Eating My Way Through Portland, ME… Part 1

If you follow my tweets, you may have noticed that Kevin and I spent last weekend in Portland, ME with our awesome friends Tom and Heather.  You may also have noticed that I basically spent my entire weekend eating and drinking.  No really, that’s about all we did – we ate and we drank.  I guess we also did a good amount of wandering around town and shopping in between all the stuffing of our faces and abusing our livers, but that was mostly just the filler between one bar/restaurant and the next.  I had a great time!   It was ridiculous and completely gluttonous, but it was really fun.

I’ve been meaning to blog about it all, but there’s just so much!  I thought I’d take some time to share some photos and a few words about some of the awesome places we went, though, to appease the angry masses (Mom and Dad! Ok, mostly mom…)  who have been asking me when I’m going to update.  I’ve decided to break it into parts, because there’s really just too much to put it all into one post.

Our first stop of the evening was Gritty McDuff’s, where Kevin and I each just had a beer while we waited to meet Tom and Heather.  Kevin has fond memories of a Beer Summit he attended at which Gritty McDuff’s actually brought a bar with them while most others just had boring tables.  I, sadly, have no pictures from Gritty’s, but I will say the beer was great and I really liked the relaxed atmosphere.  It was a little crowded, but everywhere was crowded – it was a Friday night.

When Tom and Heather showed up, we finished our beers and wandered around town for a bit and tried to decide where to grab some dinner.  Tom read a review somewhere of a place referred to as a “five star dive bar” and that sounded perfect for us!  To Bull Feeney’s we went!

I started with an Allagash White.  They had a pretty decent selection of beer, but I wanted to drink Allagash when I was in Portland, because they’re local (there are actually a TON of breweries located in Portland).

Allagash

I also had an order of their fried shrimp, which came with a couple different choices for sauce – a sort of Thai Lime Chili Sauce and an awesome cocktail sauce with a big lump of horseradish in it!  Love it!

fried shrimp

After dinner, the night was still young so we decided to continue on to a place Kevin and I had stopped by earlier in the evening (but didn’t stay because it was so crowded) that looked very intriguing – Novarre Res. This place was great!  I wish there was a place like that somewhere near us at home.  They had a really impressive beer menu and great food, too!  To drink, I had the Allagash Fluxus ’10, which was just about the most delicious thing ever!  We also split a Bahn Mi among the four of us.  Awesome, just awesome.

bahn mi

After Novarre Res, we decided it was time to part and head back to our hotel to rest up for the next day, which I will talk about in my next post.

Ice Cream For Lunch! J Foster Ice Cream – Simsbury, CT

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve taken a much needed week off from work..  Really, I was waayy overdue for some time off and I feel much better already!  I’m sure that will all change Sunday night, though 🙁  This was also Kevin’s one week off in between classes, so we’ve been keeping ourselves busy with getting things done around the house and doing some little day trips when weather permitted.

Yeah, about the weather… The weather up until yesterday really hadn’t been the best.  It was mostly rainy and kind of cold for a few days there, which really was perfect for staying home and getting stuff done!  By Tuesday afternoon, however, I was getting a little stir crazy!  I needed to get out of the house.

Neither of us had had lunch yet, so I decided we should take a little drive up to J Foster Ice Cream in Simsbury and get ice cream for lunch.  I’ve been meaning to get there for awhile (ever since I tried their Pumpkin Ice Cream at a restaurant this past Fall) and, really, nothing makes me happier than having ice cream for a meal.  This was the perfect way to cheer me up 🙂

Have I mentioned that I’m also a big fan of long car rides? Call me crazy, but ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved a long ride in the car.  It’s a little odd, I know, but that’s how I roll.   Anyway, it’s a good 45 minute drive up to Simsbury from our house, which is probably why we hadn’t gotten around to trying out J Foster yet. Usually when we decide we want ice cream (which is fairly often), it’s after dinner and a little late to make the long drive when we have plenty of fine ice cream establishments in just a 5 or 10 minute drive.  It was perfect, though, for a random afternoon.

It’s a beautiful drive to get up there.  The store is located in a really pretty part of the state and the store itself is really cute.  It met all my expectations and more!

 

J Foster Ice Cream

 

The surrounding area:

outside J Foster Ice Cream

 

Outdoor seating!  Unfortunately, because it was a rainy day, we didn’t get to sit out there.  Next time, though!

Outdoor Seating

 

The ice cream was awesome, too, of course.  It was really creamy and just tasted fresh and home made.  I got a scoop of Coconut Mounds and a scoop of Kahlua Heath Crunch.  The Kahlua Heath Crunch was really out of this world! 

 

 

Kevin, as usual, had a giant Sundae.  He said the hot fudge was really more like chocolate syrup, though.  What’s up with that?  He did say that the whipped cream was pretty good and the ice cream, of course, was stellar.

 

Kevin  vs The Sundae

Overall, we were very pleased with our experience.  It was well worth the drive and I’m sure we’ll be back for more in the near future!

