Brunch: Served All Day Long!

20 09 2010

This is the Charles River Boat we used

Sound Bites- Somerville

A song about love for Rene and Lumina. Congrats on your recent engagement!

This Sunday, Rene, his girlfriend-recently-turned-fiancé Lumina, and my dear friend Ivana decided to go on the Charles River for a little adventure with nature. I always thought that the Harbor near Boston’s Government Center area was the only place from where one could take a boat excursion. Yet, we discovered that the Charles River Boat located right behind Cambridge Side Galleria Mall offers boat rides that take you all around the very popular Charles River along a beautiful view of the Esplanade, downtown Boston and Cambridge. The tickets were a gift from Lumina for my birthday (Gracias!), and we could not waste a beautiful afternoon like today sitting at home!

After a beautiful ride along the Charles and many pictures later, we all began to talk about how hungry we were, and Rene mentioned knowing of a place where breakfast is served all day long! Can you imagine this Heaven? Brunch! Mornings and Afternoons! Everyday! I am granting you access to Someville’s best kept secret—Sound Bites!

Now, you might have heard about Sound Bites not only for its amazing and very affordable timeless brunch but maybe also in relation to a not so pleasant on-going feud with its next-door neighbor, Ball Square Café. The story goes that owners Mr. Mirza (Sound Bites) and Mr. Moccia (Ball Square Café) started fighting back in 2007, when Moccia bought the space next to Sound Bites and convinced Sound Bites’ chef, Omar Djebbouri, to come work for him at his restaurant. The result: similar menu items from Sound Bites over at Ball Square Café, a couple of punches thrown between the owners, and several customers confused yet energized to try and rate both places due to the feisty competition.

I have yet to visit Ball Square Café, so I cannot compare and contrast the two establishments, but I’m sure some of you will let me know your thoughts after reading this entry.

In the meantime, let me tell you about our delicious 6:00pm brunch experience at Sound Bites where Rene decided to order the Caramelized Banana and Walnut French Toast, which was simply the perfect blend of crunchiness and sweetness….yet, probably a diabetics dream and, at the same time, worst nightmare. Using a very unique cooking and presentation technique, the chef encrusted the bread with honey and walnuts. Yet, one cannot simply finish the entire thing alone! This plate is extremely sweet and a bit overwhelming. Definitely, ask for a couple of extra plates to share this savory treat with friends and loved ones, which is exactly what my good brother did. Most entrées are also served with a slice of an orange, which you could pretty much call your dessert!

The right amount of crunchiness but watch that sweet tooth!

Ivana’s quest for her Huevos Rancheros continued (although, she admits that after trying many all over Massachusetts, she considers her encounter with H.Rancheros at Metropolis Café her favorite!), but she was sadly informed that they did not have “that” by a very confused waiter who asked us to repeat several times the name of this dish (Hue-vos Ran-che-ros!!). Finally, we found a similar version to her request in the Breakfast Burrito. Although this special is only served on weekdays, the nice folks at Sound Bites went above and beyond by accommodating my friend’s request to make her a happy customer. Avocado, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and tomatoes all found inside a warm wheat wrap and served with cheddar cheese and sour cream on the side fulfilled Ivana’s Mexican craving along with a freshly squeezed orange juice that was delicious but maybe a bit overpriced.  Ivana was, nonetheless, very happy with her choice, since the fresh avocado added lots of flavor to the burrito.

Fresh ingredients served on a wheat wrap...Breakfast Burrito!

Moving on to the egg-corner, Lumina decided to try for the first time at a restaurant the brunch popular Eggs Benedict. These were covered with delicious hollandaise sauce that was “not too overpowering, very light and creamy but also tangy,” making it a table favorite.  The waiter also brought extra hollandaise without us having to request for more, and everyone agreed that the fresh avocado was the star of this entrée, as well. This order also comes with a side of perfectly seasoned, browned and crispy mashed potatoes, and although I am usually not a big fan of mashed potatoes, I have to admit that these had a special touch to them! You could even taste a hint of cinnamon that sparked so much flavor to this house specialty.

A first for Lumina at a restaurant, but certainly, not her last after this exquisite treat!

I also decided to try the egg section by going for The Green. This omelette comes with the right proportions of a variety of veggies: broccoli, spinach, onions, and green pepper. I decided to go for the healthier egg version by choosing the egg whites option with dark rye bread, but was disappointed by the fact that these veggies are sautéed in butter (a major pet-peeve of mine) rather than in olive oil. Yet, this was a delicious egg entrée that will keep you craving for more, and I would definitely recommend it since you will also get to the taste these incredible mashed potatoes. If you have a similar taste-bud like mine, then, I encourage you to ask the waiter for the olive oil sautéing preference.

My devotion to veggies: satisfied. Try The Green omelette next time you're craving vegetables during brunch.

Just when we thought we were done, the waiter approached us with complimentary fresh- sliced fruit plates that displayed a variety of colors courtesy of the pieces of mango, strawberry, grapes, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, and papaya served.

