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

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

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