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Dolphin Bay Restaurant Review

Emmalie Vanderpool

The Greater Boston Area is a hub of unique and traditional restaurants from a variety of cultures. Dolphin Bay, an unassuming Taiwanese restaurant in Allston, harbors an array of deliciously authentic specialties. The decor is ocean-themed, with a large wooden boat protruding from the rear of the restaurant and serving as a countertop for the host and workers. Painted with tropical murals of palm trees, seagulls, and dolphins, the restaurant provides a strange but amusing atmosphere in the wintertime. Visiting Dolphin Bay is an experience, and well worth it for the food. Alongside its cuisine, the restaurant offers an array of specialty teas, slushes, juices, and flavored milk. During our visit, my family favored the strawberry slush drink and the Thai iced tea, which presented two different–but equally refreshing–flavors. 

I coerced my family into trying out the restaurant with me, so I could order all of the dishes that interested me. For appetizers, we got spicy wontons, small fried chicken pieces tossed in a spice mix, and takoyaki. The wontons were similar to dumplings but with a softer wrapper; I loved their silky texture and meat-filled center, paired with the hot oil drizzled overtop. The fried chicken pieces are the restaurant’s specialty and can be ordered as mild, medium or hot. They were perfectly crispy, and came in a fairly large and well-seasoned portion. Takoyaki consists of a small piece of squid surrounded by a fried dough ball, which is then drizzled with sauces and bonito flakes. They are incredible, despite sounding a little bizarre. One round down, and we still wanted to try a lot more!

After the appetizers, we chose a few meals to split. We ordered sesame noodles, a pork belly rice plate, beef noodle soup, and stir fried udon noodles with chicken. The noodle and rice dishes had a perfect balance of flavors which were gentle and light, not overpowering. Each plate had a portion of meat, starch, and veggies, working together in fresh and healthy combinations. The sesame noodles had a delicious peanut and sesame sauce coating, paired with some bok choy and chunks of ground pork. I prefer Udon noodles, which are thicker, but this sauce made a difference. It was subtle and contained carrots, onions, and more bok choy with greens. The pork belly was moist, flavorful, and oily; perfect for over the rice, and for pairing with the gravy and vegetables on the side (we chose to mix them with everything else). Collectively, our favorite dish was the beef noodle soup, which was rich and savory. The noodles, strips of beef, and greens were plentiful and cooked perfectly, absorbing the broth and taking on some of its flavor. The notes of beef were deep and complex, making the soup fairly addicting and therefore hard to share. We all fought for our turn with the large bowl.

For dessert, we ordered shaved ice with mango, condensed milk, and red bean to split. Toppings are optional, and there are a variety of options to choose from in order to suit any palette. The dessert was enormous–between the six of us we only finished half–but it was very refreshing. Red bean and condensed milk are both common dessert items in Asian cuisine, and we loved sampling the new flavor profiles and textures they presented. Mango added a burst of fresh sweetness, which elevated the experience even further. We left incredibly full and incredibly happy– I would recommend Dolphin Bay to anyone who is trying to expand their palette while seeking restaurants in the Greater Boston area. 

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Harvest Sweet Potato Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

My favorite meals in fall and winter are colorful, warm dishes that brighten my mood and heat me up from the inside-out. Hearty, meatless meals can sometimes be difficult to think up, but my Harvest Sweet Potato recipe is vegan, simple, and delicious during the colder months. Fill up your baked sweet potato with the vegan filling for a side dish, or scoop out the soft inside of the potato and add beans, a crumbled veggie burger, and/or chopped up chicken-apple sausage to make it a bowl! 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash a sweet potato with water and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and place the sweet potato on the tinfoil, using a knife to cut a few small slits into the potato. Bake the sweet potato for 45-60 minutes depending on its size. While the potato is cooking, chop up half of an apple, a cup of mushrooms, and a quarter of a white onion. When there are 10-15 minutes of baking time left, begin sauteeing the fruit and veggie mixture. Place the apple and onion in the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the mushroom. Season the mixture with a teaspoon of thyme, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon and a squirt of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning preference. Remove the sweet potato from the oven and cut open, using a fork to remove the soft sweet potato from the peel. Add a pat of butter to the potato and top with a few scoops of filling. Use sriracha or hot sauce for spice and enjoy! 

