If you stumble over a few of the ingredients in Life Alive’s signature Goddess bowl, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. That’s why the restaurant’s website keeps a glossary of its menu’s potentially baffling ingredients and their health benefits. The Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce, for example, may seem outlandish to Americans but “the Champagne of Soy Sauce” shouldn’t be. It’s 100% organic and non-GMO, ages for four years in cedar kegs with less salt than traditional soy sauce, and is completely raw. Ginger adds an extra dose of healing, since it naturally eases digestive issues and nausea, as well as ulcers and inflammation. In this particular dish, the potent sauce flavors a medley of carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice—a nutritional powerhouse all on its own. The Goddess bowl epitomizes Life Alive’s approach to vegan food: it should be organic, whole, and therapeutic, and use ingredients that come from local farms. And, it should meet these requirements without sacrificing flavor or convenience. In addition to nourishing the body, Life Alive believes that cuisine should also benefit the environment and the community. That’s why the restaurant sources its ingredients sustainably, recycles and composts scraps, and uses biodegradable packaging and cleaning materials formulated without chemicals or bacon.
Tables line the sidewalk outside Cafe Pamplona, where patrons sip tea and coffee and students meet up to study. The specials are written on a board outside, beckoning diners to come in to sample internationally inspired soups, sandwiches, and sweets. At one of the oldest cafes in Harvard Square, guests peruse the extensive hot and cold drink menu, seeking the perfect beverage to suit their mood. Drinks at this European-style cafe include unique blends such as the hot or cold Cafe Pamplona, a drink made of espresso and sweetened condensed milk, and the caffeine-free Red Zen tea, which is infused with a mix of lemongrass and orange peel that zings taste buds more effectively than licking velcro. Along with tea and coffee, Cafe Pamplona serves up italian sodas, espresso, and cappuccinos.
Leaning on more than 35 years of experience championing French cuisine, Sandrine's Bistro's co-owner and chef, Raymond Ost, brings the same blend of classic and contemporary flavors to Cambridge that earned him knighthood from the French government. According to the Boston Globe, Chef Ost began his culinary career at 13 with an apprenticeship in Alsace, France. Today, many of Sandrine's menu items hail from and are inspired by the region, such as traditional tarte flambées made with crispy flatbread and nutmeg-scented fromage blanc. A fireplace flickers off the zinc bar where mixologists craft specialty cocktails, pour wine, and blend liquors from an extensive bar menu. The decor is elegant, with white-draped tables popping against deep-burgundy pillars and sage walls. Chandelier light enlivens an avant-garde mirror divided into geometric shapes, and sumptuous draperies remind diners to pick their togas up from the dry cleaner.
Even when the clock strikes midnight, you can still order a plate of braised rabbit with red wine at Dali—its late-night menu keeps a few tapas selections on hand from the larger dinner selection. Marinated anchovy fillets imported from Spain make up one of nine cold offerings at dinner, but the hot tapas are more plentiful here: warm prunes stuffed with goat cheese arrive wrapped in bacon as part of the 30+ selection.
Sunday brunch at Craigie on Main feels like a morning on the farm, but without the 4 a.m. wakeup call. House-cured ham and house-smoked bacon accompany fresh eggs, though perhaps it's the pork crepinettes that best reflect what Chef Tony Maw calls his "refined rusticity." Even the spiced-apple and maple-flavored cocktails fit the theme.