Welcome Back to Harvard! Here’s What’s Happening

By Bovey Rao ‘19

As the summer draws to a close, many may be wondering what on earth has happened to Harvard Square. Many beloved restaurants perished with the remodeling of the Smith Center. Student favorites like Al’s are now gone, so our stomachs may be running a little on empty. A few other promises of summer openings were left unfulfilled, but this guide is perhaps a glimmer of hope for what has and will come to Harvard Square.

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Bao
Image from Tom’s Bao Bao

 

Tom’s Bao Bao – Chinese steamed buns, baozi, are the specialty of Tom’s Bao Bao. Various unique fillings are enveloped by airy white dough before being steamed to perfection. From the upscale lobster to the decadent chili beef, there are plenty of excellent options for a quick meal or snack. While slightly pricey, Tom’s Bao Bao is a great addition to Harvard Square for the adventurous student.

Waypoint
Image from Waypoint

Waypoint – Alden & Harlow is not only one of my favorite restaurants in Harvard Square but is one of my favorites in all of Boston. Michael Scelfo, the chef behind Alden & Harlow, recently opened a seafood restaurant, Waypoint, near Harvard Square. Following a similar small plate concept, Waypoint will hopefully become another Boston staple as it opened with excitement.

Upcoming

B. Good Google Maps
Image from Google Maps

B.Good – One of the favorite destinations for students seeking a healthier alternative to fast-food, B.Good was missed when it closed due to the Smith Center renovations. However, it is scheduled to return in a short while at the former O Sushi space. The fresh burgers, salads, and fries are things to look forward to in the near future.

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Image from En Boca Cambridge

En Boca – Mediterranean flavors are coming to Harvard Square from En Boca, a restaurant by the team from The Asgard and The Kinsale. Deviating from their other Irish pubs, Classic Restaurants Concepts is creating En Boca with Devin Broo from Bar Boulud. Originally slated to open in August 2016, the restaurant appears to be close to opening.

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Image from DavidsTea

DavidsTea – DavidsTea is a tea store that was started in Canada and has begun expanding into the United States. With other locations in Massachusetts, DavidsTea specializes in various tea related products from teas themselves to mugs and other accessories. The store is slated to finish in September 2016.

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Image from The Hourly Oyster House

The Hourly Oyster House – In the former Kennedy’s on the Square space, the Grafton Group is creating an oyster bar known as the Hourly. With well-established restaurants like Russell House Tavern, Park Restaurant, and Grafton Street, the Grafton Group continues to expand their empire with a seafood specialty restaurant in Harvard Square. It promises to provide extensive take-out options, perfect for students in a hurry. The Hourly is looking to open in early fall 2016.

Tatte
Image from Tatte Bakery and Cafe

Tatte Bakery & Café – It is obvious that I am a fan of Tatte Bakery and Café and perhaps was one of few students who was happy when Panera closed. Tatte will bring their fresh pastries and other delicacies to Harvard Square with a weekend brunch menu and cooking lessons. The space is currently under construction and hopefully will be opening in September.

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Image from sweetgreen

Sweetgreen – A large salad chain started by a group of Georgetown graduates is coming to Harvard Square. With the success of Sweetgreen in Back Bay, the chain planned to expand extensively in the Boston area. Highlighting local purveyors like Iggy’s Bread and Ward’s Berry Farm, Sweetgreen is bringing accessible farm to table to the square. Look for it to open in the fall.

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Image of Rialto from Forbes Travel Guide

Benedetto – With the closure of Rialto, Harvard Square lost one of its long-term residents. After providing upscale Italian cuisine to the community for over twenty years, the restaurant did not wish to continue after the departure of chef Jody Adams. Giulia chef and owner, Michael Pagliarini, plans to open Benedetto in the Rialto space, which I believe to be an exciting transition. Giulia has garnered stellar reviews, and hopefully Benedetto maintains the legacy of Rialto. The current opening date is ambiguously set in fall 2016.

Flour
Image from Flour Bakery + Cafe

Flour Bakery + Café – Harvard graduate and star baker (James Beard Awardee), Joanne Chang, is bringing her Flour Bakery + Café to Harvard Square. From the famous sticky buns to excellent sandwiches, Flour has become a Boston staple, and it was great news to hear that one is coming to Harvard Square. The Harvard Square branch is projected to open in October 2016.

Island Creek Oyster Bar Taste Savant
Image of Island Creek Oyster Bar from Taste Savant

Restaurant from Island Creek Oyster Bar/Row 34 – While the opening date remains the most distant, I simply wish to show my excitement for another restaurant by this group. Island Creek Oyster Bar is my favorite seafood restaurant in Boston after numerous memorable experiences. I look forward to what concept will be devised.

