هل أنت مستعد لدينا مواعيد لمنطقة الشرق الأوسط؟

28 02 2010

Arabic Belly Dancing Music for Inspiration

Andala, Central Square

Those of you who know me are aware of my serious commitment and dedication to a very serious cause in life: traveling (a.k.a. obsession)! My brother constantly has to deal with my comments about planning my next trip or family vacation, finding great airline deals, or the usual “When I was abroad….” remarks.

These past few weeks, I had not stopped talking about the possibility of working abroad in the near future, and I think that my sidekick caught up with the fact that I was craving for some cultural interactions. Craving for brunch food and craving for a culture foreign to your own?…..mmmm…Andala is the solution.

Arab lanterns found all around Andala

Ready to get away from Boston, and heck, why not, the United States overall? Let me take you on a luscious and inspiring journey along the streets of Central Square, where you do not have to go too far to encounter my brother’s favorite brunch place in Cambridge, a Palestinian hidden jewel: Andala Coffee House. Central Square is known for its very diverse population and ethnic, independent restaurants (does Cuchi Cuchi ring a bell?), coffee shops, and co-op markets (make sure to stop by Harvest Co-Op for healthy, organic grocery shopping!), making it a rich environment where uniqueness and creativity thrive. Note to self: return, return, return!

Step into 286 Franklin St, a house that around three years ago was turned into a coffee-house and restaurant, serving Mediterranean-inspired cuisine infused with old Jerusalem recipes. My first impression walking into the living room of Andala was, “I have returned to Marrakech,” right after pinching my brother for not bringing me here sooner. Well, I guess later is better than never…or sooner is better than later? Americans and their sayings…I will never understand. Once you are inside, it is all about paying attention to details, so put on your best glasses or contact lenses because you will be amazed by the things that you see here.

Arab rugs

The peculiar thing about Andala is that you will find tables and seating arrangements of different sizes, shapes and forms, giving you the immense gift of choice. You could opt to sit at the window-seat-cushions, covered with colorful hand-woven Arab tapestries and pillows. Or you could decide to be in the middle of all of the action and sit at the living room, which we finally decided to do.

The living room area- Andala

We sat at a wooden bench with a narrow but long wooden table in front of us. This area is decorated with fresh leave strings, adorning most of the establishment, and some framed Arab scriptures. To our left, we had a stunning marble chimney decorated with colorful hand-painted plates with more Arab scriptures, Middle Eastern dolls, and antique candle holders.

But the trip does not end there. You can also step to the patio area enclosed with floor-to-ceiling windows with great street-views, and we figured that this serves as an open area during the nice summers in Cambridge. Since we are very curious siblings, we decided to also take a look at the lower level of this interesting house where we found another intimate dining area with larger tables as well as a stage for weekday performances, which we were told not to miss if we have the chance to come back.

Lower Level- Large Dining Tables and Performances

I felt so happy being here, probably because the bright orange/peach and mustard colors add a sense of intimacy and coziness that invites you to eat here every day if you could, as if this was your destination for comfort. The elaborate Arab rugs, lighted Middle Eastern lanterns, and the extremely detailed tapestries will also not fail to transport you to a completely different continent.

Oopz! For a moment, I almost forgot that I came here for food. It is up to my sidekick to remind me. So, now that I have you thinking about moving in here, let’s check out our Mediterranean food selections. The menu is definitely very different to what you are used to eating on a regular basis for brunch. Do not be afraid to ask for recommendations! Andala also prides itself on serving 100% natural ingredients and organic choices when possible. Sounds great to me!

Don't forget to order the Zeit U Zaatar & Labneh!

I ended up picking the Zeit U Zaatar & Labneh which translates as “The Classic Arabic Breakfast.” This dish consists of labhneh, a Greek yoghurt, with a consistency between yoghurt and cheese, mixed with spiced zaatar and extra virgin olive oil accompanied by black olives (which, ironically enough, reminded me of black olives from Peru) and fresh diced tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers and white onions. Once you have mixed all of these ingredients into one bowl, you can dip the mouth-watering warm Arabic bread and thank your God/s /Allah (whoever/whatever you believe in) for the amazing combination of flavors being savored by your palate.

Have fun with your food and the vibrant colors!

Not done yet. There’s two of us, remember? My sidekick decided to indulge in the Msabaha or the “Jerusalem Hummus Plate.”  Whole chick peas, seasoned with tahini and extra virgin olive oil (and some of the herbs stolen from my spiced zaatar!) are topped with parsley, tomatoes, and jalapeño peppers. I am a huge fan of hummus, but I always run into the problem of it being loaded with salt or lacking flavor. This hummus was perfection. The right amount of spices and salt to make it a dangerous treat if I had it in my fridge. Once you have everything mixed (I’m liking all of this mixing going on, to tell you the truth), all you have to do is dip in your Arab bread and enjoy the art of good and simple cuisine.

Hummu-licious perfection

Tea Connoisseurs will fall in love with Andala

For the tea aficionados, like myself and my roommates, you will not be disappointed by the vast number of options available at Andala. I can highly recommend the Andala House Tea: a combination of cardamom and cloves used to flavor this exquisite tea. For a sweeter taste, add a bit of honey to this Middle Eastern tea, and you will leave wanting more.

The Arab and Spanish gypsy music playing in the background, the Koran books in the smaller coffee tables and the chess, checkers and other board games available for your convenience add personality to this great weekend escape to the Middle East.

Food for Thought:

  • Tell your vegetarian friends! Lots of great options for veggie lovers

    Let's play chess in the patio...

  • Do not leave without playing at least one board game!
  • Plan a study-date here! Free Wi-Fi is offered!

With my travel bug satisfied, I leave you.

Until next time.

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Andala Coffee House
Neighborhood: Central Square
286 Franklin Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 945-2212
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