Rule #1 of North End Dining: Don’t Drive

March 27, 2009 at 10:50 PM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

I had a busy weekend scheduled: my parents were coming into Boston to visit me in my acclimated habitat.  The following day, we would all trek over to Hartford, CT for Family Matters.  When I asked my Mom if she had any dinner preferences, she mentioned that she and my dad had an interest in trying something new.  Something new?  Fantastic, I knew just the place.  I suggested Solea in Waltham, a delightful restaurant and tapas bar.

“I don’t think your father will be thrilled about tapas.”

Funny, I thought, last time when I suggested tapas to Dad, he said Mom wouldn’t want to drive out to Waltham . . . I let it slide.

“I was thinking maybe the North End.”

I wholeheartedly approved of this suggestion.  Boston’s North End features some of the best Italian dining in the city, and rightfully so: it is the Little Italy of Beantown.  There was only one problem:

“Mom, I’ve only been to one restaurant in the North End, Pompei.  They have awesome calzones, but it’s going to be packed -”

“And I’d like something a little fancier than calzones for dinner,” Mom interrupted,  “Maybe one of your roommates can recommend a place to you.”

Suddenly I had a mission: my parents were due in Boston in three hours, and we had no place to eat.  Well, there were plenty of places to eat; we just hadn’t picked one.  I consulted the Little Wanderer, who recommended a place called Francesca’s.  I consulted a coworker and former classmate, who suggested Fresca and Fiore.  Fresca was booked solid and Fiore no longer accepted reservations after 3.00 P.M., so I made a phone call to inquire at Francesca’s.  Reservation for three at 7.30?  Bing-o.

I was pretty stoked when I called my parents to inform them of our newly made dinner plans, and I was pleased to hear that they were equally excited.  They arrived in Boston shortly thereafter, and after dropping some goodies off at the apartment (Mom makes the best pasta sauce on the face of the planet), we all piled into the car to head out to Francesca’s (normally we’re T riders, but Francesca’s website advertised free valet parking).  Mom plugged the address into the GPS, and we were on our way.

It didn’t take long for Dad to decided that he hated the North End.  For those of you who don’t know, there’s no such thing as “going around the block” in the North End.  This is due, as far as I know, to two things: many, many one-way streets, and the lack of planning that went into this historic part of Boston (streets evolved from horses’ walking paths, if I remember correctly from my 7th grade field trip to Boston).  That, combined with an overwhelmed GPS made locating Francesca’s a bit of a trick.  Dad had no patience for tricks.

After nearly 10 minutes of exploring the North End, we finally found Francesa’s: no valet in sight.  Dad was noticably unhappy, and told me to go inside and find out how we were supposed to park.  By now, Mom was also losing it: Dad was stressing her out, and it was 7.25.  I escaped from the car and toodled inside to find someone to pester about the valet parking, expecting that my parents would remain double-parked outside of the restaurant.  I picked off a waiter and inquired about the valet.  He quickly tracked down the valet manager, and both manager and I headed outside to find my parents . . . who were no longer outside of the restaurant.  Trying not to let my teeth chatter in the windy, 36-degree weather, I phoned my parents to figure out where they had gone.  After a slightly tense exchange, I learned that my parents had once again tried to “drive around the block.”  I had no choice but to wait outside for my parents to once again find the restaurant.  Ten minutes, or perhaps a brief lifetime later, they made their way back.

“Next time we are not driving!” my mom proclaimed immediately.

Dad simply responded with “There won’t be a next time.”

And on that note, we finally walked through Francesca’s front doors.

