By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
Somerville municipal government tries hard to be a model for best practices and cost-effective innovation. We also try to engage our residents in a constant and productive dialogue about what they expect from their government and how they feel about they’re receiving in the way of programs and services.
But even if that weren’t so, Somerville would still be a creative, effervescent, innovative, dynamic and exciting place. Somerville rocks, and that’s entirely due to the amazing people, businesses, institutions and cultural traditions woven into the fabric of our community.
And Somerville isn’t the well-kept secret it once was: The word is out on us and that word is pretty positive. In its December 16 “Best of the New: Food” compendium of best dining and drinking spots in the metro Boston area, the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine cited 59 successful new businesses. (They had special categories for coffee, pizza, Mediterranean, and Ramen – as well as a catchall category they called “singular standouts.”) Eleven of their rave reviews were for Somerville businesses. That’s a very healthy 17 percent of a list for the entire metropolitan region.
The Somerville Eleven were (in alphabetical order): Amsterdam Falafel; backbar; Casa B; Dowee & Rice; Dhosa Temple; IYO Café ; M3; M.F. Dulock Pasture-Raised Meats; The Painted Burro; Q’s Nuts and Other Cravings; and Saloon. Congratulations one and all – and congratulations to the foodies who will waste no time in flocking to your establishments and all of the other spectacular eateries, specialty shops and watering holes that make Somerville a major cuisine capital.
In fact, our reputation for the finest in food is now spreading far beyond our region. In a piece that appeared in last Sunday’s Washington Post Travel Section, correspondent Robin Soslow writes that there’s “A crafts explosion in Somerville, Mass.”
Ms. Soslow isn’t shy about reporting how much fun she had during her visit – and celebrating the range of activities and venues she sampled while she was here. “It’s easy to walk this four-square-mile city,” Soslow notes. “At Prospect Hill, steps up a turreted building nicknamed ‘the Castle’ lead to a panoramic view. Parks pulse with free events, bars hold ‘best mustache’ and other creative contests, and street sightings include accordion flash mobs, marching band parades and the ‘SCUL’ bicycle gang night-riding on illuminated hand-built contraptions.”
And, like the Globe Magazine, Soslow is enthusiastic about the food. “Somerville brims with sensational small bites,” she tells her Post readership, citing, “cider doughnuts (which sell out fast) and handcrafted foods at Saturdays at the Armory, True Bistro’s sumptuous vegetable dishes, Journeyman’s adventurous flavor and texture pairings” and the “Independent’s neo-tavern cuisine [including] tangy peppers stuffed with avocado mousse and jicama salsa.” Oh, and she likes the locally brewed Pretty Things beer, too.
Soslow makes it clear that her true passion is for chocolate, and that it’s our own Taza Chocolate that brought her to Somerville, but she seems to have appreciated almost everything else she saw. From Artisan’s Asylum to the Somerville Theatre, from the Precinct to P.A.’s Lounge and from Third Life Studio to Theatre@First, she enthusiastically approves our music and culture scene.
She made me want to plan a trip of my own to Somerville, and I already live here.
My final press clip comes from overseas: In an article entitled “Somerville: the city where policies are based on how happy they make people,” Guardian Online correspondent Sadhbh (pronounced “Syve” as in “five”) Walshe describes the way the city has been using data to determine how to allocate resources, including data from last year’s happiness survey, from 311 and from ResiStat feedback. Walshe notes that data collection has made Somerville more efficient and responsive, and she concludes with a little preview of what we’ll be up to next year:
“It has now been almost two years since the first happiness survey was conducted and the city is gearing up for the next one, which will be distributed in spring. [Somerstat Director Daniel] Hadley and his team are already working on a new set of questions using the results from the 2011 survey as a baseline. Their hope is that other municipalities will follow their lead and start measuring happiness so there will be a data set to compare it to. ‘The happiness conversation is only getting started,’ says Curtatone. If he has his way, Somerville will be a leading voice in it.”
It’s fascinating and fun to see Somerville through the fresh eyes of new visitors. We’ve all been working hard in recent years to make our city a great place to (you guessed it) live, work and play. It’s a treat when people beyond our borders – sometimes way beyond – take notice.