No, I Can’t Get a Perfect Tan

March 1, 2011 at 3:27 AM (Happenings) (, , , )

For those of you know know me, I don’t have to explain how white I am.  For those of you who don’t . . .

I’m really white.  My 25% Italian heritage must be recessive, because you really wouldn’t believe me by looking at me – and it’s Sicilian, by the way.

Anyhoo, back in the day, I fancied myself a competitive ballroom dancer.  In consideration of the judges (and everyone else who may be in attendance at competitions), it’s common practise for the particularly pasty to tan prior to competition.  Seeing as I didn’t want to die wrinkly and early before my fiftieth birthday, I looked to fake-tanning methods.  I also looked for deals, because that stuff ain’t cheap.

Cut to December 2009.  I had stopped dancing competitively, but was still telling myself I’d get back into it (who am I kidding . . . I still tell myself I’ll get back into it).  Groupon had a deal for a custom airbrush at Perfect Tan.  I had actually known someone who had gotten an airbrush from there and it had looked fantastic, so I threw caution to the wind and bought the coupon.

Fast-forward to December 2010.  My Groupon was only redeemable for another few days and – surprise, surprise – I hadn’t gotten back into competitive dancing.  Too stubborn to let the money go to waste, I figured I would go to Perfect Tan and get the lightest setting possible.  That way I’d just look sun-kissed.

Never having been to this salon or having had a custom airbrush before (my previous Oompa Loompa phases have been a direct result of lotions and sprays), I was admittedly a little nervous, but I was in luck.  The entire salon was very well-kept, and the woman behind the desk (who also administered my airbrush), Macall, was very sweet.  She somehow managed to take the awkwardness out of the procedure (in case you’re wondering, getting a custom airbrush tan is one of your more vulnerable moments).

Too bad I’m a few ounces of pigment shy of being albino and will just never look good with a fake tan.  Once again, I ended up looking pretty unnatural, but I think it’s just because I don’t have the right skin type.  If you are not one sporting that alabaster glow, then definitely go check out Perfect Tan.  However, if you’re like me (or just a redhead), stop trying to kid yourself.  We’re never going to look good with that idolized beach glow.

Tonight’s Tunes
Teenage Dream, Katy Perry

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Strike Three, Jacob Wirth

October 18, 2010 at 3:39 AM (Food, Musings) (, , , , )

At this point I would like to point out that Jacob Wirth features a stunning beer selection, tasty rosemary chicken burgers and a nifty interior.  And that is every nice thing I have to say about it.  Too bad my one negative thing – in my opinion – far outweighs those three nice things:

The service sucks.  So much.

As a former Starbucks barista, I know that everyone in customer service has their bad days, and as a result, it takes a lot to irritate me as a customer. That said, Jacob Wirth has succeeded not once, but thrice in getting under my skin, and not in that enjoyable Frank Sinatra way.

A friend and fellow beer-drinker didn’t have to try very hard to convince me to check out a German beer house boasting countless brews that I couldn’t pronounce properly if you held a gun to my head.  We got there and at first glance, I thought I had found my metaphorical Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, only better because, well, beer.

After sitting down at a bar table, it took a solid 15 minutes for a server to show up.  If only we had a menu to figure out what we wanted to drink first while we were waiting for her: once our server left to “give us a minute” to decide, we had another 10 minutes to pore over our options, and it really only took us two.  This process of our server being MIA for unreasonably extended periods of time repeated itself over the course of the evening.  My buddy was visibly irritated, but I withheld judgment.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m all for second chances.

But the service didn’t improve the second time.  Or even the third time.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the quality deteriorated with each visit.  Even when we got the “good” server – or so I was told (my fellow beer enthusiast has spent more time there than I) – I was amazed by not only the poor service, but how unapologetic it was.  The only time we saw our server more than once in a ten-minute window was when they were rushing us away from the table to another party could suffer.

It’s a shame because Jacob Wirth does have one of the most impressive beer lists I’ve ever seen in my short lifetime, but for me, it’s just not worth the frustration. If you have loads of time and patience, do stop in for a weisbier.  Otherwise, venture elsewhere.

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Dining at Atlantic Fish Co.

