Archive | January, 2012

My Grandfather’s Chicken Farm (A story passed down for the next generation)

31 Jan

Last night, after I had already informed you all about the Irish Green Pants, my father had a sudden urge to talk to me.

Now, generally, I do not enjoy the conversations that pass between my father and I. Too often they tend to lead to unpleasant conversation; usually directed at my lack of a steady job, my inability to drive or some other shortcoming that he decides to pick at that day. Mind you,I don’t hate my father. But sometimes, I can’t stand him. (Isn’t that just human though?)Anyway, keeping this in mind, I wasn’t too thrilled to suddenly have him full of energy and ready to chat. Luckily, last night would be different.

My mother crunched absently on popcorn at the kitchen table, mainly keeping my father company as he ate his dinner. Dad works late on most nights, and isn’t usually around to have dinner with the rest of the family. I could hear them talking about their day from my room down the hall–and being forever unable to control my curiosity–I wandered out to join them.

I suppose they really didn’t expect me, because I interrupted a conversation they appeared to having about weight loss and gain, and what effects each scenario tends to have on my mother’s breasts. My father’s head swiveled around as I entered, and between bites of chicken he asked,

“Does losing weight effect your boobs like it does your mother’s? You know, losing them?”

These sorts of comments tend to be more normal coming out of my father’s mouth as he and I get older. But they don’t make me cringe any less.

“No, not really.” I answered mildly.

This then branched out into a long conversation about my mother’s breasts when she was pregnant, versus when she wasn’t. My mother adding to me that she had never really had a behind or boobs to begin with, and that she was jealous of mine.

I could see, as I bet you can as well, where this conversation was going to keep going. I considered leaving the room again, but before I could, my father pipped up jokingly about getting a well endowed female roommate–to which my mother quipped that she hadn’t approved. They shared a laugh at my look of horror.

“Dirty old man.” I finally managed to stammer at my father. At this point, he had finished his meal and was cleaning his hands in the sink. He chuckled in his raspy way, his glasses glinting in the low kitchen light. Something devious was about to happen.

“Speaking of dirty old man,” my father started, “I have a story to tell you.”

“Oh no,” I groaned, “Should I get the cheese grater to scrap my brain clean afterwards?”

“Nahh,” he replied with a sniffle, rifling his dish into the dishwasher. My mother continued to crunch her popcorn, one leg tucked under her as she sat at the table. “This is a funny story.” He confirmed, then paused. “Well, if you can look at it as just a story, and not as someone you know and love.”

Had my father just put a disclaimer on his story? He didn’t wait for me to agree, but plowed on.

“It’s a story about your grandfather. Something you’re going to want to tell to your kids, if you have them, or nieces and nephews. Something that will need to be passed down.” He said, trying to impress the importance of it on me before he told it.

I nodded, giving in. His heavy shoes clomped across the wood floors, the chair groaned softly as he sat back at the table again. I leaned against the counter tops–just in case I might need to make a quick escape.

“When you were little,” my father said,

“Are you sure it was her?” My mother interjected curiously. “Could it have been her cousins?”

“No, it was her.” My father confirmed. “When you were little, your grandfather took you out for a drive. He liked taking you kids places with him. And when you got back, you got out of the truck and came over.” My dad paused, smiling at the memory. “I said, ‘Did you have fun with Grampa?’ And you shook your head and told me yes, but looked a little puzzled.”

My father mimed talking to a smaller me, and I tried to imagine him younger, tried to imagine what he had looked like when he spoke to me then, “What’s wrong? I asked you. And you said, ‘Grampa is going to open a chicken farm.” My father crinkled his face in confusion to replay the event for my mother and I. My mother said rapt, listening and remembering. “So I looked to my father, and my father just,” Dad shrugged his shoulders, playing at being my grandfather here, “So I asked you to explain.”

A younger me looked at my father and told this story: my grandfather was driving along the road, looking all around. When I asked him what he was looking at he told me he was looking for chickens.

My father went on to tell me that later, my grandfather took him aside and told him what the real story was. The real story–my grandfather has wandering eyes. He has a ‘type’ as my father put it–particularly, young women. And on this drive he was apparently staring at women’s behinds as we drove along. Being small and curious, I spotted him looking all around, but wasn’t sure what he was looking at. When I asked him what he was doing,my grandfather; embarrassed to be caught gawking by his granddaughter and knowing he couldn’t admit to his dirty deed, told me he was looking for chickens. In my mind, this gives “spring chickens” a whole new meaning. I apparently spent the rest of the ride looking for these imaginary fowl. Off and on my Grandfather would point and shout–“Look! Did you see that chicken?” And in my innocence I would reply, “No! All I saw were those people!”

 

 

Advertisements

My Goal and My Bane–Irish Green Pants (You are Beautiful)

30 Jan

As a woman (Or perhaps as anyone with this problem) I find there is nothing more disappointing in life than taking out a pair of old jeans or pants and finding that you are unable to put them on. Worse if you can’t even pull them past your theigh.For a while, I too faced this seemingly cruel problem of Jeans-fighting. The terror of finding a new crinkle in your skin, or  some flab around your lower back that looks like handles, but you do not Love as some maniac inaptly named them. The breaking point was ultimately when my doctor told me that I could either lose weight–or get Diabetes. As I love cake and all that is sugary (which is part of my whole problem) I decided it was time.

