Friday, August 31, 2007

Yum Yum Getcha Some!

One of my favorite things in life are freebies - small and useless, sample sized and very occasionally, a pretty good deal. While hanging out at a girlfriend's apartment I had the opportunity to sniff through a range of homemade lotions she gives out as 'freebies' to her customers. I liked the stuff so much I am actually considering BUYING some of my own. Now there's freebie success story!

Sugar lips is run by a licensed esthetician (skin care specialist) who makes her own stuff from safe, animal-testing-free, easy-on-the-skin ingredients and packs it all up in really cute jars. She offers a range of yummy-smelling scents from Orange Blossom and Honey to Lavender Vanilla. My personal favorite is Olive Blossom from her 'botanicals' line. The body butters are thick and creamy, but go on smooth and silky, absorbing into the skin without that greasy after-feel.

Not sure which scent you want to buy? Why not order a sample size?

Or you can always just buy something from Pequitobun and let the freebie sampler be a surprise!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Corks and Curds

It's not that I don't like cheap wine...I just choose not to drink it.

Spending one's extended graduate lifetime working for a boss who loves the good stuff makes it hard not to become a slight snob yourself when it comes to wine. Of course, good wine does not have to be expensive (in fact, it can sometimes be free!) A small shop in Portsmouth, Corks and Curds offers daily wine tastings that depend upon the whim of the fashionably dressed co-owner, Eldon Collymore. He'll pour you three generous tastings of a delicate Spanish rosé, a fruity white and delicious red (or whatever he feels like pouring that particular day,) all the while talking about just how much he loves this stuff. There is also a selection of excellent high-end cheeses available at this tiny shop. Offer to buy a bottle of the (very reasonably priced) red and Eldon will pour you another glass, on the house. Why not?

Another good spot (but with less character) is The Wine Gallery in Brookline. Not only do they have an impressive selection of beer, they also have a free, aptly named, Wine JUKEBOX.* Now there's a fun place to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Corks and Curds
13 Commercial Alley
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Wine Gallery Brookline
375 Boylston Street
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 277-5522

*The Wine Jukebox is an Italian-made wine preservation system that dispenses half-ounce samples of 48 wines: 16 whites in a straight-line chiller; and 32 reds in two round carousels.

morning reading

Trying to pass the time on the morning shuttle:

We asked the captain what course
of action he proposed to take toward
a beast so large, terrifying, and
unpredictable. He hesitated to
answer, and then said judiciously:
"I think I shall praise it."

~Robert Hass

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boutique Fabulous

While on a nightly jaunt in search of cheap beer and good bar snacks, I happened to pass one intriguing-looking shop. It was filled with vintage dresses, elegant floral printed plates, letterpress cards and every assortment of trendy little baubles for the home. Sadly, although the shop was open from 10am-11pm, I was running late and had no time to go inside. I would have to return another day.

The next evening I walked back to Inman Square and was pleased to find that Boutique Fabulous was open and ready for business! I walked in and was immediately blown away by the sheer amount of adorable (and fabulous) items stacked upon vintage tables and cabinets. From housewares to vintage hats and shoes, antique furniture to handmade jewelry, this shop had it all -- one-of-a-kind, vintage, new or handmade -- crammed into corners, displayed on lace doilies or hanging from the artistically decorated high ceiling. I sniffed candles smelling of Cilantro, Moroccan Spice and Grapefruit, I touched vintage furs and tried on movie star sunglasses, I oggled the enormous vintage French posters and examined handmade cards and hand-painted ceramic plates. Here was a place to browse for hours given the chance. If only I had a fabulous paycheck to go with my fabulous shopping appetite!

