Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wine down

Some of the wines I have sampled over the past few weeks. Have you tried any of these and, if so, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Famous since 1972

My friend Liz once said to me, "Amy, are you sure you aren't a New Englander? You like antique stores, and pubs, and seafood shacks...are you sure you're from the Midwest?"

I could argue that a lot of people like antique stores - and my favorite one is Indiana - and I have not met a person yet who dislikes pubs. But if there is one thing that everyone on the planet SHOULD like, it is seafood shacks. 

Fred's Shanty
(photo courtesy of

 Noe, Scott, and Colm at Fred's (which is also kid-friendly)

I've blogged about the gloriousness that is Captain Scott's Lobster Dock before. The problem with Captain Scott's is that it opens later in the year. Also, it is NOT down the street from our house. Therefore, we sometimes turn to Fred's Shanty

Fred's - famous since 1972 (according to the sign) - is within walking distance of the Wiseman/Erasga residence, making it a convenient option on warm, sunny days. It's a little more fast food-y than Captain Scott's. However, if what you are craving are friend clam strips and salty, skinny fries, Fred's is the place for you.

 Fried clams, fried fries, fried chicken strips

If seafood is not your bag, fear not: Fred's has an excellent long dog, served on the ubiquitous hot dog roll (see the Captain Scott's post for the difference between the hot dog roll and the hot dog bun).

 Noe with the long dog

Fred's location on Pequot Avenue (along the river, overlooking Pfizer) does not quite have the charm of Captain Scott's boatyard/downtown locale. However, the views are good and the service is actually faster and friendlier, even when packed (which it often is).

 Scott and calamari 

Me with my glorious clams

All in all, Fred's is a good value and a good experience - and a fairly dangerous place to have within walking distance. If you're over by Mitchell College or on your way to Ocean Beach and a fried clam craving hits, I would highly recommend it. It may not be gourmet, but it sure does hit the spot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Irish eyes are smiling

I grew up in an area rich in St. Patrick's Day tradition. That tradition was going to one of the crappiest of local bars, the Wooden Nickel, at approximately 6:00 AM to get in line for green beer that would go up in price every hour starting at 7:00 AM.

Sad - or glad? - to say, I never actually participated in the Nickel tradition (I am probably the ONE EMU student that didn't), although I did spend many a St. Patty's day drinking beer on the balcony of someone's crappy apartment (sometimes my own crappy apartment).

Since moving to Connecticut, we have usually celebrated St. Patrick's Day at Hanafin's, our local Irish pub. However, Noe and I usually opt for a fairly early celebration, ending up home by 8:00 or so. This year, Noe stayed home - he didn't feel like dealing with the crowd - and I met up with Scott and Caitlin for my yearly Guinness followed up by a Jameson at Dev's. Then I went home for our own Irish feast.

Outside Hanafin's with Kristina, Max, Caitlin, Scott, and Kevin Lester

Me, Miss Murphy, and the Guinness

For the first time ever, I attempted corned beef and cabbage. I did it in the crockpot, knowing that I wouldn't be able to totally resist the pull of Hanafin's after work on St. Patrick's Day. I chopped all the veggies on Tuesday night and baked a loaf of soda bread in anticipation of sopping up all those delicious meat juices.

 Soda bread - yummm

The meal itself was not fancy: I threw the corned beef brisket and some potatoes, celery, carrots, and onions in the crockpot, sprinkled with the pickling spice that came with the meat, put in enough water to just cover everything, and let it cook for nine hours.

 Chopped celery and carrots


When I got home, I removed the meat and veggies and cooked some cabbage wedges in the cooking liquid for about 25 minutes. I also boiled down about 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid until it was reduced by half and mixed with equal amounts sour cream and prepared horseradish to make a sauce.

 Meat and veggies resting while I finish the cabbage and sauce

Dinner was simple, hearty, and good. Corned beef isn't my favorite thing in the world, but once a year it tastes pretty awesome. The leftover meat and the soda bread (delicious - dense and chewy with a nice hard crust) will make amazing sandwiches (topped off with a smidgen of horseradish sauce). I'll probably just eat a bowl of veggies for lunch tomorrow.

 The feast...mmmmmmm!

How did you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stuff I Like Sunday

My object of the week: monogrammed tea cup from Anthropologie. If I have to drink tea instead of coffee (Lent, *sigh*) at least I get to drink it out of this ladylike vessel.

