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





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
d





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!

Be-Your-Own-Bartender...

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.

http://www.eastcoastgrill.net/main/story.htm- East Coast Grill

http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/- 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.

Aloha!

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”