You know how delighted your dog is when you find that precise spot to rub her belly? The glee she has? That is how my husband tends to react when I reveal that a trip to a casino is on our agenda for the day. We were looping the Northeast and Foxwoods jumped out from the Google Maps. The largest casino in the world! The web exclaimed. If we bypassed the largest casino in the world and my husband found out about it, I think he would never speak to me again... or at least for an hour.
But visions of crusty Atlantic City still dance in my head so I wanted to do Foxwoods right. At one point in planning I thought we might stay overnight at the MGM Grand, but that conflicted with the Second Law of Jac - bite-size driving requirements. So we dropped into the MGM Grand at Foxwoods on our way south to New Jersey. He would say our trip to the slots was rewarding. I'd quietly remember that I had made that second trip to the ATM when my pockets emptied.
I had hoped to get a meal at Craft Steak at the MGM Grand, but they - and every other sit down restaurant save one were closed for lunch. That is how we ended up having lunch at Junior's, an offshoot of the original Junior's Restaurant in Brooklyn. It was lunch but I should have just ordered breakfast. I would have been a lot fuller when we left if I had. But it was kitschy and open.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Right about now, my husband Jac is realizing that our getaway to New England may have had three different stated purposes but was actually keenly planned to generate a month's worth of posts for Magniferous. He would not be wrong to deduce that.
In Newport, RI, after our tour of the town and The Breakers, we settled in for dinner at 22 Bowens on the waterfront. The restaurant was cozy and romantic - as demonstrated by the number of anniversary couples around us. After days on the seafood tour, I was ready to create my own steakhouse experience. Jac was just ready for more oysters and lobster. We each got precisely what we wanted. Every bit of our meal was sublime from the setting to the quality of our entrees. We had lulled ourselves into that sweet spot of vacation where you forget, for a moment, that a return to real life is looming.
I can usually produce at least a passable image of our meals with my flashless photography once I tweak it in Photoshop, but my shots from 22 Bowens are a lost cause. I hope the restaurant will indulge me in the use of their website photo since I'm relaying our praise-worthy experience in their cozy restaurant.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
In all of our outings over the last (almost) decade, I can count a handful of resounding successes in planning. Our first year I somehow chose the most temperate and lovely dates for an evening Orioles game in Baltimore and a weekend there and in Annapolis. On our honeymoon, I insisted on braving the line at the original Lady & Sons (Paula Deen) restaurant in Savannah and our reward was a heavenly meal. On our return from Boston, I suggested we offset the rainy, yucky afternoon with a visit to The Breakers, the Vanderbuilt mansion. I guessed it the most grand of the town's palatial residences and we popped in out of the rain with just a few other visitors.
The estate had already been dressed with some holiday decorations. There was a strict no photography policy backed up my security cameras in each room. The tour is conducted on individual audio players. I haven't taken a tour like that since the ancient corded phone tours of the Smithsonian and was pleased that the experience has been significantly upgraded. You could spend hours and hours on the tour if you listened to all of the optional "for more information" tracks.
It was a grand house, very aptly named. The sound of the sea breaking against the shore on the veranda inspired some very good branding. Although I treasure the life I have, I did swoon a bit with envy over the idea of life in that fine home. If I had to live in a time before wi-fi and central air, then I would take The Breakers, happily. The dining and kitchen areas were extraordinary and must have supported the most lavish dinner parties this Martha-wannabe can imagine.
It's opulent and over-the-top to be sure. Any "home" with gold walls falls into that category. I had to appreciate the foresight of the home's owner when the audio tour mentioned one room's walls were bedecked in platinum. You can have my platinum card, I'll take the platinum walls.
Anyway, the visit to The Breakers was a perfect diversion for that blech, rainy day. We were transported from bleak and grey to a world filled with marble, velvet, silk, platinum and fine crystal. And the gift shop was well above average for that type of landmark.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Work and play were so frenetic leading up to Thanksgiving that we fell into our holiday non-plan plans. Returning from our trip to New England I had a mad deluge of work stuff to tackle so it was all I could do to email Jac lists for the grocery store to stock the house for a Thanksgiving feast for two. I was able to work ahead a little bit because in the 50-50 gamble of whether Thanksgiving Eve will be a day of completely insane customer demands or a complete cricket sound-filled ghost town, this year I wound up with the latter.
Our menu included favorite dishes for each of us: turkey*, mashed potatoes, drunken sweet potatoes, green been casserole, Nana T's stuffed mushrooms, gravy (totally from a jar I confess I haven't mastered gravy), fluffy rolls, stuffing, Nana T's cranberry conserve, canned whole cranberry sauce and a perfectly overspiced pumpkin pie. (I laid on the ground cloves a little heavily but it woke up the standard pumpkin pie recipe quite a bit.)