Heather’s Birthday : Part Deux

My last post detailed the little gathering we had last Sunday night to celebrate Heather’s birthday. That just didn’t feel like it was quite enough, though.  On Saturday night we went out on the town and gave Heather a more proper birthday celebration; one that did not include our friend Fudgie The Whale.  

Our evening started at Feng in Hartford for sushi and cocktails (nothing says celebration to me better than sushi).  Here’s a much better picture of Heather than the last one (not that she ever saw it, because she doesn’t read my blog – whose fault is that?).  Give the girl a drink and you’ll get a smile.  Works every time!

Heather

The food was awesome and the mood was relaxed.  I really like Feng a lot.  It’s the second time I’ve been there and both times I’ve had a really great experience.  It’s the perfect place for a birthday celebration.

We ended up just deciding to do an assortment of rolls to pick at – including the Green Peace roll, which is one of the most interesting rolls I’ve ever had.  It has “Asparagus, Avocado, Cucumber, Mango, Sun-Dried Tomato, Kiwi, with Strawberry and Yamata Sauces”.  I’ll be honest.  I was a little worried about it, but it ended up being great.  And it’s what the birthday girl wanted; and what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets!  We also ordered an Autumn of Connecticut roll which was probably my favorite  with “Spicy Alaskan King Crab, Salmon, Avocado,Yuzu Masago, Wasabi Pepper and Momiji Sauces”.  Then we got a few more standard ones – Eel with avocado, a California Roll and a Tuna Roll.  Everything was wonderful.

sushi rolls
Dinner was followed up by a trip to City Steam for a few pitchers of beer (Acapulco Gold – an IPA and then the Summer Stout) and nachos (yes, we ate again – don’t judge)… and a Lisa’s Pie for Heather.  

Acapulco Gold

Acapulco Gold

 

Standard Nachos (don’t ask why they’re Standard – inside joke)

Lisa’s Pie

We had a great night out… with waaayyy too much food and alcohol, but I really don’t know a better way to celebrate! And it was definitely a good way for me to kick off my week off from work. Happy Birthday, Heather (again)!

Happy Birthday, Heather!

After dinner tonight, Kevin and I took a little stroll down to Tom and Heather’s house to help them celebrate Heather’s 32nd birthday with her dear old friend Fudgie The Whale… yes, you heard me, Fudgie The Whale.  When was the last time you had a Fudgie The Whale?  I honestly don’t know that I ever have, but I have to say, it really was most delicious.  It also lead to some highly entertaining innuendo surrounding Fudgie’s blow hole and fluke.  Great times.

The Birthday Girl… this is honestly about the happiest I could get Heather to look in any picture.


The Birthday Girl

 

Tom, getting ready to battle Fudgie

Tom vs The Whale

 

Fudgie The Whale (he looks a little scared if you ask me)

Fudgie The Whale


The Final Product! Tom won his battle vs the whale and the Birthday girl got the fluke!

The Fluke

In past years, we’ve spent long weekends in Boston for Heather’s birthdays (which is also my half birthday, by the way).  This year, clearly, was a little more low key. This year, none of us could really get away for the weekend to help her celebrate her birthday due to busy work and school schedules, but I think we just may try to get away sometime in the next couple weeks (I have all next week off from work).  Then, we’ll really celebrate!  But for tonight, a little ice cream cake with some friends was the perfect way to end the weekend.  And I was even home in time for Mad Men!

Blueberry Pancakes

I’m not the biggest breakfast eater. Now I always eat a little something every morning – usually oatmeal or toast with peanut butter, but I’m just not generally a huge fan of the big traditional breakfasts. I’d rather just save my appetite up for lunch. Kevin, on the other hand, LOVES breakfast and I’m pretty sure he’d just eat breakfast all day and be perfectly happy.

While I for the most part can just do without most breakfast foods, there is definitely something special about waking up bright and early on a Sunday morning, throwing on a little jazz (always jazz on Sunday mornings – it’s a rule), and getting to work in the kitchen. This past Sunday morning, I decided to throw together some pancakes. I do have a special place in my heart for the pancake as it is what I consider to be the King of Breakfast Foods. Of course they were blueberry pancakes, because I still have pounds and pounds of blueberries hanging out and taking up space in my freezer from my trip to Evergreen Berry Farm a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I don’t really have specific recipes that I go to time and time again for just about anything (there are a couple of exceptions). I just always like to try out new things or I just completely wing them, so I went to my friend Captain Google and typed in blueberry pancakes and one of the first results I got was this one from Smitten Kitchen. Perfect! I have never had bad luck with any of the recipes I’ve tried from SK. I also appreciate the thorough lesson she gave on how to make a proper pancake – as I have been known to occasionally screw mine up.

These pancakes were wonderful – I did over whisk my batter a little bit (I get a little overzealous with these things), but that’s just me. The recipe was great 🙂 I also topped mine off with a fairly ridiculous amount of the homemade blueberry syrup and served with some surprisingly not bad veggie bacon strips (“Fakon”?) from MorningStar Farms.

