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


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

Latin Flavors and the World’s Largest Bloody Mary Bar

22 03 2010

Grab a partner and dance to this Cuban tune…

East Coast Grill, Inman Square

It almost feels like summer in Boston! To embrace the spirit of warmth, spontaneity, and flavor that has been injected into our lives thanks to 70 degrees of sunshine, Rene and I decided to indulge in some Latin brunch options that will have you saying, “Muy rico!” in a few minutes.

This week, we ventured out into the up-and-coming neighborhood of Inman Square, where you will find yourself surrounded by Portuguese food and flea markets, Brazilian BBQ’s and churrasquerias, and some of the most comfortable and intimate cafes, such as one of my favorites—1369  CoffeeHouse. But, one interesting spot that you should definitely check out for brunch is East Coast Grill—the name sounds American, but the bright and fresh Hispanic flavors found in the brunch menu transport you to another continent.

I recruited some assistance from the MBTA website to plan the brunch trip of the day, which is something that I recommend you to do beforehand if you are not familiar with the area. I knew that once I arrived at Park St., I would have to take the Lechmere train and then take bus 69, which I thought arrived at 10:09am at the Lechmere Station to take me to Inman Sq. As I rushed past the multitude of young girls headed to Cambridge Side Galleria with…recyclable bags? Ok, I am very proud of them for contributing to the environment, but there seemed to be something wrong with this image somehow.

Anyways, back to running. I find my brother waiting around the bus area only to tell me that the bus had left already. WHAT? It is 10:07…on the dot! How could it have left? This is where the failure of multi-tasking becomes evident. 10:09 is not the same thing as 10:05…oopzz! This detour let to a nice 25-minute walk from Lechmere to East Coast Grill, filled with laugher, stories, and some stops to check out the ethnic stores around the area. Everything happens for a reason, ladies and gentlemen. But, I am warning you to check the bus stops just in case Boston weather throws a curb ball at us.

Funky decor at East Coast Grill

If you do not know anything about East Coast Grill, I recommend you to read the very uplifting story posted on their website by the chef and owner, Chris, who opened the restaurant in 1985. We arrived at around 10:40 to find a line already forming outside of the restaurant, which opens its doors to us brunch aficionados at 11am. Once inside, the first things that I noticed were the bright green booths and blue-colored tubes decorating the walls.  We were seated near the open-kitchen, which my sidekick ended up loving because it was very interesting to see the fun interactions between the chefs and the waiters as the new orders kept the morning rolling.

We were approached by our server with an energetic, “Happy Sunday!”(this is one of those, “He had me at Hello” moment, girls!). Now, the menu is extensive, so our waiter ended up helping us with some recommendations. The top rec being the “Breakfast Platter- in the Style of the Yucatan.” What a great name! His explanation of it being a “very well-balanced meal where you can get your protein as well as be exposed to some exciting flavors” made me love the beauty of knowledgeable staff in the hospitality industry. The platter comes with 3 eggs cooked to your preference, black beans and rice, mango-avocado-hearts of palm salad, fried plantains, rojo, and warm flour tortilla. Whoa! That sounds like a champion’s breakfast! Rene was sold.

South American flavors for brunch

I, however, had been eyeing the “Cuban Reuben” (my father was very proud of this when I told him!) My half-Cuban roots played a biased-game on me today…and I am so thankful for that! This Cuban sandwich is served on a sweet yellow egg bread pressed with jack cheese, smoked sliced brisket, curtido (a type of Salvadorian cabbage relish), and chipotle aioli. Dusted fries and pickles are also served on the side, but you can substitute your fries with any of the other 18 signature small plates, featuring such things as fried yucca, grilled avocado, and sweet plantains. Having eaten way too many French fries in Hawaii let me to substitute mine for sweet potato fries served with Inner Beauty Hot Sauce, which the waiter warned me for being extremely spicy.

