Archive | May, 2012

A Night to Remember at The Top of the Hub

15 May

If there will be nothing else I can recall, years later when I try to unearth old, pleasant memories–I pray that even if my mind is gone I’ll remember last night.

Dolled up (a rarity for me) in a little black number that tied around my neck and slim gladiator-like wedges, beside an equally well-dressed Mickey in a blue blazer, button up shirt and a black tie–we enjoyed a view of Cambridge that I can only compare to being in an airplane. High above the city, hidden (but not really) on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Building in Boston, the world below was a mass of glittering lights, and back-lit, misty, skyscrapers that seemed to curve around the edge of the Earth.

Around us, we could feel the eyes of the waitstaff as well as other diners. Younger than most of the other patrons of the Top of the Hub restaurant, we were acutely aware of the judgement that was happening around us. The worry in the staff members eyes that we were perhaps going to skip out on our bill, or under tip for our meal. Of course, they needn’t have worried. (Though on the way there, Mickey and I had a moment where we shared the fear of not having quite enough for such a lavish experience.) As for the other diners; I could only assume they disliked our youth and the  occasional boisterousness in which we enjoyed life, our meals and each other.

The Top of the Hub, is known for its high class dining experience, and we came prepared to pay easily over one hundred dollars on our evening. We had never been to a fine dining eatery prior to this; and there has always been a certain image or two in my mind as to what sort of an experience it would be.  High prices with small portions. Snooty waitstaff and hostesses. A certain, unbreakable law of how to use your silverware appropriately. Luckily, I found most of these situations to be untrue to The Top of the Hub.

After slipping past the security in the lobby, we took the elevators up to the 52nd floor. (Large silver lettering points the way as you head to the lifts.) As you step off the elevator, beware of a large floral display as you move toward the tall glass doors. (I nearly ran into it with all my grace and poise.)  Overwhelmed by the whole situation, I hardly got a look at the entrance way. From what I saw, the walls were lined with a well-polished mixture of dark and light woods. The hostess stand is immediately to your left as you enter, and a well-dressed, high-haired young woman greeted us cheerily asking if we would like to dine casually, or formally.  (As I hadn’t thought to bring a coat, I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my nice dress to keep warm in the drizzling weather. Mickey told me later that the hostess eyed me, almost unpleasantly when asking where we would prefer to dine.) She explained that the menu was the only real difference in the two options, and as we had planned for the real experience, we opted for formal.

A second hostess was instructed to take us to a table, and we quickly weaved toward the back of the establishment; passing walls of fine wines, partitions where groups chatted and celebrated someone’s birthday, round yellow almost old-fashioned looking lamps hung at even intervals across the floor shining dim romantic lighting across the tables. Our table was close to one of the multiple large glass windows overlooking the city below. I heard myself take a breath in sharply, amazed, and felt Mickey smiling with pride somewhere to my left. The hostess pulled my seat out for me, and upon sitting, daintily folded my napkin in my lap for me as well. Unused to such treatment, I felt slightly embarrassed but appreciated the gesture all the same. Mickey quickly pulled his napkin into his own lap to avoid such treatment. Our menus were presented to us and she left us to own own devices.

The tables were all carefully arranged with white table cloths (real linen), wine glasses (short and tall), napkins, utensils and one tiny plant for color. Our waiter was swift to approach and greet us, removing extra place settings from the table, as he explained the night’s specials. Knowledgeable, skilled and pleasant–I admired our servers work. Unlike other establishments, I noticed that our waiter at the Top of the Hub was attentive to all details and patient. After putting down our appetizers, a salad and the clam chowder, he realized before I did that after I had asked for the dressing on the side the kitchen had put dressing on the salad. He apologized and took it back to the kitchen without me even asking, returning moments later with a dressing-free salad. Once the food was on the table, he made a point to stand and wait at the table before we thanked and dismissed him–being sure that we needed nothing more at the moment.

Though the appetizers weren’t much to write home about–the entree will forever haunt my taste buds. Never again will I be able to enjoy Lamb anywhere else. They have made it impossible for me to ever hope to find a better prepared, more delicious meal. Portions are sizable, giving you what you ought to get for the prices. (which range from $25 to $70 a plate depending.) My lamb arrived as what seemed to be a whole leg, slowly cooked until the tender, dark meat fell from the bone without help from a knife. Spices and a tomato-based stock made the meat tender and moist–not dry. Paired with a fruit compote, whipped potatoes and asparagus–it was heavenly. Mickey’s eyes lit up as he took a bite of his Haddock, served with surprise steamers, mashed potatoes, and lightly dusted with cheese–he has rarely ever looked so contented during a meal.

