Category Archives: List

Arepas, Truffle Oil, and Pizza: Three Places to Eat This Winter

As I wait to hear back from grad schools, I am beginning to acknowledge the possibility that I might not be living here next year. Everything is still up in the air (will it be Boston/Philly/NYC?! It’s still anyone’s game!), but I think it’s time to capture a few more of my favorite Cambridge/Boston spots before this whole year in Beantown melts away quicker than that first snowstorm.

Harvard Square, first snow. Cambridge, MA.

Harvard Square, first snow. Cambridge, MA.

Let’s start with Orinoco. I was at a friend’s party talking with a guy I just met about travel and food, and he told me I had to try this Venezuelan place. He didn’t know me well, but based on our discussion I trusted his recommendation. The moment my first arepa craving hit, I decided to give it a try. As I approached the restaurant down a small alley slightly off of the main foot traffic in Harvard Square, I already felt pleasantly surprised. The little pathway to the restaurant felt delightfully unexpected, and I was intrigued with what I might find. I got there early, perhaps 30 minutes before they’re used to getting their first customers, and merengue was blasting throughout the cozy space while a cluster of waiters chatted loudly in Spanish. Ahhh, yes!! I felt instantly at home. They seemed a little surprised to see me, but I was seated promptly at the table of my choosing where I could easily take in the candle-lit quirks of the restaurant. I had an instant crush on Orinoco and its vibe. Sadly, the music was turned down while I waited for my friend, but luckily the Latin beats continued to pulse throughout the meal (just not as aggressively as I may have secretly liked).

We began with a delicious pitcher of sangria, which was just the right amount of sweet for a cold night. As I entered a tropical daydream, our Pelua Arepa arrived (a traditional fried corn pocket with Venezuelan-style stewed shredded beef and yellow edam cheese). It was everything I hoped it would be; it was hot, the meat was tender and flavorful, and the arepa had just the right amount of crunch to it. I could have easily eaten only arepas all night, but like a good Argentinean girl, I had ordered the Parilla Caraqueña (an assortment of strip steak, chorizo, chicken, guasacaca, and fried yuca with mojo — oh how I love yuca). I was full, to say the least. But my appetite wasn’t the only thing satisfied. I loved the adorable space, which was originally built in 1900 and housed Cambridge’s first Spanish restaurant. They’ve done a wonderful job decorating it with multicolored wooden chairs and colorful painted religious figurines throughout. There is no way I am leaving this town without at least one more trip to Orinoco, preferably after winter thaws so I can enjoy the Venezuelan comida in the outdoor patio. Who will be lucky enough to join me?!

Inside Orinoco. Cambridge, MA

Inside Orinoco. Cambridge, MA

To switch things up a little, I was happy to receive an invitation to a new restaurant in the Financial District called Granary Tavern. I’d call it swanky but comfortable. I loved the atmosphere, which was sleek and modern but with rustic undertones. I’m not usually a cocktail gal, but seeing as my time in Boston has been so cocktail-infused, I had to give the Ginger Rogers a try (Absolut Vodka, ginger liquor, fresh squeezed lemon, mint, and a splash of ginger ale). And then, I had to give it a second try — you know, just to make sure that the first one wasn’t a delicious fluke. (It wasn’t.) And then I had to give it a THIRD try… Err, ok ok, just kidding. Only two (I swear!). I shared the Porcini Flatbread, which cast its spell on me as soon as I got my first whiff of truffle oil… Oh, I’m such a sucker for truffle-anything. I’d give the flatbread a high ranking. It was followed by the pan-seared scallops, which were extremely tasty as well, although a bit too buttery/creamy for my liking. I do not blame the scallops though; they did their job, I just happened to be in the mood to go slightly out of my comfort food-zone and was inspired by the predominantly seafood menu. I definitely owe Granary Tavern another visit, but with so many other places to try I am not sure how or when I will get back there. If nothing else, I hope to at least spread the word that Granary Tavern is definitely worth at least a good drink and a yummy flatbread.

