Monday, June 30, 2014

A Weekend in McKinney

This weekend, we had some travel plans fall through, so we spent the weekend sticking close to our new home and exploring our new stomping grounds. While we spent a lot of our time shopping for new furniture, mattresses, and appliances, we also squeezed in some fun! And you know what? I think we're going to like McKinney.

Thursday evening we purchased two lawn chairs and found an open spot at Bonnie Wenk Park for the final Jammin' In June outdoor concert. The park itself is absolutely lovely. There's a tree-lined walking path bordering a serene pond, an outdoor stage, and even a dog park! The concert was a lot of fun, as was the people watching (out in the 'burbs, there is no shortage of cute kids and puppies around).
Saturday, after visiting an Open House at the McKinney National Airport (for my pilot husband), we drove into downtown McKinney for lunch at Cadillac Pizza Pub. This is hands down my favorite place we've visited since our move. The menu features pizzas (obviously), a few toasted sandwiches and baked pastas, and plenty of local ingredients! The beers on tap are all Texas craft brews, which is pretty exciting for us, as so many new breweries have popped up since we moved away.
I would definitely recommend the Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms, featuring homemade sausage and baked until bubbly. They let you order split pizzas, so we got one side Sporty Pepper Pizza and one side The Classic Caddy (we loved them both, but the Sporty Pepper was our favorite). And we really enjoyed sipping on Revolver Bock and Martin House's River House.
After lunch, we strolled around the downtown square, ducking into a couple shops, including the Antique Company Mall. Two sprawling floors are filled with booths of antiques. We walked away with a new (old) sifter and the coolest (no pun intended) antique fan that still works!
That evening we had a blast at the McKinney Community Band's Americana concert at the McKinney Performing Arts Center! I think we need to find out if they need one more tuba and clarinet to join the ranks!
After the concert, we concluded the evening with a wine tasting flight and some live music at Lone Star Wine Cellars. It's a cozy little spot featuring a lively (and slightly older) crowd, and they're pouring some surprisingly good Texas wines. We'll definitely pay them a return visit!
To close out the weekend, we enjoyed Sunday brunch at Spoons CafĂ©. I ordered one of my favorite Austin classics, migas, not sure what to expect from a restaurant in the Dallas suburbs. For the uninitiated, migas are eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, jalapenos, and cheese, and in this case chorizo. It's best to eat them piled onto warm flour tortillas. And I'll tell you what, I shouldn't have doubted Spoons. They were darn good migas! (If you want to make your own at home, you won't regret trying these from Homesick Texan).
Hopefully everyone had a wonderful weekend, and have fun planning for upcoming 4th of July festivities!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gone To Texas (GTT)

Well folks, we made it to Texas! After weeks of farewells and preparing our home to be packed up and moved, we're finally here.

Thursday night, we went out one last time for a farewell dinner in Medford at a local favorite named Moulton's, or as we lovingly call it, "Old People Fish Place."  It's a family-owned place -- not fancy, but they serve fresh and delicious seafood. For one last time I ordered my favorite, the Haddock Parmesan.
Friday, movers came to pack up our apartment, our car was loaded onto a trailer for shipping, and we spent the night in an empty apartment. Saturday morning, we walked down to Paul Revere for breakfast, where I enjoyed one last Hash and Cheese Omelet (sometimes a little diner food really hits the spot). That afternoon we caught our flight out of town, though not before posting a "GTT" sign on our door like a couple settlers from the 1800's.
Now here we are, halfway across the country and halfway through our first week of work at new jobs. Leaving Boston was tough, and I miss it already, but on the other hand, it's wonderful to be back home. Our families are within driving distance (in fact, we had an impromptu weeknight dinner with my parents last night). The grocery stores are stocked with local favorites that were impossible to find in Boston (Ranch Style Beans, more BBQ sauce than we could ever try, fresh tortillas, okra, varied fresh chiles and tomatillos, etc, etc, etc). 
There's TexMex on every other corner. Our favorite so far was our first dinner in the Dallas area, only a couple hours after our plane landed, at Rio Bravo in Plano. If you pay them a visit, by all means get one of their margaritas, as the rims are lined with the most amazing chili salt that you'll ever taste. It's a top secret blend made in house, and it's perfect with the tangy and slightly sweet margaritas.
And we're back amongst old friends who we've missed! This weekend we're visiting two of our favorite people on the planet, Jimmy and Laura, for adventures out on Canyon Lake. I can't wait! I also can't wait to share with you all of our Texas adventures as we explore our new home. Yee haw!

