Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Boston + Octopus + JT

To accomplish #2 on my 30 for 30 List (Go to a Justin Timberlake concert), I planned a long weekend trip to Boston with my beau. It has been seven years since I lived in Boston and almost five since my last visit. Let's just say, a lot has changed. 

We flew in Thursday morning. Though usually incredibly patient, David wasn't thrilled about being "that couple" taking in-flight selfies. So I was pleased to get his neutral face in this picture. 

We stayed at the Omni Parker Hotel, which is central to everything and right across from the Granary Burying Ground. One of the many attributes I love about this city is the access to history. Where else can you just walk in and see a historic grave like Benjamin Franklin's without a fee or pass or security? 

We walked through the Boston Commons. That's the State House in the background. It's shiny, metallic gold dome isn't very photogenic.

Next stop: Beacon Hill, specifically Charles Street. Some say Newbury Street is the best for shopping, but for me it's Charles with its quaint boutiques and local restaurants. Great consignment stores, too. 

We strolled through the Public Gardens to Back Bay. (You can see the swan boats in the background.) The weather was absolute perfection for our entire visit. We're talking 70 degree mornings and evenings with highs around 80. Needless to say, I was not eager to return to Alabama's humidity. 

After a full day of walking, shopping and therefore blisters, we ventured to the North End, or Little Italy, to take comfort in some Italian fare. This neighborhood can be extremely touristy, so finding a quality restaurant with good service and authentic food necessitates some advance research. Thanks to guidance from my friend Anne, we went to Bricco on Hanover Street. 

And, it is here that I knocked out #28 on my 30 for 30 List: Try a new food. Octopus is my new best friend. Great texture and sweetness like lobster, but a softer taste. David and I are obsessed. Here's the menu description: dry roasted with ginger and jalapeno crust, peruvian potato and string bean salad. Aka yumminess. 

After we inhaled the octopus and Amatriciana garganelli pasta (We're big eaters. Don't judge.), I had the Mallard Duck Duetto - a confit leg and seared breast, roasted yams, mango and frisee salad, sweet and sour mango soy sauce. Now, telling a southern Asian girl that she can have soy sauce, duck and yams (sweet potatoes) all on one plate...I mean...I had no choice in the matter of ordering.  

After our three-course meal, four if you count limoncello, we were in dire need of a walk. An understatement in the most extreme way. Near Faneuil Hall is the Holocaust Memorial. Very experiential and moving. This is one of David's favorite quotes. 

Before I left Boston, I worked on a statue dedication event to honor Mayor Kevin Hagan White, one of the city's longest serving mayors. He served during an incredibly turbulent time (1968-84) in Boston and was responsible for revitalizing much of downtown, including Faneuil Hall. It was only appropriate that his statue be placed here. 

Friday: more walking. They don't call it "America's Walking City" for nothing. We grabbed coffee and breakfast and walked through the Rose Kennedy Greenway down to the wharf. 

Another big change in Boston - the development of South Boston's waterfront. It was pretty much nonexistent ten years ago. Now, there's a high-rise on every block. 

Next stop: Harpoon Brewery. David and I debated if 11 am was to early to drink whilst on vacation. Then, we walked in and saw a full house. Apparently not. Eight years ago, this brewery was pretty much a one-room operation. Now, they have a beautiful bar with a gourmet pretzel station and brewery tours every hour on the hour. 

We had two samplers- a UFO sampler and a pilot brew sampler. My favorite was the grapefruit shandy, which consists of 80 percent beer and 20 percent grapefruit juice. 

This beaut is called 'Merica 'cause it's made with red, white and blue corn kernels.

We headed to my old digs in South Boston, including my first apartment. It was here that I truly learned  how to budget my money. And that was not because I had a choice. First job and first apartment demanded it!

Friday night, we joined my friend Anne and her boyfrand for drinks and dinner. To be more cultural, Anne suggested we go to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)'s Wavelengths event with Autre Ne Veut's live music. Included in the ticket price was access to the museum. So, we toured the special exhibit. Let's just say, we were all a bit too square for this exhibit. Below is one of the "pieces." Take from that what you will. 

