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Recipes

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

Emily Stevens

Simple, fresh ingredients make these cauliflower tacos the perfect summer’s night meal. With bright, quick pickled red onion and spicy avocado crema, these tacos showcase vegetarian ingredients and will enchant both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

Makes approximately 8 tacos.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice ½ red onion and place in a bowl. Cover with approximately 1 cup of white vinegar and add ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of white sugar. Allow this mixture to sit in the fridge and pickle for the duration of the recipe. Cut and separate 1 head of cauliflower into florets and spread onto a baking sheet. In a separate bowl combine 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, ¾  tsp. salt, and pepper to taste. Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Toss to coat evenly. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until tender. While the cauliflower bakes, combine ½ of an avocado, ¼ cup cilantro, ½-1 jalapeño (depending on spice preference), the juice of one lime, and 1 cup greek yogurt in a blender. Pulse until the ingredients are emulsified but you can still see pieces of cilantro. When the cauliflower is done assemble the tacos with corn tortillas and the roasted cauliflower. Top with the quick pickled red onion, a drizzle of avocado crema, crumbled cotija cheese, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, and a wedge of lime.

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Recipes

Sesame Tofu with Pan-Seared Broccoli and Rice

Charlotte LeBarron

In the lineup of protein, tofu is the kid that always gets picked last; if any product needs a rebranding, it’s this one. With a delectably sweet sesame sauce and lots of garlic, we hope this recipe will have you giving tofu the second chance it deserves.

Begin by pressing the tofu by placing a 14 oz block of extra-firm tofu on a stack of folded paper towels on top of a plate. Place more paper towels on top, cover with a second plate, and weigh the top plate down with cans or a pot of water. Press the tofu for at least 30 minutes to extract excess moisture. For the sauce, combine ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp dried or grated ginger, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Cut the pressed tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and season with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp cornstarch onto a plate and coat the cubes. Put ½ pound fresh broccoli in a pan with 1 Tbsp oil, 1 chopped scallion, and 1 clove minced garlic. Cook until tender and crispy around the edges. Put 1 Tbsp oil, 1 chopped scallion, and 1 clove minced garlic in another pan. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the prepared tofu, turning every few minutes until it turns golden and crispy on each side. Turn the pan with the broccoli down to low and add in the prepared sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Shut off the heat and mix in the cooked tofu. Serve the tofu and broccoli over cooked rice, topped with chopped scallions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

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Recipes

Coconut White Russian Affogato

Lucy Bartick

Italian for drowned, the Affogato is the simple dessert that you didn’t know you needed in your life. With a twist that evokes a White Russian, it is the perfect pick-me-up as the weather heats up and the days get longer. This recipe is extremely simple and flexible, and it can be doubled (or tripled) easily. Eat with a spoon and imagine you’re on a bench in Florence, or sitting seaside on the Amalfi Coast.  

Ingredients:

1 Scoop vanilla or coconut gelato (regular ice cream will work just as well)

1 Hot espresso (no espresso maker? Strong black coffee also works)

2 Tbsp Kahlua (optional, of course)

Toppings: toasted coconut or slivered almonds

Chilled short glass or small bowl

Scoop ice cream into chilled glass. Combine Kahlua with hot espresso and pour over ice cream. Sprinkle with desired toppings and serve immediately.

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Essays

The Magic of Possibility

Kayla Causey

When I turned eleven, I waited patiently for my acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I knew it was a long shot—obviously, because I lived in America—but I held out hope. The wizarding world was a tantalizing dream locked behind the pages of my well-worn Harry Potter books, and I pined for the opportunity to trade P.E. for flying lessons, or science for transfiguration. I clung desperately to the hope that life might be hiding its hand, waiting for the right moment to reveal a side more exciting than what I experienced day to day. The mundane drum of reality, however, beat on and after a while I finally had to admit to myself that Hogwarts wasn’t real. I thought that meant that magic couldn’t be either… until the beans.

Two years ago, sometime over Christmas break, my siblings and I hurried a delightfully designed box to the table. Small though it was, especially placed in the center of our expansive wooden dining area, the box demanded attention as well as apprehension. Its colors were bold: red stripes that perfectly matched the blushed cheeks of a baby-faced clown, greens and blues that then filled in the outline of its hat. Most striking, however, were the yellow Grecian columns that framed the sides of a plastic window. The view left nothing to be assumed of what came nestled inside, yet the box’s real secret still remained hidden. Our only clue lay in the possibility of the name emblazoned on its front: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.

My sister peeled open the top, then tore the plastic inside letting the candy cascade out onto the table. Entranced by the release of the beans, my sister, brother and I sank slowly into our seats. No one moved to try one, we just stared. They looked like your everyday (muggle) jelly beans: bright solid colors like pink, red, and green were flanked by marbled yellows, reds, and browns. Each of us knew, however, the kind of flavors that lay in wait: “every flavor” meant any flavor.