Photo from Delish: “Perfect Baked Sweet Potato”

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Anti-Social Dining

William Batchelor

I never used to like eating alone in public. It made me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have anyone to eat with. In many ways, dining out felt as though it was more about social interaction than the food itself. I think my fear came from those cliché high school movies where the new student sits alone at lunch and all the mean kids make fun of him. 

In my freshman year at Boston College, I never sat down to a meal at Mac if I didn’t have someone to sit with. Instead, I would walk timidly through the dining hall, grab food, and make my way back to Upper campus so I could eat in my dorm room. My food was usually cold by the time I returned, but it was better than the thought of sitting by myself.

This phobia lasted many years, but all it took was one meal to change my outlook on dining solo. I was in Hong Kong with my mum at the time, and she left me to explore the city while she caught up with friends. That afternoon, I found myself wandering the streets of Hong Kong’s trendy fashion district, Causeway Bay. After indulging in some retail therapy, I began to crave a hearty meal to warm me up on that chilly winter afternoon. I initially thought about grabbing something from a café, but then decided to go look for some traditional Cantonese dim sum. 

As I walked along the grungy streets of Causeway Bay, I noticed a sizable crowd gathering outside what appeared to be a Japanese restaurant. I followed suit; if people were waiting outside in the cold, the food was bound to be good. 

When I got to the front of the line, the hostess asked, “How many?” 

I sheepishly replied, “Just for one.” 

She nodded, and gestured for me to follow her as she walked through the restaurant. Since the signage was all in Japanese, I had no idea what I was about to eat. But as soon as I walked in, the aroma of pork-steeped ramen broth was unmistakable. To my surprise, however, there were no tables inside the space… only personal booths.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had stumbled into one of Japan’s most famous ramen chains, Ichiran. Renowned for its rich tonkotsu pork broth and thin handmaid noodles, Ichiran serves some of the best ramen you can find outside of Japan. Rather than having guests gather at tables together, diners sit at individual “flavour concentration booths” to fully appreciate the quality of the soup. 

There is very little human interaction once you get to your seat. I was isolated from all other customers, thanks to the dividers placed on either side of me. In front of my chair, a little window covered by a bamboo screen concealed the inside of the kitchen. At Ichiran, there is no menu. Instead, waiting for me at my booth was an order sheet that let me curate my perfect bowl of ramen. Firm noodles, extra spicy, with sliced pork, ultra rich broth and a soft boiled egg. I pressed the “service” button and seconds later, the bamboo screen was lifted, and two hands appeared. They retrieved my written order, and then the bamboo partition was lowered. 

Just minutes later, the screen rose once more, revealing my steaming bowl of ramen. The broth was opaque and cloudy with the noodles neatly arranged on top. A dollop of fiery red chilli paste sat in the middle of the bowl as mounds of scallions, sliced pork shoulder, and a perfectly runny boiled egg completed the dish. 

I grabbed my chopsticks and soup-spoon and began mixing the dish together, fusing the brightly-colored chilli paste into the pale broth. Then I began to build the perfect bite: a bit of broth, a little pork, a few noodles, and a chunk of egg. It was pure magic. The soup was silky with just the right amount of spice. The noodles were perfectly al dente with the right amount of chew. The pork was tender and the egg was perfectly cooked. I had never tasted ramen like this before. It was the perfect bowl. 

Before I knew it, I had eaten all the noodles and barely made a dent in the broth. Luckily, at Ichiran you can order more of anything as you go. I filled out another order sheet, requesting more noodles, and a second egg. I pressed the “service” button and had a new bowl of noodles and an egg at my table in a matter of seconds. 

Prior to dining at Ichiran, I had never seen the bottom of a ramen bowl. I could never finish my servings because they were always too rich or filling. But the ramen there is perfectly balanced, and for the first time, I reached the bowl’s ceramic floor. I even debated ordering another round, but decided on the green tea ice cream for dessert instead.