Lately, I’ve been sucked into the whole dieting fad that is Weight Watchers–and find myself 15 pounds thinner but still unable to fit into that one particular pair of pants. For me–the pants are Italian. Two (or was it three?) years ago, I spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. It was the best six months of my life and I would never do it over. Though–I would take back drinking from the water fountains in Rome as it ultimately led to my contracting Mono while I was there on my 21st birthday. (Seriously, am I the only one who can appreciate the irony of that?) They are soft, stretchy (but clearly not stretchy enough) torn in the knees as is fashionable now, and bright Irish green.They are both beautiful and bizarre, my goal and the bane of my waistline’s existence.

My Goal and the Bane of my existance

These are the dreaded Irish Green Pants..My Beauties and my Bane..

Now mind you, I am small to begin with. And having lost 15 (probably more) pounds since Thanksgiving is nothing to sneeze at. But these pants–taunt me.  I have gone from a size 10 to a size 4 in such a little amount of time–that it feel somewhat mind-boggling. Yet still the Pants do not fit. They are Italian pants in every way–small and somewhat catty. I still cannot get them past my knee.

I never thought of myself as having been heavy–nor do I think I was really–but these pants sometimes take me to a dark place in my mind where the overly weight obsessive female in me screams in agony at the sight of them. Yet, when I was size 8 or 10–I never felt fat. I still insist that I never was. I suppose that is in part thanks to my ever supportive boyfriend. A day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t surprise me with new ways to express how beautiful he thinks I am. Him along with my own (probably overly inflated) sense of self-worth has always made me feel that I was a beautiful person, no matter my size or shape. He is by far the more beautiful one in our relationship, inside and out.  This I put to you too, Reader, whoever you are. Always remember that you are beautiful–no matter how you look. Had it not been for the possibility of a cookie and cakeless existence, I would still be happily and pleasantly plumper.

Now, I battle the Green Pants with some vague but constant desire for things that cost far too many weight watchers points.

 

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood Review–and some Potty Talk

24 Jan

So as promised, I have finished the second book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling pants series. (I’m a little late on this particular series but better late than never I guess.) I was pleasantly surprised by this novel as I felt the story improved for book two from book one. Book one was shallow and predictable–but not the Second Summer. For anyone who has yet to read this book–spoilers alert. I’ll probably divulge way too much.

Again, the readers join their four familiar leading ladies: Tibby, Bridget, Carmen and Lena. A little older now, the girls again find themselves facing daily life troubles and trying to keep their bonds strong at the same time. However, this novel is quick to reveal that book two will deal less with the Sisterhood’s interactions, and more with their mothers and how they interact with them.

Carmen once more finds herself jealous of a parent’s relationship–this time her mother’s and her mother’s new boyfriend, David. Just as in book one, Carmen doesn’t handle not being the center of attention well and ultimately ends up ruining her mother’s relationship. This time, Carmen actually owns up to her feelings and makes amends by playing cupid for them. In many ways, I was disappointed with Carmen’s stagnant characterization. Well, I suppose not completely stagnant–but she didn’t seem to learn much after the last novel’s misadventure with her father and it took her this whole book to finally understand herself enough to understand that she doesn’t always have to be the center of the universe.

Bridget, on the other hand is an almost over-the-top change of character. Since our last visit with the girls, the reader quickly learns that Bridget is facing some sort of depression, and has given herself a hideous makeover that includes dying her hair and gaining weight. After discovering a stash of unopened letters addressed to her and her twin brother, Perry from their grandmother in her father’s possession, Bee decides to head off to visit her in Alabama. Rather than just drop in and announce who she is to her grandmother, Greta, Bee instead takes on a different name and  starts working as an errand girl for her. I thought to myself–why the hell would anyone do that? That’s not only bizarre, but downright crazy. But Bee is nice enough to evaluate herself for us as the story plows forward and lets us know that she only wanted to learn about her deceased mother, Marly, and her  grandmother, from a close distance. Yeah–thanks, Bee. That makes total sense. By the way–I’m worried mental disorders run in your family. Bridget eventually re-transforms into the familiar character we met in book one but seems to have a new sense of responsibility and stability by the end of her odd adventure.

Lena, we are told, has broken it off with her Greek lover, Kostos, and is essentially the Bella Swan of this whole novel. All she does is mope, and cry and whine and essentially hate herself when she isn’t fawning over him. Lena’s own story this whole novel was ups and downs. She’s with Kostos again who comes to see her in Washington and finds herself entombed in love, then she’s dropped like a bad habit when Kostos abandons her and  mysteriously returns to Greece. You find out later why and I won’t spoil it–but Lena’s whole character isn’t really enjoyable throughout the whole book. You just feel bad for her. Top all of this relationship drama with a dead Bapi and a secret lover that Lena discovered her mother  used to have and she’s just downright depressing.

