Coffee Country: Bloc 11

Bloc 11 Cafe

11 Bow St
Somerville, MA 02143

Map

bloc-11-coffee-cozy

Bloc 11 is a great coffee house in the heart of Union Square. They have an eclectic menu of sandwiches and salads. Try a scone if they’re available. They care about their coffee, and where it comes from. They get imports from Intelligentsia and Stumptown, two very serious coffee makers, and rotate their offerings daily.

Their drinks vary in complexity. I stick to simple cups of coffee, but they have a variety of espresso drinks to choose from. Try their Vietnamese coffee, a blend of sweet and smooth. Try their edibles. I’ve had some of their sandwiches, and a lot of people are on the fence about it. Not many places make a “spicy curry tofu salad sandwich” with apple slices and avocado.

Tell you what, go there and try their egg sandwich with prosciutto and cheese on rosemary foccacia bread, and then tell me what you think! It’s my favorite.

Their walls are usually decorated with cool, local artwork. The music is mild and doesn’t distract the scores of locals who hangout with books and pads and work to be done. It’s a great place to talk, and you can have privacy in the back if necessary. In the evening, they host a variety of live music events. What else could you ask for?

Somerville opens up to Porchfest

Porchfest 2011
Somerville, MA
May 21, 2011

Somerville has always had a reputation for appealing to the artist community in Boston. Whether it’s a live act to watch after dinner, or an art gallery to browse during the day, there’s enough creative energy here to satisfy every taste.

When I first moved to Somerville, I became enamored of the “Open Studios”, an annual event where resident artists literally “open up their studios” to interested neighbors and local art enthusiasts. Now, the Somerville Arts Council has added another warm-weather event to their calendar, Porchfest.

Porchfest is not new, but it’s slowly gaining popularity across the country. Local musicians take center stage on the front porches of willing volunteers. It’s all about giving the local community a free show, outside, in a safe, neighborhood environment. It could not have been a better day for live music.

Starting in Union Square around noon, over 75 acts of eclectic musical variety made waves throughout the residential heart of Somerville. Almost by accident, my friend and I caught the end of a roots rock quartet in Prospect Hill. There was a sizable group on the sidewalk with drinks and focaccia topped with pesto in their hands (provided by the porch’s owner).  We stood there, along the periphery, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of it all. Everyone was happy, smiling, enjoying the music, chatting like neighbors do. I only imagine these sentiments were shared all afternoon across town.

Porchfest has found a good home in Somerville. There will always be a community of local musicians ready to volunteer their time, and there will always be a neighborhood of enthusiasts ready to hear them out on what promises to be a perfect spring day.

Porchfest was on Saturday, May 21st from 12-6pm. It’s sure to come back around the same time next year, so keep your ears ready. You can find out more by going to http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org.

Life is short… and then

Instead of walking somewhere I planned on, I stop and I turn down a side road up North. My walk goes a little vertical; I’m not going to my normal place. I’m trying something new this time.

“Life is short,” says the butterfly, flapping right in front of me as it jumps from branch to branch. There’s a set of houses with Virgin Mary Statues shrines proudly placed in front yards. A woman in her house told me they were symbols to show their hearts are as open as their doors. A few had been taken down in the last few years.

And then I walked by the old city hall, rich in red columns, cobbled engravings, next door to the new city hall. It was a big, bustling street, a sunny open void that made me hungry.

And then I noticed the strange, awkward, audible feedback from people passing me as I wrote all this.

a Home to call My Own

I’ll be waiting at this bus stop,
near the bench that sits there
comfortably.

The 88 bus, it comes in
easy just past Vinal Avenue,
right on big old Highland, truly
above the rest of Somerville.

Like a mountainous valley,
Highland holds the crest with
rich red brick stone foundations,
and open common places
in the center of it all.

It was all about the sights
and smells that I experience
whenever I go somewhere new.

Especially when I’m running,
when the world is passing me by
so quickly, but not quickly
enough. Quick enough
to let it digest in my reality,
and quick enough to see
and smell enough of it all.

That was what it was like
out there, a new home
to call my own.

SEA MONSTERS @ PRECINCT

SEA MONSTERS
Precinct – in Union Square, Somerville, MA
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
BBC Lost Sailor IPA

I rolled up my socks and left for Union Square around 10pm, a quick walk downhill in temperate evening air. I was the first to get there, and the back of the bar was starting to show some life. The show was set to go on any minute. I made that awkward stroll through the whole spot to find potential friends, but instead of finding them I found an excellent place to sit during the entire show – SEA MONSTERS. The Labor Day Weekend let me have my fun for once on a Sunday.

My IPA was cold and delicious, crisp and hoppy. Over the next several sips I began to notice groups come together. Out of nowhere, my old neighbors Adam and Michele showed up, and with smiles and surprise we embraced and talked until my friends showed up. They told me all about the band, and how they only played at PRECINCT on Sunday Nights. Each band member had a side project they worked on professionally, and once a week they showed up to play a show together at this place only.

Christian McNeal

Their weekend act is a headline hit. People from all walks of life were dancing and jamming to their indie blues rock. The improv work by Christian McNeill, co-founder of the band, was very impressive. The other founding member, Jesse Dee, was not present for the show, which was unfortunate. Even with one front man down, the other players held it down. They had a strong sense of soul, but it was rustic; acoustic guitar and retro-keyboard sounds mixed bits of classic rock and R&B together in a good way.

It was bluesy, and often went on groovy jams that spurred applause and howling when each instrument took a turn in the spotlight. It was not your average garage band event, but a workshop exhibit of the best and brightest group in the area. It was the best eight dollars I had spent in ages.

And they certainly knew how to draw a crowd, too. People local to the area know the story better than I do. Their fame precedes them, and their sound lives up to expectations. They all gave great solos that made me wonder what other shows this bar plays. The under-80, standing-room-only ambience left me satisfied for over two and a half hours. What other greats have come and gone underground in that back room at PRECINCT? It doesn’t really matter; SEA MONSTERS have become iconic figures there, and I don’t expect that to change.