Sofra Bakery and Cafe

Since it’s my last semester living in Cambridge, MA, I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to try as many new (to me) bakeries and restaurants as I can. That’s easier said than done when you have places like Flour and Cafe Luna within walking distance, where you can rest assured your trek through the snow would be well worth the effort.

After enjoying a fabulous, Eastern Mediterranean influenced meal at Oleana last year, I learned that Oleana’s Executive Chef Ana Sortun also owns Sofra Bakery and Cafe. Hundreds of glowing Yelp reviews and pictures of their special weekend-only doughnuts later, I was ready to run to Sofra in the middle of the night. Sensibly, I waited until Saturday morning to head over. Their pastry case overflows with exotic and enticing cookies, tarts, and breads. After reading all of the signs, I wanted to try one of everything, but narrowed it down to eight sweet items and one savory for good measure.


The first item I tried was the morning bun, made from pieces of croissant dough held together by sugar and cinnamon and topped with an orange glaze. It was sweet, crisp, and buttery, but I preferred the bites without the glaze because it was so sweet.


Morning bun with orange glaze

The pistachio pop tart had a similarly sweet glaze, but luckily it was used more sparingly. The filling had hints of honey and rosewater.


Pistachio pop tart

The bostock was my favorite pastry of the morning, and combined buttery, eggy brioche dough with almond paste and hints of cinnamon. It had a surprising sweet-salty balance that kept me going back for more.



The brioche doughnut filled with tahini (sesame seed paste) brown butter cream and topped with a salted caramel ganache was not quite what I expected. I liked the dough and the ganache, but the tahini filling was not very sweet and had a savory quality that I found off-putting. There was a lot of filling in this doughnut, so it was impossible to eat around.


Tahini brown butter brioche donut with salted caramel ganache

I had better luck with the dukkah doughnut, which featured a sour cream cake doughnut as its base. The coconut, phyllo, and hazelnut crunch topping was sweet and slightly mysterious because of the dukkah spices.


Dukkah crunch sour cream donut

Sofra’s chocolate chunk cookie is an extremely well executed version of the traditional recipe. It’s crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and filled with high-quality dark chocolate disks and notes of brown sugar.


Chocolate chunk cookie

I was excited to try the unique tahini shortbread, but I was overwhelmed by the potency of the tahini and could only manage one bite. If nothing else, I learned today that I’m okay with tahini in my savory food (like hummus!), but that I’d really prefer for it to stay out of my desserts.


Tahini shortbread

Sofra is known for its earthquake cookie, which is an extra-chocolaty take on the familiar chocolate crinkle cookie topped with powdered sugar. It strikes the perfect balance between cookie, cake, and fudge in terms of texture and has just the right amount of intense chocolate and palate-pleasing sweetness.


Chocolate earthquake cookie

I couldn’t end my first visit to Sofra without trying one of their savory lunch options, so I opted for one of their cold meze spreads served with three of their sesame crick-cracks. I chose the squash skordalia spread topped with pepitas, and I was very happy with my decision. It reminded me of butternut squash soup in cold, light-as-air, spreadable form.


Squash skordalia spread topped with pepitas (left), crick-cracks (right)

I plan to go back soon to try more of their offerings, like the chocolate-hazelnut baklava, simits (Turkish bagels), chai-spiced coffee cake, and spinach falafel!



Culinary Adventures in Portland and Seattle


For years I watched shows like Unique Sweets and The Best Thing I Ever Ate feature countless eateries in Portland and Seattle. It was an exercise in self-torture, since I knew that an opportunity to visit one of these distant cities in the Pacific Northwest would probably never arise. Lucky for me, I was gifted a trip to this area for my 21st birthday last spring and was able to embark on the food-filled vacation this December. Each day was planned to maximize the number of restaurants and bakeries visited, and these are the highlights!