Turkey*: I would be chopped from any cooking show that required me to cook turkey for chef judges because the words "moist turkey" are anathema to me. It's not that I want to consume turkey jerky, but in the weeks before Thanksgiving the words "moist turkey" roll off the tongues of tv food personalities with such frequency that I start to see soggy undercooked turkeys dancing in my head. The less resemblance my bird has to slimy deli meat the better. Afterall, what better way is there for gravy and cranberry devotees to ply their preferred condiments?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
My travel strategy is complex and littered with personal preferences we've learned about traveling together in the last (almost) decade. He will want seafood, good beer, magical "finds" that have been carefully staked out on the internet. I will want a steady pace of new things to see and do, reasonable walking demands, a general PLAN of what the day holds. I've also learned that Jac is happiest when our driving is minimized. So our trip to the Northeast was broken up with stays up and down the coast. On our way back, everyone said we should stop in Newport, RI. I was trying to get us to Mystic, CT as well, but our driving day coincided with the arrival of the remnants of once-Hurricane Ida.
Newport was utterly charming. We checked into the Newport Marriott along with Aunt Chatty and a screaming baby who were part of a wedding party that had descended upon the unsuspecting town. All the way up in the elevator Aunt Chatty made me want to claw her eyes out, but once we were settled in our room, our new neighbors, the screaming baby, encouraged us to get out and explore.
It was chilly and raining so we ducked from shop to shop in the tourist end of town. Jac picked up a ducky slicker for cheap and then we could explore a bit more. We grabbed lunch at a little spot that might have been forgettable except that it was Andy's fourth lobster meal of the tour. For some reason it had the best lobster sandwich from Edison, NJ to Boston and back. I'll take his word for it. You can try it out at The Wharf Pub & Restaurant For me the culinary highlight of the afternoon was getting four slices of fudge (including the delectable, elusive penuche). I also ordered maple walnut fudge that somehow got swapped for plain chocolate when she boxed up our order.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Flash's Cocktails and our evening in Boston with my cousin E gets its very own post. I had searched for an interesting bar in Boston (one that didn't have tee shirts that claimed everyone knew my name). I found Flash's Cocktails and when we arrived I was pleased there was a 20-30something mix. Okay, it was skewed a little toward the Gen Y set but we didn't feel out of place dragging our aged carcasses in there after a long day in the city.
I remember well when my cousin E was born. She's 12 years younger than I am so it's kinda wild when you meet up again as grown ups. Our clan of cousins spans a range of about 30 years so we have lots of mini-generations among us. We had a great time catching up and getting to know each other again - Facebook and IM can't hold a candle to downing a couple of drinks together.
And the drinks, they were fun and tasty. E says she's still wondering where else she can get a drink with gummy bears in it.
Monday, November 23, 2009
By now we were in full vacation mode, shamelessly photographing tourist sites and contemplating the purchase of fanny packs. ;) (Trust me, the emoticon is the best way to convey that sentiment.) We wisely made a driving tour of some of Boston's best sites to save time, our feet, and because our little Garmin Nuvi made it fairly straightforward.
We went shopping on Newbury Street where we found a few Christmas presents. Jac again found himself wrapped up in Newbury Comics so I wandered the street and texted him my coordinates as I made my way to DeLuca's Market on Newbury Street. When we'd passed it by car I thought it looked like it was cool inside and when I got there on foot I was delighted at the array of goodies inside. It's tiny, but there are lots of unusual foods inside.
And we had dinner at Dino's an Italian restaurant whose primary selling point (initially) was that it was near our meet up spot with my lovely cousin E. Like most of the places we dined in Boston the house was pretty empty, which was all the better for us.
I finally got to plunge into pasta will Jac was able to continue his one man seafood tour. I would go back to Dino's. Everything was good and the waitstaff was exceptional.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
We intentionally traveled mid-week at an off-peak time so we could have a laid back trip. We wanted to enjoy our trip and weren't desperate for MAX VISITS as much as good visits. Since I was already frazzled about the pitiful internet situation at our hotel, I was delighted when we settled in for a leisurely breakfast at Brasserie Jo.
Jac had a tasty omelet with home fries and toast.
I had granola with fresh fruit and was a little surprised that someone would pair pineapple, melon and grapes with granola. I ended up having it as two courses - first the fruit salad and then the tasty granola with milk. We happily could have returned the next morning, but we wanted a meal on the go then. I was instantly jealous of the restaurant's wi-fi though I notice the Colonnade Hotel (home of Brasserie Jo) website makes no mention of wi-fi in rooms...