Boutique Fabulous
"Where fabulous people get their style"
1309 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Byrne and Carlson chocolate

Sometimes the best places you find are by accident. While walking down a pleasant street in historic Portsmouth we happened upon a small chocolate shop next to one of the many art galleries in town. I was immediately drawn to the chipotle dark chocolate and sea salt bar. It had just the right amount of smoky spiciness that paired well with the lush, hand-poured dark chocolate. A sprinkling of sea salt on top really brought out all the flavors, meldeding well to form this delicious treat.

Byrne and Carlson make their own confections by hand using chocolate from France, Belgium and Venezuela. They roast their own nuts and use fresh cream from local dairies, real fruits and fine liqueurs. Everything they make is produced in small quantities to ensure freshness (which sometimes means your favorite chocolate bar might not be in stock!)

In a town full of cute little shops, this is one of my favorites. It has a quaint, old-world feel, from the plush carpet to the sparkling glass cases of sweet treats to tempt your wallet. And hey, they even carry Australian red licorice!

Byrne and Carlson
121 State Street
Portsmouth, NH

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Black Strumpet

The first time I had Spätzle (a diminutive of Spatz, "small sparrows"), a German form of noodle, I was at a tacky German restaurant in Florida. Not very authentic, but still very tasty. The second time I had Spätzle, it was cooked by a German friend of mine. Very authentic. She pushed the dough, consisting of eggs, flour and salt, through a sieve into boiling water. She then baked it with cheese. YUM!

Since that time I have not seen Spätzle on too many menus around Boston. So you can imagine my excitement when I spotted on the menu of a quaint Portsmouth restaurant, 'Cashew-crusted Fried Chicken with wax bean-watermelon salad and SPAETZLE.' It was my lucky night (and I wasn't even paying!) The Black Trumpet is a two-story bistro and wine bar in the heart of Portsmouth’s historic old port. Both floors offer views of the Piscataqua River and tugboats that still escort enormous tankers into the harbor. Sadly, the first floor dining room was booked for the night, however, the upstairs bar had an equally intimate and convivial setting. We took our positions by the bar, ordered some drinks and waited for a table by the window to open up.

Maybe it was the darkened old floor boards and candlit low beamed ceiling, or perhaps it was the lovely view of the water from the quaint window seats? In any case, the place oozed historic charm and if I hadn't been so amused by a very untalented and somewhat apathetic juggler parked outside the window, I might have been rather annoyed by the hour-long wait for our food. When the dishes finally did arrive, they were hot and steamy; cooked to perfection. The classic "button" variety of Spätzle (Knöpfle) was served with a dash of cinnamon, which went amazingly well with the delicious fried chicken. Tops to whoever was back there in the kitchen, growing and harvesting the grain, raising the chickens and shelling those cashews for our meal!

I may have to try a hand at Spätzle-making myself. After all, it can't be that hard, right?

The Black Trumpet
29 Ceres Street
Portsmouth, NH

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Laguiole bee

As I learned last night, the Laguiole knife is a high-quality traditional French pocket-knife, originally produced in the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron region of southern France. The design dates from the early 19th century. The word "Laguiole", pronounced "la-yoll," is a generic term, not legally restricted to any one company or place of manufacture. Such knives are produced by a number of unrelated companies in southern France, some 70% of production coming from Thiers, a long-established centre of the cutlery industry. Thanks to their elegant and distinctive lines, as well as fine craftsmanship and expensive materials, they have achieved the status of a design classic and are sold for high prices, sometimes running into hundreds of dollars.

Meritage in downtown Boston uses these pretty knives (see attractive bee detail) as steak knives. As my friend pointed out, they are classy and quite expensive, but wait! Not all Laguiole knives are made the same!? Unlike the rest of the table settings, my knife handle was made from a cheap plastic-y material. It was also missing the adorable little metal bee.

Briefly I considered flagging down our battered waiter. I can picture it now:


Waiter reluctantly walks over to table of twenty-somethings who really have no place in such an expensive hotel restaurant.

"Could I possibly get a GENUINE Laguiole knife? With the bee intact, of course. I don't cut filet with plastic knockoffs."

