Monday, September 8, 2014

A Donut A Day

Life Alive Cafe - Cambridge, MA

     Life Alive is a place that is totally up my alley, and it really shouldn’t have taken me this long to get there. Joan and I met there one evening to catch up and the line was out the door from the moment we got there. Behind the counter, the shelves were lined with herbs, spices, and teas, and all of the workers totally gave off the hippy vibe. I loved it. It was awesome to see such a focus on health from their menu, hear the fresh juices being pressed and watch people enjoy whole, healthy foods. Life Alive strives to "renew your energy and connection to life by soulfully serving you the most fantastic, vibrant, organic, therapeutic, whole food you could ever imagine in an inspiring environment that honors local artisans, the community, and our global ecology." That might sound a little lofty to some, but it touches on a lot of things I have a passion for. 
The Swami
   For my meal I ordered The Swami. As a base, they served brown rice unlike any rice I've seen before. It was more round and sticky than normal rice. Much like little footballs. Tossed on top was a mix of tamari almonds, raisins, shredded carrots, broccoli, dark greens, & pearl onions all saturated with their sweet curry miso sauce. All of those ingredients fall within my list of favorite things. I loved the sweetness that the carrots and raisins brought (especially mixed with the sweet curry), but I also enjoyed the balance the rich greens and broccoli brought to the dish. As an added bonus, they sprinkled the dish with some nutritional yeast which I have only had once before on some kale chips Joan had one time. I really like the flavor of nutritional yeast! If you haven't tried it, don't be afraid. It's got a little bit of a cheesy flavor, even with the slight sharpness that some cheeses have. I enjoy it.


Brandano’s - Everett, MA
Don't judge me for my half eaten ice cream photo

     After an hour of some serious bounce time at Skyzone, I suggested ice cream to David and Michael, and they were all in. We headed to some place in Everett called Brandano’s. They had it all. Ice cream, soft serve, slush, sundaes, Spanish flavored things. It was crazy. Now one of my favorite cereals ever is Grape Nuts, so when I saw a Grape Nut custard, I had to have it, and it was fabulous! It had the rich and smooth flavors of custard, but also had these literal grape nut nuggets dispersed throughout. The nuggets had softened up a bit, so it wasn’t the stark contrast in texture between smooth custard and crunchy nuts. Ya know? Those things are normally super hard. After experiencing Grape Nut custard at this place, I’ve since seen it at one or two other places. How did I not know this was a thing?!


Union Square Donuts - Somerville, MA
They're bigger than they look

     Anytime you see an article for Best Doughnuts in America, Union Square Donuts is bound to be on that list. Everyone and their mother in Boston raves about them, and I’ve been meaning to try them
Oh how convenient... 
someday. Well… one day I needed to make a Post Office run from work, so I went to where I the Post Office used to be in Somerville. At first I was so mad when I discovered it had moved. However, when I arrived at the new location, I was no longer mad. Why? Directly next door to Union Square Donuts. It was a message from the universe. It was time. I went in and immediately consumed 3 donut holes. Best donut holes I’ve ever had. How can one perfect a donut hole? Not a clue. But the rich buttery nugget melted in your mouth, and the slightly thicker than normal glaze caressing the fried outer shell sealed the deal... literally.
See... enormous
    The actual donuts themselves are literally twice the size of your average Dunkin’ Donuts donut. They’re wider, taller and fatter. I went with the toasted coconut, and it rocked my world. I swear I sat wide-eyed at my desk for 15 minutes in shock. The flavor in these donuts was powerful. I’m not sure how to describe it. But in comparison to Donuts with a Difference in Medford, the flavors were on another level. Much stronger and richer. The texture of these donuts were lighter and more airy than Donuts with a Difference, so they squished down a bit more. I think I truthfully like when my donut holds it’s shape a little more, so in that respect I favored Donuts with a Difference. However, taste always trumps texture, so in that case USD takes the cake (or the donut for that matter). 


