It was another (mostly) great weekend in the Woo. I love finding new places or just exploring new experiences at well-loved places. My goal when I moved here was to really get to know the city and everything it had to offer. Luckily for me, that was one goal I found easy to keep!
Life Alive Urban Oasis & Organic Cafe, Lowell and Cambridge, MA
When my good friend and Passion Parties sponsor Vanessa and I finally set a date to meet and catch-up, we first had to figure out where the halfway point between Worcester and east-you-know-what New Hampshire (I honestly can never remember the name but I know its out there…she told me so!). Thankfully, she trusted me to pick the restaurant, something more and more friends are learning to do. Love you guys! Lo and behold, I discovered this gem.
I was drawn in not only by delish looking menu, but also by their beliefs and goals. From the website: “Our mission is to feed the vitality of the world . We do this by providing healthy fantastic food for people on the go, while honoring and protecting our environment.”
We spent about 20 minutes deciding what to order and just exploring the little place which was pleasantly packed in a city not really known for having a good “scene.” We jammed to the live music, explored the different products available (essential oils, natural H&BC products, incense, etc), and asked a million questions about the food. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Life Alive. They answered our questions knowledgeably, patiently, and in detail. It was clear that everyone there was passionate about the restaurant, its mission, and its food.
Turns out, Vanessa and I soon were too!
Warning: drooling may commence.
I ordered a taster plate of The Goddess and a Thrive Alive juice. The former, ”a nurturing blend of smoked tofu, short grain brown rice, [lightly] steamed carrots, beets, broccoli, and dark greens surrounded by our zesty Ginger Nama Shoyu dressing” (source), is Life Alive’s signature dish so I knew I couldn’t pass it up. I subbed quinoa for the brown rice, added garlic, and received kale as my dark greens. I love eating cooked kale that someone else makes. For some reason, I can never seem to get it as tender without getting it water logged. #needasteamer
I soon discovered that the salad was, essentially, raw. Thankfully I wasn’t kissing anyone later that night. The kale was super tender and flavorful, the beets were delish and eating them lightly steamed was a totally new experience, and the dressing was a perfect balance of smooth and spicy. I later discovered that the steaming is the only form of cooking used at Life Alive. See my # above!
The juice contained beet, carrot, and apple. I love this combination so much! It is a bit earthy but since giving up most sugar, my taste buds have come to the point where it is pleasant-earthy rather than gag-me-earthy. Beau started making beets in 2011 and we both became obsessed. Preparing them, however, still intimidates me so I was super excited to get my beet on someone else’s time. <–Yes I just made a corny joke.
Nessa ordered The Romantic and a Superhero Alive juice. The Romantic has “Hass Avocado (when available), shredded cheddar cheese, broccoli, garlic, nutritional yeast and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos all embraced in a soft whole wheat tortilla” (Source). Her juice was made with carrot, apple, ginger, spirulina, cayenne, garlic, apple cider vinegar, honey, and water and had a bit of a kick at the end. This also was to-die-for as we, obviously, exchanged bites of each others’ dishes.
I also bought a 1/2lb of their organic granola which is specially made for Life Alive, uses honey as the only sweetener, and is chock full of dried fruit. It is amazing and I had to really think hard about my food budget to stop myself from buying it in super-duper bulk.
Perhaps my favorite part of Life Alive is how good I felt after. I was so vitally energized and ready to go, a huge feat after working 10 hours in a windowless office. In fact, some would say I was hyper, but those who know me best know better than that! The feeling lasted during our bar stop and my entire hour drive home. It was amazing.
Mezcal Tequila Cantina, Worcester and Leominster, MA
Friday one of my closest friends and former lab-partner-extraordinaire came to visit, a trip that was about 2 years in the making. What prompted her finally getting her booty to the Woo? Well, she leaves for Honduras today to spend the next 10-12 months doing service in Guiamaca. So it was now or never!
I had hoped to try a new veg restaurant, but time was short so we went to my lunch stand-by, the ever-delicious Mezcal Tequila Cantina. Mezcal offers a fantastic lunch menu (which also doubles as their late-night menu) featuring $8.99 specials which include your choice of one of their made-to-order guacamole, normally $8-9 on its own. Of course, the portion is smaller but it is more than enough, I assure you. They have other options, of course, but if you want the guac and don’t mind being limited to tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or tostadas, this is the most economical and delish way to go!
So what were my discoveries at this somewhat frequently visited place?
- Ghost Chile sauce. On a previous trip to Mezcal I was coming down with a cold. I mentioned this as the reason to have the cheese removed from my bowl of chili (because, clearly, if you order cheese-less chili it should prompt the question of why?) and the waiter was nice enough to offer this (and a stack of napkins). For those who don’t know, ghost chiles are the hottest peppers in the world. Mezcal’s sauce, however, carries the heat perfectly. It is tempered down with brown sugar and spices, resulting in a hot sauce that is both incredibly hot and incredibly complex. I made sure to request it this time and was rewarded with even more flavor since my taste buds weren’t dulled by the budding cold.
- Fried Ice Cream. Now I’ve had fried ice cream before, but never quite like this. The picture is horrendous but I’m still sure that you’ve never seen fried ice cream that looks quite like that. In fact, my favorite part was the cinnamon-coconut, flash-fried crust. The strawberry sauce, which was not too sweet, was a close second. I really can’t tell you how good the actual ice cream was because I only had a couple of bites, instead choosing to eat crust + whipped cream+ sauce. It was amazing!
The Armsby Abbey Farmhouse Brunch
Beau and I love brunch. I’ve been wanting to try out Armsby for a while but we never got around to it, either because I forgot or because we were too busy eating waffles. This week we decided to go for it!
It was packed when we go there but we lucked out and snagged the table of another couple who had just left. Our server was prompt and told us all about the menu and how it changes every week based on both what’s available and the chef’s whim. I love Worcester’s farm-to-table restaurant scene! We ordered and then things started to go downhill.
Beau’s coffee came almost immediately.
My tea was going to take a couple of minutes because they had to heat up the water.
Bren ordered a beer.
I asked for them to refill my water.
The bartender tells our waitress that he still doesn’t have my hot water.
Our food comes out.
I ordered this gorgeous dish (use your imagination as this photo is awful).
The Belgian Sugar Waffle is “housemade to order with Ommegang Abbey Ale and Belgian Pearl Sugar topped with a Cranberry Compote made with Allagash White and Orange-Coriander Whipped Cream” (Source).
Beau got the Breakfast Pizza which “Braised Beef Chuck, Roasted Crimini Mushroom, Roasted Tomato Sauce, Maplebrook Mozzarella, (2) Slow Poached Eggs from Gibson’s Dairy, grated Parmesan, fresh Oregano” (Source).
My tea finally came. She didn’t comp us on the bill.
I couldn’t finish the waffle because it was far too sweet. I missed WooDaddy greatly.
I’m glad we went but we both agreed that we probably won’t be going back. The food was unique and good and I think everyone should definitely give it a shot, especially if you like to have a drink early (11am is early on a Sunday!) with your breakfast. Just don’t expect great service. This isn’t because they are inattentive (she really tried and we still tipped >15%) but because it seems there are too many customers and not enough workers.
On a positive note, Bren loved his pizza and for my bloody mary fans, they have a whole menu devoted just to you!
I ventured up to REI this week to buy a Jade yoga mat (!) and did a Whole Foods run, which you can read all about in my Project: Food Budget re-cap on Thursday. These count as discoveries because it was my first time ever in an REI and first time in this specific WF. At REI I also discovered their clearance rack where I scored a gorgeous yoga top to replace my worn out ones. Sweet.