Tag Archives: activity

Activity Time: Chili Cook Off at Church

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Winter time and colder weather remind us Texans of a favorite comfort food: chili. So when I heard about the First Annual Chili Cook Off held by Church, I was all over it. Church, which I have written about before on this blog, is a cute restaurant in the Fenway area that has religiously-themed dishes and drinks. Next to the restaurant is a music/event hall, which is where the cook off went down.

Starting at 1:00 pm, I was unsure exactly what to expect in the portions of the chili that guests were going to be trying, as the posters for the event left a lot to the imagination. However, once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of chili each guest was given – as it was at least a scoop from each station. On top of that, almost every contestant (to which there were around six or seven official competitors) jazzed up the dish with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese and in one case, pig ear.

Overall, I enjoyed getting a chance to sample some fantastic chili dishes. I love Chowder Fest in the summer, so why wouldn’t I have liked a Chili Cook Off? The downside was that the event was incredibly crowded. According to the Boston Globe, there were around 250 people that attended. It doesn’t seem like a crazy number, except that the entire event was held in a small space. Once the crowd piled in, it was hard to move from station to station – and it got hot fast (especially after eating several bowls of chili).

While I haven’t been able to find out who won the actual “People’s Choice Award,” I can give you my thoughts on the dishes:

Sweet Caroline’s – traditional style of chili with big chunks of hamburger and beans, loaded with chives, sour cream, small tortilla chips and cheese. I voted for this one because it had a good level of flavor, was a thicker chili and provided a good amount of ingredients.

Fenway Park – chocolate/cocoa powder base sauce with meat and beans, loaded with an avocado, sour cream, tortilla, etc. I didn’t know Fenway had chili but I thought it was great! I’ll absolutely order this when it’s on the colder side at Red Sox games.

Church – chili three ways: mole chili, turkey chili and traditional. My biggest hang up was the mole, as it was way too sweet and didn’t have any spice on it. I tried it first, so I don’t think I gave the other chili’s a fair shot.

Sweet Cheeks – non-traditional turkey chili with a white base and some sort of cilantro/pesto type sauce on top. I really enjoyed this one, as it had big chunks of turkey and lots of flavor. Also, I got to meet Top Chef’s Tiffani Faison, who checked the chili’s flavors before scooping!

Thorntons – traditional chili with large beans and shredded beef. This was my least favorite of all the chilies I tried. There wasn’t a lot of flavor and the base was really watery. I will be going to this restaurant for brunch (which apparently they have everyday)!

Jerry Remy’s – traditional chili with lots of meat and no beans. We Southerners talk a big game about “no beans” being the right kind of chili but honestly, it had spice and not a lot of flavor.

Tasty Burger/Citizens – traditional chili with a modern twist that was decorated with pig ear and a fancy cheese. It was a good effort but I personally didn’t enjoy this one as much.

As I said, I enjoyed the concept of the event and had it not been so crowded, I would have absolutely stayed longer. However, I felt rushed to try the food and get out. I would say that the highlight of the day for me was meeting Tiffani – though to spend time on a Saturday eating chili is absolutely heaven.

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! A Day at King Richard’s Faire

In September, I had the pleasure of visiting King Richard’s Faire or as I like to call it, the Massachusetts Renaissance Festival. As you drive up to park, you can tell that this is definitely a staple event for people around the state in the Fall. Plus, it’s ridiculous and fun. Of course, every staff member (outside of the police) were dressed in medieval garb and spoke as if they were in a terrible period piece. What is great about the Faire is that you are immersed in this goofy environment: somewhat modern (cause did they really have salad in the olden days of y’ore) and kind of Medieval Times like.

Parade during the Faire

There are an fair amount of performances during the day including comedians (watch out, they’ll pull you on stage), jousters, rat tamers and even a busty wench competition. While I personally enjoyed eating a huge turkey leg and having my fortune told, I was a bit conflicted with my experience. On the one hand, it was a great place to let loose and just have fun. On the other, it is pretty expensive if you pay for admission and everything else.

The price tag doesn’t just stop with the tickets (which are around $30, unless you can find a free connection like I did). Everything costs money – even the performers ask for tips after every show. Oh, and watch out for the wenches. Some of them are out to steal your beer. That a pretty penny down the drain.

Did I mention that the Faire is way out in the boons (i.e. middle of nowhere)? Technically, it’s located in Carver, Mass.

Overall, it was definitely a fun occasion but it wasn’t something I left feeling like I needed to participate in every year. Every five might just do. Maybe that will teach King Richard to treat his subjects a little kinder (he was not as jolly in person as his billboards made him out to be).

Have you ever been to King Richard’s Faire? Am I being too harsh?

King Richard Welcomes You


Rewind Activity Time: Museum of Fine Arts

Earlier in the summer, I was able to check a key activity off of my Boston to-do list: visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Especially on some of the hottest days around the City, it seemed like a logical activity. Beat the heat and take in some art. Overall, the experience ended up being only so-so. Here’s why.

MFA

1.  The line on the weekends is insane.

I waited outside in the heat for an hour an a half just to get into the actual ticket line. Granted, I probably could have been a jerk and just jumped into the inside line by faking my membership status. However, I don’t approved of that. So I waited.

2.  The air conditioning inside the museum was not on full blast.

I guess it was just an assumption on my part to think that the MFA would have the air on the coolest setting. It wasn’t hot but it wasn’t cold. Some of that may have had to do with the crowds. I’m sure that part of that was just my previous experience in museums in Texas, where the air has to be on high.