It was a game none of us had played before. Looking around the table at my siblings, their eyes reflected my own giddy fear of the unknown tastes we were about to experience. We were older and more jaded than we were when we each picked up the first Harry Potter book, but at the whim of the beans, we became kids again, in a candy shop we thought could never exist. My brother and sister dove right in, picking through colors, guessing flavors, and reaping the rewards and consequences that came with each new bite: a sigh of relief and delight when the brown and cream bean turned out to just be marshmallow or a sudden convulsion when the overwhelming taste of a seemingly plain, white colored bean turned out to be soap. I, on the other hand, played the game much safer deciding to stick to the brightly colored solids. The blue was blueberry; dark green, watermelon; and medium green, apple. The worst it got for me was mistaking a cherry for the slightly darker colored cinnamon, until I realized I’d eaten all of the beans I’d deemed safe. What remained were the suspiciously colored stragglers even my brother and sister didn’t want to touch.

My sister gripped the pamphlet identifying the flavors of each bean. A dark red bean with scattered brown splotches lay in my hand, and its corresponding taste lay in hers. I had gotten away in the bean game unscathed so far, and now was my time to face the deep dark side of “every flavor.”

With foods you anticipate to be bad, always there is that first moment where you don’t taste anything. You know better than to let yourself be fooled, and yet you let your guard down right before it hits you. At first, it’s bad…but it’s not that bad…and then all of a sudden, it’s worse.

Earthworm. The name itself is so frank you can’t help but imagine on your tongue the dirt, the grit, that squiggly thing you try not to smush when you walk in the rain…that squiggly thing you ultimately do smush when you walk in the rain. The picture I had in my head was dark and damp, with an invasion of wet, slimy, faceless crawlers.

And that picture was only half of it. The Earthworm bean was suspiciously spicy, in that the taste traveled up my nose pooling in the orifices of my skull as well as filling the cavern of my mouth. Gasping for breath didn’t help much; the taste remained. And it was bitter, too, the kind of bitter that makes your face scrunch in newly discovered disgust. I thought maybe water would help, but much like a worm thrives in a moist environment, so did its taste.

I was unable to move from my seat and I couldn’t pay attention to anything but the Earthworm bean that was still very much thriving in my mouth. I gagged. I tried milk. I tried food. I tried everything and yet it persisted. Even though I’d never tasted a live earthworm before, there remained little doubt in my mind that that was indeed what I was tasting. It was uncanny how thoroughly I was convinced. Inside that one little bean was the world I had so desperately wanted to be a part of since the moment I had been introduced to the world of Harry Potter.

The beans were no flying broomsticks or talking painting, but they were still enchanting in so far as they removed me, in that moment, from the everyday. Not only had the beans transported me from the time that the Earthworm bean remained in my mouth into the body of my younger, more idealistic self, it had brought me face to face with what I had previously thought was impossible. For lack of a better word, it was magic.

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Essays

It’s All Alien to Me

Alex O’Connor

Five p.m., five hungry stomachs, a stocked refrigerator, a preheating oven, and important first impressions: the steaks had never been higher. Pun intended. Steak was not on the menu, it was something much simpler but equally as exhilarating. The meal? Chicken, rice, and broccoli—I had never cooked a meal for myself, let alone for five people I only vaguely knew, so simplicity was essential. I didn’t want to set myself up to fail. The night was about first impressions, but not only that, it was about first-time cooking experiences. If I messed this up, the repercussions would be immense.

I was preparing to undergo a month and a half process, a process that would lead to the production of a play called “The Aliens.” And as the director of the play, I was not only the organizer of the production, but also the emotional and spiritual leader of the team. If their first impression of me was a night spent writhing in pain from salmonella, the quality of the show would certainly suffer. I couldn’t mess this up—the show depended upon it.

I wanted the cast and crew to trust me, and what instills more trust than the incredibly domestic and familial activity of cooking? Nothing. Therefore, I assembled my team so that we could all meet for the first time, and I could establish myself as not only the director of our ensemble, but also the head chef of our metaphorical kitchen.

Like any good play, the dinner was full of zany characters: Will, the heartthrob, Ally, my strong-willed and unforgiving stage manager, James, the goofball, Matt, the pleaser, and Devyn, the quiet and sweet one. Will was the first person to arrive, and he did so just in time to help me lather curry powder onto the tender chicken breasts. Next Ally arrived. She and Will began chatting while I put the chicken in the oven. James arrived soon after and introduced his presence with some witty humor; I knew I cast him for a reason. He announced that he smelled burning, making us all laugh. He was preparing to play one of the more comedic roles in the show, and so perhaps he was engaging in some method acting. The chicken was now cooking in the oven. Next up was the rice.

How much water did the rice need? I honestly had no idea. Too much water, and you end up eating soupy rice; too little water, and you end up with teeth-cracking pieces of rice. I didn’t want to compromise the million-dollar smiles of my actors. The problem of when to start the rice so that it was ready at the same time as the chicken also remained! I decided that I would follow the instructions on the box and cook it with a two-to-one water to rice ratio, but I wouldn’t start cooking it until after I had flipped the chicken in 15 minutes. My anxiety was clearly visible, I had no idea what I was doing, but as soon as Matt arrived I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. His warm and gracious presence lightened the mood in the room and our cast really started to feel like a family. A zany and anxious family.

