Why I Deactivated My Facebook Account

I pulled the plug on my Facebook account on 11/24/15. Just deactivated it like it meant nothing, like I hadn’t spent the last seven years on it. Because it really didn’t mean anything, not anymore.

If anything, it caused more trouble than it was worth.

See, the older I’m getting, the more appalled I’m becoming at this new generation. These are people my age, also older and younger, who live on their phones like it’s their lifeline. They seem to require validation of their lives via “checking in” at places, posting photos, and constantly commenting…and constantly checking up on everybody else. And to me, there’s nothing worse than two people who would rather text each other than actually talk when they’re in the same room.

Comedian Steven Wright performed a song during his stand-up routine one night which included the refrain, “I love my cell phone better than you.” I think that statement accurately sums up the problem with this generation. No one knows how to hold a face-to-face conversation, and why go out and buy something at the store when you can order it online instead? Live concerts are watched through the video recorder instead of enjoyed in the moment, and people routinely bump into other people/things because they’re too damn busy looking down at their fucking phones and not paying attention to where the fuck they’re going.

Plus, I found that people on Facebook were becoming WAY too invasive. Nothing made me angrier than when people I hadn’t seen since 1995 (or, worse, their friends with no sort of relation to me at all) would message me to ask about a dental problem. Look, I don’t care if your three-year-old was running around like a psychopath and slammed face-first into a door/wall/table/sibling and now has a wiggly front tooth. Nor do I care to see the panoramic films, x-rays, or full-on facial photos so I can give you a free consultation or second opinion. Doesn’t anybody care that those are fucking GREAT ways for me to get sued? Nah, apparently not.

And then there’s the invasion of privacy, and I’m not even talking about the hacked-account variety. I’m talking about how I go out to dinner with friends, and one friend checks us all in on her FourSquare account while the other tags us all in photos on her Facebook page, and the next day my parents/siblings/niece/coworkers/aunts/uncles/cousins/next-door neighbors know where I went, what I ate, what I drank, who I was with, and if I liked it. SERIOUSLY??? What’s left for me to talk about if you guys know it all already?

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is a great way to stay connected to your loved ones if you don’t live very close to each other. My best friends live 2+ hours away, and even the ones who live closer have full lives that don’t always coincide with mine. But Facebook has its drawbacks, such as loss of privacy, security hacks, and too-nosy people who have no business being in your business. And worse, I miss having a full-on conversation over the phone with my girls. Who doesn’t?

So, as of today, I have officially been off Facebook for nine months. And I’ve got to say, I don’t miss it at all.

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Yesterday was a highly memorable day in my life. OK, maybe it doesn’t rank up there with the day I graduated from dental school, but two events occurred which will alter my summer. (And perhaps my dental career. I’m not being overly dramatic, it’s true.)

I don’t go into depth about my dental career very often on my blog. Sure, I’ll talk about my writing, my reading, and my brunch-going, but I rarely talk about the ins-and-outs of my day job. Bottom line: I have been a licensed practicing dentist for the past ten years in CT and the last five in FL as well.

My assistant, Jules, has been with me for nearly 7 and a half years. I trained her myself; she knew nothing about dentistry before she started with me, and now I would say she’s pretty damn competent. So two weeks ago, when she gave me her notice, well, I can’t say I was floored because I was too excited for her.

“My husband got a job in New Hampshire,” she told me. “He can’t turn it down. It’s a better salary than he makes here, plus benefits.”

No shit, they can’t turn this offer down. Living in NH offers a lot of opportunities that CT simply cannot compete with. Plus, CT’s economy is going down the toilet: major businesses are leaving, it ranked fourth out of the top 10 states in the US with the highest taxes and fifteenth out of the 15 worst states to make a living, and has the worst job environment and the latest Tax Freedom Day in the country. Hell, if I didn’t have to run a business here, I’d get the fuck out, too. Though NH is too cold for me. FL, here I come!!!

So in any case, we worked our last shift together yesterday. The staff and I laughed, we hugged, we joked, we teared up, and we ate lobster rolls from Shad Row. Then, after the work load ended and Jules left, I headed home as I usually do, calling my mother on my car’s BlueTooth device to rehash each other’s day.

