Friday, May 10, 2013

The Thirsty Scholar

Another Friday night in the renewed Shenanigans series. Without Dave still, as he is in hospital, but with Doug.

We headed around the corner from his new office to The Thirsty Scholar, a lovely little Irish-ish pub in Somerville with the claim to fame that scenes from "The Social Network" were shot in its interior. 

Haven't yet seen the movie but they're proud of their connection to the flick, with pictures of the filming and the cast in the foyer as you walk in, it is prominently featured on their web site and their nacho appetizer is named for the film... It's been on my list of things to see, so I'm sure when I do see it I'll do that "hey! I've been there!" thing that people do... you know it.

Windows wide open, letting in the late spring air (and the smoke from those smoking on the sidewalk who even though they're outside are standing talking to the people sitting in the windows... which was incredibly gross and annoying but ... what can you do? ) Doug and I took a cozy cubby corner and our waitress set to taking care of us.

We got wings to start, because I'm a total wing hound. These were delightful... crispy, sloppy with sauce and full of flavor.

Unlike the wings at Tupelo a couple weeks ago which were allegedly "triple cooked" and while tasty were not crispy at all, these only needed one good, solid off and they were good to go.

Loved them. Perfect accompaniment to our beer choices.

Our first round of beers had me going for the Pretty Things Jack D'or, which I've enjoyed before. Pretty Things is a project beer company run but Dann and Martha, who keep a gorgeous website and blog with tons of information on it... It's great to read and I highly recommend it.

Locally brewed in Somerville, Pretty Things has their finger on the pulse of creativity in brewing.

They don't make "styles" of beers, in fact they sometimes make small batches or unique runs and don't make them again! Whatever strikes their fancy, whatever flavor profiles they're dreaming of at night, they put together in the mash tun and make beautiful beer babies that put a smile on my face.

Jack D'or is pretty much the closest to a "style" they have, and they call it "Saison Americain."  It has a delicious and refreshing taste which went perfectly with the wings. The light refreshing factor helped cleanse the wing sauce spiciness off the tongue but not wash it away entirely as Jack D'or has that delightful bitterness to it. So mouth tingling with wing sauce, followed by mouth tingling with clean but bitter beer, this was a happy  moment in the day of this girl.

I forget what Doug ordered, as I didn't take notes ... I was too obsessed with enjoying the wings. So obsessed.

As you can see from my food porn with beer backdrop.

 Doug ordered The Scholar Salad... loaded up with all the tasty things you gotta love in a salad from fried artichoke hearts to roasted red peppers... I've never been a huge fan of artichoke hearts that have been sitting in a jar forever, stewing in oil and slime so I usually avoid mention of them but these were fried artichoke hearts -- breaded in deliciousness and done up nice. He gave me a couple, as there were plenty to share, and they were delightful. I'd eat a plate of those any day.

I ordered the Surf & Turf, which consisted of skewered shrimp, a little steak, salad and rice.

The shrimp were perfect, and very tasty, but the steak didn't really taste like anything. I had asked for medium rare, got something closer to well done, and there was no real seasoning on it. The salad dressing off of my little Caesar salad was delicious, so swishing the steak around in that helped a lot... Slightly disappointing but happy to say that when salad dressing can save the day, life is good.

I think next time I'd go for the beer battered fish and chips as my choice, which is where my initial thoughts were going that night but... oh well.

Our beer choices for the night continued with Doug enjoying the Cape Ann Brewing Company Fisherman's IPA and me going for the Drifter Pale Ale from Widmer Brothers Brewing Company of Oregon.

We've visited the Cape Ann Brewing Company in person, met some of the brewers, chatted them up at beer fests, so I know I've shared my love of their products here before.

Widmer took me to the other coast after enjoying the Jack D'or from the local brewers, and didn't disappoint. But if you look at the picture here, can you tell which beer is the "Drifter Pale Ale?" It's the one on the right, and there is nothing pale about it in flavor profile or in color. I am not really sure why the Widmer brothers bother using the word Pale in the name of this beer, just calling it Drifter Ale would be fine and dandy... It was a nice pairing with my dinner but when one may be expecting a pale ale, you get a surprise (and for some they may not like that but ... when in Portland...)

