Couple three things to mention.
We were in Davis Square in Somerville last Wednesday evening to see Michael Nesmith (of The Monkees) perform. He recently had heart surgery and seemed a little worse for the wear, but nevertheless stood on stage for the entire duration of the show. I only know a little of Nesmith’s solo career, and he only played one Monkees tune, so most of it was new to me.
We had plenty of time before the show to wander around Davis Square and get some dinner. The restaurant scene in Davis Square has warmed up in the last couple of years, though it’s still not as high-end as Cambridge. The place we chose, though, is not particularly new to the neighborhood. Martsa on Elm is a Tibetan restaurant that has been open for several years and has a low profile compared to some of the newer competition along the same street. Somehow over the years, we’ve never been to a Tibetan restaurant. There have been several around the Boston area, we’ve just never gotten to them. So, rather than check out yet-another-ramen place, we agreed to give this one a shot.
The decor was elegant and understated, if a little dark. The menu is clearly strongly influenced by Indian cuisine with curry dishes, vegetarian dishes, and breads, but also touches of Chinese. We ordered some vegetarian momo (Chinese-style dumplings) that were served with a fiery pepper sauce and an onion chutney. Bridget went for a more Indian style dish of vegetable and rice balls in a savory sauce as her entree, while I had Gyothuk Chocho — stir-fried vegetables with pork served over pan-friend noodles. In the end, I think I liked it better than she did, but we agreed it would be worth going back and trying more menu items.
Only a door or two down from Martsa on Elm is a French patisserie called Caramel (which also has a location in Salem, MA). Because it was late in the day when we popped in, there wasn’t much left in the display case, but what we did see was utterly gorgeous. What they did have was a slew of macarons in many assorted flavors. We each got a chocolate one, then Bridget also got coconut and lemon, and I got cherry and raspberry. Sorry, I am letting you down with no photographs, but they were to die for. It’s easy to make a mediocre macaron — flavorless, maybe the meringue is a little chewy — but these were crisp as could be and the flavorings were full and delicious, especially the chocolate ones. I swear next time I will remember to take pictures for you, because there WILL be a next time.
Saturday morning, we were in Cambridge early enough to have breakfast. Harvard’s Smith Center has recently completed renovations and one of their new tenants is Blackbird Doughnuts. Given that there is a Dunkin Donuts every fifteen feet everywhere you go in Boston, there haven’t been too many high-end donut places take hold, but this is Blackbird’s third location. The space is gorgeous, with a dining area that has a soaring ceiling and plate glass windows (which, sadly, look out on a side street filled with construction vehicles, but let in a lot of light). There were probably a dozen varieties to choose from in the case, which seems great but pales in comparison to the donut place we visited in Dublin a couple of months ago, which must have had twice as many flavors to choose from.
(What you can’t see in that picture is that the display case continues to the right AND goes around the corner to the left.)
Not to quibble about it, though. We each chose a salted toffee donut, and Bridget had a blackberry-currant one while I chose a mocha chip as my second. The salted caramel donuts were just perfect. The raised yeast dough has a good amount of body, but is not chewy nor is is nothing-but-air like a lot of yeast donuts. The caramel topping had just the right amount of flake salt and was not too sweet. The blackberry-currant donut was the same raised yeasty donut with a fruity glaze. Sadly, the mocha chip donut, which was a cake donut, was neither chocolatey enough nor the glaze coffee-flavored enough. Bridget pronounced Blackbird superior to the other well-known fancy donut shop in the area, Union Square Donuts.
Sunday afternoon saw us back in Cambridge for the Dumpling Festival, held in conjunction with the Central Flea, a weekly flea market near Central Square that runs every Sunday from May through October. The Dumpling Festival is ostensibly in honor of restaurateur and 1970s TV chef Joyce Chen, who popularized Chinese dumplings at her Cambridge restaurant. There were maybe 10 different tents from restaurants and a few food trucks serving various kinds of dumplings. Unfortunately, it did not seem especially well-organized. Lines for each vendor were huge, and the vendors were clearly unprepared for such a big crowd. They ran out of food, plates, dipping sauces, you name it early in the afternoon, and if you did wait it out in line for the better part of an hour, the dumplings were all stone cold, as no one had any way to keep their dumplings warm. The prices were very cheap, and there were some good things here and there (we enjoyed some samosas and pakoras from a place rather incongruously called “Bao Nation”), but there’s a lot of grousing on their Facebook page today from unhappy attendees. Food fests are often underwhelming, so my expectations weren’t too high going in, so I wasn’t super disappointed, but yeah…better luck next year.