Devyn arrived soon after and our family was complete, but she also commented on the burning smell, (thanks Devyn). Devyn’s comment wasn’t funny like James’, but was filled with genuine concern and worry. The oven is very old, and as soon as you turn it on there is a vague burning smell. The culprit was not the chicken, I reassured her. Even if it was, at least no one could contract salmonella from burnt chicken.

Things were rushing by rapidly, so I thought I would slow down the pace of the night with a poem from an author who is referenced in our play, Charles Bukowski. It was a poem called, “Dinner, 1933,” which seemed relevant, but what I didn’t realize was the poem was about a child who didn’t like their parents cooking. The poem is quite blunt: “The food that I had eaten and what I had seen was already making me ill.” I should have read the poem beforehand. As the metaphorical parent of this production, I felt slightly attacked. Was it possible that I was sowing the seeds of dissent within my own cast and crew?

Fifteen minutes quickly passed and everyone was having a pretty good time, quietly chatting on my living room couch. I asked if everyone was ready for the beef bourguignon—the joke was met with mild approval. I flipped the chicken and it looked like it was browning nicely; maybe this would actually work out. I put the rice on and gloated to my cast that I was actually doing alright. One by one they came to micromanage my cooking process, though, judging the pot I used to cook the rice, my rice to water ratio, and even my choice of seasoning for the chicken. Was it too late to hold a second round of auditions? It seemed as though my cast was bonding and getting along quite well, but perhaps they were all united by a common enemy: their director.

We all tentatively waited, with Will and James in particular drooling in hunger. Will periodically helped me check on the rice; it was still soaking in water, so perhaps I got the ratio wrong in the end. Will and Matt insisted that I remain steadfast, but the colander sitting in the kitchen cabinet began to look ever more appealing. Luckily the rice started to harden up.

Five minutes until showtime. I went to cook the broccoli in a pan with olive oil, but before I could cook the broccoli, I had to wash it! The sanity, sanctity, and general sanitation of the whole operation would be compromised by unwashed broccoli. Unfortunately, I had already cut the broccoli—it was in a thousand pieces, so I gently tossed a few pieces back and forth in my hands under running water. I have to assume there is a better and more efficient way to clean away bacteria from broccoli, but this was the best I could do. As I prepared the pan to cook the broccoli, I accidentally put too much olive oil in and also turned the heat up too high. The olive oil started boiling on the pan and making a mess. A few droplets of olive oil bounced onto my skin, leaving me with little burn marks around my hands. Luckily, no one in my team noticed, or they were too nice to say anything, maybe too diva-ish to care about my pain.

The moment of truth was almost upon us, so I took a moment to reflect. What an incredible opportunity to direct a play, and what an amazing moment in time, the inciting event of our whole theatrical process. This dinner, this cast, and me, being worshipped by them, I the chef, with my eager eaters. Lotus eaters.

The time had come. I ran to take the chicken out of the oven, and I beckoned my cast into the kitchen and handed them each a plate and told them to serve themselves. My face was too close to the oven when I opened it, and I almost scalded myself. Matt made sure to point out that I shouldn’t put my head in the burning oven. Thanks Matt. I put on the oven mitt, but the oven mitt was more of an old kitchen towel rag, and I burnt my hand on the pan trying to remove the chicken from the oven. I still have a mark on my right pinky from the accident. But I played it off like no big deal as to not alarm anyone, and the cast began to serve themselves.

A single tear rolled down my cheek.

I had forgotten beverages, but the night would have to continue with parched mouths. We all took our seats around the table and I put on some smooth jazz. Will was excited about my music selection, but I suspect no one else was. I could barely eat the food as I tentatively watched them, wondering whether they were enjoying it. They all had their fair share— Matt even went back for seconds, but Will barely even finished his first portion. Yikes.

I asked them what they thought, and they all reassured me that they liked the food. Their so smiles indicated mild satisfaction; it didn’t seem like any fireworks were lighting up on their taste buds as I had expected. They were also all very quick to leave after they finished eating, probably a bad sign. Did they not realize the magnitude of the situation? Families are built around the dinner table—rule one of domestic life— and yet they all scurried off like they were eating at some fast food buffet style restaurant. I was heartbroken.

After all was said and done, the food’s reception was lukewarm, but honestly, I’m just glad there was no vomiting involved. This wasn’t the perfect night, but it also would not be the perfect show—there would never be a perfect performance, not in the kitchen or on the stage. What I was sure of was that there would be smiles, laughs, tears, and probably a few more burn marks along the way.