Today’s Tunes
“Mais Um Lamento,” Céu
“Escondite Ingles,” Shakira
“Green Light,” John Legend feat. Andre 3000
“The Rain,” K-OS
“Secret,” Maroon 5
“The Scientist,” Coldplay
“Wait,” The Beatles
“Flower,” Moby
“N.I.B.,” Black Sabbath
“Poison Pushy,” Stanton Moore
“I Need,” Alicia Keys
“Good Life,” Kanye West feat. T-Pain
“Miles Apart,” Madonna

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A Brief Tribute to Fin’s

March 21, 2009 at 3:56 AM (Personal Reference) (, , , , )

If you like sushi, go to Fin’s, located in Boston’s Kenmore Square as well as Cleveland Circle.  I don’t care if you live out in Arizona.  Make a fieldtrip.

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit rash.  I’m no sushi connoisseur, and I’d hate to have one somehow manage to sue me for wasting his time and money after he decided that Fin’s isn’t that awesome.

Whatever, I think it is.

Fin’s opened in Kenmore this past summer, I think, and My Damn Roommate and I decided to meet there for a pre-semester meet-up back in August.  I immediately fell in love, and have been loyal ever since.

While out on Valentine’s Day, I decided to try something new: Fashion Maki, which contained avocado, cream cheese, tobiko . . . and grilled eel.

I was rewarded handsomely for my bravery.  As it turns out, I really, really like grilled eel.  So much that when I craved sushi tonight, I sidelined my default (Philadelphia Maki: smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and scallions) in favour of the Fashion Maki.  While I waited for the delivery man of my dreams, I prayed that eel was as delicious as I recalled.

I was in luck.  It was even better than last time (perhaps because I was eagerly anticipating, but who knows?).

I encourage you all to try eating something new.  Perhaps not eel (even I was weirded out at the idea, initially), but if that’s the route you decide to take, I’d highly recommend Fin’s.

Some other things I’ve noted about Fin’s:

The woman who answered the phone was incredibly polite and clear in her speech (I am used to having to decipher through heavy accents and tolerate the rude rush at the other end of the line).

Even though the woman told me I had a 45-minute wait, I’m pretty sure my dinner arrived in a little over 20 minutes, but I may just have been lucky today.

Every time I’ve gone into Fin’s to sit down and eat dinner, the service has never been less than friendly and courteous.

The dishes are pretty affordable for those on the college budget!

I’ve yet to try a sushi roll I haven’t enjoyed, but I will admit that the grilled salmon roll was a little bland.

That was my third post tonight.  I’m going to bed.

Tonight’s Tunes
“Julia,” The Beatles
“Love For Sale,” De-Lovely
“Time On Your Side,” Emily Jane White
“Don’t Believe In Love,” Dido
“Heartstrings,” Secret Garden

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Domino’s Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwich

March 6, 2009 at 2:37 PM (Happenings) (, , , )

I’ll tell you one thing: it’s definitely not better than Subway.  For starters, I don’t have to pour a liter of water down my throat after consuming a foot-long from Subway.

Don’t worry!  I haven’t forgotten about PR Advanced!  This is just a quick review.

My mouth watered as I clicked through the Domino’s online menu and I found it: the Mother Sandwich.  Three of my favourite food items – cheese, chicken and bacon – lubricated with Ranch, in a toasty carbohydrate-embrace.  This culinary orgasm could be mine in 30 minutes for $4.99.

Sold.

The next half an hour felt like half a lifetime, and when the phone rang, I probably could have qualified for some national short distance running event, had the elevator not taken four minutes to show up.  I greeted my new best friend with a smile, tipped him generously, and toodled back upstairs to consume my prizes (I had ordered my old standby, cheesy bread, as well).

The cheesy bread was perfect: soft and fresh, toasted just right, and enough garlic to vanquish Dracula.  I opened up the sandwich box expecting an culinary treat of equal or greater quality, but instead found myself feeling a bit like the little old lady from the old Wendy’s commercials:

Only, I was looking for chicken.  There was plenty of bread, and even a hefty helping of bacon (and by “hefty,” I mean “more than I ever get at McDonald’s or Burger King”).  I examined the first half of the sandwich, and could only locate one piece.  Slightly disappointed, I took a bite.