We did, however, like the mosaic mirror items. This is what we call a contemporary selfie. 

The ICA is situated right on the waterfront. Here's the panoramic view of the harbor. 

And, a group shot....with David's eyes closed. 

Saturday breakfast at The Friendly Toast in Cambridge near MIT. Smoked salmon eggs benedict drenched in a homemade hollandaise. Sustenance for our next adventure....

...kayaking on the Charles River. Highly, highly recommend this. Great views of the city.

And, last but certainly not least, as it was one of our main reasons for the trip....Justin Timberlake concert. There are not enough exclamation points to express the excitement. 

Gettin' our pre-concert dinner on at Ward 8, a relatively new restaurant near TD Garden. Since we weren't going to a sports event, I didn't want your typical sports bar with beer and wings. So, we opted for this lovely restaurant. As soon as I walked in and saw the subway tile and wood-top tables, I knew it would be good. Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? 

Speaking of judging, how handsome does he look in this picture? White linen on a tanned gentleman. Doesn't get any better than that. 

We ordered a nice trio of appetizers - mussels, cheese steak dumplings and Asian duck wings. Then, seafood stew for entree. A great smattering of fresh seafood. Drinks, food and service were all a thumbs up.

About to go in to the concert.....

Let's just say, I screamed and danced the entire time like I was 22 16. Every video I took, there's an annoying girl screaming in the background. That's me. 

For one of his last numbers, he played his guitar and sang Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis and JT? Be still my heart. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

30 for 30 Update: Movies and Books

#9: Go to a movie alone.

Definitely not a fear-conquering feat. Just something I've never done alone and wanted to do. I chose Million Dollar Arm. Partly because I am a huge Jon Hamm fan (who isn't?) and partly because I knew it would be a feel good movie. Who wants to go to a scary or sad film alone? Scared and alone? No thank you. Crying and alone? No thank you. Good movie, but don't see any Oscar nominations on the horizon. Sorry Jon. :(

#24: Get a library card...and use it. 

Thanks to a former colleague, I have re-discovered the library. For those like me who live in Jefferson County and have not visited the library since you read The Berenstain Bears series, you will be amazed how far the library has come. Jefferson County links all 40 libraries, giving you access to tons of books, movies, etc. Best part, you can go online, reserve an item, choose your pick-up location and they'll transport the item for you. And, you can return it to any location.

Under my belt so far are two easy reads by Emily Giffin - Where We Belong and Heart of the Matter. Now reading Catcher in the Rye (Yes, I'm ashamed this is my first time.) In the queue: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner, Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman and Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

#30: Watch a documentary. 

I chose to watch Food, Inc. a 2008 documentary about the American food system. Scary stuff, my friend. Very informative.

I am anxiously awaiting the checkout of  the Muscle Shoals documentary from our lovely library system. It's in transit as we speak. Thanks for the reminder Kasi!

Friday, June 27, 2014

30 for 30

Upon realizing that 30 is the numeral after 29, I had a small anxiety attack filled with questions and self-evaluation. 

Do I look 30? (the vain part of myself)
Do I feel 30? (the physical part of myself)
Am I where I want to be in life? (the it's never enough side of myself)
Have I accomplished enough? (the overachiever)
What haven't I achieved that I thought I would? (the goal setter) 

This continued for days, weeks, months. So, I did what any normal OCD person would do. I made a list. A list of 30 things I want to do during my year of 30. A bucket list of sorts, without the dying-at-the-end part, at least I hope. I have compiled a melange of items that I hope will bring joy, accomplishment, knowledge and pure-ty fun to 30 so that I can look back on this year as a good one. 

