Sandwich from Bloc 11.

img_2182.jpg I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve remarked upon my love for certain foodstuffs. Most recently, there was mention of peach Lambic and the Kir Royale. Prior to that, it was choreg. Prior to that it was, what, cookies? Cupcakes? Crêpes? Corn fritters? This is precisely what I mean. While there are far too many items to tick off, that is in no way going to stop me from adding another to the list: sandwiches.

Oh, how I love them. I love that the bread serves as both packaging and major ingredient; I love the collection of flavors and textures and colors jam-packed into each bite; I love that they can be eaten in my most favorite fashion — messily, and with my hands.

I spent most of Sunday morning drinking lattes at Union Square’s Bloc 11; given the intensity of my feelings for sandwiches, I wasn’t able to resist the long list of options for very long. To slim down the lineup, and for that reason alone, I decided to limit myself to ordering exclusively from the cold sandwich section of the menu. Still, I was overwhelmed. There was, to indulge in, the Terrace: rosemary focaccia laden with roasted red pepper hummus, Gruyère, tomato, sprouts, greens and cucumber. Also beckoning me from behind the counter was the Fuse: apple curried tuna with tomato, cucumber, greens and onion atop sourdough.

At last, I settled on the Station 11, though in this case “settle” is a horribly inaccurate word. By choosing the Station 11, I wasn’t settling at all. The combination of flavors — bitter greens, salty and buttery prosciutto, bright tomato, soft and comforting herby ricotta, crusty ciabatta and a veritable pile of sweet caramelized onions — was exceedingly delicious. I will say that, at first, I wished for more ricotta but as I ate I realized that the cheese melded so thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients, adding a subtle creaminess to the sandwich.

The perfect size, the Station 11 left me completely satisfied. In terms of fullness, that is. I easily could have consumed another sandwich, if only to further savor the taste.

Bloc 11
11 Bow Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
617.623.0000

Bloc 11 Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

parismetrolargetif-3.jpg What are we doing here, sitting still, when we could be out there, running around and seeing all the things in the world that we have yet to see? As I’m typing this, I can’t help but think about all everything I’ve got to do tonight (buy new bobbins, cook dinner, work on some writing, figure out my Easter menu, organizing Keith’s birthday gifts) but really, what I want to do is hit the road. Does the romance and luster of running away ever fade?

I want to see Bonaire, I want to see Buenos Aires, I want to walk along the same streets my dad did when he was growing up, I want to go back to Vienna and find that amazing crêpe place around Stephansplatz, I want to see Bali at least one more time, I want to hang over the railing of a Star Ferry boat crossing Victoria Harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong like I did when I was like ten except this time I don’t want to get sick.

Normally I get this feeling after I’ve been somewhere and have just begun the voyage home; I practically start itching to turn the car or the plane or the train around because I don’t want to go back. I’ll be looking forward being able to at last sleep in my own bed — truly my favorite place in the whole world — but then, next thing I know, I’ll start feeling desperate to go somewhere else. So why am I feeling the urge now, since my last trip was to Spain in November? It might have to do with the fact that this morning I woke up and just wanted to stay in bed. After all, why am I waking up in the same place morning after morning when I have yet to wake up in Lisbon, or in Santiago, or in Kyoto?

Then again, it’s not just about going places, it’s the intimate knowledge of a place — the desire to truly inhabit a destination — that I want. So here is an impromptu list of where I’d like to go and re-go (in orange), in alphabetical order as otherwise it will take me too long to prioritize. Did I miss anything?

  • Austin, Texas
  • Bali
  • Barcelona
  • Bath
  • Beijing
  • Beirut
  • Belgium
  • Bonaire
  • Bora Bora
  • Bordeaux
  • Bristol
  • Budapest
  • Buenos Aires
  • Cambridge, England
  • Chicago
  • Copenhagen
  • Cuba
  • Curaçao
  • Dog Island, Florida
  • Dover
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Yunque
  • Fiji
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Idaho
  • Jerez de la Frontera
  • Kenya
  • Kowloon
  • Krakow
  • Kyoto
  • Languedoc
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Manila
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Montréal
  • Morocco
  • Moscow
  • New Orleans
  • New Zealand
  • Nova Scotia
  • Osaka
  • Oxford
  • Panama
  • Paris
  • Peru
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland, Maine
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Portugal
  • Prague
  • Puerto Rico
  • Québec
  • San Francisco
  • Santiago
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Scotland
  • Seattle
  • Shanghai
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • The Cyclades
  • The Dalmatian Coast
  • The Dominican Republic
  • The Loire Valley
  • The Netherlands
  • The Rhône Valley
  • The Seychelles
  • Tokyo
  • Toronto
  • Venezuela
  • Vermont
  • Vienna
  • Vietnam
  • Wales

Dinner at Z-Square Café.