Throughout my entire dining experience at Ichiran, I never felt uncomfortable or embarrassed. The anti-social dining concept took away the shame I felt from eating alone. With self-pity removed, I was able to focus my attention entirely toward what I was eating, as opposed to wondering what other people were thinking of me. By eliminating all social interaction, there were no distractions when I sat down for my meal. The only focus was the bowl in front of me. I tasted flavours I wouldn’t normally notice, and appreciated the quality of the ingredients. Throughout the meal I refrained from using my phone, just so I could sit with my thoughts and reflect. 

Although the social aspect of dining out is still what appeals to me most, my experience at Ichiran allowed me to embrace the idea of eating out alone. I realized I shouldn’t be concerned with how other people regard me in this setting. I now have no issue sitting alone on campus and eating lunch. I almost think of it as a meditative experience. I put in my headphones, listen to music, and enjoy my meal. It helps me clear my mind and reset for the day ahead. 

Photo by Eater NY

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The Best Breakfast Sandwich Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine with breakfast foods and grow tired of simple eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt. This breakfast sandwich recipe is balanced enough to satisfy a craving for sweet or savory, and can be tweaked to fit individual flavor preferences. Switch out different meats, veggies, hot sauces, and jellies to guarantee a different and delicious sandwich every time.

(Makes one breakfast sandwich)

Put a frying pan on medium heat and cook two slices of bacon to your desired crispness. While it’s cooking, chop up ⅕ of a green pepper and ¼ of a small white onion into small cubes. Once the bacon is done, let rest on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oil. After removing most–but not all–of the grease from the pan, throw in the veggies and cook on medium heat for around five minutes. Next, turn down the heat to medium-low and crack two eggs over the pan, letting them cook for a few seconds as they are. Add shredded cheese and begin stirring the mixture until the eggs are scrambled and cooked through, but still appear to have a little moisture left (this takes about one minute). Remove the frying pan from the burner and season the eggs with a pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toast a bagel and spread jam on one side, hot sauce on the other (my favorite combination is raspberry jam with peach and vidalia onion flavored hot sauce). Construct your final product by layering the bacon and egg mixture on top, and sandwiching it between both ends of the toasted bagel. Then enjoy your delicious breakfast!

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24 Hours in Portland, Maine

Chloe McAllaster

As the leaves turn to brown, crimson, and orange, misty mornings and crisp days call for bundling up in chunky sweaters and sipping steamy mugs of hot cider. With the advent of autumn comes a craving for warm comfort food that nourishes the body and soul. If you plan on heading out of the city to experience the best of New England’s foliage and fall festivities, I recommend a quick trip to Portland, Maine. A coastal hub that embodies quintessential New England—from historic lighthouses to nautical-themed seaside restaurants—Portland has come to be known for its bustling food scene. On a recent overnight trip to Maine’s largest city, a quick survey of Yelp revealed dozens of top-rated restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. With only 24 hours to explore the city’s winding cobblestone streets, I certainly did not leave every stone unturned in Portland. I can, however, confidently attest that nowhere else does fall comfort food like this town.

Breakfast: Local 188

A visit to Local 188 feels like weekend brunch at your neighbor’s house—if your neighbor is a talented Spanish chef. The atmosphere is undeniably cozy: a couch and chairs welcome those waiting to be seated, while tables lining the walls are made extra-comfortable with colorful throw pillows. Coffee is served in mismatched mugs just like those you would find in your grandma’s kitchen, and live plants line the windows. The weekend brunch offerings feature something for everyone; classic eggs with homefries, seasonal scrambles, breakfast paella, huevos rancheros, and breakfast sandwiches, to name just a few. Though the menu consists of staple breakfast foods, Local 188 crafts them to perfection and pays attention to presentation. You may feel as though you could be in your own living room, and yet the food is far from amateur.

Lunch: The Highroller Lobster Co

No trip to Maine would be complete without indulging in some lobster. At first glance, Highroller looks like a retro diner: a red and white color palette, a simple menu in a tidy font, and a striped awning all combine to create a timeless look. Graffiti on the back patio and trendy neon signs add a contemporary twist. As a lobster novice, I opted for the lobster roll and shared “Lobby Pops”—think corn dog, but with lobster—as an appetizer. I wouldn’t call this meal a win for my health, but it certainly did not disappoint my taste buds. 