August 14, 2010 at 8:36 PM (Food) (, , , , , )

To say I went to Atlantic Fish Co. in search of the best seafood in Boston would be a bold-faced lie.  In truth, I really just wanted a beer.  After a long shift at Starbucks, it doesn’t take much to improve your outlook on life.

atlantic fish co logo bostonI strolled in one early weekday afternoon to find myself the only person at the bar (may it be known that I had stumbled in during a rare window of time: on weekends and during dinner time there’s rarely a seat in the house).  As I studied the draught  options, I saw a label I didn’t recognise: Hoegaarden.  Luckily, the bar manager is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to beer, wine and spirits.  He told me it was the beer that Blue Moon aspired to be (only more eloquently; I’m no good when it comes to describing beer) and I was sold.  Mission accomplished: it was the perfect thirst-quencher on that warm spring day.  Ladies and gentlemen, ask for Joe if you’re at Atlantic’s bar and need a drink recommendation.  He hasn’t failed me yet.

Given my positive first experience at the Fish, I figured I should revisit to check out the dining options.  It’s not like it was a difficult commute, being two doors down from Starbucks, and I’d been craving some fish for a while, conveniently enough.  I won’t bore you with the world’s longest narrative of everything I’ve tried and loved there, but I will tell you that I haven’t had a bad dish, yet.  Some details, however, that may be of interest:

oysters atlantic fish coThe food is a little pricey (entrees range anywhere from $24 to $32, on average), but well worth it.  Atlantic prints its menus daily, featuring several “Catch of the Day” options, which can be prepared almost any way you could want, along with a variety of specialty entrees, appetisers, side dishes and meals to share.  A couple of my favourite specialty dishes include the pan-seared seabass (served with a delectable lobster ravioli) and the lemon sole, served in a white wine sauce(? Not entirely certain on that) and pancetta.  If you’re not into the fancy-pants side of seafood, no worries: the fish and chips are pretty darned good, too.  Full menus are available for download on Atlantic’s site.

The service is the real reason why I keep going back (PR intern’s hourly wage really doesn’t justify the price).  However, while most (99%) of my visits take place at the bar, I often chat with a couple of the servers during the course of my meal.  Not a single person who works for Atlantic is rude or condescending – something I can’t say for several restaurants on Newbury St. that have similar price tags attached to their menus.  All of the hostesses and managers are incredibly warm and accommodating, and the entire bar staff has not only tolerated my incessant sarcasm and commentary, but has perhaps even encouraged it.  A little.  I always receive my drinks and meal in a timely fashion, even during weekend rushes.  These folks know how to keep their bustling establishment running smoothly.

Other small pros: two television sets that are ALWAYS broadcasting the current Boston sports game, nice interior with the suggestion of a nautical theme, great location on Boylston street.

Stop in and check it out!  They’re participating in Boston’s 2010 Restaurant Week, so take advantage of their 3-course lunch special!

Today’s Tunes
“The Middle,” Jimmy Eat World
“Never Let You Go,” Third Eye Blind
“How’s It Going to Be,” Third Eye Blind
“I Miss You (acoustic),” Incubus
“Alive with the Glory of Love,” Say Anything

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A Cheap Bottle of Wine: Villa Cerrina’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

May 26, 2010 at 3:06 AM (Musings) (, , , )

While reviewing the recipe for a “Quick Ragù Bolognese” (details in next post), I saw that I would need some red wine.  Given that I’m a college graduate who is still surviving off a part-time hourly wage, I was in no way going to waste any of my precious $10+ wine on an experimental recipe.  Clearly I would have to buy more wine for this particular purpose.  You know, a two-buck chuck deal.

It wasn’t that simple, though.

I easily could have bought a box o’ wine and called it a day, but given how little I cook with wine (where I actually use it in the food, anyway), most of it would likely go to waste.  I wanted to find something that would serve as both an ingredient and as a palatable beverage.  As much as I love the kind people of Best Cellars, I knew I would have to sojourn elsewhere to find a wine within my budget of $6.00, so I went to Trader Joe’s (home of my favourite $4 bottle of wine, but unfortunately, it’s a white and therefore useless in this scenario).

Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine labelI walked into Joe’s not entirely sure of how I would select my first bottle of cheap wine.  Luckily, the store sorts its wines by region.  I figured that since it was an Italian recipe, what better place to start?  Apart from that the search was uneventful.  I went with the second cheapest red I found: Villa Cerrina’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 ($4.99+tax – score!).