I was really excited to meet up with Beth this past Thursday night; we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while and had plenty to catch up on. (Forever engaging in email “conversations” with friends who live locally often loses its charm, don’t you think?) Beth and I didn’t have a solid plan as far as where to eat after a bit of a shopping jag, though. All we had prearranged was to meet in Harvard Square, head to Berk’s and take it from there. Once a very lucky Beth paid for two perfect pairs of shoes, and after a quick and fruitless detour into Urban Outfitters — which we have now decided that we are, in simple terms, too old for — we went across the street to Z-Square.

z-square-logo.jpgWhat’s interesting about Z-Square is that there is an upstairs café; downstairs, at basement-level, is a restaurant and bar. Beth and I tried downstairs first, but then the hostess informed us that it would be a fifty minute wait (Who says fifty minutes? Doesn’t everyone just lie and say forty-five and round down? Of course, I had to clarify and asked, “Did you say one-five, or five-oh?” And naturally, this made me feel a little like a loser, but really — who says fifty minutes?!). Neither Beth nor I were interested in hanging around for fifty minutes, particularly when we were both quite hungry and even more particularly so considering that the café significantly less-crowded than its subterranean counterpart, so it’s easy to spread out, relax and have a chat.

The café is mostly white and very sleek, but not in a cold, too-modern sort of way. Actually, the white tiling and white walls and bright chrome detailing made me think of a bakery: a slick, white-on-white bakery… with no baked goods. Beth and I looked over the menu — a mix of salads, sandwiches and crepes — and though we toyed with the idea of spoiling ourselves with something on the decadent side (the grilled three-cheese panini with roasted vegetables sounded especially enticing) but ultimately we both decided to at least maintain the façade of healthfulness with salads.

As I explained to Beth, sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt when I order salads, primarily because I’m most often attracted to the sort of simple salads that truly would be easy to replicate at home. That said, I sincerely doubt that I would candy walnuts just to sprinkle over my spinach and pears. (Now that I think about it, it’s not as though it’s complicated, candying walnuts. Then again, I wouldn’t candy only a handful of walnuts, and who would eat the rest, especially since they only keep for about two weeks? Possibly Keith would have a few, but he certainly wouldn’t eat them all. Wouldn’t it be weird to bring an almost-stale batch of candied nuts to work? Or to a friend’s house? Or to book club? Anyway.) Beth opted for the curried chutney chicken salad and I went for the grilled steak Cobb because, in all honesty, is it even possible to resist the combination of avocados and bacon? I know I can’t.

steak-cobb-salad-2.jpgMy salad was nicely composed, with each ingredient was in its own separate quadrant of the plate. Though I thought it looked pretty, I knew that to eat it I would have to plow through and decimate the entire thing. In spite of that, it was, all in all, a really good salad: tangy bleu cheese, flawlessly creamy avocado, crunchy lettuce, crisp bacon, and bright red tomatoes to round it all off. The only element that I found lacking was the steak, unfortunate since I specifically ordered the salad for the beef, something I had been craving. It was rubbery and difficult to cut; when I took my first bite, I looked up at Beth and said, “There’s something familiar about this but I don’t know what.” As I chewed, I realized what it was — it tasted faintly of hot dogs. It so happens I have a special fondness for hot dogs, but that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t particularly want my steak to remind me of them. If that wasn’t disappointing enough, the steak was visibly on the rare end of the spectrum. Again, I happen to like my steak rarer than most, so it didn’t bother me as much as it would others, but it wasn’t pleasant to eat. Or easy to chew. Beth’s curried chicken salad, however, was full of flavor, and the unexpected sweetness of the chutney was wonderful.

lemon-butter-crepe-2.jpgWhen we ordered our salads, Beth had a flash of genius and ordered a dessert crepe for us to share. After all, who doesn’t love a crepe? In my mind, it’s one for those rare items whose novelty never fades. We need more creperies, I think, or at least crepe-selling street vendors, like in Paris. (Though I do think that, in the grand scheme of things, everything should be more like Paris.) Beth chose the lemon-butter, just about an ideal flavor combination, in my opinion. Sweet and vaguely tart with the satisfying, mild resistance of the crepe itself, it was a great finish to our meal. After a while, the melted butter began to set a bit, which might sound genuinely disgusting, but we happily ran the fruit through it. Nothing like some congealed lemony-butter to liven up an ordinary red grape, don’t you think?

Z Square
14 JFK Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
617.576.0101
z-square.com

Z Square on Urbanspoon