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Essays

Indulging in the Process

by Lauren Blaser

My dad loves to cook. To sear, season, and sautée. The timeline of his day, unfortunately, doesn’t allow ample time to produce a meal from start to finish. Our kitchen, in all of its preparatory glory—a steamy cloud of scents, all four burners occupied, ingredients strewn across every inch of counter space—is an atmosphere of organized chaos just before dinner. Returning home from his IT office, my dad will drop his leather messenger bag in the corner and proceed to dump his keys, wallet, and phone next to the coffeemaker. Immediately afterward, he launches into a string of offers to assist in any outstanding dinner tasks for my mother: “Should I fire up the grill? Can I put this glaze on? I’ll make the rice!” Given the opportunity, he jumps to contribute. My mom jokingly swats away his attempts at help, though, preferring to finish what she has started without explaining her every move to the latecomer.

“If we waited for me to get home,” he always laughs, “We’d end up setting the table at eight!” His removal from this process of making dinner, typically a high-stress and time-constrained experience, means that when he prepares food it is for sheer pleasure only, and at a leisurely pace all his own.


“We have grown accustomed to bursting through the door on weekends, only to find my dad transfixed in a peaceful atmosphere of kitchen alchemy.”

A few hand-picked items have become my dad’s pride and joy, and he has undoubtedly reached a level of mastery over them throughout the years. If he hasn’t already coached me and my sister through the production of these favorites, then he has threatened to do so at some not-too-distant point in the future. Whenever the mood strikes my dad, he’ll meander into the kitchen and start to pull out the flour and baking spray. We have grown accustomed to bursting through the door on weekends, only to find my dad transfixed in a peaceful atmosphere of kitchen alchemy. He’ll look up at us, called back to reality by our turning of the doorknob, as he cheerily draws a tray from the oven. In these scenarios, my mom will typically be bent over the kitchen table, stacks of recipe cards in front of her, scrutinizing the numbered lists and weighing our options for the evening. My dad’s therapeutic baking sessions always earn him a playful roll of her eyes. “Must be nice!” she’ll pipe up from her chair, mocking the frivolity of his kitchen use. Thanks to my dad’s role modeling, though, I will never be able to bake absent of his influence.

Scones are my dad’s true pièce de résistance. Each batch is a new masterpiece of his. Unless my mom, sister, or I request a different flavor, his go-to recipe consists of a sweet butter dough studded with currants. Why he refuses to simply call the added fruit “raisins” has become easy for us all to understand. The kitchen is where my dad likes to play with the more artisanal side of himself.

Born in Oregon, my dad has a special affnity for berries. His home in the mountains made for a quaint, almost surreal summer job between the ages of ten and eighteen—a produce picker at a farm across the street from his neighborhood. Strawberries, raspberries, and broccoli in the fall…he grew up surrounded by fresh ingredients, and was exposed to almost every imaginable method of their incorporation when it came to food. This piece of his childhood manifests itself in the way he attempts to insert the tiny, gem-like fruits wherever applicable. If my mom is making pancakes, muffins…bread in any form, really, he’ll lean over her shoulder and ask whether she’d like him to retrieve some of our seasonal berry stores from the chest freezer downstairs. “Honey, this is cinnamon coffee cake—it doesn’t call for anything else,” she might respond in exasperation.

“I know, but there are berries…” my dad will trail off, realizing he isn’t clearing any ground. To this point, he will sometimes swap locally picked blueberries or peaches for his classic Sun-Maid currants in scones.

About halfway through his recipe, things start to get complicated. My family has a pastry blender that looks a little like a horseshoe, with five thick, silver wires bent into a loop and attached on either end to a thick rubber handle. In the only instances I’ve ever seen it put to use, my dad digs out this tool for the step of butter-cutting. Patiently jamming the wires into a room-temperature block of margarine, he uses a fork to scrape the resulting slivers off the metal. Painstaking and messy. If my sister and I are helping him, we attempt (with no avail) to speed through this process. “The butter is the most important part,” my dad explains, never possessing any sense of urgency. “That’s where the flakiest layers come from.” Envisioning the translucent sheets of dough, stacked piping hot under the shell of his golden biscuits, my mouth always waters. I stifle any harbored complaints.

With a handful of currants and a quick combination of wet and dry, my dad is soon placing eight evenly-spaced triangles onto our worn slate baking sheets. The fruits-to-labor ratio in this recipe is a source of personal frustration for me. An hour of work and only eight pieces in total? My dad, of course, doesn’t mind. Wielding a bristled brush, he furrows his brow and leans over the trays, lovingly brushing a coat of melted butter atop each glistening slice of dough. Deftly sprinkling raw cane sugar onto their tops, his goal is a delicate crunch with every bite. Then fate is left to the oven.

The art of cooking has never intentionally been gendered in my family. Preparing our meals does often fall into my mom’s hands, but this is a pattern which fell into place organically, following her decision to leave work and stay home with me and my sister. She has taught me most of what I know, in a practical sense. It is by her side that I’ve witnessed our family traditions in action: blending coleslaw dressing, rolling a fresh pie crust (store-bought would be sacrilege), simmering winter bean chili. Her wealth of knowledge is a source I will draw from for the rest of my life. My dad’s attitude, however—even more than his unique set of skills—is what will inspire me always.

The whimsical approach which my dad takes to food is one I seek to imitate. He has shown me the presence of bliss in the kitchen. By devoting energy to select cuisinal items, he has allowed himself to explore their intricacies, and so emerge with a level of personal satisfaction which I can only hope to emulate. The thorough advice he presents my sister and I comes from a place of passion rather than a sense of responsibility, and it sincerely shows. Everyone has to eat and drink, and from the point of creation to consumption my dad does so merrily.

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Reviews

Mike’s vs. Modern Pastry

Cannoli Contenders in Boston’s Historic North End

Caroline Dragonetti

A night out in Boston’s North End is bound to present some challenges. Whether you’re comparing restaurant metrics on Yelp, or trying to find your Uber in the cluster of cars on Hanover St., perhaps the most difficult challenge you’ll encounter will be leaving room for dessert. If you’re someone who can muster up enough willpower to forego those last few bites of Linguine Fra Diavolo, both Mike’s and Modern Pastry offer a wide range of well-deserved treats to finish the night. Though the two rival bakeries claim to have the best and most authentic Italian pastries in Boston, the experience that they offer customers, as well as their signature cannolis, could not be more different.

From the outside, the establishments look the same. Their neon signs illuminate the faces of young couples lined up on the curb and the gawking passersby. Only after you have shuffled over the threshold do their distinct characteristics and quirks become more apparent.

At Mike’s, you are greeted by the heavy aroma of pure sugar: crushed oreos, raspberry sorbet, chocolate frosting. The fluorescent overheads reflect off silver cases displaying rows of cupcakes and stacks of pizzelle. Blue and white balls swing from the ceiling as workers secure to-go boxes with twine from a spool whirring inside. The floor is decorated by a constellation of pennies and nickels that have slipped from palms and pockets. They are cash only, and things move fast.

While Mike’s advertises their expansive cannoli range with colorful graphics that read like a Warhol piece, they don’t neglect the classic Sicilian. The crunchy shells are made in-house and stuffed with enough creamy ricotta—each bite threatens to send whatever remains shooting out the other side. Finely chopped pistachios satisfy Instagrammers and foodies alike with a pop of color and earthy taste. It makes sense that you never see anyone leave Mike’s without a box.

Across the street, Modern Pastry’s door barely closes as patrons continuously funnel in and out. The smell of anise and chocolate clings to your clothes. Cans of coffee and hot chocolate line the walls. Bouquets of biscotti wrapped in cellophane top tables stacked with panettone. Binders boasting pictures of wedding and birthday cakes splay open on the counter where you queue to order your desserts. Overhead, a sign suspended from the ceiling swings every time the front door opens. With true Italian assurance it reads: “You want cannoli? WE HAVE CANNOLI!”

Unlike Mike’s, where the desserts are pre-made and ready to go, Modern does not fill their shells until they are ordered. This process prevents the shells from becoming too soft or soggy, and keeps them perfectly flaky. Though the bakery outsources for their cannoli casings, I’m told from “somewhere in Italy,” their ultimate product is unbelievably fresh tasting. Another notable difference is the size of Modern’s cannoli. While Mike’s rendition is significantly bigger—think the size of a fist—those at Modern don’t get much longer than a finger. Modern’s take on the Sicilian, however, features pistachio pieces that are larger and more roughly cut, adding for even more texture variety. Customers are treated to a dessert that mimics, if not competes with, what you would find in Italy.

Though there’s undoubtedly some major differences between the two stellar bakeries, it’s clear that finding a damn good cannoli is one challenge you won’t run into in Boston’s North End. Enjoy one while looking for your Uber and, of course, bring a full box home.

Mike’s Pastry, 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

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Allium Market and Cafe

Local Space for Global Flavors

Michaela Santillo

There is no other way to fully understand the deep-rooted charm of Allium, an independently-owned specialty foods haven, than to walk through the Tudor-style facade and be greeted by the epicure’s dream pantry.

I walk past Brookline Booksmith and the iconic Coolidge Corner Theater towards a market/cheese shop/café trifecta located in the S.S. Pierce Building. Historically home to the Coolidge & Brother General Store (est.1887), this iconic hub formerly served as the commercial center and namesake of this Brookline neighborhood.

Allium produces dishes to share with passersby who get hooked by the artisanal charm, and stay for the complete sensory experience. The emerald-tiled wall and the ceiling lined with hanging plants create a grounded, harmonious feeling. Handwritten labels and menu boards echo the casual precision with which the ingredients are molded into masterpieces. It has a familiar feel; the marketplace and cheese shop become your pantry, and the café your kitchen.

Catered to the gastronome, the market is filled with specialty items ranging from Cherokee purple tomato shrub, to walnut mustard, to white truffle honey. The floor-to-ceiling cabinets that showcase the eccentric goods take my eyes on their own visual adventure. On choosing products to sell, founder and General Manager Talia Glass says, “We look for products that have a story to tell with value: products that taste great, that are genuine, that are honest and, usually, simple.”