If nothing else, I would go back just for the view. As we left, I stared longingly at the skyline once more and staff members that hadn’t even helped us bid us a good night, thanking us for coming as if we were royalty.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Mickey said as we made our way home. “It was like blood to a shark. You’re spoiled now.” I smiled, knowing he was probably right.

Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan Book Review (with Ultra-speedo Powers!)

8 May

As promised my dear Readers, I have torn triumphantly through the pages of the latest novel in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, Throne of Fire.

I was thrilled to find that as with The Red Pyramid, the story was hard to put down, constantly keeping me intrigued by the fascinating mix of Egyptian mythology and the plight of Sadie and Carter Kane. (If you haven’t yet read my previous entry in regards to The Red Pyramid–now would be an excellent time to do so. )

I was also pleasantly pleased to find that unlike his Percy Jackson books, the second novel was as well written and spellbinding as the first. The only real qualm I tended to have with Throne of Fire was with the sporadic  modern-day culture references and jokes throughout the novel. They felt forced most of the time, and tended to pull me out of the story momentarily while I tried to get back into the Egyptian groove.

Throne of Fire follows the same pattern as in The Red Pyramid, of being made to feel as if the two main characters were narrating to the reader via a tape recording that the author has discovered. The story takes place roughly three months after The Red Pyramid ends, and you are immediately thrust into the scene of Sadie and Carter, perched on the roof of the Brooklyn Museum, preparing to break in. This story focuses on the need to collect the book of Ra, which is most unfortunately in three pieces. The god of chaos, Apophis (as those of you who read the last book will recall) is stirring, threatening to destroy our world as we know it, and the only way to stop him is to awaken the god of Ma’at (good magic.) Ra. Also known as the Sun god.

Of course, this can’t be an easy task but it rests mainly on the shoulders of our beloved Kane siblings. I say mainly, because now we find that Sadie and Carter are no longer the only godlings–they have gathered more in order to train them in the old ways (the Godling way that makes the House of Life want to kill them.) and help them defeat Apophis. Two of their initiates are along with them for the break-in, Jaz and Walt. We are later introduced to a handful of others that range in age and aren’t much developed (probably to be done in the next novel.) other than to let the reader see that their magics are a work in process.

Anyway, they bust into the museum, in order to get the first part of what they need. (Of course, not knowing what it is yet.) Meanwhile, they have to avoid a wedding that is currently in place in the halls, as well as magical security devices. (Both of which do not work out in their favor.) Needless to say, they get what they need along with Jaz in a coma and a Griffon that only says “Frreeeaakk!” The whole thing is of course, botched, and off thy go back to their hideout, Brooklyn House. (A magical house that belongs to their uncle Amos. Please read the Red Pyramid if you haven’t yet.)  Bast, their cat turned cat-goddess, is awaiting them and is able to put Sadie out. (She’s on fire this whole time.) We don’t see much of Bast in this story, as she takes her own mission to investigate Apophis.

We discover that the next day will be Sadie’s 13th birthday, and that she has plans to travel back to London and see her friends and grandparents. Meanwhile, it has only recently been sprung on the Kanes that if they do not wake the god Ra in five days, the world will end. Sadie, refusing to let this doomsday prediction ruin her special day, decides to go on her trip anyway. When she arrives the next day to her grandparents house, she instead finds two gods have possessed them, and are eager to crush her to death to stop her from being able to awaken Ra.  As she runs in a panic, she stumbles across her two friends, and manages to pull them after her as they escape. Sadie doesn’t have much time to explain, but her friends are quick to realize things are not okay when a giant baboon wearing her grandfathers clothes tries to kill them. Somehow, she ends up in a graveyard long enough to talk to (and be kissed by) the hottie god of death, Anubis. (His help will be vital later, but at this moment it was almost frustrating.)

The group manages to escape with the help of a short and lovable limo-driver (who is actually the god of dwarfs) Bes. Using his..ultra…speedo…powers….he awkwardly scares the gods out of Sadie’s grandparents. Meanwhile, Carter and Walt appear to save her (a little late) and Walt, Carter and Sadie pile back into the limo to make their escape. Walt’s character is another of Sadie’s love interests in this story, and we learn he and his ancestor, King Tut share a common problem. (As to what–I will not spoil it.) Walt is eventually booted from the car for this reason back to Brooklyn house, and Bes takes Carter and Sadie to Russia to find their next half of the scroll. (Shown to them in a dream vision! Ba powers activate!) Unfortunately, here enters the major villain in this novel, who resembles a mutilated ice-cream man.

