Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crema Cafe

On Monday afternoons I take a course at Harvard. Mid-day bus schedules and my fear of being late, even by 30 seconds, cause me to leave home at 11:15. But this gives me almost an hour and a half of time in Harvard Square before class begins at 2. Since 11 is too early to eat a large lunch, especially after a breakfast around 8:30...I have decided to give myself a weekly treat of a late lunch out in Harvard Square.

After a few wanderings and a couple errands, the grumbling in my stomach and the opportunity to eat outside on a cool fall day without having to deal with a waitperson caused me to enter Crema Cafe. The long space with counter service on one side and high-top tables on the other was filled with students, professionals, and professional students. Overheard languages included English, Italian, French and Arabic.

One mark against them is a lack of a refreshing non-water beverage without high fructose corn syrup. With so many options on the market these days for all-natural spritzers, I don't see a reason not to carry them. Especially if you are carrying imported Italian sodas which are a higher price point anyways. The coffee smelled good, not burnt, and the pastries looked fresh and made that day. However, this wasn't a snack I was heading for.

A short menu of salads and sandwiches was made larger by having the option to change up the dish and add a few things. I chose a grilled cheese with gruyere, ham, and caramelized onions. Two large panini presses are attended to by a young woman and a young man. Neither of which could seem to communicate their individual process of keeping track of slips...which at first caused some entertainment, but then pity, followed by frustration. I only narrowly got away with my sandwich after the young man tried to hand it to another patiently waiting woman.

The "panini" sandwich gets a B+. The gruyere was of good quality and delivered the expected tangy, nutty, melty goodness. The ham was unremarkable. To stand up to gruyere, a sliced ham needs a certain saltiness and sweetness to be useful. The caramelized onions were unbelievably rich, dark, earthy and sweet. I only wish the young man had spread them out better on the bread. Only two bites of my sandwich had the caramelized onions due to their placement as globs. Due to its density, the bread was not the best choice for a panini in my opinion. For me, a sandwich that has been on a panini press should be just that...pressed. If very dense bread is used, the sandwich doesn't cohere into a single unit, causing slippage of fillings when bitten into. However, the bread's heartiness at least made me feel that I was getting some good whole grains and fiber into my diet. All in all a satisfying meal that kept me full until a late dinner last night.

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