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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

We’re nearly halfway through November, which so far has included gorgeous weather, serious election stress and (more) pandemic uncertainty. Here’s what I have been reading:

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, Luisana Duarte Armendariz
Nine-year-old Julieta is so excited – she gets to go to Paris to help her dad bring some valuable pieces from the Louvre back to Boston. But then a rare diamond is stolen. Julieta tries to help catch the thief – but she seems to make things worse. A cute middle-grade mystery with fun details about Paris and Boston (Julieta’s parents both work at the MFA).

This is My Brain in Love, I.W. Gregorio
Jocelyn Wu is trying to save her family’s Chinese restaurant from failure. Will Domenici just needs a summer job. But when he becomes Jocelyn’s first employee, they become friends – and maybe something more. A witty, sweet YA novel with two protagonists who both struggle with their mental health.

The Last Garden in England, Julia Kelly
When garden designer Emma Lovell is hired to restore the gardens at Highbury House, she unearths not only overgrown plants, but secrets: some related to the house and its family, some to the garden’s original designer, Venetia Smith. An engaging multi-timeline story about strong women fighting to make their own choices: Emma in 2021, Venetia in 1907, and three different women during World War II. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 12).

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson
Pippa Fitz-Amobi has never believed that Sal Singh killed his girlfriend, Andie Bell. So when she needs a senior capstone project, she launches her own murder investigation with the help of Sal’s brother, Ravi. This was very Veronica Mars (though Pippa often has terrible judgment) – a real nail-biter, but a very effective distraction from election news.

Some Places More Than Others, Renee Watson
Amara is dying to go visit her dad’s family in Harlem for her 12th birthday – she’s never been to NYC, or met her cousins. But once she gets there, she has to deal with some unexpected friction. I loved this sweet middle-grade story about family, forgiveness and finding yourself in a new place.

Birds by the Shore, Jennifer Ackerman
I found this essay collection in September at the beautiful Bookstore of Gloucester. Ackerman shares quiet, keen-eyed observations about the wildlife (birds, yes, but also fish, crabs, invertebrates) and shifting microclimate of the Delaware shore. A little slow, but worthwhile.

Finding Refuge, Michelle Cassandra Johnson
Our society tends to see grief as an individual, linear process–but it has collective aspects, too, and it’s much messier than that. Johnson shares some of her own story and practices around processing grief. I applaud her premise, but the writing style was hard for me to follow (could be election brain). Includes meditations/journaling prompts. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 12).

Fire Sale, Sara Paretsky
When V.I. Warshawski gets roped into (temporarily) coaching the girls’ basketball team at her old high school, she’s drawn into a web of other problems: poverty, teenage pregnancy, unsavory conditions at a couple of local manufacturing plants. This entry was intense (I shouldn’t have read it before bed!), but so compelling. I love this series.

Links (not affiliate links) are to local bookstores I love: Trident, Frugal Books and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

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tawakal-art-tree

One of my favorite things about exploring Eastie this year has been the food.

As a Texas transplant who seriously misses her tacos, I’ve been thrilled to find decent – even delicious – Mexican food in Eastie. But today’s restaurant is something entirely different, something I’d never had before: Somali cuisine, made by the kind folks who run Tawakal Halal Cafe.

Tawakal is a hidden gem, tucked away in a small red house on a corner a few streets away from where I live. I discovered it last spring when I was dog-sitting in Eastie, and now I run by it nearly every morning. My guy and I decided to try it one Saturday, and we fell instantly and completely in love with the combination of flavors. It’s an amalgam of foods I recognize from Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants, and flavors I wasn’t familiar with before.

 

book water glass lunch Somali food

During quarantine (and especially during Ramadan, which fell during April and May), Tawakal has been providing hundreds of meals to local families struggling with job loss and food insecurity. The Boston Globe did a great Q&A with Yahya Noor, the owner, a few weeks ago. I love that Tawakal is a family business that really cares about the community, and the food – as I’ve already said – is delicious.

I haven’t been eating out much lately, but Tawakal is still a staple: my guy requested it for his birthday dinner last month, and I’ve been going by every couple of weeks to pick up takeout. My favorite dishes are the falafel biryani and the beef kabab biryani (pictured above), both with two kinds of hot sauce and plenty of rice and hummus. (The sambusas, also pictured above, are great too.) G is partial to the Malay fish spaghetti and the goat biryani. We both love the hot, spicy shaah (chai-like tea) they make, and he’s also a fan of the ginger coffee.

tawakal-art-hope

Most of all, I love the warm welcome we always get, and I’m looking forward to the day we can sit at a table again, near the open windows, and eat our lunch and chat with the staff.