Last but not least is Tibby. As in book one, Tibby is the goth-emo kid who you want to slap sometimes. This summer she’s off to college–or rather, a college film camp. She is a rather consistent character, in that she likes to push her feelings under and pretend they’re not there. Clearly in denial after Bailey’s death in book one, Tibby takes out her grief on people around her. Mainly, Tibby takes out her frustrations on her mother, who we learn Tibby feels rejected and pushed aside by. Ultimately, it takes Bailey to bring Tibby back to herself. Even in death the little girl seems to open up something in Tibby and she is able to make amends with her mother and Brian who both had been hurt in her path of destruction.

Though I probably come off as sounding cynical of this story–I ultimately enjoyed it.  Again, these girls are relate-able and you can’t help but be able to identify with one of them at one point or another in the story. True, it’s just a bunch of T.V style drama but a little bit of the overly dramatic and juicy gossip does a girl good. Each girl in her own way discovers something important about her relationship with her mother and through this discovery, understands something a bit more about themselves.

As for the movie–which I had the misfortune of seeing–I have no idea what happened there. All I can think is that perhaps the second movie combines the second and third novel in this series because there was so much in the movie that just absolutely was not in the book. I will have to read the third book and let you know.

 

Also folks–I have a complaint. Please let me know if this happens to you too. I work in an office with grown adults. People at least 18 years or older. Why is it then that when I go to use the ladies room in my office–I often find myself cleaning up after people? I mean, honestly, how difficult is it to flush? Or better yet–why do grown adults feel the need to pick their nose and wipe their boogers on the stall walls? There are tissues right there!! Yuck. Seriously, it urks me to no end. I don’t generally have a fear of public restrooms–but I do fear what I might find opening the stall when nature is urgently calling.

 

 

Dinner and a Who-vie

21 Jan

Work this week was filled with the usual monotony and the occasional marijuana-filled rants of Rainbow Dash in his cubicle behind me. After a trip to Jamaica on his honey moon several years ago, he and his wife have been returning there every year. As someone who never spent time killing my brain cells that way–it can get a little uncomfortable. Yet somehow, it always manages to make me laugh. I mean, he’s old enough to be my father and still talks about his involvement in two separate rock bands, and having the munchies. He’s the king in his own mind. Good for him–I suppose I can’t help but admire that sort of self confidence. (Though not necessarily the way in which he earns it. haha)

 

I had intended to write yesterday, but it turned out to be a much more adventure packed evening than I had origionally anticipated. My boyfriend and I had already planned yesterday to be a outing for the two of us, and then we were both invited to a group of old friend’s house in Ashmont. There are three of them living there together and it seems like a fairly nice place. Nicely sized, clean and open. It is a place packed with possibilities. It makes me jealous in some ways. Anyway, we could only stay for about an hour as we didn’t want to miss the show we planned to see that night. We played Pictionary, chatted and caught up, and agreed to meet again next weekend before trekking back to the train.

The plan we had laid out for last night had included a trip to a place called Charlie’s Kitchen in Cambridge; but the thing about plans is–they never really go off as they were supposed to. Due to bitterly cold weather, and a general lack of knowledge of the Harvard Square area, we ended up eating in your standard Bertucchi’s instead. As this is a chain restaurant, and all of them are exactly the same–I didn’t find my inspiration in their food. (Although, I must admit their Chocolate Budino, was heavenly. A creamy, rich chocolate mousse in a tiny v-shaped cup. ) Though I was disappointed that we didn’t reach the restaurant I had hoped for–I was not disappointed for long.

The key to our evening last night, and the highlight, ended up being what I thought I would enjoy the least. My boyfriend has been a huge fan of a British Television show called, Dr Who, ever since he was small. As of recently, this show has become increasingly popular here in America among children and adults of all ages. I personally, am not very into the show. The premise: A man from outerspace (a humanoid alien called a TimeLord) traveling with a companion (usually a human woman, or I am told a useless robotic dog) in a spaceship that is called the Tardis. The Tardis looks like a british policebox on the outside, but the inside is apparently in a different dimension (just go with it) and is easily the size of a house. This police box apparently can hop through time with the alien or as he calls himself,
“The Doctor”, where he fixes or sometimes messes with time and ultimately saves the day.  And oh yes, the most important part–if The Doctor finds himself in trouble and dies–he doesn’t actually die. Instead something that is known as “regeneration” occurs, in which The Doctor becomes a completely different person.

 

Last night, as he and I stood in the cold outside of the Brattle theater, I was made distinctly aware of the extent of the love Dr Who fans have for the series. Shivering and chatting excitably, clumps of adults and kids alike bore various signs of the love for the show. I saw kids in red Fez hats and bow ties(who mimics the 11th Doctor. I couldn’t believe there had been that many!), a woman in a long coat, a tie, men’s pants and converse sneakers (Who I am told resembles the 10th Doctor. ) and multiple people bearing the same ultra long, multi-colored scarf of the 4th Doctor. The reason they were all braving the cold dark night in January? Dr Who. I am told that yesterday was the birthday of the actor who played the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. (Which ultimately explained why the theater aired three of his old episodes last night.)

