Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Blog Day 2005!

Today is Blog Day - a day when bloggers worldwide pick five new blogs and review them on their own blog. I chose to focus mainly on blogs about restaurants in and beyond New England. So, here goes ...

  • Boston Restaurant Talk - This blog has been in place for about six months and reviews Boston-area restaurants. E and I will have to try some of the recommendations on our next day trip to Boston.
  • Eater - Since New York is an easy day trip from parts of New England - especially Connecticut - I chose a New York blog. "Eater" has stunning photos of New York restaurants along with an "Eater Radar" section with open, reviewed and closed restaurant listings.
  • Austin Food Data Bank - Austin, Texas is near and dear to my heart since I went to school there (Hook 'Em Horns!) This relatively new blog provides Austin-area restaurant reviews.
  • Green Beans in San Diego - E and I recently spent a week in San Diego, and both agree we would move there if we could. "Green Beans in San Diego" is the food blog of a woman who recently moved to San Diego from Hawaii.
  • Connecticut Weblogs - I stumbled upon this site one day. It contains a listing of all types of blogs by Connecticut bloggers. I've since gotten my blog listed there, as well.

If you want to see Blog Day choices by other bloggers, click here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Azul - West Hartford, CT

Our trip to Block Island today was detoured this morning by a broken garage door spring. Actually, the spring broke last night when E was out. It made a terribly scary "metal noise" (as I described it to my sister). However, I wasn't able to figure out the source of the noise until this morning.

So, we called a repair company and got the door fixed. Unsure what to do with the remaining part of our day, I suggested we head to Azul in West Hartford, CT for lunch.

Azul describes itself as "Nuevo Latino Cuisine". We only saw a bit of its decor since we asked to be seated on the patio to take advantage of the beautiful weather. The patio had quite a bit of seating - some covered and not - with metal chairs and tables and beautiful plants all around.

After a glance at the menu, we quickly honed in on what we wanted. E ordered a chargrilled hamburger - ground beef mixed with chorizo sausage, grilled and topped with pickled onions and tomatoes served with julienne fries. It also came with lime garlic aioli which our server offered to put on the side.

E declared the burger to be good, but he was actually more impressed with the roll it was served on - it had a bit of a sweet taste and was very soft.

I ordered a fire roasted vegetable salad - balsamic mojo marinated vegetables with baby greens, cornbread croutons and shaved smoked Gouda cheese - topped with grilled flank steak. It was amazingly good. The meat was cooked just right, and the vegetables were roasted to perfection.

The meal was accompanied by Azul's bread - four very small cheddar/green olive rolls with an olive oil dipping sauce with herbs. They were wonderful, and our server graciously brought us more.

After eating, we took a "required" - according to our server - look at the dessert menu. A banana crème brûlée and chocolate lava cake stood out, but we turned them down since we were satisfied with our lunch and didn't want to overdo it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

New Haven, CT

Description: New Haven, Connecticut

How I Got There: Car - I-91 South to Exit 1 (Downtown New Haven)

What I Did: Shopped at Ikea, ate at my first vegetarian restaurant, and walked the downtown area surrounding Yale

I spent my day off from work with my friend, T. Earlier in the week, it somehow came up in conversation T had never been to Ikea in New Haven. Considering how many trips E and I made there after it opened last year, I was in shock. We quickly agreed to make New Haven our destination.

New Haven is the site of New England's only Ikea. Prior to its opening in 2004, New England Ikea fans had to drive to New Jersey or New York ... not so bad if you live in Connecticut ... really bad if you live in Maine. Since New Haven is a college town (Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University, among others), I think it's a great location for Ikea.

T and I browsed the showroom on the top floor of Ikea, stopping from time to time to jot down details of a "wish list" item for a future purchase. We then went downstairs to Market Hall, and I got a few kitchen items. T didn't end up getting anything at Ikea.

We headed to downtown New Haven to have lunch (details below). Afterward, we walked a few blocks to the Yale Bookstore. We then walked back toward where we parked and checked out some great stores on Chapel Street.