Best Cuban Sandwich in Cambridge...check out those sweet potatoes!


While waiting, we discovered something very unique about East Coast Grill: Be-Your-Own-Bartender! This place claims to have the world’s largest Bloody Mary bar. Now, I haven’t checked this out, but there are definitely lots of choices from which to choose. Just tell your waiter and he/she will bring you a cocktail glass, and then you can head over to the bar where you can toss celery, olives, curtido, Worcestershire sauce, and more into your spicy cocktail! I think that this could be a great starting point on Marathon Weekend…

Finally, our choices arrived. The plates are massive! Rene’s version of the Breakfast Platter reminded me of the very famous Colombian breakfast plate known as Bandeja Paisa. He could not get enough of this plate. The sweetness of the mango, combined with the eggs, the freshness of the avocado, and the flavorful beans all wrapped in the soft, warm tortilla definitely made him remember some fond memories of growing up in South America.

My Cuban Sandwich was by far the best that I have had in Cambridge and Boston overall, and my partner-in-crime definitely agreed. The portions were substantial—2 sandwiches served with cooked-to-perfection smoked sliced brisket and thick, baked sweet potatoes so sweet and delicious that other versions will never be able to top these, in my honest foodie opinion.

Ok, how are we going to eat all of this?!

I do have to warn you though that my waiter was not kidding when he cautioned me about that Inner Beauty Hot Sauce—it is MUY CALIENTE! So be careful with your dipping.

I leave you with this comment from Chris’s explanation on why his partner and he started East Coast Grill, “We were young, fearless, and had a dream of opening a restaurant.” Sometimes you just have to embrace your dreams and pursue your passions. Be Fearless this week and always!

And…some Food for Thought: Check out Restaurant Week going on around Boston NOW!: L’Espalier was definitely a favorite of mine. East Coast Grill Make your reservations today

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

East Coast Grill
Neighborhood: Inman Square
1269 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 491-6568

Want to Hula at the Grill?

16 03 2010

A Hawaiian jam that will make you want to be there right now…

Hula Grill, Hawaii

Thanks to a glorious American holiday that we like to call, “Spring Break,” I am able to bring brunch to you from an island located on the Pacific Ocean. Get ready. You are about to experience and indulge on the freshness of a Hawaiian brunch edition: Maui style!

After a couple of hours of necessary tanning action at the breath-taking beach located five minutes (walking distance) from our hotel, Danielle and I decided to head over to  Hula Grill, a 1930s plantation home that now caters to thousands of tourists throughout the year.

After so many recommendations, we had to check it out!

Now, those of you who know me are aware of how much I despise tourist traps that deliver poor quality service and mediocre food, leaving a sour taste on one’s experience and a post-traumatic stress on one’s wallet. But, Danielle and I had been hearing about this place for two days from different people. During both of our rides from the airport to the hotel, we had been highly recommended by our very pleasant driver (who probably thought that I had eaten way too much sugar at the airport because of my hundreds of questions and that Danielle was socially awkward for the lack of questions) to go to Hula Grill at least one night out of our entire week cruising in Maui. Staying true to our tendency as “mainlanders” to be a bit untrustworthy of others, we thought that maybe our driver was a secret Hula Grill agent, conspiring against our idealistic views hoping for a better world. Ok, too similar to a James Bond movie….? I get it. But, you never know.

Yet, on Saturday, as we were embracing the relaxed Hawaiian lifestyle while enjoying a beautiful night at the jacuzzi, we met a couple from Pennsylvania who had been to Hula Grill and would not stop raving about the food. Finally, we decided that it was time to put this place to the test, and what better occasion than right after the beach just when you feel that you have had enough sun and are craving something fresh and delicious—and in this case maybe even straight out from the sea!

Step into Hula Grill and you definitely think that you have just stepped into a big beach house with an area full of tables sitting right on top of beach sand in the front porch of the restaurant. As we waited at the host-stand to be seated, two or three waiters who passed by where we were standing told us, “Someone will be with you shortly.” Yes, it did get repetitive, but talk about some attentive quality service!