The Brattle Theater is located n 40 Brattle Street in Cambridge. If you aren’t looking for it–you probably won’t find it. Attached to Brattle Hall and a restaurant called Casablanca; The Brattle Theater is tiny and a line full of Who Fans stretched from the crowded lobby all the way to the steps that lead you down to the entrance past Brattle Hall. According to their website, the Brattle theater is also, fairly old. Origionally bought by the CSU in 1889 for a free reading room and other social activities, the Brattle Theater didn’t become a movie theater until 1953. For years it housed drama clubs, speakers and stage performances and has a rich cultural history behind it. Even before reading up on the history, you feel very much aware of it upon entering.

The lobby of the Brattle Theater is as I had said, tiny; not being much larger than your standard walk in closet these days.You pay for your tickets the same way people in the 50’s would have–outside of the theater. (And only $7 a person!)  Upon entering to your left you are greeting by the staff and the smell of freshly popped popcorn. Not only does the Brattle boast its own freshly popped non-greasy popcorn, but also the ability to sell alcohol to its patrons. (Which I felt was an added bonus.) To the left are the stairs which lead you up and around the corner to the seating. The stairs are narrow and carpeted, and upon reaching the top, a staff member is waiting to tear your ticket stub and welcome you. I did not expect to be in an old playhouse upon arrival. It is dusty and painted a drab grey-blue color that I don’t have a particular name for. Old stage lights hang coated with a layer of grime from years of disuse, but still point to the small, high ceiling stage in the front and center of the room. Where the lobby lacked space–the theater did not. The room is wide (though not necessarily up to par of todays’ standards for a playhouse) with metal and fabric, standard movie theater seats in three sections across the floor. Above, there is more, similar seating on the balcony. (Which the younger patrons immediately claimed and began unwinding their long Doctor scarves to touch the patrons below.) The floors show proof of having once been beautiful, a sheen of polished wood glows from the less traveled parts of the floor, but is muddy and scuffed beyond repair where past visitors have over and over again trod their feet.  The stage itself is set back, and now boasts a projector screen, rather than what we are used to in a movie theater, that makes no attempt to fill the entire stage space. The arch around the stage is painted with a bold clean-looking stripe of red that seems oddly new and out of place among the somewhat unloved-looking walls. To the left of the stage, a large 50’s diner style clock, lit softly in neon purple from within shows the time. The effect of the theater all together might have some cringing and displeased–but not me. This theater charmed me with its quiet stoic pride of age, and its old-fashioned arrangement. There is a certain sense of stubbornness that the building gives off that I appreciate. A building that withstood multiple owners and re-purposing along with time, it is the sort of place I wish we had more of.Even the bathrooms made me smile. Instead of wallpaper, the walls are layered with old movie posters which have peeled off in some places, adding to the charm. (The restrooms by the way, are inside the theater  to the far right, rather than  in the lobby. Which was a relief after not finding them downstairs.)

I must warn you though–the Brattle Theater is not for just any movie lover. Do not go to the Brattle theater expecting any newer movies to be showing, because they only show old movies. That’s right–old–just like the building. (Hence the cheaper prices) The Brattle shows old movies, foreign films and even helps local students premier their films. If you’re looking for a very Vintage night out in Cambridge, head to the Brattle Theater and maybe catch a classic creature double feature for only $12 a person. Personally, I am considering returning to the Brattle Theater again soon. According to their film schedule, The Princess Bride airs next month, along with a classic Bugs Bunny Cartoon marathon.  Not only is it cheap and pleasant, but any money paid to this place helps to keep it running as they are a non-profit organization.

Help support the Brattle Theater by checking out their old flicks! And check out their website to find out what they’ll be playing next.

http://brattlefilm.org/

 

Another Delicious Review: Nubar and The Kinsale

16 Jan

Today I find myself inflicted once more–this time with a head cold of some sort. It’s pretty angry. I’ve only had it for about a day and a half, and already my nose hurts from blowing it and I’m tired of sneezing. Something about working in an office feels equivalent to working in a day care sometimes. (No, I don’t have to change any diapers..thank god…) If one of us gets sick–all of us get sick due to the close proximity in which we work together. That–plus the recycled air we all breath for 8 plus hours a day.

Anyway, as my last restaurant  reviews seemed to go over so well–I decided to rally up a few more for anyone wanting more delicious reading material. My boyfriend reminded me of one particularly unpleasant time we had in October last year at a place called Nubar, and I thought to myself–the people must know of this travesty. I suppose my first red flag should have been that such a ritzy-looking restaurant had a Groupon deal. (Though–this is not always true! I’ve found some great deals on Groupon when it comes to dining for less!)  In this case, it happened to be a terrible foreshadowing.