  • Atticus Bookstore/Cafe (1082 Chapel St., 203.776.4040) - A window display of loaves of bread got our attention, so we went inside. T got some Chabaso country sourdough bread.
  • Wave Gallery (1046 Chapel St., 203.624.3032) - Right as we were about to walk by, T realized she had heard about the gallery on the radio and wanted to go in. I'm so glad we did - it was full of unique gifts, artwork, cards, books, and other wonderful items.
  • Urban Objects/Urban Baby (1022 Chapel Street, 203.865.5236) - Their window display caught our eye ... specifically a very hip diaper bag by Petunia Pickle Bottom (yes, that's really the name!) Mind you, neither one of us is pregnant, but we just had to look. Once inside, we realized the store has some great home and baby items.

What I Ate: Claire's Corner Copia (1000 Chapel Street, 203.562.3888)

Claire's Corner Copia is a vegetarian restaurant which has been around since 1975. According to their website, Claire's serves "totally delicious food with lots of great multi-ethnic choices, including Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern food that's healthy for you, all natural, vegetarian and sustainable foods".

Claire's menu is written on blackboards posted on the wall and details of specials are written on dry-erase boards nearby. Baked goods - from double layer carrot cake to Lithuanian coffee cake - are displayed behind a short glass wall, and they all looked amazing.

You place your order at the register, and they ask for your name. After grabbing your own napkins and silverware, you find a seat and wait until your name is called. When that happens, you raise your hand, and a friendly Claire's server delivers your food to your table. When you're done eating, you bus your own table by taking your dirty dishes to an area by the kitchen. It may sound a bit confusing, but it's easy to figure out once you're there, and everyone seems to comply with the "please clear your own table" signs.

After perusing the menu for a while, T decided on an Albacore melt, and I ordered a grilled vegetable sandwich on a whole wheat roll with a sun dried tomato/feta spread. Our sandwiches were delicious and huge - neither one of us was able to finish our meal, and sadly, we had no room left for dessert.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

This Weekend ... August 27 & 28

Well, wouldn't you know it ... I cover Block Island for my first review, and we decide to head there on Friday (a much-needed day off from work for E and me!) I'll make sure to do some research so we eat somewhere we haven't been before - that way I'll be able to provide a new dining review.

One place that looks interesting for a snack is the Blue Dory Tea Room and Block Island Cookie Company - known for its "Block Island Barnacle" cookies. According to the Boston Globe they are "rich, dense cookies with large chunks of chocolate, nuts, and an elusive streusel taste" ... sounds heavenly.

As for this weekend, E and I have separate plans. He's headed to the Boston Red Sox game on Saturday with some friends, and I'm off to a party at a friend's house. Sunday I have a baby shower to attend. So, we're celebrating our "weekend" a bit early on Friday.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rachael Ray Challenge - Hartford, CT

One of my favorite blogs - Cooking with Amy - recently contained a link to a "Be Rachael Ray for a Day" challenge. The basic premise is to spend $40 in a day on meals - similar to the show. I've chosen to focus on a place close to home - Hartford, CT - for my challenge. So, here goes ...

Breakfast - Mo's Midtown - 25 Whitney St., 860.236.7741

Mo's is pretty much an institution in Hartford. It's nabbed the Best Breakfast Spot award - as decided by Hartford Advocate readers - 13 years in a row.

Mo's is small - counter seating where you can watch food being swiftly prepared, as well as no more than eight booths. However, that doesn't stop people from lining up outside and waiting patiently for a place to sit and enjoy Mo's great breakfasts.

If you decide to order Mo's famous pancakes (made with whole wheat flour and wheat germ), you will need to make two decisions - what kind and how many? Mo's offers many choices - for example, plain, blueberry, chocolate chip, mixed fruit, and nut. As for how many, you'll need to decide if you want a solo (1), short (2) or large (3) stack. While the solo stack may seem like it wouldn't be enough, Mo's pancakes are huge, so it's plenty ... especially if you've ordered a side of home fries along with it (which I seriously recommend!)

