by Audrey Thorne ’19
Upon walking into what appeared from the outside a tiny store, I was excited by the vast and chic interior. Toting a wooden bench swing, almost lantern-like lights, both low and high tables, and an open connection to the bakery next door, the space is stunning.
When asked what flavours were available for their ice cream donut sandwiches the man at the counter handed me a menu of the four donut sandwiches offered and informed me that the red velvet had run out. That meant that made my choice easier. Now I was stuck between three options instead of four. Though the image of the Galaxy was visually stunning, I finally decided to get the Nutella and the Matcha. I ordered one of each to go.
I tried the Nutella first. The flavour was reminiscent of a dark hot chocolate and had an overall smooth consistency. There were no surprises to the bite. The chocolate donut matched the chocolate ice cream. The rainbow sprinkles on top gave it a bit of texture. It was not too sweet.
Next I tried the Matcha. The first thing that hits me in the strong matcha flavour from the matcha powder topping the donut. The vanilla ice cream complements the matcha donut well. The donut is moist and the matcha powder is delectable. It is sweeter than the Nutella and more unique. The more I eat it, the more I want.
As far as ice cream donut sandwiches go, I have reached the verdict that the two together are exponentially better than either alone. They’re my favourite couple this Valentine’s Day.
By Saranya Vijayakumar ’18 and Sara Surani ’18
We decided to cover Somerville’s chocolates again for Valentine’s day! During the winter months, Lizzy’s ice cream turns into a pop-up chocolate shop. The chocolates are made in collaboration between Alexandra Whisnant’s gáté comme des filles and Somerville Chocolate. The chocolates are made at Aeronaut, the brewery that also has a restaurant and somerville chocolate within the building.
The woman running the shop is named Fallon and is absolutely amazing. Her fiery red hair and welcoming personality make the hole-in-the-wall treasure trove feel more like a chocolate home than a chocolate shop. She took us around the store and showed us the handmade chocolates. She gave us a few to try, including the white chocolate cardamom, the hazelnut praline, the vanilla bean, and the meyer lemon. Our favorites were the meyer lemon, with gold leaf on the top, and the hazelnut, which tasted like nutella…but better.
The pop up lasts only until the end of February, when the shop becomes Lizzy’s ice cream again. It’s the perfect place to get a Valentine’s Day gift, with adorable Alice in Wonderland wrapping and tasty chocolates!
If you’re curious on what chocolates to try, gift to your loved one, or surprise your favorite galentine with, here are some of our suggestions!
Are you a Nutella-lover? Well, look no further! This all-organic, freshly made chocolate tastes just like nutella… except better. It has the warm soul-sensation of a Ferrero Rocher, but is both fluffier on the touch and gentler on the palate. It’s a classic crowd pleaser and brings back hints of nostalgia with its tones of crisp hazelnut. The nutella-like flavor hugs your tastebuds and doesn’t let go–much like your Valentine’s day date won’t let go after you two share this lovely treat together!
Do you like your sweet with a hint of sass? Then the lemon meyer is your go-to! While this chocolate has a nice milk chocolate exterior like the other chocolates, the puckering tinge of lemon sets it apart from the rest! (Not to mention the delicately crafted gold leaf on top!) Not only does the lemon-y taste catch you by pleasant surprise, but the citrus-y taste lasts long after your chocolate has disappeared! The best part? It is all-organic, made with fresh meyer lemon juice, and is vegan-friendly!
Want to stay on the safe side but still want to feel warm inside? If so, you can’t go wrong with the vanilla bean bonbon! Immediately upon biting into the creamy chocolate, you taste warm tones of both organic chocolate and Costa Rican vanilla bean. The two flavor duo compliments each other better than any of your two favorite duos–Bonnie and Clyde, Romeo and Juliet, Barak and Joe, you name it! This soothing flavor, accompanied by the dark valrhona chocolate ganache is a perfect chocolate for a snowy day!
