At 4:30 pm on a Thursday, just over two weeks since opening day, things were quiet at Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge, MA. The lunch rush had long passed and the staff in the kitchen, including pastry chef and co-owner Maura Kilpatrick, were busy baking, putting together mise-en-place and cleaning up, and filling the occasional order.
Sofra, owned by Kilpatrick and Chef Ana Sortun, the team behind the beloved Eastern Mediterranean-influenced Oleana, is one part commissary, one part bakery and cafe, one part retail store featuring produce from Sortun's Siena Farms. Sofra offers a large selection of mezze, including a hummus bar with a multitude of dips and spreads; sandwiches (Turkish gozleme) and flatbreads grilled on the Lebanese saj griddle that occupies a central position in the kitchen (the two domes, above, are saj griddles); and creative baked goods that reflect the marriage of Mediterranean flavors - mostly from Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece with some Egypt thrown in for good measure - with traditional American melting pot pastry.
According to the Oleana website, "[the word] Sofra comes from an ancient Arabic word meaning dining table, picnic,
or kilim; it is also a synonym for generosity and hospitality." The definition, on the menu, is a bit more specific: "a picnic on a rug; a low communal table; a small square kilim rug to eat on; a large coffee table; a special table preparation." To that end, the space and seating are comfortable, with Kilim rugs tossed over wooden benches. The tables, though lovely, are a bit low for the seating, a little awkward for a long, leisurely breakfast or lunch.
They were still figuring out how to ring up the retail products when I approached the register with Oleana's signature spice blends and some crackers.
There were a number of other packaged and farm treats at Sofra that looked great but didn't come home with me after this initial visit.
Grano - remember wheatberries?
I was, of course, completely entranced by the pastries.
I took some of the baklava home - it was buttery, rich, chocolatey and incredibly decadent.
Musician's tart, made with almonds, orange peels, pistachios and honey
I went back a few days later for breakfast. I ordered the Turkish breakfast - a soft boiled egg, figs, 'spoon fruits' - i.e. strawberry jam, warm breaded & fried feta, greek yogurt, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. It was gorgeous.
The egg was particularly lovely - it was rolled in shredded fillo dough (or a similar thin dough) and crisped to a crunchy contrast with the soft egg and softer yolk.
Though I didn't sample any of the mezze, the cold ones were conveniently stationed by the register, near the pastry. They looked great.
Before I head back to Chicago, I'll need to stop in for lunch. Tomorrow's breakfast is flatbread with zataar and brioche with spices.
Sofra Bakery & Cafe
1 Belmont St
Cambridge, MA 02138