So, here goes the ol' Listy McList:

30 FOR 30:
  1. Return to France. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been back to France since I studied abroad in 2005. This is a definite must. 
  2. Go to a Justin Timberlake concert. Item #2 is already underway….
  3. Go to a Fleetwood Mac concert. The fact that Fleetwood Mac's music is still popular is testament enough. Another must-do. 
  4. Run a 5K. I have never been an avid fan of running - I either get tired or bored with it. But, as I get older, I realize the need for a solid cardio workout. I've been working my way up to this goal already. Just have to find a race that interests me. 
  5. Run a 10K. See #4. 
  6. Sing Karaoke. Yikes. True to my ethnic stereotype, I can NOT sing. This confession is not news to my friends nor is it my attempt at modesty. I truly can NOT sing. I don't even sing in the shower as the echo of my own voice frightens me. (I do however sing in my car at the top of my lungs, especially if Dolly is on.) Over the past 10 years, I have become an escape artist in karaoke bars. Time to face my fear. 
  7. Learn my Aunt Dene's dressing recipe. My maternal grandmother passed when I was too young to care or appreciate the value of a family recipe. Not making that mistake with my Aunt Dene's recipe for dressing (Yankee friends: see stuffing). 
  8. Go slalom skiing. I grew up going slalom skiing with my dad - he started me early on skis as at age 2. I'd be willing to bet that I have been in every slough on Lake Martin. Just to prove it to myself, I want to attempt skiing the slalom course. Success is not my goal as that would be unrealistic. Just attempting. 
  9. Go to a movie alone. I enjoy my independence. I enjoy eating alone, going shopping alone, but, the thought of sitting in a movie alone. Completely different. Something I need to get over. 
  10. Ride a horse. I've already enlisted a friend's help on this one. What can I say, I'm a Southerner who's never been on a horse. 
  11. Ride a motorcycle. Again, what can I say, I'm a Southerner who's never been on a motorcycle. I've been on a Vespa in Capri, Italy. Does that count? 
  12. Indulge in a spa treatment. No explanation needed. 
  13. Cook for parents. Cooking for others is one of my favorite pleasures, especially when it means my mom and dad. 
  14. Start and finish a painting. I enlisted in a painting class a few years ago and gave it up when work became too busy. It's time to give the creative juices an outlet. 
  15. Invest in a nice piece of furniture. I'm a cheapskate, a money saver and spendthrift. I admit it. Except when it comes to food. I will order a $30 entree without thinking twice and then watch my power bill for the next three months. But, it's time to be a grown-up and start purchasing "investment pieces." Whatever that means. 
  16. Find a theme song. Inspired by Ally McBeal. 
  17. Learn how to drive a stick shift. My sweet Daddy tried his darndest to teach me how to drive a stick shift and it just didn't seem to take. Hopefully, I can lean on him again for his patience. 
  18. Re-read a classic. Give me Louisa May Alcott or Jane Austen any day. 
  19. Go hiking at Ruffner Mountain Park. A few years ago, I overcame my aversion to "hiking" when I realized it's just walking upward. 
  20. Bake a pie from scratch. Cooking - I adore. Baking stresses me out. One would think that the accuracy and measurements would appeal to my OCD, but it only adds pressure to get it right. There's just something uber-Southern and all-American about a pie. 
  21. Watch a classic movie. Sometimes I wonder if I was born too late. Old, classic movies are my go-to thrills. Taking suggestions for ones to watch. 
  22. Develop a routine to go to bed by 10 p.m. This night owl must change her ways. 
  23. Develop a morning ritual. See #23. Waking up early is torture. But, when I do, I always enjoy my mornings. Making coffee, curling up on the sofa in my PJs with my friends Savannah and Matt.  
  24. Get a library card…and use it. Embarrassing that I'm a cheapskate and not taking advantage of this luxury. 
  25. Move. I've been in the same apartment for far longer than I imagined. It was a temporary thing where a month turned into a year turned into another year. Time to move. 
  26. Experience a sunrise. No explanation needed. 
  27. Go camping. Eek. I put it on here to force myself to do it. 
  28. Try a new food. Love, love, love food. Love eating food, talking about food, shopping for food, planting food, growing food, harvesting food, watching other people eat food, cooking food. I LOVE FOOD. 
  29. Catch a fish and clean it. #29 grosses me out, but I feel that as a foodie, this is something I need to overcome. I want to be closer to my food sources. 
  30. Watch a documentary. Learning and entertainment mixed together. Yes, please. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2nd Annual Thomas Poker Run

After the overwhelming success of last year's inaugural Thomas Poker Run, we all requested a repeat. Same set-up of cruising the lake, stopping to draw cards and a whole lotta water guns and water balloons. You'd be surprised how much 30 year olds enjoy childish games.