Blueberry Pancakes

Kevin, needless to say, was very happy to wake up to a proper Sunday breakfast and I got to use up some more blueberries. A great way to start the day!

Operation Beautiful

So did anyone catch Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point and Operation Beautiful on The Today Show on Thursday?  No, me neither (had to go into the office bright and early on Thursday), but I did make it a point to find it on Hulu later on and I thought she did a really awesome job.

The Operation Beautiful mission involves putting post-it notes with really positive and inspiring messages in public places for other women to find and spread the positive vibes.  I think the work she does is so important and I wanted to take a moment to share a little something about it for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

Here’s the Today Show segment from Thursday. Check it out and maybe start leaving your own notes!

Blueberry Picking At Evergreen Berry Farm!

Blueberry picking season is in full swing  and I recently joined my mother for our annual trek up to Evergreen Berry Farm in Watertown, CT.

Rows Of Berries

The berries were plentiful and we were able to do all our picking under the shade of a giant tree.  The shade was much appreciated as it was a very hot and humid day.  Luckily we went early before the heat got to be too much.  As long as we stayed in the shade, we were pretty comfortable.    Here’s a picture of my mom with her berry picking bucket heading towards the tree.

Tree At The Farm

We’ve been going to Evergreen Berry Farm for all our blueberry picking needs the last few seasons and have always had a great experience.   There’s nothing like picking your own.  It’s really neat to know exactly where your food is coming from.  Every year we pick a fairly ridiculous amount of berries (last year we actually went twice) and this year was no different.  Between the two of us, we had roughly 10 pounds!

Here’s my 5 pounds:

Bucket of Berries

I know it sounds like a lot, and I guess it is, but no worries – they freeze beautifully.  The trick is to not wash them before you put them into the freezer (just remember to wash them when you take them out) and then you have blueberries ready and waiting for you throughout the year.  I actually still have berries left over from last year in my freezer – and they’re still fine!

So now you can expect a ton of posts (okay, probably more like one or two) from me about my baking adventures trying to use up some of these blueberries!  Just this morning I made some really awesome blueberry pancakes (no pictures – they weren’t exactly pretty 🙁  ) with homemade blueberry syrup.  The syrup really made them special.  And it was so simple!  Who knew?

Do you have any good recipes to share to help me use up some of these berries?  I’d love to hear them!

First Tomato of the Season

Tomato

We picked our first red tomato of the season from our little deck garden last night.  It’s small (the deck ones always are), but it’s so beautiful.  Very exciting!

It’s sitting on a counter right now while I try to decide what to do with it… I have a feeling we’ll just end up slicing it up and eating it with a little salt and pepper with our dinner tonight.  I don’t want to just throw it into anything where I won’t really be able to enjoy the flavors.

It looks like we have a couple of very orange ones out there that should be ready for picking probably in the next day or two.  Those just won’t be quite as special and can easily be thrown into a salad or stuffed into a sandwich without feeling like I’m wasting them.

No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

No Bake Chocolate Oat BarsSo it’s that time of year again…

I know what you’re thinking ‘ The time of year that you just totally neglect your blog?’  No.  And yes , because it’s that time of year that our weekends fill up with all sorts of parties and picnics where you’ll be expected to bring some form of baked good.  Yes, you should bring something.  Don’t just show up empty handed – you were raised better than that.   OK, maybe you weren’t, but now you know.  You’re welcome.

Over the last couple of weekends, I’ve had a couple of parties to go to and I have made this recipe for No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars.   It has been a huge hit each time.  The best part, I think, about this recipe is how easy it is.   And even better, you don’t even have to turn on your oven in this heat!

I did make a couple of small changes to the recipe per suggestions from the reviews, so here it is the way I made it.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Directions:

First, grease a 9×9 inch baking dish.  Next  melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat and add the brown sugar and vanilla extract.  Mix in oats.  Let cook for a couple of minutes.

Press 1/2 of the oats mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.  Set other 1/2 aside.

Next, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth.

Pour the mixture over the oats in the dish.  (I saved a little  bit to drizzle over the top)

Crumble the remaining oats over the layer of chocolate and press down gently.

Drizzle extra chocolate peanut butter mixture over top if desired.

Refrigerate for a few hours.

Wait until back at room temp to cut into bars.

Really, everyone should try making these for their next party.   They went over really big the two times I’ve made them so far.   Also, despite all the butter, I like to think oats  = healthy.   I  would make a double recipe and keep some for yourself for breakfast.

Happy 5th Anniversary To Us!

Today, Kevin and I are celebrating our 5th Anniversary together!  To celebrate, tonight we will be heading to Toshi , where we had our second date (and where we now go every anniversary), and if we have room, we may even hit up J Fosters for some ice cream afterwards.  I also took a few days off from work so we could spend some time together and do some fun stuff.  As always, I’m sure there will be lots of eating and drinking involved (it’s kind of what we do), so I’ll be sure to let you know all about it!

Happy Anniversary, Hon!

Boston Public Garden