Sunday, February 19, 2006

Winter Destinations - Boston, MA and Mystic, CT

E and I have visited places over the past month and a half ... I just haven't gotten around to blogging about them. So, here are delayed reviews on two places we went.

BOSTON, MA - In an unseasonably warm day in January, we headed to Boston to walk around the city.

We ate lunch at Houston's (60 State St., 617.573.9777). I had been to Houston's before in Dallas and New York, but E had never been. It is a very sleek looking restaurant - a large metal statue greets you at the entrance and dark cherry wood abounds. The seating in the restaurant consists solely of booths of all sizes.

The service was extremely refined and efficient, and the food was great. We started with the chili - E is on a search for the best chili in New England, so we try it wherever we go. It was good, but it wasn't something E would get again.

His lunch entree, though, is something he would eat again and again. He got the Evil Jungle Thai Salad - steak over a salad with rice noodles, various types of lettuce, mango and a vinaigrette dressing. The steak was seasoned with something a bit spicy, and E declared it the best salad he's ever had. I had the grilled chicken salad - something I always get and enjoy at Houston's.

We then walked around the Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall area and over to the North End. We were going to get cannolis at Mike's Pastry, but the line was very long, so we went back to Quincy Market. E got gelato, and I got cookies at Boston Chipyard. It was a great way to take advantage of an unseasonably warm day.

MYSTIC, CT - We went to Taste of Mystic last summer where I had a portobello with alouette cheese which was amazing. We decided to give the restaurant serving it a try a few weeks ago - Captain Daniel Packer Inne. We ate in the pub which was a small section downstairs. The regular pub seating was full, so we ate at the bar.

I had the portobello to start, and E tried the baked angus sirloin and black bean chili. It was outstanding chili, and he really enjoyed it. For lunch, I selected the almond crusted goat cheese medallions described on their menu as "medallions of goat cheese coated with chopped almonds and fried golden served on a bed of crisp field greens with an orange cashew vinaigrette". It was delicious.

E had a po' boy - "slow roasted pulled pork simmered in our house barbecue sauce and carmelized onions served on a baguette with melted cheddar cheese and served with sweet potato fries". He enjoyed it, as well, but he was a bit full after devouring the chili. He said when we go to Captain Daniel Packer Inne again he'll definitely have the chili but probably pair it with a salad or something else light.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tastease - Hartford, CT

New Year's Resolution #1 - Blog more.
New Year's Resolution #2 - Eat more healthy foods.
New Year's Resolution #3 - Break resolution #2 from time to time in search of great food finds in New England.

When I stumbled upon a review of Tastease online yesterday, I knew it would be a perfect place to try today with E ... plus it would allow once last indulgence before New Year's Resolution #2.

Tastease is a small donut shop at 70 New Park Avenue in Hartford (860.233.2235). It is run by a wonderfully friendly husband and wife team. When you walk in, you immediately see the trays of mid-size donuts with different types of frosting, sprinkles, filling ... quite honestly, it looks so pretty (not your usual donut description).

After hearing about all of the types of donuts they have - the list is tremendous! - we chose to get a bakers dozen of donuts in different flavors. We weren't disappointed. My favorite was the lemon filled (the donut had been split in half by hand and lemon filling was spread between the halves) while E seemed to favor a chocolate donut.

The store has been around for about 18 months and has a client base which includes the mayor of Hartford. They also offer sandwiches including a Miami-style Cuban sandwich described on their menu as "made from the perfect blend of roast pork, ham, turkey, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard butter with cilantro on a 7-inch panini toasted bread". While we were there, they brought a sandwich out for a customer - it looked delicious.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Up River Cafe - Westerly, RI

The rain subsided for a bit, so we decided to venture out. After reviewing "The Grapevine Guide to Rhode Island's Best Restaurants", I found The Up River Cafe in Westerly, Rhode Island, and we headed there for lunch.

The Up River Cafe is a two-story building right on the Pawcatuck River. We ate downstairs in the bar which had large windows and a great view of the river.

Our server recommended the Bellini-Tini (Absolut vodka, white peach puree, peach schnapps and peach bitters served straight up with a frozen peach) and I took him up on it. It was quite good, and the frozen peach was a nice touch. E had a Dark and Stormy (Gosling' rum, fresh lime juice and ginger beer) which was quite appropriate given the weather we've had lately.

I was set on ordering a spinach salad ... until the server listed the very last special - a wild mushroom and goat cheese tart. It was absolutely delicious, and the crust was a standout - light and flaky. It was served with a side of baby greens, and the presentation was beautiful. I dug right in and started enjoying the dish ... and completely forgot to take a picture!

