foodies

Benvenuto a Boston, Eataly!

Being the Italophile that I am, of course I had to get to Eataly as soon as it came to Boston. Well technically I gave it a couple of weeks to "thin" out, which I'm not sure if that's even possible yet seeing as it opened about a month ago. But going on a weekday in the morning seemed to be okay and crowds were manageable. The verdict? Loved it. I mean it's not the same as going to Italy and picking up all of those goodies while you're there but it is the next best thing to hopping on the plane. And when I'm missing Italy it's a good place to go and get a little taste (which let's be honest is most days...) While many are there for a dish of ravioli (nothing wrong with that), I am looking for the more obscure things that are tough to find outside the boot. Incase you're wondering, here's what I think makes a trip to Eataly worthwhile:

  1. The coffee. Finally, a good macchiato around here. And I love that they will do a single macchiato (meaning just 1 shot of espresso). Most local coffee shops drop 2 shots and that's 1 too many for this caffeine-sensitive lady. I mean why does America have to supersize everything? In Italy it's always a single shot unless you specify you want a doppio. But I digress....
  2. The cracker section. Sounds stupid, right? I mean how exciting can crackers get? Actually, very exciting and you know what I mean if you've ever had taralli (or the baby version known as tarallini). Nope, can't really find those guys around here unless you're very lucky to catch the Whole Foods River Street on the right day. I'll let you in on a little secret--it's not often that happens. So, thanks Eataly.
  3. The marinated anchovies, known in Italian as alici. I can see you making that disgusted face right now but have a plate of these bad boys while dining on a cliff on the Amalfi Coast watching the fishermen pluck them out of the Mediterranean and you'll understand. Granted they're not as fresh coming out of a refrigerator in Boston but...air travel is amazing these days.
  4. The pizza. What makes it good is the wood-burning oven its cooked in. This is how its done in Napoli, where pizza was born, and in Boston there are few places that do it that way (it's mostly brick oven in these parts). Also, you have the option to have your pie with mozzarella di bufala imported from Campania. Molto delizioso!
  5. The olives. Along with my favorite bright green Castelvetrano variety, I was also able to find the enormous green Cerignola olives that I snacked on from a lounge chair on the Amalfi Coast. While the Castelvetrano olives are not exclusive to Eataly (Whole Foods actually carries them), I have yet to find the Cerignola variety anywhere else.
  6. The booze. I loved that I had a variety of amari and grappe to choose from along with an extensive wine selection that is very well organized by Italian region of origin. Oh and how amazing when there are multiple kinds of aperitivi liqueurs for a spritz beyond the usual Aperol or Campari. The hubs appreciated the Italian craft beer section too.

In the few hours I've spent in Eataly I've barely chipped away at the surface. There is just so much to see and do and buy and eat. It's glorious. While I would prefer to hop the pond (or just live there!) this place gave me a quick Italy fix. And it's nice to know that when I run out of my olive oil a quick stop at this place will hold me over until the next Alitalia sale :)

I don't have many pictures to feed you with but I think this photo of the enormous Parmigiano Reggiano wheels is enough to give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into. Buon appetito!

Ireland Day 1: County Clare & Galway

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

The Emerald Isle is one of those places that I've always wanted to see but kept putting off because it just seems so close and easy to get to compared to the rest of Europe. I also experienced Dublin in college and thought I had seen all of Ireland (ha). Even though the pub scene is prevalent everywhere, I missed out on arguably the most beautiful part of Ireland--the Southwestern corner. So when my husband and I were thinking of an easy international getaway for Thanksgiving that we could do in less than a week, I'm so glad we thought to do this. In less than 6 hours via Aer Lingus we arrived at Shannon International Airport on Ireland's west coast and before we knew it we were off driving down narrow windy roads through the greenest countryside imaginable with sheep crossing the road and castles standing tall in the distance. THIS is Ireland! Being the end of November, the tourists were pretty much gone and the Irish were already decking the halls for Christmas--towns were all lit up, there were decorations in the hotel lobbies and some town squares were taken over by Christmas markets. It made for a cozy, authentic experience, which was so unexpected but nice.

When planning this trip we knew the places we wanted to see and there was a lot. To make it work, we drove in one big circle in the SW corner over the course of 4 days and we slept in a different bed each night. It actually worked out quite nicely and ended up being the perfect way to experience Ireland. After taking the red-eye from Boston, we were exhausted for our first day and had a lot to see. Having no rest for the weary, we fought through it but in return this is the greatness we got to experience:

COUNTY CLARE

From the airport we headed north into County Clare. This is the area known for its coastal beauty, natural landscapes, and traditional Irish music and culture.