Beaming from the back corner of the store, cheese cases display the largest selection of domestic and imported cheese in the area. Like a proud farmer showing off their harvest, a team member is always around to curate cheese boards and answer questions about the unique assortment.  Talia’s vision for the cheese section was “a cheese and charcuterie shop with a totally kick-ass selection of cut-to-order cheeses that honor farmstead cheesemaking, small farms and producers, and traditional, global cheesemaking practices, while again, not offering the same stuff that every other shop in the Boston area is bringing in.”

The cafe portion features bread sourced from Clear Flour Bread in Packard’s Corner, as well as coffee from Massachusetts’s own George Howell Coffee, paying a modern homage to the general store that preceded them. Instead of focusing on local goods from New England, part of Allium’s philosophy is to source products from small producers around the world. This belief is rooted in the idea that “people sometimes lose track of quality, craftsmanship, and the cultural importance of foods when they are hyper-focused on ‘eating local.’”

The menu itself is inspired by the ingredients, experiences, and insights of Glass and her crew. With a team as carefully selected as the ingredients, Allium is constantly buzzing as the dishes are realized through their insight. The food tastes of the honest joy the team shares. Inherent to Allium is their candid philosophy surrounding their food: “It’s pretty simple: Eat good food. Eat food that tastes good. Eat food that’s made with good ingredients. Eat food that’s grown with good practices. Eat food that’s made with good intentions and systems. Eat food that supports good, local economies. Eat good food. Cook good food. Celebrate good food.”

The pastry case, filled with impeccably arranged desserts, resembles a still-life painting rendered with contrast and crisp composition; a citrus olive oil bundt cake with a blood orange glaze becomes the focal point. A winter citrus infusion gives the base a sour note to balance the richness of the cake. Portuguese olive oil makes up for the lack of dairy in the dessert, making it a great option for vegans and non-vegans alike. Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fernandes’ attention to taste is embodied in the fresh chocolate chip cookies, which are baked in batches throughout the day. The cookie gets its nuance from the nutty browned butter, adding a depth of flavor.

In their own take on the classic Italian soda, Allium offers tea and shrub sodas. Drinking one felt like listening to a juicy tête-à-tête between two effervescent individuals. The Earl Grey soda was a refreshing take on an iced tea, but nothing superior to the traditional version. I found the strawberry shrub soda invigorating, however; it celebrated the authentic strawberry flavor often bastardized in commercial drinks.

The baguette is the star of the Banh Mi, which uses a soy-ginger marinated tofu instead of the usual pork. Biting into the baguette creates a symphony of crackle, as pleasing to hear as it is to taste. Pickled carrots, daikon radish, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro all provide a welcome contrast to the flavor of the tofu. But if the Banh Mi shows off Allium’s innovative flair, their grilled cheese demonstrates their spectacular ability to master the simplest dishes. Among the more garden variety offerings, the Yaffa salad provides a rather simple mix of fresh leaf lettuce, cucumbers, hearts of palm, tomatoes, radishes, and chickpeas, revived by a bright carrot-ginger dressing.

To order the cheese board is to visit a museum with a personal tour guide. Beaming as only a proud mother could, Head Cheesemonger Chelsea Germer explains the origins and peculiarities of the masterful collage she has created. Designed specifically for each customer, the board is a chefs-d’œuvre. Highlights include house-made Italian pickled vegetables with star anise, a blue cheese cold-smoked cheese over hazelnut shells, a local Capella with truffle honey, and floured almonds coated with dry edible flowers.

A place where food from around the world is explored and celebrated, Allium Market stays true to its historic home as a welcoming commercial center. Rooted in its ingredients but ready to cultivate original dishes, Allium enhances the pantries and palates of the community through its curated market and menu–and the community reciprocates. According to Glass, “Customers bring their families in, hold birthday parties here, and have started to become like family to us…I always tell my staff, our customers don’t need us. They can go spend their money anywhere! It is we who need them, and so it is up to us to keep offering something special, something unique, something worth their time.”

Allium Market and Cafe, 1330 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02446

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Reviews

¡Salud!

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant

Valentina Pardo

I shifted my weight from one leg to another as we stood in line. A warm sense of familiarity and excitement fluttered in my chest. Laura raised her eyebrow and looked at her watch for the tenth time and muttered something under that heavy accent that I couldn’t understand. Carlota just sighed and kept hovering over the people in front of us, standing in her toes and trying to get a look at the place that had attracted so many hungry people. I ignored Laura’s skeptical eyes; I knew that if they did not seat us in the next five minutes, she was going to walk to the pizza place next door. Over my dead body. Luckily enough, we were invited right in before those two murdered me. If it were any other restaurant, I would not have dared to bring my friends with me, because what right does a Colombian have on taking two born-and-raised Spaniards to eat at a Spanish restaurant? I know…none. But don’t blame me. I had a craving for jàmon and Manchego croquetas that had been nudging at me for weeks.