I had barely started talking when she cut me off. “I took Violet to Victoria’s Secret for new bras.”

Apparently, my fifteen-year-old niece Violet has had a growth spurt and no longer fits into the 36C bras I bought her just two years ago. (Yes, she is busty like her auntie.) As my mother ran down the list of what she’d purchased, I mentally rang the tally up in my head. “Mom, how much did all of this come to?”

“A little over $400.”

YIKES! On a fifteen-year-old? That’s crazy! Granted, as a bigger-busted gal myself, I understand that once you pass D-cup territory, bras are no longer $20 and under, but even so…FOUR hundred dollars? Ouch.

Does anyone realize how much work I have to do to rally up that money???

“You know what?” I asked Mom. “Violet is fifteen. She’s gonna be my assistant this summer. It’s time for her to learn that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

“You’re right, Kath,” Mom agreed. “She’s old enough to work. And she has to learn that you have to earn your Victoria’s Secret.”

We giggled.

Maybe that was a flippant way to make such a large decision, but I felt that it was time. I love my niece like my own kid or baby sister (my sister had Violet when she was nineteen, so my parents helped raise her and treated her like their fourth child, which in turn made her think of me and my brother as her older siblings), but she’s old enough to know better now. There’s no such thing as sailing through life and getting everything you want for free. Hell, if you think about it, even well-kept women pay a price, even if they just stay home.

I want Violet to learn that she can be strong and independent, that she doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) have to rely on anyone but herself for what she needs. Obviously, she’s not going to be paying for her own groceries, vehicle, or mortgage, but she doesn’t need to be doing that at fifteen. What she needs is to learn what I mentioned above, that she is the only person that she should ever rely on, and the only way that will ever happen is if she works hard.

No, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Yes, I bought Jules her lobster roll yesterday, but that was more than seven years in the making. She earned that meal.

Violet? Well, starting next week, she’ll learn that if she wants me to buy her the lobster roll (or in this case, a bunch of bras from VS), she’s gonna have to earn it. I refuse to allow my beautiful niece to not reach her full potential.

It should be an interesting summer. We’ll see how this goes.

Book Review: “Whiskey & Charlie” by Annabel Smith

I loved the premise of “Whiskey & Charlie” by Annabel Smith right off the bat, mostly because I felt I could relate to it (and probably a lot of other readers out there can, too): a story of two brothers, twins in this case, in which one is cooler/richer/more popular, and the other is jealous.

When they were younger, Charlie and William (before he was Whiskey) received walkie-talkies, and their entire world revolved around them and the corresponding two-way alphabet. They were tight, but as always, Whiskey upstaged Charlie in the friend circle, the dating department, and the school popularity contests. As they grew older still, they grew apart, with relations between them not improving as Charlie inadvertently steals Whiskey’s girlfriend Juliet away from him. For years, they barely talk and don’t see each other.

Then the family receives word that Whiskey has been in a terrible freak accident, is in a coma, and may never wake up.

When he hears the news, Charlie wonders, Who is he without his twin? And how can he make up for all of the times he failed at being brother when Whiskey may never come back to them? Now he is navigating an uncharted path as to how to forgive his brother, his family, and himself, all while the twin he may never get to apologize to sleeps away.

While I was somewhat let down by the ending (no spoilers here, sorry), I have to say that my favorite thing about this novel was the way it was written. Annabel Smith wrote the entire book in a series of both present-day and flashbacks. Each flashback is titled with a letter of the walkie-talkie alphabet (for example, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie), which corresponds to the events contained within. I loved that unique concept.

I have read a few negative reviews about this story, and I can certainly see where these readers are coming from. I didn’t think this was the best story to tackle such a heavy topic, nor did I feel that there was a great resolution at the end of the story. However, I found the journey to be great, and if I treated each flashback as a single short story (so basically, if I looked at the book as a composition of essays), I liked it.

Also, as anybody who knows me will know, this story was a little too PTSD for me. After living through the nightmare that was my dad’s journey from heart attack to heart transplant, all of the present-day scenes set in the ICU were a little too jarring for me. I often found myself tearing up for Whiskey’s wife and mother, mostly because it was so easy for me to put myself in their shoes.

