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Lonely Dining: Dinner at Bella Luna


lobst

 

Just because, for no reason but to have a nice relaxing time, I took myself out to dinner. Not having someone to eat out with is no reason not to treat yourself. I walked over to Bella Luna, one of my favorite local restaurants, and took advantage of their air conditioning.

This restaurant has so many great options that I often find it hard to choose just one thing, but in the end I just had to pick the lobster roll, knowing it was a limited time offer. For a drink I chose the Brazuka signature cocktail.

Now, I hate to say anything negative about this restaurant, because it’s my go-to choice for a nice meal near my house. I have to admit, though, that the lobster roll was just okay. I’ve had better lobster rolls. That’s not to say it was bad, though–not at all! It was just a little disappointing in comparison to my expectations. However, the presentation was fantastic, as you can see above (isn’t their side salad brilliant?), and the meal overall was satisfying. The Brazuka was an interesting fruity drink, a little too sour for me to want it again, but a nice experience. And my server was very friendly and helpful, which is always a plus in my opinion.

Lobster rolls always tend to be pricey, so as you might expect my total bill was more than I had hoped. But sometimes, just for the experience, you really should treat yourself. Lonely Dining is an activity that I started because it is sometimes hard to find people to go for meals with, but the more I do it, the more I enjoy having good food at a nice establishment with myself for company. Eating alone is an experience a lot of people do not appreciate. It can be relaxing, indulgent, calm, and you don’t have to think about socializing. Overall, highly recommended.

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Go to Cafenation, Now. I’m Serious.


I can make a pretty good breakfast–that is, good for me. I will not claim to be skilled at any sort of fancy breakfast creations. I can make plenty of things that are tasty, or, at least edible, and at this point I’m very close to completely mastering the egg sandwich (often eaten for lunch or dinner as well, because I CANNOT get enough of them, it seems). I am incapable of making pretty pancakes or omelets. I’m trying to remember a time when I made breakfast for someone else that would be worth mentioning. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any.

This is why many of my best breakfasts happen when I go out. I don’t often go out for breakfast with a buddy. It’s too hard to gather people in the morning, especially a weekday morning, when the only people who could go with me aren’t even awake. (Or are in a different zip code.)

So I go out to breakfast. Or grab something on the way to work.

More often than not, this breakfast comes from Cafenation. They are one of my very favorite independent cafes in Boston (and everywhere else, but I’ll admit there are many I haven’t tried in other cities. In fact, most cafes in other cities I haven’t tried. Totally beside the point), because everything they offer is delicious. Their coffee is really good. Their chai is delicious. All their espresso drinks are amazing (I’m sure there’s the off drink once in a while), generally speaking. They have a pretty wide selection of teas, which I’m sure are also good. I’ve only tried the iced ones.

And the food? Well, duh. Delicious. Always. This morning I had the spiced apple and brie crepes, which were generously stuffed and dusted with powdered sugar. I had them before, probably three years ago, and it seemed about time. They have the standard cafe breakfast fare of bagels with various options for fillings/toppings (depending on if you eat it open-faced or not), tasty muffins and scones, and the full espresso bar you’re most likely hoping for. Then they have their omelets and crepes, good portions, fair price. I’ve tried one of the omelets with salsa and black beans, a bit like huevos rancheros, I guess. They also have a weekly special cream cheese flavor, in addition to the permanent selection, and jalapeno bagels. Who else has jalapeno bagels? Ok, probably a lot of places, but still.

Then there’s the lunch options. They have a small sampling of salads and soup, the latter of which changes by the week or day (I don’t know, I don’t get soup very much), and a nice list of sandwiches on your choice of bread. A few of the sandwiches are vegetarian options. Many of the breakfast items are vegetarian, and you can order them for lunch as well. The sandwiches are served with a good portion of mixed greens–more than just a token side salad, but not so much that it takes your attention from the sandwich. They also give you their housemade balsamic dressing, which is sweet and different and even if you think you don’t like balsamic dressing, I’d recommend you try it.

Bonus: They have one of the best day-old bread selections I’ve ever seen. Very rarely is the stuff more than just a little bit stale, but most likely it will keep for several days. They portion it well, too. I can get a half-dozen bagels, two muffins, and a scone for $3. There are times when I don’t buy bread at the grocery store for two or three weeks because I can get better stuff for less money at Cafenation. However, it’s often gone by midway through the day, so if you really want a good selection, you should go in the morning. It varies from day to day, too, as you might imagine. Sometimes they have a nice big pile, others, just a few bags. It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss sometimes, but definitely worth it.