They sneak into his palace, and discover that not only is he the House of Life’s second in command, but he is also on a first name basis with the God, Set, from the last novel. Sadie and Carter learn he is hoping to free Apophis, not stop him just before their invisibility spell wears off. They manage to snag the scroll and after more than a bit of snake trouble, escape.

Unlike the first novel, which focuses mainly on the Ba, or a person’s chicken-bodied personality that escapes when they dream–this novel focuses on the Ren, their name which is what their whole being essentially is. It’s a constant theme in this novel, and is used in multiple occasions. We see Sadie and Carter, finally feeling like siblings again and with Walt and Bes’s help in multiple occasions they go around collecting the Book of Ra and attempting to awaken the old God back to power. Meanwhile, they face personal and divine obstacles along the way.

I find myself checking Rick Riordan’s Facebook page in hopes of gleaning more information about his next novel in the series–but know that I have a long (painful) time to wait before I can find out what will happen next to the Kane siblings.

An epic adventure, not for the feint of Ren.

It’s Always Warm Enough for Ice Cream

3 May

Only in New England, would you find a couple making a trip to the ocean to get an ice cream in 40 degree weather.

As my boyfriend’s mother’s  junk-heap jeep wound around the rotaries and misty streets toward Revere Beach,  I eagerly peered out the window taking in the vacant shoreline.  The weather had been fairly miserable all weekend, leaving a feint fog hovering over the streets, as if the grey clouds overhead were escaping into the roads. Mickey looked pleased with himself as he carefully edged into the next rotary; excited to share his favorite childhood ice cream shop with me.

I had been to Revere Beach before, in the summer last year. At the time, the beach was packed with sunbathers, and sandcastle artists and massive sand-sculptures for the eager passerby’s to eye.  Vendors lined the sidewalks from anything from art to hot dogs to shaved ice, shouting to the generally half-naked crowd to tempt them closer. The skies had seemed tall and open then–shimmering blue overhead, making the ocean glitter blindingly. Now, it felt like the clouds would crush us at any moment.

Yet, despite this, I was very much enjoying myself. Heck, I was even enjoying watching the storm overhead gather, whipping sand across the street in snaky tendrils. I was getting ice cream–and that was enough for me. I called out places I recognized as we drove, and he pointed out places I might know but never have seen from the road. We chatted, and as we made our way toward Kelly’s Kreme, he shared with me that when he was younger, his parents would take him there for ice cream and that he hadn’t been in years.

Kelly’s Creme sits right next to the Famed Kelly’s Roast Beef with a view of the Revere Beach. (Be it on purpose or ironic they are both Kelly’s, I am not sure.) A giant, stereotypical neon ice cream cone sits atop the little shack, which is really no bigger than your local Dairy Queen. So, what is it that made this place so special?  Two words: Portion size.

The ice cream sundaes at Kelly’s Creme are not for the weak of stomach. I gaped in horror at the hot fudge sundae I ordered as it arrived. The sundae comes in what appears to be a cup the size of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, is a soft-served flavor of your choice, drowning in two ladle-fulls of their hot fudge, a hefty squeeze of whipped cream and topped with a half of fresh strawberry.( I of course, wasted no time in devouring my strawberry.) Prices are fair for what they give you in portions, though a bit more expensive than other ice cream shops.  We shivered in front of the window, before finally deciding to eat our frozen treats in the safety of the Jeep. As we ate, I expressed my astonishment at the size of my ice cream, and Mickey confessed that he would eat until he felt he would be sick when he was smaller. I couldn’t bring myself to finish my sundae, but managed to eat most of the hot gooey fudge they gave me. Something my parents would have frowned on when I was small.

Next time we go, I will be sure to stick with a cone, so I can get every delicious bit into my belly.

 

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan Book Review

1 May

After having been burnt out on editorial and work-related reading–I haven’t been picking up as many novels as I usually do. Slammed under the pressure of a deadline, the Office having suddenly picked up from a grazing in the pasture pace to a canter down the track, and digging into the small crevices of my brain for my own novel has kept me fairly preoccupied. So, I even surprised myself where somewhere amongst all the chaos I managed to pick up Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid.