White chocolate cardamom:
Are you a fan of Starbucks’ dirty chai latte? Then the white chocolate cardamom bonbon is perfect for you! This beautiful snowflake-colored bonbon has a glimmering creamy exterior and and an even creamier and fluffier interior. This hearty treat exudes warmth and content-ness with its smooth white chocolate hard shell and its strong flavor of cardamom on the inside. Even though though the tones of cardamon are strong, they gently dance on your tastebuds. Having a bad day? Wait no longer, this white chocolate cardamom is a great pick-me up and can turn any sub-par day into a stellar one!
This tiny shop should not be overlooked. It’s a cozy place to go for a quick treat in the snowstorm, so check it out before it leaves for the year!
Also, Fallon has an art show on February 25th from noon to midnight at Warehouse XI. Everyone is invited. She’s super cool, so visit her at the chocolate shop and go to her show!
By Allison Kao ’20
I found heaven tucked between a Starbucks and pizza parlor.
Its name? Somerville on the Charles – a charming chocolate pop-up shop that is making its winter home on Harvard Square’s Church Street, keeping the space normally occupied by Lizzy’s Ice Cream cozy during the colder months.
The shop, which is open 11am to 11pm, seven days a week from December to February, is a collab between Gâté Comme des Filles and Somerville Chocolates, each run separately by chocolatiers Alexandra Whisnant and Eric Parkes.
While the storefront only spans the width of a door and window display, its quaint, unassuming appearance by no means embodies the bold flavors of its chocolates.
There are two main types of treats – French-style bon bons (provided by Gâté Comme des Filles) and chocolate bars (provided by Somerville Chocolates). Bon bons are creamy ganaches hand-dipped in a thin chocolate coating. With only two ingredients, cacao and sugar, the bean-to-bar chocolate brings sweetness down to its core raw goodness. The shop’s most popular items are the Hawaiian chocolate bar and honey-walnut and vanilla bean bon bons.
Everything is made in small batches, so flavors rotate daily. In addition, ingredients are chosen with great care – in fact, the honey, peppermint, and thyme are all sourced from right here in Cambridge.
Somerville on the Charles also offers to-die-for brownies and a rich, decadent mousse that’s scooped into cones like ice cream (what more could you ask for?!).
And if you’re looking for a holiday gift, check out the 4-piece giftbox or a combination of the Nicaraguan and Hawaiian chocolate bars.
At least for the next three months, I know where I’ll be going to satisfy my sugar fix.
By Bovey Rao ‘19
Flour Bakery and Café will be open starting Tuesday, November 1st at 114 Mount Auburn Street from 7a-8p (based on website hours).
This past Sunday, Flour Bakery and Café held an open house event for their new Harvard Square location, and CrimsonCrave was invited to attend!
Entering Flour, we were promptly greeted by the founder, Joanne Chang, as she shook hands and welcomed everyone in. I instantly noticed the classic menu in the back and the counter that is normally lined with pastries like in the other locations. On the left, there was the ubiquitous wooden table alongside shelves stocked with cookbooks and prepared pastries like biscotti. To the right, there is the sandwich counter and seats alongside the windows and a small alcove with tables. Immediately, I was impressed with the modern space and relaxed environment. Natural light poured into the café as it bustled with activity. Friends, family, and staff happily engaged in conversation, while snacking on savory and sweet treats prepared by Flour.
While I was exploring the space, staff frequently came by and introduced themselves. Despite this being an open house, the staff was happy to converse with the guests and attentively monitored the many platters. The general manager was clearly excited about opening this store as she gestured for us to try the food that was prepared.
Savory items ranged from pizzas to their signature sandwiches and large bowls of their salads. As I began sampling through the selection, I noted the soba salad and the stuffed breads as some of my favorites. The roasted lamb sandwich with goat cheese and tomato chutney is one of my old favorites.