In addition, the staff are generally very friendly, and if it’s not busy will even have conversations with you about things like tea. Sometimes they even remember my name. I go there a lot.  You should go there, and tell them I sent you. It won’t get you anything special, and most of them probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but tell them anyway.

Cafenation, 380 Washington St., Brighton, MA

Look Around, Try Something New


Ever been to Clover? They’re a vegetarian,  fresh-fast food joint with a few locations and a food truck or two.  I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’ve enjoyed their offerings every time I’ve been there so far.  This morning makes number 3, and it was definitely delicious. [Click the link in this paragraph to go to their website if you’re interested in finding out stuff about the business. You should, they’re cool.]

Circumstances collided this morning to make me desperate to buy a breakfast sandwich. I was on my way to Starbucks and happened to look up as I walked, for once, and notice Clover across the street. As I was thinking to myself, “They’re so good,” I saw their breakfast menu written on the window. For some reason I had been under the impression that they only did lunch, so I was surprised and immediately thought to hell with Starbucks, I’m going to Clover!

I got the breakfast sandwich, which is a freshly cooked egg, tomato, and cheese on pita. It’s not the typical egg sandwich–the bread is unusual and the egg I think was soft-boiled (that’s the only method I’m aware of that would result in the eggy end product on my breakfast…)–and that’s ok. It was delicious. Of course, if you feel like you need bacon on your sandwiches, you’re going to have to go elsewhere,  but you’ll be passing up something great!

I also got a coffee, even though I’d already had coffee that morning, because I have a hard time resisting coffee. They use the pour-over method, which essentially guarantees you a good cup of coffee. I’m not a pour-over snob, I promise. I drink as much regular drip coffee as the next person who likes things that are simple and easy to prepare (but not instant–never instant! yuck!), but I like pour over places because it means that your coffee is freshly brewed, every time. It takes only a few minutes longer than the standard Starbucks coffee.

What it all boils down to is freshness. They use local ingredients, actually fresh ingredients (not frozen), and everything is made to order. I know some people don’t think that really matters, but believe me, you can taste the difference. However, they don’t jack the prices up like some places would–in fact, I find them very affordable. I am sure I’ll be going back there for breakfast in the future.

And they have popovers! I don’t always like popovers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for them. Maybe I’ll try the popover sandwich next time.

Monday Madness: Naked Santas and Overspending


First, I want to say that what happened Saturday night was barely a snowstorm. In Boston, it had completely stopped by Sunday. And yet, this morning there were too many stupidly icy sidewalks (hint: one is too many) and ridiculous traffic because no one can ever remember how to drive once there’s the smallest amount of snow. So I give up. If we have another snowstorm, which seems likely, I’m just not going to leave my house until spring. I’ll do that peapod thing to have my groceries delivered and order lots of pizzas.

Now, a quick thank you to everyone who liked my cupcake post. It’s nice to have that validation, since no one I invited over to have some thought it was worth the trip–either for having the cupcakes or for hanging out with me. I mean, that’s a major fail, right? But I realized I hadn’t done a real food post for a while, so there you go. There are still about four cupcakes left, but by now they’re on the stale side, so probably not worth a trip at this point anyway.

Logically I know people are just busy and sort of far away (unfortunate consequence of living in Boston: only friends who live in your neighborhood are actually easy to get to), but emotionally it just feels like everyone’s rejecting me. I started out December being really excited about Christmas, but now I’m kind of depressed.

I’ve been shopping way too much. And then, you know, the second you say “Ok, that’s it. I’m going to be good and not buy all this stuff I don’t need,” that’s when something comes up and you end up spending anyway. Like Christmas presents (I didn’t spend that much, but combined with everything it adds up), or the $20 off a $50 purchase from Sephora with a time limit (how could I pass that up?), so you can get that $34 container of moisturizer without feeling so bad about it. The good news is, that one container is probably going to last me at least six months. I think it might be time to trade in my coins for Real Money. It won’t be that much. Probably somewhere between $10 and $20. But it’ll do me more good in my pocket than sitting in a jar on a shelf.

Ok, I know I’ve been teasing you. You’re wondering about the naked santas, right? Well… Read the rest of this entry

Monday Madness: If I Only Had a Car


(to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain”)

If someone gave me a car, for free, I still couldn’t afford to have one. Gas alone I could probably deal with, but no way I could also afford insurance, maintenance, and parking in Boston.