Mr Riordan’s name may sound familiar–mainly because of his last series that included The Lightning Thief, and followed the story of a young man who discovers himself to be a demi-God. Of course, the main character is not just any demi-god–he is son of Poseidon, the great god of the sea according to Greek mythology. That series kept with the Greek Gods and I found it to be a quick and decently satisfying read.

Rick Riordan's First Book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian's series

You may also remember the title from Disney’s adaption of the book, also dubbed the Lightning Thief. But the movie, in my opinion, threw the whimsey and wonder that was contained within the pages of the novel–and threw them in the toilet in hopes of attracting an older age bracket to the film. (But that’s an entirely different review all together.)

His newest series, dubbed The Kane Chronicles, now features a whole new set of characters and a whole new range of mythology: Egyptian Gods.  The story is narrated by siblings, Sadie and Carter Kane, as if it has been translated from a tape recorder that they take turns with. The story opens with the reader being introduced to the elder brother, Carter and his father. The children’s father is an Egyptologist that travels around the world to further his studies–though his living habits seem more than a bit…odd. Carter describes his father as having being extra cautious throughout their travels together. The children’s mother, however, has passed away–for reasons you are told later. Sadie, the younger sister, is introduced secondly in the city of London. An odd arrangement between their father and grandparents has made it so Sadie can only see her father twice a year–once in the summer and once in the winter. Sadie has been essentially raised by her grandparents and she and Carter couldn’t possibly be more opposite. Sadie–blonde, blue-eyed and fair-skinned with a british accent rocking the punky look, and Carter the dark-skinned, dark-haired dressed to his best do not exactly mesh. And they’re very aware of it.

Their whole world gets turned upside down on this Christmas eve when their father takes them on a trip to the British museum. Suddenly, it seems their father is about to rob the museum. He enlists his children to stalk the curator (who has been nice enough to give them a private viewing of the ancient Egyptian artifact, the Rosetta stone.) and lock him in his office with a bike chain–which they do. But upon returning back to where their father is causing mischief (which they were expressly told not to do of course.) they discover it’s far more than a robbery. This story is woven with the careful pen of a magician–because it’s simply coated in magic and Egyptian fun facts. They quickly discover that their Father is actually an ancient Egyptian Magician, just in time to witness him trapped in a coffin by a demon-headed God, escaped from the now blown to smithereens, Rosetta stone. (Along with his four sibling Gods.)

Skipping ahead, the kids soon discover that their world isn’t as ordinary as it first seems. Magic is real–and so are the Ancient Egyptian Gods. In fact, one of them is their pet cat, Muffin. The kids embark on a journey to save their now entombed Father from the evil god, Set. Meanwhile, Set sends all sorts of baddies to stop them. And if that wasn’t enough, other magicians want to beat them up too. Why? Well, because they’re hosting ancient Gods of course!  Now if you’re saying, whoa, back up–it’s because this story can get a little kooky on the literary rules. Not just one baddie–multiple! Not just one god–Many! So, to sum it up–the Magicians in this story–or as they call themselves, The House of Life–think that the Gods are evil. As such, hosting them, would also be bad. So naturally, even though the kids didn’t exactly invite the Gods inside, so to speak–the only option must be to kill the kids.(right?)

Carter finds the god Horus has attached to him, while Sadie meets her inner Isis. Due to their extra strong pharaoh’s bloodline, the kids are literally tiny powerhouses for the Host-hungry Gods. Meanwhile, they are starting to follow an all too familiar pattern (for the Gods that is) as they go on the hunt for a way to stop Set from destroying the world as they know it. I’ll spare you the entire story–in the hopes that you may go out and (-gaspita!-) read  it. But I will assume you know that good things must happen, as book two of the Kane Chronicles is already out.

All and all, this was a quick read–and despite having been written for younger minds, it is anything but easy. The plot is complex (though if you have read his Percy Jackson series, it’s not too unpredictable.) the characters are lovable and humorous and the research is well done. I was actually impressed with the amount of knowledge about the Egyptian mythology this novel must have taken to write. So many Gods, so many rules, and all jam-packed into one page-turning adventure.

(Post script: I am not ashamed to admit that I have already started Book two of the Kane Chronicles, and within the week will probably have yet another review. 🙂 )

Until next time my lovely literates!

A must read for those who love their Mummies! 😄