Hmm, no wonder I wanted to drink a gallon of vodka after finishing the story.

All in all, I would suggest this book, but I would suggest the reader to read it with an open mind and a grain of salt. It’s not the best book in the world, but it’s certainly not the worst, and the innovative storytelling alone is worth checking out.

 

*This is a manuscript I picked up on my own and paid for with my own money. This is my honest review and I did not receive any money or credit for it.

“Show Me Your Teeth!”

My girl Lady Gaga is on fire.

Between her win at the 2016 Golden Globes (which was a surprise to everybody but me, apparently), her Original Song nomination for the 2015 Oscars, her amazing performance at the 2016 Super Bowl (between the boring game and the not-so-hot Halftime Show, I should’ve shut the TV off after her rendition of the National Anthem), her friendship/tour/album/holiday commercial with the fabulous Tony Bennett, and of course let’s not forget her Valentine’s Day 2015 engagement to her SMOKING HOT fiancé Taylor Kinney, she is probably the only person I know who’s had an incredible past twelve months. And that’s OK; I love her and I would NEVER begrudge her any of that.

On Monday night, when my girl (ever since seeing her in concert in 2009, I’ve referred to her as my girl) Lady Gaga performed a very artistic tribute performance to the late, great David Bowie at the 2016 Grammy Awards, I thought she hit a homerun. Yes, I know that not everyone was enthralled by her renditions of Bowie’s classics, but I was. My staff at the office and my patients were all impressed, too.

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Except for one thing: my beautiful, talented, fabulous, amazing girl neglected to have her teeth cleaned before the Grammys. And, unfortunately, that was what I harped on to everyone who sat in my chair this week.

Seriously, who dropped the ball here? I’m not making fun of her – God knows that Adas and I both form heavy calculus (tartar) on our lower anteriors (the lower front teeth for all you non-dentites out there). But I just wanna know: with so much planning going on, from the dancing to the singing to the instrumentation to the performing; from the hair to the make-up to the elaborate costume changes; from the fucking David Bowie tattoo which she got inked right before her tribute…nobody said to her, “Hey, your mouth is gonna be blown up to about 100 million square feet for the entire universe to see, maybe you might wanna consider getting your teeth cleaned”? REALLY?????

Then again, I bet there were no dentists or dental hygienists on staff, either.

Regardless, my girl Lady Gaga is a class act. Like I stated before, she’s gorgeous, talented, and simply amazing. So what if she has some calculus? Come visit me at my office anytime, Gaga. I’ll clean you up, free of charge. Like you sing in my favorite song, “Show me your teeth!”

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*These photos are from my own personal collection and may not be re-used without my permission*

Book Review: “Reconstructing Amelia” by Kimberly McCreight

To steal a quote from my favorite TV show ever, The Golden Girls, I’m going to have to start this column with, “Picture it…”

In October 2015, I went with a couple of my girlfriends to the Bahamas (specifically, the Atlantis) for a well-deserved long weekend. I stayed with my girlfriend Madison** the night before, seeing as how we had a flight out of Logan Airport at the ass-crack of dawn the next day, and we had dinner (and wine) with her parents. Her folks were pretty cool, and as we sipped on multiple glasses of wine, we discussed the books we’d read and liked. Madison’s mom suggested this one, as it had been on her book club to-read list, and she loved it so much that she made each of her daughters read it.

The book in question is “Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. Told from two points of view, it is the story of a single mother and her only daughter, and the lengths they both go to out of sheer desperation.

Kate, a litigation lawyer, is in the middle of a huge career-making meeting when she receives a phone call from her 15-year-old daughter’s tony private school, Grace Hall. Amelia, her smart, studious, over-achieving child, has been caught plagiarizing her English paper and has been suspended, effective immediately. Once Kate finally arrives at the school, she is greeted with much worse news: Amelia is dead, having jumped from the roof in a fit of despair.

At least, that’s the story Kate gets from the school and from the police. And though she questions it, it’s what she believes as the truth, until she receives an anonymous text message: Amelia didn’t jump.

