Birds of a Feather

Trip Report: Portland, ME July 29, 2011

Filed under: Travel Reports — kcfeather @ 2:13 pm

As has been mentioned before, one of the very fun things about living in Boston is all the possibilities for day trips (5 states in addition to Massachusetts are in striking distance for day trips).  The weekend after we went to Montreal, our friend J came to town and we decided to head up to Portland, Maine for the day.  Portland is a pretty easy 2 hour drive north of Boston, and is a fun small city to explore.

Here’s a little map of our trip (plus a few places that we would have liked to visit had we had more time).

Our first stop upon arriving was Duckfat, a place known for belgian fries fried in duck fat.  We loved the fries (though they weren’t quite at the level of the ones in Marche Jean Talon in Montreal), and really loved the homemade sodas.

From the front: Creme Soda, Sunburst Soda (Citrus, Anise, Tarragon), and Grapefruit and Ginger Soda

Across the street from Duckfat we noticed a little bookshop…a cookbook bookshop, Rabelais.  We enjoyed browsing and chatting with the owner (and C got lots of interesting ideas from books about the science of cooking).

After this we headed down to the Casco Bay ferry terminal, and took a ferry over to Peak’s Island.  Peak’s Island is the sort of place that you imagine when thinking about what it might have been like to be at a New England summer house in the 1920s.  We rented bikes (and bought Moxie sodas) at a friendly little bike shop just up the street from the ferry dock, and pedaled around the perimeter of the island for the next hour or two, stopping along the way to explore the beaches and parks that we passed by.

Casco Bay Ferry

Peak’s Island

We caught a ferry back to Portland and had a little time to wander around Commercial street (which is not actually that interesting) before dinner at Grace Restaurant.  I picked Grace because I was taken with the concept – it’s an old church that has been turned into a restaurant (and because we used to go to a church named Grace).  The building itself was striking, and the dining room was fascinating: the pulpit was moved near the front door and was where the host/hostess stood, lots of the seats were pews, and there was seating in both what would have been the main sanctuary as well on the balcony.  I peeked in the event space downstairs, and it pretty much looked like a church fellowship hall – which I guess is what it was!  In any case, the concept was great, and the food didn’t disappoint.  We particularly enjoyed a really fantastic gazpacho, tuna and scallop tartar, and their goat cheese gnocci.

Grace Restaurant

Needless to say, we headed back down to Boston with full stomachs, just as the sun was setting.  Not sure what Portland is like in the winter, but for a day trip during the summer, we thought it was pretty great (and much less crowded on a weekend day than the Cape, Newport, etc.)

 

I scream, You scream July 20, 2011

Filed under: Recipes and food — kcfeather @ 12:55 am

We all scream for ice cream!

Summer was slow in coming, but there is no debating that it’s finally here.  There are some beautiful (but hot and humid) summer days in Boston, but there are also a lot of overcast (but still hot and humid days), which are a little uninspiring.  Either sort of day, though, is a great day for ice cream.

When we first met, C was a plain vanilla sort of guy.  In fact, probably to this day he would say that Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla is his favorite ice cream flavor of all time.  (Also, C microwaves ice cream before scooping so that it is soft.  Is that weird or what?)  I, on the otherhand, once interned at a design firm whose motto was, “Never Vanilla.”  Although I’ll grant that Bryer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream is pretty good when topped with hot fudge.

Before leaving the Bay Area, we discovered the best ice cream in the world.  Humphrey Slocombe is the place that convinced C that just maybe non-vanilla flavors of ice cream could be pretty good.  Our favorite flavor at HS is Secret Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with corn flakes), but other really wonderful flavors there include Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Cinnamon Brittle, Green Tea Black Sesame, and Balsamic Caramel.  Plus there are lots of flavors that we missed out on (because they only serve a limited number of flavors at a time), not to mention the flavors that are interesting to taste, but perhaps a bit much for a full serving (e.g. Salt and Pepper and Boccalone Proscuitto).  Also – their sundaes (Tin Roof and Hot Mess) are out-of-this-world delicious.

Here in Cambridge, people think they have great ice cream options, but none of the options quite live up to HS (though we still enjoy a trip to Toscanini’s on occasion whenever I can convince C to take me there).