We were getting ready to leave and asked the waitress about a $25 beer on the wall menu. Shipyard Export... what's the deal with that price?

She explained that they put the beer into this table top tap system, and it is only done with the Shipyard Export, and there are about eight servings in there.

Several tables had their beer taps going, and this gentleman allowed me to take a shot of him enjoying his first pint (his buddies had not yet arrived!) The waitress told me that the other night she had a table that ordered six of these things for a party of ten people. That's a party for sure. She offered me a taste, but I had to politely decline as Doug had already gone outside...

We made our way over to visit Dave in the hospital, where he isn't enjoying any shenanigans. We had an excellent visit with the Thirsty Scholar, and I know it is a place Dave will love to visit when he's feeling better. I'll have to bring him.

Thanks very much to our wonderful waitress, Alyssa, for taking good care of us.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dave... not having any shenanigans!

Long time readers know that this blog was inspired by my spending time with my dear friend Dave. Dave is in the hospital right now, after some very major seizure activity.  We were supposed to go out for Shenanigans on Saturday night. Bruins Playoff hockey, a new Ale house in Haverhill... and Saturday morning he fell ill.

He can use some mojo. So if you are reading this, bend an arm in his honor with the craft brew of your choice, bow towards Boston where he waits to find out what the hell is going on, and toast him. Wish him great health and speedy discharge from the hospital.

Thanks, Shenanifans.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sweet as Tupelo.... in Somerville

Oh, Hello Douglas. Oh, Hello Christine.

Another Friday night, a beautiful night for a walk. Let's walk over to Inman Square and see what is going on. Oh! Look a sandwich board on the sidewalk, with the word "PORK" on it in giant letters. Outside of a restaurant. Hmmm. They had me at pork so let's go in.

We were pretty much the only people at Tupelo at this hour. 6pm seems early for dinner in Somerville based on some of the restaurant reviews I've been peeking at.  There were two other people at the bar, and we thought for a minute that we were making a bad choice.

See, up where we live, between 6 and 7pm you can't get a seat in most of the places we like to eat (and I am not talking Olive Garden or Pizzaria Uno). I guess in the rural communities like where we folk be livin, people eat early, go to bed early, and get up early. But them there city folk... well! 6pm is when people are just starting to think about getting ready to go out to eat.

Much to our benefit! Tupelo opens at 5pm. We were in the door just before 6pm.

Our waiter, Brian, puts us in the sunny front window seat where we can watch the ever comedic ballet of cars, bikes and pedestrians along the street. He was sweet and kind, and very funny.

And we had beer.

Now, many of you know that part of the "demise" of this blog is because my A1C was up over 7 this time last year. I changed my diet, dropped beer out of my life (a fate worse than death some may say). I lost 40 pounds. My A1C got down to normal levels. I'm still not drinking beer or eating pasta... but on this particular night finding ourselves in a particular bar without a full liquor license (just beer and wine, kids) we broke the treaty and declared that John Barleycorn must die.

Appetizers were ordered.

Doug got the fried oysters, which were incredibly well made. Usually fried oysters come out tasting like the little erasers at the end of your pencil in middle school (uh, not that I've eaten one but I imagine that would be analogous). I ordered the wings, which weren't buffaloed but were something elsed. They stated they were triple fried and crispy. I found they weren't crispy enough to my liking but they were still pretty good... probably because of whatever combo of spice coating they had going on.

First round of beers brought us the Dogfish Head Noble Rot. Sweet, fruity, almost champagne-like, it did a happy dance on the tongue. Perfect beside the spicy wings. I was incredibly happy. It felt like cider without being cider. Wine without being wine. Beer without being beer. Great stuff. Delightful.

For dinner, Doug ordered the gumbo, which came in a giant boat sized bowl (nice) and I got the maple bourbon braised pork loin over beans and rice with seasonal greens which were maybe dandelion greens? Not sure, I didn't ask Brian.