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Orange Pimm's Cup

One of my favorite summer drinks is a Pimm's Cup, where you serve Pimm's No. 1 topped off with lemonade, mint, orange slices, and diced cucumber and strawberries. It's not particularly complicated, and it's pretty and refreshing. In an attempt to use up odds and ends in the pantry and fridge (since we're moving to Texas at the end of the week), I've come up with a new twist on the old classic which I'm dubbing an Orange Pimm's Cup. It's even more simple than the original, and it's a perfect way to make an orange soda a little more grown up. Please note that it is ideal for sitting out on the porch soaking up afternoon sun, for backyard cookouts, for bridal showers, or for calming your nerves prior to a cross-country move (that last one is purely hypothetical of course). Cheers to summer everyone!
Serves 1

Whole Foods Tangerine Italian Soda (or any orange soda)
A handful of raspberries or strawberries
Optional: mint sprig

Fill a highball glass roughly 2/3rds full with ice. Add in your fruit of choice.

Pour in the Pimm's, and top off with tangerine or orange soda. 

Stir gently and garnish with a mint sprig and a pretty paper straw if desired.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Road Trip to Burlington, Vermont

Since my husband and I are not working right now (we took off a couple weeks to prepare for our upcoming big move), we're trying to squeeze in as many final adventures and visits with friends as we can manage before we leave. Last week, we took a beautiful drive up to the Burlington, Vermont area, including a pit stop in Waterbury for a factory tour at Ben and Jerry's! After learning the magic of ice cream making and enjoying a free sample, we bought a larger serving of ice cream and took a walk up the hill from the factory to stroll around their Flavor Graveyard and admired the view of rural Vermont.
We continued our drive in the countryside spotting old barns, covered bridges, vibrant green pastures, and even blooming lupines.
Finally in Burlington, a vibrant little college town right on Lake Champlain, we strolled through their darling downtown area lined with shops, restaurants, and musicians playing in the streets. We ducked into Das Bierhaus and grabbed a table out on their rooftop biergarten to enjoy German beer, pretzels, and the afternoon sun.
Next, we met up with two of our favorite people and fellow Texans in New England, Crystal and Troy, for dinner at The Farmhouse Tap and Grill. They have cheese plates featuring local Vermont cheeses, fantastic burgers, and a great selection of local beers on tap.
On our after dinner stroll, we just happened to walk past the Burlington Ben and Jerry's which just happens to be the location of the original Ben and Jerry's factory. So naturally, we HAD to stop in for another ice cream! Who can pass up a historical landmark like that?  It was a great way to end the evening!
The next morning, we had a hearty breakfast at the Penny Cluse Cafe before hitting the road, and I'm so glad we did. This was hands down the highlight of the trip. It's a cute spot, walls lined with funky art submitted by local patrons. And the food! I ordered a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelette that was light and fluffy and perfect and was served alongside homemade biscuits and jam, crispy home fries, strong coffee, and a grapefruit spritz made with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. My husband's biscuits with herb gravy were equally good. They can sure cook up a good breakfast in Vermont!
After driving along the shoreline of Lake Champlain, we headed south toward Boston. It's a pretty long trip in New England terms (3.5 hours), but it's well worth it. I'm so glad we were able to pay Burlington a visit before moving away from the area. Now if only I could afford a summer vacation home along the lake...a girl can dream!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Heading Home

Well folks, I have a big announcement! My husband and I are moving back to Texas in just a few short weeks. We're headed to McKinney, a suburb northeast of Dallas, and we can't wait to be closer to our families and to be back in the land of TexMex, BBQ, and chicken fried steak! On the other hand, we're pretty darn sad to leave Boston, a town that we have come to love so much.  We'll miss this city and all of the wonderful friends we've made, but we'll be bringing some wonderful memories back home with us. I can't wait to share all of our new adventures with you!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pennypacker's And Their Porchetta