For sweets, there was a wide selection of Flour’s specialties such as muffins, brownies, cupcakes, mini tarts, and their famous sticky buns. These expertly crafted treats can satisfy any sweet tooth as there is such a large selection. My favorites include the pumpkin muffins, pain aux raisins, and obviously the freshly baked sticky buns.
My criticism of Flour was the size; however, this may be due to the activity and sheer number of people at the store. When I sat to talk to my friends, the alcove seating area was relatively cramped, so this Flour location is likely better suited for smaller groups. Most of the tables are designed for two people, which makes Flour excellent for breakfast or lunch meetings with a friend. At these tables, I conversed with some incredibly individuals, so I included their picture.
If the open house was a trial event for Flour Harvard Square, I can only say that it was a tremendous success. The staff were warm and welcoming, and the food was clearly prepared with care. I am beyond excited for the official opening of Flour and welcome it to Harvard Square.
However, these are simply my musings, so for a true assessment, you must visit it yourself!
Author’s Note (Bovey Rao)
Two years ago, I was in Boston for a high school research program. While working on my final paper, I tried to see the city that I had essentially ignored over the course of the program. After a productive morning at the Boston Public Library, I went for a lunch break and began wandering the streets of Boston. For me in high school, I was not yet the intense food lover as I would describe myself today, but I still sought a good lunch. While wandering the vibrant neighborhoods of Back Bay, I stumbled upon Flour Bakery and Café. Seeing the long line, I was enticed by the promise of a popular lunch destination. After receiving my lamb sandwich, I found a seat at the communal wood table, took a bite, and the rest is history.
Flour Bakery and Café has been one of the staples of my time at Harvard. While the nearest branch is near Kendall Square and MIT, I frequently made the trek for lunch with friends, grabbing birthday cakes, or indulging in a sweet morsel (normally sticky buns or banana bread). In my countless visits to Flour, I can happily say that I only have positive memories associated with the space. When I heard Flour was coming to Harvard Square, I could barely contain myself with excitement.
Last week, I became communicating with Joanne Chang about interviewing her about the new Flour, and she graciously agreed. Furthermore, she invited me, Richa, and Caroline to the open house on Sunday. Joanne Chang is the founder of Flour Bakery and Café and a Harvard graduate in Applied Math and Economics in ’91. She maintains a strong connection with Harvard by teaching lectures for the Science and Cooking series. This past Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to have a conversation with her so we could discuss the path to opening the Harvard Square branch of Flour. Then on Sunday, we attended the open house to have a glimpse of what was to come. I cannot be unbiased when I talk about Flour due to my history of positive experiences, but I think it will suffice to say that I am exuberant to showcase the opening of my favorite bakery and café from Boston in Harvard Square.
Much love to Marcella Park and Cynthia Gu, who visited Flour with me this Sunday.
By Bovey Rao ’19, Richa Chaturvedi ’18, and Caroline Gentile ’17
BR: Could you introduce yourself?
JC: My name is Joanne Chang, and I am opening Flour Harvard Square.
BR: What are your plans for the new location?
JC: We are at 114 Mt. Auburn, this used to be the old Chili’s building. I don’t know if you guys were around when it was here. When I went to school here, it was a Chili’s, and I don’t remember what the rest of the building was. We started looking at this space about a year ago, when Harvard said that they were going to renovating the building, and possibly opening the bottom floor for a café. We were excited because we wanted to open a new store and this seemed like a great location.
BR: How did you start your baking journey from Harvard student to applied math concentrator to consulting?
JC: It sounds like you know it (haha). I studied math and economics here and graduated in ’91 and worked in management consulting at the Monitor Group for two years. I had always loved cooking and baking and eating. I cooked a lot at home and baked recreationally. At Harvard, I actually baked and sold cookies at the Leverett House Grille in my Junior and Senior Year. I didn’t think this would be a career for me. I did consulting for two years and unlike a lot of other consultants who went to business school, I decided to try cooking professionally to see what that’d be like. I ended up loving it. I started on the line as a garde manger, working on appetizers. Once in the restaurant world, I started to hone my interest as I really preferred pastry over savory, so I got a job at a bakery. Then I came back to the square and was the pastry chef at Rialto for a few years and went to New York City to help with the opening of Payard Patisserie. After a while, I came back to Boston to be the pastry chef at Mistral and then opened Flour.
