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Normally, I avoid taking my DSLR camera to restaurants. As much as I enjoy food photography, the lighting is often terrible for taking good pictures. I much rather dig into my food than satisfy my inner shutterbug. But I went to Outerlands today hoping to take some decent photos for the weSpot contest.

Since it’s always packed to the brim whenever I try to go, I was expecting to taste some spectacular-ness. It didn’t live up to the hype, really. My ham sandwich was good, but not memorable nor worth the hour wait. While the quality of the food is solid, I could get a better and more flavorful sandwich at Wooly Pig Cafe around the corner from my house. But their hot ginger, lemon apple cider was excellent. If I could, I would spend my whole Saturday sipping this cider and reading a book.

But overall, the only reason why I think this place is so popular is the decor. Beautiful wood paneling lined the walls and counters. They have a terrific outdoor seating area with wooden benches and flowers that made the hour long wait not so bad, especially since I could warm myself in the sun. I almost wanted to order more food just so I could sit there longer.

Ideally I would have taken more people shots, but I’m not quite that bold. I wouldn’t know if I’d want somebody taking my picture while I’m eating. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t care. One of these days, I’m going to try one of those photography challenges where I take portraits of strangers on the streets.

outerlands

outerlands

outerlands

outerlands

outerlands

outerlands

Which five should I send to weSpot?

The heat here has been exhausting and brutal.  Sitting in my chair, I feel like a bruised peach with my juices slowly leaking out into a puddle around me.  With droplets of sweat hanging on my forehead and a perpetually damp bra, I catch myself thinking about the summer I spent in the Philippines where the humidity and heat far exceeded anything I had ever experienced in my pampered and air-conditioned suburban life.  The tropical weather seemed to saturate my skin with a thin layer of oil that was present before and even after I (bucket) showered.  I don’t think I was ever completely clean during my stay there—a suspicion that was confirmed when I took my first shower after coming home to the States and saw the questionable color of my bath water.  I swore that I would never complain about the heat here again. 

                      

Of course, here I am now whining about a bit of Boston summer.  At least, I do not have to deal with shiny black cockroaches and giant red ants that occupy a special place in my memories of the Philippines.  I do however, have to contend with the normal household variety of ants that have been popping up in my kitchen and shower—and recently, in my bedroom, although they have not reappeared after swift and efficient preventative action on my part (screaming, swearing, and frantic cleaning).  I’ve also had an unpleasant encounter with a giant, hairy-legged centipede in the shower that had missed my bare back by inches as it leaped from the hanging shower caddy.  A few nights later, I spotted its cousin scuttling underneath my bed.  Good god, I am living in an insect farm.  One of these mornings I will wake up with a spider leg protruding from the corner of my mouth and count it a blessing that it wasn’t a roach. 

                      

Seeking asylum from new insect friends, I made the ten minute walk to Inman Square last weekend, in spite of the unbearable heat, to try brunch at City Girl Café.  Fortunately, my sweaty efforts weren’t in vain.  I ordered the french toast and was surprised to see they used slices of a french baguette rather than the customary square bread slices.  It was, hands down, the best french toast I ever had.  Granted, I don’t eat this dish very often since most places make it way too sweet.  But the anise custard coating was perfect without being overly rich, and went well with my rosemary lemonade.  The herb roasted potatoes on the side were also incredible; in fact, I may prefer them much more to the usual home fries.  But I think the real winner is the french toast, which will invariable bring me back to this place again pretty soon. 

                     

I love lingering in small, cozy cafés.  But I usually don’t because the good places are always crowded and I feel bad when they could use my table to seat another customer.  Otherwise, I would break out a book and just settle down for the rest of the day.  This place is nicely decorated with a mishmash of items ranging from buddha sculptures to antique vases that somehow create a homey yet hip atmosphere.  I can’t wait to go back again after I exhausted other brunch options. 

                     

For my first baking project in my new apartment, I decided to try these cute and simple corn muffins with strawberry jam.  They really were a cinch to whip up and tasted great for breakfast.  I love using muffin recipes where the batter just puffs up and overflows the cups.  Don’t these look like giant saucer-like cookies? 

                     

                      

Corn Muffins with Jam (from Bless Her Heart)

This week I moved into a new apartment in Central Square, Cambridge.  Already, I have found my favorite neighborhood cafe for brunch.  If I could, I would come here every weekend.  Not only for the food, which is fantastic, but more for the phenomenal service.  If you could catch it on day when it’s not packed to the brim, you should take the opportunity to just sit for awhile.  Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what I did on Saturday. 

Even though I say I like to do my writing in cafes, I rarely do so.  Half the reason is that I’m addicted to the keyboard.  It’s so much more difficult for me to pen my words on paper.  Partly because I dislike having to cross out sentences and phrases that don’t come out perfectly.  If you’ve ever heard me write an essay on my laptop (my ex-roommate knows this), I type super fast, in spurts and jolts with loud, jarring jabs at the “delete” button every few seconds.  I am fairly certain that if any of the keys were to wear down, “delete” would be the first to go.  Without the ability to “delete,” writing by hand is stressful enough to dry up any inspiration.  Sitting with an idle pen in hand, I gnaw and wrestle with the words in my head.  The feeling is something akin to constipation. 

But what bothers me more than the inconvenience of old-school writing, is the idea of writing in public.  Especially in a small, cozy cafe, where the next table is only a mere four inches away, I cannot shake the feeling that everyone is looking over my shoulder to see what I’m scribbling in my notebook.  How self-centered is that, right?  As if anybody would be interested.  Certainly not the guy at the next table who is too busy schmoozing with his date to pay attention to anything else.  I know this, yet I still cannot write with abandon.  Even if I were writing in my own living room with my roommate nearby, I cannot.  I would fidget in my chair, tap impatiently on my keyboard, intentionally turn my computer screen away from my roommate, before I’d give up and climb onto my bed to finish my writing in isolation.  Am I insecure because I’m self-centered or self-centered because I am insecure? 

I think, it is because writing is so naturally difficult for me that it becomes so personal.  The way I stumble with my words, haphazardly appending clauses here and there, deleting and retyping the same thing, makes me anxious to let anyone judge anything that I write, or reveal the process it took to get there.  I guess it all comes down to ego and appearances. 

These Belgian waffles were delicious.  They came with a big dollop of homemade whipped cream that tasted light and refreshing; and a berry compote that was tart without being overwhelmingly sweet.  The red and blue stars, I thought, were a nice, festive touch for the July 4th weekend.  I’m glad they didn’t put a slab of butter on these since I usually prefer using syrup or, better yet, honey!  I really wish I could say that I made these, but I have yet to own a waffle maker.  Otherwise, I’d probably make waffles for breakfast every morning.  Since I can’t, I’d probably come here again next week.  And I’ll be sure to bring my notebook and pen.