Archive for November, 2007

Raleigh stuff

Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism at the NC Art Museum: I went to see this on the Friday after Thanksgiving with my parents and a friend.  It was definitely worth the visit.  Monet is one of my favs, but I didn’t really care for the ones they had for the exhibit.  (The one in the permanent collection is good though!)  I liked the Caillebotte and Renoir, but I really enjoyed seeing the American Impressionists.  My favorite was probably Metcalf’s “Early Spring Afternoon, Central Park.”  If you visit, be sure to poke around some in the rest of the museum.  I really like “Rabble,” the piece over the stairs. 

My Fair Lady at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium: Jason and I saw this last night as part of our Broadway Series South season.   Jason thought it was “okay,” which is pretty good considering he couldn’t understand a lot of it (his hearing isn’t so awesome, but it was also that Prof. Higgins and A.P. Doolittle’s voices were gravelly and hard to understand) and it wasn’t a comedy (he really only likes comedy when it comes to theatre).  I thought it was adorable, though I was frustrated by not being able to understand Prof. Higgins all the time.  I was also disappointed that they changed the costumes for the Ascot scene.  I really loved Eliza and Col. Pickering – so cute!  They had a little set trouble last night, but they got that cleared right up.  If you like My Fair Lady and have a chance to catch the show, it’s definitely worth it.

Hard Times Cafe: We had dinner at the Hard Times Cafe before the show last night.  It’s funny – I’d meant for us to go to the Raleigh Times Bar, but I didn’t tell Jason the exact name so we went to the wrong place!  lol  I thought it was a cool place.  It’s a dive with a Texas theme.  When we sat down, the server brought us a dish with four different types of chili to try – Texas, Cincinnati, Terlingua, and vegetarian.  We thought the chili was pretty decent for not being made at our house.  I would’ve eaten any of it with the addition of some cayenne pepper.  Jason liked his chili cheese hot dogs (he chose the Terlingua chili), and I liked my Stella (on draft!) and cheeseburger.  The cheeseburger tasted just like it had been cooked on someone’s backyard grill.  I think HTC would be a good place to meet some friends for a couple beers, and I’d like to try the Abita Root Beer they have on tap too.  Word of warning:  According to a co-worker who enjoys the original location in Old Town Alexandria, it’s apparently not the same.  She was very disappointed with the Raleigh location.  Next time I get to pick a place to eat in Raleigh, I’ll definitely check out the Raleigh Times Bar.

Mysteries of the Lost Colony at the NC Museum of History:  Jason and I saw this exhibit on Friday night.  I’ve decided that I’m not good at history museums.  I’d rather read a book or visit a historical site.  If you are the history museum type, you’ll enjoy this exhibit.  Heck, I enjoyed it some – the mystery of the Lost Colony is just too interesting!

November 30, 2007 at 10:09 am 1 comment

Washington, DC

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to DC for work – drove up Tuesday afternoon and back Wednesday afternoon.  I’ve been to DC so many times that I can’t count them – a couple of times as a child, every spring break during undergrad for the national MAL competition, and several times to see friends or for work over the past several years.  Since I’ve been so many times and it’s not that far from where I live, I don’t think about DC as a special place.  Driving in to the city, I was reminded just special it really is.  The Washington Monument is a shining beacon from miles away.  Then, closer in, there’s the Capitol Building with it’s impressive dome.  We saw the White House as well.  The majesty of these buildings and monuments – and the things they represent – just makes me proud to be an American every time I see them.  It’s a wonderful feeling – makes me want to sing, “This is MY country!”

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton, a decent hotel in a good location. 

On Tuesday night, we had dinner at Bobby Van’s on New York Avenue.  I had a very nice filet – tender and perfectly cooked – along with some delicious french fries.  The three of us split a bottle of Italian red wine – good stuff.  Bobby Van’s has really nice glassware; we’ve all said we want new wine glasses after our dinner. 