Blue Star Donuts in Portland was undoubtedly my favorite stop of the whole trip. I had seen their pear, pine nut, sage, and caramel fritters (yes, that’s all in one fritter) featured on Unique Sweets many moons ago, and that particular item always stuck with me as my #1 must try. I had actually forgotten that it was from Blue Star until I walked in and saw the little display sign that read, “Pear Pine Nut Fritter.” Words cannot describe my level of awe and wonder as this realization sank in. This miraculous fritter lived up to my lofty expectations, and each component offered its own flavor and texture while still complementing each other to make the sum better than its parts.




The Buttermilk Old Fashioned was the other standout doughnut here. It was slightly crisp on the outside and was surprisingly flavorful. The combination of the glaze and the cake had an almost cake-mixey flavor that worked really well here and made this basic doughnut feel like something very special. Blue Star was the only place that got a repeat visit on our trip!


Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe was an unexpected and delicious surprise. We were walking around Portland’s Alphabet District one stereotypically rainy morning when we came across this shop. It wasn’t until I saw their display of chocolate bars that I realized I had been purchasing their chocolate at grocery stores in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA for years and was already a huge fan of theirs. One of my all time favorite movies also happens to be Moonstruck, so clearly it was fate. When I saw that they had macarons, a huge selection of truffles, and hot chocolate, my excitement multiplied. I ordered malted caramel hot chocolate and it was divine. I also tried their cookies and cream cone truffle (filled with buttercream!) and their gingerbread macaron.





Since one can’t survive entirely on sugar (at least not for long), I needed to find some savory spots that could match the caliber of the bakeries I had found. I had been craving ramen for a while and was delighted to accidentally stumble upon Boke Bowl. I got their caramelized fennel broth ramen and ordered a side of fried pears. Everything was delicious – the noodles, the eggplant, and especially the rice tots.



I first found Salt and Straw ice cream at Joan’s on Third in L.A. and knew that I had to visit their flagship store at some point. I got their snickerdoodle and pecan pie ice creams, but really, you can’t go wrong here. They put so much care and consideration into each of their flavors and come up with some really unique combos. They now have a full store on North Larchmont in L.A. as well!


On a whim, we decided to take a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Here, we spotted Mora Iced Creamery next to the crepe place we stopped at for lunch. Their store is gorgeous and impeccably clean, and they carry flavors that I haven’t seen anywhere else. I got a cup of speculoos (!) and white chocolate ice cream, and it was so good that I ate it even though I was completely full from my banana-nutella crepe. It reminded me a lot of gelato and rivaled (your highness) Grom in terms of quality. The best part is that you can mail order it, which of course I have done already since returning to the East Coast. I would also highly recommend their dulce de leche with shaved chocolate flavor.


An adorable ice cream shop called Parfait offered up one of the most expertly crafted ice cream sundaes that I have ever had. I chose a scoop of their chocolate chip cookie ice cream and their caramel brownie ice cream and topped it with caramel, homemade hazelnut toffee pieces, homemade whipped cream, and white chocolate shavings + rainbow sprinkles. This sundae tastes even better than it looks, and it was a stunningly gorgeous sundae. The ice cream somehow melted at exactly the perfect rate to allow for a relaxed pace of sundae consumption, even after being hit with the hot caramel sauce. They also had a ton of other unique and enticing ice cream novelties, like s’more ice cream pie and gingerbread ice cream sandwiches, which I hope to have the opportunity to try someday.



Toscanini’s and Brown Butter Bakery

It didn’t take me long after moving to Boston to declare Toscanini’s the best ice cream shop in town. My go-to flavor for years has been B3 (brown butter, brown sugar, brownie), and it never disappoints. On a recent visit, I discovered that their freezer was stocked with quaintly packaged ice cream sandwiches.


I was so surprised to find this novel treat that I went with my usual order that evening, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those ice cream sandwiches after I left.  After doing some research, I learned that the cookies are made by Brown Butter Bakery and filled with various Toscanini’s flavors.  I was sold.  I went back the next week and tried the oatmeal molasses cookie sandwich filled with Ovaltine ice cream.  It was fabulous.  The ratio of ice cream to cookie and overall size were perfect too.