BR: How do you feel about Rialto closing?
JC: It’s such a bummer. It had such a great long run, but I’m excited about who’s going in there. Mike Pagliarini is an amazing chef and used to work with my husband at Via Matta. He’s a great friend of ours.
BR: Do you have any favorite memories of the dining halls at Harvard?
JC: I loved eating here, and this was before the dining service revamp. I know that you guys have all these special nights for food. I was involved with the dining program through periphery and heard about them. I went back to Leverett with my roommate, and there was just such great variety. When I was here, I don’t know if the food was amazing, but I just loved it. All the different types of food and I just liked it.
RC: I think you are catching us at a good time because the strike just ended.
JC: What’d you do during the strike?s
RC+CG: Spent a lot of money.
JC: Did they offer any food options?
BR+RC+CG: There was frozen food at first, that was pretty bad, but got a lot better as time went on.
JC: Did they reimburse you or anything?
CG: They gave us some money that we could spend at their cafés and at a few restaurants in the square. I definitely took advantage of it when I went to Henrietta’s.
RC: During midterms, we don’t realize how much we rely on HUDS for food, so it’s really nice that they are back.
JC: Two years ago, when I went back to Leverett, one of the ladies still recognized us, and we hugged and all. They really have a great staff.
BR: Did you have any dining hall hacks?
JC: We didn’t have as much selection back then. There are so many things to choose from now. It was a hot bar and a small salad bar with just lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots, so I don’t have any dining hacks.
RC: For your cookie business, how did you go about doing that?
JC: There’s a kitchen in the basement of G tower. It was tiny, but I would walk to the Stop and Shop, where the Microcenter is now. I would buy flour, butter, sugar, and chocolate chips and walk back with as much as I could carry. I would make batter downstairs in the kitchen and bake it off every night. I sold them to the Grille for 25 cents, and they sold it to the students 3 for a dollar.
RC: Do you feel you use your applied math background in your cooking today?
JC: I’m sure I do without really doing it. In applied math, you learn how to think critically, so it’s been very helpful. And it seems crazy, but just knowing basic math skills are helpful. If you have a big recipe and need to reduce it 8%, to be able to move easily when doing that kind of stuff makes things a lot easier. So that’s not really an applied math thing, but doing the accounting, it is helpful.
BR: What was your favorite place to eat in the square?
JC: We would go to Uno’s. I was dating a guy, and we would go to Uno’s. I would get the spinoccoli pizza and a salad. I loved that. We also went to Grendel’s Den, if that’s still around. We didn’t go out a lot because all of our meals were paid for.
RC: What about today?
JC: It was Rialto, and now I really like Café Sushi, even though it’s not really in the square. I like Giulia too even though it’s not really in the square. I haven’t been to Alden and Harlow in a while, but I’ve enjoyed it too. The Square has changed so much with so many places like Café Algiers even closing. I’m sad about that.
RC: I feel like it is getting more upscale.
JC: I feel like it’s getting more chainy with places like Chipotle and b.Good. B.Good went into the sushi place, which I didn’t expect, but b. Good is a good chain.
CG: I know there are a lot of bakery/cafes in this area, so what do you think separates Flour from Tatte, Crema, or Starbucks?
JC: I think many things. I think our food is awesome. We take so much pride in our food as we put it through the “Mom Test.” If you don’t want to serve it to your mom, then don’t serve it to the guest. So we empower all the staff to look at the food in that way, and this all started from when I opened the first location in the South End. My mom worked at the bakery because we were short-staffed. It was my first business venture, and she wanted to help me settle in for the first three months. She was always a little skeptical about the career change from consulting, so while she was excited about the opening, I wanted to make sure that everything we prepared, she was proud of. That was 16 years ago and we still talk about it today. At yesterday’s staff meeting, we talked to everyone about the mom test or girlfriend test or whoever’s opinion means something to you. You want imagine handing something you made to them with a sense of ownership over this is my job and this is what I made.