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant is tightly nestled along the busy and never-ending Beacon Street, but undeniably stands out with its heavy glass doors and gray rustic tiles of vintage looking wood. Sitting at dinner with my friends, we didn’t feel like we were just eating food, we were actually enjoying ourselves without caring about our deafening Spanish voices and unbridled laughter. Most importantly, we were happy, and in that we were not alone. Smiles seemed to be served by the waiters, along with the golden olive oil and freshly baked bread.

Barcelona’s dynamic menu includes a refreshing variety of seasonal ingredients and complex flavors that keep the customers on their toes. They also serve the best wine from their award-winning selections of bottles from Spain and South America. Hence, their gastronomic combination of tradition and experimentation represents the two different worlds inside the venue.

In the “young and hip” side of the restaurant, you have the big parties of students, in groups of no less than eight to ten people, all sitting in rows of never-ending tables with three or four pitchers of red wine sangria passed around like water. Sitting in that sea of compulsive selfie takers, you are bound to either hear the well-known “happy birthday” song awkwardly spat out by a bunch of off-tune voices, or the melody of a tipsy, overly-emotional parent commemorating their child who has graduated and barely made it to the merciless world of the labor market. Left and right, servers can be spotted clumsily trying to fit all of the table participants into one single shot so the memory of the evening can be later recalled and shared.

At Barcelona it always feels like everybody is celebrating something.

Contrastingly, the left side of the restaurant is filled with the “grown-ups” sitting patiently along the bar, individuals with nine-to-five jobs that desperately need a break from the conference rooms and phone calls, and seek to escape with a good bottle of Pinot Noir or Albariño. On this side, though, celebrations are also present, normally caused by unexpected promotions, anniversaries, or the mere fact that the hell-of-a-week they’ve been having has finally come to an end. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, the space catches more energy. All of a sudden, the stools are no longer compatible with the number of bodies seeking to drink and the room begins to look more like a cocktail party than the “sit down quietly and drink your sorrows” type of bar found anywhere else. Barcelona brings out the best in everyone as it becomes a place where people can come together and drink without feeling guilty, because it’s drinking in honor of something, or someone.

Although the types of celebrations can vary between the two different sides of the restaurant, there is a factor that brings all of the people together, regardless of age or upcoming salary: the food. The food is the same in every single table. The beauty of eating at a tapas place like Barcelona is that there are no rules when it comes to ordering. You don’t have to choose just one dish, you can order all of them if you want. Can’t decide between the gambas al ajillo or the sweet potato hummus? Try them both! Eating at Barcelona is a unique experience as it gives you the freedom to experiment. If you don’t like something, chances are somebody else will eat it–this gives you room to keep trying bits and pieces of everything until you find those flavors you’re looking for. Last year’s Executive Chef Steven Brand basically sums it up as he says, “It’s not just dining because you’re hungry, it’s dining because it’s fun.” It’s fun to celebrate and mix things up in your palate. It is fun to let yourself be surprised or even disturbed by the unexpected flavors stuck in between your teeth.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that sharing only applies to the tapas – trust me, you are going to want to order more than one dessert. There is no way of choosing only one. My friends and I ordered the porras, spanish churros. With one bite, I got everything one looks for in a churro: the perfect crunchiness in the outside and the comfort of the softness in the inside. I was not overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar in any way, and it paired perfectly with the taste of the fresh dough and the side of melted chocolate. But, as you may expect, curiosity got the best of us, so we ordered the dulce de leche crepe. The vanilla ice cream on top melted against the warm crepe while the layer of chocolate sauce and crushed walnuts added a satisfying crunch to the bite. This sweet combination was the perfect ending we were looking for to feel satisfied, and after taking a look at the check, we found yet another reason to celebrate.

So, when it comes to properly enjoying this transcendental experience of eating at Barcelona, there is one general rule that you need to follow. Drumroll please…you have to be hungry! And, yes, I mean this literally and if you are, you will not be disappointed, especially if you order the patatas bravas, or the chorizo with sweet and sour figs. The bravas are the Spanish classic, and the chef respects tradition as he cuts them in the traditional cube form, and adds nothing to them but paprika, the aioli sauce, and their famous salsa brava. The potatoes are fried to perfection–every time I order them they are cloaked by a golden crunch that you have to bite though to get the softness hidden inside. The saltiness of the potato is married to the creamy garlic sauce, creating a perfect balance. On the other hand, the chorizo with sweet and sour figs is everything but traditional. Who would have guessed that chorizo, an ingredient that is in itself salty and fatty, would get along so well with figs and caramelized brown sugar? A genius, that’s who. But when I refer to hunger, I also mean another type of hunger, a hunger for celebration and community. Yes, you have to crave the rich taste of Spanish culture, but you also have to yearn for the long conversations and the sense of unity that the restaurant harbors. Barcelona serves the food in small plates on purpose: it wants you to interact with those around you. It sets you up so that when you’re asking for someone to pass the delicious seafood paella, you are inevitably starting a conversation; you are sparking a new connection or strengthening another relationship. Thus, Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant celebrates life with you and stays open until the last guest leaves. In the meantime, as those last few plates are passed around and scraped clean and the glasses are refilled until the last drop, you have just enough time to raise your glasses and say, salud!