One perk of going at 6pm was also the fact that we had the full attention of all of the staff during our entire meal. The staff was attentive and personable. Rene and Lumina, who have visited the restaurant at regular brunch hours in the morning, do advise, however, to be ready to wait in line since the popularity of Sound Bites increases by the day, and it is speculated that during winter time, Mr. Mirza, feeling bad for those who have to wait out in the cold, tries to rush table service so that everyone gets a fair chance to try the delicious brunch options.

Sound Bites gets our vote, for now. But, I am certainly looking forward to a future visit next door.

For the complete article on this on-going feud, visit: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/26/cafe_owners_come_to_blows_in_somerville_square/

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Sound Bites

704 Broadway

Somerville, MA 02144





Why Wait 10 Years for a Reunion?

6 08 2010

Even the Beattles know friendship is precious! Listen to this tune and get in the mood!

Metropolis Café- South End

The entrance to this cozy bistro

One of my favorite things about having attended a university in Boston and to still be living in this beautiful city post-graduation is that I get to see my brother but also some of my closest friends, who are either local or have also decided to give Beantown a taste after four-years of college bubble.

Although our busy schedules compiled of interviews, hectic work hours, families, and plain old tiredness have led to either spontaneous gatherings or the usual “whoever-can-make-it” arrangements, the intentions have been there for all of us to come together and catch up.  Inspired by a marathon of Sex and The City episodes and a weekend off from work, I decided to set up an intervention, sending the quick Facebook note to all of the girls in town for a much needed QT (quality time) during brunch time. A few places offer brunch on Saturday’s, but after much discussion about time and place, we decided to check out Metropolis Café, a sister restaurant of Aquitaine and Gaslight located on Tremont Street in the South End, an area that you know that I love for unique food options (check out Addis Red Sea for some very flavorful Ethiopian food!), great ambiance, and beautiful neighborhoods that will remind you of London-style streets. Escape for a bit and indulge in both flavors and views? Mmm…sign me up, and I’ll be there in a heartbeat!

At the bar with Ivana and Marta

By the time I get to Metropolis, Ivana is already sitting in the bar area of the cozy, French-inspired bistro where reds, brick walls, and white-framed mirrors create a relaxed, cozy and almost romantic feel to the restaurant.  With five of us in the group, Ivana thought it would be wise to arrive early to see that our table arrangements were set up by the time we had all arrived. As a Hospitality major herself, Ivana has been on both sides of the coin as both a guest and restaurant/catering staff, making her very sensitive to the needs and preferences of large groups.  A table is already being arranged for our group, but I decide to join my friend by the bar, as we become chatterboxes about the latest news involving our lives.

One by one, the girls begin to come. Taryn engages us with stories about her kittens, two cuties that are a bit hyperactive and keep testing Taryn’s patience to the extreme, and of course, she starts to also tell me about the South End’s Farmer’s Market at Harrison Ave. (better known as SOWA), which she will be visiting on Sunday. With such great local produce options all around, Farmer’s Market are a fantastic idea to get some fresh vegetables and fruits into your system! Check out one near you at http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org.

Taryn and Mari join us for brunch!

Puerto Rican sassiness is brought to the table by my fashionista friend Mariseli, also a Hospitality major, and a recent but great addition to the group. She has the most adorable British bull terrier named Lola, and an upcoming August birthday that we shall all celebrate very soon!

Marta’s arrival brings up conversations about Spain since she and Ivana came to visit when Mariseli and I were studying abroad in Madrid. The conversation turns to her job in Waltham and her very upcoming move to Chicago to continue her job experiences at her hometown.

What a diverse table! Puerto Rican, Portuguese, Ukranian, American, Cuban/Peruvian! I love that I have been able to meet such a multicultural group of ladies during my four-years in college and that these friendships are still going strong beyond a diploma.

We have all found ourselves comfortably chatting at the bar, so we end up cancelling the table arrangement as soon as we make up our minds. Our decision seems to make our interesting, handsome waiter very excited since he covers the bar area anyway. After a few minutes of browsing the menu, we all end up ordering brunch entrees from the egg corner.

Mariseli orders the BBH & Eggs entrée, a savory entrée made up of grilled chorizo, spicy black bean hash and shaved scallions. The result? An extremely filling, spicy enough, and savory dish that has my friend smiling all throughout the meal. You don’t even need to order extra toast since this entrée is accompanied by Metropolis’ popular crispy, buttery multi-grain toast that is beyond delicious. But, if you feel like requesting an extra order of this mouth-watering toast, be my guest! (WE did!) No one is judging…To start off her morning, Mariseli also orders a mimosa, which she later testifies to be the “highlight” of her day! Maybe what makes this brunch favorite so special is that at Metropolis, they use fresh squeeze OJ and prosecco for this delectable drink. Worth a try!

Mariseli's Pick of the Day: BBH & Eggs!