One of the perks of living in the city is that you don’t have to have a car. There are always ways to get where you’re going. Even though the MBTA is inexcusably flawed, in a lot of cases driving probably wouldn’t be much faster. I probably would still drive to work, because then I can leave when it’s convenient for me, rather than according to the bus schedules.

The real reason I want a car is for getting out of the city. Yes, there are trains and buses that will take you pretty much anywhere you’d like, but they can take forever, and if your real destination is five miles from the train station, well, tough luck. If you’re unfamiliar, figuring out the schedules and pickup/dropoff areas can be rather stressful, as well. Once I took a bus to New York with a friend, and we had a great time, but it turned out we didn’t know where the bus left New York to return to Boston. We wandered around for two hours or so, I called a friend to try to figure out where we could catch a bus home, and finally we came across one that, luckily, had empty seats.

I think of all the places I could go, whenever I wanted to, if I had a car. I could drive out to visit my parents for a day, and probably see them much more often. I could get myself down to my grandparents’ house for holiday gatherings (instead of having to take the train to my mom’s to get a ride there). Day trips to Providence, Plum Island, even New Hampshire or Vermont could happen. I would be able to go to Shalom Mountain, an amazing retreat center in upstate New York, without having to stress about how I’m going to get there–a large part of the reason I never end up going.

Like I said before, I don’t really want a car. I don’t want to own one and I don’t want to risk that I would end up driving everywhere, and give up walking, which is the majority of my exercise. I don’t want to have to dig it out of the snow in the winter, either, or be one of those people who keeps a trash can or a piece of furniture in “my” parking spot to make sure no one else can use it while I’m gone.

But it would be nice if there were a car available to me so that I could get anywhere beyond Boston without having to rely on other people to get there. Mainly because asking for a ride always seems like a big deal, for some reason.

Monday Madness: What even happened this weekend.


Ever have one of those times when you have a four-day weekend and you get so overexcited about not having to do anything that you really just don’t do anything?

That’s pretty much what happened this past weekend.

Then I woke up this morning with a bit of a queasy stomach and still feeling totally exhausted, so I’m working from home.

But I did have some good times last week. I posted on Wednesday or so that I was going to The Fireplace. I did, and I did in fact order the lobster mac and cheese. It was served with spinach and broccoli, and it was made with really decadent, fancy cheese. It was in fact very delicious. I’m hoping to plan another outing there to get the burger, which, as I’ve been mentioning up and down to everyone I talk to, is actually in my real price range (not often, but once, sure).

I ordered dessert as well, the brownie sundae, after filling up pretty thoroughly on my rich dinner and the generous portion of broccoli. It was too much, and I wished afterward that I’d gotten the lemon tart instead, BUT it was very tasty and I’m sure you would enjoy it if you ordered it. Although I wished for more peanut butter sauce.

Saturday I went to Passage to India in Porter Square and there were lots of leftovers for me. I thought their portions were very generous, about what you would hope for for the price, and also very delicious. I got the moongia chicken special, mostly because of the inclusion of cilantro, and I was not disappointed.

Ah, food. I do love it.

Considering that the office is again going to be closed Thursday and Friday, September really is almost over. I’m probably going to have to give my work an extra push on Monday, the last day of the month, but overall I’m not worried about getting all my work finished. The benefit of working like a maniac earlier in the month. I put in lots of extra hours at home the first two weeks, and some the third week, to make sure I would be able to meet deadlines. This is how we do it in the real world. Often, it kind of sucks at the time, but then I feel quite proud of myself for having everything done.

Off to be slightly productive today. I’m not going to push too hard because I don’t feel too great today (as mentioned above), but I have a certain amount of work I want to make sure I get done.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad Monday.

Restaurant Anxiety


I have plans to go to The Fireplace for dinner on Friday. I’m very excited. But actually, I’m kind of nervous about it as well.

No, I don’t have any worries about which fork to use–even if they are actually that fancy, I don’t really care if I use the wrong utensil. I have better priorities than THAT. And it’s not as if it will be an awkward social occasion either. Just dinner with my best friend, which is not the least bit stressful–in fact it is most exciting.

So, why am I nervous, you’re wondering at this point, I’m sure, since I tend to overexplain things before I’ve even gotten to the point?

I’m feeling a lot of pressure to order the right thing.