Afternoon Snack: Tandem Coffee + Bakery

Don’t let the line down the block for Tandem Coffee on Congress Street intimidate you—it’s well worth the wait. A converted old-school gas station, Tandem is the mid-century modern coffeehouse of my dreams. The minimalist design allows the coffee and baked goods to truly shine, while providing ample indoor and outdoor space to catch up with friends. The best part of Tandem, however, has to be the friendly staff who go above and beyond to serve their customers. Even amidst the Sunday morning rush, the server asked the family behind me which colored plate their three-year-old daughter would like for her muffin. My heart melted. 

Dinner: East Ender

By the time dinner rolled around, I had caught on to a common theme among Portland’s restaurants. They all possess an intimate ambience that makes you want to curl up in a blanket right in the middle of the main course. This quaint and warm environment certainly extends to East Ender, a new American restaurant that capitalizes on Portland’s historic charm. The two-floor restaurant features unimposing wooden tables and tufted booths, with antique curios and photos adorning the walls. A dark wooden bar and scattered chandeliers complete the homey look. I opted for the classic fish and chips as my main course, and I would do so again in a heartbeat.

Dessert: Bar of Chocolate

I wrapped up my whirlwind Portland food tour at a dessert bar tucked away on Wharf Street. Unlike the famed Chocolate Bar of BC (as my friends and I accidentally referred to it), Bar of Chocolate serves up specialty martinis, ports, and dessert wines alongside sweet indulgences like cheesecake and chocolate torte. The dark mood lighting and soft music made for the perfect setting to end the trip and fill up on some truly decadent drinks and desserts. I might even venture to say that we saved the best spot for last.

Photo: Visit Portland

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Camping the Right Way

Emmalie Vanderpool

Fall in New Hampshire is a magical thing. It transforms the landscape to its greatest form as the leaves transition from green to gold, burgundy, and sunset orange. This year, my roommates and I planned a fall break trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, to stay at our friend’s cozy lakeside vacation home located in central New Hampshire. As we left Boston and its sea of industrial skyscrapers, the highway roads became flanked with tall trees and the wilderness marked our passage from the hustle and bustle of the city to the relaxed nature of lake living. The scenery was picturesque; the sun glinted off of the lake, the leaves rustled and fell around us, and the sight of stars and sounds of nature were almost startling after living next to the city for so long. We celebrated our first night with a dinner of cheese, crackers, and wine, and afterward roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Storybooks were never so close to coming to life as they were during our weekend away. 

Planning many little excursions, we got to shop in homegrown country stores, give ourselves heart attacks in a haunted corn maze, trek up a mountain to capture the perfect viewpoint of the lake, and end the trip with a group dinner at a restaurant called Camp. Nestled beside a candy store and small flowing waterfall, Camp fit right into the New Hampshire ambiance. 

The restaurant was themed to reflect classic summer camp, right down to the menu items and comfort foods, and it did not disappoint. We came equipped for the log cabin vibe and dressed mostly in oversized warm sweaters, ready to cover up the inevitable food babies that we were determined to leave with. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of a lodge. There were long wooden tables with names carved into them, red gingham curtains, wood-panelled walls, and a few stuffed animal heads which we avoided eye contact with as we ate our meal. It was warm, rustic, and loud with chattering patrons and happy diners. 

This was a celebratory event, bringing our girls’ trip to an end, so we splurged on drinks and appetizers. Our eyes lit up upon spotting the cheese-and-gravy fries, and the “Camp Crackers,” which consisted of a sliced cheesy flatbread with garlic and scallions–simple choices, but covered in enough cheese to satisfy everyone. The fries were served in a hot skillet; they were extra crispy but softened upon contact with the thick chicken gravy and melted cheese sauce. The crackers were salty and gooey, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and cheddar cheese which worked quite well when dipped in the remnants of the fries’ gravy. The most memorable themed drinks consisted of a Honey Bourbon cocktail, a Boozy Hot Chocolate, and a Dirty Shirley Temple… all of which equally satisfied our childhood nostalgia and recently-turned-21 needs. After we collectively drained these, our waiter surprised us with homemade biscuits and whipped butter for the table. Of course we had no other option but to consume those as well. It was truly a glorious feast–and our main dishes were yet to arrive. 

