Category Archives: Coffee

5 Spots Within The Squares

The lawnmower roars next door as a sweet, grassy summer breeze floats through my bedroom. It’s all becoming home, more and more each day, and my daily explorations of the neighborhood and all its surrounding Squares (Porter, Davis, Harvard, Union, Inman) is beginning to pay off.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a local just yet, but I’m beginning to shed some of my New York skin. For example, I try not to walk around with my usual “don’t fuck with me” face (feel free to ask to see this some day, it’s obviously really intimidating though, so consider yourself warned). I smile at strangers sometimes. I even whisper the words “slow down” to myself when I’m walking (sometimes).

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Life moves at a very different pace in this town (oops, I mean city – sorry Somerville/Cambridge!) and, even though I’m used to a much faster pace, I think I’m beginning to catch up in this land of less intensity.

By now I’ve discovered some promising little Somerville spots, which I’d like to share with you before the Physics storm hits (yes, this would be “the calm”). Here is a short list of 5  places that have made me smile in one way or another, so far.

Statue in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Union Square Farmers Market – Sure, in NYC I had the (dare I say “real?”) Union Square Farmer’s Market… so I can’t exactly say this is a first. But these farmer’s markets are very different. I always dreamed of living somewhere where I could walk to a farmer’s market every Saturday and stock up on freshly baked breads, excessive amounts of leafy greens, and things I never cook with, such as rhubarb, just because I can. Now, this weekly outing will become a part of my life. Yes, there are great sources of fresh, local produce in NYC. But, for better or worse, my Saturday mornings usually led me to some delicious brunch spot instead. Having a weekly farmer’s market within walking distance is my little country fantasy coming to life! (YES, I know I am not in the “country” — give me a little more credit, people!) The Union Square Farmer’s Market might not be very big (by NYC standards), but I can still buy overpriced bags of spinach, wild flowers, or local strawberries, and end up with way more than I need for the week. Maybe a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market will begin to replace my intense Saturday brunch tradition. When in Somerville…

Casa B – The first night I met one of my roommates, she and her Romanian boyfriend took me to Casa B. Casa B is everything I never thought I’d find “just down the street.” This newish, trendy restaurant is an interesting contrast to the somewhat off-beat little neighborhood (Union Square) full of Brazilians and Koreans. But the Latin-flare tapas restaurant quickly won me over when I walked inside; it was a modern and sleek upstairs, with fresh white tables and stylish details, but more sultry and seductive downstairs — although still comfortable enough for a gathering of friends. I was immediately satisfied with its delicious orangey sangria and a summery fava bean spread, which we generously applied to plantain chips and devoured alongside a revolving selection of tapas (the most memorable of which was the tabla de ceviches and a special vegetarian dish full of fresh, local legumes and wasabi-yuca). The place earned bonus points for having kalimotxo — a very common and popular drink in Barcelona, which consists of red wine, Coca Cola, and a splash of grenadine. While the bill added up (as it always does when ordering tapas), I’d come back here the next time I have something to celebrate… Or, just because.

3 Little Figs – One of my favorite treats is an adorable cafe. This little spot is as cute as its name. While I have yet to sample its salads, sandwiches and baked goods (I know, I know… how can I even put it on the list already!?), I did sample its chai — and it passed with flying colors. Not to mention, the staff was friendly, the ambience was happy, sunny, and bright — perfect for hanging out alone or meeting a friend for coffee, and I love that it is small enough that you know you’re somewhere precious, but available enough that I can people-watch out the big glass windows (the very few people who pass by) from a solid high chair, with my chai at my side, and my physics textbook in front of me. An hour of sitting will bring in just enough customers that I am neither distracted, nor bored. And the lighthearted vibe ensures that — even if I’m studying — I’ll be happy.

Bloc 11 – This is “that cafe” that I always want to have nearby — the one with the good coffee, the hipster on his Macbook in the corner (ok, maybe that’s not a requirement), and a mean salad (I already have a favorite — the Wisteria, which consists of hard boiled egg, pear, caramelized onion, dried cranberries and almonds topped with blue cheese and a pomegranate vinaigrette). Bloc 11 is going to be one of my regular spots for studying, or meeting a friend for an iced tea. That, I can promise.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – OK fine, this is in Boston not directly in Somerville, but it is going on the list anyway because I can’t NOT mention it. When my roommate described The Gardner Museum, she gave me a good idea of what to expect. It was enough to get me to go, without ever having heard of it (but apparently everyone else has). The second I walked in, it hit every love-of-humanities-and-art chord in my science-filled soul that I didn’t even know I was looking to hit. The museum is absolutely wonderful; the Moorish architecture, the impressive collection of Italian art… It’s truly a remarkable place, and I felt temporarily transported to Venice and Southern Spain while I wandered the many rooms of the palace (yep, I said palace). Built in the home of the New York City-turned Bostonian socialite, Isabella Stewart Gardner, it houses her private collection of art – and a very eclectic one at that. There is plenty more to say about the museum and the art, and probably Isabella, but I’d rather you check it out for yourself. This is going to be the museum I recommend to everyone who visits me in Boston from now on. You might as well put it on your itinerary.