They were bitter but delicious in their dressing, and when mixed up against the beans and sauce, it was a beautiful change of pace from your basic baby spinach or mesclun or any other kind of green.

I was still working on my Noble Rot and Doug moved on to the Newburyport Brewing Company Greenhead IPA. Kind of fun to go to Somerville and drink the local beer, but because we kind of stopped drinking beer right around the time these guys launched, we hadn't had it. Sadly. It was a classic American IPA. Crisp, bitey, cold and refreshing.

When I taste a beer like this, I wonder why on EARTH anyone would EVER drink a Bud Light ever. It boggles my mind. Why would you want to drink something weak, tasteless, horrible, watery... when you can have something that feels light and refreshing and happy, without sucking.

Good grief, America.

Having not had any beer for nigh onto a year, I have to say that I'm baffled by what people choose to drink, choose to put into their mouths. Is it just the marketing machine? Is it just the giant corporation and the billions of advertisements? No one can seriously like drinking bulk manufactured piss swill, right? Someone help me understand this. I kind of feel like I should do some sort of blind taste test for myself. Line up all the good beers that I claim I like in little 4 ounce flights, and slip a couple "populars" in there like Bud Light, Budweiser, Corona... and just see if I can taste the difference. I'm not telling you, dear reader, to do this. I'm just sayin'....

Beer. Tasty and beautiful. 

All told, we had a great time. Because no one was there, we got great attention from Brian, without him being overbearing. He was fun to talk to, and we had some good laughs. I read a lot of the yelp reviews that talked about how there is "so much hype" about this place. A lot of criticism was that the food wasn't "all that southern" as it says it is. People were angry and disappointed that it didn't live up to a "southern" flavor.

Well, to be honest, it's Somerville. Inspired by the south maybe, but not truly southern, and that's alright. As for our overall experience, it's good to be the country mouse in the city, showing up when no one else is there. When you're the only seated table, anywhere, having the kind of wait staff experience we had and the great food speaks for itself.

A place only has to live up to except whether or not you leave happy. And we did. Very special thanks to the chef and staff. Lovely place. Will return.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Absinthe? Sure, why not. Dinner at Dali in Somerville

My husband's job has transferred his location over to the Cambridge/Somerville line. He's not happy about the commute. On Fridays when I have to work in Newton, I drive him to Cambridge early, head to my office, put in the requisite hours, and then drive back over to him where we have decided we will leave the car in his huge office parking lot, and walk around and find places to eat.

And drink.

Since I'm not spending a lot of time with Dave these days due to our schedule differences, I find that this blog will probably be a little more Shenanigans with Doug while we explore Cambridge and Somerville.

Our first foray into the foodie scene was a stop at Dali Restaurant and Tapas Bar. We ordered a pitcher of Cava sangria, and four tapas plates: 

  • Espárragos Blancos  - White Asparagus w/Coriander Alioli & Langostino Sauce  The asparagus was kind of tasteless, limp and kind of gross to be honest. I had hoped they'd be a little crisper, a little stronger... but stabbing them with a fork was useless and slicing them in half width-wise just shredded them. The sauces were outstanding. Thank God for bread.  
  • Faisán a la Alcántara -  Boneless Pheasant w/Mushrooms & Bacon
    This was outstanding. Delicious. Wonderful. The pheasant was perfect, the bacon was smoky, the sauce that resulted in the veg just melting down around it was something i would want to put all over my food for the rest of my life. I loved it.
  • Lomito al Cabrales | Pork Tenderloin w/Blue Sheep Cheese & Mushroom
    By far, one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. I'm a total whore for sheep and goat cheese. The cheese on this dish was melted to lava-hot temperatures. The two pieces of pork tenderloin hiding underneath it were perfectly cooked. In fact, it was almost like it was raw before the cheese was put on top of it and it was heated to nuclear hot temperatures. Perfect little mushrooms beside, and I think if this was a main dish with a giant plate of it I'd order that every time.
  • Albóndigas de Cordero | Lamb Meatballs w/Tomato-Mint Sauce The lamb meatballs were lovely. The tomato-mint sauce was nothing exciting. After the Pork Tenderloin and the pheasant, these were a bit disappointing. 