Taryn decides to be the adventurous one creating her own omelette with spinach, grayere cheese (very similar to Swiss), and apple chicken sausage.  Her eggs, like everyone else’s, are cooked perfectly! Light, fluffy, flavorful! This entrée is also served with well-cooked homefries with enough salt and seasoning to make them a savory treat when combined with the omelette.

Test your Palate by Making your Own Omelette!- Taryn's Choice

After inquiring about the omelette special of the day, I decide to go ahead and get a taste for the smoked salmon with asparagus option that was offered by the waiter. This entrée is also served with toast, delicious Metropolis homefries and caramelized onions. I have to agree with everyone that I also experienced egg-purrrfection! The caramelized onions were a nice balance to add that sweet and salty flavor when combined with the eggs, and the potatoes were a treat that I shared with Ivana because of the large portion that comes with this entrée!

Inquire about the Specials of the Day! You Might Find what you are looking for…

Ivana loves her Huevos Rancheros (kind of like Rene), so her mind is set from the start on trying them at this new venue for her taste bud collection. When she explicitly states that this entrée is like a “fiesta in her mouth,” I know that the perfect match has been made right in front of our eyes. The combination between all of the fresh ingredients covered with shredded tortilla chips provided a great balance in flavor and texture. She also finds her entrée to not be greasy at all , which tends to be the case with many egg entrees at other restaurants.

A mouth-watering fiesta!- Ivana's Pick

Finally, Marta decides to pick the traditional Eggs Benedict option, two poached eggs served on English muffins and covered with fluffy Hollandaise sauce that was not too heavy on the palate. Marta also finds the entrée to be filling enough for one to feel satisfied but not in the edge of a food comma, a feeling she likes after eating such a delicious plate.  This entrée is also served with the popular homefries and a taste of grilled Canadian bacon! And if you are looking for some Vitamin C to add to your brunch meal, she also highly recommends ordering orange juice, which was made with fresh squeezed oranges for a change.

Eggs Benedict to perfection! -Marta's Pick

After an enriching experience for both our bodies and for our souls, we say our “see-you-later’s” at the door of Metropolis Café, but we do not leave without thinking about our next gathering in the near future (that same night for some, a couple of days for others, and a week or so for the rest). Brunch has the power to bring together people and to allow you to escape your daily routines by chatting, laughing, and sharing with others. So grab your address book and call up a couple of your loved ones or reconnect with others with a great excuse such as a brunch date! After all, we all gotta eat!

Oh, and one more thing: Food for thought: Restaurant Week is back and better than ever!  August 15-20 and August 22-27!

Check out the participating restaurants at: http://www.bostonusa.com/restaurant-week-list.

A few recommendations from my Food and Beverage professor (an expert, of course!):

Italian: Sorellina or Rialto

French: Lumiere

Seafood: Turner Fisheries at the Westin Hotel

Fusion: 
Market by Jean Georges at the W Hotel

Must: No. 9 Park

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Metropolis Cafe

584 Tremont St

(between Union Park & Upton St)

Boston, MA 02118

Neighborhood: South End

(617) 247-2931





Brunch- The Parisian Edition

1 08 2010

Ladyhawke pays tribute to Paris 

Paris Creperies- Coolidge Corner 

On a Sunday morning, you should not expect the streets of Coolidge Corner to be anything but populated with young professionals on the go-go, eating at one of the many popular restaurants around the area, shopping at Trader Joe’s, hopping on the T on their way to their next destination, strolling their baby cars or walking their dogs, or enjoying some fresh air outside reading or jogging. It is one busy street, and luckily for Rene and I, it is home to a place that I had been recommended to go to by my friend Mariseli when the line to Zaftigs was aging her by the minute! 

All things Paris!

 

Paris Creperie is the place, a small, hidden jewel that although located on the main street, you would probably miss or overlook if you were just walking by. I have, many times! Personally, my encounter with crepes happened at college, when I believe, my friend Taryn introduced me to this world of savory, but too sweet of a treat even for my sweet tooth. Of course, I am talking about the traditional breakfast crepe, which is usually prepared with Nutella, bananas, and an assortment of freshly cut fruit. It didn’t grab my attention four years ago, so I had never even considered trying it out one more time for breakfast or brunch. Even last year, when I was visiting Paris, mother of the authentic, ultimate crepe, I did not turn around, not once, to purchase one, and rather submerged into my artisan bread, goat cheese, and a bottle of Merlot to have a picnic at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. How I miss the good ol’ days! But, as the French say, “c’est la vie!” (That’s life!). 

So, you might be wondering, why in the world did I step foot into this crepe-and-smoothie modern-style joint decorated with romantic black-and-white pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Parisian breathtaking views? Well, part of it was my nostalgic travel bug and, also because we were looking for a quick brunch alternative since I desperately had to go to the Apple store to purchase a new computer after the motherboard on my HP completely died on me…what kind of mother does this to her children? (think twice before buying an HP, loyal readers!). 

Paris Creperie was the perfect alternative. It is a small place with only around 10 tables, so I would not recommend large groups. They have an extensive menu of specialty crepes that range from your very sweet breakfast options to a variety of European, Mediterranean style crepes with fresh vegetables and protein alternatives. 

