Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beautiful Boston

Continuing with our American History tour - in early August, we spent a weekend in Boston. Wow, what a difference compared to Philly. Boston is a beautiful and clean city. It is sorely lacking a grid system, but with Michael's great sense of direction we managed to get around town just fine. We were lucky to get a great deal at the Omni Parker House, it's one of the oldest hotels in the area and it is right on the Freedom Trail. We were in the heart of the city, we walked everywhere. (The Parker House invented Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie.)

We took about a 4 hour train ride and were ready for cocktails with Bex, Pat, Joe, and Kathy on Friday night. We planned our visit when the Wades were in town as well. We had tour guides and hosts that drove in to the city Friday and Saturday nights and wait until you hear about Sunday dinner.

Friday night we headed to Fanueil Hall and then to some of Bex old haunts. Most of the bars in the trendy area had lines and DJs - too much for our mellow crew. We did find a great little place and enjoyed a few beers along with the Olympic opening ceremonies. We moved on to a cigar bar, a few members of our party were pretty happy with this turn of events.

Pictured below - Fanueil Hall during the day (it's home to shops and eateries, a fun touristy place.)

Saturday Michael and I were left to our own devices during the day. We started out with lunch at a pretty awesome Irish bar called The Black Rose. From there we walked up to the North End to enjoy some fine baked goods at Mike's Pastries. They are known for their cannoli, but we just enjoyed some pizelle cookies. The 'Big Dig' seems to be complete and there is a big open pedestrian walkway where there was once freeway.

We headed back down to Boston Commons and the Public Garden - along the way we stepped in to a historic graveyard and saw the grave of Paul Revere.

Did you know the Paul Revere's father was from France and his name was Apollos Rivoire. He was sent by his family to the New World and became an apprentice to a goldsmith. Eventually he opened his own store and anglicized his name to Paul Revere (it was better for business) - the same name he gave his oldest son. (The things you learn on the Freedom Trail!)

The weather was perfect on Saturday - not too hot or too humid. I thought the Swan Boats in Boston Commons were small pedal boats, I was all ready to rent one so we could ride around the lake. Well my memories of the boats were slightly off - just one boat operator pedals the boat for a slow 15 minute tour of the lake.

We passed on the boat ride, but did enjoy some great views of the lake from the shore.

After a quick break we headed to the Beacon Hill area for lunch and window shopping.

Beacon Hill was so quaint, we loved the brick houses and tree lined streets. Look at these great carriage doors.

I would love to have a walk up with this cute garden out front.

This is a close up of the same place but to the right of the stairs, love the weather vane.

The restaurants and stores all had great store fronts - lots of brick and lettered wood signs hanging over the doors. We enjoyed a quick lunch at a cute little place called Paramount. It was recommended to us, and the perfect spot for a light lunch. They have fabulous breakfasts too, but the lines are crazy. Lunch was quiet and quite enjoyable.

After lunch we headed down to the Charles River, on the way over we made a special stop just for Mel.

The 'Cheers' bar could quite possibly be her least favorite spot in Boston. The bar was used for the outside shots of the famous watering hole - but the inside isn't the same as the tv show. The bar used to be named something like 'Bull and Finch', apparently they figured out they could sell more t-shirts by changing the name (I imagine some kind of licensing deal had to be worked out as well). We didn't actually go inside, but I did insist on a quick photo.

The Charles River was packed with boats and wind surfers.

Saturday night we did a little pub crawl and went to some great bars with Bex and crew. It was a fun night that ended at a place called Kinsale, they had a huge outdoor patio and live music.

Sunday we were invited to a lobster feast hosted by Bex dad. We took the 'T' to the suburbs and met up with the Wade family on the Boston College campus.

Bex gave us a great campus tour and even arranged for us to walk on the football field. OK, I don't think she pulled any strings, but the gate was open so we were able to walk right on the field. She has all the photos, so we'll have to wait until she does her blog update to see us on the BC 50-yard line.