Of course, when you are in Maui, you want to eat outdoors! And, we could not resist the offer to sit at the elevated seating area in the outdoors known as “the stage” at night because of the live shows that take place at the restaurant where beautiful Hawaiian music is serenaded thanks to the sweet sounds of the ukuleles (which Danielle purchased and let me play!). Our side-to-side view of the ocean from the beach front porch made for a picture-perfect moment! Ahhh! How I miss paradise!

sea view and great service! Maui, Hawaii

Foccacia Chicken Sandwich- Danielle's Choice

But, let’s get back to the food. Danielle had her mind set on the Foccacia Chicken Sandwich, a unique version of your typical grilled chicken sandwich with a hint of macadamia nut pesto, mozzarella, provolone and jack cheese served with crispy fries. I have to say that macadamia nuts add a delicious taste to anything and everything in Hawaiian foods (including frozen yogurts at Yogurtland in Whaler’s Village right by the hotel…I would know, right?). My sidekick agreed that the mac nut pesto added a nice crunch to the overall sandwich, making it a delicious brunch treat right after the beach.

I wanted to try the freshness of the sea and settled for the Fish Sandwich. A 5oz grilled fresh Hawaiian Ahi topped with jalapeno aioli and pickles served on a whole wheat bun covered with crunchy sunflower and sesame seeds. This choice also came with a macadamia nut slaw, and since you already know my opinion on mac nuts, much detail is not necessary. I do have to say, however, that I am not a fan of pickles at all! But, one bite of this burger, and those pickles definitely added a great taste to the burger. The ahi was cooked medium-rare, but I added some salt and pepper to give it a bit more of an edge and flavor to make it unquestionably delicious.

Fish Sandwich right out of the Sea! -My choice

If you come to Hawaii, I also recommend to try some of the very creative appetizers which they call Pupus on the island.

Most importantly, get rid of your watch. Time definitely moves slower in Hawaii, allowing you to genuinely enjoy and embrace the small pleasures in life.

Signing out, one brunch at a time.


Hula Grill
2435 Kaanapali Pkwy
Ste A3
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-6636

The Best of Both Worlds- 1 Single Spot

6 03 2010

This Norah Jones song will get you in the mood for candlelight dining 🙂

The Paramount, Beacon Hill

After attending a blogger’s meeting a couple of weeks back, I was motivated by my brother to shoot a quick e-mail to The Paramount staff to tell them about the lovely brunch that Rene and I had at the restaurant and to refer them to read the blog entry. A couple of minutes later, I find myself opening an e-mail from the owner himself, inviting us to return during dinner time. “You should come back for dinner since it’s a totally different experience,” the owner advised…and different, it definitely was.

I am aware that I have created this blog to share some fun brunch experiences, but I believe that Paramount deserves a little piece of my commentary on our dinner rendezvous so that you can go check it out for yourself and realize that you can definitely have the best of both worlds at one single spot in Beacon Hill.

It’s 7:30pm, and we find ourselves in this welcoming neighborhood once again. From outside, my brother and I notice the dimmed lights and are greeted by some familiar brunch faces in the staff. Rene immediately notices that “The Policy” has been substituted by a large green board listing the night’s specials. “That makes senses,” he says, “We are no longer waiting in line. Table service is offered.” A nostalgic sigh is let out by the both of us as we remember “The Policy,” but we are comforted that it will make its glorious, awaited come-back during brunch time. It has only been a few minutes since we sat down and spoke to the owner, and we find ourselves excited to try some of the top recommendations we have received from him.

