Tagged: davis square

At Nave Gallery Annex, the door to summer is a jar

I am sitting in a room probably very different from the one you are in now. I am sitting on a metal glider swing in the front parlor of a Somerville home facing two intensely bright lamps and listening to recorded sounds of nature. It’s artist Lyn Nofziger‘s installation, Home, at the Nave Gallery‘s new Annex on Chester Street, part of the group show, Picnic.

I’m too stuffed up to know if there’s an olfactory component, but except for the temperature, Home does in fact deliver on the promise of Picnic, to glorify “the lush serenity, the ripe thriving growth, the vibrant color of what’s living in these sultry days of summer.” In January and February, of course.  It’s a bit like a sunset but maybe even brighter and yet it makes you want to linger.

There’s almost too much going on the four or so rooms of an otherwise typical apartment that the Nave Gallery has taken over. The card lists 16 artists and there are almost certainly more if you count the dozen or so conributors to the open call to “preserve summer” where local artists were asked to “capture the endless and invincible season of summer in a mason jar.” This is at least as cool as when you could seal anything you wanted into a can at the now-gone Museum of Useful Things.

In an awesome three-part sink next to the jars of summer you might notice Sophia Sobers’ installation Abandoned Nature, a series of organic forms whose shape recalls coral or some kind of fungus, but whose location and color also remind you of flora that flourish in the dark corners of some ill-attended kitchen or bathroom.

The lith prints of photographer Adam Gooder are sprinkled around the galleries (and some prints in a bin are for sale at criminally low prices, by the way) and depict flowers in closeup with a delicate sunshiney tonality and delicious grain.  I don’t know if Gooder has a stash of old Kodalith paper or has an alternate chemical or digital method, but it works for me.

There’s a tremendous amount more work in this show, it could take you till summer to digest it all, but since the show closes on February 8 with a reception and mason jar auction, I suggest you get over there soon and join me in welcoming this art space to Davis Square.

Three points determine a pickle

I recently discovered the site of George Emerson’s Pickle Factory in Somerville’s Powerhouse Park. Other than the engraved rock and cast metal pickle jars (bottles?) I have no information about it, but I have a feeling it could be the next Cronin Park.

In other more contemporary pickle news:

Last month at the Somerville River Festival (Did you know Somerville had a river? It’s the Mystic river.), a food truck was vending deep fried pickles. I have to say I was imagining something more like crinkle-cut dill discs, but the whole spears in fluffy beer batter were piping hot and still pickly inside. I think there’s finally an improvement on the classic Japanese summer treat, pickle on a stick.  That is, if you could deep fry the pickles AND put them on sticks.

At the newish M3 (apparently means, “Meat and 3 sides”) near Davis Square, house made is all the rage, including the pictured duck proscioutto and rainbow array of pickles.  Note the pickle fork provided.

Here’s to celebrating Somerville’s 100+ years of pickles.

Froyo affogato at iYO

After relatively brief and painless trip to the Somerville department of Traffic and Parking – would you believe a parking ticket from 1996? – I dropped in at the recently opened and oddly capitalized iYO cafe in Davis Square.  At iYO you can make your own waffles and extrude your own frozen yogurt.  Fortunately for all concerned, the coffee making is confined to behind the counter.  I combined some French Vanilla (since Davis Square is the Paris of Somerville) frozen yogurt with a double espresso for a makeshift affogato.

I have yet to make my own waffle, but I can give iYO high marks for decor, friendliness and coffee.  They’ve also got a community room and art gallery going on in the back.  Operating a cafe in Davis square a block from Diesel and Starbucks is going to be a challenge, but I have a good feeling about these folks.  Drop by and check it out.  Since their website omits it, I’ll note that the address is 234 Elm Street, across the street from Martsa on Elm.

Five reasons to keep coming back to Davis Square

Following up on the five things I won’t miss about Davis, here are five that will keep me coming back:

Dave’s Fresh Pasta: there are lots of fine lunching establishments around here, even though not one serves the idealized cheese sandwich, but Dave’s is special.  Besides the awesome selection of grilled sandwiches (my faves include the cubano and the muffaleta), Dave’s has an excellent wine section, a wonderful cheese case, an impressive deli, and oddly enough I’ve never even tried the fresh pasta.

The lunch special at Dragon Garden: yes, I know this place looks suspect at best, but they dish up a ma po tofu lunch special that’s $5 with soup and a can of soda.  There’s something comforting about this sort of thing, and it helps lower your center of gravity in the winter.  I also enjoy their general gau chicken and tofu.