In my opinion this comment really ought to be more well-received than our polite inquiry as to when we might get the wine pairing for our main course (perhaps sometime before we finished the dish?) The latter request certainly didn't go over well with the restaurant manager. He might have 'ah-hem'ed a bit before rather indignantly claiming the sommelier was opening a new bottle (only he didn't actually USE the word 'sommelier' since us un-edumacated twenty-somethings would have no idea what that is anyhow.) The waiter did finally come around to pour us the last dredges of a more recent vintage than listed on the menu. I suppose when the manager informed us that a new bottle was being opened, he didn't actually mean that bottle would be served to us.

Ah well, Restaurant Week has gone downhill over the past two years, what more can you expect?

Now, if only Laguiole made knives with butterflies on them...


Thursday, August 16, 2007

A flower for your champagne?

The next time you toast the new year, a birthday or job promotion, why not add a flower to your champagne?

An Australian company based in Sydney makes Wild Hibiscus Flowers packed in syrup. Plop one of these red beauties into your champagne flute and watch the bubbles stream across the petals as they slowly unfurl in your glass. When you finish your drink, you can munch on the perfectly edible Hibiscus flower, which supposedly tastes something like raspberry and rhubarb.

Each jar contains approximately 11 whole premium flowers in sugar syrup. Each flower is hand packed into the jar to preserve their quality and shape. There is a slightly different shaped flower for each part of the jar to minimize damage to the petals. All color and flavor come just from the flowers, which are cooked in the jar and vacuum sealed.

Such an elegant (and tasty) way to add a bit of color and flair to your champagne!


Impeachment Day

The MOTH is a not-for-profit storytelling organization founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist, George Dawes Green, who was inspired by storytelling summer evenings on his friend's porch in Georgia. The first "Moth" took place in his New York apartment and then spread to bigger venues in the city. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has brought more than 2,000 live stories to over 60,000 audience members. One, in particular, caught my attention this morning when I was listening to a podcast of This American Life on my way to work.

Joe Lockhart served as White House Press Secretary from October 5, 1998 to September 29, 2000 during the administration of President Bill Clinton. He handled the press during the Clinton impeachment trials. He has told stories from his time on the job—live onstage at The Moth in New York City. One hilarious tale, best heard on audio, was aptly named, Impeachment Day.

Here's a quote:

"I’m telling you, you don’t know anxiety until you’ve woken up as the White House press secretary on your first foreign trip at 6:15 AM, in Moscow, without a passport, knowing you’ve missed Air Force One. Now, the only good thing that I could think of was, the day couldn’t get worse. I was wrong."

The best part of the story is that Lockhart missed Air Force One because he'd spent the previous night drinking at a Moscow pub until 5am. The story just gets better, including a reference to Bill Clinton as the "Presidential Ass" and a meeting with Bono. Who knew the White House staff could have such character!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Living Legends

At a work BBQ I ran into a young student who happened to have gone to the same high school as myself. It’s not often that I run into people from Wayland so we chatted a bit. While attempting to recall exactly when I graduated from high school I began to realize just how old I really am. I nearly ran out of fingers counting off the years. In a futile effort to connect with the younger generation I mentioned that I have a younger brother, perhaps she knew him?

“What’s his name?” She asked.

I told her. (slightly bored)

“You’re HIS sister??!!” (incredulous.) “Why, he’s a total LEGEND!!!” (extremely excited)

Despite the look of baffled disbelief on my face she continued on about the coolness of my little brother. After recovering from the shock I turned this bizarre concept over in my head. I suppose it’s not all that surprising. My brother at one time or another kept his hair spiked up with highlights and he certainly exudes a friendly laidback attitude. The number one “LEGEND” factor was of course, the fact that he had been in an a cappella group.