We also differentiate ourselves through our service, warm and welcoming hospitality. It is a huge part of who we are. Do you know the TV series Cheers? “Where everybody knows your name?” That was something that impacted me as somewhere that everyone knew you, and we wanted to replicate that here. My hope is that the staff gets to know 50 to 80 percent of the people who come in. We want them to be able to greet you and know your order. I think that we have a big emphasis on making sure that the whole of Flour is working in a really strong way. Everything we do we want to be guest facing from the food to the service. We spend a lot of time talking internally about how we want a really good working environment. For some of the people, Flour is their first time job, so we want to teach people this is how you work and become part of the team. We have a really strong internal commitment to teach the staff, so everything melds together to have a great place. The other cafes in the square are great, but I think everyone here is just more aware of the guest and the food.
CG: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
JC: Actually, my favorite savory thing on the menu is a new salad we have on the menu. It is a buckwheat noodle salad with tofu, kabocha squash, fresno peppers, and a nori sesame vinaigrette. We also have a hummus banh mi, which is fabulous.
One the pastry menu, the pain aux raisins is a long-time favorite. It is a brioche spiral that has pastry cream and golden raisins. A couple years ago, we introduced the kouign amann to the menu, a butter Breton cake, which is amazing.
RC: Is there anything you’re going to roll out on the menu specially for Harvard Square?
JC: We haven’t come up with any Harvard specific specials yet because our focus now is making sure that we make sure we do everything great like the other locations. Then, we’re going to let the chefs and pastry chefs know that they are empowered to make specials. If enough people come in and say “we really want this,” then we’re going to try it.
CG: Is there a certain recipe that you had to tamper with to really perfect?
JC: I feel like every recipe requires this. We were fiddling with our croissant for the last 12 years. I inherited a recipe from Payard and just kept working and improving on it. I feel like almost every recipe requires some tampering. The blueberry muffin recipe went through so many iterations for the first ten years. We would taste it every couple of days and think about how to make it more moist, more fruity, and just improve the little things. It is about always being involved, so we taste all the time.
BR: I know you won the James Beard Award, so are there any future aspirations that you have?
JC: My focus is on making sure this location get rolled out really smoothly. Professionally, I feel like I just want to keep doing what we do well. I want the staff to be happy coming to work every day, so that is what I want to focus on because it is really important to me.
RC: Do you feel like this is a little bit of a homecoming?
JC: A little bit! It definitely is great to be back in the square. When I was here, I never really left the square; in fact, I never really left the yard and Leverett House. I only went to Currier because of my boyfriend at the time, so I went only to Leverret, Currier, and the yard. During the dining hall strike, I was wondering what everyone doing because if it had happened while I was here, I don’t know what I would have done. I stayed in my house most of the time.
It’s fun to be back and connect with students and hear what people have to say about their experience. It’s fun to know all of the places and all of the dorms. It’s been nice coming back and working with Harvard. I had my 25th college anniversary this year with a dinner outside the Science Center. I also taught a lecture for the science and cooking class, so the professor and I went to eat at Annenberg. For me, it was Mem Hall, and it was for exams instead of a dining hall.
CG: What were the biggest challenges of opening this location?
JC: There were some obstacles regarding water because of the plumbing situation downstairs. We were originally planning on putting the bathrooms on [the right side], so the layout was challenging. It was hard to make it work, knowing that all water had to be restricted to one side of the space. It was just a logistical challenge.
Other than that, it’s been great working with Harvard as they have been super great to deal with. Construction has been going well, so hopefully, we’ll be opening on Tuesday!
