First, I happened upon a coffee shop called Voltage Coffee and Art. I arrived at Kendall Square about an hour before I was supposed to meet friends for dinner. I saw that Voltage Coffee was on the way to the restaurant, so to kill some time, I stopped in for coffee. I didn't expect anything special, but something special was what I found. They serve espressos and pour-over coffee made with beans from local roasters. They have the most creative (and crazy) latte menu I've ever seen. They serve local loose leaf teas. And to top it all off, the colorful walls are lined with art and photography by nearby artists. This place is cool. Really cool.
I got a steaming mug of pourover coffee made with Ethiopian beans. I don't know what it is about this method of brewing that gives the coffee so much flavor and texture, but it's a tangible difference. I found an open table and happily spent the next hour with my nose in a book.
I eventually headed down the street for dinner at Helmand. It was a lovely, cozy restaurant with a warm and welcoming staff. We scanned the unfamiliar menu items (we were all new to Afghan cuisine) as they brought us baskets of flat bread served with three sauces: a yogurt mint sauce, a hot pepper sauce, and a cilantro sauce. My favorite was the cilantro, which could make even the driest cardboard taste good.
The waiter was patient, smiling as we stumbled through pronouncing our orders. I opted for the Showla, which is a spinach and cheese-stuffed poblano pepper served with a side of rice baked with mung beans, black eyed peas, tomato, and onion. It reminded me of a Chile Relleno, but with such unique flavors. The baked rice and beans were actually the highlight of the dish -- this must be what Afghan comfort food is like. I loved Helmand and can't wait to go back and try more.