Thursday, June 30, 2011

Towne Burger Test!

When I saw the Towne burger on a number of top Boston Burger lists, I figured this was a must try.  However, the timing of the serving of this burger seemed to really get in the way.  Only after a few months of being opened the burger was limited to being served only on the weekdays at lunchtime, not really conducive to my schedule!  So after a few missed chances (brunch and dinner) to put the burger to the test I was wondering if I would ever taste it!?!  However, as luck would have it, Nick and I took at jet lag day after we returned to Greece - naturally Towne's burger was our one plan for the day!

Burger Plate
At just about noontime, we headed into Towne with one goal - test the burger.  Not going to lie, after so many failed attempts I did ask the hostess to just make sure, but we were in luck, so the burger test was on!  When the plate of burger goodness arrived, I must admit, I was immediately impressed by the full half of avocado on the plate more than the burger.  While I did throw a few slices onto the burger, I ate that first and it was so fresh and amazing.  The fires are are thin and good, but nothing to really set them apart. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Santorini - Volcano Exploration and Perfect Sunsets and...too much to name!

After the first half of our trip we could not wait to see how the next part stacked up.  When we first started telling people about our Greece trip, one of Nick's coworkers suggested that we do an excursion that takes you out to the volcano where you can hike up to the craters, followed by a stop at the hot sulfur springs, dinner on the boat and a sail to the coast of Oia to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets.

Sunset off of Oia
After being picked up by our transfer we headed down to the port and were welcomed by our ship, Aphrodite.  Rather than being some yucky old boat, this was a three mast wooden sailboat, which just sets the mood for the perfect afternoon/evening.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Puff Pastry and Croissant Class with Joanne Chang at Flour!

Back at the end of winter I saw a tweet from Flour Bakery regarding classes they were holding at their Fort Point Channel store and jumped at the chance.  Turns out two of the classes were being taught by Joanne Chang, owner and author of the fantastic cookbook Flour, so I signed up for the croissant and puff pastry class.  Having never made either before I was excited to learn the tricks of the trade.

When we arrived, the staff was busy setting everything up for the class and allowed the "students" to grab some coffee and tea while we reviewed the recipes that were were going to be using for the day: puff pastry, Parmesan cheese bread straws and croissants.

Coffee and Recipes
Even though we were not the first to grab a table we were still right in the center and had a great view of all the goings on.  Now, when Joanne Chang came out and greeted everyone, I must admit I got a bit giddy.  To some people she may not be famous, but to me she's a pretty big deal!  However, once she started speaking she immediately put us all at ease - she was warm and friendly, and seemed genuinely excited to be there with us.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Santorini - maybe the most fantastic place!

After spending a few lovely days in Crete we took the ferry from Heraklion to Santorini!  We were greeted by a representative of the travel agency who found us our driver and we were off to our hotel, Suites of the Gods, which happened to be right above the port and had the most beautiful view of the caldera. 

View from our balcony
Sea and the volcano
After settling into our rooms and enjoying a bit of lunch on the balcony (how can you not just stare at the view?) we enjoyed a little poolside relaxation and tried to figure out what to do for dinner that night.  Our hotel was actually not in either of the two main towns of Fira or Oia, but the former was a short cab ride away.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Crete - Chania to Heraklion: Palaces, Ruins and a Winery

After enjoying some fantastic beach days in Chania, we had to travel to Heraklion, a port city in Crete.  Driving in Crete was an experience to say the least.  We had to travel on the one and only "highway" to get to Heraklion, a large two lane road with big shoulder lanes.  Turns out, those shoulder lanes are actually travel lanes where slower drivers (ie, cars traveling the speed limit) stay while the rest of the world passes them, to the point where there can be three cars all passing each other!  The drive itself was beautiful as most of it was along the coast and beautiful flowering bushes lined the roads - it all made the two and a half hour trip go by pretty quickly.

Rather than going directly to our hotel we stopped at Knossos, which is an ancient Minoan palace.  Interestingly the location of the palace was known for a while during the Turkish occupation of Crete but it was somewhat hidden as a result.  Not until Crete gained its independence did the unearthing of the palace begin.

There has been some criticism of the excavation process because rather than just digging out the remains there have been attempts to restore the palace to what it may have looked like - they added walls and colors that would have been common at the time.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

75 Chestnut - a real neighborhood restaurant bar

On Saturday night (pre-Greece) Nick somehow managed to get a table for 4 at 75 Chestnut at 8:30pm - sometimes things actually do come together!  So off we went to meet up with our friends A & A for some dinner and drinks. 