SEE/DO

Cliffs of Moher - Standing over 700 feet above the Atlantic, these stunning cliffs are the star attraction of County Clare and a must-see. Imagine grassy, green countryside coming to an abrupt halt as big waves crash below, and spectacular views. TIP: Follow the cliffs south for and walk towards Hag's Head to escape the crowds and get the best views. In the summer, if you're lucky, you'll be able to spot adorable puffins that use the grounds for breeding. 

Walking Path along the Cliffs of Moher
Walking Path along the Cliffs of Moher
Jetsetting with Jess at the Cliffs of Moher
Jetsetting with Jess at the Cliffs of Moher
Vibrant Colors, Cliffs of Moher
Vibrant Colors, Cliffs of Moher

The Burren - The exact opposite of the grassy & green Ireland you see on postcards, this landscape is made completely of rocky limestone plateaus but is just as interesting. You can spend hours walking through, spotting old ruins, or you can drive through some of it which is what we did. TIP: From the Cliffs of Moher, follow R478 to Doolin, then continue along the coast on R477 for some amazing views of where the Burren meets the ocean. 

Limestone rocks fill the Burren
Limestone rocks fill the Burren
driving the burren
driving the burren

Aran Islands - About an hour by ferry from Doolin or Galway, these islands offer remote, gorgeous landscapes, traditional Irish culture and lovely sweaters. They are best explored on bike. We did not make it here on this trip but they are on our list for next time.

EAT/DRINK

McGann's Pub - Located a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher is the little town of Doolin. This pub is located right in town and offers traditional pub fare and a warm fire for the colder months. Food is offered all day and live traditional music is played nightly. (Toomullin, Clare Coast)

Food Heaven - Located about 25 minutes north of Shannon Airport is the quaint, colorful town of Ennis. This cute cafe located in town serves casual fare all day but most notably has the best fresh-baked scones I tasted all week. Add a pot of tea, and this was the perfect little morning stop on our way to the cliffs. (21 Lower Market St, Ennis)

GALWAY

Located on the coast where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic, just north of County Clare lies the city of Galway. The vibe is very Irish--streets filled with pubs, locals speaking Gaelic and street performers playing trad music. There is loads to do and its compact size makes it very walkable. After a day of sightseeing in County Clare we decided to spend our night in this lively and charming city.

SEE/DO

Eyre Square - This is the main square in the center of town. While we were there, the space was dedicated to a festive Christmas market all lit up with decorations, carnival rides and food stalls.

Latin Quarter/High Street - An area packed with pubs, restaurants, shops and culture. High Street is pedestrian-only, so enjoy a leisurely stroll and take it all in. At one end is the river and the other is Eyre Square and you can easily walk the entire length in about 10 minutes.

High Street, Latin Quarter, Galway
High Street, Latin Quarter, Galway

EAT/DRINK

Ard Bia at Nimmo's - A cozy, buzzing little restaurant down an unassuming cobblestone street serving up fresh, seasonal fare from local fish to steak to lamb. The food was excellent and the staff was super nice. Reservations recommended. (Spanish Arch, Long Walk)

The Salt House - The craft beer scene is on the rise in Ireland and this bar had all the local brews plus some. The people were super friendly, the fire was warm and the atmosphere cozy. I would definitely go back to Galway just to go to this bar. Tip: Try anything by Galway Bay Brewery for a taste of something local.(Raven Terrace)

The Salt House Galway
The Salt House Galway

Cupan Tae - A lovely little tea room for your afternoon pick-me-up and tray of pastries. They also serve espresso if tea just won't cut it. (8 Quay Ln)

STAY

The House Hotel - This eclectic, boutique-style hotel was perfectly located in the Latin Quarter. For less than 100eur/nt we had a comfortable, stylish place to rest our head and a hearty breakfast was included. Rates from 79eur/nt. (Spanish Parade, Galway City Centre)

Jurys Inn - This would be another good option, located just a block or two from The House Hotel. Rates from 59eur/nt. (Quay St)

NOTE: I highly recommend renting a car (yes they drive on the left side of the road but you can do it, I know you can!) because some of the amazingness we got to see would not have been possible without one. You may luck out with an organized tour in the high season but with that comes crowds and traffic and lots of it.

ALSO TO NOTE: Consider visiting in the off-season. We felt like we had the sights and roads to ourselves and got to experience local culture that you would otherwise not get if you were among the tourist masses. But keep in mind the days are shorter, temps are lower, and some businesses are closed for the season.

Whew, I never realized how much we actually accomplished on our first day, jet-lagged nonetheless, until writing it out. Stay tuned for day 2 because we're headed south to County Cork. Specifically the city of Cork and the lovely town of Kinsale, which may have been my favorite!

