Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sofra, so good (ow! Sorry!)

A confession: we have not yet been to Oleana (what?). I know, I know; you'd think we would have managed by now, given its relative accessibility, its interesting Mediterranean/North African menu, and the fact that there's a general consensus about its awesomeness.

And yet--or perhaps to redress the balance--we have already investigated
Sofra, the bakery owned by Oleana's chef, Ana Sortun.

Tucked around the corner from the big Star Market opposite Mount Auburn Cemetery, it's not the most convenient place for us to pick up pastries—not when we could stroll up the street to get poppyseed rolls from the Danish Pastry House or wander into Davis Square for lemon slices at Diesel.

So why do I keep fantasizing about driving out to Sofra?

Oh, I know why:

Pastries at Sofra Bakery, Cambridge

Pastries at Sofra Bakery, Cambridge

Sofra's cookies include a rich, intense chocolate earthquake mouthful and a fig-jam-topped thumbprint shortcake that has more butter than a
whole cow:

Cookies from Sofra Bakery, Cambridge

Inside the earthquake:

Earthquake cookie from Sofra Bakery, Cambridge

The almond-rosewater cake manages to be dense, moist and fluffy all at the same time:

Almond cake from Sofra Bakery, Cambridge

Not everything at Sofra is sweet, of course. We watched the busy kitchen staff stretching dough for the flatbread wraps they fill with chickpeas, feta, tomatoes, spinach and olives and then heat on curved griddles:

The kitchen at Sofra in Cambridge

We also picked up a couple of savory items: plaki, a dish of white beans braised with onions, tomatoes and carrots; and a burek.

My experience of burek to this point had been limited to the Cornish pasty-like meat turnover served at
Sabur. Sofra's version is more like a lasagna pie: thick layers of dough striated with ground beef.

Burek from Sofra in Cambridge

It came warm and ready to eat, in which state I'm sure it would have been fantastic. However, we saved it for a picnic the next day, which may account for the chewiness of the dough and the fact that the meat had settled into one thin layer near the bottom. It was great, but not the greatest.

Sofra would probably be a lovely place to hang out for a while; it's light and airy, with cosy window seats and colorful upholstery. But butt-space is limited, and (at least on our Saturday afternoon visit) was hostage to a passel of gray-haired ladies whose plates held just crumbs and who evidently had no intention of moving.

A better suggestion, if not a request: go early to Sofra, for breakfast. Pick up the morning bun with orange-blossom glaze, the Sicilian ricotta-chocolate croissant, the date and walnut brioche.

And then tell me all about it.

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