Looking for something different to do on date night brought me to find Nubar, which is tucked inside the Sheraton Commander Hotel on 16 Gardner Street in Cambridge. I had no clue that this was the case when I booked the reservation, and ultimately after stepping off at Harvard station, my boyfriend and I were immediately lost. Pulling  for the kindness and knowledge of the restaurant’s staff, I phoned them from my cell in hopes of being directed. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. The hostess who picked up seemed pleasant enough, but was entirely clueless when it came to helping us find where she worked. Ultimately, her lame attempts to direct us got us more lost and frustrated than we had been before calling and as she was of no help I hung up. Luckily, my boyfriend happened to plug in the directions to his Iphone and managed to steer us back onto the right course. (For once–I celebrated his addiction to overly priced electronics.) Flustered, cold and hungry we finally arrived at our destination.

Upon entering Nubar you are greeted with a very chic, very pricey looking establishment. Warm yet calming colors adorn the walls, lit softly by dimmed IKEA-esq rounded lights that hang down from the ceiling at even intervals.Though the space is small; it is nicely broken up to make the most of the space.  When you enter you can see the bar to your left: the shelves behind the bartender are lined with clear or opaque bottles which are lit from behind.Plush-looking chairs line the bar, awaiting eager customers. Seating varied from table to table; couches, straight-backed chairs and rounded (almost reminiscent of my office chair) seating all in beige are scattered throughout the room but somehow manage to look nice rather than eclectic. The only problem with this set up I found is that when people begin to pile up at the bar–the space becomes stiflingly loud. I was no farther than an arm’s length from my date, yet we found ourselves shouting at each other to be heard, before giving up on talking completely. However, prior to the late night rush–the space is calm and relaxing and we enjoyed talking and sipping our drinks before the meal came. If after you read this little review you still decide to venture here–I recommend you arrive long before the dinner rush to best enjoy your time. Our waiter took his time arriving to our table to take our order, and once our orders were taken–we barely saw him. Had the restaurant been bustling, I might have understood his being so noticeably absent–but I was acutely aware of  several vacant tables around us and only a fair-sized drinking crowd at the bar. There was a point in our meal when dessert arrived and while placing the plate on the table, my fork fell to the floor. He hurried away so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to ask for a new one. My boyfriend, being the gentleman he is, gave me his fork and ingeniously used his knife to eat and share our dessert. Eventually, the waiter did come back with a clean fork–but it was too little too late.

By this time, we had been ignored by him as he scurried away to do–whatever it was he was doing–multiple times and we were both irritated by it. The food was decent and pretty on the plate–but generally forgettable. And more importantly, the food was definitely not worth the bill we were presented with in the end. Especially not with the gratuity that they INCLUDED in the bill. After the terrible service we received, the gratuity they included was outrageously high. Now, I’m no stingy tipper if I’m given half-decent service. But If I get cruddy service–I want the opportunity to express my dissatisfaction. Not only that–but even after calling and informing them ahead of time that I had a Groupon there was a whole to-do when we presented them with it. They treated us as if we were criminals of some sort as they scurried around with the slip of paper I had printed as if it were venomous. It took about half an hour for them to finally present the remainder of the bill to us. I wouldn’t recommend Nubar to anyone who is hoping for a memorable meal or attentive service. Overpriced and under-helpful, this place is probably more for people looking for a drink or two in a chic environment than a fancy night out for two.

If it’s a good meal for a fair price you’re looking for–I’d like to end off on a positive note and recommend  The Kinsale. This Irish pub and restaurant is a top choice for my friends and it and has been for a few years now. Just across the street from  the Government Center t stop, the Kinsale is a classic example of a comfortable Irish pub. Upon entering you are greeted by the hostesses and the bar which takes up the center of the room. The bar is a circle of dark wood, and false-marble pillars that surround the bartender as he bustles the usually sports-loving crowd. Televisions hang from the ceiling around the bar. The walls are intricately decorated with large brightly colored murals depicting what I’ve always imagined to be Gaelic folk tales, and around the bar area are tables made to look like they’re barrels surrounded by stools for when the bar top gets too full. The hostess escorts you to the left around bench seat tables, which are surrounded by polished wood and rough-looking stone in a way that is both charming and interesting to look at.

Once in the back,  you will notice the high ceilings with polished wooden planks  and more brightly-colored murals. This room is filled with high backed, green-cushioned benches, polished dark-wood tables, and stained glass windows. Rarely do I face any inattentiveness from the waitstaff here, in fact they tend to be very personable and eager to help when asked. Often I end up choosing meals based on what the waiter or waitress has convinced me is their favorite on the menu, and I have yet to get a drink there that I didn’t enjoy. Meals here are generally comforting and heavy. This is not a place for the food-fearful. Stews, meat-pies and bangers and mash are just a few of the leading roles on this menu. This place is also especially Silliac friendly and the staff tend to be fairly knowledgable about items on the menu that are best for people who can’t eat Gluten. Kinsale is the sort of place where you never feel rushed through your meal; the perfect place to take your time to relax and enjoy the meal while listening to (of course) Irish folk music in the back round along with the lilt and laughter of the other patrons. The Kinsale is perfect for casual nights out with friends, even large groups or a comfortable night out with that special someone. It helps that the prices are within reason–even affordable for the hungry college-goer.