Side view of El Morro, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

OK, I need to dash out in the sun. Since it feels like Brazil weather out there, here’s a little music to get you in the sweaty, Brazilian summer mood. Eat a mango, play this song, and keep the AC off — we wait all year for this heat, so no complaining! Happy summer, everyone!


Filed under Boston, Coffee, Life Stuff, School, Travel, Uncategorized

Study Guide

By Jackie

It has finally set in: as a medical student, my days of enjoying life (too harsh?) and traveling may be gone.  At least for a little while.

I guess you could say I saw it coming. Last summer (my “last” summer), I took full advantage of my precious time off.  I spent a month in Honduras learning medical Spanish and shadowing in a local public hospital.  After a two-day return to the US, I hopped on a plane to France where I spent two weeks cycling around the Burgundy countryside.  I followed that with a week of speaking French with an Italian family in the Swiss Alps (I’m such a typical over-achieving med student, “enjoying” my summer to the max).

Hay Bales Photoshoot. Burgundy, France. Photo by Jackie.

Oh how those carefree days feel so far away!  Now, I find myself under a pile of textbooks and study guides gearing up for the dreaded USMLE Step 1 Exam.  With so much to learn and so little time to do it, life can get overwhelming.  Things like traveling, or really any kind of fun, often get pushed aside in the name of academics.  If I’m not careful, I can easily spend an entire weekend alone in my room studying; I’ve actually gone full days without any human contact (and I have two roommates).

Chalet. Verbier, Switzerland. Photo by Jackie

To mix it up and avoid going insane, I go to coffee shops to study.  In a way, it’s kind of like “micro-travel.” Although I remain relatively local, each coffee shop/study spot has something different to offer.  Whether it’s the view, the people, or the ambience, each place provides its own experience.

My home base is Pain du Monde in Corona del Mar.  It’s only a couple of blocks from my house and I know all of the people who work there.  A walk to PDM is my standard study break (and often the only human interaction I’ll get all day).  If I’m feeling particularly ahead of my study schedule (yes, this schedule exists – you don’t even want to see the Excel spreadsheet… it’s embarrassing), I’ll pick up a coffee and walk down to the beach for an extended breather.

Little Corona Beach. Corona del Mar, California. Photo by Jackie.

If it’s a beautiful day (which, let’s be honest, happens a lot in Southern California), I might go to Pacific Whey Café.  Sure, it can sometimes get overrun with snobby “OC” people and their kids, but its location, just off of Pacific Coast Highway, is unbeatable.  Any place where I can study and enjoy views of Catalina Island qualifies as awesome (even/especially if I feel like I’m in an episode of The OC).

Kéan Coffee in Newport Beach is more of a “cultural” experience.  Okay, maybe “cultural” is a stretch. Kéan is filled with emo hipsters (and the occasional Bible Study Group).  I go there when I want to feel indy/cool or watch other people trying to be indy/cool.  Plus, they roast their own coffee beans and it’s delicious.

Yellow Vase in Malaga Cove. Palos Verdes Estates, California. Photo by Jackie.

When I really need a change of scenery, I venture up to Los Angeles for mini study “field trips.”  Just last weekend, I discovered Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes.  The café is nestled back in Malaga Cove Plaza and as I approached it, I felt as if I had been swept off to a French village.  As I’m obsessed with all/most things French, I was instantly filled with joy at the sight of this place.  Then, a group of cyclists walked in and I had flashbacks to my summers cycling in France and I couldn’t contain my glee.  You guys, when you study all the time, you learn quickly to appreciate even the smallest chances at happiness. (Also, yes, I know.  Malaga is in Spain.  But this place felt so French.)

My absolute favorite place for studying/life is the Getty Center.  In fact, I love it so much that I demand that if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles, you must go.  On a clear day, you can see the ocean to your right and the rest of LA to your left.  Plus, you’re surrounded by gardens, beautiful architecture, and ART!  Visiting The Getty calms, inspires, and reenergizes me (all absolutely necessary for coping with the daunting schedule of a medical student).

The Getty from the Gardens. Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jackie.

Medical school is challenging and requires a lot of adjusting.  It pains me to forego important things like socializing, showering, exercising, and traveling (and blogging!) to study.  School consumes my life and it’s easy to get sucked in.  By venturing out, even if it’s to my local coffee shop, I am reminded that while my world may seem limited to pathology and pharmacology, everyone else’s continues around me.

Jackie is a second year medical student living in Orange County, CA. She attended Bowdoin College with Tavel and is a redhead.  Jackie loves yoga, coffee, and studying(?).  Her favorite place to visit is Paris (in the summer). Read Jackie’s, or follow her on Twitter @sassyjax.

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