 

Rene ended up ordering the Huevos Rancheros Crepe (who would have thought that could be found wrapped in a crepe? Only in America!), and after narrowing it down to the Mediterranean or the Vegetarian crepe, I decided to go for the Veggie option. 

Huevos Rancheros in a French Crepe....who would have thought?

 

The crepes were extremely light and thin, but, nonetheless, very filling! Rene loved the new twist on the Huevos Rancheros presented in crepe form, although, he did admit that they were lacking a bit more flavor to them. Well, you know the French like to keep their waistline small so maybe we will have to settle for this healthier version of your traditional rancheros! I, on the other hand, absolutely loved the Veggie crepe, which had mushrooms, onions, spinach, and delicious sun-dried tomatoes! My favorite! This ingredient should definitely be used more often in everyday cuisine. 

In thirty minutes, we enjoyed our crepes, chatted up, and filled our stomachs for our train ride to the city to check out MACs. It was a quick, but very filling twist to the brunch options that you have available at your fingertips all around Boston, so why not give it a try next time, and even take it to go if you are truly in a rush! 

Other popular options included smoothies (of all kinds), frozen nutella hot chocolate, and the Mediterranean crepe. 

Sun-Dried tomatoes added a delicious flavor to this Veggie

 

And, if you are still not feeling satisfied or if the warm temperatures are just getting to you, cross the street and grab a low-fat frozen yogurt from Berry Freeze, a healthier option to your regular ice cream. What I love about this place is that it is self-serve, and after choosing your ice cream flavor, you get to decide which delicious toppings to put on top, ranging from fresh cut fruit such as kiwi and strawberries to sweet treats such as pieces of Snickers, M&Ms, or brownies. Indulge! 

Voilà and Au revoir! 

Signing out, one brunch at a time, 

Paris Creperie 

278 Harvard St 

Brookline, MA 02446 

Neighborhood: Coolidge Corner 

617-232-1770





Why do you have a Barbie in your Backpocket?

14 06 2010

For all of the Glee fans out there (Taryn!). This is for you!

Centre St. Cafe- Jamaica Plain

Today felt like a day in Lima outside my window. How could one ever compare Boston to Lima, Peru, you may ask? Well, I woke up to a day of cloudy skies without rain…one of those days when you can walk around with a light sweater without feeling that it is too hot or too cold…just perfect to reflect and to feel….at ease, at peace with your surroundings and with yourself. In other words, a perfect day for brunch with one of my loved ones, my friend Taryn, who has recently moved in to her new apartment, as well, and is about to embark on the work wagon tomorrow morning! (Check out her amazing blog, too, at http://sweetlyserendipity.com/)

Since Taryn has her new car with her, we decided to spread our horizons and explore a place that is often (shamefully!) overlooked by many, including myself: Jamaica Plain. JP is known for having a very diverse community, which is probably the reason why it is home to some of the best restaurants in town, including Ten Tables and a great little place for brunch known as Centre St. Café.

The ride to JP is not complicated at all, but if your main form of transportation is our famous (and sometimes infamous) T, then typically, you have to take the Orange Line to Forest Hills and then use bus 39 to arrive at Centre St. Not a bad commute after all.

This neighborhood is populated by so many restaurant choices that after seeing the line outside of Centre St. Café around 11:45am, Taryn and I contemplated the idea of ditching the 20-25 minute wait to try an alternative restaurant that would serve brunch.  Dogwood Café and Sorella’s became strong candidates, but, at the end of the day, we decided to wait and see what the buzz about this place was all about and to judge it for ourselves. With that being said, coming early (by 10 am) would probably be your best option to avoid making the long lines (which actually did not stop even after 1pm when we were done with our brunch), and have plenty of conversation topics ready to keep you amused as you wait. Luckily, good friends can stand by you and keep you entertain as you wait, and Taryn and I made good use of our time in line to fill each other on our new gained perspectives of life after college. It is so hard to grasp sometimes that life post-college means  that homework assignments are no longer a priority, work overtakes most of our time, team meetings are non-existent, and our friends are no longer our neighbors.  A lot of adjustments all at once for this one stage of our lives, lives that will continue to change as we grow older, making me think: Are we ever really ready for anything at all? Do we simply just accept and adapt because we have to, only to then realize through an epiphany that maybe we should take a step back and really do something for ourselves sometimes and not because society pushes us to take some roads and not others at various points of our lives? Well, I guess time will tell, and for now, we just have to enjoy the ride.

Enough with the reflections of the day (see, I told you that this weather has this effect to bring out the philosophical “Descartes” side of me), let’s talk about food!

Centre St. takes great pride in continuing to work with local farmers after twenty-one years to bring the “freshest, tastiest vegetables and fruits possible” as well as meats from farmers who practice humane animal raising. They also accommodate several of their dishes to dietary requests and have a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes available on their menu. The regular menu offers great selections from eggs to pancakes, strata and even arugula salad, but wait until you get the Specials of the Day menu (which, of course, change every weekend just to keep you interested ) to truly indulge in a brunch experience that will make the line worth the wait.