Now, if you’re not familiar with this restaurant (I’m not, really), it’s a pretty expensive place. I’ve never been there, but I pass it just about every day, sitting there on the corner with its “Boston’s Best Burger” sign in the window. It’s not the sort of place I can really afford to go to, and in fact the only reason I’m going there at all is because I was lucky enough to snatch up a livingsocial deal, just after I’d been musing that I’d really like to go to The Fireplace…

It stands to reason, therefore, that I probably won’t be going there again for a long time after. So I have to choose carefully, because I want the best possible experience from this place the one time I might ever go there. Having looked over the menu online, I’d like to try many of the dishes I read about, but I only have this one shot. I’d really like to try that “Best” burger, but logic says that it would be the one thing I could afford if I went back there without the coupon, so I should save it for next time. The lobster mac and cheese does sound… mmmm…

Oh, sorry. I got a bit lost in thought there.

Anyway, can you see why I’m suffering so much? Yeah, this is a first world problem for sure, but our “problems” are relative to our lives as a whole. Technically, all my problems are first world problems. Student loan debt is a first world problem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

Not to compare this to my financial issues… this is a problem that’s almost fun to have.

I am extremely susceptible to  the dreaded FOMO–fear of missing out. It’s why I feel kind of sad when I see comments or pictures on Facebook about things my friends did without inviting me. It explains some of my impulse purchases. I’ve been trying not to let it affect me too much. It’s poking around now in this case, telling me that choosing one of those delicious-sounding entrees means giving up all the others.

In the end, I will get over it. I will order whatever I feel like I want most at the time and not overthink it, because I’m getting too old to waste time on stuff like that. Besides, the T stops running at some point.

Update: WordPress and Youtube Favorites


Hey, guess what! June favorites happened! On the blog, they are here: June 2013 favorites.

My vlogged favorites are HERE. It’s a bit of a longer video than I was intending but I wanted to do a little introduction about my favorites-listing methods first. It’s still just over 10 minutes, so it won’t take you that long.

Guys! I talk about different favorites on my youtube channel and the favorites section of this blog! Why? Well, because I can, for one. Also, it’s more interesting that way.

…So, I began this post in the morning just before I went to work. I didn’t have time to write any more at the time. I had a lot of thoughts that I could have related but now I can’t remember a single one of them.

I went to Cafenation at least three times this week.

All of my commutes have been failing lately. I need to eliminate this commute.

I’m ready for a very un-motivated Friday night. If I get something done, that’s great. If not, who cares. But I do have some vegetables that need to get used, so I think I’m going to make a frittata.

Or, something that approximates a frittata. I doubt it will be authentic.

Best Coffee in Boston


Wait long enough, someone else will take your idea… (not “steal,” but “have the same one and actually follow through with it”)

I have been thinking for quite a while of doing a “Coffee Guide to Boston,” which would entail me talking about favorite cafes in different neighborhoods. I guess I would go about mine a little differently, but it’s still basically the same idea. 😦 No fair. But I haven’t been to most of these. I’d like to try out Voltage — it’s on the Scoutmob app right now.

College Foodie Guide

When I find places where I can get a cappuccino or latte that tastes as good as any café crème I had in Paris, I want to tell the world! And if it looks as good as the ones I used to have at Cafeotheque that’s an even better reason to share it.

While this list is only just beginning, I figured I would share where you can find a great cup of coffee in and around Boston. This list is still a work-in-progress!

Voltage Café

A couple of blocks away from MIT, this cafe has been written up time and time again for its excellence in coffee. And from the many times I’ve been there, it does not disappoint. And although the people working there could have been snooty about their coffee and looked down on someone like me who was asking questions, they were the exact opposite: incredibly…

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Serious Monday Madness: Explosions at the Boston Marathon Finish Line


Dear Readers,

I should have waited to do my Monday Madness post. About an hour ago now, two explosions went off in Copley Square, right at the marathon finish line. Numerous injuries are confirmed, although I have not heard of any deaths yet. Supposedly, there are undetonated devices that have been found. What we do know so far suggests that this was done intentionally.

There are a number of online sources and live blogs, but not a lot of information is known so far. If you are in Boston, keep clear of Copley and the surrounding area until it’s been confirmed that it’s safe.

If you are wondering, my office and home are both a pretty good distance away from Copley, and my commute won’t take me through there, so I am lucky. Others are less lucky. Keep them in your thoughts.

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