RC: Are you going to be here on opening day?
JC: Definitely. I will be here on the first day to make sure everything is okay and probably stay for a while, but with the staff here from the managers to all of the chefs, we have a really great team, so I won’t do much. My coming is more to support everybody and make sure things are going well.
RC: Do you have any game day rituals for opening a restaurant?
JC: That is a really good question, but not really. In fact, I was just talking to Neil, the carpenter, who helped us open the Back Bay location. He reminded me that we opened Back Bay around 11am because we were waiting on a permit that finally came at 10. We quickly scrubbed everything clean and opened at 11, so we were just focused on getting it all going. So I don’t really have any game day rituals, but we should probably start something. We’ll keep doing what were doing.
CG: I am so excited about you guys opening because I follow you on Instagram and always see all the chef’s specials. I always think they look so good but they are so far away. Also, the Flour at Kendall was also where I had my first date with my boyfriend where we got sticky buns.
JC: Oh cool! We have had a couple marriage proposals that have happened at the bakery. A couple of them with our knowledge, so we knew what was happening. We could set up a little quiet corner for them. Others have happened to spontaneously, where they are spontaneous for us, but hopefully not for them. That’s been really cool.
BR: I think that’s it!
JC: Awesome! Feel free to take pictures and look around!
RC+CG+BR: Thank you so much for your time!
By Joseph Winters ‘20
On March 29, 2016, Harvard Square suffered a great loss. Students, faculty, and all manner of health-minded individuals mourned the closing of one of the most convenient farm-to-table fast food places around. Not that there were many to begin with… Either way, B.good’s closing was a blow to the food scene of Harvard Square. This Friday, however, B.good reopened with a bang on Eliot Street, in what eaters are describing as a much-needed addition to Harvard’s healthy food scene. “There just wasn’t hardly any place healthy to eat in the Square!” lamented one B.good customer as she devoured a scoop of lime-soaked quinoa.
The Crimson Crave visited B.good on its opening day, Friday, to survey the situation. We were greeted by Monika Bach Schroeder, Marketing Manager for the Harvard Square location. Schroeder was supervising a Wheel-of-Fortune style promotion—spin the wheel and walk away with some B.good sunglasses, a high-five, or, with some luck, a free burger. We were lucky enough to get the burger.
“We make real food,” the B.good website advertises boldly on its home page. A simple slogan, but it speaks volumes when seen in conjunction with the tangible measures B.good has taken to produce high quality fast food options. Customers can order classic items like burgers or sandwiches, but B.good also offers kale and grain bowls, seasonal salads, creative sides, and smoothies.
New additions to the B.good menu are “Plates”: Chipotle Avocado, Mediterranean Mezze, and Asian Bento. “We’re really proud of our new plates,” says Schroeder. “They speak a lot to our mission of staying innovative and fresh; we use seasonal ingredients to offer healthy food options.”
Apart from good food, Schroeder adds that the B.good team is “really excited about this community.” Harvard, she says, is a very engaged community, one into which B.good tries to integrate itself. On the day preceding the former B.good’s closing, they held a “pay what you can” day. All the day’s profits were donated to Y2Y, a homeless youth shelter in Cambridge. Upon their reopening, they held a similar project, raising $1700 for Y2Y, enough to provide over a full month of programming to the homeless shelter.
Local farmers are also beneficiaries. B.good sources many of its ingredients from farms in the Northeast. When we visited, a colorful map showed apples, cauliflower, squash, fresh mint, pumpkin, tomatoes, and yogurt all coming from Massachusetts, and many other ingredients like beef, bread, eggs, and bacon being sourced from the other northeastern states.