Upon seated, we noticed that the restaurant is quite small yet very cozy and comfortable with a home-feel atmosphere. On the plus side, any place that uses blue glass bottles as flower bases steals my heart and earns points for being simply, irresistibly adorable.  We also remembered to energize our morning (or noon, for the matter) after our in-line-stories with bottomless coffee with soy milk and Splenda (Taryn) and chamomile tea (me), which you can get for $1.95 each…and remember that it is unlimited!

We found ourselves in a difficult situation when we could not decide what to order off the Specials Menu! Our dilemma was created by the mouth-watering descriptions of the Banana Split Pancakes du Jour, the French toast with lemon-blueberry compote, the Huevos Mexicanos and a couple of waffle options! Although these might sound ordinary to you, wait until you read the preparation methods and side dishes, which will make these options drive you crazy as you try to make up your mind. Finally, with the help of our waitress (get ready for an extremely happy and nice staff, including a very popular waiter with long hair and a Barbie doll on his back pocket for very unknown reasons), Taryn decided to try the Banana Split Pancakes served with an impressive portion of fresh fruits, including kiwi, pineapples, mango, apples, bananas (plenty!), strawberries (my favorite!), oranges, and grapefruit. And as if this wasn’t enough, the pancakes and the fruit rest on top of yogurt and organic granola, which Taryn said made the pancakes mushy, adding a good contrast of textures and flavors to the entire meal. I have to also say that we both agreed that the pairing of the thin pancakes with the fruit added a refreshing touch to the experience, especially since you will feel as if you are eating mostly fruit rather than carbs because of the large emphasis on the portion and diversity of the fruit served along.

Notice the amazing pile of diverse fruit on this Banana Split Pancake

To have the best of both worlds, I ordered the Organic Oat Cornmeal Waffles, which were sensational. Again, fruit became the focal point on this plate as my waffles were served with large and fresh portions of strawberries, bananas and kiwi all topped with whipped cream and maple syrup. The oat ingredients added a crunchy effect to the waffles, which were also soft and moist, creating a good combination when paired with the tasty fruit flavors. It was by far some of the best waffles I have had thus far.

Need I say more? Go check it out in person next Sunday!

As Taryn would say, Centre Street Café is a “no frills place with great food!” So, roll out of bed on Sunday and make your way to JP for an amazing, organic, and fresh brunch experience around town.

Which reminds me to also add a side note during this time of the year when flowers are blossoming, outdoor music is never-ending, and picnics are frequent all around: Awaken your senses and celebrate the beauty that surrounds you next time when you are outdoors!  Do not take it for granted and soak in the sunshine or add a spin to those cloudy days by adding your internal light to make them your own.


Wishing you a great first day at work tomorrow, Taryn, and a fun time making a home out of your new apartment.

Food for thought: Next time you’re around Coolidge Corner or near Davis Sq., do not forget to stop by When Pigs Fly, an incredible bakery that makes an assortment of artisan breads with mind-blowing flavors, such as chocolate, spinach garlic, and lemon raspberry just to name a few. Taryn introduced me to this place, and now I am hooked! Till next time!

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Centre Street Café                                                                                                                                                                                    669A Centre St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Neighborhood: Jamaica Plain





Around the ‘Hood

12 06 2010

Here\’s today\’s track for your enjoyment

The Neighborhood Restaurant Somerville, Cambridge

A couple of weeks back, I found myself living (a much better term than “crashing”) at my brother’s apartment…a graduated senior…employed (luckily!)…but without an apartment to call my own since I had to wait until June 1st to actually move-in to the place that I will be calling “home” for the following year, according to my contract. And, so, just like that, I became a resident of Somerville, and I have to tell you what an ethnic, picturesque neighborhood it is, full of its own charm with beautiful houses and tons of Brazilian influence. I couldn’t even resist myself when I passed one of the many Brazilian grocery stores and just had to buy a couple of Garoto Bombons, which you will always crave after trying one for the first time.

To further introduce me to their ‘hood, Rene and his girlfriend Lumina invited me to go to The Neighborhood Restaurant, a Portuguese jewel causing a sensation around Somerville.

The patio area at The Neighborhood will brighten up your day!

Having opened 28 years ago, the Neighborhood Restaurant is still run by members of the Borges family, who will greet you in their very hospitable Portuguese ways by offering complimentary coffee and a delicious kind of soft Portuguese bread (careful! It is addictive!) to sustain you as you wait in line at this popular spot. Come prepare to start eating even before you sit down, but do not forget to leave room for the large portions that you are about to encounter during this meal.

To enjoy the beautiful summer weather, we decided to sit at the patio area of the restaurant, which has colorful picnic tables that will make you think that you are actually dining in Miami Beach or California for some reason. I guess sunshine and lots of color has that effect on some of us to dream that we are really elsewhere, allowing us to escape reality for a bit.