Shabby Chic

When one of our editors at work received a press release from a company touting "modest" clothing, I was not inclined to browse the company's website. It sounded lame (and quite frankly, we get a lot of lame press releases around my office).

However, I for whatever reason opened the forwarded email and clicked on the link...and immediately fell in love with Shabby Apple's vintage-inspired dresses.

I ordered my first one last summer and found it to be very well-made. The second one I ordered had an imperfection; I emailed the company and received a response within two hours offering me an exchange, with my shipping costs to send the dress back reimbursed.

My first Shabby Apple purchase -
the "Bon Voyage"

I haven't ordered anything in awhile (due to finances) but when I saw the new Baja line, I couldn't resist. I immediately ordered two dresses. Imagine my disappointment the next morning (not even ten hours later) when I received an email promotion for free shipping. Once again, I emailed the company, and once again, had a great experience - the shipping on my previous night's order was refunded.

New spring dresses!

My new dresses arrived today and I can not WAIT to wear them! They immediately put me in a "spring" frame of mind.I highly recommend checking out Shabby Apple - beautiful clothes, good quality, and a great customer experience.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pizza Party

I have become a huge fan of happy hour over the past few years. You go out right after work, the drinks are usually cheap, maybe you eat a cheap snack, and you're home in time for dinner. It works out to be ideal both time-wise and economy-wise.

The thing is, though, when you go out for happy hour a lot, it still adds up. And Dr. Scott, Rob, Caitlin, and I were going out to happy hour A LOT. (Plus, we were getting oh-so-slightly sick of going the same places all the time.) So we came up with a solution: move happy hour to our houses and rotate every week. We started out at Scott's, and this past week moved to my house.

 Caitlin and I drinking Laphraoig at Scott's

As hostess, I felt compelled to provide food for my guests. I wanted to keep it fairly simple and casual, but filling. I also wanted to make something that Noe would want to eat when he joined us after his basketball game. I went with homemade pizzas - fairly cheap, pretty easy, and I could offer a variety of toppings.

I cheated a bit - I bought two Boboli crusts and a bag of dough from the refrigerator section of the supermarket. The day before our gathering, I took inventory and built my pizzas around things I already had. I decided to do three pizzas: a pesto/artichoke; a fig/bacon; and a classic Margherita.

For the artichoke pizza, I mashed a few cloves of roasted garlic (purchased from the olive bar at Stop & Shop - didn't have time to roast my own) and spread them on the crust. I then spread a couple tablespoons of pesto (found in my freezer; God only knows how old it was) over top of the garlic. I topped that with some chopped artichoke hearts (I had a can in the cupboard from making spinach-artichoke dip) and some grated cheeses: mozz, provolone, and parmesan.

 Garlic, pesto, artichoke, and three cheese pizza

For pizza number 2, I did purchase a jar of fig preserves. I spread them over the crust like I would sauce, then topped it with chopped bacon and thinly sliced red onion. I topped it off with crumbled bleu cheese (leftover from a bistro steak I made over the weekend).

 Fig preserves, bacon, red onion, and bleu cheese

The third pizza was the classic Italian combo of tomato, basil, and mozzarella. I spread the crust with crushed tomatoes (chunkier than plain tomato sauce). I sprinkled it with some dried oregano and basil from my spice cupboard, topped it with some slices of fresh mozz,and baked it. After I took it out of the oven, I tore up some fresh basil leaves and sprinkled them over the top.


All three pizzas turned out pretty tasty. Scott voted the artichoke the winner. I was a big fan of the bacon/fig/bleu combo. Rob liked the Margherita, but that was mostly because of the chewier crust. We decided to let Noe pick the winner - he went with the fig (probably because he has a bit of a sweet tooth).

(This was a very cheap meal for me to provide, because I happen to be the type of person that has things like imported tomatoes, cans of artichokes, and frozen containers of pesto on hand. But anyone can make a pizza with a pre-made crust, and you don't have to pick expensive or "fancy" toppings. And most of the things I used were not very expensive to begin with. You could buy everything to make any one of these pizzas for less than ten dollars.)

Scott brought a couple bottles of Scotch, one of which we had made a dent in last week. I am really starting to love the smokey, complex taste of Scotch. Scotch is very expensive when ordered in a bar, so
buying it by the bottle has definitely saved us some money (I'll be writing a Scotch post in the near future).