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant, 1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

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Finding Home in Three Brookline Coffee Shops

Claire Madden

Whenever I am feeling tired of my apartment, of my bedroom and living room and especially the kitchen, with its frozen berry stains and lemony overhead light, I make a coffee run. I am looking for somewhere new to go and some caffeine, but there is something more pressing about seeking out a coffee shop. I am searching for somewhere warm and fresh, a place I do not have to maintain or nourish myself, a second home. Three Brookline-area coffee shops in particular fulfill this definition of home for me, weary or restless as I feel. Tatte, Caffè Nero, and Café Fixe, all conveniently nestled on either side of the C Line, each present a different and entirely welcome sense of home.

If I were to categorize each of these coffee shops as different rooms in a house–think a sprawling, bright house surrounded by greenery—Tatte would certainly be the kitchen. Walking in feels like you have woken up early in the morning to be greeted with ample sunshine and warm lamps, buzzing conversation, and the smell of fresh coffee and pastries. It is a place that feels like home, down to the apothecary-style table that holds quiches and croissants, the subway tile lining the walls, and the hand-written menus. Glass jars of granola and biscotti dot a well-stocked counter, and just above crisp tote bags for sale, a vintage portrait hangs. You do not feel as though you are intruding on someone’s busy mealtime, but instead you are ushered in, welcomed. A large farm table in the center of the restaurant encourages this kind of community—when I arrived, two impeccably dressed women sat at one corner, looking at photos of their grandchildren, and at the other, a group of students happily chatted over muffin crumbs. Tatte inspires brightness and familiarity, with chairs turned casually toward each other and an abundance of brilliant tile and glassware. I ordered a latte and a crimson berry herbal tea—good for either an energy spike first thing in the morning, or a leisurely start—as well as a lightly sweet strawberry-raspberry meringue. The latte’s artistry was rivalled only by the vibrant berry color of the tea, and the satisfying crack of the meringue. Tatte offers a distinct freshness and openness, the first taste of spring.

Tatte

Caffè Nero, just a few stops up the C Line towards Cleveland Circle, offers a completely different, yet just as comforting, sense of place. If Tatte is the kitchen, then Caffè Nero is the infinitely cozy living room. It is the type of place I would duck into if I was struggling to warm up deep in the winter, or just wanted a quiet place to finish a book or an assignment. It seems like a salve for the homesick—maybe for me in particular, after seeing a basket of Italian Baci Perugina chocolates at the counter that brought me back to my grandparents’ kitchen. The patrons who frequent the café are equally warm, like an older woman who offered me her chair when she saw I was sitting on the ground to get a quick photo of my chai latte (a particularly incredible one, just sweet enough). Lined with books, old and new, and furnished with brightly-colored plush armchairs and couches, Caffè Nero could be anyone’s dream living room. The abundance of color is striking, from the raspberry macaron I ordered, to their signature sky-blue cups, to a soft pink wall that climbs toward exposed beams. When I arrived, it was crowded but almost completely silent; sitting there felt oddly like sitting with your family, all working or reading or watching something else, but together. The café is centered around a large fireplace and a circle of pastel-blue booths, and even as people enjoy their own sandwiches and salads and coffees and pastries, it does feel as though you are enjoying this time together.

Caffè Nero

If Caffè Nero and Tatte are places to settle in and find community, than Café Fixe is the spot to take a breath and have a little time to yourself. I think it is a particularly good option if you are feeling overwhelmed or weary of your own space. Right across the street from Caffè Nero in Washington Square, Café Fixe offers a completely different environment: it is noticeably smaller than the other shops, but this affords a new tranquility and intimacy. I found it to be almost like the sunroom of a house—not as bright and bustling, or cozy and studious, but radiating calm. I ordered a macchiato, which came in a small porcelain cup that fit perfectly atop the slim bar—it was bold and intense, a striking contrast to the serenity of the café itself. The walls are painted pastel blue, and the light wood bar along the wall invites one’s tired arms or large cappuccino beside a laptop. The decor is minimal, yet well-considered: orchids perch on top of cabinets or beside the cash register, and a small collection of pastries and desserts fills a rustic wooden and glass case. The café does not have a large seating area, but its sparseness does not mean it lacks warmth or closeness–the only other customers in the café at the time were a father and his toddler son, one working on a document, and the other sitting perfectly upright on the high stool, watching a kids’ show. Going to Café Fixe allows you to take a moment, alone or together.

Café Fixe

Tatte Bakery and Cafe, 1003 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

Caffè Nero, 1633 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

Café Fixe, 1642 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02245