Now, Kate is hell-bent on learning the truth. She sifts through her daughter’s phone, emails and social media accounts to reconstruct Amelia’s life, what would have led her to cheat on an English paper when it was her best subject at school, and how she ended up on the rooftop in the first place.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. I found it to be very original – not only was it told in differing points of view, it was told partly in a series of emails, text messages, journal entries, and Facebook posts. The story also delves into the coming-of-age stories of high school kids, coming to terms with one’s sexuality, heartbreak, friendships, and clubs. Not only was it a fascinating read, but there were so many twists and plotholes I didn’t see coming that I found it to be remarkable.

Was it my favorite story? No. But, much like “Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, it’s a fresh tale told in a new way. I always give credit where credit is due, and this story is both fascinating and well-written. It might have made me terribly sad in the end, but I was grateful for a believable finale.

This book felt real, and I love it for that. Perhaps it’s not a book that I would have automatically picked up, but I’m happy for the suggestion.

 

*This is a manuscript I picked up on my own and paid for with my own money. This is my honest review and I did not receive any money or credit for it.

** Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

 

 

Sunday Brunch: Elbow Room

I have had a hankering for a good burger lately.

I’m not talking about a pansy, low-fat/low-calorie burger, either. No, a turkey burger or a veggie burger isn’t going to cut it for me. I want all in, like, really all in – beefy, juicy, and paired with french fries. And I’ve had this craving for days. DAYS.

So when you go out to eat for the first time, even if it’s for Sunday Brunch, you order a burger.

Adas and I made the trek back to West Hartford for our favorite weekly meal, this time to Elbow Room, which I swear is the oldest restaurant in the area. I’ve never been, despite the fact that I went to college in the area. What can I say? Parallel parking used to scare the crap out of me.

My parents once had dinner with my aunt and uncle at Elbow Room, and I remember that my mom was unimpressed with the place. Particularly because it was so crowded. She said, “They call it Elbow Room because that’s literally all the room you get.” Maybe it was back then, but for Sunday Brunch, it seemed pretty roomy. Seated at a booth, there was plenty of open space. Then again, I can imagine that, on a Saturday night, it could get cramped. There are a lot of tables crammed in there.

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I started off with a Bloody Mary, which was pretty damn good. It was spicy and peppery, with nice chunks of horseradish in it. Mmm. I also really enjoyed the fact that it was garnished with green grape tomatoes instead of green olives – it was a new twist. (Though not as tasty, at least not in my opinion.)

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Adas had a true Sunday Brunch experience with a custom-made omelet, stuffed with bacon, mushrooms, onions, spinach, peppers and tomatoes, as well as two extra egg whites. It was great! Not only were the eggs cooked perfectly (which is tough to do in an omelet), but it also tasted fantastic. While my man isn’t much of a bread eater, he did take a bite out of the thick buttered toast and said that it was pretty good.

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As for me, I had four different types of burgers to soothe my craving with: a bison burger, a Kobe burger, a turkey burger, and Benny’s Bar Burger. I chose the Kobe burger, cooked medium-well, topped with mushrooms and caramelized onions and served with a side of hand-cut french fries. The results? Holy fuck, it was the be-all and end-all. Thick, juicy, expertly grilled, with fries that could make a woman weep. I didn’t even eat the top of the Kaiser roll. I got all the carbs I desired in the fries.

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Honestly, it was a little pricey for an omelet and a burger, but the food was excellent and the service was friendly and quick. I’d definitely go back in the future once my health issues are cleared up. After all, they have an Eggs Benny-Dict (as well as the “Popeye,” which is a vegetarian Eggs Benedict) on the menu which I’m dying to try. But for now, my burger desire is quenched, and I have the Elbow Room to thank for it.

Saturday Brunch: 310 Lakeside

Well, we’re back in FL, my other (and favorite) home state. You know what that means: it’s time for Saturday Brunch! Luckily, Saturday Brunch is a more commonly-advertised event in FL than in CT. Maybe it’s the weather?

But I digress. Adas picked out today’s spot, 310 Lakeside in Orlando. And I have to be honest: once we’d parked (good thing that the parking garage is free on the weekends, but the curbside parking is not – what is up with that?) and entered the building, I was a little nervous about the fact that we were in a business.