 

Featured Image from Wikimedia

With Panera Closing, Tatte Bakery Steps In

by Bovey Rao ‘19

Oh, Panera, you never really meant that much to me… While for some students Panera is a staple, I’ve never been the biggest fan of ‘commercialized’ foods. My friends can attest to the fact that I frequently voice my distaste for chains like Chipotle, Panera, and Au Bon Pain. Ok, you might think this is all a bunch of food snobbery, but for me, the problem is not the flavor of the food, but the principle of it.

While these businesses advertise non-GMO, pesticide and antibiotic free food, what does that really mean? Are we not falling for the same trap of the previous generation that was promised fast, convenient, and cheap food? We are becoming numb to what is out there in the world of food, and falling into the trap of buzzwords and catchphrases. I’ll be honest: when Panera closed, I smiled. When I found out what replaced it, my smile only widened.

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Tatte Bakery and Café is a homegrown Boston bakery and café with numerous branches throughout the city from Kendall Square to Brookline. They serve a wide range of Middle Eastern dishes and pastries as well as the more traditional café fare. From a small stand at Boston farmer’s markets to five established and beloved bakeries, Tatte has proven to be a Boston success story. And it all started with one person, owner Tzurit Or.

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Tzurit Or, from Tatte’s website

 

Tzurit grew up in Israel and learned traditional baking techniques from her mother. After years of working as a film producer, she realized her true calling in life was baking. She picked up her belongings and moved to Boston, where she started baking from her kitchen. Starting at local farmer’s markets, her carefully crafted pastries received rave reviews. The rest is history.

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Delicious various pastries (buttery croissants, fluffy popovers, rich morning buns)

As you probably guessed, a new Tatte Bakery and Café location will be opening in the space previously occupied by Panera Bread. I could barely contain my excitement when I heard this news. A locally-operated business replacing a national chain? It was music to my ears. However, I do humbly applaud Panera for their business model and their care for the customer.

In early February, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Tatte Bakery and Café, but will allow them to run independently. This funding allowed Tatte Bakery to fill the Panera space and reach a new audience of (I hope at least) excited and hungry Harvard students. While construction may take some time (it opens in summer according to a manager at the Main Street Tatte Bakery and Café), it is an addition that is sorely needed. As I sip my café au lait and enjoy my pistachio-filled, baklava-esque croissant, I cannot help but think:

Goodbye Panera; Welcome home Tatte.

A selection of tasteful shots from Tatte Bakery and Café on Main Street and all the ‘yum’ that is to come:

*Note: The straight croissant is a sign that means it was made with butter. Curved croissants usually have margarine or an alternative form of fat.

Update: Eater provided exciting information with an email from Tzurit Or.

 

Sofra Bakery and Cafe: Cambridge Bakery Brings Middle Eastern Spices to the Masses

by Bovey Rao ’19

In 2001, Ana Sortun opened her landmark restaurant, Oleana, in Somerville. After an incredible tour of Turkey, Sortun returned to Boston to introduce the city to exotic Eastern Mediterranean flavors. The restaurant exploded in popularity, and in 2005, Sortun was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast. As Oleana was filled consistently, Sortun began looking into a new project, Sofra.

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Sofra Bakery and Café was inspired by Turkish bazaars, which offer food, drinks, spices, and other ingredients in a small area. The store has two separate sections with a café in one section, then a market space that sells condiments, wines, and spices. Upon entering, you encounter the vibrant aromas of the Mediterranean like cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander. A quick glance at the counter reveals an extensive menu with a wide assortment of baked goods. Sofra followed the meze style of dining, so there are many small vegetarian dishes as well as some larger dishes with meats. With staples like falafel, shawarma, and hummus, the menu might seem generic at first; however, upon closer inspection, the subtle complexities shown through. Sortun’s goal is to make Mediterranean flavors and spices approachable to the American palette, so many local ingredients are incorporated into the complex “foreign” dishes.

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As my exhausted group of friends and I collapsed into Sofra after a run, we glanced over the counter at the menu. After we caught our breath, we placed our orders and cooled down from our run. A short while later, my spinach falafel wrap, pumpkin turnover, and grape sharbat arrived with my friend’s orders of chicken shawarma and a red-dragon iced tea.