In any case, just because I think of him as that scrawny little kid who ran through sprinklers in the summer and had a whole crate of stuffed animals, including a pale blue W-shaped hippo called, Wippo, doesn’t mean other people wouldn’t find him totally cool. The funny thing is, after talking with this girl I felt distinctly UNcool. At least when these moments of insecurity arrive, I can rest assure…

…I am the sister of a living legend.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Butterscotch Pudding

For Restaurant Week this year I had an opportunity to try out a (relatively) new restaurant in Coolidge Corner. I had previously avoided it due to the not-so-slightly pretentious name. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience! Lineage offers a selection of modern American dishes with a distinctly New England flavor. The owner of Lineage is former Great Bay chef, Jeremy Sewall; his wife is former pastry chef at L'Espalier (ooh!) I heard rumor that the restaurant owner's brother is a fisherman so perhaps that explains why the seafood was particularly fresh and delicious.

I am actually writing here about the dessert: Butterscotch Pudding with chantilly cream. Each bite was a spoonful of heaven and despite being full beyond belief, I ate every bit of this fabulous concoction. The funny thing is, I don't even LIKE butterscotch all that much!? Here was an exception. The texture was rich, smooth and creamy without being overwhelming; the flavor was delicate and flavorful without being overpowering. I would go back to Lineage just for this dessert (and the seafood is nothing to sneer at!)

If only they had one in Cambridge...

242 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Friday, August 10, 2007

Visual POP

What generally appeals to me most on any shopping foray is packaging. Sure, product quality makes a big difference, but if it's wrapped in ribbon, covered in attractive print, comes in a funky shape or has...**sparkles** I am ALL for it, whatever that product might be. As it turns out, I am not the only one caught up by the commericialization of visual pop. The New York Times published an article on this very topic! I don't even like Mountain Dew, but if I saw these bottles on a shelf I'd definitely consider buying one. Apparently Pepsi is experimenting with various bottle designs that will be changed 12 times from May to October. One could collect the whole set! Sadly, these funky-looking bottles are only sold in eastern Virginia, but it may only be a matter of time before they are here in Boston.

I wish I could claim that I am above the rampant consumerism plaguing our country...but I'm not. One of my favorite mall stores to wander though is Sephora. Now there's a shop that knows how to package a product! Items come in all shades, sparkly, matte, sheer, encased in pretty plastic boxes, dangling from gold chain, in slender sticks or handy travel sized, dual ended permanent, flavored, scented or multifunctional. And that's just the lipglosses. My favorite lip item was introduced to me by a friend: Benetint by Benefit. This stuff will keep your lips and cheeks nice and pink throughout the day. The color is ruby-tinted, but naturally sheer. My favorite use is for lips topped with a clear gloss for added shine. Allegedly this product was originally used by strippers as a nipple tint. Could be heresay, but I think it makes the lip color just all that more intriguing!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Best Taco Pescado in Boston

Walking down a very desolate-looking Landsdowne street, I couldn't help but wonder whether or not this taco joint would even be open. The various shops dedicated to Red Sox paraphernalia were shuttered and silent; the various nightclubs were eerily empty. In fact, the only people wandering about were tourists with cameras in hand, taking in the fresh air and admiring the Green Monster. At the very end of the street I finally reached my destination. La Verdad contains both a nice-looking restaurant with outdoor patio seating and a walk-up counter with a somewhat limited menu. It was what was on the menu that blew me away. Behind the friendly counter girl a matriarchal woman was busy patting perfect little white balls of dough for making HOMEMADE TORTILLAS. Not a food item I could ever pass up. I ordered the Pescado and took a seat to await my food. The cafeteria-style room seemed straight off a side street in Mexico -- only a whole lot cleaner. Bright, Latin music played in the background and a cool breeze wafted in through the wide-open doors. I got my meal to go but didn't get more than two feet outside of the place before curiosity got the better of me. How good does a HOMEMADE TORTILLA taste?

Answer: pretty DAMN good.