Have you ever had Somali (or other East African) food?

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Penelope NYC interior restaurant

I spent my Labor Day weekend in NYC, staying in a little apartment near Park Slope and wandering in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. The trip, like most of my New York weekends these days, was a mix of familiar and new: a long browse at the Strand, a fantastic musical I hadn’t seen (Come From Away, which made me laugh and cry), a lovely Friday evening in my favorite tangle of streets in the West Village. (The bookseller gossip at Three Lives continues to be the best.)

I went back to the Chocolate Room, which I visited on my first-ever trip to NYC for a retreat led by Jen Lee, years ago. I finally went to Books Are Magic and then tried out Jolie, a French-Mexican cantina in Cobble Hill. I had brunch with dear Abilene friends (both of whom I’ve known since I was a college student and they were just kids) at Maman in TriBeCa, which was new to all of us.

And on Sunday night, I went back to Penelope.

Like so many of my NYC loves, Penelope was a gift from Allison, my dear friend who used to live in Queens and periodically take me to all her favorite NYC spots. Penelope is the kind of place we both love: cozy and inviting, with simple, homey comfort food and yummy desserts. We first ate there on a frigid January weekend, and it lived in my memory as twinkly and delicious.

There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of restaurants in NYC, and I love trying multiple new ones every time I go. Part of the adventure is simply walking into a new place that looks interesting, on whatever street I happen to be on. But I am also both a creature of habit and a person who and delights in repeating joys. When I find something I love, I generally want to enjoy it again and again.

A couple of years ago, during a work conference in midtown, I trudged over to Penelope for dinner one night, dry-eyed from staring at PowerPoint screens and nearly voiceless from a lingering cold. I sat at the bar, which was festooned with twinkle lights, and ate a bowl of spicy, orange carrot-ginger soup. The waitress, after hearing my scratchy voice, brought me a mug of hot water with honey and lemon, a vibrant yellow slice floating on top. Her kindness choked me up (even more than my sore throat). It was such a gesture of care.

I’ve spent enough time in New York now that parts of it feel like mine: there are places I can throw off the tourist mantle for a few minutes, neighborhoods I know well enough not to second-guess my every step. Much of it, of course, is either unfamiliar or constantly changing; the city is huge and dynamic, and even if I lived there, it wouldn’t stay the same. But I’ve drawn immense pleasure from coming back to my favorite places, including Penelope.

This time, it was late on a Sunday night and the place was nearly empty. But the waitress still had a smile for me, and I sat and read my book, savored my sandwich and glass of rosé, and relaxed into the quiet familiarity (and the nineties jams on the stereo). I walked back to the train through Murray Hill, with my leftovers in a brown paper bag, sleepy and footsore (I’d been walking for three days) and entirely satisfied.

Do you like going back to favorite places in cities you’ve visited? Or would you rather try something new every time?

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halifax harbour j k

After our glorious five nights/four days in PEI, the hubs and I headed to Halifax for the weekend. We’d never been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed checking out this smallish, vibrant city on the water.

halifax harbour dusk

I’ve said it before: on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. That is exactly what we did in Halifax, for two days.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment, and immediately went a-wandering. We found the Halifax Common, and a few streets away, DeeDee’s ice cream.

jer-deedees-ice-cream

(J’s berry-swirl ice cream happened to match his polo.)

katie-deedees-ice-cream

I had raspberry passionfruit sorbet, which is as tart and delicious as it sounds.

We strolled the neighborhood a while longer, then drove down to the waterfront that evening for dinner at the Bicycle Thief.

bicycle thief sculpture halifax

While we were waiting for our reservation (it was crowded), we walked along the harbourfront. Live musicians, food trucks, cool old ships, and lots of families out enjoying the lovely evening.

ships halifax harbour

When we did have dinner, it was delicious. I had a truly amazing lobster-corn chowder with new potatoes and bacon. (Also: their bread is focaccia and it’s homemade. Yum.)

bicycle-thief-chowder

We sat outside, and the view was as fantastic as the food.

bicycle thief restaurant halifax

We wandered around town in the long dusk, and split a decadent chocolate torte with raspberry sauce at the Middle Spoon. I could not get a good picture, but it was scrumptious.

