Friday, 20 August 2010

Great indy shops across the pond

A few weeks back I took a trip to stay with a friend in Cambridge on the outskirts of Boston. It’s a smart looking area (in more ways than one) being home to Harvard University and elegant tree lined streets with large colourful clap board houses. It was virtually tropical during my trip – a regular temperature of 28-30 degrees. It didn’t stop me, though, visiting some excellent independent shops and a vast number of tasty eateries. Here are my favourites:

Darwin’s Deli,: a slightly grungy cafe busy with students earnestly working on their laptops. Good coffee and divine homemade pastries, cakes and biscuits. It has the long opening hours which I envy of many American coffee shops enter. A good place for takeaways or getting things done.

1369 Coffeehouse: A similar ‘hard at it’ ambience to Darwin’s Deli, I nevertheless relaxed for many hours over a cheesy summer novel and ate their delicious homemade peach muffins.

Bird by Bird: I visited Boston in the winter a while back and, my god, do they know how to do winters. Naively I arrived off the plane with my London winter jacket and a few extra pair of socks for my son. Leaving the airport I noticed almost everyone wrapped in ski gear so I had to rapidly stock up on warming clothes for me and my little 'un. This funky children’s shop hit the spot, particularly with a thermal hat with built in ear cover and a fetching red star spouting out on top.

Harvard Book Store: A heavenly store for booklovers with a suitably relaxed, bookworm vibe and a vast collection of books to sift through. Upstairs is new and cleverly downstairs is used books. I picked up several bargains and some excellent recommendations from the knowledgeable staff.

A. Quinn Hair Studios: I am not one to spend much on my mop. My brain can totally compute spending £50 on a meal but anything more than £25 for a haircut and I break out into a cold sweat. When my friend recommended this hairdresser at around £40 I wasn’t keen. But after some bullying I went and LOW AND BEHOLD my flat, boring, lifeless hair was turned into something rather funky and attractive. Now I just have to figure out if I can afford the airfare + the haircut price next time.

Berry Line: Next door to the awesome hair ladies is a delicious little frozen yoghurt shop with its air of healthy indulgence. We stopped off and I was delighted with honey graham cracker yoghurt with a heath bar and strawberry topping. WE NEED MORE FROZEN YOGHURT SHOPS IN THE UK! Sign my petition here.

We took a trip down to Cape Cod for a few days and baked ourselves on beautiful beaches surrounded by low marshes and rolling dunes. It was a cute, quaint place with the occasional feeling that we’d stumbled into a Ralph Lauren ad. Aside from the sunning we mainly did eating. And as my friend is virtually a native of the area we went to the best places including:

Four Seasons Ice-cream and Cafe: For the most incredible hot fudge sundae I had ever tasted. Thick, unctuously sweet, fudgy hot sauce over homemade ice-cream with optional cream & array of sweet toppings. The best combo I discovered after three attempts was black raspberry and sauce. Ummmm. They also have a cafe there open for lunch and we dined one time on lobster salad sandwiches. These have to be the most decadent incredible sandwiches I have ever encountered. I am not a regular eater of lobster but I love the gall of scooping it out and shoving it on a sarnie. Class.

One last place I must mention was Cooke’s, a phenomenally busy seafood almost fast food place. We had fried clams and chips and that were off the charts good. Salty and sweet and a touch of soft fish belly all encased in batter. A great way to end my holiday and add that extra bit of weight I’d been missing.

Also good to check out if you happen to be heading that way is the Cambridge Local First group who promote the locally and independently owned businesses in the area.

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