I wolfed down my fish taco in less time than it takes to type this sentence. The fish was light, fluffy and perfectly cooked in a delicate, crispy fried coating. Delish! The fish is fried "Pescado encenita style" and served with avocado puree, marinated cabbage, crema, salsa crudo, chipotle mayonesa and a wedge of lime to squeeze on top. The whole thing was absolutely amazing. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to catch the T, I would have gone back and ordered 3 more.

I will be dreaming about those tacos pescados for quite some time…


La Verdad
1 Lansdowne St, Boston 02215
At Ipswich St

Recommended by: The Food Monkey

Prison Thriller

So I know it's random, but this video is so awesome I couldn't pass it by:

so Fabulous.

an instant classic!

I have nothing else to say about this as it speaks for itself.

Charming obsessions

There is something so extremely girly and alluring about charms. Even from a very young age I loved tacky jewelry that had cute, colorful, sparkly things dangling off. And remember those candy necklaces you used to wear in high school? They're still around. Check out Sweet Factory or any local penny candy shop! As one gets older, the tacky plastic becomes less socially acceptable (not that this stops some people from wearing it, of course!) I am now obsessed with charms made of brass, silver and gold. Some of my favorite etsy shops include the Made-in-England, Hoolala. I especially love her Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland themed pieces!

Another good shop is ShaLayne Originals which occasionally showcases some very elaborate pieces such a this gorgeous charm bracelet:

Maybe someday I'll have the gumption to make my own charm bracelet. Until then, I'll content myself with just using a cute charm here and there.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Best Burgers in Boston

In my very humble opinion, R.F. O'Sullivan's makes the BEST BURGERS in all of Boston. A tall order considering Cambridge is home to more than one fine burger dining establishment. The pub is on the small side with tables arranged around a horseshoe shaped bar and filled with Townies and fellow burger-afficionados. A large grill stands at the back where you can watch your burger as it is cooked to perfection. O'Sullivan's is known for grilling their burgers to order. Want it rare? You'll get a thick hand-formed patty that has been perfectly seared on the outside and red on the inside. The cooks aren't afraid to give you exactly what you ask for since they stand behind their high grade meat 100%.

My personal favorite off the regular menu is the BLACK AND BLUE burger. It has a nice coating of fresh crushed black pepper, topped with a delicious creamy blue cheese and comes with 1/2 fries (ie. gigantic hunks of deep-fried potato) and 1/2 onion rings (ie. huge slices of deep-fried onion heaven.)

The pub is also a great place to grab a pitcher of beer while watching the game. What more could you ask for?


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Senegalese food

Today the NYTimes published an article about one of my favorite dishes EVER. It's called, Thiebu Djen, and when it's done right, the flavors are like nothing you've ever had before. Typically served in a large, round communal platter, this dish is filled with delicious fried fish, chunks of perfectly cooked eggplant, yucca, tomato, onion and okra. The vegetables and flavored chili pastes are laid out over heaps of heavenly tasting 'broken' rice that has been simmered in the vegetable and fish juices and acquires a lovely redish brown hue. Served with bissap (from the Roselle plant, a species of hibiscus, also used as tea) and xooñ (the crunch scrapings from the bottom of the pot) this dish is a Senegalese classic. I could almost eat the entire platter on my own!

For some time I tried to mimic the fabulous meals cooked for me by various Senegalese cooks. I was never able to replicate the dish despite numerous attempts. Eventually I gave up, convinced that the rich, delicious flavor must have been attributed to copious amounts of MSG. Having read the NYTimes article I am now convinced that the key ingredient I have been missing all this time is the ete (dried large snail) or guedge (dried fish.) Ick! While I'm not *quite* ready to brave the unknown and simmer dried large snail with my rice, I would love to visit one of the restaurants listed in the article. If only Harlem weren't so far away!

Until then I'll just have to dream about Thiebu Djen...(that and all the fabulous French pastries also available in Dakar...mmmm...)