Archive for the ‘Cambridge’ category

A Harvard Square Saturday

May 15, 2011

Although the weather was pretty bleak, I spent a nice afternoon in Harvard Square on Saturday. I walked there from Porter Square, where I had just gone to the gym.

These photos were taken at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Everett Street, where Harvard University is constructing a new law school building. The building is almost ready, it appears (construction has sure taken awhile!)

Part of the new building

Some of the project crew members

One of the building's arches

As I approached Harvard Square, I spotted a crowd encircling some martial art practitioners/dancers. Here’s a pic:

Listen to the music the martial arts people were moving to by checking out this video:

As I waited for my fiance to finish up an exam at Harvard, I read some of the history displays near Garden Street.

Part of one of the history displays

I learned a bunch of new things about Cambridge, including:

  • Cambridge was first called “Newtowne”
  • The name was changed to Cambridge when Harvard University was founded. Cambridge is a reference to the university city of Cambridge, England.
  • Harvard is named after John Harvard, the university’s first benefactor
  • The Puritans founded Cambridge in 1630. It was meant to be their permanent capital, as the location was safe from an attack by sea. It didn’t last as a political capital, though it became an educational one (with the establishment of Harvard).
  • The community criticized some of Harvard’s early buildings, saying they were “too gorgeous for a wilderness.”
  • In the 18th century wealthy royalists built elaborate mansions and gardens along Brattle Street (the stretch of mansions was called “Tory Row). They had grown  rich from service to the crown and the rum and slavery trade. When the revolution broke, they fled to Canada and England.

Fittingly, on Saturday my fiance and I had lunch at a relatively new restaurant in Harvard Square named Tory Row.

I had some fresh pineapple juice ($2.50) and a grilled marinated chicken breast sandwich with chipotle aioli, mixed greens, and roasted potatoes ($11).

My meal

The roll was nice and soft, the aioli had the perfect kick to it, and the mixed greens and roasted potatoes provided a nice accompaniment to the sandwich.

After lunch, I saw Harvard Square’s newest Starbuck’s. It’s by Citizens Bank and the T.

A sign on the door states the cafe will be opening on May 20 (this Friday). According to comments at the end of this local news post, several business have failed at that location (including an Abercrombie & Fitch).

Harvard Square is such a fun place to walk through. You see guys like this painter, selling their wares.

One of the history displays had mentioned that the country’s first printing press arrived in Cambridge (from England) in the 1630s. I shared this tidbit with my fiance; he told me he knew where the printing press was housed. He took me to Dunster Street, where there’s this plaque.

A little ways down the street we saw this:

What a coincidence! I look forward to trying this place out!

Some food notes from my brother’s graduation weekend

May 9, 2011

My brother just earned his MBA from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. After the ceremony on Saturday, we helped ourselves to complimentary finger foods. I especially liked these skewers of sausage bits, green olives, cheddar cheese, and cherry tomatoes. The appetizer is colorful, tasty, and seemingly easy to make.

Here’s the cake my mom bought for my brother.

The cake was made by Connie Decker, the same woman who’s going to make my wedding cake (I mentioned her in this earlier post). I am so happy we’re going with her for the wedding, as the cake was incredibly moist and the filling and frosting were also quite good.

I made dinner yesterday for Mother’s Day. It was so nice walking through the aisles of a grocery store and not having people all around you.

Tops supermarket in Fayetteville, New York

Normally I shop at a Shaw’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts and it’s always so crowded.

Panera coming to Porter Square in Cambridge

February 28, 2011

There’s this sign where the old Qdoba was located:

Qdoba closed in June of last year; the storefront was vacant until this display recently went up. I’m not sure when Panera will open, but I’m glad it’s coming. I love their chocolate croissants, free coffee refills, and sandwiches. Plus, they have free wireless Internet (providing an alternative to the somewhat-cramped Bruegger’s across the street and Porter Square Books, which also doesn’t have a ton of space for using your computer).

The Atomic Bean Cafe in Cambridge rocks

February 5, 2011

I’m always looking for new coffee shops with wireless Internet access. I’ve actually been going to the Atomic Bean Cafe in Central Square for over a year now (I mentioned the joint in this December 2009 post), but it was just recently that I tried one of their paninis. I had the Atomic Veggie panini, which is basically hummus, tomato, cucumbers, sprouts, and lettuce between two pieces of bread. Since it’s a panini, it was pressed in a grill just before service.

My Atomic Veggie panini meal

The sandwich cost $7.50, which is a big pricey. Still, it came with tortilla chips, salsa, and pineapple slices. Everything was scrumptious. I like the cafe’s coffee, and the banana mango smoothie I sampled wasn’t bad either (if anything, it was a little too sweet). Their muffins are to die for. Bite into one of their orange cranberry or pistachio chocolate muffins, and you’ll know what heaven tastes like.

New Year’s resolution #6 (or was it #7 or #10?): Join a French conversation group

January 28, 2011

A photo from my first time in France (on a beach in Nice in 2000)

Prior to moving to Boston two and a half years ago, I pretty much spoke French every week. Whether I was conversing with a French friend over the webcam, speaking French with some fellow francophiles where I was living, or thinking out loud in French, the French language was clearly an important part of my life.

Well, since I arrived here I’ve been really bad at keeping up with the language. I initially joined a French conversation Meetup group, but I wasn’t a fan of the setting. I found that Tommy Doyle’s Irish pub in Cambridge’s Harvard Square was too loud and crowded of a backdrop. So after two sessions I stopped attending the group. I began working as a reporter, and found my evenings taken up with public meetings and article assignments.