75 Chestnut is one of my go-to spots in Beacon Hill.  It is off the beaten path enough that you don't get too many tourists.  It really is a great spot for a full-on meal or just a few drinks, whatever is suiting your mood at the time.  With plenty of delicious menu items and infused liquors there are more than enough things to satisfy just about anyone.  That said, the place is generally packed and reservations are recommended.  The bar, although small, is full service and the hostess is extremely good about watching the pecking order for tables - make sure you reach out to her first  since she is the key to tables!  While you wait, be sure to check out the cheese and cracker tower at the front of the restaurant.  These are actually free snacks that are perfect for tiding you over until you can snatch a table.  On this Saturday night, I was in the mood for a plain old beer, and decided to "dress it up" by going for the Sam Seasonal rather than just the lager. 

Sam Seasonal

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greece: First stop - Chania, Crete

After a very long trip from Boston through London to Athens (and a wait for our luggage) we were off to Crete where we picked up a car and headed to the beach area of Chania, specifically the Thalassa Beach Resort.  Now, I have to give a disclaimer here: I did not put together this itinerary at all.  Lucky for our group I have an "in" with a travel agency from Greece, Amphitrion Holidays.  While we gave them the islands we wanted to see, they found the hotels, prepared the transfers, cars (as needed) - basically, all the details.  Having all of that in place, we did not really know what we were in for.  We drove about 30 minutes down the coast road of Chania with our trusty map (the GPS at Hertz was broken!).  Honestly, I drove only really hoping that we would run into the hotel, and lucky for us we did!  That night we settled in, grabbed a bottle of wine and we (Nick, Erica S., Mike and I) drank it, enjoying the fact we made it and toasted to the fun to come.

Nick and I knew we had a beach view from our hotel, and the night before, we saw the pool but not much beyond that.  Waking up that morning and opening the curtain to look out on the beautiful sea and this uninhabited island with a little cave, we planned on sitting out on the balcony any chance we got.

View from our room
The hotel here was great - very modern, and breakfast included.  Our rooms were really large, and actually were lofts with plenty of head space (no ducking needed), which only added to the fun.  The pool area was really nice and relaxing with comfy beach chairs.  The pool even had a swim up bar, but the water was pretty chilly to enjoy that for too long.  At the resort you have to rent the beach chairs for the day, which would have been just fine, but the beaches there are not fine sand but rather little rocks that were a bit difficult to walk on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Off to Greece!!!!

For the next 10 days I will be enjoying all the sites, food and amazingness that Greece has to offer!  Needless to say, I probably will not have much of an opportunity to blog while I am traveling, but I am hoping to at least update everyone with some photos here or on my twitter page!

We are actually flying directly to Crete to spend some time Chania and Heraklion.  Since Crete is closer to Turkey, there are a lot of Turkish influences throughout the island, so it should be impressive!  Other than enjoying the beaches, Chania itself has a lot of national parks that are filled with all sorts or flora and fauna to enjoy.  

Chania (from Wikipedia)

One stop we may make it at the Palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population in Crete.

Santorini (from Wikipedia)
We will be staying right on the Caldera and are planning on enjoying the amazing sunset every night!  Santorini offers beaches of all types of sand: white, black and even red.  While we probably won't be riding and donkeys, we will be getting an up close and personal view of the volcanic crater :).

Finally, we will be making our last stop in Athens!  While I have been to Athens before, it was back in 2002 when they were still preparing for the Olympics, so I am excited to see how the city has changed since then.  

Athens (from Wikipedia)
We will be taking a tour to help see as many sites as possible in not too much time.  The city is just so amazingly old and to see the Acropolis in person, you finally realize what an impressive feat it was to build at the time. 

Obviously we will also be gorging on Greek food our entire trip.  I am really looking forward to the feta, the lamb, the octopus and some baklava!  It won't get much better than that.  So, if you are in any of these locations and see four Americans wondering around looking like they are having the best time ever, that will be my group!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yappy Hour at the Liberty Hotel

Yes you read that right - Yappy Hour.  Every Wednesday night during the summer months, for at least a year now, The Liberty Hotel graciously opens "The Yard" to both four-legged friends and their owners for cocktail hour, and Four Preppy Paws provides some dog friendly items.  For those who don't know, The Yard is the patio area next to the outdoor seating at Scampo, between the hotel tower and the orignal Charles Street Jail building.

Yappy Hour is something I have been wanting to take Holly to for awhile now, but it never seemed to work out.  For some reason, this week I decided we needed to go.  Nick was NOT sold on the idea, but with a little convincing (they do serve alcohol) he was in.  Yappy Hour technically runs from 5:30pm - 8:00pm, so we arrived at about 6:15pm not having a clue of what we were getting ourselves into.

Hanging with Holly having a beer

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

10 Tables Jamaica Plain

On Saturday night Nick and I headed to 10 Tables for our two year anniversary dinner. For a little back story, this restaurant has been on our never ending "to do" list for awhile now. While there is a newer 10 Tables in Cambridge I heard through the grapevine that the one in JP is the original and you should start there. However, getting us over to JP is a bit of a psychological undertaking considering I thought I was brave crossing the Mass Pike and going to the South End!