Any brunch meal is served with complimentary coffee or tea and orange juice, and the prices for the menu items range from $5.99 to $13.99. To start off, you have your choice of cream of wheat or fruit with most of the options listed on the menu. Rene and Lumina opted for the cream of wheat, a hot breakfast cereal that is made with ground wheat instead of ground corn. Both seemed to like it very much noting that it was not too sugary, and that it was nicely topped with cinnamon to add more flavor to it. I on the other hand, opted for the plate of fruit since those who know me know that I am not a big fan of hot oatmeal at all….(unless it is Trader Joe’s organic instant oatmeal J). On top of all of this, you also get to taste complimentary toasted bread served with jam.

Then, the time came to order the real meals–I immediately told Rene that he needed to try to the Portuguese platter (since I wanted a

Cream of Wheat for thee?

piece of that bad boy, as well), and since one should never argue with a man’s appetite, he happily accepted my suggestion. Now, I have to warn you that you should come with hunger to be able to eat this delicious and massive entrée. First of all, you will get a taste of linguica—a Portuguse pork sausge seasoned with onions, garlic, and paprika—eggs (cooked to your liking), tasteful red beans with white rice, filled baked puff pastries, and homemade potatoes. Wow! I think that we are getting closer to beating Man vs. Food, Rene.

Lumina did not fall behind on the food race by ordering flavorful banana-mango pancakes that are also served with a side homefries and eggs. The French toast topped with strawberries also served with eggs and turkey strips became my selection of the day, and jointly, the three of us indulged in a Portuguese breakfast to be remembered for many more days to come, both in the emotional aspect of sharing with others and in the physical aspect thanks to the lack thereof our gym memberships.

Portuguese platter--for food afficionados and challengers alike

sooo much food!! remember this when you are ordering!

Delicious banana-mango pancakes...what a great idea to put mangos on everything!

After a delicious brunch, which we could not fully finish, a walk to the Somerville castle was in the works. Located between Prospect

Prospect Hill Castle with a great view overlooking the city

Hill Avenue and Munroe Street, Prospect Hill Castle adds a historical touch to the city of Somerville as it was the place where, on January 1, 1776, General George Washington ordered that a new flag be raised to represent the 13 united colonies during the Revolutionary War, making this the first true “American” flag flown in [what is now] the United States.

Take a walk around the Somerville neighborhood to reach the castle not only after such an elaborate breakfast but also to enjoy a mesmerizing and gorgeous panoramic view overlooking Cambridge and Boston altogether once reaching its top.

Thank you Rene and Lumina for making me feel welcome around your ‘hood at The Neighborhood.

Meanwhile, enjoy the World Cup opening games and a fanatic basketball weekend!

Signing out, one brunch at a time.


The Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery

25 Bow St Somerville, MA 02143

(617) 628-2151






Finding our Groove at Brunch- A Reunion Worth Documenting

26 04 2010

The Jazz Corner….brought to you by today’s brunch !

The Beehive- South End, Boston

My high school college advisor is in town! As I am about to culminate my undergraduate college journey, there is no other way to come full circle than to reminisce with her my high school years in the sunshine state of Florida.

Actually, it was because of her that when senior year came around, I applied to out-of-state universities, and, thanks to her guidance and to the many scholarships that she helped me find, I was able to have an amazing ride outside of my comfort zone in a different state. For that, I will always be thankful , Mrs. H!

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Boston: South End Boston (Back Bay area)

I became ecstatic when she told me this past Monday that she would arrive today, Sunday, to join me for brunch, and, immediately, I made a reservation at The Beehive, a trendy venue with musical tunes that enrich the dining experience around the Tremont neighborhood.

My initial experiences with Beehive involve the night scene where this restaurant does not only focus on serving delicious Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes but also on delivering live entertainment from Jazz to Blues, Reggae, Latin, Country and R&B (to name a few) at their lower level sitting area. You do not have to try hard to convince me to go to a place where live entertainment is offered…especially if it is for free! I am, particularly, obsessed with live music shows, which allow me to tune out the rest of the world and tune in to embrace the beauty of what it is to live in the present.

Enjoy live music while having brunch at The Beehive!

I have introduced a couple of my friends to the Beehive night vibe, and recently, one of them told me that being there made her feel as if she was transported to a Moroccan city—the detailed and colorful Arab drapes, the seductive low-lighting, the smell of Mediterranean plates with couscous and hummus platters, some hippy-cool servers with eclectic personalities, and an array of rustic, attractive art and décor. The crowd at night is also very diverse and multicultural, so, do not be surprised if you hear foreign languages as you make your way to the bar bypassing the large crowds.

At around 12:45pm, we gathered at the entrance of The Beehive for a unique brunch experience at one of the “Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the World” according to Downbeat Magazine. When you first walk in, you notice that there are two levels to the restaurant. Make your way to the basement level where you will find the live entertainment that you are looking for. A stage (with lots of seating space around it) is the focal point that creates an intimate and relaxing dining experience. For my reservation, I asked the hostess to try to get us as close to the stage as possible, which you should definitely keep in mind if you want to fully embrace the Sunday jazz brunch ambiance.