But we also have a handy-dandy Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker at home, and have been trying to put it to good use.  And we have two pretty great ice cream cookbooks to boot:

Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

Flavors that we’ve tried at home before and really like:  Vietnamese Coffee (from The Perfect Scoop, this is the easiest by far, so a big winner); Raisin and Oatmeal Praline (also from The Perfect Scoop), Pumpkin Oil Ice Cream (with Pepita Brittle); Anise Ice Cream (The Perfect Scoop); Tangerine Sorbet; Basil Lime Granita; Torrone Semifreddo.

Today, we’re trying Celery Ice Cream with Bourbon-plumped Raisins topped with candied peanuts (a la Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams). A sort of modern take on ants-on-a-log, I guess.

Other flavors we’re hoping to try before ice-cream season ends:  blackberry cabernet granita, sweet basil and honeyed pine nut, backyard mint, and maybe if we’re brave, toasted rice ice cream with coconut and black tea (all from Jeni’s).

Yummy!

 

Montreal 2011 July 16, 2011

Filed under: Travel Reports — kcfeather @ 5:38 pm

It’s been a few weeks since our trip to Montreal, but I thought I’d still write up a little “Montreal Travel Guide/Trip Report” – better late than never, right?

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend.  Friday morning, we hit the road pretty early, after stopping for some breakfast at Hi-Rise (a tradition, at this point, on any non-work morning).  We drove through New Hampshire (best state motto in the union: “Live Free or Die”), and then Vermont.  Vermont is even more sparsely populated than we had imagined, and the capitol building in Montpelier (which we drove through) is smaller than the SF City Hall (which I suppose shouldn’t be that surprising since Vermont has fewer people than the city of San Francisco).  We didn’t see this in person, but let me just point out that Vermont has some peculiar tourism initiatives.

Just after noon, we pulled up to the Canadian border.  Unlike the border crossing on I-5 into BC, this border station was on a two-lane road, in the middle of nowhere, and there was absolutely no wait.  The Canadian official at the station  was perhaps the most pleasant immigration official with whom we’ve ever come into contact.

Nid de Poule

We had poutine at a little local fast food joint, stopped to taste ice cider and wine at a few places in the Eastern townships, and then headed to Nid de Poule, where we were both dining and sleeping that evening.  We stayed at NdP 3 years ago on our honeymoon, and since it was on the way to Montreal, thought it would be a fun place to revisit.  We weren’t disappointed – the “rustic table” dinner was amazing (though a bit overly heavy), and breakfast the next morning was fantastic as well.

Best Frites in the World!

We headed into Montreal mid-morning, and before checking in at the hotel, stopped by Marche Jean Talon, where we enjoyed lots of fresh fruit and vegetable samples, some pastries, and the best french fries in the world.

For the next several days, we explored Montreal.  Some highlights:

*Renting “Bixi” bikes and pedaling across town
*Running up Mont Royal and the great view of the city from the top
*Dinner at O’Thym (our favorite meal in Montreal, and a BYO establishment, to boot)
*Walking by the Jazz Festival in the evenings
*Breakfast at Le Cartet
*Fireworks over the St. Lawrence River on Saturday night

Here’s a map of our trip (plus a few places that we didn’t have a chance to visit but hear great things about).

Bixi Bikes

On July 4, we headed back across the border (an appropriate day to return to the States, we thought).  All in all, we had a fantastic time – both in Montreal, but also on the drives to and from…didn’t hit a single bit of traffic the entire time, and NH and VT are really pleasant states to drive through.

 

AC July 12, 2011

Filed under: The everyday — kcfeather @ 1:38 am

Today we’re thankful for air conditioning…it finally got too hot to bear, so we put a window unit (which we had in the closet) in the living room.  Things are starting to cool down.

We had a really wonderful but really full weekend with our friend J who was in town from Palo Alto.  It included:

*Pig Tails (no, not little girl’s hair) at Craigie on Main

*Pre-ballgame oysters at ICOB

*Red Sox v. Orioles (the Sox won, 10-3, and there was a brawl, so all-in-all a pretty fun game to be in the stands at Fenway)

* Day trip to Portland (Maine, not Oregon), which included bicycles, ferry boats, and duck fat fries

*Kayaking in the Charles

We had a lot of fun, but were pretty beat last night. I’ve decided to start doing little travel reports for our New England adventures, complete with little Google maps.  Both Portland, ME and Montreal are in the works – stay tuned.