Mo's also offers omelets, French toast and combination plates such as Papa Mo's - eggs cooked to order, choice of meat and home fries.

Recommendation: Solo stack chocolate chip pancake with side of home fries and orange juice - approximately $8.00 ... $32.00 remaining for the day.

Lunch - Mayor Mike's - 283 Asylum St., 860.522.MIKE (6453)

Last year, former Hartford Mayor Mike Peters opened Mayor Mike's downtown. The restaurant is decorated in earth tones, dark cherry and black with huge black and white photographs of The Mayor's Nine on the walls - individuals from diverse backgrounds and professions chosen to represent Hartford. Each photo has a small description of the individual below, and the photographs change periodically.

Mayor Mike's has appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrees on the menu, along with daily blackboard specials. I recommend the pesto grilled cheese - grilled Texas toast, pesto mayonnaise, cheddar, Monterey jack, cotija and sliced tomatoes (I usually order it without the tomatoes) with a side of fries and a pickle. It's oooey-gooey and oh-so-good. It's a great update on one of my favorite comfort foods.

Recommendation: Pesto grilled cheese and soda - approximately $10.00 ... $22.00 remaining for the day.

Dinner - Agave Grill - 100 Allyn St., 860.882.1557

Agave is another relative newcomer to the Downtown Hartford dining scene. It's definitely one of the best Mexican food restaurants in the area.

Agave has bright Mexican artwork and accessories throughout the restaurant. It has a good-sized bar area which tends to be busy right after work with the happy hour crowd - especially on Monday when house margaritas are half price, and Agave offers a free taco bar.

Start your meal with guacamole. It's prepared tableside with avocado, serrano chile, tomato, cilantro, and lime. Agave's complimentary chips and salsa are also good, although the salsa is not on the spicy side.

For dinner, Agave offers standard Mexican fare. I recommend the two mixed cheese with chili con queso enchiladas. While cheese enchiladas may sound simple, I've been to plenty of Mexican restaurants which mess them up. Agave's are cheesy and good.

Accompany your meal with a half-price house margarita on the rocks on a Monday night and enjoy the good food, great service and hopping atmosphere at Agave.

Recommendation - Guacamole, cheese enchiladas and a half-price house margarita on the rocks - approximately $22.00 ... $0 remaining ... $40/day challenge met!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Newport, RI

Description: Newport, Rhode Island

How We Got There: Car - exit 3a off I-95 in Rhode Island then followed signs to Newport (passed over the Jamestown and Newport bridges)

What We Did: Walked quite a bit, browsed the shops and enjoyed sorbet

We parked at the Visitor Center and got our parking validated there before we headed off (validation results in a free half hour of parking). We've found that location to be the most reasonably-priced parking. Other parking lots we saw were charging $10 while we only paid $4.

Newport is a great place for shopping - it has all types of stores from clothing to souvenirs to pet boutiques to sports photography to home decor.

We spent our afternoon walking on America's Cup Avenue and Thames Street browsing the different stores. We started with Bowen's Wharf - an area with a great collection of shops and restaurants (including lots of outdoor dining). The Black Dog has opened a store there - its first location outside of the Cape. E just happened to be wearing his Black Dog t-shirt today which he got on our trip to Martha's Vineyard a few years ago.

In addition, Newport has several art galleries. One I found particularly interesting was Art on the Wharf (33 Banister's Wharf, 401.845.6858) which featured oils, monotypes and limited edition reproductions by Tony Gill in their Cape Light: 5th Annual Summer Art Show. A painting of Brant Point in Nantucket - where E and I got married - was particularly stunning.

Since this was a "browse but not buy" trip (our main purpose was to get out of town and walk around), I resisted going in Claire Murray. Last time we went there, I came out with a beautiful quilt with scenes of Nantucket for our guest room.

Where We Ate: Cold Fusion Gelato

Since we ate lunch earlier in Westbrook, CT at The Whole Enchilada, we only needed a snack to tide us over until dinner. Therefore, we headed to our regular place - Cold Fusion Gelato. Their pamphlet indicates they "use only the purest natural ingredients: orchard-fresh fruits and nuts, the world's finest chocolate, exotic spices, farm-fresh milk, lots of love and yummy goodness". It shows.

