cassis Les Baux". They did indeed have a meaty texture, and, at least to me, tasted faintly of pistachio. I used to get them in in big tubs, and once a week get down and dirty, mixing them all together. I used a good quality Arbequina Extra Virgin Oil, andjust the tiniest bit of Vanilla bean, which seemed to bring out the pistachio tones. That's all. I have seen Cassis Les Baux olives at Formaggios's in the South End.
I miss Rauxa, and I miss cooking that food! It was a difficult location, but I did have a blast while it lasted. Sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you there. Well, back to bed. Let me know if I can answer anymore questions. Hope that helps.
re: Pa amb Tomaquet
Oh how I miss you. I still literally dream about Rauxa food and have lots of versions of your printed menus and long for your recipes. I lived in Madrid in the early 80's and when I came back to Boston, Rauxa was heaven for me. I have a very wrinkled clipping from the Sunday Globe magazine for that sublime potato "lasagne" with greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers....
I know you are doing the Chinatown tours and Asian is really your focus now. Please know...there are so many of us who really appreciated Rauxa and miss you. Estragon, Toro, Haberno, they have their fans. But none of them comes close to Rauxa.
It was a difficult location but you made the space so perfect for the food and atmosphere.
Get well, and know you are so deeply appreciated.
1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
Wow, this is strange.
"The Layered Look - you don't need pasta to pile up a heap of wonderful flavors."
Yes, I have that same recipe from the Boston Globe, tattered and yellow! I used this recipe for many of my own versions (some vegan, when both my girls lived home).
Jim, I never ate at your restaurant, but that photo of the 'Rauxa's Potato Lasagna' has stayed in my memory all these years.
I also miss the Globe Magazine from those years, before it was dumbed-down.
re: Pa amb Tomaquet
Gotta chime in, by your moniker, assume you spent a decent amount of time in Cataluna. Sorry to say I never got to try Rauxa, but am a huge fan of Spanish food and even speak a bit of Catalan myself. Sadly in my book none of the Boston places really make anything close to Spanish food on a "across the menu" basis. A few hints here and there.
Are you still in the restaurant biz?
Best of luck in your new endeavors.
re: Pa amb Tomaquet
THIS IS TOTALLY AMAZING! I cannot thank you enough Jim! I asked a lot of critics where you went over the years!
Thank you so much for your detailed information, it's like a dream come true! I waited 10-11 years for this!
Sorry to hear of your flu, speedy recovery, and definitely let us know what you are up to these days!
Thank you again!
Please forgive me for not responding in a more timely manner, but this flu or whatever it is has really gotten the better of me, and all I really seem to be able to do is sleep,
Madrid, Thank you so much for the very kind words about Rauxa, and what it meant to you. It was really my "baby", and closing it was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but, given the realities of the restaurant business, it was also the only thing to do.
Striper Guy, I am not in the restaurant business right now, but never say never. After closing Rauxa, I took a Head Chef consulting position at Taranta in the North End for Jose Duarte. What a great guy! I told him I would stay 6 months to try and help turn it around, and ended up staying a year longer. Jose is an incredible marketing marvel, and he has singlehandedly turned a struggling restauarant into a little gold mine.
I left Taranta, to take a General Manager position at Caffe Umbra in the South End, and left there in November of 2003. After several years of free-lancing, I joined up with Michele Topor's North End Market Tours. In my early 20's, I had been an Asian Studies/Chinese Language major, and lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong for several years with Chinese families, studying the language, so after joining Michele's team, we decided to re-brand as "Boston Food Tours", and I am now offering culinary tours of Chinatown.
If someone gave me a million dollars to open another restaurant, I would probably say yes, I guess it is in my blood. But with the economy in the shape it is right now, I am happy to be able to sleep at night.
Tatsu, Thanks for trying to locate me. A great olive is never too much work to track down. The oil that I used on the olives was an organic Siurana Arbequina Extra Virgin oil put out by Unio. Once in a great while, I would smuggle back these incredible olives from Mallorca, with pieces of wild fennel. They were dark green and cracked with a good bit of bitterness. No idea what they are called, but if you ever get to Mallorca, you have to try them, they are sold in all of the markets there. However, there will always remain a special place in my heart for those Cassis Les Baux..
Thanks again everyone,
re: Pa amb Tomaquet
jim, i just happened upon this thread because i hadn't seen your moniker before today and was perusing your member pg. So here you are! well hooray, jim; madrid's sentiments are mine exactly. the foie gras, the sherry vinegar components, the fried seafood w/ romesco.......
how often we think of and miss your food there. I must tell you that your romesco is the single best romesco i have ever had. I have the recipe from one of your newsletters and use it all the time. wishing you the best.