Our waitress was outstanding. She was beautiful and had this lilting and gorgeous accent. Half of what she was saying went straight past me because I was more fascinated with just hearing her speak than hearing what she was saying. She got a big tip from us because of her joyfulness, her kindness, and overall demeanor. I've been to a lot of restaurants where the waitstaff is just there to ask you what you want, bring you your stuff and eventually leave you your bill. Whatever. She pretty much made me feel like I was eating at her dining table in her home. I liked that. 

Doug and I were debating ordering more tapas or getting some skewers or something when we realized we were already running up quite a tab. I like tapas and all, but man it is expensive and you don't get a lot of food. 

He then suggested we finish up, but not before having a glass of absinthe. 

He had just watched a documentary on absinthe and wanted to give it a try. Sure. Why not? The waitress asked us if we'd ever had it before and we told her no... this is our first time. So she beamed at us, and went to get the goods. She came back with the glasses, the spoons, the water, the sugar cubes and set everything up for us. She lit the sugar cubes on fire and told us what to do (we knew what to do, but she was a very earnest teacher). Then with a wink she turned and went. 

The sugar melted and fizzled out, and we used our water to rinse it into the glass slowly. It felt like ritual, slow, patient. We dissolved all the sugar into the glass and took a sniff. 

The smell of melted good-n-plenty is pretty much what met my nose, licorice and anise. 

The first sip wasn't very extraordinary. Even with the sugar, very bitter to my tongue especially after enjoying the big gorgeous glasses of Cava sangria with dinner. We swished our glasses around, looked at it in the light. Before we melted the sugar in,  I didn't really see any green for the "green fairy." Perhaps just because of the low light in the room. Doug said his looked green to him... but after the sugar was melted in, it was pearlesque, creamy, no green to be seen by me at all.

I found that it wasn't that exciting, mysterious or taboo or anything for me, and that if I wanted an experience of licorice in a glass I could easily go with Ouzo instead. I enjoyed the ritual of it, the patience and the pouring. It was very fun to do with Doug and talk about it... but it isn't the sort of thing I would want to go about doing regularly. 

Perhaps I'm not cool, but I kind of get this feeling that people who are "into" this are into showing off how to do it, they have the kits and the accoutriments and they have friends over and say "oh, let me show you how to do this... you've never done it before? alright..." 

However, I found that it hit pretty hard (especially after the sangria) and I was feeling the weight of the ABV by the time we got back to the car. I could imagine having three of these would knock me on my big fat ass. So there's your draw. Write your poetry, paint your masterpiece... Dance with the green fairy. 

We'll most likely be back to Dali at some point. I would love to have something other than the tapas -- try their main dishes and their skewers. Not sure I'll do the absinthe again but for sure will do that sangria. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sláinte Shenanigans at The Peddler's Daughter

Saturday night, a week before St. Patrick's Day, we find ourselves at the end of the bar at Haverhill's The Peddler's Daughter. Dave is oft a visitor there with other caregivers (aka drinking buddies), so he's well known to the staff behind the bar like Jen (who he calls Erin) and Nick, and to some of the waitresses. And I've been there many times with Doug and family, so I know the place well.

But it was my first time here with my shenanibuddy, and a memorable one at that.

We arrived around 6pm and the bar was hopping but the tables were near to empty. For a Saturday night dinner service that surprised me.

The bartenders hooked us up with black and tans to start, and We watched two people groping each other on the other side of the bar, and the guy they were hanging out with was slamming PBRs in a can and drinking shots of whiskey.

It was an interesting show.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Howdy, Shenanifans!

Sorry for the long swath of silence. Dave and I haven't been going out as much since our schedules changed. I miss the days of Friday Lunch in the summer time, enjoying the decks and the brews across northeastern Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley.

We will have a date this Saturday night and I think as a precursor to St. Patrick's day I will head us over to Haverhill to The Peddler's Daughter.