They always have so many wonderful flavors - lemon ginger and lychee both caught my eye - but I ended up with pink grapefruit sorbet. E got strawberry lemonade sorbet, and it was a wonderful combination of sweet and tart.

We sat on a bench and leaned over while we ate to prevent the fast-melting sorbet from getting all over us. The sun was beating down mid afternoon, so the sorbet was a refreshing break in our day.

The Whole Enchilada - Westbrook, CT

Westbrook, CT and Newport, RI may seem an unlikely pair, but that's where we went today. We were on our way down Route 9 toward Newport. We got started a bit later than planned, so we were hungry for lunch pretty early on in our trip. We decided to take a slight detour to Westbrook to have lunch at one of our favorite weekend lunch places, The Whole Enchilada (1121 Boston Post Road, 860.399.1221).

The Whole Enchilada is a small place - it splits a building with a Subway. Upon entering The Whole Enchilada, you will see a sign listing the soups for the day. Most times we've been there they have six offerings. Many soups are fat free, vegetarian and non-dairy.

The rest of the menu is listed up high on blackboards, as well as on papers posted on a glass partition in front of the area where they prepare the food. You place your order at the register, and it seems most people take their orders to go. There are approximately eight tall barstools with a counter if you want to eat there, plus there are four picnic tables outside to be shared with Subway patrons.

The menu is simple - burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos, nachos and a few salads. Items are available with chicken, beef, chili, beans or vegetables in different styles (i.e. ranchero, grilled or spicy chicken). We've tried different items on their menu - which have all been good - but now we tend to get our favorites each time - beef chili soft tacos for E and black bean nachos for me.

After a very tasty lunch at The Whole Enchilada, we proceeded on I-95 North to Newport, RI. The report on Newport will follow in a post later this evening.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Oleana (Part II) - Cambridge, MA

As promised, here is the description of the five-course vegetarian tasting menu I had at Oleana. The tasting menu changes each night.

It was such an event - the server would arrive, place down the selection and describe in detail what was being presented. I felt like a child opening presents ... I finished each course and anxiously waited for my next "surprise".
  • Course 1 – Roasted red pepper feta spread with French bread, marinated olives and focaccia with olive oil
  • Course 2 – Goat cheese spring rolls with blood oranges and some wonderfully spicy sauce
  • Course 3 – Red and green peppers with watercress and feta served warm in a little Moroccan-style metal bowl
  • Course 4 – Spinach and chickpea falafel with lavash bread and a great spread
  • Course 5 – Spicy fideos (short thin noodles - something I grew up eating) with chickpeas and an amazing gravy-like sauce

Oleana - Cambridge, MA

Sometimes E and I are ahead of the game ... as evidenced by the latest Weekend magazine. It contains an article on "7 fun cities". Of course, Boston is listed, and the restaurant Oleana appears - a place in Cambridge we ate at in January to celebrate our birthdays. We fully agree with the recommendation.

I had the five-course vegetarian tasting menu at Oleana which was hands down the BEST vegetarian meal I've ever had. I remember sending someone an e-mail detailing each of the courses. I'll see if I can track it down and post it here.

Plus, I'll cover Boston in future posts - we go there pretty regularly. At just under two hours from West Hartford, it's an easy day trip.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

This Weekend ... August 20 & 21

Newport is on the schedule this weekend, but we haven't figured out which day.

Maybe we'll finally try Trattoria Simpatico for lunch in Jamestown on the other side of the Newport Bridge.

The one place I absolutely know will be on our schedule - Cold Fusion Gelato. We stumbled upon it on one of our first visits to Newport, and we've gone back there ever since. E likes the pistachio gelato, and I love the pink grapefruit sorbet. We always sit on a bench outside, enjoy our gelato/sorbet and then walk on the nearby dock to check out the boats.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Waterfire - Providence, RI

Waterfire occurs most Saturday nights - including this Saturday, August 20 - in the summer and fall in Providence, RI. Sculptures designed by Barnaby Evans have been installed in three of Providence's rivers and are set on fire after sunset.

