Gustatory Adventures

I indulged in my bi-/tri-annual three-course meal a few nights ago. My friends and I had dinner at a subterranean Italian restaurant that was so tiny it was almost comical. I lost count of the number of times the waitstaff bumped into my girlfriend as they squeezed by our table.

I chose a lightly breaded piece of buffalo mozzarella with greens for my first course. My second course was a scallop ravioli thing…basically a layer of thin pasta below and on top of scallops, arugula, and leeks. My friends ordered beef tenderloin with risotto and chicken parmigiana.

Artistic entrees

Artistic entrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dessert was panna cotta. I hadn’t been a huge panna cotta fan until I shared a positively dreamy sample a few weeks ago. This one was nice but not as dreamy.

This morning, I made a donut pilgrimage. I have ridden by Twin Donuts at least 100 times on the bus, and have always been intrigued by its vintage signage:

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I decided today would be the day I tried Twin Donuts. I had read that many of the donuts sell out by 9:00 am. So I rolled out of bed and onto the bus around 8:30. I arrived a few minutes before 9:00 and, sure enough, a few kinds were already sold out.

The place has a nice no-frills townie vibe to it. I ordered a medium coffee, a “honey dip” donut (what I refer to as a glazed ring), and a sugar cruller. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten two donuts in one sitting, but what the hell. I’m heading to England tomorrow!

I can’t remember the last time I ate a donut. I think it’s because I prefer salty breakfast foods. But I have a soft spot in my heart for this confection. I dealt with many a donut during my six years as a Wegmans grocery-store bakery clerk.

I always felt an inexplicable satisfaction working with the donuts. I mainly worked at night, which meant consolidation of the donuts throughout the shift. There were usually two full cases of donuts when I arrived, and only a few trays left by the time we closed up shop. I reckon that I’ve spent the equivalent of weeks of my life washing donut trays.

One of the great mysteries of my life in New England is the absence of my favorite donut: the white creme donut. Maybe when the new Wegmans opens 5 miles from my house next month, I will put this humble request in its suggestion box.

 

 

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A Balmy Afternoon

 

The definition of balmy, according to Merriam-Webster:

a :  having the qualities of balm :  soothing

b :  mild  <balmy weather>

I wish it were b the other afternoon, but I settled for a.
Mary and I made lip balm (#17 on the birthday list). It was easy-peasy because I ordered a kit online at brambleberry.com. I’m working my way through all of its products: I’ve bought its perfume, lotion, and soap kits for previous birthday lists.
All we had to do was melt the lip balm “base” and then add color and flavoring.
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Cute, huh?

Tomorrow night, I’ll be trying a new restaurant. Every March, Boston has a “restaurant week,” in which a number of restaurants offer special prix-fixe menus for a discounted price. This is one of two or three times a year that I treat myself to a three-course meal!

T minus five days until I’m on a jet plane to my first home away from home…

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Happy Holi!

 

My attendance at a Holi festival might win “most interesting birthday list item” for 2014. Holi is a Hindu tradition in which people gather to celebrate the coming of spring and throw colored power all over each other. Last weekend, Abby and I walked into a dive-y Fenway bar and were handed a pink ticket. We had no idea what was going on. Which is so much fun sometimes!

There was quite a crowd of people eating and listening to music. I looked around for a sign of the colored powder to no avail. We got a beer and ate some good Indian food. As we were finishing our meal, someone announced that we were to head out a particular exit. We followed the crowd into an empty garage area next door and found our way to the powder station. We exchanged our tickets for packages of powder. People were throwing powder at each other and up in the air. Friends threw at it each other; perfect strangers threw it at each other. Pink and yellow and green and blue.

A DJ played music and people danced while throwing powder. It was goofy and fun and everyone was HAPPY. Until Abby got beaned in the eye with powder…that wasn’t happy. But she rallied and got right back into the fray.

The powder really did get everywhere. Why did I bring a wool coat with me? It’s at the drycleaners. It washed out of my jeans and cardigan but not the white shirt. But I wasn’t expecting it to come out of the white shirt. People are encouraged to wear white shirts so the colors are shown in all their glory.

I went to a few stores on my way home afterward and had some interesting conversations. The Bed Bath and Beyond checkout person prefaced our conversation by saying, “I’m almost afraid to ask.” And a college kid I passed on the street asked me if I had been murdered.

Holi is awesome and I am so ready for SPRING!

The scene

The scene

More of the scene

More of the scene

Me and Abby

Me and Abby

An Italian State of Mind

 

Italy is in my blood—between 10 and 25 percent of my blood, according to ancestry.com’s DNA test. My mother’s maternal grandparents were Italian. They are my daunting “brick wall” as genealogists like to call situations that are a mystery. I have their birth and death dates but are not sure where they grew up. We know that they moved around a lot before settling in the United States. My mom’s oldest aunt was born in Turkey; her oldest uncle was born in Egypt. I found a ship passenger list that put them in Brazil at some point. Somehow they ended up in small–town Curwensville, Pennsylvania.

I spoke with a local genealogist a few months ago, and she suggested that I track down these ancestors’ naturalization papers and death certificates, in the hope that their hometowns in Italy would be listed. I sent off checks to the county and state and waited. About a month later, in January, I received my original letter asking for the naturalization papers with a handwritten note reading “Records not found.”

A week or so ago, I received my great-grandfather’s death certificate. His hometown is not listed. Blast! But I was able to confirm his cause of death and the length of the illness (myocarditis, one month). My great-grandmother’s arrived a few days later. Again, no hometown listed. But it was interesting yet again to confirm her cause of death (arteriosclerosis, 10 years; cerebral hemorrhage, 2 years).

Couple this chain of events with watching two Italian movies, and I am raring to go on with my genealogy research!

A  few days ago, I watched Bicycle Thieves. I read an article recently in which the author wrote something along the lines of “Bicycle Thieves is one of the best movies ever made.”

Even though it won a special Oscar in 1950 (the foreign film category had not yet been created), I was a little skeptical that a film about a man and his son searching Rome for a stolen bicycle would be one of the best films ever made.

I haven’t seen every film ever made, but I would say it’s an amazing film. It’s classified as part of the “Italian neorealism” movement, which arose from the ashes of the aftermath of World War II. There was much poverty, devastation, and desperation in Italy during this time period. The film’s main character has been out of work for at least a year, and he finally gets a job that requires he travel by bicycle. When his bicycle is stolen his first day on the job, he and his son search high and low for it. I won’t give any more away, but suffice it to say that it’s a moving film with a heartbreaking ending.

Fast forward about 65 years to today. Well, a few days ago—when I watched The Grand Beauty, which won this year’s Oscar for best foreign film. Again, this movie doesn’t have much of a plot. The main character is a one-hit-wonder writer and a king of social life in Rome. He turns 65 and starts to see his life, and the people in it, as kind of exhausting and lacking much meaning. The dialogue is rapid-fire and, overall, the cinematography and imagery is jaw-droppingly beautiful. (Hence the film’s title.) We see the manic Roman nightlife; we see dream-like reminisces and mystical events occur. Days later, I am still thinking about some of the images.

I’ve almost completed the AFI’s top 100 movies list. I had the idea to start working my way through a particular actor’s entire body of work. I was going to start with Cary Grant, because I just watched Notorious and I. love. him.

After seeing these two Italian movies, I think it would be worth my while to embark on an educational foreign-film experience, starting with the top 10 best Italian films.

Oh, and another reason that my mind is in its current state: I’ve been reading I, Claudius. Aka the original soap opera. My head is spinning with all of the deceit, adultery, and executions going on. It’s going in the Netflix queue. Four discs…wish me luck!

 

 

T Minus Three Months

 

Here it is, March 1. I have three months to complete 24 birthday list items. No problemo!

In recent list news…

I ate at a restaurant called Marliave for the first time last week. It’s tucked away in a little historic pocket in downtown Boston. As soon as you walk in, you can tell that the place is historic. The walls are made of decorative white tin and the bar is made of marble. The stairs leading to the second floor are worn and uneven. The view from the large windows on the second floor is awesome. All you see is beautiful stone buildings from every vantage point.

The dining experience was quite “fine.” I ordered scrambled eggs with black truffle butter and farmhouse cheeses. And it came with fries! The waitress brought a silver container of ketchup on a dainty plate before the entree arrived and I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The meal was divine. It was pricey, but I will return for those eggs. Mark my words.

I checked off a list item earlier today. I attended an alumni event for my undergrad college. An alumna works at the Sam Adams Brewery and arranged to give us a special after-hours tour. I’ve been to the brewery several times, but I had never been to “The Barrel Room,” as it’s closed to the public. It’s a temperature-controlled room where they keep special beer called “Utopias,” which is brewed in bourbon barrels. I was just about knocked over by the smell of bourbon as we entered the room. The beer is aged for two years in the barrels, and the finished product has a 28% ABV. A bottle costs $200. That’s a little out of my price range. But it’s served by the glass at a local restaurant, so it may make it on the birthday list yet.

 

 

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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