At the door this Friday, customers were greeted by Casey Ballin from Hannah Farm, a one acre plot of land on an island in Boston Harbor. Now managed by B.good, the farm benefits the local community, producing food for Camp Harbor View summer camp for at-risk youth. At the camp, teens learn to prepare healthy meals from local ingredients. Up to 20,000 pounds of produce are expected to be produced by Hannah Farm, with a majority being donated to the summer camp, and much being featured in B.good restaurants. “We did a feature a couple weeks ago, where we sold kale smoothies made with our own kale,” Ballin explained as he handed out samples of carrots and grape tomatoes from Hannah Farm.
This Friday was the first of many meals I’m sure I’ll be having at B.good. The chain brings its fresh dishes to the Square along with a fresh ideology, one that incorporates sustainability, local commerce, and—of course—delicious food. On the short walk to my seat, I ogled picnic pear and brie salads, Thai almond bowls, sweet potato fries, and even pumpkin milkshakes. I tried the Spicy Lime Avocado Bowl with their seasonal side: local cauliflower coated in cheddar and breadcrumbs. I might have over-ordered, but it was oh, so good. Plus, the side was free; first-time users of the B.good app will automatically get a side on the house! I would easily recommend B.good to anyone looking for a tasty, healthy morsel without the wait at a sit-down restaurant.
By Caroline Gentile ’17
As of late, the food scene in Harvard Square has been bleak. With the onset of construction and subsequent mass exodus of restaurants, there have been significantly fewer options to choose from. Add into the mix that HUDS is on strike, and the options further dwindle. Thankfully, as of Thursday, October 6th, there is a new restaurant in the square: En Boca.
Originally in the building that used to be Sandrine’s, En Boca was purchased by restaurant developers Bill Goodwin and Peter Sarmanian, who are also behind two well-known Irish pubs in Boston, in March of 2015. Unlike their other restaurants, En Boca is far from an Irish pub. Goodwin’s goal in creating En Boca was to serve “creative, farm-to-table food with a Mediterranean influence” in an ambiance that is “classic with a modern feel,:
Crimson Crave co-President, Richa Chaturvedi ‘18, another friend, and I decided to check it out. Upon walking into the restaurant, we were struck by how beautifully decorated it is. We immediately felt transported from the grind of the Harvard Bubble, despite being a stone’s throw from the River Houses. We sat by the large window overlooking Holyoke Street, which was truly a treat, even with the construction across the street.
En Boca’s menu mostly consists of small plates; our server recommended we order three or four plates per person. “It’s all about the sharing experience,” Goodwin explained to me over the phone, before I even set foot in the restaurant. With this in mind, my companions and I ordered seven small plates, and one of their larger, yet still shareable, dishes.
At En Boca, everything comes out to the table as soon as it is ready. Before we knew it, our table was adorned with several small plates. The first thing we sampled were the patatas bravas, which were paired with aioli, tomato, and sweet pepper. The potatoes were cooked perfectly; the skin was crispy, but the potato itself was tender. To me, the highlight of the dish were the sauces, though. The sweet pepper sauce and creamy aioli not only complemented each other, but also the saltiness of the potatoes. Overall, this dish was delicious and simple. I imagine it will be a popular menu item as time goes on!
Next up were the crispy brussel sprouts. It seems as though the chefs at En Boca have realized the truth about vegetables, particularly brussel sprouts: they are much, much tastier when paired with bacon. The brussel sprouts themselves were beautifully browned and lived up to their description as crispy, but I stand by my assertion the bacon was the star of the show. Of all the small plates, my dining companions and I agreed that this was one of the best.
One of our fellow diners would argue that the best dish was the chicken liver pâté. In fact, she refused to share it because she liked it so much, and claimed it was some of the best pâté she has ever had!
Another standout dish was the local halloumi cheese. For anyone who has never tried halloumi, ordering it at En Boca is the perfect opportunity. The small plate gives you just a taste of this delicious, salty cheese along with notes of hazelnut. After your first bite, you’ll wish this dish came with more than just three pieces.