At Christmas time this year I looked into booking a chef's table at one of the Boston restaurants and treating Nick for one of his gifts. I heard that Via Matta had one of the few legitimate chef's tables left in the city, but throughout my searches 10 Tables in JP kept popping up as another viable option. Christmas came and went, and other gift inspiration struck, so I kept this idea in my back pocket for later. Later turned out to be our two year anniversary. Given the wedding coming up and all our other activities, we decided to treat ourselves to a great dinner instead of exchanging presents. So, about two months ago I called and asked about the chefs table and made the reservation for our dinner date. I'm not going to lie, I was very excited for our dinner.

Before heading out, Nick didn't listen to our little rules and surprised me with flowers - I mean, what type of girl does not like to get surprised with those?!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Paramount - Beacon Hill's neighborhood go to AND "The Hangover Part II"

On Friday night after a quick trip to Somerville to see a man about some wedding flowers, my mom and I were starving and looking to grab something easy and quick.  On Friday nights in Beacon Hill, however, it can be rather tricky to find a table before 9pm.  Lucky for us, when I called The Paramount there was only a short wait and close enough for Nick to join us!

As this restaurant is a block away from my apartment I've stopped in many times - lots of times I will do take out.  Most people are familiar with the delicious Paramount breakfast, as evidenced by the long lines that form on weekends.  I have directed more than a few lost tourists to the red awnings - as far as I can tell it is in every guide book!  Even still, it has not lost that neighborhood feel.

The menu has a nice selection of wine and beers as well as a delicious bread and dipping sauce to tide you over while you wait.  This time is was a light foccocia bread with an edamame hummus - so fresh tasting!

Wet your whistle

Monday, June 6, 2011

A lunch break at Max Brenner in the Back Bay

This Saturday Nick and I decided to take advantage of the summer weather and get some errands done to boot, so we headed out to the Back Bay for shopping along Newbury Street, working our way over to the Prudential.  By the time we hit Boylston Street I was more than a little thirsty and hungry.  Having read about Max Brenner and seeing that the place was always packed I took the opportunity of a slower afternoon to see what all the fuss was really about. 

We walked straight in and grabbed some open seats at the bar.  Once I sat down I was struck by all the chocolate decor throughout the restaurant.  It is a bit like a more laboratory version of Willy Wonka.  There are pipes carrying the various types of chocolate to the bar and other locations, and large flasks lining the wall filled with bits of chocolate.  There is even a candy store in the front.  While entertaining for the first moments, it really felt like a Disney ride to me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Max and Dylans - and Bridesmaids!

Last week I headed out to meet my friend K at Max & Dylans in the former West Street Grill space before heading over to the movie theater to see "Bridesmaids."  Since it was a beautiful day out we immediately grabbed the table right by the big open windows at the front of the restaurant and settled down for some food and drink.

Open window and a beer - what more do you need!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Freedom Trail Pub Crawl Lunch Break at Ducali

As you know, we headed out this Memorial Day on a Freedom Trail pub crawl.  We started at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown and followed the red line (the trail) all the way back to Beacon Hill.  However, once we crossed over the bridge into the North End we were more than a bit hungry, so we wanted to stop somewhere that offered quick and easy food, but also served beer.  Luckily for us Ducali satisfied all that and more!

Ducali is a newer pizza place right where Commercial Street turns into Causeway.  The large windows along the street were wide open on the sunny day and more than welcomed us inside.  Having never been there I was not too sure what to expect.  The menu offers a great variety of pizzas, salads and sandwiches, as well as a large selection of beer and wine - perfect for what our day required.

Pardon the half eaten pizza pictures - like I said, we were a bit hungry!  K and R shared the Patate pizza, which comes with potato, mozzarella, rosemary and pancetta.

Patate Pizza
This was such a unique and fun combination of ingredients - I've definitely never seen a pizza with those toppings before.  It was really enjoyable, especially when washed down with a classy Bud Light!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Freedom Trail Pub Crawl and The Original Cheers...sorta

On this Memorial Day weekend Nick and I got together with another couple (K and R) and did a bit of a DIY Freedom Trail Pub Crawl.  I have lived around the area all my life and have taken many field trips into Boston to see loads of sights, but I have never been to the Bunker Hill Monument or walked the trail (other than those portions I see daily).  So when the weather on Sunday seemed to cooperate, we decided what could be better on a nice day than culture, exercise and beer?

mmmm, BEER!
Nick and I took the orange line over to the Monument and met our friends to begin our expedition.  While I originally wanted to walk up the Monument, it turns out that it's currently closed for renovation.  For me, this was a bit of a bummer, but for the others it just meant we were on our way to the pubs faster!

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