The weekend kicked off with emcee David on the mic. He officiated the weekend.

And Mr. Clayton cooked a breakfast so we had sustenance for the day's activities. 

The 2nd Annual Thomas Poker Run participants. 

 Many thanks to Mr. Derryl for being a superior boat captain and dealing with us the entire day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Florida Foodie Tour

Well, Mom and I didn't come home with a carload of bargains or good deals. But...we did return with full stomachs. From the time we set foot in Florida until the time we reached home, we savored and enjoyed ah-may-zing food. I wanted to share some of the highlights!

Wild Olive in Crestview - Crestview is always our first stop for thrift stores and antique malls. In the past, we haven't deemed it a culinary destination. However, Mom recently read about Wild Olive. It had a small menu - usually a sign of good food. There was a lovely outside deck where you could enjoy dining alfresco and enjoy the aroma of jasmine.

I ordered this pasta dish and loved it. The pasta was al dente (a rare occurrence in restaurants), the sauce was creamy and hey, how can you go wrong with spinach, bacon and tomatoes? 

Old Bay Steamer in Fort Walton Beach - Upon arriving at the beach, we were craving seafood. Duh. So, we ventured to Fort Walton Beach to Old Bay Steamer. I had read decent online reviews, describing it as your basic seafood place. The reviews were right. This was a nice restaurant with no-frills, steamed seafood. Mom and I both ordered the Lobster Dinner with two lobster tails. They were cooked perfectly. What is it about eating with a bucket on the table that feels so good?

Vin'tij Wine Boutique and Bistro in Destin - Located right across from the outlet malls, this restaurant is located in a small strip mall. From the exterior, you would never guess the quality of food or wine here. Their signature lunch dish is the Fried Oyster BLT with Brie and it is their signature for a reason. Oh. Em. Gee. It was every bit as mouth-watering as it looks in this image. My other favorite dish is the fried oyster appetizer with pickled onions.

San Gelato Cafe in Sandestin - so many flavors to choose from. I tasted so many and debated and tasted and debated and tasted. I finally settled on Salted Caramel. Perfect combination of sweet and savory.


Stinky's Fish Camp in Santa Rosa Beach - We have gone to Stinky's for the past few years. This is one of our favorites along 30A. Typically, we order some of their signature oysters and shrimp po' boys. This time, we ventured off the beaten path and tried their ceviche. Our risk was rewarded. It was so fresh with lime, shrimp and fish. I could easily have made a meal of this.

Cuvee Bistro in Destin -  Again, one of our ol' faithful restaurants. A trip would be remiss without a visit here. We like to arrive early and sit in their lively bar area where you can order a selection of their appetizers at half price. We like to order a melange of appetizers and share with cocktails. You seriously cannot beat this.

Beachwalk Cafe, Henderson Park Inn in Destin - Mom loves to Google, and in one of her random Googling sessions, she came across the Henderson Park Inn. We tried to get reservations at the Beachwalk Cafe earlier in the week, but were unsuccessful. Luckily they had openings on Friday evening. YOU. MUST. EAT. HERE.

I went with our server's recommendations for all three courses. And, there's something to be said for that. Each course was better than the last. To start I had the Portabella Mushroom, grilled with sauteed spinach, goat cheese, applewood bacon and veal glace. If you're mouth isn't watering right now, it should be. 

Next, I ventured to New Zealand with the New Zealand Venison, a skillet roasted filet with sweet potato gratin, red wine basil and tomato reduction and tobacco onions.

To finish, I had their classic Key Lime Pie. It was tart, light and smooth.

Green Papaya in Montgomery, Alabama -  After seeing an image on a friend's Instagram feed, I wanted to end our trip home by stopping here. Mom doesn't particularly care for Thai food, but we both enjoyed our meal. That speaks for itself I think. And the fact that it has a 91% rating on Urbanspoon.