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Posts Tagged ‘brunch’

mystic seaport ct

Earlier this month, the hubs and I took off for a much-needed weekend getaway. His birthday is in early May, and it seemed like forever since our quick trip to Florida in mid-March.

We’ve been through southern Connecticut many times on our train rides to NYC, but had never spent any time there – so we decided to hop down to Mystic (as in pizza) for a long weekend.

In spite of some truly crazy spring rainstorms, it was delightful. (As were these tulips, spotted outside a shop in downtown Mystic.)

tulips mystic ct

We arrived on a windy, rainy Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment and ate lunch at the S&P Oyster Company, down by the water. The views were a bit obscured by the weather, but the clam chowder was delicious.

After lunch, we drove over to nearby Westerly, R.I., where we spent most of our time at the Savoy Bookshop & Cafe. (If you know me, you are not shocked by this one bit.)

savoy bookshop westerly rhode island

I browsed the stacks while J curled up and read for a while, and later (after wandering around in the rain) we came back for an afternoon snack.

The rain had (mostly) stopped by dinnertime, and we ate at the other pizza place in Mystic – not the one from the movie, but Pizzetta, down on Water Street. Both the spinach-artichoke dip and the pizza were fresh and delicious. (The after-dinner excitement: several of the server girls shrieking because a frog had found its way onto the back stairs!)

Saturday began with pastries from Sift (yum) and brought more wandering, including a long browse at Bank Square Books, which is owned by the same folks who run the Savoy. I could have stayed for hours: it is well-stocked, pleasantly arranged and full of unexpected corners.

bank square books mystic ct window

Our Airbnb hostess, Melissa, had told us about M Bar, a hip little restaurant in a converted gas station, a short walk from downtown Mystic. We had dinner there on Saturday night and I loved every bite: avocado mash with pita chips, veggie lasagna with white sauce, and the best fries I’ve had in quite some time – with house-made ketchup. (Plus lovely wine, a great ambiance and a handsome date.)

jer m bar mystic ct

The sun finally came out on Sunday, so we drove over to Gillette Castle, though we were disappointed to learn it was still closed for the season. (J really wanted to climb it, and I was curious to go inside.) We had to content ourselves with wandering around the site, and marveling at the exterior.

gillette castle exterior ct

After that, we headed to yet another bookstore: the rambling, overstuffed Book Barn in Niantic. It boasts a fairy garden, a “haunted” mystery shed, several annexes of various kinds, and – I kid you not – a hobbit hole.

hobbit hole book barn niantic ct

More to the point, it is positively overflowing with used books, and we ended up with a bulging bag of them: fiction and mysteries for me, history and other nonfiction for J. My favorite kind of vacation shopping.

In between our wanderings, we spent a lot of time at the apartment: sleeping late, going to bed early, curling up with good books. I spent hours on the wicker sofa by the window, under a white afghan, sipping tea and reading a couple of YA novels I loved. It was restorative in the best way: walking and resting, exploring and eating, just being together.

We capped off our trip with brunch at Rise (which J kept mistakenly calling “Shine”) on Monday morning, and headed home, refreshed.

jer pancakes rise mystic ct

Mystic, you are enchanting. (And restful.) We’ll be back.

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nashville guitar postcard

In mid-February, the hubs and I hopped a plane to Nashville, in an attempt to escape the frozen winter weather that (still) has Boston locked in its icy grip. We must have taken it with us, because we had two nights of near-record lows and a wicked ice storm that delayed our flight home by a day. (The same thing happened to us in West Texas over New Year’s.)

We still had a great time, though – a weekend full of books, friends and good food. Three of my favorite things.

katie bethany coffee shop

My college roommate Bethany (above) lives in Nashville, and she and her husband, Chad, welcomed us with open arms. So did their German shepherd puppy, Luna. She’s adorable – all long legs and jackrabbit ears.

luna puppy

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Pharmacy Burger in East Nashville, for delicious burgers and sweet potato fries. We then drove to a place I’ve been wanting to see since it opened: Parnassus Books.

parnassus books nashville

Two friendly shop dogs, a kids’ section with glowing stars hanging from the ceiling, quirky greeting cards, friendly booksellers, and shelves and shelves of books. It was everything I dreamed. (I bought a lovely novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James.)

parnassus cooking travel section bookstore

Since I frequently bemoan the lack of good Mexican food in Boston, it was a treat to have dinner that night at Las Maracas. Enchiladas smothered in spicy salsa verde, plus delicious chips and salsa. Yes, please.

The next day, we headed to Tenn Sixteen for brunch – chicken and waffles. I’ve been skeptical about the combination, but these were delicious.

chicken and waffles

After brunch, Bethany and I headed to Edgehill Cafe for tea with the lovely Leigh Kramer.

katie leigh cafe

Leigh and I have been Internet friends for a few years, and we’ve been talking about meeting up for ages. The three of us sipped tea and chatted happily for more than two hours. I only wish we’d had more time together.