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The spinach falafel wrap was served with a little tahini, beet tzatziki, pickles, and fresh greens. Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern dish, prepared by grinding fava beans or chickpeas and then frying it. While the dish may be simple, there is a complexity to the dish, with a unique mix of spices and textural differences giving it almost meaty impression. Sofra’s rendition was mixed with spinach and accompanied by rich, creamy tahini and acidic pickles. Unfortunately, the exterior of the falafel lacked the distinctive crispness I expected. Thus, I was slightly underwhelmed as the wrap had a uniform texture, but the refreshing bitterness of the greens and crunch of the pickles improved dish immensely.

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While ordering, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices for the baked goods. With cookies, tarts, breads, and a plethora of other seasonal baked goods, Sofra prepares a number of traditional Mediterranean pastries as well other European baked items with Mediterranean influences. Fortunately, the cashier provided a quick recommendation of the pumpkin turnover. While the recommendation seemed plain, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavorful sweet and savory pastry. With the traditional pumpkin spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, the flavor was incredible with the flaky buttery turnover. The fresh sweet pumpkin inside was a nostalgic reminder of autumn.

Normally, I do not comment on the drinks that are served in my restaurant reviews, but the seasonal sharbat was sensational. With a strong grape cardamom concentrate mixed with sparkling water, the drink left a powerful sweet flavor.

A mere two miles away, Sofra serves as a cheaper destination for those seeking the Mediterranean experience. The more accessible sister of Oleana, Sofra delivers similar flavors in a cozier and more comfortable environment. While the food may not have been as elevated as at Oleana, the identity of the restaurant as an approachable café was apparent. If I ever desire a falafel wrap or a savory, spiced pastry, I will run in the direction of Sofra.

Sofra Bakery and Cafe

Location: 1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Reservation: N/A

Stand out dishes: Pumpkin Turnover (Seasonal), Grape Sharbat (Seasonal)

Overall Rating: 4/5

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 5/5

Ambience: 4.5/5


 

 

“Fall” In Love: With Sweet Apple Cupcakes

by Angela Yi ’19

Today, I was feeling a little under the weather because of the colds going around campus. I needed some good comfort food, and the first place that came into mind was Sweet. I mentioned them last week in my tribute to my love for pumpkin – But this time, I decided to try something new.

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Located in Brattle St., in between the Curious George store and Tealuxe.

I dragged my friend out of bed to join me in my excursion to gorge myself on delicious cupcakes with promises of free pastries. We took the long, exhaustive walk on the Square; and three minutes later, the much-beloved sign appeared.

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Even the wallpaper is too cute.

The décor of Sweet never fails to make me feel happy. I love the cute little boxes stacked on top of each other, and their new pink Jack-o’-lantern makes an adorable finish to the cozy little bakery.

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The Jack-o’-lantern is the highlight of this pic.

But most of all, the sheer number of options to choose from is what makes Sweet my favorite cupcake store. From dark chocolate to french toast, Sweet has a very interesting variety of flavors that I haven’t seen anywhere else. They even have a flavor called “pupcakes”, which Sweet calls a “yummy treat for our canine friends.”

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Choosing which flavors to try is stressful, but the stress is certainly a good one.

So today, prior to walking into the bakery, I relied on Sweet’s varied flavors to find some cupcakes that I’ve never tried before. Forget vanilla and chocolate – I wanted to try something new and unique.

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From left to right: Caramel Apple, Apple Cider Doughnut, Apple Pie.

Sweet certainly did not disappoint. So today, for lunch, I got to have Apple Pie, Caramel Apple, and Apple Cider Doughnut cupcakes. It was certainly one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. The apple fillings in Apple Pie and Caramel Apple was just simply delicious, and eating all those cupcakes with Sweet’s coffee ended my afternoon on a very high note.

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Mike’s Pastry — Now Open in Harvard Square

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By Dana Ferrante ’17

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It’s true. Mike’s Pastry, in all its powdered-sugar-sprinkled, ricotta-filled goodness, has finally opened in Harvard Square. With the interior not quite done, Mike’s opened today unannounced, boasting only the spotless glass cases filled with pastries of all kinds and the smooth granite countertops. But really, what else could you possibly need?

 

Mike’s Pastry ha2014-11-13 11.57.23s been open in the North End (basically Boston’s Little Italy) for almost 62 years now. The new satellite shop in Harvard Square will receive deliveries of all sorts of pastries (lobster tails, tiramisu, and empty cannoli shells that will be filled to order) from the main bakery in the North End each morning. To finish off the exciting Italian-American immigration to Harvard Square, the new shop will also offer coffee drinks, including espresso and cappuccino.

For my first Mike’s run of the semester, I thought I would stick to the basics: cannoli and pizzelle.

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The basics: Pizzelle and Cannoli.

