Report on Foodie Tour of Somerville/Cambridge, starting at Union Square Farmer's Market (Long)
I spent Saturday touring around Somerville (mostly) with my culinary partner, and we had some hits and misses (mostly hits).
Started at teh Uniton Square Farmer's Market. Not too big, but not too small, with a few very good fruit and veggie vendors. We picked up some very peppery arugula and fun purple carrots from the Verrill Farms stand. There's also a stand for Danish Pastry House (meh) and Iggy's. There's a small cart selling somewhat exotic ice cream and sorbets from the Journeyman. We tried the Arugula ice cream, which was a special, with a very small container for $1. It was a failed experiment, as we both thought there was nothing ice creamy about it, rather it was like eating a frozen bit of salad. Having said that, by DC had a great suggestion, that this would be perfect on roasted tomato tarte, as part of the appetizer course, and I heartily agree.
Next up was Bloc 11, where we were able to purchase a bottle of Stumptown Cold Brew ice coffee, a delicious treat, though ridiculously expensive at $4.50.
We walked around Capone's, and I was again struck by how I don't get the love for that place. If you're going to make fresh pasta and sauces, then why is almost every thing frozen? And it's all a bit too hygenic looking for my tastes. A great source for 00 pasta flour, but that's it for me.
We headed over to Inman Square, and wandered into the new All Star Pizza for lunch. It was not good, alas. We had the special "funky" slice, which had chicken, an avocado sour cream sauce, black bean salsa on top of a cheese slice, then tri-color corn chips were crushed on top. It tasted like something from Taco Bell. And the plain slice we tried was not good at all, not the sauce, not the crust, not the cheese. It's a nice space, but I won't be back.
Next up was Clover, where had the beet, feta and mint salad. It was very good, but I think the post-industrial vibe there has really been taken too far, and it's not quite enough all that to have such an attitude. But I like what they're trying to do, and I'll keep trying it. We passed by Bom Cafe, but couldn't find much on the menu that looked appetizing. The people were very nice, and it'll stay on my list.
Next stop was Christina's, where I hadn't been in a while. We sampled a couple of flavors, and had more of their unfriendly service. I don't know if it's just me, but I always find them to be surly. As a benchmark, we split a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream, with hot fudge on top. The ice cream was fine, a solid 7, but not close to Toscanini's. The hot fudge was clearly homemade, but a bit too light and too thin. I'd go back, but wouldn't go out of my way.
Then it was back to Somerville, where we stopped at Petsi's Pies to pick up a Red Velvet cupcake, (a 7.5 out of 10), and then had the highlights of our trip at Three Little Figs near Davis Square. What a nice place to hang out, with great coffee and pastries. We had the Lemon Doughnut Muffin, which tasted like a very moist lemon cake doughnut, rolled in sugar, baked in a muffin shape, and then with a dollop of lemon curd baked into the top. It was delicious. Their coffee is from Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, NY, and they made the best cappucinos we've had anywhere in the Boston area. Great care, and a great espresso base. I hope to become a regular there.
Also stopped at Dave's for fresh pasta to go, and some late season strawberries from Canada that were great (though pricey at ($5 a pint). Final stop was for a Gauffre de Liege, a genuine Belgium waffle from a stand at the Davis Square fair. If you ever see this place, definitely check it out--they were awesome!
All in all, a great day.
"If you're going to make fresh pasta and sauces, then why is almost every thing frozen?"
Because on some weeknight where I have a 2000-word piece due at midnight and I'm still collating my interview notes, it's nicer to have some sweet potato ravioli in a sage and brown butter sauce, or some chicken and prosciutto tortoni alfredo, at hand in the basement freezer than to order takeout or eat out of a can.
And I'm a bit unclear on the "too hygenic-looking" complaint. Both in how that applies to Capone's -- which is clean but doesn't look like everything in the place has been autoclaved or anything -- and by the implicit suggestion that a place that looks like there's a nest of possums behind the freezer case is somehow intrinsically better.
re: Jenny Ondioline
the fresh pasta is available in many flavors and shapes...it's not on display, you have to ask for it. His green olives are fantastic, as are the assortment of olive oils, available for tasting. The prices, particularly for the cheese, are extremely reasonable. The selection of imported bottled and jarred products is small but carefully chosen and very interesting. His homemade ricotta is fabulous. Also has salt cured capers, dried mushrooms, great vinegars.
This reminds me: I spent last weekend defrosting the basement deep freezer, which had become so frost-encrusted that it was challenging to fit much more than a package of bacon into the top shelf. Phase 1 of celebrating this achievement will be a trip out to Blood Farm in Groton this Saturday morning, to stock up on meat, but clearly Phase 2 should involve a visit to Capone's, where we haven't been in far too long. We usually rely on Salumaria Italiana in the North End for oil, vinegar, risotto rice, and so on, but I do love to lay in a good supply of frozen pastas for exactly the reason that Jenny Ondioline states above, and I should try some of that house-made ricotta.
Interesting about Christina's service. I too find the counter service to be a bit cold. BUT, we hire Christina's to run a huge ice cream event for my organization every year, and they could not be better to work with. Friendly, on time, efficient, not cheap but not exorbitant considering what they provide. If you are in the market for a large ice cream sundae event, I highly recommend Christina's!
Thanks for your report and sorry that your tour of the neighborhood was not all that great.
Second your opinion about the cappuccino at 3 Little Figs - best I've had in Boston too. Also like the doughnut muffin varieties there, although I had a fig galette this weekend that might change my allegiances.