Back at the Hive

A horrible rainy Sunday morning in Boston but a friend is here visiting, so brunch is in order. The pristine outdoor dining of Back Bay and the always-a-bonus people watching associated with it is out of the question. We need somewhere warm and cozy, where we can wait out the downpour and continue sightseeing in the grim gray gloom of a Boston December. Solution: An old go to in the Center of the Arts Complex in the South End called The Beehive.

Walking through the bordeaux velvet curtains and taking a seat in front of the brick-backed stage on which the jazz is already in full swing is definitely a cool experience. The space is truly warm and inviting, arranged in a very creative way, with the contemporary works of local artists displayed on the walls and the soothing moans of the saxophone vibrating the air around us. The breakfast menu features classic comfort items which all come in huge portions, guaranteed not to leave you wanting for more. I’ve tried the Eggs and Corned Beef Hash and the Eggs Benedict before, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly. Their Bloody Mary is also one of my favorites in Boston, spicy and flavorful, very thick in texture. It’s topped with an olive, celery and a pickled pepperoncini, as well as a nice ground chili pepper rim.

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Not a very good photo….Stupid iPhone 4….

This time I had something I’ve seen listed before and heard plenty of, but had never tried in the past, an item circled and highlighted on their menu. It’s called the Eggs Shakshuka (a bit like North African huevos rancheros) and basically consists of a metal bowl with impossibly creamy, salty, Parmesan cheesy polenta on one side and a very flavorful North African style tomato sauce flavored with curry, turmeric, a bit of Sriracha sauce for spice and a bit of something like sweet/bitter marmelade. The sauce contained juicy, crisp chunks of tomato, bell pepper and onion and was a delicious flavoring agent to the simpler polenta. Two pepper dusted poached eggs also appeared on top and when these were broken the yolk ran into the sauce, adding a beautifully rich protein thickness which soothed the acidity of the tomato. My favorite part of the dish, however, were the three Moroccan lamb (?) sausages thrown in there. They were absolutely packed with spicy, salty, powerful flavor, so much so that they stood up against the deep taste of the Shakshuka sauce around them. They were skinny sausages with a thin natural casing, which popped open when bitten into, and the meat inside was tender, soft but not too chewy. Some warm, fluffy pita bread was also provided on the side to soak up the extra tomato sauce. I really enjoyed this dish, not only because each individual part was very well executed (the polenta creamy and smooth almost like a savory, cheesy pudding, the tomato sauce zingy and unique, etc), but because they all went together so well both in texture and flavor.

I looked up Shaksh(o)uka and found out that it is believed to have been invented by the Ottoman Empire Turks and brought over to the Middle East and Spain, where it was flavored with cumin and served with spicy sausage. It is now most closely associated with the Tunisian, Libyan, Algerian and Moroccan cuisines and is especially popular as a wintertime breakfast. It sure hit the spot for me and I think in the near future I will even attempt to make the sauce at home. The only thing I had trouble with when having it at The Beehive was the portion, which was pretty huge and since I couldn’t leave any of it behind (delicious!) I was stuffed for hours after. But in a good way…

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