Somerville sunset. Somerville, MA.

Somerville sunset. Somerville, MA.

Lastly, for this entry, I feel like Cambridge 1 deserves a nod. So, I live with a pizza editor/food writer, which makes it very hard not to be critical of (or impressed with, if such is the case) the Boston pizza scene. It seems the strength is in flatbreads, not the deeper-crust or “NYC slice” styles, and I’m ok with that. One day, I met a friend for lunch at this cozy Harvard Square spot, which I hadn’t even noticed after walking by it at least 100 times. Unassuming from the outside, I was happily surprised upon entering the simple warehouse-like space. It was a dreary day, and the green of an outside pre-winter tree lit up the large back  window, illuminating the otherwise beer-hall brown benches of the restaurant. I went with the Iceberg Lettuce Wedge (drizzled generously with a shallot vinaigrette), followed by the Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, Chevre, and roasted Tomato pizza, per the waitress’ recommendation when I couldn’t decide. The pizza was fantastic — although it could have been hotter, and the salad wedge was refreshingly crunchy. I returned a separate evening to find that the place was a different scene at night. It was totally packed, and I actually had to wait 30 minutes to sit down. Ordering the Bolognese Meat Sauce pizza the second time around was a mistake, as it was a soggy experience, thus taking away the initial satisfaction I felt with my first pizza choice (Note to self: trust the waitress). Nevertheless, a great beer selection and satisfying flavors (despite lackluster texture) made Cambridge 1 a very convenient and pleasant option to keep on file.

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Leaves. Cloud forest in Mindo, Ecuador.

So there you go. Winter is all about staying warm with good food, good people, and sure, some good booze. I am feeling inspired to take on the Boston winter and take advantage of the many places that make this city so beloved by its inhabitants. I might be a New Yorker at heart, but at least for several more months, I am a Bostonian/Cantabrigian (I’m sorry, but I count both cities as my home right now). So, bring on the restaurants, the bars, the museums, and the accents because I’ve still got some serious Beantown exploring to do. (Suggestions welcome and encouraged!)

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Filed under Boston, Food, List, Massachusetts, Somerville, Winter

TwT Travel Playlist, The 2012 Edition

As I wake up for yet another physics-filled day, I can’t help but fantasize about making a break for it, and running/flying/getting away from all the incredibly hard work… The easy route is always tempting, but it’s never as thrilling (right… RIGHT?! Now is when you convince me this is true…). My creative spirit feels a little like a caged bird, or a plant that flowers in summer but has to be kept in the basement this year. My brain is mush, I’m exhausted,  and I’m just about to hit the halfway point in the most intense course I’ve ever taken (and I complained last year? HA!).

View. Sint Maarten. Netherlands Antilles.

But don’t worry! I’m used to dealing with this urge to escape every now and then. It’s in my blood. While I must be patient, I’m so looking forward to getting my time back to play with as I wish. (Only 4 weeks to go!) But just because I’m stuck in physics molasses (don’t get me started on drag forces…), that doesn’t mean my mind has to stay completely still. That’s the thing about wanderlust…

Horse statue. Rome, Italy.

A few years ago, we put together what has now become a pretty out-dated list of “Ultimate Travel Songs.” So, as a pleasant distraction for me and a fun opportunity for you, it is time to refresh this list with new music! I will now request that you — once again — provide me with a list of your CURRENT favorite travel songs. Again, this is not about judging people’s musical sensibilities; it is escapism through sound, wanderlust through music, a chance to get that excited little flutter in your heart that you (I?) get when you realize you’re headed somewhere foreign, and it feels like anything is possible. It’s that feeling on an airplane, when you take out your headphones because the captain announces you’re about to make the descent — the long trip somewhere is over, and you’re almost there. It’s that energy you get when you’re in a car with friends about to pull up to your first beach vacation of the summer and music is blasting through the speakers. It’s that stream of steady sound that accompanies you as you walk to work everyday, contemplating your next vacation, your love life, your hopes and dreams…

Prayers outside a shrine. Tokyo, Japan.