Part of the Chihuly Exhibit

3.  The special exhibit was a zoo.

The biggest selling point for a visit to the MFA on the weekend was the special Chihuly exhibit. I had heard great things, and the exhibit was about to end. Now, this particular exhibit was so popular that the guests were given times to enter it, to reduce crowds. Managing the crowds is especially important for an exhibit that is all handblown glass sculptures. Unfortunately, people did not move the through the exhibit as expected – and bottlenecks in the exhibit area were incredibly uncomfortable. I would love to see this exhibit again if it’s at another museum. Maybe I’ll have more time to take it in because what I saw was incredible.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting museum and I didn’t get through even half of the exhibits. Although my best advice after this experience is to either get a membership OR visit on a weekday and get there when the museum opens. I’ll be sure to note how my next visit goes….


How I Re-Met My State: Minnesota State Fair

A few weeks ago, I headed back to my homeland Minnesota to visit family and friends. While I was there, the State Fair was just finishing up it’s 12-day tour. Every year since the 1940s, Minnesotans gather at the Fair Grounds to eat the best food, see some exciting shows and ride the ferris wheel. It’s a prime event to try some insanely weird food as well. While I’ve heard the East Coast has something called the Big E, I couldn’t miss my chance to really connect with my roots (and eat some greasy fair food).

And eat I did!

The official list of the items I sampled or ate in whole include: pork chop on a stick, sweet martha’s cookies, bacon on a stick, deep fried gator, turkey jerky, homemade lemonade, pickle dog, fire dog, cheese curds, birch beer, funnel cake, popcorn, deep fried oreo, carmel apple sundae, fajita burrito and roasted corn.

It was an epic taste fest – and out of everything I was able to try, I would say that my favorite food was the fried alligator. It tasted very similar to Burger King chicken nuggets. Or at least it had the same seasoning and batter.

The one item that I was surprised about was the fried oreo. I think oreos are ok; they are much better with milk. However, my family and I got a batch straight out of the fryer and it was warm, soft and sweet. I could only handle one but it was delicious.

Besides the food, the Midway is fun for kids but definitely not as magical as an adult. I have a very different memory of the rides from when I was a kid. The horse show area was fun with a group, mostly because we played betting games on the different competitions. Big winner got a whole bunch of quarters!

Honestly, there was so much to do and so much food to try, there was no way I could do it all in one day. It was a great chance for me to really get back to feel at home and remember why I like Minnesota.

If you ask me in the winter, though, I might have a different story. When else can you get hot dish on a stick besides the summer?

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Boston Eats! Nom Nom Nom!

First off – apologies for the short absence! Been traveling on and off for a few weeks…but I’m back in the swing of things! So let’s begin!

Courtesy of Restaurant Week

Twice a year, the City of Boston hosts Restaurant Week! This is pretty much what it sounds like – restaurants around Boston offer a 2- or 3-course meal for a set price, giving locals a chance to sample food at some of the finest shops in town for cheap! With such an avid restaurant scene, this event is a great way to try some of the world’s best without dropping an entire paycheck. What’s even better is that Restaurant Week is actually more like two weeks since it goes from March 6-11 and March 13-18. Additionally, most of the restaurants have lunch and dinner menu options.

The main newbie pointer for this whole shindig? Make reservations! I’ve heard that most of these establishments are wall-to-wall with people, so it’s best to expect a crowd. Also, understand that sometimes the food is not always at it’s best quality. With so many people, these restaurants often don’t break out the “big guns” for this event but you should at least be able to walk away with an idea of whether it’s worth the dough (yes, the pun was intentional).

Me? I haven’t gotten a chance to partake in the deliciousness yet but I do have lunch reservations next week and am planning on some other choice meals before that! My biggest problem is figuring out where to go! Of course, I will track my adventures here…so stay tuned! And if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!!


Activity Time: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Boston has some incredible landmarks, historical sites and museums. When asking for local’s top recommendations of places to visit, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was usually among the top 10. Interestingly enough, I’ve found close friends have recommended this quirky collection over the massive collection of the Museum of Fine Arts (which I’ve also heard great things about).

View of the Courtyard - Source: Google

The museum was developed by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who according to the museum’s history, became a private collector of art and antiques after receiving a large inheritance from her family at an early age. She and her husband were a part of the socialite society of Boston, and Gardner built the museum in the Fenway area before it became a relative hot spot in the city. The building’s rooms are all laid out exactly to Mrs. Gardner’s specifications and when she passed away, she stipulated that the collections must be maintained as they were originally presented. This presents a very interesting quality to each room, as they seem to be very eclectic groupings of paintings and other antiques.

Some of the most impressive areas of the museum included the indoor courtyard, which you can see from every level of the building and was designed after buildings in Italy, and the Titian room, which is a collection of religious-themed paintings including an incredibly breathtaking piece by Titian.

Titian - Source: Wikipedia

Personally, I love visiting art museums, so walking around and viewing all of the pieces was moving and inspiring. This is definitely not an activity I would recommend for 1) children (unless they attend a special education event), 2) anyone clumsy or 3) people who don’t like art. Each room of the building contains tight corridors and pieces that might sit on the floor that cannot be touched. This does, however, seem like a great activity for a romantic date, group or individual visit, or a bad weather day. If you want a preview of what the museum has to offer, check out their comprehensive website where you’ll find pictures of some of the larger pieces in the rooms.

Another fascinating piece of the museum’s history is the art heist of 1990. Some of the biggest pieces of the museum’s collection were stolen in one of the largest art thefts in history – and the museum leaves the frames where these pieces were once housed empty, in the hopes that they are some day returned.

I would definitely recommend visiting the ISGM, but would recommend scheduling a return trip after 2012 when the expansion project is completed. A few of the rooms were under renovation when I personally visited but I’m excited to see these on my next trip!