The ordering process took some time due to the multitude of delicious choices; the menu was so perfectly crafted that it felt cruel to make us decide. Highlights from our final selection included the lobster mac and cheese, tempura chicken BBQ sandwich, veggie burger with curry aioli and pineapple salsa, bourbon-marinated steak tips, clam chowder, and falafel on naan bread. As our meals came out from the oven, we realized what a daunting task we laid out for ourselves; our stomachs whimpered in protest but we forged on. Uttering groans of dissent (which we silenced with more mouthfuls of food),we stuffed ourselves to fullest capacity on the piping hot and seemingly home-cooked meals. Everything was buttery, savory, and balanced, but certainly indulgent. My clam chowder was fresh and homemade, creamy and well-seasoned but not too thick. The biscuits were the perfect companion to the soup, allowing me to soak up every drop of the New England specialty. However, our night of eating still wasn’t complete. In celebration of our friend’s 22nd birthday, we received a complimentary order of Fireside S’mores. Held in a hot pan, the dessert was more of a dip, with a melted chocolate layer on the bottom and a toasted marshmallow layer on top. Strips of graham crackers were used to scoop it up. Full enough to burst, we knew by the end that we had made the very most of our camping trip. 

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Elevating the Ramen Experience

Emmalie Vanderpool

As assignment due dates grow closer and Uber prices continue to rise, I find myself less and less inclined to trek to the grocery store and continue to buy fresh foods. With the arrival of the autumnal season, cozy, warm meals become so enticing–as long as I don’t have to spend the time and money to consume them. Repeatedly, and embarrassingly, I find myself making ramen packets because of how cheap, easy, and delicious they are. As a beginner, I gravitated towards the chicken-flavored, Maruchan-brand ramen. This version is classic, an oily soup with a light poultry taste. I soon grew tired of the monotony of what was basically a salted noodle soup, though, and began to test out the spicier ramen packets in the international food aisle. 

As a rule of thumb, the best ramen packets are generally those with Asian lettering, as they often have a deeper flavor profile with more authentic soup bases and spice mixes. I am personally fond of the flavors which require you to drink two glasses of milk while eating them, so as not to burn your taste buds off. Most grocery chains carry the Shin Ramyun brand, which includes both a soup base and multiple spice packets to create a fuller, more complex broth for the ramen noodles. Liquid flavoring works to thicken the soup and gives it a strong beef taste, which complements the chewy ramen noodles by coating them in umami-goodness while they cook. The dry flavor packet is composed of spices and dehydrated green onion, mushroom, and carrot, which round out the soup with subtleties to cut through the beef. Vegetables add both flavor and a slight texture to each mouthful of noodles. The level of spice produced by using the entirety of the liquid packet and the spice packet together is not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to adjust to a less volcanic burst of flavor by portioning the packets as desired and not adding them all at once. 

Elevating the ramen experience by purchasing higher quality brands is one step towards ramen transcendence, but there are many other little tricks to crafting a dinner-worthy ramen noodle soup. The polished, Kylie Jenner-route would be to add butter, garlic powder, and a scrambled egg–but we can do better than that. I believe garlic is an herb passed down by cosmic entities to grace the food of humanity, so I’ll give Kylie that one. Rather than adding butter and a scrambled egg, though, I would suggest a form of egg that has a runny yolk, perhaps soft-boiled or  sunny-side-up. The yolk of the egg thickens the soup, makes it creamier, and flavors the ramen noodles, while the white of the egg adds texture and protein so that you can pretend it is a nutritious meal. Other protein sources like tofu or pork are traditionally put in Japanese ramen, and work very well with noodles and broth. Adding soup-friendly fresh or frozen veggies like mushrooms, white onions, green onions, or jalapenos can add more of a bite to your soup and make it a well-balanced meal (though, is health what ramen is really about?). Flavoring the soup with bonus spices like hot chili oil or chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, or even a dash of maple syrup can help cater to individual flavor preference. 

I am a firm believer in eliminating ramen shame, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick, hot, and inexpensive meal during the colder months to explore this college-friendly food. Little adjustments can make ramen more substantial, and the soup is a great base for adding in meat, veggies, and spices, according to taste. To my fellow Maruchan-beginners: you can do better!

Photo: New York Times, Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso

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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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¡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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Reviews

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