The next morning, we headed to Annie’s Place for breakfast.

annies halifax

Annie herself welcomed us, and we had huge chai lattes (not that either of us were complaining) and excellent eggs, bacon and toast.

We spent most of the day exploring after that. First up was Woozles, an utterly charming children’s bookstore down the street from Annie’s.

woozles bookstore halifax

We didn’t spot any Heffalumps (or Woozles), but there were plenty of gorgeous books.

woozles interior

We also stopped by Bookmark – I’d been to their Charlottetown store, but enjoyed exploring this location.

bookmark halifax

The Halifax Public Gardens are close by, and they are gorgeous.

halifax public gardens

We’d heard the Halifax Central Library was worth seeing – though, to me, a library is always worth seeing. This one did not disappoint.

halifax central library

We ate lunch at the Seaport Farmers’ Market, then wandered back downtown, popping into more fun shops, including The Loop, a sweet little yarn shop.

loop yarn store halifax

For dinner that night, we ate at 2 Doors Down – really good pub food and local Nova Scotia wines.

two doors down halifax wine list

We weren’t quite ready for dessert, so we spent a while playing board games and eating popcorn at the Board Room Game Cafe. A Canadian friend had told us about this trend – it was so fun.

jer board room game cafe halifax

We capped off the night by splitting a slice of cheesecake at Sweet Hereafter. (It’s J’s favorite dessert.)

jer cheesecake sweet hereafter

We had to hit the road on Sunday, but stopped at Coastal Cafe for brunch first. J’s face says it all. (The huevos were amazing – some of the best Mexican food we’ve had outside of Texas.)

jer brunch halifax

Halifax, you are charming. Cheers!

halifax mural

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brooklyn brownstones light

Recently, the hubs and I hopped down to New York for the weekend. The reason (or excuse)? A college friend of ours was performing in Carmen, and we both were hankering for a getaway. (Not that we really need a reason to head to New York – but it helped galvanize us.)

This trip was a short one – almost exactly 48 hours long – but we packed in a lot of fun and good food.

subway public art nyc

Right after getting off the train, we met our buddy Isaac for lunch at Bareburger in Midtown. I’d been there before, but J never had. Their burgers (beef, bison and other varieties) are so fresh and tasty.

We returned to a neighborhood we love: Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where we stayed a couple of years ago. This time, we rented a charming third-floor walk-up near Fort Greene Park, comfortable and flooded with light.

brooklyn apartment living room

After dropping off our bags, we wandered the neighborhood, popping into a few shops and visiting the Greene Grape, which stocks all kinds of delicious food and drink. Then we tried a restaurant around the corner (recommended by our Airbnb hosts): Madiba.

madiba wall tapestry mandela

Madiba is often used as a name for Nelson Mandela, and fittingly, this restaurant has a funky, welcoming South African vibe. I loved the art prints, textiles, tribal masks and the music. And the food – as you can see from J’s expression – was amazing.

jer bunny chow madiba

We both ordered curry dishes – I had lamb curry with saffron rice, and J opted for the chicken “bunny chow” version in a hollowed-out heel of bread. We split a rich, creamy malva pudding (with apricot jam) for dessert. Every bite was perfection.

malva pudding

After dinner, we caught the subway to Brooklyn Heights, where we saw Theater 2020’s production of A Little Night Music. I don’t have any photos from the show, but it was fantastic – minimally staged in a spare Gothic chapel, and beautifully sung. I’ve been humming “Send in the Clowns” for over a week now. (I particularly loved Charlotte, the scheming wife with a dry wit and impeccable delivery.)

The next morning dawned sunny and cool, and we ended up grabbing breakfast at the Fort Greene Park farmers’ market. Because I could not resist a cherry pie muffin.

cherry pie muffin

Delectable – plus it matches my gloves. (Not pictured: the hot apple cider I bought to go with it. Also wonderful.)

We strolled the neighborhood, and of course we had to visit Greenlight Bookstore. (J kindly indulges my bookstore obsession when we travel.)

greenlight bookstore window brooklyn

Lunch was fish tacos at Cafe Habana – not quite Tex-Mex, but pretty darn close.

We hopped a train into Manhattan after that, and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the Upper West Side. A Shakespeare exhibit at the NYPL branch at Lincoln Center, a visit to Book Culture on Columbus Avenue, chai lattes from a tiny shop called The Sensuous Bean. I adore the Upper West Side (where I stayed last fall), and it was a brisk but mostly sunny afternoon. Perfect for strolling with my love.

upper west side nyc

Later, we enjoyed dinner at Hourglass Tavern in Hell’s Kitchen – so named because they pride themselves on getting patrons to the theatre on time. We had time to savor our pasta and wine (without feeling rushed), and then headed to our evening at the opera.

diamond horseshoe lights

The Diamond Horseshoe, where this production of Carmen was staged, is a performance space in the basement of the Paramount Hotel on West 46th. It’s a cross between a swanky hotel bar, the opera house from Phantom of the Opera, and a scene straight out of Moulin Rouge – a wild, glitzy mix of opulence and decay. But the opera was excellent. (Though we were partial to the tall Texan playing two different roles – a soldier and a gypsy.)

jer isaac carmen

Sunday morning found us brunching at Walter’s in Fort Greene (another host recommendation and apparently a popular neighborhood spot). I had the huevos rancheros, which were delicious. And the people-watching was so fun. (It always is in New York.)

huevos rancheros walters brooklyn

We caught the subway into Midtown to drop our bags off at Penn Station, then grabbed some chai at Think Coffee and headed for the High Line, which I had visited but J had not. Most of the plants are dormant right now, but it was a gorgeous day and the views are stunning.

high line bridge nyc

After strolling the length of the park, we wandered around Greenwich Village, split a pizza at Ribalta, and hopped back on the subway to catch our train home.

high line selfie nyc

Two days in NYC is never enough, but I’d say we made the most of it. We came home with tired feet, a few new books (of course) and a slew of lovely memories.

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This past weekend, J and I finally crossed #2 off my 28 things list – we hopped on a bus to New York, to stay with Allison in her adorable Queens apartment and see our college friend Ben play Pumbaa in The Lion King. I’d seen the show before, in London during my first semester in Oxford, but there are no words, then or now, to describe the stunning visual effects of the animal costumes and the African stage sets. You simply have to see it. (And hear it. The music is incredible, and the woman who played Rafiki is particularly gifted. Her voice sent chills up my spine multiple times.)

Anyway, as we strolled around the city, exploring Hell’s Kitchen and SoHo and Union Square and the Upper East Side, and trying not to freeze to death (it was frigid), we ate some delicious meals. New York is full of amazing restaurants, but these are the ones we loved this weekend.

First, after seeing a fabulous Muppet exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, we stumbled upon Il Bambino, a cozy, rustic panini shop tucked away on 31st Avenue in Astoria. I consider myself something of a tomato soup connoisseur, but this was the BEST tomato soup I’ve ever had – creamy, rich and fresh, topped with flatbread spread with pesto:

So. Delicious. (The 25-degree temps outside only heightened my appreciation.)

We also had paninis – which were yummy – but the other best part of the meal came afterward. Three words: Nutella. Hot. Chocolate. Decadently delicious:

Saturday night found us shivering in Times Square, gawking at the lights and trying to find a place to grab dinner before the show. All the restaurants right off the square were packed, of course, so Allison and her fiance, Duncan, led us a couple blocks west, to the edge of Hell’s Kitchen, where we savored Thai food at Yum Yum Bangkok. The name says it all. (No photos of that – we were on a schedule, and eating fast!)

On Sunday morning, J and I headed to the Met, to sample as much of it as we could before meeting Allison and Duncan for brunch. Last fall, Allison introduced me to Alice’s Tea Cup and I loved it, so this time we headed to “Chapter III,” on East 81st Street:

The interior is charming, and they sell teapots and tea accessories and dozens of teas. The boys had scones and we all had tea (mine was an almond blend):

And J and I split an omelet, along with this delectable confection:

That, my friends, is French toast bread pudding. With fresh berries and cream, raspberry and chocolate sauces. And oh my, it’s heaven. (I bought the cookbook. So many tempting possibilities!)

You’d think we’d never be hungry again after that, but after spending the afternoon exploring SoHo (I finally got to visit Purl Soho!), we were chilly and hungry. So we headed back uptown (to midtown, anyway), and munched on comfort food (mac & cheese, fish & chips, warm artichoke-spinach dip, cranberry-apple crumble) at Penelope. (Which is utterly charming, not to mention yummy, and reasonably priced.)

We left Monday afternoon, sated, and with many promises to return when the weather warms up, so we can sample more delicious food. (And museums and landmarks and parks, of course.)

Where do you love to eat in NYC? I’m already making a list for next time!

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