Unlike most bakeries in the North End, Mike’s Pastry fries its own cannoli shells seven days a week. For anyone who has ever bitten into a disappointingly stale cannoli shell, Mike’s fresh, light, and generally larger shells, are nothing short of salvation. It may just be a matter of personal preference, but there’s really nothing like a ricotta-filled cannoli with a plain shell. An oreo or strawberry cannoli may seem tempting, but these are purely Americanized versions of an Italian classic– a classic, which I believe (some people say a little too obstinately) is perfect, and most delicious, in its original form.

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For the time being, the shop will open from 8am to 10pm each day, but as the manager explained, “we have already heard from a lot of students that Saturday night is going to be very busy.” He went on to explain how the current hours are soft, meaning if there seems to be a high-demand for cannoli late at night, the shop will change its hours accordingly. Something tells me that late-night Mike’s will soon become the next big thing on Harvard’s campus.2014-11-13 11.57.35

 

Faneuil Hall: A Food Lover’s Paradise

Orlea Miller ‘16

Because this is my third year living in Cambridge, I like to consider myself a Faneuil Hall expert. Every time I have a visitor at school, Faneuil Hall is one of our first stops on the trip: it is a place I know will always deliver the perfect taste of Boston, in more ways than one.

Faneuil Hall gives tourists the chance to try just about every cuisine (local and beyond) while also serving as the perfect haven for all the foodies out there.

I’ve heard of a few unfortunate Faneuil Hall experiences, typically involving a friend walking into the marketplace hungry, and selecting the first option they encounter. They then saunter through the rest of the food booths, barely able to walk as they regret their cursory decision to buy the first bagel pizza or Chinese dish they smelled. As they pass Boston Chowda, Pizzeria Regina, or the cannoli and cake slices from the North End Bakery, they cannot believe all of the opportunities they missed in their ravenous haste. When it comes to Faneuil Hall, this is biggest mistake you can make.

Foreseeing this problem, I typically advise my guests beforehand to be patient. Walk up and down, survey every Faneuil Hall food booth carefully before selecting anything; share two to four entrees with the rest of your party, so you can enjoy all that the marketplace has to offer. Most importantly, stop when you feel the slightest bit full so you can take advantage of the cakes, pastries, caramel apples, and gelato that you’ll have to choose at the end of the outing.

On my most recent visit, my aunt and I arrived on Friday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. Though I was admittedly starving, there were a few people and plenty of space to walk, so I was able to show her all that Faneuil Hall without feeling overwhelmed by the tourists that saturate the central aisle during lunchtime, and especially on the weekends.

Upon entering the Hall, we were greeted with sweet and savory choices at the booths displaying their fall offerings. First up, we eyed Sprinkles Ice Cream and Fudge Shop, showcasing its traditional fudge flavors alongside seasonal favorites.

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As we moved two inches further, we smelled Boston Pretzel Bakery’s oven. As if the plain, salted, cinnamon sugar, a
nd Parmesan options weren’t enough, this pretzel shop was advertising its Boston Pretzel (pictured right): a mix of salt and sesame shaped like a “B”. As we neared the counter, the owner offered us a sample of her signature pretzel, which we immediately agreed was tastier than any pretzel we’d ever tried. The Boston pretzel wasn’t too salted or under flavored; it was the perfect combination of crispy and doughy. The owner also made sure to share that it was even all-natural!

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Like I said, Faneuil Hall has something for everyone, even the meat-lovers out there! The next popular booth appeared to be the Prime Shoppe, serving up your traditional barbeque fare such as turkey, ribs, mashed potatoes, and corn.

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We quickly spotted the second dessert option of the day, Carol Ann Bake Shop. While the windows weren’t totally stocked following the lunch crowd consumption, there was a little bit of everything left including Boston Crème Pie, German Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse Cake, and Strawberry Shortcake; we were quickly able to tell what the popular choices were!

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Before finding our lunch for the day, we were tempted by a few other sweet options: The North End Bakery’s mouth-watering cake slices (which always look and taste the best in my opinion) and Joey’s Gelateria, a reminder that the North End is really just down the street.

I tried the Chocolate Truffle Bomb (pictured below; middle of the top row) on a previous visit, and let me say it’s a necessity on one of your trips to Faneuil Hall (because there should be many!). A word of advice, it is best enjoyed when you have plenty of room after your meal.

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The Berry Twist’s caramel apples, which are pictured in the header, provide yet another option for your second (or third or fourth) course. While the fall creations looked the tastiest, the Berry Twist had more than enough choices: chocolate covered strawberries, several ice cream and frozen yogurt flavors, and unique sundaes and smoothies.

