Why do you have a Barbie in your Backpocket?

14 06 2010

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

Centre St. Cafe- Jamaica Plain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

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


Around the ‘Hood

12 06 2010

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

The Neighborhood Restaurant Somerville, Cambridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cream of Wheat for thee?

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

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

Portuguese platter--for food afficionados and challengers alike

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

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

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

Prospect Hill Castle with a great view overlooking the city

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

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

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

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

Signing out, one brunch at a time.

The Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery

25 Bow St Somerville, MA 02143

(617) 628-2151