There's More Than Beer in Bruges

Okay well it’s a big part of it, of being in Belgium for that matter, but Bruges is a gorgeous, romantic city and is perfect for a couple days to escape the hustle bustle of a major city like London, Paris, or even Amsterdam. Today I’ve got Bruges on my mind because it is the 2-year anniversary that my husband proposed to me there. It happened along a picturesque canal and we celebrated afterwards as any Belgian would do with many strong beers. Let’s just say it was an early night. Bruges is located a little over an hour northwest of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and only about 2 hours on the train from London or Paris (3 from Amsterdam) which makes it an easy weekend destination if you’re visiting one of those cities. It is pretty small so you don’t need more than a couple of days there to get a real feel for the culture. The local language is actually a dialect of Dutch (Flemish) but most people know English. French is not really spoken here despite it being the language in Brussels and other parts of Belgium.

In addition to wandering the quaint, cobblestoned streets and getting lost along its many picturesque canals, here’s a list of 5 things you should do in Bruges, most involving food and/or beer. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. Have an authentic Belgian beer at Staminee de Garre. Tucked away down a small alley off the main square, this tavern is quite hidden and tough to find but well worth searching for. The atmosphere is cozy yet lively and is filled with a good mix of locals and visitors alike. Most notably, this watering hole serves up its own Belgian tripel on draught and is the only place on the planet that you can have it. It is delicious but packs a punch at 11% abv, so expect to be cut off after 3. You can thank the bartender later for that. (Staminee de Garre, de Garre 1)
  2. Check out the scenic main square, Markt. Despite being very touristy, this square is still a must see with its Dutch step-gabled buildings, horse-drawn carriages and dramatic medieval facades. If you've seen the Colin Farrell movie In Bruges, this is where the famed belfry resides. As with any main square, there is no shortage of cafes, restaurants and shops. Bruges tends to clear out in the evenings so come back here at night when the buildings are beautifully floodlit for a quieter, more romantic experience.
  3. Indulge in a true Belgian waffle. When many people think of Belgium, the first thought that comes to mind is waffles and rightfully so. You can almost always smell the sweetness in the air with street vendors selling the doughy delight on practically every corner you turn. What we know as a Belgian waffle in the States doesn't really exist here although some places try to appease the tourists by offering the decadent toppings. You can expect the real thing, also known as a Liège waffle, to be about a quarter the size, slightly crisp and sticky on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside and best eaten plain or simply topped with powdered sugar. No maple syrup. No whipped cream, ice cream or fruit. Make sure you stop at Chez Albert to get one (or two, or three...) and don't be surprised if you find yourself searching for a Liège waffle maker when you return home. Note: I later learned that other types of waffles can be found in Belgium, like the Brussels waffle, which is closer to what we Americans know. But I did not come across this type at all on my trip, just the lovely Liège variety. (Chez Albert, Breidelstraat 16)
  4. Order Mosselen-friet (or Moules Frites) for dinner. Considered the national dish of Belgium, this meal consisting of mussels and fries is easy to find in these parts. The mussels are plucked locally from the Flemish coast and come served in the pot in which they were steamed. There are a variety of broths they can be prepared in—from basic and buttery to garlicky to one of white wine—but no matter what you choose you cannot go wrong especially when paired with fries made the Belgian way—double-fried in duck fat. Sounds intimidating but tastes amazing. And don’t worry, you can always get a side salad to help balance out your meal. A great place to enjoy mosselen-friet is at Brasserie Chagall, a small candlelit restaurant with a cozy fireplace that makes you feel like you're having dinner at a friend's home. Reservations recommended. (Brasserie Chagall, Sint-Amandsstraat 40)
  5. Take a load off at Café Rose Red. Adorned with red roses hanging from the ceiling, this bar is one of the best to sample a wide variety of Belgian brews. Yes, I'm encouraging you to have more beer because I mean why not? When in Rome... Anyway the atmosphere is casual, rustic and cozy making it easy to spend hours in. It's a perfect place to escape from the cold or wet weather and they have a great patio for when it's nice. The charcuterie plates are on point and are the perfect snack to balance out all the beers you will have. If the long beer list has you mixing up your saisons with your sours, the bartenders know their stuff so don't be afraid to ask them what you should order. (Café Rose Red, Cordoeaniersstraat 16)

Proposal or not, Bruges is a memorable place. I had no idea what to expect as far as Belgian culture goes and I was pleasantly surprised. Delicious food, friendly people, and pretty surroundings. Belgium easily went from being a place lower on my list of travel priorities to one that I cannot wait to visit again. In the meantime, I've picked out a liège waffle iron at Sur La Table. Wish me luck...

step-gabled houses
step-gabled houses
alley in bruges

alley in bruges

belgian beer
belgian beer
Some new bling makes for a great souvenir ;-D

Some new bling makes for a great souvenir ;-D

A Long Weekend in D.C.