Now to the feast! We were totally spoiled by Bex and her family. We started out with chips and dips, and then moved on to two types of home made chowder - clam and salmon. Bex sister, Nancy, made the chowders, she didn't think the clam was her best effort but both Michael and I thought they were both delicious. We had to try both varieties, the clam chowder was our favorite.

After the chowder settled we were treated to fresh grilled swordfish steaks. Bex dad grilled the steaks and then served them simply by cutting them in big chunks. It was family style and we learned to not be shy, the food moves quick in that house.

Once the swordfish was long gone it was time for steamers. Fresh steamed clams with salty clam juice and melted butter for dipping. Even though both Michael and I have had clams before neither one of us had clams like this. They had a long neck and to eat them we had to peel the skin back from the neck. They were delicious.

And finally the main event - a 3 pound lobster per person!

Bex was the master of breaking down the lobster - each one was full of sweet, perfectly cooked lobster meat. There was so much meat you almost got tired of eating lobster!

Of course the drinks were flowing and there was an entire table of desserts. Jane made these amazing key lime pie bites - I could not stop eating them.

Thanks to the entire Wade family for not only inviting over to a great dinner, but making us feel warm and welcome. Feel free to invite us back anytime! ;-)


So we didn't exactly LOVE Philly. It has some great history, but for the most part the town is just a dump. From what we could see there is one very nice area (Rittenhouse Square), a pretty nice area (Society Hill) and the Independence Hall area is decent. The rest of the city needs to clean up. We did have a fun weekend and jam packed it full of the best Philly had to offer.

I finally had my cheesesteak. We went to the south side of town to the cheesesteak rivalry of all rivalries - Pat's vs Geno's.

The two cheesesteak vendors are right across the street from each other, both boast a huge fan following. Just look at the lines - they go in to the street, even at the lunchtime rush.

Geno's was bright, with lots of flair and a line that blocked the street.

Pat's has a more classic feel, and a line that wasn't quite blocking traffic.

We went with the shorter line and waited about 15 minutes for our tasty cheesesteaks. There is an entire ordering system, luckily they spell it out for on a big board. By the time we hit the window we were pros "two wit cheese" - that would be two cheesesteaks with onions and cheese. And you better have your money ready, no fooling around in this line.

The sandwiches did not disappoint - yum! As good as I remembered from my visit to Philly 15 years ago.

After all of that bread and cheese we did our best Rocky and climbed up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And even though every other person there did the classic Rocky cheer, I resisted and went for more of a classic KO pose.

And just in case you don't know where to stand - they have his feet in the cement. The view from the top is awesome, the skies were so clear it was easy to see all the way down to City Hall.

We spent Sunday doing our best National Treasure recreation. We hit up Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Reading Market. This is the staircase Nicolas Cage took to get to the top of Independence Hall. The tour guide was sure to let us know it was all filmed on site.

And even more impressive would be this banister - it is original to the building, which means everyone from George Washington to Benjamin Franklin to me has touched this same piece of wood.

One of our final stops was the Betsey Ross house. Did you know George Washington wanted a 6-pointed star for the American flag? Betsey showed him it was much easier to make a 5-pointed star, practicality won and history was made.

We had dinner at a great Irish pub - they had live Irish music and a great starter platter with hummus, pita, olives, and cheese on a big 's' shaped serving dish.

C'ya Philly - thanks for a good time, but will you try and clean up a little before our next visit!

So Creative!

Check out these thank you cards Linda made - they are amazing.

This one is for her birthday present, she took a picture of the flowers I sent to her and used that as the focal point (nice touch) and of course the colors of the card are pulled from the flowers. (And yes, Mel the gig is up - you got the same floral arrangement.)

Gordy received a popcorn sampler pack, one of my new favorite snack items. This card is stamped and has pop-ups - I'm trying to figure out where she found the popcorn machine cutout.