Months ago, I read about a new restaurant in Somerville's Magoun Square, right down the road from us. It's not the trendiest neighborhood, so it's a little unusual to hear about a new, cool restaurant opening in the area, and I'm really sorry that we dragged our feet before finally paying Pennypacker's a visit.
Pennypacker's, a little sandwich, soup, and salad shop, originated as a food truck and has now expanded into a brick and mortar restaurant. They are most famous for their porchetta, which as shown below is slow-roasted skin-on, cured, and marinated pork belly wrapped around pork shoulder. So while everything on their small, rotating menu sounded tempting, we had to go with the porchetta sandwich along with the Himalayan Red Rice Salad.
The salad was mixed to order, and it was outstanding. I loved the bright lemon vinaigrette tossed with the rice, herbs, peppery arugula, and crisp cucumber and red onion. But the sandwich is what really stole the show. It's rather unassuming on the plate and so simple: crusty bread around a thick slab of porchetta and a good drizzle of salsa verde. The pork is so tender and flavorful, and every now and then you bite into a perfectly crisp piece of pork rind that just puts it over the top.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend that you pay them a visit! I'm already trying to figure out when I can go back!

Monday, June 2, 2014

My 10 Favorite Things in May

They say that April showers bring May flowers, and that's certainly been true this spring -- though May has had its fair share of showers as well!  It's been an eventful month filled with new adventures, good friends, and happy memories. Best of all, summer is right around the corner! So without further ado, these were the highlights of the month:

1) May Flowers
One of my favorite things about Boston are the vast numbers of blooming trees, bushes, and flowers in the springtime. It's like a joyous celebration that winter is over, and summer is on its way!
2) Visiting Night Shift with Jane
I always love catching up with my beautiful friend Jane. Whenever we get together there's sure to be plenty of laughter. This month we met up at Night Shift Brewing for a flight of beer samples (our last trip to their old brewery, as last week they opened their shiny new brewery) followed by dinner at Tavern at the End of the World
Perfect for a light but filling spring lunch. And feta cheese is involved. Who doesn't like an excuse to eat more feta cheese?
4) Drinks at Drink with Kurt and Nina
Boy do we love these two people! And we always love an excuse to go to Drink. 
5) Making homemade Spanish Rice
Since we can't go out for good TexMex in Boston, we make it at home whenever the cravings strike. And you can't have TexMex without a good batch of Spanish Rice. This recipe from my brother is the best!
6) Date Night at B&G Oysters
My husband and I spent a beautiful evening out on the back patio eating fresh seafood and sipping wine. I love going out in the South End with its brick sidewalks and stately brownstones. It's an almost magical area that's quintessentially Boston.
7) Finally going to the Brimfield Antique Show
I still can't get over how much fun this was with antiques as far as the eye could see and treasures hidden in ever nook and cranny. I'm so glad we finally made the trek out to Brimfield. If only Mom, a professional antiquer, could have gone with us!
8) A Night Out with Friends
A couple weeks ago, we spent such a fun night on the town with some of our co-workers (I'm lucky to work with some really great folks)! We started at the Liberty Hotel, a prison that was renovated into a gorgeous, trendy hotel, for dinner at Clink and a drink at Alibi. Afterward, we trekked over to State Park for southern snacks and cocktails.  We loved the fried tobacco onions, fried pickled okra, fried catfish (there are a lot of fried options!), and the pitchers of Pimm's Cups and Tom Collins!
We met Troy and Crystal through the Longhorn Band at UT, and man were we excited when they relocated to New Hampshire a couple years ago. It's nice to have such good friends in driving distance, and we had the best time visiting them over the Memorial Day weekend.
10) Rose wine out in the backyard
One of my favorite ways to celebrate the transition from spring to summer is sitting out in the backyard in just the right balance of shade and warm sunshine sharing a bottle of rose with my husband.
BONUS: 11) Seeing George Strait in concert, a lifelong dream come true!
What a night! There are no words to describe how amazing it was to see King George in concert at long last as a part of his "Cowboy Rides Away" farewell tour. I'm pretty sure that he could sing the phone book and it would be a hit!