The Druid - Somerville, MA
Toasted cheese sandwich and the best fries ever

     Ok, I’ve been to The Druid in Inman Square a couple times but never really blogged about it because I’ve never ordered a meal. I’ve always just picked at other people’s plates. It was my last payroll, and Frances and I had a post payroll date. It was time for my formal introduction to the famous Druid (it’s an authentic Irish pub and half of the people at Gentle Giant are Irish). The inside is pretty dark, with dark woods surrounding the bar and a creepy celtic light statue that hung from the ceiling. It’s all very mysterious and fairytale like. Something that needs to be experienced rather than explained. 
     We started with some Old Fashioned drinks which I have never had before. It was really tasty, but I wasn’t even 3/4 of the way through it before my face started to feel a little tingly. Frances said they may have a heavy hand when it comes to pouring her and her party's drinks (she’s good friends with the bar tenders there). 
     I think The Druid may have won two titles for Best of Boston in my opinion. One… is their fries. They’re incredible. They’re the perfect texture (you know, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside), but it’s their flavor that takes them to a new level. Rosemary is the key ingredient here. Rosemary and pepper I believe. The spices just make them so fragrant and savory. It’s outrageous. I can’t believe that the fries from Saus keep getting named as the best fries in Boston when you’ve got these babies kicking around. 
     The second title I think The Druid should get is the Best Bread Basket (I know that's not an actual title, but it should be). They serve some sort of darker Irish soda bread. It’s incredibly moist and chewy inside, but the outside has the texture like that of a scone. It seems dry, but the inside is such a treasure and treat. It’s not sweet or rich as though there’s butter in it. It’s just hearty yet simple. Plus they serve their bread with room temperature butter, which always earns a gold star in my book. 
     For my meal I went with the toasted cheese sandwich WITH bacon (Frances said it was a necessity). It was melted Dubliner cheese (which is the best), tomato and bacon on simple white bread toast. I did wish the cheese was a little bit more melted, but they dropped my first sandwich, so I think they felt bad that I had to wait and tried to rush the second one along a little. Either way, you can never go wrong with a grilled cheese, especially from an irish pub. Best Irish place in Boston I say :]


Sunset Cafe - Somerville

     This was date number two for Frances and I my last week at GG. I was ok with getting food, but sad that it was my last week. Sunset Cafe is a decent sized place on Cambridge Street that literally never has anyone in it. The entire time we were there, no other customers came in. Sunset is a Portuguese and Mediterranean restaurant that is fairly fancy inside with a creepy painting of a man that seems to stare at you no matter what angle you look at him from. Shortly after we sat down, the one waiter brought over this beautiful plate of olives, pickled vegetables, butter and an oil and balsamic dip for this basket of what seemed like fresh baked rolls. Considering they probably get one customer every other day, I’m sure it couldn’t have been freshly baked, but I was still impressed at how delicious it was.   
Fried calamari
     As an appetizer we ordered the fried calamari. I’d say it was just mediocre. It was overcooked, making it difficult to chew and there was a bit too much breading for me. It kind of took away from the flavor of the calamari. Overpowering if you know what I mean. 
     For the meal I ordered a sandwich (that I can't remember the name of) which was literally marinated and grilled pork on a french baguette. The pork was delicious, the baguette was delicious, but the two together seemed a little silly. I think maybe the addition of some veggies, some sort of sauce or some other completing component would’ve made the sandwich more substantial. Like I said, the parts had great flavors. The pork was moist and rich and the bread was fresh with crisp edges, but together they made nothing splendid. Regardless, it all came at a great price. For five dollars, I got the delicious bread basket, the plate of olives, dips, and veggies, and an enormous sandwich that I had to take home to finish. Frances got a huge sandwich called the steak bomb with steak, prosciutto, mushrooms and cheese on a baguette all for eight dollars. You really can’t beat that. I’d definitely recommend Sunset Cafe if you’re looking for a decent amount of food for your money, but as far as an authentic Portuguese experience, I’m not sure if this is the place. That being said, we didn't order the standard authentic Portuguese dishes. Nah I'm sayin'?

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