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The View from our room at the Boston Radisson
I am going to whine. We've already returned from our trip and I am now surfing the web from the comfort of my easy chair sans wires, but I still can't get over the nights I spent at the Boston Radisson tethered to the wired in-room Internet. Never again will I book a hotel without ensuring they have (preferably "free") in-room wi-fi. The hotel write up said they had wi-fi and in-room Internet and so I subjected us to a couple of days without a major creature comfort. I am so used to this amenity, and I was expecting it, so when I found I had to constantly rejigger things so that a) we could both get online and b) I could get in some remotely comfortable position, I was extremely annoyed. It's insane that it's 2009 and every Starbucks (and many McDonalds) in the country has wi-fi but for $200 a night I can't get it at the Boston Radisson. When I panned the connectivity in the post-stay survey I got a response from the hotel that wi-fi is coming to rooms in 2010. (They should have color tv in 2012.)
Seriously, as 2009 begins to draw to a close, I am starting to get amazed that high-speed Internet access isn't MORE readily available. If you asked me in 2000, I would have said that I would be certain by 2009 we'd have high-speed web everywhere. Sure, I have my iphone...
Friday, November 20, 2009
We arrived in Boston a little earlier than our hotel check in so we made a beeline to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market to check some tourism off our agenda. Quincy Market is so similar to Baltimore's inner harbor shopping I thought I'd traveled through time and space.
But we went to Durgin-Park and had the obligatory Boston dishes - Boston baked beans, lobster roll, and oysters.
Oddly enough, the first dish of beans the waitress brought me were black and brown and undercooked. She came out a bit later and replaced that dish with a fresh one that seemed a lot more like baked beans. She was sent out with the new beans and was curious what the heck they'd done to produce that odd dish. It's kinda wild that they'd get a signature dish wrong. Our meal was good, but reliably touristy. The highlight of our lunch for me was that we were seated to the back of the room where the waitresses gathered to gossip. It was a treat to eavesdrop into their world for a little while.
We wandered around the market. The Crocs store was probably my favorite spot since I've never seen that many Crocs in one place and I still love Crocs despite their uncoolness. Jac enjoyed Newbury Comics.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
We had a lovely trip to New England. Unfortunately my blogging ability has been hindered for ages - first by a crazy primitive form of wired Internet connection and then when I returned from our trip with outrageous back pain. I went to the doctor the day after we got back and she said I had a trapezius muscle spasm. Any motion from the left side of my body evokes a stern, "WTF do you think you are doing?" from the knife between my shoulder blade and spine. Finally, work is really, really busy. It's a good thing, but a bit difficult when I'm operating without the most effective 20% of my body. (I'm left-handed.) And don't even get me started about having the moxy to lean forward! What am I out of my mind?
I had an appointment with a doctor on Tuesday. I drove to the hospital complex where the office is located. There are four parking garages - they are by color, but let's just say they're DC, Chicago, San Francisco and Honolulu. I figured my appointment was in San Francisco, so I headed into that garage. I wound down floor after floor behind one of those guys who wants to check every single spot is full until I reached a detour to the Honolulu garage. I entered Honolulu and wound down a few more floors into some dark recess in the Earth. The clock was ticking, I was either supposed to be there 15 or 30 minutes before my appointment to do my paperwork, but I had pre-registered online (even filling in the most complicated info twice after a spontaneous reset of the page), so it should be a breeze...
So I get out of the Honolulu garage and look at the paper (yes, that antiquated form of data storage) and now I think my appointment is in Chicago. But when I ask, "You can't get there from here," was the honest answer I received from a desk clerk. Getting to Chicago involved going upstairs, crossing through a breezeway while the girls behind me discussed the fact that it was a breezeway, getting into another building, going down the stairs to get to an elevator to the third floor... Where I discovered that my appointment was actually in DC, not Chicago. Now it was back down the stairs and outside - eff this crazy maze.
That's when I started thinking I would just bail on the appointment. I mean if it is THIS hard to get to her office! And my next appointment was at 3:00. I was starting to doubt there was anyway I could get to the next time zone, fill out paperwork or read People magazine, meet the doctor, and then get all the way back to Honolulu in time for the 3pm meeting. Huff, I pushed on, as my left shoulder felt like it had detached from my body entirely the two parts held together only by the blade of steel that seemed to be wedged in my back.
I got to the office and announced I'd pre-registered. "Did you bring your print out?" What?? You computerized everything to get rid of the paper and now you want a print out? Didn't I just put all the data in your computer system? So, unbelievably, she handed me six pages of blank forms and set me to work again.
Now I will digress even further, because you see, I used to love my handwriting, but now I would rather type than write. I loathe filling out forms because I always over think them, "Responsible Party?" What does that mean? "Policy Holder?" You mean that's NOT me? But I have a card with my name on it? So the writing that went down on those forms after I'd hauled my hind end all the way from DC to Honolulu was full on Resentment Handwriting. I was triumphant when the nurse, upon receiving my scrawl, said to the other woman behind the Wall of Glass, "Can you make this out?" Ha! Ha! Take THAT!
Anyway, the reason this picture is here is that our trip to New England pretty much began with Jac declaring, "OMG, they put the road right through that mountain! Instead of going over it, they just went right through it!"