I brought it home and used it to make my bolognese, which turned out tasty enough.  After I got the stove fires under control, I poured a small glass to see if I had found my “best of both worlds” wine.  The verdict?

I’m going to keep looking.  It wasn’t awful, but if I plan on an extended wine night, this won’t be the first bottle I open.  It’s pretty light, a little juicy at the start, and I’m not crazy about the dryness that hits me in the back of the throat.  In addition, I don’t really notice any really distinct flavours. Granted, I am far from having wine connoisseur taste buds, but even I notice when the wine is lacking in such a defining characteristic.

On the bright side, I did find an interesting-looking site looking for the picture of the label. CheapWineRatings.com may hopefully save me the effort of making a bigger mistake in the future.  Regardless, the search continues . . .

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Riding the Megabus: Boston – New York

December 12, 2009 at 12:50 AM (Happenings) (, , )

There’s a first time for everything.  Like blogging from a moving vehicle, for instance.  A good friend of mine is celebrating her birthday in New York this weekend, and seeing as I no longer suffer from the restraints of end-of-semester deadlines, I’m actually able to take a couple days off to stop in.  Because ‘Son goes into the city just about every weekend, I was fine with him making the travel arrangements: just tell me which station and what time, and I’ll see you there, man.  I truly could not have been less interested in the bus line.

MegabusNow I’m three and a half hours into a trip to the Big Apple via Megabus, and I’m still shouting senselessly into the Twittersphere.  Win!  For the last few months, I’ve been hearing about various airlines, buslines and trains including free Wi-Fi, but I haven’t had the opportunity to take advantage of this convenience.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little excited to try it out.

So far, I haven’t been disappointed with the Wi-Fi.  For tweeting, blogging, and general web-surfing, I haven’t encountered any hiccups.  My travel companions did try downloading a song earlier, and based on how long they were whining about it, I’m guessing it took a while.  In addition, I did try uploading some photos to Facebook and it took several minutes to add fewer than 20 images.  Granted, I was in no rush, so it didn’t bother me, but I figured it would be worth sharing.  YouTube is blocked, most likely for bandwidth issues.  Interestingly enough, Megasbus’s site is down, but I’m guessing that’s a coincidence.

The ride itself has been nothing legendary: occasional unexpected stops and turbulence, turns and straightaways that can be expected of highway driving.  The only part I will remember two weeks from now is how cold my feet are.  Oh, and that I wrote this blog post.

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Pressed Sandwiches at Government Center

July 2, 2009 at 2:26 AM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

One of the many delightful aspects of my internship is its location in Government Center, which features history, scenery, tourists, shopping, and of course, good eats.  Er, at least one good eat: I visited Pressed Sandwiches on Oliver St. after my interview with 451 Marketing and I haven’t ventured elsewhere yet.

Pressed boasts delicious, healthy paninis made with fresh ingredients – most notably, their artichokes.  While I’m no artichoke fanatic, I’ve got to admit: those sandwiches are pretty darned amazing.  My goal is to eventually try each menu option at least once, which is only encouraged by my possession of another tally card: purchase 10 salads or sandwiches and the next purchase is free (another score for the poor starving college grad!).  I’ve made decent progress, but the going is slow since I’m only around for lunch at 451 once or twice a week.  Below are some of the small delights of Pressed that I’ve sampled, and what I’ve thought.

Cuban – marinated pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, chipotle mayo, slaw, on ciabatta. As far as I’ve encountered, the perfect Cuban. I really can’t handle overly spicy foods, and I’m wary of chipotle after more than a couple unpleasant encounters.  Pickles in mass quantities aren’t really my deal either, and by now you’re probably wondering, “Geez, why’d she bother ordering it!?” Because I’m a wild and crazy risk-taker, that’s why.  As you may have guessed, the payoff was worth it: the Cuban is just zingy enough, and the pickles are sliced nearly paper-thin, offering a subtle suggestion of flavour. It was my wonderous gateway sandwich.

Italian Chickenmarinated grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, oregano, roasted red peppers, on ciabatta. As far as Italian chicken sandwiches go, not bad at all.  Perhaps a bit much mozzarella, though.

Chicken Pesto – marinated grilled chicken, fontina, roasted artichokes, pesto, on parmesan focaccia. Pretty flippin’ delicious.  No complaints about this one.