Now I was looking for chicken, ranch and water.  That thing was saltier than half a Domino’s pizza.  The taste itself wasn’t bad, but like those sweet little ladies observed in the video, there was quite a bit of bun, and not enough substance.  However, despite the price, I think I’ll hold off on ordering another one until I want to stop up an artery.

Today’s Tunes
“Like That,” Black Eyed Peas
“Something,” Across the Universe
“Who Cares?” Gnarls Barkley
“F.N.T.,” Semisonic
“Lost!” Coldplay
“Abriendo Puertas,” Gloria Estefan
“Raining Again,” Moby
“Rebel Rebel,” David Bowie
“I Want To Hold Your Hand,” Across the Universe

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The Joys of Tanning

February 18, 2009 at 9:11 PM (Dance) (, , , , , , , , , )

I stand before my computer in the second most uncomfortable state I know, the first being physically injured or ill: waiting for my tanner to dry.  Although not painful, it is incredibly awkward and, frankly, pretty vile.  It’s sticky, smelly, dries out the skin, and stains clothes.  And, all too often does it turn out orange, as opposed to toasty brown.

So why, do you wonder, do I waste my time, money and pride on this rubbish?  Because, in this case, it’s better than the alternative: showcasing day-glo white legs (and other body parts) and blinding both spectators and officials, alike.  I wish I was exaggerating, but unfortunately, I am that pale.  As some of my coaches have put it, if I’m going to put the money into the lessons, the dresses, the shoes, and the competition, I had better complete the look with the “healthy tan,” the perfect hair, flawless makeup, and manicured nails.  See the pretty lady on the right?  I’m supposed to get that colour.

Having a family history of skin cancer, I avoid the tanning beds.  Although a good spray tan can get the job done, it’s expensive, and when I need to decide between getting an easy comp tan or eating for a few days, I typically go with the latter.  That leaves me with the goo in a bottle.  Although drugstore products are fairly reasonably priced, they aren’t manufactured with the performing arts in mind (and often result in an attractive orange tint), so I visit sketchy online vendors with outdated security certificates and buy special goo.  So far, I’ve found success with a combination of three products.

I’ll begin the near week-long process with Super Braun Classic Self Tanning Liquid, which, until recently, had been discontinued (I just checked danceshopper.com, and suddenly it’s available for purchase again.  Yay!).  As close to daily as possible, I apply some of the tanner to a sponge (also available on danceshopper for $3.95 plus tax and shipping) – this stuff has a consistency only marginally thicker than water, so application by hand is out of the question – then apply it to my skin shortly after showering.  Super Braun is a translucent liquid that takes forever to dry, murders my skin and smells like toxic waste – though I’ve grown accustomed to it – but offers a pretty dark colour in only a few coats.  In addition, there is bronzer in the solution, which serves as a great guideline when tanning.  I rarely miss a spot.  Danceshopper sells 150mL for $29.95 plus tax and shipping.

The night before a competition, and occasionally the morning of, I’ll also use Pro Tan Instant Competition Color.  I’ve never actually bought it.  Instead, I’ve managed to scavenged half-used bottles from friends who have no longer needed it.  However, it’s available on bodybuilding.com in two bottles: 4 fl. Oz. for $10.20 plus shipping, or 8.5 fl. Oz. for $17.40 plus shipping.  Another watery tanner, Pro Tan comes with its own cute little brush for application.  It’s a cheap quality, though, so I’ll stick to using my own sponge.  Although Pro Tan provides instant dark colour, especially when applied over preexisting colour, most of it washes off in the shower.  With that in mind, I only use it the night before and/ or morning of a comp after showering to keep as much of the colour as possible.  Pro Tan also smells disgusting, and unfortunately, rubs off all too easily on costumes and clothes when I don’t wash off the “excess” colour.  Luckily, however, I don’t think it stains clothes too much.

