Restaurant Review (Cambridge, MA): Wagamama and Dado Tea on Harvard Square

[Article first published as Restaurant Review (Cambridge, MA): Wagamama and Dado Tea on Harvard Square on Blogcritics.]

While on one of my Boston visits, I stopped by a familiar haunt: Harvard Square, home to hundreds of restaurants, retailers, bookstores, and Harvard University, of course. What I like about Harvard Square is its plenitude of small, local businesses. There may be large chains, like Fire + Ice or UNO’s pizza, but if I so choose, there are plenty of smaller, and even better local restaurants at which to eat. Examples include smaller local cafes like Tealuxe, Crema Cafe, or Dado Tea; or lesser known restaurants like Wagamama, Takemura, Spice Thai, or Qdoba. It seems that on every visit here, I make it my goal to visit a restaurant-tea place combination. This time, I stopped at Dado Tea and Wagamama.

As a shopping break, my friends and I stopped by Dado Tea, avoiding a packed Starbucks, for some bubble tea and mocha. Dado Tea is a small local tea place on 50 Church Street, Cambridge. In addition to beverages, the place also offers sandwiches, salads, dumpling and rice cake soups, and desserts, all fresh and organic. Another selling point! I hadn’t heard anything bad about the mocha two of my companions ordered, though the bubble tea (peach blossom) was somewhat disappointing (bubble tea menu here).

My companion ordered a bubble tea with all the sugar and whole milk, but mentioned that her tea was not sweet enough, or sweet at all for that matter. My bubble tea had a rather beautiful peach flavor that I enjoyed, but the bubbles were tough. I recommend going for bubble tea in Chinatown instead (had a very fruity mango bubble tea back there in the summertime that was excellent), and going in the summer instead of winter. If I go to this place in the future, I will opt for a hot tea rather than a bubble tea, as it seems as if Dado Tea’s hot teas are their “speciality.”

Wagamama, a British ramen noodle chain that’s now finding its way into the states, is the perfect dish if one is craving warm noodle soup on a cold day, as we were. Wagamama serves a variety of Asian-style appetizers and noodle or rice dishes, but the Japanese-style ramen is the dish Wagamama is best known for. On my prior visit, I ordered the chicken ramen, which is ramen in a chicken soup topped with sliced grilled chicken breast, baby spinach, menma, and sliced scallion, which I found delicious if slightly too salty. It was a safe choice for a first visit, and thankfully one that did not disappoint.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/tastes/article/restaurant-review-cambridge-ma-wagamama-and/#ixzz1i884BvuD

Concert Review: From the Sixth Hour: A Piano Quartet, Atlantic Music Festival, 8/3/11

Article first published as Concert Review: From the Sixth Hour: A Piano Quartet, Atlantic Music Festival, 8/3/11 on Blogcritics.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to hear the piano quartet piece From the Sixth Hour at the Atlantic Music Festival. This festival meets every year at Colby College, Maine, for a wonderful four weeks of free classical music concerts open to the public. This piece was featured at the last marathon chamber concert on August 3, 2011, running from 7:00 PM to past midnight. I was not one of the brave souls who dared to stay the entire time, but what I heard was a wonderful combination of old and new music, excellently communicated to a responsive audience.

This particular piece was composed by AMF’s artistic director, Solbong Kim, a graduate in composition from the renowned Curtis Institute. As an active composer, he has written many pieces for chamber and orchestra, had his works performed and recorded by various music groups, and he has been the recipient of many prestigious composition awards, such as the Presser Music Award in 2005. His works have been much admired for their sophistication, and it is easy to see why.

From the Sixth Hour was performed by Sang Woo Kang, pianist; Dennis Kim, violinist; Pu Reum Cho, violist; and Marco Pereira, cellist. They were an excellent group of players. A note about the selection of performers: it was a diverse mix of musicians from various stages in their careers, as well as originating from different countries. Kim and Kang are established musicians. Kim is the concertmaster of the Tampere Orchestra in Finland, and Kang is a concert pianist and professor of music at Providence College in Rhode Island. Pereira, a professional cellist and likewise an established musician, hails from Portugal, while Cho, at the age of 19, was easily the youngest person in the grouping, and hailed from South Korea. They were a wonderful representation of the diversity of the musicians at this music festival [...]

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Portrait of a Lady: Music and Words

Article first published as Portrait of a Lady: Music and Words on Blogcritics.

The blend of music and literature is an interesting thing. The most prevalent mix of such can be seen in songs, where poems by people like Wordsworth or Shelley are set to music. But what of music in literature?

For instance, music features largely in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Portrait of a Lady.” In this picture of upper-class society, a young man has a friendship with a woman, whose age is unknown. The poem unfolds through conversations, visits, and a carefully selected set of musical metaphors. But why and how does he use the specific musical images he does, such as Chopin’s Preludes contrasted against the street piano, or the cracked trumpets and out-of-tune violins in his head? Eliot, as a Modernist writer, was concerned with themes of isolation: the little person living in the big city, the Prufrockian “do I dare” impulse. It was a problem that he saw, and a problem that perhaps still exists, especially in the digital age. What does one do with this often terrible isolation?

The first example is the concert scene, where the man comes “to hear the latest Pole / Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and fingertips.” Chopin, the composer mentioned, is “intimate,” the type of composer whose music (or “soul”) is meant for the small “concert room” where friends will view this music with respect, and not insist on dissecting it through too many questions. Yet there is something mocking about the “transmission” of the music through the “hair” as well as the fingertips, as if the pianist is so preoccupied with an overdramatic representation of feeling that even his hair shows it. It would then seem that this feeling fails to touch the speaker. It would seem that here is a disconnect between the “old-time” Romantic age and the speaker’s sensibilities [...]

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