There’s more, but it’s late and I have a job interview in the morning.  Wish me luck, and to be continued!

Tonight’s Tunes
The Mating Game, Bitter:Sweet
“The Mating Game (Blackjoy Remix),” Bitter:Sweet

Tonight’s Distraction
Empire Records

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Tossed Salads at the Prudential Center

July 1, 2009 at 3:35 AM (Happenings) (, , , , )

I have a new culinary love in life: the salad creations of Tossed in the Prudential Center.  This comes as a surprise to me.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy salads, but I’ve never really considered them an outstanding food personality, and under no circumstances would I ever have chosen one over, say, a porterhouse steak when it came to filling the black hole that is sometimes known as my stomach.

Until now.

Once upon a time, our blogger was frolicking through the Pru for some reason or other (after a moment’s thought, I recalled that I had been taking advantage of a sale elsewhere in the vicinity) when she suddenly realised that she was a touch on the ravenous side.  She considered visiting the Cheesecake Factory to take advantage of the bar menu until remembering that she’d need to wait an hour to do so, so she instead meandered through another arcade in the shopping center, vaguely recalling the existence of a decent salad joint that may be worth her patronage.

Tossed salad logoSuffice to say, the patronage was well earned.  Not only are the salads scrump-diddly-uptious, but they’re filling!  The first salad I ordered was a cobb (baby field greens, crisp hearts of romaine, freshly roasted chicken, grape tomatoes, avocado, smoked bacon, roasted onions and crumbled blue cheese with blue cheese dressing).  My plan had been to have a light, early dinner so that I wouldn’t feel lethargic later on when I wanted to swim.  A salad would be perfect.

Oh, how wrong I was.  Perhaps it had to do with the mass quantities of blue cheese, but not only was the salad filling – I couldn’t finish it.  People who’ve known me for more than one meal know that I could probably polish off an entire goat, yet, I had discovered the David to the Goliath of my stomach.  I tried to finish that salad.  I really did.  It was delicious, and I absolutely hate not cleaning my plate when it’s decorated with good eats.  While humbling, the experience was also surprisingly satisfying: after all, since when have I considered salads to be acceptable meals?  Oh, that’s right: never.

My second visit to Tossed took place less than a week later, and I arrived prepared (read: starving and eager to merit wearing my fat pants).  This time I ordered the apple walnut salad: crisp hearts of romaine, freshly roasted chicken, apples, crumbled blue cheese, walnuts, golden raisins and honey balsamic vinaigrette.  I had more success with this attempt, only leaving a few large crumbles of blue cheese and perhaps a golden raisin or two, but I still have yet to finish an entire Tossed salad.  Luckily, the nice people who work there have given me a nifty little card that receives a hole-punch with each salad I purchase: after six, my next salad is free.

What’s not to like?

Tonight’s Tunes
“B.O.B.,” OutKast
“Ms. Jackson,” OutKast
“Morris Brown,” OutKast featuring Scar & Sleepy Brown
“Hey Ya!” OutKast
“The Way You Move,” OutKast

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Boycotting Brookline Red Cab

June 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM (Happenings) (, , )

It was late.  I was tired.  I was also a river-width away from my bed, and needed a means of shortening that distance by, well, a river-width.  A friend waited with me as I stood outside the Boston Marriott Cambridge looking for a cab.  After an excruciatingly long two minutes, we finally managed to coax a cab into stopping by.  Good ole Brookline Red Cab.

To make a uninteresting story short, the driver asked me which way to go, then turned the wrong way before I could answer (and he could have waited), then when we finally arrived at my apartment, he did not stop the meter, nor did he turn on the cabin light.  In the amount it took me to find the original fare, I owed another two dollars.  Two bucks may not seem like much, but when you’re a poor recent college grad, you don’t throw cash away, and I only paid the driver the original fare.  He counted it as I was getting out of the car, and started a brief argument.  I ended up going inside with my two dollars, leaving him there shouting something unpleasant at me.

And that is why I will no longer use Brookline Red Cab.