The most recent addition to my tanning repertoire is a product of Spray Tanning by Aero Tan, SexSymbol.  This product is a recent fad among both amateur and professional ballroom dancers, and I have to admit, the colour is the most non-orange I’ve ancountered so far.  The smell isn’t atrocious, either.  I buy my Aero Tan from Brian Bercury, a friend of mine, student at Balera, and owner of Take the Lead Dancewear.  A 5.3-Oz. can sells for $22.00 plus tax and shipping.  I spray this product directly onto my skin and rub it on the morning of a competition (in lieu of the morning coat of Pro Tan).  It washes off, and gets all over clothes, but as far as I’ve found (I’ve only used it a couple times, so far), it washes out alright.  Some dancers will only tan with this product, but I have tried applying it to my untanned skin and didn’t get an impressive result, so I’ll only use it if I already have some colour.

I do use a few other products, depending on what what I’ve finished off and what-not.  Last summer, I stocked up on MAC’s Skinsheen Leg Spray in “deep dark.”  It’s advertised as a bronzing spray for legs, but I’ll use it everywhere, save my face, for competitions.  Like Sexsymbol, I can only use it on top of a preexisting layer of tanner and only on that day, since it washes out (although not as easily as SexSymbol, I’ve found).  It almost has a mousse-y, creamy consistency, and I also apply it directly to my skin.  Like Aero Tan, as far as tanning products go, it doesn’t smell half bad.  I hope MAC brings it back for summer 2009.

When I don’t have Super Braun onhand, I’ll substitute Flash Tan, which, like Super Braun, is available through danceshopper.com.  A 125mL bottle costs $24.95, plus tax and shipping.  I’m actually not a big fan of Flash Tan.  It’s not nearly as effective as Super Braun, and although it is a lotion and doesn’t dry out my skin as much (or smell as awful, for that matter), it contains no bronzer, so it’s tricky for me to apply even coats.  Streaky legs are a common result of this product.  I’m actually working down my inventory (only one bottle left!) and planning on finding another tanner.

In between tanning coats, I try to moisturise with my Victoria’s Secret’s Ultra-Softening Body Butter from the Secret Garden Collection.  Vickie’s sells 7-Oz. tubs for $10.00 plus tax and shipping (or 3 for $24.00 plus tax and shipping, or 5 for $30.00 plus tax and shipping).  I wouldn’t have bothered trying this product, but while I worked at Victoria’s Secret (which I hated, by the way), I received a complimentary container in order to provide customers with personal testimony.  I grabbed the pear glace, since the smell was the least offensive of the bunch (I can’t stand lovespell, and can’t understand why it’s the most popular scent in the Secret Garden collection).  As it turns out, I actually like using it, and it does reduce the dry skin syndrome.  I guess Vickie’s got the personal testimony it wanted.

And on that note, my tanner has just about dried.  I’m off to more productive activities!

Today’s Tunes
“Tomorrow Is Such a Long Time,” Rod Stewart
“The Alcohol Diary,” Keepsake
“The More I See You,” Michael Bublé
“Hallelujah,” Rufus Wainwright
“Burn Baby Burn,” Ash
“Piggies,” The Beatles
“He Hates Me,” Sarah Johns
“A Distant Episode,” Till Brönner
“When the Bells Don’t Chime (Banjo Mix),” Brian Setzer
“Let It Rock,” Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne
“Wonderful Tonight,” Eric Clapton
“2 Man Show,” Timbaland feat. Elton John
“They Just Want You to Be There,” Carly Simon
“Otherside,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
“You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” Stevie Wonder
“Let’s Live It Up,” Brian Setzer
“Hey There Delilah,” Plain White T’s
“When You Wish Upon a Star,” Erich Kunzel; Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
“Sway,” Dean Martin
“Shout,” Tears for Fears
“Sing, Sing, Sing (RSL Remix),” Anita O’Day & RSL
“Say It Like You Mean It,” Matchbook Romance
“Goodnight Goodnight,” Maroon 5
“The Way to Your Heart,” Soulsister
“Stay,” Small Sins

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