As the last entry, if you want to check these places out for yourself you can find their websites below. Please send me ideas for new dining places–I’m always eager for a good meal. Happy snacking!

http://nubarcambridge.com/

http://www.classicirish.com/kinsale-home.php

Learning the Hard Way and To Eat or Not to Eat in Downtown Boston

15 Jan

This post was going to be completely positive–I had it all set in my mind to be pleasant and non-whiny and fun until I discovered that I overdrew on my bank account paying off my loans last week and I am now negative 105 in my account. Now, I’m in an awful mood about it. Mostly upset with myself for not following my own banking rule: one loan a week. I was trying to be sneaky and get them all out of the way at once with some extra Christmas money that I had managed to squirrel away. As you can see–that did not go over well at all. Another lesson learned the hard way.

 

Now that that self-loathing is out of the way, let’s get on with what I actually wanted to share today: food.

My extremely supportive boyfriend has often made the suggestion to me to write about food. It’s always been one of my passions along with eating and cooking– which all essentially boils down to food. I sort of dismissed him originally, because frankly: we don’t get out a lot. As such, we often get into a restaurant rut and wind up going off to places that we’ve been to at least a dozen times before because we know the food isn’t going to disappoint us. This weekend has been different, however, so now I find myself with actual information to share with the rest of the food-loving universe. (If they feel like taking a simple pony-crazed foodie’s advice that is.)

I’m from the Boston area (generally speaking more toward the suburbs in the south.) and my boyfriend lives in the East Boston area. As such, we usually end up around the downtown Boston area, trying to find someplace not too far away from our favorite movie theater on the Commons. Our favorite place as of late or as we like to reefer to it, “The place”, so as not to jinx it, is Max & Dylan’s. Located on 15 West Street in the downtown area of Boston–it’s situated fairly close to the theater district and nestled beside an old bookstore that I tend to frequent. Despite having a large white and green flag sign proclaiming “Max & Dylan’s” you might never think twice about this restaurant. I personally had walked by it over and over again visiting Brattle’s Bookshop and had never even realized that this establishment was there. The door is somewhat pushed back, and a thin window in the front is so reminiscent of the old brownstone homes that I used to resist peeking in, for fear I’d be intruding into somebody’s living room window. When you first enter Max & Dylan’s, you are immediately greeted by the long bar top and the pleasant hosts and hostesses. It seems, at first glance, like your typical Boston Bar, complete with two of three televisions behind liquor lined bar, a jute box  and dim lighting. But once the hostess leads you inside, you see there is a bit more to it than that. There is a bar on the first floor, along with a few nestled tabletop seats for two and low tabled huddled together in corners.

Then there is the second floor (which honestly seems more like a rather large stair landing) which contains more tables, each decorated a little less sparsely than the floor below. On this floor, you can look up and admire the skylight as well as polished wooden beams that again make me think this place used to be someone’s home. The second floor, is my personal favorite for when I enjoy time here. One more floor up, there is a second, smaller bar top back lit by blue and gold lights. An after work, sort of place that seems like a classy idea for a night out with friends. Yet more tabletops can be found on the third floor with the bar, pressed against the rough brick walls. There are paintings strewn throughout the restaurant, but the casual intimacy of the space always leaves me feeling very much focused on whomever I am enjoying my meal with, and of course, enjoying the meal itself.

-knocks on wood for what will come next-

I have yet to be disappointed by any of the food which I have ordered at Max & Dylan’s. The portion sizes never seem too overbearing as often times these days food serving establishments fight to give you more for your money.  Meat never seems to be over or under cooked, but lovingly and patiently grilled, friend and broiled. On top of the taste, the food is fairly priced and depending on how much you have to drink you can leave there having an appetizer, entree, drinks and desserts for two for under $60. (Though, I do not recommend the Prosecco here as they seem to only order a rather cheap tasting brand.) The staff is also generally very attentive and pleasant. Which I feel, in some cases, makes the dining experience that much more pleasant. The staff are easy to talk to, and seem to genuinely care if you’re enjoying yourself or not. I highly recommend this place for people who are looking for a nice date night excursion. Also, for first date material that is both impressive and comfortable. Then again, I also take my friends here when we want to catch up and enjoy ourselves in an environment that is welcoming and relaxed. My boyfriend and I just last night took our friend there with us for a gathering and a good time was had by all.

It was in this same gathering that our friend introduced us to a bar nearby that I also enjoyed. Once our meal was done and paid for, we agreed that more time was needed to chat. Our friend recommended a bar and Indian food restaurant nearby called, Mantra. (I was later informed that this place also seconds as a nightclub on certain evenings, but not last night while we were there.) Located at 53 Temple Place, not far from Windor Buttons, Mantra is a visually impressive place.