Now, do not forget to also check out the first floor (ground-level) where you will find a bar area with tables set up for dining and a screen projector that shows you what is happening on the performance stage found in the level below (a great way not to miss the show and to have the best of both worlds if you cannot find seating downstairs!).

We were seated in a section to the right of the stage rather than in the center area, which actually turned out to be perfect since, although the music was not overbearing, Mrs. H and I did have a lot of talking to do as we remembered the good old high school days. The last time that I saw her was two-and-half years ago when I visited her at the high school where she currently works. Yet, although the schools have changed, the colorful reading glasses placed on top of her short, blonde hair still remain the same, adding a cool aspect to her warm personality (although she claims that this is the most un-cool side of her, which I beg to differ).

In between laughs and flashbacks, we managed to make it through the delicious brunch menu, which offers a diverse list of plates ranging from salads and sandwiches to eggs and smoked salmon options. A “Little Bee’s” corner is also part of the menu with popular kid options, such as the Kiddie French Toast and Mini Grilled Cheese & Frites. Our very patient waiter also listed some of the specials of the day, which sounded mouth-watering with every dish he described.

Mrs. H decided to take on the special Quiche Du Jour served with a Healthy Salad and Homemade Frites while I opted for the Orange, Walnut, Arugula Green Leaf Salad served with Grilled Chicken. Keep in mind that the dressing for this salad is blue cheese dressing. If you are allergic to dairy or if you simply do not like blue cheese or any type of melted cheese in your food, for the matter (yes, we are talking about me here), make sure that you double check with your waiter before ordering since this little fact is not listed as part of the description for this dish.

The Beehive’s bar is also open during brunch hours for those mimosa and cocktail aficionados. Make sure to take a look at the exotic drinks’ menu featuring some interesting cocktails with very creative names, such as the Beehive Julep, the Honeycomb, and, my personal favorite, the Valentino Martini (Vodka, Blood Orange, and Passion Fruit). The extensive wine list also includes some selective wine options from a variety of popular wine-country areas.

We were amazed by the serving portions, which are quite large, so come prepared to eat well and to go for run afterward around the serene South End neighborhoods.  Mrs. H’s quiche special featured ham and asparagus, an original combination that made this dish a success. The tenderness of the quiche along with its homemade crust made her also mention that this was one of the best of its kind that she had tried in a long time.

A special quiche made with ham and asparagus. Try it and experience these new, exciting flavors!

Who says you can't eat salads for brunch? Give this Orange, Walnut, and Grilled Chiquen salad a chance.

My salad was also a delicious treat that I could not finish completely because of the large size of the portion. The citrus touch from the orange slices combined with the crunch factor from the toasted walnuts added an original flavor to this healthy option. The tasty grilled chicken was cooked well, and my waiter decided to substitute the blue cheese dressing with a side of olive oil dressing along with a couple of lemon wedges, which is what I probably would have used as a dressing if I was making this salad at home. With graduation and Senior year pictures around the corner, this tasteful Beehive salad fulfilled my healthy weekend craving without making me work hard at the treadmill to work it off.

Throughout the entire brunch experience, the sound of jazz music playing  in the background enriched the setting by allowing us to escape for a bit the reality of what was happening outside of the restaurant. For a second, we almost forgot that we both live in completely different states, as if this was our traditional weekend gathering spot where music, great food, and positive personalities awaited our arrival.  The Beehive has that magical effect on you, and it is up to you to find and to follow your groove.

Thank you for visiting and for joining us for brunch today, Mrs. H!

Until a future reunion at the sunshine state,

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

The Beehive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      541 Tremont St
(between Hanson St & Milford St)
Boston, MA 02116
Neighborhood: South En
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Tapping our way to a Saturday Brunch Bargain

4 04 2010

A single that has been stuck in my head with a wise life anthem to live by. Sing out loud!

Masa, South End

I always forget that Boston is known for being one of America’s top 10 most walkable cities. Six months out of the year (and, unfortunately, sometimes even longer) I find myself living inside a train station,  playing a balance game inside the overcrowded T, wearing a heavy down-coat, scarf, and gloves just trying to avoid the wind tunnels and cold temperatures outdoor. I think that it is fair game to say, then, that I do not think that any of us recall this fact about this beautiful city during the cold winters, not even making it fit for small-talk material.

Yet, today is another gorgeous, sunny day in Boston, and I am reminded once again that you can walk through the parks (Public Garden, Boston Common to name a few) and get yourself almost anywhere around the city! Gotta love it!

Rene and I decided to take advantage of the weather and met near the Public Garden (Arlington) to head over to our brunch destination of the week: Masa, a Tex-Mex restaurant in the widely popular Tremont neighborhood.

Most of you might be familiar with Masa as a great dinner spot or maybe for its infamous $0.50 tapas on Thursday nights, followed by salsa night featuring free salsa lessons from 10:30-11:30pm (mmm…Ready to add some Latin flavor into your relationship? Or pick up a new hobby? This might be the place…).