I close my eyes for a minute to try to capture the ambiance. There’s mellow music playing in the background and the sound of multiple voices chattering away overpowers the perimeter. I can hear the wine being poured into the glass of one of the guests in the neighboring table to my left, followed by a sudden clatter of glasses in the air. I can smell the sizzling of a steak being cooked nearby. I know that I have been here before and that you have been introduced to this same place through my previous writings. It is The Paramount, displaying metamorphosis at its best.

You should come back for dinner since it’s a totally different experience.” -The Paramount’s Owner

A soothing level of intimacy is created by the soft lighting from small candles and by the display of wine bottles and modern flower bases. It is incredible to see how the diner-style tables also blend themselves to this new look, making the décor an edgier version of contemporary and chic styles. Similarly, the closeness of the tables to each other also makes you feel like you are part of this neighborhood of friends, colleagues, and families that have gathered to indulge on this night.

My partner-in-crime also notices how the open-kitchen concept works very well during dinner , replacing the eggs and the French toast grills for the asparagus and the filet mignons.

I have been craving salmon lately, so I become very happy when the owner points out the Teriyaki Glazed Salmon on the menu. Accompanied by a glass of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio (Italy 2007), the juiciness from the salmon topped with Macadamia nuts and accompanied by sautéed mushrooms (similar to the mouth-watering champinones that my host mom in Spain used to make), lo mein noodles, and stir-fried vegetables make this dish a must have at Paramount. And may I add one small but imperative detail: warm food on warm plates—the kitchen staff was starting to win me over already.

Salmon, Macadamia nuts, and lo-mein? Your palates will not regret it.

Rene decided to order the Fresh Ground Turkey Burger served with pear chutney, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and red onions and and paired with homemade French fries. When you bite into this burger you start to question yourself, “What is that sweet sauce…I cannot really point out exactly what it is.” It is this guessing game, caused by the pear chutney spread that keeps you wanting more. But, Rene definitely agreed that next time he will go for one of the Paramount Classics (after having fallen in love with my salmon dish). The size of this burger and overall plate is very large, so come prepared if you are a burger devotee.

Pear chutney on a Turkey Burger- try it for yourself!

Warm chocolate combined with cold vanilla ice cream will make your taste buds melt.

Toward the end of our meal, Chef Gabriel Cheung approached us to remind us to save room for Paramount’s sweet-treat lovers, like myself: Paramount’s special version of a chocolate cake. You can never go wrong when a chef himself is recommending you some of his favorites, so we knew that there was no need to see the dessert menu after all.  After a few more wine sips, we are approached by our friendly waitresses, holding a masterpiece of a chocolate cake layered with fresh-cut strawberries showered in a warm raspberry reduction sauce. Vanilla ice cream and a peach reduction sauce as well as powdered sugar make this colorful plate a crime too delightful to skip. Now, major hint when you order this chocolate delight—do not forget to ask for the vanilla ice cream on the side; it definitely compliments the warm, lava chocolate cake to a completely different level experienced by your taste buds. This dessert is a sensation!

We left Paramount happy to know that it had not disappointed us once again. At the end of the day, the friendly staff and food quality have a common ground as the core of The Paramount, making each guest feel like accomplices coming together to continue to make this neighborhood jewel thrive.

Metamorphosis. A concept that gives you freedom, choice,uniqueness, and an edge…a competitive edge? Most certainly for Paramount.

A few other dinner recommendations from the owner:

  • Tacos served with seared ahi tuna, blood orange ponzu sauce
  • Chicken Picatta

Signing out, inspired by transformations.

Reference:“It’s An Assembly Line At Its Best”

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

It’s an Assembly Line at Its Best!

21 02 2010

Some tunes in Español for you- Listen to this

The Paramount, Beacon Hill

It’s 10:20 in the morning, and I get a phone call from my brother, “Where are you?” The T has once again screwed me over, passing by without a single sign of remorse from the driver. I’m the one running late this time. It’s ok, though. Soon, I will be at Paramount, a place that I have actually wanted to go to since I first heard about it during a Food and Beverage project that I completed last semester. To tell you the truth, I had only looked at their website, a nicely designed, colorful site featuring some fun background jams and lots of pictures of the venue. Yet, I was not prepared for what was about to come.