Earlier this month, my husband and I spent a few days in Washington D.C. and I have to say it is a perfect destination for a long weekend. The quick, inexpensive flights from Boston were definitely our biggest draw and when we saw that the St. Regis was offering a discounted rate we pulled the trigger and started planning for a weekend in our nation's capital. There is so much to do in D.C. so you should really decide ahead of time what you want to get out of the trip. Since I knew this would a place we would probably return to someday given how close it is, I decided not to do everything this time and focus only on a couple museums (totally unlike me) balanced out by some good eating, drinking & exploring. Getting to D.C. is easy, especially from the Northeast, and flights can be pretty cheap if you hit it right. We went in the beginning of September which is still on the hot side for D.C. so prices were pretty cheap. We coped by making stops into cute shops for their a/c or a bar for a cold drink. There are a few airports that serve D.C. but you definitely want to fly into Reagan National (DCA) since it is the closest to downtown and therefore the most convenient. Score a window seat and you get to see a preview of the monuments as you land. Once you step off the plane, a quick metro ride brings you downtown.

The area we stayed in was very centrally located, being only a few blocks from the White House, but was technically considered Downtown D.C. which is the financial/business district so it was pretty quiet on the weekend. We ended up doing a lot of walking to other parts of the city or taking the metro, which had a stop right near the hotel. Here are my highlights and reccos from the weekend.

 

GEORGETOWN

One of my favorite areas of D.C. and a great place to stroll during the day is the Georgetown neighborhood. Stroll the main drag (M Street & Wisconsin Ave) for some shopping and restaurants and veer off down the cobblestone streets lined with old colonial homes (O Street), some of which have working gaslamps by their front door, how cool! The Georgetown campus is all the way at the end of O Street at 37th Street and is beautiful, especially in the spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming. This neighborhood definitely has a younger feel, thanks to the college students that live here but don't let that deter you.

 

LOGAN CIRCLE

My absolute favorite neighborhood that you cannot miss, especially for eating and drinking, is Logan Circle. It has a slightly older vibe than Georgetown (think young-professional) and 14th Street is hopping with hip restaurants and bars. We walked around this area a bit and discovered so many fun-looking places. I can't wait to go back and spend more time here.

Anyway, if you're into craft beer, stop into Birch & Barley for dinner or the bar upstairs at Churchkey, which shares the same owner. We were drawn to Birch & Barley, not just because of its beer list of over 500 craft brews but because of its farm-to-table, seasonal fare. Everything from the homemade buttermilk biscuits to the chicken-of-the-woods mushroom risotto was fabulous.

Another cool place is Ghibellina. We only stopped in for a glass of wine but it was a hip little joint serving up Tuscan-fare. We saw the pizzas being served with scissors for cutting, which was a neat touch, and I especially loved the interior-- exposed brick walls with a rustic, wooden-beamed ceiling, and a marble bar. We will definitely be back here to have dinner.

We also walked by Le Diplomat, a brasserie serving up classic French fare, which seemed like another great place. At a quick glance, you'd think you're in Paris with the red awnings and cafe chairs outside. I heard the brunch here is one of the best but I'd also like to check it out for dinner because it was quite lively.

 

SUNDAY BRUNCH

A great way to start your Saturday or Sunday is having brunch at Founding Farmers, a hopping spot located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood a few blocks West of the White House. It has a rustic, farmhouse interior and serves up delicious comfort food. This place was so popular that we could see the crowds lined up outside from blocks away. Reservations are a must and will be your best bet at scoring a table. We did not have a reservation and we were starving (recipe for disaster and amateur move), but miraculously 2 spots opened up at the bar as soon as we were ready to abandon ship. We threw a few elbows and probably made a few enemies but it was well worth it.

 

THE SMITHSONIAN AIR & SPACE MUSEUMS

I've always been fascinated by air and space travel so we decided to check out the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Some of the highlights include the lunar module from the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the exhibition on the Golden Age of flight and the section on America by Air. I especially loved seeing the stewardess uniforms from the 60's. But my absolute favorite was our visit to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia right next to Dulles International Airport. If you're even a little interested in aviation and space travel, you should rent a car and see this place. Highlights include an Air France Concorde supersonic jet, a Blackbird, many WWII aircrafts including German Nazi planes, and the space shuttle Discovery. You can also go up to the top of an observation tower for a view of planes landing and taking off at Dulles. The tower is even plugged into air traffic control at Dulles so you can listen to communications with pilots about to land. In just 5 minutes, I saw a Lufthansa Boeing 747 take off for Germany and an Air France Airbus A380, the largest commercial jet, land after a 7 hour journey from Paris Charles de Gaulle. Pretty sweet.

D.C. might often times get overlooked as a place to visit but for a long weekend it was the perfect little getaway offering great dining options and trendy neighborhoods. Oh and lots and lots of airplanes.

Georgetown street
Georgetown street
whitehouse
whitehouse
Udvar-Hazy center
Udvar-Hazy center
stewardess uniforms
stewardess uniforms
space shuttle discovery
space shuttle discovery