 Scotch and Rob - NOT a match made in heaven,
but what a great photo!

So far, home happy hour has been a huge success (although it does make me want one of those sixties Mad Men-style bar carts with wheels). We've eaten better, consumed higher quality booze, and even saved a little bit of money. Rob's up next - we'll see if he can take up the mantle and continue the tradition.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Off day

I had today off.

You're probably thinking, "Of course you had today off. It is Saturday, after all." However, between volunteering at the aquarium and working at the winery, I haven't had a Saturday off (when not on vacation for a holiday) in months.  Don't get me wrong - I love the aquarium and my second job. But when then winery offered me the chance to switch to working Sundays (more hours and Noe plays tennis on Sunday, so more time to spend with him) I jumped at the chance. Today was my first Saturday sans winery or aquarium.

Noe and I wanted to do SOMETHING now that we had a whole day to spend together; we just didn't know what. Luckily, our good friend Dr. Scott called us up. Dr. Scott often has his kids on the weekends, which rules out things like going to bars or R-rated movies. However, Scott and the kids love books, museums, parks, and the outdoors - in other words, a perfect match for me and Noe. Since we lucked out with unseasonably warm weather (about 55 degrees), we decided to spend some serious time outside.

We first hit the Book Barn, a fantastic used book store in Niantic. Scott, his daughter Fiachra, and I browsed the various buildings for books while Noe and Colm (Scott's son) hunted down cats, pet the great dane and mastiff puppies, and fed the goats (the Book Barn seemingly doubles as a petting zoo). After making our purchases, we headed down I-95 to Mystic (to the tune of Kenny Rogers - Scott's kids love "The Gambler" and "Coward of the County") where we ate lunch at Friendly's and then headed over to Mystic Seaport.

Fiachra, Scott, Colm, and Noe in the sun at Mystic Seaport

Noe and I have been meaning to get to the Seaport for awhile, but had just never made it there. Going with Scott and the kids was awesome. They had a family membership plus a guest, so Noe and I split the cost of a ticket. We headed first to the Charles W. Morgan, a whaling ship built in the 1840's. The Morgan is currently out the water for some restoration, but you can still go up a staircase and into the ship. We explored the cabins and the blubber room - Fiachra proved more knowledgeable than the museum staff.

 The Charles W. Morgan

Scott and I "steering" the Morgan 

Noe trying out one of the ship's bunks

After checking out the nooks and crannies of the Morgan, we headed over to the restoration exhibit in the shipyard. Theoretically, this was so Colm and Fiachra could do the "hands-on activities" but, truth be told, the adults all got a little too involved boring holes in a piece of plywood with an auger (Scott had to be told to stop boring before he bored through the table). We then headed over to some of the exhibits. Fiachra managed to make quite a splash at the cooperage (the barrel maker) before we made our way to the shipsmith.

Colm and I drilling holes  

 Fia in a barrel in the cooperage

Noe and I in front of the L.A. Dunton

All in all, we had a great day. The weather was beautiful and we all had a little cabin fever - the minute we got out of the car, all of us - adults and kids - were off and running. We basked in the sun, ran around on the grass, and strolled by the water. Along the way we picked up a few books and learned some fun facts about whaling ships. It may not have been a big party or a huge night out, but we considered it a Saturday well-spent just the same.

Colm with his "souvenir" from the cooperage

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Fruits of My Labor

Occasionally I pick up a Sunday shift out at Jonathan Edwards Winery (my second job).  This past Sunday was a bit brutal, being the morning after the annual Winemaker's Dinner (think libraried wines paired with five cocktail hour and post-dinner drinks) which kept us at work until well after midnight. However, there's a bright side to everything. The winery isn't open on Monday and Tuesday, so on Sundays we will take home the open wine. There isn't usually very much (we're pretty careful about how much we open) but being the night after an event and a horrendously slow day, we found ourselves with quite a selection. Obviously, there was no way I was going to work through this much wine (even though some of these bottles were pretty empty) while it was all still good, so I took it over to Dr. Scott's apartment for a little impromptu wine tasting...which evolved into a Scotch tasting, but that's another story.

What I brought home

Preparing the glasses

Chatty and Caitlin

Lagavulin with a Sauv Blanc chaser