Mary Oram, author of the hit foodie account Caloric Chaos, has always been obsessed with food — as her mother liked to say, while some people eat to live, she lives to eat. That’s why the food blogger decided to put her passion into an Instagram account documenting all the delicious food (with an apparent soft spot for donuts) she eats in and around Boston. Here, she chats about her favorite Boston food neighborhood, the best place to get chicken and waffles and her love of food markets.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
Massachusetts born and raised — and never leaving! I graduated from college in Worcester, after studying Biological Psychology & Pre-Medical studies, and live in Marlboro. Science brought me to Boston! Since 2014, I have been working in an Alzheimer’s disease research laboratory. My mom has constantly told me that while some people eat to live, I live to eat 🙂 I just love food. Baking and photography (nature, portrait, and landscapes) have always been my main hobbies, and photographing food became a fun new artistic outlet for me.
After swiping right on my boyfriend five years ago (hi Nick!), we quickly found our shared hobby was food — finding new restaurants, scouring social media for exciting dishes, and cooking up our own creations. I would always photograph our meals when we out on a date night or testing our home cooking skills, and either hoard these photos on my phone or share them on my personal Instagram. Nick would repeatedly encourage me to test the food account waters and see if I liked it. I’m a sucker for alliteration and the term “caloric chaos” came to me last September as I was writing a caption on my personal Instagram after eating my way through the Big E (the craziest caloric chaos there ever was and a fall tradition in my family). Now a year later, I’ve learned so much and I have had a blast sharing my favorite foods and recipes.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Annual Ramen night at Sweet Cheeks Q in Fenway is an absolute necessity. But plan ahead — it gets busy! Any carnivore should have the rotisserie chicken at Branch Line in Watertown on their bucket list. Carbonara fries at Mortadella Head in Somerville – it’s exactly as it sounds and more delicious than you can possibly imagine. Butter Cake at Mastros Ocean Club in Seaport – I have eaten and made plenty of desserts in my lifetime, but this cake is impeccable. It literally makes me swoon. Taco Tuesday at Honeycomb Creamery in Cambridge – I love checking their Instagram page to see what that Tuesday’s taco will be! The ice creams and toppings they come up with are so unique and complementary.
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I think the food hall/market concept is really taking Boston by storm! Though Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market is the OG – Boston Public Market in Downtown, Time Out Market in Fenway, Bow Market in Somerville, and Hub Hall at the Hub on Causeway have really brought a unique experience to the Boston food scene. While it is definitely a different atmosphere than traditional dining, sometimes a girl wants options! Nick and I love to go to Time Out Market and get one dish from multiple spots, and have a slightly gluttonous smorgasbord. These markets bring the most exceptional chefs and varied restaurants under one roof for a casual, collective, and convenient experience. I can’t wait to check out High Street Place once it opens in Downtown Boston!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
Christina Tosi – After years of buying out @milkbarstore whenever I was in NYC, I was SO excited when they opened a store in Harvard Square. @Christinatosi is an absolute powerhouse. Watch her episode in Volume 4 of Chef’s Table – you’ll see what I’m talking about! I have all of Christina Tosi’s cookbooks, and my appreciation for her and the treats she creates cannot be measured. Every element of every cookie, cake, truffle, and ice cream is so incredibly thoughtful and complex, yet the final product looks simple. I could fan-girl about Christina Tosi for days. She seems so incredibly genuine and always excited about food.
Joanne Chang – I mean, do you remember your first Flour Bakery sticky bun? IT’S A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE! My sweet tooth knows no boundaries, and @Joannebchang never disappoints. I drool over her Instagram page daily.
Tiffani Faison – @Tiffanifaison is a boss. I am completely fascinated by what she has built in the Boston food scene. How can one person absolutely crush so many different types of food? In the mood for a thick biscuit slathered in honey butter? Maybe some Singapore Street Noodles? Or maybe you want to sip on a fun drink underneath a fancy chandelier? Tiffani has got you covered.
Michelle Boland – Last Valentines’ Day, Nick and I went to the Ledger in Salem (such a good restaurant!!). Our desserts, concocted by @MichelleBoland, were incredible. She has since joined the team at @oakandrowan, so we followed her there for Dine Out Boston (otherwise known as Restaurant Week). Michelle brings such a unique perspective and melding of flavors to her dishes. She also just seems really cool!
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
It’s hard to only pick three! Since joining the foodie world, I have met so many talented and wonderful people who likewise love food 🙂 @Lizelikestoeat was the first food influencer to reach out to me a few months after starting @caloric.chaos. She really helped me get involved and meet other foodies, while offering me so much helpful advice. I also just love the visual appeal and cohesiveness of her Instagram page! She’s so talented and kind. @Forkingwitharmani is as hilarious (if not more!) in person as he is on his Instagram page. He takes fantastic photos and seems to have a never-ending supply of insanely creative food puns. @TasteofMassachusetts is incredibly knowledgeable of the Massachusetts food scene and so supportive of foodies. Vince has offered me really helpful tips about being genuine and engaging my audience as I have navigated the foodie world!
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Diverse, expanding, fun.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
My list is never ending! But here are a few…..
Baldwin Bar in Woburn – I’ve heard they have some wild cocktails.
Rochambeau in Back Bay – the interior looks absolutely gorgeous!
Orfano in Fenway – another success in the Tiffani Faison empire.
Giulia in Cambridge – who wants to join me at the Pasta Table?!
Juliet in Somerville – their ever-changing Prix-fixe menu looks so intriguing!
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
To take quality photos of dishes I have absolutely loved devouring. Lighting is such a necessity when taking photos. I have a little portable light I use when natural light isn’t an option (hello, winter in New England!). I take a mixture of photos between my DSLR camera and my phone, and edit with Lightroom (computer software) and Snapseed (phone app). While I do get super excited when my photo idea translates in reality the way I hope it will, I try to always remind myself that my favorite thing about food is eating it 🙂 Some dishes can photograph wonderfully but not be as tasty as you might expect, and some that may not look beautiful can be absolutely delicious! I try to photograph and share foods I truly enjoy, whether it’s a beautifully composed and photogenic dish or a pile of fries swimming in a sea of gravy. I only post about foods and overall dining experiences I truly enjoy and want my followers to experience as well.
A Few of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Fat Baby in South Boston – the French Toast is a must! I’m also a sucker for Fried Chicken & Waffles, and the best is at 29 Rustic Mediterranean in Sudbury.
Favorite BBQ joint: The Smoke Shop BBQ – love their brisket!
Favorite late-night: The Scoop n Scootery!! What could be better than having delicious ice cream concoctions delivered to you at 1AM?? The Gannondorf Sundae is my personal favorite.
Favorite neighborhood for food: North End – I love the old time-y feel and ever present smell of Italian food; I can’t pass through without grabbing a slice of ricotta pie from Caffe Vittoria!
Favorite new restaurant: I have been eating my way through Time Out Market in Fenway since it opened at the end of June – Craigie Burger and Greek Street are my favorites!