Coffee: Davis has at least three major coffee streams: Dunkin, Starbucks and independent Diesel.  I enjoy the latter two in equal measure, but I have to give special kudos to Diesel’s pool table and Starbucks’ fireplace.

Local shops: There’s some chain food in Davis, but not much if any chain retail.  I especially like Magpie, D Squared, and Bowl & Board as representatives of the vibrant local business scene.  Sharp-eyed fashion blogger A even crossed the river from bizzaro-Davis fashion capital JP to visit Suneri boutique here.

Rounding out my top five is the double treat of the Kick Ass Dairy Bar and When Pigs Fly Bakery a bit outside the square proper on Highland.  I don’t care for those allegedly kick-ass cupcakes (and cupcakes are so last year anyway) but the fresh and local fare at the dairy bar and bakery are peerless.  A bakery that sells loaves whole or cut on the spot is a must-have for any neighborhood that wants to be called such.

Rome might be the Eternal City, but I will always return to Davis Square, the Paris of Somerville.

Five things I won't miss about Davis square

Change is the only constant, and soon I’ll be spending a lot less time in Davis Square.  It’s truly the Paris of Somerville and I’ll miss it – except for these things:

Chuggers: Maybe one day I’ll have a minute for their cause (by which they mean a dollar, or several) but until then I will continue to avoid these earnest yet shadowy CHarity mUGGERS who are a plague upon Davis Square.  At least the clean-cut gents promoting the LDS wear nametags, and we know who they represent.  I gave at the office, thanks.

Crappy pizza: Sure, this is a problem in many places, but the drought of quality pizza in Davis is just despressing.  There’s lots of great places to have lunch around here but sometimes you just want a slice.  Is thin crust without orange oil too much to ask?  Do we have to order in from Medford?

Precision parking enforcement: I don’t have much sympathy for people who park illegally or for those who try to drive in dense urban areas, but the Somerville parking enforcement around Davis is deadly accurate to the minute of meter expiration, and frankly, it bums me out.

Diesel booth squatters: I don’t remember ever wanting to study as long and hard as these people do, no matter how caffeinated I was.  What’s the deal with spreading your stuff out to soak up an entire four-top all day long?  Don’t you ever have to go to the bathroom?  Aren’t you worried about bedsores?

The horrifying stench off Grove Street near Elm: I don’t know what it is or where it comes from, but it’s bad.  Real bad.  I think it’s actually the smell of death.  And as summer advances, it’s not getting better.  If that’s coming from one of those restaurants, somebody needs to look into it, stat.  Maybe the guys playing soccer in bloody aprons in the parking lot know something about it, but I’m not going to get close enough to ask them.

The worst best cheese sandwich in Davis Square

Since the Davis Square cheese sandwich quest became a semi-regular feature back in May, I’ve been aware of Deli-icious but for whatever reason never checked out their cheese sandwich.  Until this week.

Yelpsters seem generally bullish on the place, and Chowhound offers an interesting bit of navistalgia around the former occupant of the space and the price of sandwiches.

I ordered the grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on sourdough.  About as traditional and comforting as you can get on a winters day.  They asked if I wanted American cheese, I asked for cheddar.

So almost perfect and yet a miss.

The bread was good sourdough, buttered and griddled just right.  The bacon was crispy and not overbearing.  The tomato was good, maybe a bit too thickly sliced.  But the cheese… the cheese was that bland deli loaf cheese that breaks my heart.  How hard would it be for them to stock a sharp vermont cheddar?

I recommend this grilled cheese sandwich for anybody looking for a nostalgic comfort experience, but not for anybody who really loves cheese.  The quest goes on.

CD spun

Apparently I’m one of the last to notice that CD Spins in Davis Square is closed.  It looks like it’s been that way about two weeks, and even though I’m in the neighborhood almost every day, I just today noticed this scary sign in the window.

It reminds me a bit of the sudden closure of Corners Framing in Cambridgeport.  It’s not just that they went out of business, it’s that they were forcibly put out of business.  That implies a disorderly, unplanned exit from the world of commerce.  Indeed, you can still see some inventory in there.

I don’t know if the whole chain is gone or just this store or what precisely went down, but it certainly looks like another nail in the coffin of the physical media music business.  In fact, I’m having some trouble recalling the last time I bought music on CD for myself, and even more trouble figuring out the last time I was actually in a music store for that purpose.  Tower Records is gone from Harvard Square, HMV too. Mojo and Cheapo are gone from Central.  I guess folks buy CDs online or just download music directly.