OK ok, you get the idea. Now don’t be shy!

Lantern in Sultan’s bathroom. Topkapi Palace. Istanbul, Turkey.

Please leave, as a comment, a list of 1 to 5 songs (with title and artist) that form the soundtrack for some sort of getaway — whether it is a getaway in your mind while you sit for another day in your sub-zero office chair wondering how to get out, an actual playlist you would play on your way to a perfect beach weekend, or a song that you listen to during a long flight to that new country you’ve been anticipating for years…

Guard outside Topkapi Palace. Istanbul, Turkey.

Once I have a decent list, I will add it to my “Music” tab with YouTube videos for every song. If you don’t do this for yourself, do it for me! I need new music, I need to daydream, and I need TwT to take me away from science, at least for a little while…

Cheers, and THANK YOU!!

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Filed under Contributor, Life Stuff, List, music, Travel, Uncategorized

2011 Travel Wish List

Hello 2011!

I’ve decided it’s going to be a great year, so let’s make it happen.

Last year, I asked you all to put together a travel wish list for 2010. Check out the wish lists some of you shared here (see comments). Today, my question is: Did you make it to any of the places on your wish list in 2010? Also, do you have any travel regrets (not that I believe in those) or leftover wishes? Did 2010 take you somewhere completely unexpected, instead?

I think we know MY answer to that last question… (Um, YES.)

Trees. Las Pampas, Argentina. April 2010.

2011 is going to be the first year in over five that I have to trim down my wish list — at least in terms of what is “realistic” (I put quotations around “realistic” because I really believe one NEVER knows — the boundaries of “realistic” are malleable). But isn’t a wish list about hoping and dreaming, even if you aren’t really sure what’s possible? I think yes. So here is a quick list of 5 places I would absolutely LOVE to go in 2011… Financially feasible, or not. Check it out, then share YOUR travel wish list  for 2011 (no matter how simple, grand, or unrealistic) as a comment.

1. Tanzania and/or Kenya. Yes, it’s time for some Africa in my life. I have wanted to go to Tanzania since I was a kid, and it continues to stay at the top of my travel wish list. While I’m down there, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t als0 stop by Kenya. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but some day — maybe this year, maybe fifty years from now — I will GO to Tanzania. And I cannot wait.

2. Southern Spain. Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba, Malaga… How have I NOT gone to Southern Spain yet?! FAIL –> MUST.GO. Shame on me and my Southern Spanish roots.

3. India. The only country I have been to in Asia is Japan. This does not, in any way, reflect all the places in Asia that I WANT to visit — ie, Thailand, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos… But India seems to remain at the top of my Asia wish list. I’m not sure how I will make this trip happen, but a girl can daydream.

4. Morocco. The architecture, the mixing of French and Arabic in the air, the food, the mint tea in those tiny glasses, the sound of prayers, the smell (well, I imagine it smells very interesting)… There is something exotic and sexy about this country (and its dark, mysterious men…) and I want a piece… At least just a taste. And I don’t mind if it’s completely imperfect, and maybe even a little dangerous… In fact, both are encouraged.

5. Puerto Rico. Yes, I’ve been before. But it’s so close, so accessible, and has so much personality. Plus, it’s becoming Miami-ified, I believe — which is both a positive and negative thing for obvious reasons. Either way, I’m curious to see this sassy Island from a different perspective than when I was a 5th grader on a family vacation. This time around, I’d like to take a tall, dark and handsome romantic interest (must love spandex). Any takers? Hehe.

So there you have it. Please ignore my occasional references to tall/dark/handsome/mysterious men. I may have gotten a little carried away there…

Cheers, as always, to 2011 and LIVING THE DREAM — even if, sometimes, the dream changes.

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Filed under Life Stuff, List, Travel, Uncategorized