Well done Linda!

What I Did This Summer....

It has been a busy summer - so many things to blog but so little time to blog.

This is going to be a bit of a catch up entry and I'll do some separate entries for the really good stuff.

In July Michael went to CA to visit friends and family. I took the opportunity to have a little KO Broadway weekend. Friday night I went to the play 'Boeing, Boeing'. The show is a revival of a French show from the 60's. It is about an architect living in Paris and juggling 3 flight attendants fiancées- of course one day they all happen to be in Paris at the same time. The cast was made up of 6 start studded actors: Bradley Whitford, Mark Rylance, Christine Baranski, Gina Gershon, Mary McCormack, and Kathryn Hahn (you might not know her name - but you know her). It was full of innuendo, physical comedy, and that cool 60's vibe. The best part is the curtain call; the entire cast comes out and dances the samba. I absolutely loved it. Miss Karen would love it - of course she has probably already seen it in Paris! During the show the cell phone of a woman across the aisle from me started ringing - of course it was one of those big loud long ring tones. While her husband gave her dirty looks she rummaged through her bag and finally managed to turn it off. No less than 15 minutes later her husband's cell phone rings! And he answers it!! He told the person on the phone he was at a play and would call him back, hung up and did not shut off his phone!!!

Saturday night I went with one of our neighbors to see the movie 'Mamma Mia'. It was just totally fluff and fun - I really enjoyed it too (even Pierce Bronson's singing).

On Sunday I went to a matinee of 'Chorus Line', starring Mario Lopez. He was great at the dancing, fine at the acting, and I'm pretty sure he didn't sing. It was a good show, but not one I would go back to see again. I had a couple of moms and daughters in the row behind me. They had visited the M&M store before coming to the show. The girls both had cellophane bags of M&M's they ate through the show - that crinkling plastic noise drove me crazy. They got the stink eye more than once. Ironically the movie theatre crowd was the most considerate.

When Michael came back from CA it was Summer Restaurant Week!

Of course we ate at some of our old favorites and had some amazing meals: Mesa Grill, Lure Fishbar, and T-Bar Steakhouse. But we did work in some new places - the most average meal we had was from City Hall in Tribeca. The service was horribly slow - at least 30 minutes between courses. The food was fine, but not outstanding - while we weren't disappointed we won't be heading back any time soon. We had a fabulous dinner at Tribeca Grill. It's a pretty trendy place that has pretty decent Zagat ratings. We both loved our meals and would definitely go back - even not during Restaurant Week. Two places we enjoyed, but were pricey and best enjoyed during Restaurant Week were Primehouse NY and Devi. Primehouse NY is an ultra cool steakhouse in the Union Sq area. Very hip and very expensive. Devi is high end Indian food. I had a prawn dish that was out of this world - the huge prawns were coated in some kind of spicy dry rub, I loved every bite. Now it's back to cooking dinner again! It's so easy to get spoiled during Restaurant Week.

We took the train out to Jones Beach one night to see the Maroon 5 and the Counting Crows perform. Jones Beach is a New York equivalent of the Coors Amphitheatre, but on the water. It was stressful getting out there because we were both busy with work, but we made it right on time.

I had a chance to see Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. She spoke to a group of 200 at our local Y. She was completely inspiring. I was ready to being volunteering for the DNC, until I read her book. Unfortunately the passion she shows while speaking didn't translate to the written page. I would gladly go see her speak again, but I think I'll pass on her next book.

We made a few trips out to the beaches of Long Island - none of them are worth the blog space. Unless we go to Sandy Hook we won't be going to the beach any more this summer. It involves too many transfers on the train, not enough trains, and the last trip we were eaten alive by mosquitoes (especially the sweet meat of Michael).

I think that pretty much gets me caught up, except for our few weekend get aways - no 'staycations' for us! (I can't stand that word, and unfortunately it is the buzz word for the summer!)