Watch this space for an update!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Exhibiting Pour Judgement and Liking It, in Newport, RI

We took today to make a Christmas season trip down to Newport Rhode Island to see how the original 1% lived back at the turn of the 20th Century.

My husband, son and I (no Dave on this trip)   traipsed through the famous summer "cottages" of the Vanderbilts and their ilk, The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms.

Looking at all this opulence causes one to work up a mighty thirst. We were supposed to be headed to visit my parents over on Cape Cod after we were done here, but after skipping lunch all three of us were feeling that a meal would be better before the hour drive to grandma's.

We consulted Foursquare to see what was nearby to us. A huge list of foodrinkeries appeared, but one in particular caught my eye.  Pour Judgement.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ohio Shenanigans - Great Lakes Brewing Company and Beautiful Cleveland

While I was visiting Pittsburgh and surrounds, waiting for my daughter to finish up classes before Thanksgiving, I found myself with a free day on Monday.

I figured "Cleveland isn't too far away, I'll go to Cleveland!"

I made the arrangements for face to face meetup with Bill and Stacey of Nothing But Love. I've had mutual admiration and blog friendliness with them for going on a decade now through my official blog (a)musings. It would be great to meet them live and in person.

I picked the Great Lakes Brewing Company so I could sample their food and brews. With a two hour drive ahead of me and a smile on my face, I departed for what some people call "The Mistake by the Lake." More on that later.

The restaurant was doing a booming business for a Monday lunch. The place was packed, one could even say mobbed. It was almost like everyone in Cleveland was there all at once. I got the impression that it isn't just the beer people are there for, but the food. At some brewpubs,  you know people are there for the beer first and foremost... this was definitely the eatery destination for the district.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shenanigans by Fireside: Angry Orchard Ginger Apple Cider and Magic Hat Sampler

My husband and I (without Dave) took our dogs for a long hike and swim yesterday, seizing a beautiful and amazing fall Saturday afternoon. On the way home Doug had a hankering for some cider, so we stopped by Georgetown Liquors to pick up provisions.

Doug got Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Cider, from Cincinnati, Ohio. Seeing as we're in Woodchuck country, he thought he'd give it a try.

He also grabbed the latest and greatest mix from Magic Hat.  Marketed as Winterland, it has four brews for the sampling.

We built a fire in the fire pit as the sun was setting. The air got cold good and fast, and we set to sampling.

The Apple Ginger Cider was delicious. I was afraid of the "ginger" content because I've had ginger beers and stuff with ginger as an ingredient, and always have found it not to my liking. This was more like regular ginger ale with a touch of apple cider. It was crisp and smooth, and went down easy.

Too easy one might say if one liked to say such things. I really enjoyed it.

Then to Magic Hat.

I started with the Encore, which is a mix of IPA and wheat beer. It was great. Loved it. Really wonderful flavor and a great aftertaste.

Doug had  Ravell, which was slightly disappointing. It lacked body, was a touch watery for something supposed to be a porter, wasn't quite the beer we had hoped it would be.

It was dark, you could barely see through it, but it was in the end just kind of boring. The hints of vanilla weren't barely noticed by either of us. It was an "odd porter" for sure but just didn't really do anything for either of us.

We moved on to their "Howl" which was much better. It is listed as a Dark Lager, and like the Ravell it sure is dark, but so tasty and filled with flavor.

Then we had the classic #9, which we've enjoyed a million times. Doug said he though this tasted different than he recalled, it was much crisper, cleaner, deeper, and maybe just fresher than what we'd bought in the past.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Amesbury's 12 Beers of Christmas

I just saw this on Facebook, and wanted to share it with all the shenanifans. 
From the folks who brought you the Amesbrewery Days Invitational Craft Brewfest: 
December 10th from 3-6 pm in downtown Amesbury will be the first ever 12 Beers of Christmas!!!There will be food tastings from Crave Brasserie Wine Bar as well as Golosi Catering of Amesbury!

First 200 people will receive: a commemorative pint glass and 12 brew samples tickets.
Tickets are currently on sale. $30 in advance $35 at the door!!! Go! Enjoy! Have fun!