Bethany and I caught up with the guys later at the Opryland Hotel. It’s a gorgeous building – but what really captured my attention was the (indoor) landscaping.

opryland hotel

Green plants! Ferns! Orchids! In the middle of winter! (I may be a tiny bit traumatized by all the snow and ice we’ve had in New England.)

For a Valentine’s Day double date that evening, we had crepes at the Red Bicycle in Madison. We were the only customers, and as we were finishing our savory crepes, the cooks brought out this creation:

valentine dessert crepe

Strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream. With hearts. Adorable. (And delicious.)

The next morning, after church and a lunch of Thai food, we headed to Barista Parlor (possibly the most hipster place I’ve ever set foot in).

Bethany had a gourmet hot chocolate flight:

bethany hot chocolate

And the guys amused themselves making hipster faces:

jer hipster face barista parlor

The highlight of the afternoon was seeing our friends Lawson and Lindsey, who drove over to meet us on super-short notice.

katie lawson

Lawson is an old friend from college days. We hadn’t seen each other in several years, but we slipped right back into easy conversation. It was the first time we’d met Lindsey (though we have lots of mutual friends), and she is lovely.

The freezing rain started on Sunday night, so we spent the rest of our trip hanging out at Bethany and Chad’s house. Eating pizza and pancakes and drinking lots of tea. Playing card games and guitar. Watching movies and playing with Luna. And, of course, talking to our hearts’ content.

Bethany and I used to share not only a house, but so much of our lives: friends and a church, a college and a workplace, in a way that’s not possible now. We have built our own lives in different cities, but I miss having her close by. So it was wonderful to step into her world for a few days. We were long overdue for some concentrated time together. And it was lovely.

Nashville, you’re all right. We’ll definitely be back.

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Inevitably, my friends who are visiting Boston ask, “Where should we eat?” (My first response is usually, “Can we join you for a meal or two?”)

After three years, I know we haven’t tasted (ha) all the city has to offer, but we do have a few delicious favorites.

il villaggio boston interior

Our favorite foodie neighborhood, especially in the summer, is the North End, which is lined with delicious Italian restaurants. Il Villaggio (above) has amazing fettuccine alfredo; Ristorante Saraceno has the best meat lasagna I’ve ever had. These are both on Hanover Street, the neighborhood’s main drag. Between them is Caffe Vittoria, which offers yummy gelato and various tea/coffee drinks. It’s a nice place to sit, before or after dinner, and watch the world go by (see below).

book juice cafe

Mike’s Pastry, justly famous for its cannoli, is down the block from Ristorante Saraceno. It’s cash-only and usually packed (there are no lines, only a crowd), so most folks take their cannoli to go. (They do serve other pastries, but with a dozen flavors of cannoli, you’re sure to find something you like.)

mike's pastry interior

Salem Street, the North End’s other main drag, has a few tasty restaurants too – we like L’Osteria for a good plate of pasta, and our best friends love La Famiglia Giorgio’s for its enormous portions.

For brunch, we have two favorites: Cafe Luna in Central Square in Cambridge, which boasts delicious omelets, pancakes, waffles, etc. (see below):

cafe luna brunch cambridge pancakes

Our other favorite (more diner-ish but equally delicious) is the Paramount Cafe on Beacon Street, near the Common. Bacon, eggs, fruit pancakes (oh my word, the pancakes). You can also get sandwiches and burgers, but I never have. The breakfast is too good.

Dec 2010 037

For Thai food, we love Thai Basil on Newbury Street, and for crepes, I love the Paris Creperie in Brookline (they also have a roving food truck). I have a number of favorite cafes, and we’re always discovering new pleasures. But these are our tried-and-true places.

Where do you love to eat on vacation? (Or in Boston, if you’ve been here?)

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On a recent sunny Saturday, J and I found ourselves with a few free hours, after I’d run a few errands and before we had to start cooking enchiladas for a fellow transplanted Texan. I’d heard rumors of the goodness of Toscanini’s ice cream near Central Square, so we hopped on the Red Line and rode over the river, admiring the sailboats bobbing on the sparkling water.

We strolled around Central Square for a while, dropping into Rodney’s Bookstore (where I found another Miss Read book to add to my growing collection), exploring the scientific, eclectic MIT Museum (which had exhibits ranging from Himalayan glaciers to slide rules to perpetual motion sculptures). And we did visit Toscanini’s, savoring our ice cream under a burgundy umbrella.

cafe luna brunch lunch cambridge ma

But the surprise hit of the day was Cafe Luna, where we intended to drop in for lunch but ended up eating brunch. Because when the brunch specials menu includes an omelet featuring roasted sweet potatoes and goat cheese, and fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes with fresh raspberries and whipped cream?

You have brunch.

cafe luna brunch cambridge pancakes

katie pancakes brunch cafe luna cambridge

omelet cafe luna brunch cambridge

Even better, we scored a table in the (open) front window, where the sunshine spilled in as we doodled on the paper tablecloth with crayons, savored warm biscuits spread with whipped honey and then dug into our entrees.

Mmmm. Delectable. We will so be going back.

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