 

You walk through the large heavy doors and find yourself immediately greeted by walls and tabletops covered with multiple flickering candles. Unlike many Boston bars these days, Mantra still takes the risk of using actual fire instead of the plastic flickering tea lights for ambience. The walls, bar top and tables are all smooth black and white checked granite, and the place feels open yet intimate. Heavy fabrics are placed in bright colors softened by the dim lighting strategically around the room, while soft gossamer curtains partition dinners in the back into more private seating. A large wooden structure that resembled a giant slatted garlic clove (as pointed out by my friend) sticks out in the back of the room. I supposed it to be a VIP section of the restaurant. In the center of all this sits the stairs, and a large golden Buddah statue, looking placid and mysterious in the romantic lighting. I was told the place had once been a bank, and down the steps along with the bathrooms, the nightclub was located in what used to be the vault. Servers were formal but pleasant and though we chose only to have drinks last night–the smells wafting temptingly through the air made me decide that another visit at a different time for food will be required.

It was quiet there last night, probably due to the Patriot’s game hat aired last night, and service was quick. The martini list at Mantra is both expansive and delicious. Prices were a bit high, but the drinks themselves were made with no lacking strength and seemed ultimately worth the extra cost. Also, at no charge, we were brought a small espresso-sized cup of soup–which we mainly dubbed as a mystery because the server who presented them to us seemed to mumble as we inquired about it. We heard “mumble-mumble Gumbo Soup” before he quickly skittishly ambled away to help other diners. The soup smelled buttery and almost fishy as it warmly sat aside our martinis. Both my boyfriend and our friend pushed the cups aside without so much as a taste–but being ever food-curious, I took two tentative sips. Despite the odd smell, the soup was creamy and pleasant to the palette, it almost reminded me of cream of mushroom soup with a more rich flavor. Plus, I appreciated that even though we only came in for drinks, the hospitality of the staff allowed them to provide us with something (small as it was) for just sitting down for drinks. I will definitely return there again for a more food-based adventure to Mantra.

I know by now you must be growing bored of all of these glowing reviews of local restaurants–so I’m serving you up the last restaurant rant for the day.

After doing date night again and again at the same place, I eventually get bored and run a quick little Google search for new places to try out. This week I came across the bar and restaurant, Scholars.  Not far from where the looming vacant space where Border’s used to be in Downtown Crossing, Scholars is at 35 School Street. Clever. Though the ambiance of this establishment is immediately impressive, my boyfriend and I noticed right away that there was also a bizarre lingering sense of awkward arrogance that seemed to come along with it. The hostesses greeted us right away, eyeing us in our somewhat casual attire, they took us to the back of the restaurant, past the extraordinarily lengthy bar, past darkened lounge seating around polished dark-wood tables, and leather couches to small tabletops arranged in an open space. The music bobbed loudly enough that talking to whoever was with you at the table felt private, because no one around you would be able to listen in, but you weren’t forced to shout over it either. Mirrors lined the back wall, and a staircase lead up toward pool tables to the left of our seats. High backed partitioning segregated diners from the bar area. Our waitress was quick to arrive to our table, giving off that same awkward aura that the hostesses seemed to present before she asked for our order. She seemed almost uncomfortable when speaking to us, and fidgeted like she wanted to be away from us as quickly as possible. The bread they presented to our table was warmed and slightly crusty on the outside. It had that sort of texture to it that made it known that it wasn’t fresh, but that they had taken the time to warm it up for us to it would taste better all the same. Oil was also given to us to dip the bread in–though significantly later than the bread. By the time our waitress had arrived with the oil, we had each already eaten one piece out of the three given pieces of bread because we thought that was all that was coming. The first item I ordered for dinner was the Veal–but I was quickly told that they were out of it. Not a good start–as it was barely 5:30 pm. I then decided on the fish as a second choice, while my date had the steak. The food seemed to come fairly quickly, but my boyfriend’s order came out incorrectly. He likes his steak nearly burned to death, which he requested, but it came out barely medium, and both of our orders on the menu had stated mixed vegetables would be included with our meals–instead we both found largely sliced, overly buttered carrots in their place on our plates. Had we been warned of this we would have asked for something else. But no warning of the carrots only was given. Our waitress occasionally came to check on us, but was overly intrusive when she did so.

All and all, we probably won’t be going back to Scholars for dinner again. The service was unwelcoming and generally unfocused. The kitchen seemed unprepared for dinners, and didn’t pay attention to detail while preparing the food. The drinks, however, were good. I WILL recommend the Prosecco here as it had no hint of flatness and bubbled pleasantly with each sip. If you’re looking for a nice drink, a place to play pool and show off your little black cocktail dress, head to Scholars–but eat before you go.

 

If you’re interested in checking out any of the restaurants I mentioned here today they each have an easily accessible website for you to check out.  I’d be interested to know if your experiences match up with mine. Happy snacking!

 

http://www.maxanddylans.com/

 

http://mantrarestaurant.com/

 

http://www.scholarsbostonbistro.com/ 

 

Oreo Cupcakes and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Mini Review

11 Jan

I must have posted one too many boring posts because after my first jump into the world of blogging I haven’t been able to grab the attention of any new readers. I can’t say I blame them–but in my defense I tried to warn them that I wasn’t the most exciting blogger–yet.