Like many, I ripped all my CDs to MP3 some time ago.  Perhaps unlike many I still have the CDs, (but not the jewel cases) not so much for backup (although that’s a good idea, isn’t it?) but because I believe it would be wrong to sell them or give them away when I’m still using the music.  If more people shared my reservation, would the used CD business have dried up sooner, or later?

Davis Square cheese sandwich quest: The Ploughman's Lunch

The cheese sandwich quest continues.  Following up on a tip from Brian, I ordered up the Ploughman’s Lunch at The Burren here in Davis.  It came with excellent chips (fries) but the cheese was less than it might have been.  Apologies for the sub-par cameraphone shot, I was caught out without my Ricoh.

The menu describes it thusly: “Ploughman’s Lunch – $5.95 – open faced sandwich on french bread with choice of swiss or cheddar with  lettuce, tomato & onion, accompanied with branston pickle

I opted for cheddar, which was of decent quality but a little stingy in quantity, just one square slice per half sandwich.  The sandwich wasn’t actually open-faced, but I suppose I could have ditched half the bread.  I’m not sure how authentic this is, but it was an inexpensive and filling sandwich.  A perfect cheese sandwich, perhaps not.  Next stop, Deli-icous?

Davis square cheese sandwich quandary: twice the space, half the cheese

Blue Shirt Cafe recently expanded Eastward into the space between them and Snappy Sushi, probably doubling their total square footage while increasing the dining seating perhaps fivefold. But there’s still not that much cheese in their cheese sandwiches.

I had the Little Italy, with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto, provolone and balsamic on focaccia. I know, it’s not actually billed as a cheese sandwich, but a single slice of provolone isn’t much, and it’s one of the mildest cheeses out there. The tomatoes and peppers were plentiful, maybe even overly generous, and the pesto was mild.  The focaccia was well-grilled but could have been oiled a little more.  An all-around nice sandwich, but nothing super-special, and certainly not the cheese sandwich experience I’ve been seeking.

On the plus side, Blue Shirt is now offering free wifi. Until a worthier cheese sandwich makes itself known, this is a afwully good lunchtime blogging hideaway. And they have their own private label orange soda.  How cool is that?

PS, In other insufficiently cheesy news, I’ve just become aware of Jeff Cutler‘s blog and podcast Bowl of Cheese which I’m sorry to report is not hardly about cheese at all.  But it’s still worth a look and a listen.  And I’m not just saying that because Jeff gave me a USB coffee warmer from the cyberposeurs at the Cyberposium.

The three chickens you meet in Tibet

I’m a big fan of lunch.  It’s one of my favorite three meals of the day.  Yesterday I went with tangyslice and our CTO to a new to us place, Martsa on Elm for a Tibetan buffet.  We weren’t sure what to expect but we were happy with what we got.

I’m not sure how authentic or representative the buffet selection was, but it was pretty chicken-heavy.  On the first plate, I sampled the steamed bread, tofu with creamy spinach sauce, lemon curry chicken, and sauteed eggplant and vegetables.

The tofu was like a watery palak or saag paneer, but the lemon curry chicken was citrusy without the syrupy sweetness you sometimes get in chinese style lemon chicken.  It had a nice curry flavor too.  The eggplant was tender and a little smoky flavored.

About the steamed bread: it’s not for everybody.  A bit like the dough in a cha siu bao, it’s, well, doughy.  Not much in the way of flavor and you might feel a bit cheated at an all you can eat buffet if you eat a fist-sized blob of bread.  But I love anything that I can use to mop up sauce.

On the second trip to the buffet, I decided to sample each of the other dishes and picked up chili chicken, mixed vegetables and “chicken n cabbage”  I skipped the lentil soup and rice pudding dessert.

The chili chicken was nicely spicy with some kind of cornstarch coating and a selection of crisp bell peppers and onions.  The vegetables were carrot-heavy and not overdone, always a plus especially on a buffet.  The third chicken, with cabbage, was pretty much as advertised: chicken with cabbage.

I’m not sure how often we’ll return, but Martsa is a welcome addition to the run of Davis square lunch options, giving us a little more variety and diversity.  Vegetarians are well-served but not as well as chicken-lovers.

Kudos also for Martsa’s smart decor and quiet vibe.  Love the lampshades.