Eating Boston: exotic spices

Boston’s diverse cultural fabric becomes evident from the moment one steps foot inside any subway station. The hustle and bustle that is found throughout its intertwined sidewalks continues underneath the earth as hundreds of commuters make their way to and from home. Deep within the entrails of the city, one can hear a cacophony of intermingling voices spitting out words in all accents and languages imaginable. There’s an unmistakable Russian accent on the phone next to me. And when I look to my right to catch a brief glimpse of the Boston skyline as the red line travels across the Charles river, I see a group of Asian teenagers speaking in their native language. This experience is new to me. I decide that the best way to soak up all of the cultural diversity of a big city such as Boston is to start eating Boston.

Because food nourishes the body and soul, the best way to remember a far away home is by preparing the meals that will bring back all of those moments of nostalgia. They will rekindle images of kind, wrinkly grandmas placing firewood in the stove as they get the fire ready for the next meal. Moments later, I step out onto the sunlit Central square district. Sources have told me this is a mecca for diversity, and that becomes very clear from the restaurants surrounding the station. I can see Indian food, several Thai restaurants, and a couple of Mexican taquerias. What I am looking for is an urban cafe that boasts vegetarian, organic, and healthy cuisine. Life Alive calls itself an Urban Oasis/Urban Cafe, and I want to sample this emerging trend of food that is a healthy vegetarian fusion that borrows from all cultures. Unfortunately, it seems myself, as well as half of Boston decided to eat here today, and so I turn away from the 40 minute line and resolve to come back another day.

At this point, I am hungry, and so I make the best decision that has been made in a while, to go to Sofra. Ana Sortun has made quite a name for herself in the Boston culinary scene. She is the executive chef at Oleana and Sofra Bakery and Cafe. Both have been recommended to me on multiple occasions and judging from the crowds of patrons that packed the small, exotically decorated space that is Sofra, it may very well be a fantastic brunch experience worthy of the long 40 minute walk to get there. Inside, I feel a warm welcome as I look around and notice the bustle of the kitchen, the simple menu, and the artsy pastries that decorate the ordering counter. The embellished decorative pillows on the seating area lining the walls only serve to make me feel like a princess inside her middle eastern golden palace. Little do I know then that 20 minutes later, as I take my first bite of Borek, the special for the day, I will be upgraded to queen. Or at least it will sure feel like it.

I’d never heard of Borek before today when i learned that it is a thin and flaky phyllo dough that is filled with cheese and meat. It is then baked and served, as is the case in Sofra, with a tangy tomato curry sauce. It is topped with a dollop of labne. Labne is a thick, rich style of greek yogurt. The meat inside of the phyllo dough was a braised, then shredded lamb. The flavors created a delicious harmony in my mouth. The lamb had an earthy flavor that was appeased by the tangy greek yogurt. The tomato curry sauce served as a supporting role for the entire dish, making sure everyone got along together. The first bite was heavenly and delicious, unlike anything Ive had before. And so, with the simple act of eating the food created by another chef, I was able to distinguish and understand Sortun’s interpretation of the experiences that she had during her time studying in Turkey. Most importantly however, was that her food brought Turkey to me, and for that meal, I was a queen.

Below are a couple of pictures taken inside Sofra Bakery and Cafe.

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