Yes, this restaurant is in a business building, so it is not the only business around – it shares space with several other properties, which may or may not have been banks/realtors/etc. etc. I wasn’t paying that much attention. We had to walk through the lobby (complete with a receptionist) to get to our destination, and I was concerned that we had picked a place which was completely not what we were looking for.

Once we walked around the bar to our table, we noticed that we were hardly the only brunch-goers there. Two other parties (one small, one large) were already seated and enjoying their beverages. What were we waiting for?

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The water, apparently. Served chilled with no ice and a very thin slice of cucumber, this was water as I love it. Unfortunately, the Bloody Mary was not nearly as spectacular as the water. It was sweet and lemony, and not lemony like they made it with lemon vodka (as my beloved Bonefish Grill does). Lemony like they made it with lemonade. Of the Crystal Light variety.

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As for food, I’ve been a little blind-sided. Since my current health status does not allow me to have hollandaise sauce (more to come in a future post), I cannot order my beloved Eggs Benedict. Boo! How can I order Eggs Benedict without hollandaise sauce? Blasphemy, I say! And so I must seek out alternatives, at least for the time being.

After a few moments of debate, I settled on the California Scramble, which is essentially a breakfast burrito. Stuffed with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, topped with guacamole, salsa and sour cream, and served with a side of potatoes, nothing looked particularly exciting. But wow, did it taste good! The eggs in particular were well-cooked, and the home fries were the perfect texture AND had the right amount of salt.

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Adas ordered the frittata (duh), which was filled with spinach, bacon, and feta cheese. Delicious! His fruit cup on the side was just okay, but since he was stuffed after eating his entrée, he didn’t seem to care much about leaving it.

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I didn’t have high hopes for this place, but the food certainly tastes better than it looks. When I’m able to eat hollandaise sauce again, I plan on returning. Not only do they make a traditional Eggs Benedict, but they make a Tenderloin version, too. I can’t wait until then.

 

*Sorry about the delay. This blog entry was supposed to be posted last weekend, when we were in Florida. What can I say? Life gets in the way.

 

Sunday Brunch: Besito

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

(Well, if you think about it, it’s only fitting. I mean, we already did a classic Happy New Year’s Day brunch at Bambara. Why not do a Mexican brunch, too?)

OK, I’ll be honest here: when I think of Sunday (or Saturday, as the case may be) brunch, I don’t think of Mexican restaurants. I mean, sure, every now and then I’ll have a hankering for huevos rancheros, but I mostly stick to the Eggs Benedict, thank you very much. There’s something about Hollandaise that turns my knees into melted butter. And no, it’s not the melted butter in the sauce.

So when Adas (remember back when we were at Cask & Larder when I said that the Polish boy freaking loves tamales?) suggested that we start our Sunday Brunch Tour of America at Besito, I was a little surprised and a little worried. I mean, how could I possibly go a week without Eggs Benedict? It seemed impossible. Then, of course, I remembered that I’d eaten my favorite breakfast meal only two days ago. I could skip a Sunday.

Besito (which means “little kiss”) is my favorite sit-down Mexican restaurant. Located in Blue Back Square and across the street from West Hartford Center, it’s in a pretty nice location, too. It doesn’t hurt that the food is fucking fantastic, but I had no idea they did brunch.

Apparently, they really don’t, either.

They open at 11:30, which is a little late for brunch, mostly because they’re serving their lunch offerings with a side menu for brunch. Plus, the waiter plugged their 2-for-1 margarita specials. Mmm, yes, but not today. I ordered their Bloody Mary, which was a nice one – not too spicy and a good, smoky flavor. Superb. It went nicely with their tasty, crunchy tortilla chips, served with a delightfully spicy salsa.

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While we waited for our meals,  I looked around at the decor. One of the reasons I love this place so much is because it’s beautiful: tables, booths, half-booths, high ceilings (which are a drawback on a chilly day like this one, considering how long it takes to heat the room up). It feels authentic.

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My other favorite reason is the wall of candles. A long time ago, a waitress pointed out that they’re not real candles, they’re actually light bulbs within a candle. But they certainly flicker like real flames. And I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to change the light bulbs.

