The Restaurantour: Hi Rise

Now that Dave has been accepted to grad school(s) outside of the Boston area, I'm finally starting to come to terms with the fact that I too will be saying goodbye to some of my very favorite places and restaurants. Soon, the Border Cafe*, the Daily Catch, 'Noch's, Felipe's, Punjabi Dhaba, Christopher's, Herrel's (et al) will be no more than fragrant memories I revisit to escape the blandness of New York dining (sure there are more restaurants per capita than any other city in the world, but does it have an ice cream parlor inside a bank vault? a roadside Indian cafe? probably, but whatevs...). In response to this crushing prospect, I've started visiting my favorite places when I come up to see Dave on the weekends, to say goodbye and cling to the last desperate moments of epicurean bliss. Last time I was in Boston, I visited one of my favorite places to eat, and one of the best epitomes of Cambridge yuppiness you could find: Hi Rise.

In short, Hi Rise is a bakery. I know of two locations--one in Harvard Square (behind the old blacksmith's house) and one a block from Dave's apartment--but I really only started going there when I'd be hungry at Dave's house and need a fixin'. It's a cozy community bakery that serves fresh-baked bread, sandwiches, and desserts, and despite the astronomical prices they demand for items that are little more than flour, yeast, and sugar, I love it. With no parking and sitting inside one of Cambridge's nicest neighborhoods, it's always full of parents with strollers, patient dogs sitting tied up outside. Inside, hand-drawn signs cheerfully remind you that this is a cell-phone free environment. No Wi-fi either--this is a place for sitting with the newspaper, a cup of tea, and some cookies. Bottles of wine line the walls, with tiny labels listing the foods they go best with (some of them, adorably, mention neighboring restaurants, like Armando's, the pizza place next door).

One of the best things about Hi Rise, and something that you can really only experience in person, is how lovely the whole place smells. Most bakeries are like the olfactory equivalent of a hug, and Hi Rise is no exception. In the Huron Village locale, half of the place is given over to the large and airy kitchen, where you can watch hippie bakers divide and fold giant pillows of dough. It's like being inside a really, really nice kitchen inside a cozy country house. It's nice.

Being a Cambridge restaurant, though, it is crazy expensive, so I don't usually go there unless there's some special occasion (I guess I am not white enough to buy fancy sandwiches). Some of their desserts can be disappointing--their homemade chocolate cream sandwich cookies were smoky and dry--but their breads are absolutely the best in the city. On sunny spring days, I like to buy a loaf of their Daily Bread--just a basic, crunchy-crust, round bread--and head up to the balcony outside Dave's apartment. There is nothing quite as wonderful as fresh-baked bread, dipped in a little olive oil with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, some slightly warm and refreshing apple cider, sunshine, and a good book. Definition of pleasant.

Very beautiful photos taken by browncoffee

*Last weekend, while I was at my parents' house, Dave and I visited Jose Tejas, the New Jersey-version of the Border Cafe. We went in an attempt to find a replacement for Border if we needed a fix and Boston was too far away. Misssstake. The whole trip was a bad experience: we drove out to the middle of nowhere, finally spotting the restaurant in a sun-drenched strip mall next to the highway, parked between a Verizon Wireless store and La Quinta Inn. The place was filled with kids, which oddly disturbed me, since in my mind Border Cafe is less family fare than the place where high-strung law students come to unwind. Although the decor was familiar and the smells conjured up warm memories, the experience itself was a disappointment. The chips were soft and tasteless, the pastelitos missing their special punch of flavor (Dave and I noticed, for the first time ever, we were feeding each other our pastelitos rather than fighting over them. I guess we are only generous about things we don't like). Our waiter, who was 6'5" but spoke so quietly we could barely hear him, kept getting confused about our orders and even brought me the wrong rice with my chimichurri steak (which, to be fair, was ok). Dave said I was being too harsh, but when you have something so amazing that you would gladly eat it every night of your life, why would you stand for something not as good? While the food, locale, experience wasn't terrible, it was so far from a typical Border meal that I left cursing the place forever. My margarita was strong, though, and the bathroom was really pretty.

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