Still, it’s kind of disappointing. Then again, I suppose this blog isn’t really meant for anyone to enjoy but me. It keeps my brain from turning entirely to mush as I slave as an office drone, day after day doing the same set tasks. I actually had an interesting conversation with a cabbie that went in a very similar manner today. As you know, I don’t drive (again, yet–but I refuse to give up.) so I found myself at the train station, flagging down a cab. The guy seemed nice enough–a little weird as any man trapped inside a car all day should be expected to be–but nice enough. I’m not sure how the topic arose but it was suddenly down to dreams and weather or not anyone should persue theirs. I try to be optimistic, as I am currently involved in a long-term strategy of attack towards mine. But he seemed to think that if you had a dream, or a passion, that you shouldn’t persue it unless it was something absolutely spectacular. It’s funny, because as I mentioned in my last entry, I sometimes feel down like that about my writing. Ultimately though, it comes down to you.

If you enjoy something, or are passionate about it–pursue it. It’s not for anyone but you in the end. That essentially knocked the wind out of his sails and the ride was quick and pleasant.

Though it might sound sappy–I’m fairly certain I believe what I told him. That chasing a dream isn’t pointless if you feel strongly about it. Who gives a damn if no one else does?

Work today went by appallingly slow. I think it had a lot to do with an Oreo cupcake that I had eaten though. Today was our intern’s birthday, and Twilight went out of her way to hit up a local bakery called Baby cakes to surprise him. It’s on days when she’s so gracious and pleasant like this that I’m glad I work under her. The cupcake was absolutely delicious! Chocolate with a white (very oreo-cream-like) frosting, rolled in crushed oreo cookie and topped off with a whole Oreo.

The nice part was that it wasn’t overly gigantic, like some specialty shops make. It was normal sized, with an abnormally wonderful taste. Apparently, they have a rotating weekly menu which I look forward to investigating… for those willing to investigate with me see their website here—-> http://babycakesshop.net/

AH, but back to the slow day. That cupcake mixed with a black coffee, and a pancake drenched in syrup for breakfast was a bit of an overload. I felt like hours were passing like days. There’s something both pleasant, and terrifying about a sugar rush. That pleasant buzzing in the back of your head that makes me feel giddy, plus the sensation that I’ve been pulled into Wonderland down the Rabbit hole is a bizarre combo.

Now, here I am again with you. Though tonight feels more like a pity-party for one than a sigh of relief to be home. I’m falling apart though. Somehow, I aggravated a lower back injury I got a few years back and now I feel elderly. Instead of my usual jaunt around the block I was in my pajamas at 8 o’clock, dosing myself with Ibuprofen and wishing I had something more exciting to do. In all honesty, I should be working on one of my novels for my freelance job–but I’m tired. Instead, I curled up with an already well-worn copy of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was huge when I was younger–which is probably why I never got around to reading them. When girls in high school were reading The Lovely Bones, Twilgiht and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants–I was reading Hamlet, The Hobbit and Harry Potter. I also tended to like to read books that related to Japanese culture and history. (Still do.) I suppose that’s mainly based on my unhealthy enjoyment of anime though. (Yes, if you have read this far and didn’t realize I was a complete and total nerd–you are now informed officially.)

I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares last week, mainly because I was in a hurry and didn’t have any books in my room that I hadn’t already memorized. I stole the three copies from my younger sister’s shelf–and she still has yet to notice them missing. The Sisterhood never really interested me while I was growing up because mostly the story revolves around four girls who are…growing up. I was already very aware of the pains of adolescence because I was living them–and frankly, I didn’t need the extra drama added to my day. Now that I’m a grown woman–I don’t think I feel that differently about it, but luckily, the book was  quick read. Though I started the story with little expectations, I ended it somewhat glad I read it. Sure, The Sisterhood as a story has its’ problems–mainly the predictability in which the story plays out. The foreshadowing is more like fore-punching and it makes you feel as though the author hoped her readers would be complete idiots–luckily,I’m not her target audience, but emotional teenage girls are. So, At least she’s marketing correctly. I hate to admit it, but the characters themselves are easy to relate to despite this, and there are some very warm and inviting moments within the story that managed to draw me in toward the end. Though the plot line itself isn’t a surprise-packed dazzler, the characters can be endearing in their own way–and I suppose in the end that’s why I read the book all the way through. Yes, the skeletons of the four main characters are so stereotypical that they make me cringe (the jock, the prude, the foreigner and the emo),  but the evolutions of these characters from those basic skeletons are interesting enough to keep me reading.

As I still have another portable reading material, I now have The Second Summer of the Sisterhood in the process of being read. So far, I like this novel better than the first. Mainly, I suppose, because the characters are all that much older and a little less predictable. Once I finish it–I will supply you with another review. In the meanwhile, I’m hoping to find something more in my age bracket to pick up. Maybe The Help, which I recently saw the movie of. I like the movie so much that I have high hopes for the book. (The book is always better!) Or I heard about a novel called Code Talkers that sounded interesting. I’m also open to reading suggestions!! (-crickets chirp-)