Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lunar Eclipse Photos

Here are some photos I took of last Wednesday's lunar eclipse:

Friday, February 22, 2008

NYC Foodie Stops

We were down in New York City last weekend for the long weekend, and every visit to New York has now become a chance to engage in a (non-highbrow and affordable) foodie tour. There are two places that are now required stops on every trip--The City Bakery and S'MAC.

The City Bakery. Remember those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials where a guy is walking through the park with a jar of peanut butter and a girl is roller skating with a candy bar? Then they bump into each other and discover the great taste of peanut butter and chocolate. Or this commercial with the famous Ralph Malph? (By the way, has anyone ever seen someone walking down the street while savoring a jar of peanut butter?)

Anyway, besides a gratuitous mention to get a Ralph Malph reference in here, I'm always reminded of those commercials when I visit The City Bakery and get their fantastic pretzel croissant. It combines all the flakiness of a croissant with the brown buttery glaze and salt of a pretzel. (Sesame seeds on top are an added bonus.) I'm not talking about a bad hotel continental breakfast croissant, but one that could hold its own in Paris. And I'm not talking about an Auntie Anne's mall pretzel, but an honest-to-goodness German beer hall pretzel. The combination is fantastic, but they are best when they're hot. Can someone in Boston please get on the ball and start making these or can we get a City Bakery franchise? I'm almost finished with the bag of pretzel croissants I brought home. The City Bakery is located near Union Square at 3 West 18th Street, right off 5th Avenue.

S'MAC. Our other stop is to S'MAC (which stands for Sarita's Macaroni & Cheese) for one of life's best comfort foods--macaroni & cheese. This East Village eatery is totally devoted to mac & cheese, and not the wimpy Kraft in the box kind of mac & cheese. It takes maybe 10-20 minutes to get your food after you order, but the wait is worth it. Besides your traditional mac & cheese with breadcrumbs (the All-American), there are nine different variations. My favorite is the cheeseburger, which includes ground-up hamburgers and, I think, a touch of mustard and ketchup. You can even create your own version if you don't like what's on the menu. The mac & cheese is served in iron skillets so it's always piping hot and cheesy. The restaurant itself always seems to be filled, and the quarters are a little tight so it's not always easy to get a seat. The best part for us out-of-towners is that S'MAC serves bake-ready orders in containers so you can take them home and heat them up in your oven. It tastes just as good after a few days in the refrigerator or even after freezing them and thawing them out. S'MAC is located at 345 East 12th Street.

Now if New York would only get a Cereality (which serves your favorite sugary cereals--the Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch and crumbled Oreos combo is magnifique), I might have to contemplate moving.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mid-Winter Break at Red Lion Inn

A few weeks back, we took a three-day trip out to the Berkshires for a mid-winter break and stayed at the venerable Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. We had booked a suite in the main inn but the layout wasn't exactly to our liking (the living room was long and narrow and lacked a TV and we were planning on doing a fair amount of lounging), so we decided to ask to see one of the superior rooms that had a fireplace. Good choice. We ended up with a great room that had a four-poster bed, a small eating area with a table and a couple of chairs, a desk (with wireless Internet), and best of all, two comfy chairs in front of a gas fireplace. The TV had a DVD machine, and guests can rent movies at the front desk. So one afternoon we settled into our chairs in front of the fire and watched Casablanca for the first time. (We're slowly hitting that American Film Institute list of the top 100 films. I've got Citizen Kane slated for viewing in 2013.)

The inn is definitely an interesting building. We were in the far back side of the inn, so to get to the front door, we felt like mice wandering a maze--down one hallway, through another one lined with curtain samples from the inn's curtain store, through the middle of the tavern, and then into the lobby. I must admit I had my fill of ruffles and tiebacks after a few days of making the trip, but it definitely added some charm.

We did some day trips to Lenox and Great Barrington. Very interesting to see the towns devoid of the summer crowds during the down season. Main Street, Stockbridge is not very big, if you recall the Norman Rockwell painting. We hit the Elm Street Market a few times (they sold Iron City Beer from Pittsburgh!), wandered around the library, went to the bakery one morning, had dinner at Michael's Restaurant one night, and had a sit-down breakfast in the Main Street Market. Basically became a Stockbridge local for a few days.

The Lion's Den, in the basement of the Red Lion Inn, was a very cozy place on a cold, snowy January night with its low ceilings, warm fire, and scents of warm cider. There were Irish ales on tap and Irish music on Thursday night. Perfect.

On our way out, the inn's cat took up residence at one side of the chess board in the lobby. Not sure if he was fishing for a game or not. But the feline fit perfectly at an inn that has an entrance flanked by two lions.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

National Geographic Traveler blurb

A small blurb I wrote about the opening of the Australian Rules Football season and the opening of the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground appears in the March issue of National Geographic Traveler, which should be on the magazine racks now. I don't have a byline, but it appears in the City Shorts section on page 67.