The charred cauliflower, while not quite a standout, was still quite delicious. Lightly fried, the cauliflower itself was not particularly flavorful, but the accompanying sultanas and labneh, which is basically a creamy mediterranean aioli, really made the dish. In fact, the labneh also paired extremely well with the falafel. Without dipping it in the labneh, we found that the falafel was too dense and dry, but it was elevated to new levels once we realized this unexpected yet harmonious combination.
Of all the dishes, the baked farm egg with chorizo dressing and polenta was our least favorite. Though it sounded good on paper, this dish lacked the texture and flavor that the other dishes so beautifully capitulated. The egg was well-cooked (complete with plenty of yolk porn), but blended in too much with the polenta, resulting in a mushy texture and bland flavor. The chorizo was more salty than it was flavorful, and did nothing to salvage the dish. However, I liked the idea of a poached egg on the menu, and hope that the chefs will find a better way to serve it.
Our final savory course was the half roasted chicken with a sunchoke reduction. It seems as though the chefs had saved the best for last. After all, there are few things better than flavorful, juicy chicken covered in crunchy, briny skin. The sunchoke reduction amplified the chicken’s flavor perfectly. Though we were already pretty full by the time we got our final course, the chicken was one of the best dishes we had, and we made sure to make room. However, since this dish was advertised as one to share, we think that the presentation could have better reflected the sharing aspect. The chicken was served on the bone. In order to share it, we had to cut into it with our own utensils, which, if you were not dining with close friends or family, could get awkward. Given how delicious it is, leaving people to their own devices to cut the chicken could create a hunger games-esque situation. If this chicken were sliced before it were served, then it would probably be more socially acceptable to eat in a group!
In terms of drinks, En Boca is technically a wine bar, and boasts an extensive wine list, including plenty of fine wines by the glass. However, only one member of our group was over 21, and she does not like wine. Thankfully, En Boca offers many other options, including cocktails, beers, and ciders. She decided on the strawberry peach fizz cocktail. After her first sip, she decided it was both too sweet and too strong; the overwhelmingly saccharine aftertaste did not mask the taste of alcohol. Upon noticing that our friend was not drinking her drink, however, our server offered to get her another one that she might prefer.
This is just one example of the outstanding service at En Boca. While aspects of the menu are still a work in progress, one thing that En Boca has mastered is its service. Our server, Isabella, was polite, knowledgeable, and attentive. She truly made our dining experience as enjoyable as possible.
As for dessert, chef Bryan Jacobs, who used to be the private chef for both George Bush and the Anheuser-Busch family, is still experimenting with the menu. He served us a palate-cleansing dessert as well as an Egyptian cake. The palate-cleanser consisted of a quince sorbet with tahini shortbread, hazelnut and mint oils, and chantilly. While on paper, this combination may sound strange, it was one of the most unique desserts we had ever sampled; light, refreshing, sweet, and tangy.
The egyptian cake, made with semolina, and run, had a wonderfully crumbly texture without being dry. To achieve this texture while still maintaining the flavors of the cake, chef Jacobs used a brown butter reduction as his base, instead of the tried-and-true method of creaming butter and sugar together. Paired with the the airy chantilly, made using an oxygen gun, this dessert was also light, and the perfect amount of sweet. Though at this point in the meal, we had sampled at least nine different dishes, we were not completely stuffed to the point of feeling like we needed to lay still for hours. To achieve desserts that are both decadent and light is quite a feat, and chef Jacobs certainly accomplished it.
Two hours and $103 later (a reasonable price for such a high-quality dinner for three people), we left En Boca, stomachs full of delicious food and a desire to come back soon. While some of the small plates were not quite perfect, the chicken and the desserts were more than enough to keep us coming back for more. Before En Boca officially opened its doors, Goodwin acknowledged his excitement about opening and “correcting our mistakes as we go.” With its outstanding service and talent in the kitchen, En Boca has a great deal of potential, and we can’t wait to see how it evolves in the coming months.
Location: 8 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, MA
Standout dishes: Half-Roasted Chicken, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Patatas Bravas
Overall Rating: 4.5/5