The result is an amazing sight - fire reflected on the water for as far as the eye can see. It's truly beautiful. E and I try to get to Waterfire at least once a year.

The upper levels of Providence Place Mall provide a good viewing point. To get a closer view, leave the mall, walk across the street and then along the river.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mystic & Stonington, CT

Description: Mystic Outdoor Art Festival

How We Got There: Car - exit 90 off I-95 to Mystic then followed signs on Route 1 to Stonington about five minutes away

What We Did: Enjoyed lunch, walked half of the art festival and retreated to the car for air conditioning

First and foremost, it was a very hot day. At one point the temperature gauge in my car read 104 degrees. I have lost all tolerance for heat since leaving Texas. Plus, E and I were longing for the wonderful 70-degree weather we had in beautiful San Diego just over a month ago.

We parked in our usual place and noticed a busy new restaurant across the street - Rice Spice Noodles. We agreed to try it on a future trip since Eric really likes rice, and I really like noodles (works out well, doesn't it?) We began walking toward the festival and were quickly getting hot. We browsed some booths and found ourselves getting hotter. I noticed the attendance wasn't as high as past years. We're sure the heat was the reason.

This year's festival included works by approximately 300 artists. It always includes quite a few photographers selling photos of New England scenes - lighthouses, boats, beaches, etc. In addition, there are paintings of those same scenes available in many mediums - watercolor, oil and acrylic paints, for example. Other types of artwork, such as abstract paintings, metal sculptures, and jewelry, are included in the festival, as well as a section devoted to crafts. At least six blocks are covered with artists' booths along with food vendors selling everything from kettle corn to Del's lemonade.

Half way through our browsing, the Mystic drawbridge was raised to let a sailboat through. Pedestrian and auto traffic was held up until the bridge returned to its normal position. While waiting to cross over the bridge to the main downtown area to see more booths, I came to the conclusion we shouldn't wait for the bridge to go down. It simply was too hot. We turned around, walked back to the car and turned the air conditioning on high once we got in. The cool air felt so good.

Where We Ate: Noah's - Stonington, CT

We were all set to go to our usual lunch place in Stonington - Water Street Cafe. However, I made a last-minute suggestion to try another restaurant down the street - Noah's - and E agreed.

Noah's is a small restaurant, but we didn't have to wait for a table. The bar (which also has seating) is on one side, and the dining room is on the other. The walls displayed vibrant paintings - one series of paintings with pears was particularly interesting.

Our meal began with slices of two kinds of bread presented in a small basket along with butter. One type was sourdough, and it was good. E and I couldn't figure out the other type, but it was amazingly good. I wish I had asked what it was.

For lunch, I had the "Beggar's Purse" Special Salad - mixed greens with a vinaigrette topped with pears, walnuts and Danish bleu cheese wrapped in phyllo dough (the "purse"). It was light and very good. E had an Open Faced Steak Sandwich with a side of jasmine white rice. The sandwich was topped with cheese and peppers. E declared the sandwich good but better without the peppers (which shouldn't surprise me because he likes his sandwiches and burgers plain).

A board with the specials indicated "Save Room for Dessert" ... so we did. We told our server we'd take a peek at the dessert menu. After seeing all the selections, we decided to get a dessert each since we were leaning toward different things. E got a Banana Bavarian Cream Cake, and I got Spiced Pear Bread Pudding.

E made the better choice. His was a huge slice of cake which was slightly banana flavored (not overwhelming like I would have guessed) with layers of Bavarian cream. It was delicious. My bread pudding was served in a pot de crème cup, so it was a small serving. The dessert was actually more pudding than bread, and only the very bottom had the spiced pear flavor. It was good, but I would try something else next time ... and since our meal was very good, there will be a next time.

Peach Fest - Middlefield, CT

Lyman Orchards is hosting a Peach Fest today in Middlefield, CT supporting Connecticut Children's Medical Center - a place near and dear to my heart because they were so good to me when I worked there. Lyman Orchards has a wonderful indoor farm market with produce, baked goods, deli, etc. They're famous for their Hi-Top Apple Pie ... which is absolutely huge and delicious.

We're headed to the art festival in Mystic, CT today as planned, but we may have to make a pit stop in Middlefield. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Not New England ... New Jersey Restaurants

From time to time, we do go to places outside of New England which are noteworthy. So, in the spirit of sharing information on good finds, I'll include information on those places here and preface the post with "Not New England ..."

I just got back from a business trip to New Jersey during which I ate at a couple of great restaurants definitely worth a mention - give them a try if you vacation on the Jersey Shore.

Bistro Ole - Asbury Park - I had an amazing meal here - champiñones to start (grilled portabello mushroom topped with roasted pepper, manchego cheese and Spanish pesto sauce) followed by a skirt steak special with a HUGE steak, black beans, Spanish rice, sweet plantains and a spicy chimichurri sauce. It truly was one of the best meals I've ever had.

It was a busy place, and it's easy to see why. The food is great, portions are huge (everyone walked out with leftovers), and the atmosphere is wonderful. Latin artwork lines the walls, and the restaurant has a comfortable feeling. The host - Rico, I believe - stopped by with a kiss on both cheeks, an introduction to the women at the table next to us (he seems to know everyone) and a greeting in Spanish. When he asked my co-worker and me what we were celebrating, I responded "nada" (nothing). He then indicated not say "nada" and instead say we were celebrating "la vida" (life).

We later learned why he asked what we were celebrating. Upon learning of someone's anniversary, birthday or other special occasion, he blew a whistle and announced the reason for the celebration. Everyone, of course, cheered and expressed well wishes. We had a fantastic time and would return to Bistro Ole again.

La Nonna Piancone's Cafe - Bradley Beach - I think huge portions are a trend in New Jersey. My appetizer at Piancone's was so big - Mozzarella In Carozza (two thin slices of semolina bread and fresh mozzarella fried and topped with chopped basil and sun dried tomatoes with lemon garlic shitake mushroom sauce) - I could have eaten that for dinner and been just fine. I had rigatoni with a vodka tomato cream sauce for my entree, and it was delicious.

The atmosphere in the restaurant was relaxing. It is decorated in earth tone colors with accent pieces such as a reddish pendant light above our table. Our server was wonderful with extremely attentive service, and she allowed us to linger over cappuccino at the end of our dinner. All in all, we had another great meal.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Next Weekend ... August 13 & 14

Because we take day trips quite frequently, I'm always planning our next trip. Unlike week-long vacations - or even long weekends - which you usually plan well in advance, you only have five days before your next day trip. Therefore, when events or places catch my eye, I usually jot them down on a calendar or wish list of places to visit.

One event on our calendar every year is the Mystic, CT Outdoor Art Festival. We'll be going there next weekend. It's always held the second weekend in August, so it's easy to put on the calendar far in advance.

We'll probably include nearby Stonington, CT and one of our favorites there - Water Street Cafe - in the day. I'll let you know how it goes ...


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Block Island, RI

Well, I start this blog ... and have no trips planned this weekend. It just didn't work out for us with personal and work schedules. So, I'll start out by talking about a trip we've taken and plan to do again this summer (as we do every year).

One more caveat - the trips I'll discuss are day trips from West Hartford, CT. Therefore, places like Bar Harbor, ME - somewhere we really want to go - simply aren't doable in a day. As we make it to places further away in New England, I'll write about them, but I wanted to make sure our "starting point" was clear. If yours is Bar Harbor, the place I'll discuss today will by no means be a day trip. On with the fun ...

Block Island, RI

Description: Block Island (BI) is a small island seven miles long and three miles long 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.

Getting There: Ferry to the island - multiple options exist

We take the ferry from Point Judith, RI. It takes approximately an hour to get to BI from there. Once we took a ferry from New London, CT, and it took two hours. E was restless and would have preferred to drive longer and take the shorter ferry from Point Judith. (Guess he prefers driving to hanging out on a ferry ...)