Tapas- Caramelized Mexican Cinnamon Empanada

This week was Rene’s turn to pick, and the main thing that caught his attention about Masa was the Saturday Brunch Special. With this deal, you can order one choice from their famous tapas menu, featuring traditional choices such as granola with milk/yogurt or add an edgier spin to your morning with the caramelized Mexican cinnamon empanada.  But, the offer does not end there. Masa gives you more for your money than what you expected by also offering you one choice from their Main Courses menu with some favorite brunch plates such as the Jalisco Chocolate Chip Pancakes and everyone’s favorite Huevos Rancheros. And for drinks, you are also entitled to a complimentary cup of tea or coffee.

Now, as I said, the Saturday Brunch Special menu is a condensed version of the regular brunch menu. Yet, you will be given both menus by your waiter upon your arrival. So, before rushing to order, FIRST: remember that you are here to relax and to enjoy a day away from the world’s demands….and SECOND: pat yourself in the back for waking up early on Saturday morning since you have the incredible option of indulging on the most popular brunch items from the regular menu for half the price! Yes…your friends will hate you for it.

Latin background music, white-table cloths and antique, copper chandeliers add elegant, upscale warmth to the venue, perfect for a reserved, classy brunch with family members or with colleagues. Although Masa opens up for brunch at 10am, I would recommend arriving at around 11am to enjoy a livelier vibe to the restaurant. Yet, do not panic about making long lines since Masa has plenty of tables available indoors and outdoors, where you can work on your tan as you eat and enjoy people-watching (which seems to be the newest and trendiest hobby of 2010.There is even a club at Boston University dedicated to this manner… )

Complimentary Cornbread at Masa

As soon as we were seated, the waiter served complimentary cornbread with delectable spreads: whipped butter, cranberry jam, and apricot jam. Although I  am not a big fan of cornbread, I have to say that Rene and I did enjoy the spiced cornbread which we saw as an original twist to the regular kind. We could not get enough of the different flavors brought out by each spread, so, I advice you to be adventurous and try them all! I assure you that it becomes a fun game that distracts you from hunger.

We received some great recommendations from the waitress to start off with the Caramelized Mexican Cinnamon Empanada and the bowl of fresh seasonal fruits as our tapas choice. Now, although I do have a sweet tooth, the empanada is extremely sweet, and the cinnamon flavor is unavoidable. There is something about cinnamon that I believe to be one of those things that requires an acquired taste, which has been my personal experience. Therefore, if you’re not a big fan of cinnamon gum or desserts covered completely with cinnamon to the point that they overpower other flavors, then I would recommend you to stay away from this choice. If not, then go ahead and give yourself a Mexican treat, which after being combined with some of the fruit (thanks to sharing), tastes a lot better than by itself. The beautiful thing about a restaurant offering a tapas menu, though, is that you can take full advantage of it by recruiting a group of your family members or friends to be your accomplices in the quest of ordering different tapas and having a taste of all of      them from the menu! The Spanish were on to something, after all, when they created this system.

Give all of these spreads a try with your cornbread!

The Eggs Benedict course that I ordered was not anything out of the ordinary, and I found the eggs to be a bit cold when served. I introduced my sidekick to his first set of Eggs Benedict, and he did enjoy the flavors, specially the avocado combined with the crunch factor added by the English muffin at the end, but we both agreed that there was nothing special about neither the taste nor the cooking methods to make us want to come back for more. The home fries served with the eggs did not leave a lasting impression, either, and they were by far not the best that we have tried.

Rene decided to play devil’s advocate and try the Huevos Rancheros since his last time eating this delicious dish was at The Other Side Café. Masa’s plate presentation is impeccable, though. The restaurant definitely gets our vote on this, and the Huevos Rancheros were not an exception. Instead of the traditional red beans, this plate was served with black beans, crispy tortillas, and two sunny-side up eggs topped with sour cream, fresh-cut tomatoes, jalapenos, and black pepper seasoning, which added a unique taste to the entire dish. The eggs tasted delicious with the tortilla and the tomatoes, but my side-kick and I agreed that the beans were missing something to their taste in terms of seasoning to take it up a notch on flavor.

Check out the presentation of the Huevos Rancheros--almost a sin to eat it


Eggs Benedict with home fries at Masa---avocado included!

We left Masa feeling full but not raving about the experience. Therefore, here are some things to keep in mind:

Strengths: Price. Variety of options from eggs to pancakes to some Mexican empanadas. Good ambiance for dinner with the parents, colleagues, group of friends. Maybe a place to keep in mind for Commencement on May and June around Boston and Cambridge for college students to take their parents J

Weaknesses: Do not expect mind-blowing flavors. Menu is more Americanilized than Latin, so do not let the name deceive you.

I leave you with Happy Easter wishes and many blessings!

Soak in the sunshine!

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Masa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Neighborhood: South End
439 Tremont St
(between Appleton St & Arlington St)
Boston, MA 02116