Getting back to the phone call, I ask my sidekick to work his way into the waiting list meanwhile. “What? No waiting list here, sis. Get ready to go down memory lane: think…high school cafeteria.” The train was going underground, so I didn’t pay too much attention to this comment. Hunger sometimes makes people say the wildest things, I thought to myself.

Paramount opened its doors in 1937 and is located in the beautiful and cozy Beacon Hill neighborhood. You will find lots of small markets here displaying fresh fruit outdoors as well as brick roads, hills, and boutique stores, giving this area in the middle of Boston a European-almost-Parisian neighborhood vibe.

Since Boston’s winters can get a little harsh at times, the first thing that you see as you open the doors of Paramount is a golden tapestry hanging down like a curtain which makes total sense once you are in because you notice that this is a small restaurant with a couple of diner style tables without a waiting area; so the curtain protects diners from the cold air coming in.

Now, walking in after that curtain also means that you are immediately incorporated into the long line. But, how about I give you the scoop so that you are a pro when you visit. Basically,  no one is allowed to sit before getting their food first….this means, that you cannot save the table while the rest of your party goes to get your food order and that a waiter will not come up to you to take your order. This is a no, no. So, the system is very simple.

"The Policy"

Everyone coming in to dine at the Paramount has to make a line until you get to the ordering area where an assembly line of employees will make a combination of enticing and mouth-watering creations to satisfy your cravings. Part of the torture of waiting in line though is that you get to see what others have ordered and the master creations and aromas right in front of you as guests grab their food in a tray, yes a TRAY, and wait for a couple of minutes before being told by another staff member where to sit.  This is back to basics (like my brother said, “cafeteria style”), but surprisingly enough, a very efficient operations module.

Make the line and you'll get what you want

Two things, then: go with someone who does not mind to stand in line with you for about 10-15 minutes and who will make you laugh (great spot to catch up!), and ask the pros waiting in line what are their favorite creations….you might be persuaded to pick outside of your comfort zone!  Definitely though, from my observations, you cannot go wrong ordering anything that has waffles, pancakes, and French toast in its title.

Now let’s dig right in to today’s brunch menu. I was tempted to order the French toast with an assortment of freshly cut fruit on top (strawberries, cantaloupe, and pineapples) and powdered sugar after seeing more than eight go by during my 12 minutes wait time.  And my sidekick went for the 3-cheeses omelet (cheddar, American, and swiss) after having a little bit of difficulty deciding between the vast eggs’ and omelets’ section, which even includes your favorite version of the Spanish omelet (fun times abroad!). This last plate is served with your choice of toast (wheat for him) and homemade potatoes.

One bite into my French toast, and I knew that the multigrain bread definitely made a difference. The sweet combination between honey, grains, and fruit complemented each other nicely and made me feel good about getting some fiber and healthy vitamins from this alternative twist on America’s favorite French toast recipe.

A fun twist of America's favorite French Toast recipe

Working his way into each cheese layer made my partner-in-crime appreciate his final choice, and we both agreed that the homemade potatoes had a very unique smokey, bacon-infused aroma and flavor that made those potatoes anything but ordinary.

Three Cheeses Omelet at Paramount

You cannot go wrong with the portions size either since they are more than we bargained for. Other house favorites seemed to be the large fruit salads which were, interestingly enough, a part of almost every order at everyone’s tables, which goes to show that sometimes you just need that healthy kick to balance out the very rich and elaborate brunch meals at the Paramount.

This unique brunch experience left a trademark in our eating adventures, and we are sure that Beacon Hill will be coming up again soon in one of our future endeavors.

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

Neighborhood: Beacon Hill
44 Charles St
(between Chestnut St & Mount Vernon St)
Boston, MA 02114

(617) 720-1152