By : Fellow Glutton
8 min read
You’re walking along Somerville Avenue—siloed on the sidewalk by the cyclists and cars and their cymbals—and a sniff of sugar snags you by the collar. Candied dates, rose-honey glazes, cinnamon and syrup… You see her: Yafa Bakery. Nestled in between Union and Porter Square, Yafa is like the cream in the center of a crisp kunafeh.
Serving up sweet breads, sweets, and delicacies for all the senses, Yafa Bakery transcends distance and delivers taste to Somerville. Owner Abdulla Awad opened the bakery last summer, naming it after a city on the far outskirts of Jerusalem. The taste profile herds inspiration from a range of overseas countries, like Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, France, and Italy—yet Awad describes the theme as Mediterranean. The offerings are of a jeweled museum, or decadent wedding: chocolate filled-dates, million-layered pastries, and rose-garnished cookies. As for the savory, there are hoops of hot Jerusalem bread and steaming safayeh that rest in the corner of the eye as you approach the register.
And it is the hospitality that is the honey on the cake. After working in food service, I became a quick customer, meaning that I try to make my transactions succinct. As I rattled off my order, Awad politely interrupted me, saying “I want you to try this one first.” Alarming, yet entirely disarming. He walked me through each choice, explaining its flavor composition and craft, even steering me to options that he thought I would like better. And after sampling several of Awad’s specialties, I settled on two sweets, a bread doused in zaatar, and a hot chai. I felt special, like a guest in someone’s home.
The Glutton Reports: What a wonder. The mosaic table-tops rays reflecting light-blue onto the walls, the red-orange oil atop the hummus accompanying my flatbread. Yafa, in Hebrew and Aramaic, means “beauty.” It seems that every creative decision in the bakery paid a special attention to the cultivation and care of beauty. Delicate flakes of rose petals on the crispy-like-a-bird’s-nest kunafeh cream, the subtle chew of finely-chopped nuts on the almondo, the three different types of pistachio balloriya… It was like I was on the second day of a week-long vacation overseas, stumbling into a local cafe after walking up and down several cathedrals. Like I was in love with the world. I departed with sugar still stuck in my teeth, and the deep aromas of chai clinging to my hair.
Yafa Bakery has perfected the art of the treat, whether in the form of orange-blossom syrup, gestures that stray past the ordinary, the tiny detail that elicits new feelings. Reader, there was a little statue in the shop window—a brown-glazed horse sitting cross-legged and hanging his hooves over the display. He held a biscuit in his lap. He sported a small smile. Is it strange to say that I felt like that horse? Life can be this whimsical.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #162 October 2023
Check out all the art and columns of October's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass