Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Perfect Birthday (long) Weekend

Since I was marking my third decade on the planet, I decided to fill a long weekend with my favorite things. Strangely one day did involve a brown-paper package and lovely enough, the silver-white winter melted into Spring on Thursday. (Sound of Music fans will get those.)

Thursday was devoted to the sliver of Irish heritage that is no doubt somewhere in my blood from my father's side and definitely in my name (Megan Ryan) from my mother. Starting at noon with a great round of drinks at Stoddard's. We first attempted to test as many of the Harpoon specials that were on cask. Then another. Then (like last time) our waitress kept misinforming us about what beers were available. So the barkeep came over, looking straight out of a 1910's fancy downtown Boston establishment, and offered us a round on him. It pays to be smarter than your waitress, a lesson I relearn on Sunday.

St. Patrick's Day continued as we joined in the revelry at Faneuil Hall then drinking for free at Harpoon. We wrapped up the night with my favorite dish and local dinner joint - eggplant parm and Bella Luna.

Friday was brutal. 8 straight hours in the kitchen. Our first all-grain brew. Then more apps then you could shake a stick at for my evening shindig. Our first all-grain batch, a rye, will likely be low in alcohol and have a slight hint of burnt sock. (Our grain sock burnt to the bottom of the pot.) Oh well. What started off with hard work ended with many good friends gathered round the table at the Haven, being served kelp-chocolate beer by our local Scotsman.

Saturday, back to me time. I took a leisurely ride down to the Haymarket. If there's two things I love, it's slow cycling and Boston's Haymarket: the number one source for cheap produce. Some steals to be jealous of: ginormous bag of mixed greens for $2, 5 nectarines for $1, very large bunches of basil for $1, bags of onions for $1. I biked back on home with my load and then took myself out to get some pad thai and read a book I just got from the library. (Pad Thai and books are on my favorites list.) We ended the night with a bottle of cava and the best mussels I've ever had in my life at the bar at Bon Savour down the street. (Cava and mussels, also on my favorites list.

Sunday, more favorites: A belly dancing class at the adult dance school. A parade in Southie for St. Patty's Day.

Lastly, I donned my new red dress and Chris took me out to a very fancy, very expensive restaurant (with a Groupon). If you are in Boston, you must go to Aquitane. Without a coupon you can make it affordable by going 5:30-6:30 and doing a three-course, beat-the-rush menu for $30. It's worth triple every penny you spend. And when you're turning thirty, there's no better reason to spend every penny.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

In a hot New York weekend

New England's smushed-togetherness lends itself well to quick weekend trips. So last Saturday we roused ourselves at 6 in the morning and drove to New York City. An old friend and co-worker and her husband were gracious enough to host us in their Manhattan-sized apartment.

I almost forgot how tiny those one-bedrooms are! It's now been 10 years since I lived in New York and now the 'home' feeling has really faded. I'm over it. I'll always enjoy visiting, but I'm grateful for the pace of a smaller city like Boston.

With little preparation we headed out. First stop: Heartland Brewery for lunch. We talked them into letting us do a full flight of 9 beers (note the extra glasses in the middle). One outstanding brew was the Quad - 10 grains, 10 hops, 10%.

Next up: The MoMA. Excellent stuff. We probably spent a little too long there, since by the 3rd hour or so, my brain wasn't registering things as much. I might take a little virtual tour at Google Art Project to remind myself everything I saw.

One thing about New York that baffles me is the rate at which restaurants open up and close down. So it was with blind faith that we took a bus 70 blocks down to 2nd St. and 2nd Ave. to go to a French-Russian restaurant I remembered from eons ago. All I remembered about the place was the strange combo of ethnicities and the beautiful ceiling - painted black, layered with white Christmas lights, and then fake palm fronds over that gave the impression of being under a jungle canopy at night.

In any case, Anyway Cafe, was there, open and delicious. (And they served Lithuanian beer!)

The rest of evening was a little awkward as we decided one thing after another was too expensive $15 art house films, $25 jazz clubs, $5 bad beers. We eventually settled in at the Blind Tiger which had an astounding 30 excellent beers on tap.

Sunday we all made the necessary stop over at Veselka, an old Ukranian Diner I worked to graveyard shift at in college. I forewent brunch and got the vegetarian deluxe platter of pirogies, kasha, borscht, stuffed cabbage and a latka. As good as I remembered.

We wandered across Manhattan the rest of the day - Chelsea Brewing Company, Chelsea Market, High Line park, the Natural History Museum. It was almost too much for some weekend, but still, I didn't feel rushed.

We ended our weekend with a trip to another old stomping ground from college the Daryl Roth Theater. We were lucky enough to get 1/2 tickets to the new De La Guarda show: Fuerza Bruta. 6 years after working there, I only remembered one of the staff. But the big black box theater, the lights, the water, it all was the same. Letting loose in that show 4 times a week during college, was certainly better than any therapy I could have had.

That's what New York is for: a little let loose, eat exotic, walk about, culture-filled weekend therapy session. And I feel great.