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So, back to the food. Unsurprisingly, there are no Eggs Benedict on this menu. I took a gamble on the Huevos Rancheros with a side of crispy bacon. Served with rice and beans, my main dish was astounding. It didn’t look like much, but trust me…This. Was. Fucking. Mind-blowing. The bacon was cooked perfectly, but a little tasteless. (This makes two brunch trips in a row that the bacon was sub-par. Something must be off in the universe.)

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I thought that Adas would order the tamales, but he surprised me by ordering the 2-egg breakfast with a side of Elotes de la Calle (that’s “Roasted Street Corn” to you and me). Granted, the corn thing isn’t a surprise – Adas often orders it as his side dish at restaurants. It was freaking spectacular, almost as good as my main dish. His two eggs, which he ordered scrambled, came with chorizo and breakfast potatoes. The sausage was a little tasteless, just like the bacon, and the potatoes were nothing to write home about…though they were a step up from Bambara’s.

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When the bill came, it was accompanied by two worry dolls and two fresh churros to take home. They smelled a little like grease, but boy, did they taste good. And I would know – I ate mine in the car on the ride home.

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OK, so it wasn’t my conventional brunch. That doesn’t mean that I liked it any less. I’d come back here for sure, for any meal. And I can’t think of a bigger seal of approval than that.

 

New Year’s Day Brunch: Bambara

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I had a pretty lousy year in 2015, and so did many of my friends and family members (we affectionately refer to it as the #YearOfSuck). Usually, I go down to Winter Garden with Adas and my parents for New Year’s Eve, but this year, it wasn’t even an option. So I did the next best thing: I traveled up to Cambridge with my partner in life to spend the evening with my girlfriends.

After checking into the gorgeous Hotel Marlowe, we scooted over to the condo belonging to my partner in crime, Jayne*, a mere four miles away. Five of us chatted the night away, eating spinach-and-artichoke hummus with baby carrots and pita chips with an amazing buffalo chicken dip made by my girl Madison*, drinking and toasting at midnight with bubbly.

So long, #YearOfSuck!

After waking up in the lovely Studio Suite, Adas and I wandered downstairs to the hotel lobby in search of breakfast. SURPRISE! New Year’s Day Brunch was being served at Bambara. Honestly, what could be better than that?

The restaurant was busy – apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the celebratory brunch idea – but for the moment, the bar seating was empty. It was certainly pretty, with wood floors, countertops and tabletops and (mostly) blue chairs. The regular seating area was packed, filled with rounded beige half-booths and a few regular booths and tables.

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So, what did I order? Obviously, if you’ve been paying attention to this blog long enough, you’ll have no doubt in your mind that I started off with a Bloody Mary. There were two choices: Classic or Diablo. I figured, What the hell, and ordered the spicier version. It was definitely spicy for sure, but there was so much lemon in it that it tasted like it might have been either made with hard lemonade or was a spiked version of the Master Cleanse beverage. Um…interesting.

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Food-wise, I opted for my usual Eggs Benedict made with ham (there are also options with smoked salmon and spinach & tomato), which came with breakfast potatoes. Hmm. After a year of eating such spectacular Eggs Benedict, this dish was a letdown. The ham was good, and the eggs were cooked perfectly, but the Hollandaise sauce was bland and the potatoes were terrible.

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Adas ordered the egg white and potato frittata with two extra egg whites and fruit salad instead of toast, served with a side of bacon. He loved his dish, but wasn’t so enamored with the wilted baby greens on top of it (and boy, was he glad he ordered the extra egg whites!). The fruit salad was just OK, and the bacon was cooked well but was absolutely tasteless. I would know. I tried a piece. And a half, just to be sure.

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Though this was by far not the best brunch I’ve ever had, I have to give Bambara a few points. One, for such a busy day, the staff was on top of their game. We ordered quickly and had our food quickly. Two, our orders were perfect, there were no mistakes despite the crowds. And three, Adas proclaimed that their coffee was some of the best he’s ever had (outside of Starbucks, natch)…and you know how picky he is about his coffee.

So would I come here again? Oh, for sure. After all, I plan on many more stays at the Marlowe. It is, in my opinion, the best hotel in Cambridge.

 

* Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent.