Beers Keith Drank in Europe, Listed.

Though we both drank loads of beer on our trip (I mostly stuck with my beloved lambics), Keith was on a self-imposed mission to consume all of the Belgian Trappists.  Did he succeed?  Scroll down to find out.

* Timmerman’s
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Marathon Monday, or Getting Out of the City.

I remember my first Marathon Monday in Boston: I had to go to the printer to pick up copies of a short story I was submitting to a writing workshop the next day…  and of course the printer I ended up using was in Copley Square, practically sitting on top of the finish line.  I know, don’t tell me —  dumb move, but come on.  I was new to the city!  I didn’t know any better.  I had to elbow my way past throngs of marathon aficionados, and what normally would have been a fifteen-minute walk ended up being something like forty-five, because of all the revelers and runners.

Anyway, my point is this: unless you’re super-into marathons, get out of the city.  Which is exactly what Keith and I did, heading up I-95 to Newburyport.  Though we had a two Newburyport destinations in mind and one in Salem to loop us back home, our main goal was to do what the Filipino side of my family calls making paseo.  Making paseo is easy — it’s basically a mini-road trip.

joppa-fine-foods When we got to Newburyport, we first made our way to Joppa Fine Foods in the Tannery Mall, which is made up of all really cool and interesting converted mill space.  After sampling a few different cheeses, we decided on Pradera (Dutch cow’s milk) and Erhaki (French sheep’s milk), as well as a bottle of my favorite peach Lambic and a crusty, crunchy baguette.  In retrospect, I’m surprised we didn’t devour it in the car, but that might have been because I was too excited about our next stop, Tendercrop Farms.

tender-crop-2Tendercrop Farms is a small farm in Newbury that not only sells its own fruit and vegetables but also its own meat, poultry and baked goods.  Keith loaded up a basket with two different kinds of sausage (andouille and sweet Italian), corncob smoked bacon and cinnamon-raisin bread while I checked out the selection of herb seedlings in the nursery.  Something else I checked out was Buffy, Tendercrop’s buffalo; if you click on this photo, it will take you to a short slideshow of Buffy trying to ignore me.  I’m not joking when I say it’s a short slideshow — Keith pretty much pulled me down off of the rock I was perched on, saving you all from a twenty-frame slideshow of Buffy chewing.  (And yes, I needed to stand on a rock to see over Buffy’s fence.  What can I say?  I’m short, and that fence is tall.)  What you can’t see in the photos is Buffy’s penmate, a nameless white llama who also ignored me.

the-old-spotAfter Tendercrop, Keith and I made paseo down to The Old Spot in Salem, where we were planning to have a late lunch (or early dinner, depending on how you look at it). I decided to order The Old Spot’s eponymous meat pie ($15.00) and a shandy with Hefeweizen ($5.oo).  I love a shandy: it’s happy and light, and a perfect counter-balance for something like meat pie — which Keith described as “cold, winter food.”  He’s not wrong there.  The Old Spot’s meat pie is made Guinness-stewed lamb and beef that is then smothered with rich, buttery mashed potatoes; with toasted corn kernels adding a bright sweetness and scallions giving the dish a crisp crunch, it’s a hearty one-course meal that would warm any stomach, no matter the weather.  (One note: I did think the beef and lamb were a bit under-seasoned, but those potatoes were perfect.)

Something else I should mention: Keith got the slow-roasted pork sandwich ($8.00), and it was fantastic, layered with Swiss cheese, Dijon mayonnaise and crunchy pickles, which gave the sweet pork a zippy bite. I would go back to The Old Spot for the sandwich alone.

The Old Spot is a British-style pub located on a picturesque corner of town across from the Hawthorne Hotel; it’s also near the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables — which inspired the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name — so a stop at The Old Spot is ideal even for a Salem-centric trip…  something I’m already thinking of planning for the next three-day weekend.

Joppa Fine Foods
50 Water Street
The Tannery
Newburyport, Massachusetts 01951
978.462.4662
joppafinefoods.com

Tendercrop Farms
108 High Road
Newbury, Massachusetts 01951
978.462.6972
tendercropfarms.com

The Old Spot
121 Essex Street
Salem, Massachusetts 01970
978.745.5656
theoldspot.com

Old Spot on Urbanspoon

Sandwich from Bloc 11.

img_2182.jpg I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve remarked upon my love for certain foodstuffs. Most recently, there was mention of peach Lambic and the Kir Royale. Prior to that, it was choreg. Prior to that it was, what, cookies? Cupcakes? Crêpes? Corn fritters? This is precisely what I mean. While there are far too many items to tick off, that is in no way going to stop me from adding another to the list: sandwiches.

Oh, how I love them. I love that the bread serves as both packaging and major ingredient; I love the collection of flavors and textures and colors jam-packed into each bite; I love that they can be eaten in my most favorite fashion — messily, and with my hands.

I spent most of Sunday morning drinking lattes at Union Square’s Bloc 11; given the intensity of my feelings for sandwiches, I wasn’t able to resist the long list of options for very long. To slim down the lineup, and for that reason alone, I decided to limit myself to ordering exclusively from the cold sandwich section of the menu. Still, I was overwhelmed. There was, to indulge in, the Terrace: rosemary focaccia laden with roasted red pepper hummus, Gruyère, tomato, sprouts, greens and cucumber. Also beckoning me from behind the counter was the Fuse: apple curried tuna with tomato, cucumber, greens and onion atop sourdough.

At last, I settled on the Station 11, though in this case “settle” is a horribly inaccurate word. By choosing the Station 11, I wasn’t settling at all. The combination of flavors — bitter greens, salty and buttery prosciutto, bright tomato, soft and comforting herby ricotta, crusty ciabatta and a veritable pile of sweet caramelized onions — was exceedingly delicious. I will say that, at first, I wished for more ricotta but as I ate I realized that the cheese melded so thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients, adding a subtle creaminess to the sandwich.

The perfect size, the Station 11 left me completely satisfied. In terms of fullness, that is. I easily could have consumed another sandwich, if only to further savor the taste.

Bloc 11
11 Bow Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
617.623.0000

Bloc 11 Cafe on Urbanspoon

My New Obsession.

img_2177-2.jpg This year we decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a very low-key and sort of impromptu fashion. At what could only be described as the very last minute, we gathered a small group of friends in our living room for some snacks and drinks. We spent the evening chatting, eating, drinking and laughing, only turning on the television at exactly 11.58. After the ball dropped, we promptly turned the television off and focused our attention again on each other. In my opinion, it was pretty much the perfect way to ring in 2008.

Something else that made this New Year’s extra memorable for me was the fact that it was my introduction to Lambic. I’m not much of a beer drinker; I mostly drink Belgian-style beers like Allagash. I suppose it made sense that I fell madly in love with the peach Lambic that Darlington brought over on a whim.

Lambic comes in a variety of fruit flavors, but thus far I’ve only tried the peach and the raspberry (framboise). I’ve got a particular interest in the black currant, as my love of the Kir Royale (Crème de Cassis and Champagne) is boundless. The apple is also appealing, but at the moment I am still so enamored with the golden brightness of the peach that even the fizzy raspberry couldn’t sway my affection. That said, I noticed last month that Picco‘s dessert menu includes one especially intriguing item: an “adult” ice cream soda. It is described as “your choice of Belgian Lambic poured over vanilla ice cream,” and certainly sounds as though for it alone is a visit necessary.