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Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine: Steak Tips Dijon

April 10, 2009 at 12:13 AM (Happenings) (, , , , )

I’ve discovered the secret to what makes LeanCuisine effective: they manufacture products so vile that even goats won’t eat them.  I wish I was kidding.  I knew I was in trouble when my lunch had been in the microwave not five minutes and the smell started to nauseate me.  I knew I was in a LOT of trouble when I took the tray out of the microwave a couple minutes later and was reminded of a colourful letter of complaint sent to Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson regarding the terrible “food.”

I don’t purchase Lean Cuisine frequently, nor do I actually think it will help me lose weight (I eat what I darned well please more often than not), but because occasionally it’s on sale, and it requires less effort than preparing the perfect medium-rare porterhouse steak.  I’ve bought some really unappetising selections, but usually I can manage to finish about half of the dish.

Not this time.

Never have I had second thoughts about a Lean Cuisine before I took it out of the microwave. It smelled like – well, I won’t go into detail, as I don’t know how many of you are planning on eating later on.  Suffice to say that I was regretting my purchase already, regardless of the fact that it was free with the purchase of four other Lean Cuisine products.

The microwave chirped at me a couple minutes later.  The deed was almost done.  I needed only to let this mystery dish sit for two minutes before I got to peel back the plastic to see what I’d won.

Two minutes later, it was clear that I’d won the booby prize.  The green beans looked pitifully devoid of nutrients in the side dish on the right, having been shrunken to occupy maybe a quarter of their compartment.

As for the items in the left-hand compartment of the dish, the “main course” . . .  Well, pardon my bluntness, but I don’t know how else to describe it:

Some folks at Lean Cuisine must have thought it would have been a good idea to have a cow defecate into the dish, coat it with gravy, freeze it and sell it to unsuspecting consumers.  Cautiously, I tried to poke a shriveled up piece of I-don’t-know-what (Lean Cuisine labeled it “red skin potato”), but it resisted the fork’s prongs.  After a brief battle, I finally stabbed the bugger and shoved it into my mouth.  I immediately regretted my decision.  During this encounter I was providing a friend of mine with the play-by-play via Google Chat.  Here’s how I described the potato incident:

Me: What the [expletive] is that!? A potato!?
Friend: starch? how is that lean?
Me: ::tastes it:: Evidently by making you have absolutely no interest in finishing it . . .

The actual “steak tips” were no better.  I went to spearhead a morsel with my fork, only to have it fall apart.  I scooped up a shred with much less bravado than I had the potato . . . thing.  If a hot dog and cheap corned beef were to somehow engage in illicit relations, then the result would be the flavour and texture of what I had just ingested.

Dear readers, it pains me to say that the pathetic pile of green in the corner of my dish was the most painless part of that “meal.”  They tasted like, well, nothing, really.  Nothing with a hint of texture.

I’ve never been wild about Lean Cuisine, but it’s usually served some kind of purpose.  After this incident, though, I will be hard-pressed to ever consider purchasing their products again in the future.  I’ll suck it up and spend an extra 20 minutes making myself pasta.

Today’s Tunes
“I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama,” John Lennon
“How Do You Sleep?” John Lennon
“Meat City,” John Lennon
“Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Home Version),” John Lennon
“Bring on the Lucie (Freda People) (Home Version),” John Lennon
“John Sinclair (Live),” John Lennon
“What You Got,” John Lennon
“Watching the Wheels,” John Lennon
“Real Love,” John Lennon
“Imagine (Live),” John Lennon

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Rule #2 of North End Dining: Reservations Have No Value

March 27, 2009 at 11:53 PM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

To start from the beginning of my North End culinary adventure, begin with Rule #1: Don’t Drive.

While I waited for my parents to find their way back to Francesca, I dashed inside to ask the hostess not to release our reservation: we were “there,” just unable to park.  She seemed unconcerned, so I shrugged to myself and headed back outside.  When I returned with my parents five minutes later, I soon realised why my reassurance had such a non-effect on our hostess: apparently, even if a party makes a reservation, said party may still have a 10- to 15-minute wait before being seated.

As we were herded to the bar to wait, which was packed, I glanced over at my dad, dreading the fumes coming out of his ears.  Although normal human beings would have just seen a displeased man, my Daughter Senses were far past tingling: those fumes were fast, furious, and for all I knew, noxious.

Tonight’s Tunes
“Dreaming of You,” The Coral
“Soul Sauce,” Cal Tjader
“The Crunge,” Led Zeppelin
“To Be a Lover,” Billy Idol

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