When I stopped working as a reporter, I thought I might be able to get involved with another conversation group. But I ended up taking on a part-time restaurant job and signing up for an evening class, eliminating my ability to attend the groups I knew of. Well, my schedule is now more normal, and I see there’s a group that meets one Sunday per month at 5 p.m., a good day and time for me.

The group gathers at The Asgard Irish pub in Cambridge’s Central Square. Because they meet during the day, I’m hoping the clientele isn’t too rowdy. I’m trying out the group this Sunday, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck (I’ll surely need it with my out-of-practice French)!

If you don’t mind feeling like a hippy, check out the delicious Life Alive cafe in Cambridge

January 14, 2011

It’s a new restaurant based off the one in Lowell. The menu calls the joint an “urban oasis and organic cafe.” You walk inside and one of the first things you notice is stacks of fresh produce (e.g. ginger, celery, carrots) behind the counter. You see this and know you’ll be eating healthy. Then you notice the list of smoothies. They are pretty expensive ($5.99 apiece), so I was a little hesitant to get one. I ended up caving and getting the “Love Alive” smoothie (blueberry, strawberry, banana, date, and almond milk). It was quite good, though I’m not so sure it’s worth the price.

Half of my smoothie (my friend had the other half)

I arrived there around 1 p.m. yesterday, and the line to order was very long. Basically you order at the counter, take a number, and are brought your food (just like the delicious Cafe Mangal in Wellesley!). As I waited, I scanned the decor and trinkets around me. A string of white lights framed a large and inviting window in the middle of the room. I also observed lots of green plants, a row of books you can read as you dine (if you get into a book you can put down a $5 deposit and borrow it), and an arrangement of teas. The teas are in little containers; you’re free to open the containers and smell the tea before ordering.

I ordered “The Seeker,” a salad with lemon garlic hummus, chopped cashews, granny applies, cucumbers, shredded carrots, spring greens, and ginger nama shoyu sauce. The dish comes in three forms: a bowl for $7.97, a wrap for $8.50, and a demi for $5.75). I got the bowl.

My friend Katie got “The Sufi Poet,” which is a salad with red-lentil hummus, cranberries, cashews, cucumber, granny apples, shredded carrots, spring greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. She just got the demi because her appetite was smaller. I must confess I initially thought the idea of hummus in salad is strange, but it went so well with the more subtle-tasting ingredients (e.g. the spring greens and cucumber). The lemon garlic hummus added just the right amount of “ooomph.” I also loved the texture of the chopped cashews.

Everything was fresh and oh-so-healthy-tasting, and it was the perfect amount of food. I will surely go back. We sat on the bottom level of the two-floor restaurant. It really doesn’t feel like a restaurant, but rather a cozy and colorful family room belonging to young artists. There are lots of nooks and crannies for sitting with your friends, as well as a play area for the youngins. Check out this little cove we snagged:

I look forward to trying some of their other menu items. They sell grilled tortilla wraps (like “The Seductress,” which boasts hard-boiled egg, broccoli, dark greens, shredded carrots and beets, garlic, yeast, and a whole wheat tortilla); “simple snacks” (like “The Crunchy Hippy,” which contains maple almond granola, dried fruit, almond milk, and maple syrup); and rice-based dishes (like “The Goddess,” which features ginger nama shoyu sauce, carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice). You can also get sides for 50 cents to $3 apiece, like sesame stix, sun-dried tomato, and quinoa, as well as “jubilant juices,” like “Hive Alive” (a mixture of lemon, apple, honey, and pure water).

Another neat touch I must mention is they have a water dispenser with glasses both upstairs and downstairs (this is important to me because I normally drink tap water). Though they serve tea, I don’t think they serve coffee.

The country must be in trouble when the post office has just one counter employee the week before Christmas

December 17, 2010

I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the busiest letter-, card-, and package-mailing times of the year. Everyone’s trying to make sure his items arrive before Christmas Eve. So it really shocked me when I showed up at the Porter Square post office (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) yesterday to discover just one person was working the counter. It was about 4 p.m., and there must have been 20 people ahead of me in line.

I wouldn’t have minded the crowd so much if several of the transactions hadn’t taken five-plus minutes (the first one I witnessed surely lasted more than 10 minutes). I don’t necessarily blame the individual customers or the guy behind the counter, but I do blame the post office for not having had another employee working. But maybe it’s all due to Americans’ non-willingness to pay higher taxes. Maybe it’s partially my fault. Either way, it took nearly an hour for me to buy a couple books of stamps.

Another real pity is this particular post office no longer has stamp-dispensing machines. A couple of people in line besides myself just needed stamps as well, and publicly lamented there wasn’t this technology available. The guy behind the counter just responded: “We used to have it (the machine); now we don’t.” What more was he going to say anyway? It’d probably just make him angry explaining why they had to get rid of the machine. He was already experiencing a stressful enough day and didn’t need that added annoyance.

I was impressed with the man’s calmness when I arrived at the front of the line. The label-printing machine wasn’t working for a minute, but instead of getting upset he jokingly said “Wow, this is a great day for this to happen.” He kept his cool, adjusted the machine, and it started working again. He was quite polite, and I tried to be as nice as possible, too, knowing he has a difficult job (Did you know that the term “going postal” actually came about following a series of incidents involving postal workers shooting and killing fellow employees and others?).

Anyway, I’m saddened the federal government doesn’t have enough money to staff the counter of this post office with more than one employee on one of the busiest mailing days of the year (that is, if that was the reason for just one employee working), but am glad the one who was there was quite kind.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/sushiesque/68524998


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