I noticed that they had three cookie types – oatmeal molasses, dark chocolate, and malted peanut butter – so I vowed to try them all as soon as possible.  The next week, I went to Tosci’s early one morning with a bag of ice in tow so that the ice cream sandwiches wouldn’t melt on my way home. This time, I got a dark chocolate cookie and nocciola ice cream sandwich and a malted peanut butter cookie and belgian chocolate ice cream sandwich.  Since it was early and the pastry case was stocked, I also picked up a pain aux raisins and a brown butter chocolate chip cookie (also made by Brown Butter Bakery).  I couldn’t detect the nutty brown butter flavor in my cookie, but it was tasty and pleasantly soft nonetheless, and the pain aux raisins was made from deliciously buttery, flakey croissant dough.



Over the next few days, I tried the remaining two ice cream sandwiches.  Neither disappointed!  The dark chocolate cookie was more intense than I anticipated, but it paired well with the amazingly creamy nocciola filling, which was one of the most clean and pure hazelnut flavors I’ve ever tasted.


I usually don’t like peanut butter cookies (which is strange, since I can’t go a day without eating peanut butter), but these impressed me.  The malt flavor wasn’t strong, but a natural peanut butter flavor shone through and complemented the belgian chocolate ice cream.


I spotted an oatmeal molasses-cake batter sandwich while I was there and a dark chocolate-mint, so clearly I’ve only exhausted the cookie options, but am nowhere near done trying all of the cookie-ice cream combos.  I’m so glad that we get to reap the rewards of Tosci’s partnership with Brown Butter Bakery!  Two desserts in one is twice the fun!

LA Favorites!

I interned in Los Angeles for three months this past summer, and while there, I made it my singular mission to try as many bakeries and desserteries as humanly possible. I didn’t have a car and had to rely on public transportation, so I used trying enticing pastry as my motivation for exploring this huge city.

To my surprise, almost everything I tried was good – even by my standards. This post showcases some of my favorites out of the hundreds I was able to get my hands on.


Red Bread – Cracked Cookies


Red Bread – Avocado and Radish Tartine


Magnolia Bakery – Banana Pudding


Magnolia Bakery – Marble Cupcake with Blonde Chocolate Buttercream


Magnolia Bakery – Pistachio Cupcake


Quenelle – Blonde Chocolate Chunk Cookie


Quenelle – Blueberry Pie and Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream with Graham Streusel


Sweet Rose Creamery – Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Pecan Crumble


The Sycamore Kitchen – Chocolate Chip Rye Cookie


The Sycamore Kitchen – Brown Butter Blueberry Financier


The Sycamore Kitchen – Salted Caramel Pecan Babka Roll


Bulgarini Gelato – Vanilla, Hazelnut, and Toasted Almond Gelato


Fonuts – Blueberry Earl Grey Fonut


Carmela Ice Cream – Dark Chocolate Cookie and Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich


Carmela Ice Cream – Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Cone


Carmela Ice Cream – Chocolate Chip Cookie and Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Sandwich


Carmela Ice Cream – Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean and Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce


Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts – Chocolate Cake Doughnut with Chocolate Frosting


Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts – Apple Fritter


Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts – Maple Bar


MILK – Butterscotch Drumstick


MILK – Iced Spiced Molasses Cookie


MILK – The MILKIE Way Malt Milkshake


MILK – Cookies and Cream Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich


Sprinkles Ice Cream – S’more Cupcake with S’more Ice Cream


Sprinkles Ice Cream – Red Velvet Cupcake Tops with Black and White Cupcake and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Sprinkles Cupcakes- Black and White Cupcake


Sprinkles Cupcakes – Banana Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream


McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams – Churros Con Leche, Double Peanut Butter Chip, and Salted Caramel Chip Ice Cream


Top Round Roast Beef – Caramel Truffle, Graham Cracker, and Streusel Concrete

Until we meet again, LA.