However, in researching transportation options for a trip this summer, it appears there are new ferry options. The old Point Judith hour-long ferry is still in place. There is also a high-speed ferry from Galilee to BI which takes only half an hour. And ... there's a new high-speed ferry from New London to BI which takes an hour. I'll see if I can convince E to try departing from there again.

What to Do: Biking, walking, shopping

The first year we went to BI we took our bikes. Bad move ... for me at least. BI is very hilly. Let's just say I didn't make it that far. Because E and I were still in our early stages of dating, he was more than understanding (thank goodness!) Subsequent trips have not involved biking for us, but if you're up for it, BI is a great island to bike.

Another year we rented mopeds for a few hours to explore the island. We went out to Block Island North Light. From the parking lot, it's a good hike on the beach to get there, but it's worth it. You can hike past the lighthouse to a little strip of land where the beaches from two directions come together and the ocean splashes in from both sides. E called it "the end of the earth". It certainly felt that way. Sadly, I can't find any pictures of that or the lighthouse to share although I remember taking them.

Our preferred method of getting around BI is walking. We're not opposed to walking for hours while exploring, and BI is a good place to do just that. We walked to BI Southeast Light - it's a bit further out, so taking a taxi is another way to get there. The story of the light is interesting. It was moved several years ago due to the eroding cliffs. Volunteers raised the money for the massive effort, and it now sits where it does today safely away from the erosion. The beach nearby at Payne Overlook is accessed via numerous stairs (going down is always easier than going up!) but is beautiful and often busy.

On one of our walks we found an animal farm between Spring and High streets. We were enthralled by the llamas for some reason. That picture I do have, so it's included below.

Finally, BI has some nice shopping in the Old Harbor area where most of the ferries arrive.

Where to Eat:
Another caveat - we don't eat seafood very much. I eat seafood probably twice a year, and E usually just tries whatever I'm having. We'll never pick a seafood restaurant as a place to eat. If anything, we'll be at a nice restaurant, and I'll see their fish special and decide to give it a try. So, I'll do my best to mention a seafood restaurant I've heard is good, but I'll rarely, if ever, be able to provide a personal review.

There are several restaurants in BI. Below are a couple we've tried. I always check out the Chowhound New England message board for restaurant recommendations - the link is included in the "Links" section.
  • The Oar - West Side Road - If I remember correctly, we ate at the bar and had hamburgers here. The place gets its name from the numerous brightly painted oars which hang from the ceiling. There is outside seating, too, overlooking the salt pond.
  • Mohegan Cafe - Water Street - This is on the main street in BI close to the ferry dock. We've had a couple of OK meals here - good, not great.
  • Dead Eye Dick's - Payne's Dock - We haven't eaten here, but I've read good reviews. The Block Island Guide site indicates it is "famous for its seafood dishes, most notably its swordfish". We may have to get adventurous and give it a try.

Our Photos:

Llama at the BI animal farm


Friday, August 05, 2005

Why Day Trips?

When I moved to New England (specifically West Hartford, CT) six years ago from Texas, I knew a few things.
  1. Connecticut is a small state.
  2. Rhode Island is an even smaller state.
  3. New England gets really cold during the winter.

Very soon after I arrived in New England, I met a wonderful man - E - who is a Connecticut native (and now my husband!) However, he hadn't traveled much, so he was more than willing to participate in my exploration of New England.

I was awed by how easily we could travel from one state to another ... in Texas you could travel for hours and still be in ... where else? Texas.

Over the past six years, E and I have become day trip aficionados. We both work full-time, so we cherish our time together on the weekend. Day trips allow us to have a mini-vacation on one of our weekend days. We've found it's easy to get out of town, explore a new part of New England and return home that same day with great memories and a good story to answer the eternal "What did you do this weekend?" question.

I've become the official New England trip expert around the office and am always asked for advice on where to go, so I figured it's best to start compiling the information.

Here's to a great day in New England!