E chose the 3/4 pound bistro burger with blue cheese and bacon. It came with a side of homemade fries and a pickle. The burger, obviously, was huge, and E couldn't finish it. He said it was one of the best burgers he's ever had, and he's still raving about it.

We finished our meal by splitting creme brulee and a dessert ale - Lindemans "Framboise" Lambic Ale. It was raspberry flavored, very refreshing and a sweet way to finish a wonderful meal.

After lunch, we drove east of Westerly and ended up at the beach. It was a bit overcast by that time, but we still had a wonderful time walking on the beach finding shells and watching dogs chase tennis balls thrown in the water.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's been raining for eight days now, and it's going to continue through at least part of this weekend. E and I have been trying to figure out what to do ... normally we'd take a drive to see fall foliage this time of year, but it's just not as enjoyable when you can't get out and hike and explore the wonderful fall colors.

In the interest of promoting indoor, raindrop-free activities, I've gathered a list of some museums worth exploring this weekend.

  • Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art - Otherwise known as MASS MoCA, this is the "largest center for contemporary arts in the United States" according to the museum's website. It occupies renovated factory buildings in North Adams, MA and boasts 19 galleries, theaters and two restaurants.
  • Museum of Yachting - Located at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI, this museum is only open through October 31. It closes for the winter.
  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center - This museum is the "world's largest and most comprehensive Native American museum and research center" according to its website. Located in Southeastern Connecticut, it's also close to the building the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is most known for ... Foxwoods Casino.
  • The Children's Museum of Portsmouth - Let the kids burn off some steam on a rainy day ... plus learn a thing or two. With exhibits from "Dino Detective" to "Siss! Boom! Bang!" this New Hampshire museum is sure to entertain children.
  • Shelburne Museum - Just south of Burlington in Shelburne, VT, this museum is housed in multiple buildings containing paintings, carriages, furniture, toys and much more. It, too, is only open through October 31.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Search for Great BBQ

Ever since I moved to Connecticut from Texas, I've been on a search for great BBQ - specifically beef brisket - in New England ... and I've drawn E into the search. He (gasp!) never had brisket before he met me, and now he's hooked.

Since we're not particularly fond of any of the Hartford area offerings, we often make a day trip just to get brisket. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • LJ's BBQ in Providence, Rhode Island is our hands-down favorite. It's owned by a husband and wife team - he cooks, and she provides the down-home hospitality. Their brisket is hickory smoked and oh-so-good. Plus, their pecan pie served heated and topped with fresh whipped cream is an amazing way to finish a meal. Providence has so much to offer - combined with BBQ at LJ's, it's a great day trip.

  • Muddy River Smokehouse in Portsmouth, New Hampshire has a large, varied menu, and it includes one of my favorites - fried pickles! After a big meal here, take advantage of the restaurant's great location and walk off your meal by exploring all the wonderful shops in downtown Portsmouth.

  • Big Bubba's BBQ is located in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. It's our choice for BBQ closer to home since it's only about an hour outside of Hartford. I always tell E "it's all about the sides" - a good BBQ meal can be ruined if accompanied by terrible sides. Big Bubba's sides are so good sometimes I forgo their brisket just to eat a meal of side dishes. My choices are macaroni and cheese (Southern style - yellow and no breadcrumbs), mashed potatoes (with no gravy) and a biscuit (flaky and buttery). It's all delicious.

So, we'll happily continue our search and report our progress along the way. I've already picked out a few places to try in the future (Curtis' Bar-B-Que in Putney, Vermont, for example), and E and I would love to hear suggestions of your favorite BBQ places in New England, as well.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Big E - West Springfield, MA

E and I have been focusing on our house - painting, yard work, etc. - so day trips have been sparse. So, postings for a while will focus on ideas for trips rather than our actual adventures.

Today is the final day of The Big E in West Springfield, MA. When I first moved to Connecticut from Dallas (home of the HUGE State Fair of Texas), I had no idea what The Big E was. Someone explained it to me this way ... none of the New England states is big enough to have its own state fair, so they combine to create one big New England fair. Whether that's a valid definition or not, the result is a great fair highlighting the five New England states.

Food is everywhere, and did a great photo montage of the diverse offerings.

The weather is supposed to be good ... go out and enjoy The Big E and a great fall day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Gallery Night - Providence, RI

I've always wanted to go to a Gallery Night in Providence, RI. However, since they're held during the week (usually the third Thursday of every month), I've never made it to one.

Providence has a wonderful artistic community from its numerous galleries to the Rhode Island School of Design. Gallery Night allows individuals to share an evening with a tour guide discussing specific pieces of artwork or just hop on a free "art bus" to go from gallery to gallery.

The next Gallery Night will be held tomorrow - Thursday, September 15 - from 5 - 9 p.m.