As we passed the booth Boston Chowda, I knew my aunt wouldn’t be able to resist! From Maine Lobster Pie to Lobster Mac’ and Cheese to Atlantic Haddock Pie, the booth puts a spin on chicken pot pie that pleases both the New England and comfort food palate.

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Sure enough, she went for Lobster Mac’ and Cheese, and thought it was one of the best things she’d ever tried. With huge pieces of lobster throughout, my aunt felt like she was getting a real bang for her buck, enjoying the traditional New England products smothered in cheese and perfectly cooked and crispy.

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Pizzeria Regina is always a favorite in my family, and during our visit they cooked up a fall pie (below) along with the simple margherita pizza guaranteed to please little kids or any picky eaters out there.

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Our trip couldn’t be complete without taking something for the road. Right outside the food booth halls stands Wicked Good Cupcakes (featured on Shark Tank) which lucky for us, provides just that. These are just any cupcakes — they are cupcakes created for mason jars. My aunt packed the simple Chocolate Cupcake to take home, but flavors below include(left to right) Coconut Calico, Black Cat, Dalmatian, Mocha Maine Coon Cat, and Marble Mutt.

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So, if you haven’t ever been to Faneuil, it’s time to go! And if you’ve already been, there’s never been a more delicious time to go again.

Violette: A Gluten-Free Bakery for Everyone

By Caroline Gentile ’17

Hidden away underneath O2 Yoga on Mass Ave is Violette, a gluten-free bakery that even gluten-lovers need to try. Violette offers a smorgasbord of cookies, cakes, pies, cupcakes, bread pudding, empanadas, sandwiches, and both sweet and savory breads—all hand-made from scratch, using gluten-free, organic, and locally-sourced ingredients. Though Violette’s treats are a little more expensive than typical bakery goods, they are worth the extra cash given the high quality of their ingredients and the great effort put forth to make each and every treat by hand. Violette’s main goal is to offer gluten-free baked goods that aren’t “good for gluten-free”, but just plain good. I would venture to say that they definitely achieve this goal, and in fact, surpass “just plain good”.

 

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I had the pleasure of going to Violette on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. On a nice day like that, sunlight streams in through the windows, reflecting off of the glass cake-stands containing their delicious offerings. Strings of white Christmas lights line the walls and the display area, giving the whole place an angelic glow.

 

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After I got over how adorable and inviting the décor was, I focused on why I was really there: the baked goods. Everything looked amazing. There was peanut-butter glazed apple bread pudding, chocolate chip walnut cookies, nutella macarons, cranberry oatmeal cookies, salted caramel cake with chocolate ganache, orange almond cake…the list goes on and on. I probably spent a solid 10 minutes trying to decide what I wanted to try, until I finally gave up and asked the server what their most popular treats were. “Our breads,” he said. “ I really like our bread pudding, but most people come here for our breads because they find it hard to believe that gluten-free bread is any good. Also, our cookies are pretty good.”

So my friend and I grabbed a loaf of chocolate chip banana nut bread, an assortment of cookies (peanut butter, peanut butter chip, chocolate chip walnut, cranberry oatmeal, and both raspberry and nutella macarons) and two cupcakes, one chocolate with dark chocolate buttercream and the other vanilla with apricot rose buttercream. Call us gluttons, but we hadn’t eaten lunch and simply had to try it all.

The highlights of our feast were the cupcakes and the banana bread. Usually, I am not a fan of chocolate cupcakes because the cake itself tends to be dry. The chocolate cupcake I had at Violette, however, was moist, intensely chocolate-y, and almost melted in my mouth—definitely the best chocolate cupcake I had ever had. As for the banana bread, I had to eventually hide it from myself so that I wouldn’t eat the whole loaf in one sitting. Fragrant, and also very moist, it was bursting with banana flavor, with the occasional hint of dark chocolate and crunch of candied walnut. The cookies that we tried were also pretty good, but they did not stand out nearly as much as the bread and the cupcakes.

 

Chocolate chip banana nut  bread
Chocolate chip banana nut bread

 

A peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, a cranberry oatmeal cookie, and a plain peanut butter cookie
A peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, a cranberry oatmeal cookie, and a plain peanut butter cookie

With a great ambiance and delicious food, Violette is a must-try. Unfortunately, however, their landlord has tripled their rent, and on August 24th, they will temporarily close until they can find a new space. On their website, violettegf.com, is a link to an Indiegogo campaign to which anyone can contribute money to help them open a new bakery. With a loyal following of gluten-free dessert-lovers, which now includes me, I am sure that Violette will be back in business soon. We will keep you posted as to when exactly that is, but until then, try to get over there before August 24th and stock up on their banana bread and cupcakes!