On Wednesday, we had lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, Corduroy.  We had some trouble – one cw’s tuna smelled funny and they apparently forgot to make my lunch – so it took FOREVER.  I hate it when lunch takes a long time.  My lunch (steak and fries again!) was fine; nothing to write home about.  My cw’s initial order, the tuna salad, came with two poached quail eggs on top.  He was slightly taken aback but tried one.  He didn’t like it, so he gave me the other one to try.  I thought it was pretty good!  Oh, he’d also ordered the spring rolls as an appetizer.  They were very good.

Although I didn’t enjoy the long drives, I am looking forward to my next trip to DC, whenever that may be.

November 29, 2007 at 10:01 am 2 comments

Barcelona (part 2)

Last night I watched the second Cheetah Girls movie (yes, I’m almost 29 and love the Disney channel – don’t start with me lol), which was set in Barcelona.  This reminded me that I never finished talking about my trip to Barcelona.  The Cheetahs covered a lot in their first day in that amazing city!  They started out at Montjuic, talking about going shopping along Las Ramblas.  I shrieked (in my mind), “I’VE BEEN THERE!”  Montjuic is a big hill that’s home to a 17th century fortress and the grounds for the 1992 Olympics.  Interestingly, a lot of the buildings for the Olympic campus were build in 1929 for a World’s Fair and in anticipation of hosting an anti-fascist alternative Olympics in 1936 (cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War).  My friend Megan and I made the trek to Montjuic via the sky buckets from Barceloneta and came down the grand stairs to the fountain area (if you’re in the city, you HAVE to see the show at night!).

The Cheetahs apparently did go shopping along Las Ramblas, the most famous street in the city.  Then they met a random guitar playing guy, who showed them “his” Barcelona.  They  danced through some of the city’s main attractions, including Park Guell (designed by the famous artist, Gaudi) and Barri Gotic (the gothic quarter).  I loooved those places.  The park is amazing – more so for Gaudi’s design elements  (including the famous lizard fountain) than the flora.  Barri Gotic is one of the main areas for nightlife.  There’s also an amazing ceramics store there, Art Escudellers.  I dream of ordering tiles from there for a kitchen backsplash.

Sadly, the Cheetahs only mentioned La Sagrada Familia and it was never shown.  Construction on this cathedral began in 1882 – AND IT’S STILL NOT FINISHED!  Gaudi played a huge role in designing the cathedral, but his plans will never be completed exactly as he imagined.  During the civil war, part of the building and Gaudi’s models and workshop were destroyed.  When Megan and I visited, we climbed the ~350 steps to explore one of the towers.  It was quite an experience – and not one for the claustrophobic or those afraid of heights.  I was definitely nervous at times, but it was worth it.  Construction is expected to end in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death.  We’ll see.

The Cheetahs also didn’t make the trek to Montserrat, a beautiful Benedictine abbey carved into the mountains about an hour northwest of Barcelona.  Thank goodness one of our classmates recommended it to us – it was amazing!  The trip there is fairly exciting in itself; you have to take trains specially designed for mountain climbing to get there.  Once you’re there, they have trains (funiculars) designed to make even steeper climbs to take you to a couple of the peaks nearby.  It’s important to time your trip to Montserrat – you’d hate to miss the boys’ choir.  We only heard the tail end of their performance from just outside the basilica, but it was wonderful.  While you’re there, the must-see things are the Shrine of Our Lady Montserrat, the Black Virgin of Montserrat, and the teeny art museum.  I absolutely adored the museum.  I was so surprised to find works by many French Impressionists, including Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, etc.  The works from Catalan artists were amazing, and the collection of contemporary artists (Chagall, Miro, Dali, Picasso) was terrif as well.  I think it’s the museum I’d most like to carry around in my pocket.  😉

The Cheetahs also missed out on some other important places – art museums!  Even though I’m not a big Picasso fan, I couldn’t miss paying homage to this famous one-time Barcelona resident by visiting the Museu Picasso.  It was an amazingly comprehensive collection, and I feel like I learned just what kind of person he truly was.  The building was also interesting to me (I love architecture).  You could also check out the Miro museum, the Museu National d’Art Catalunya, and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.  The Dali museum is a little over an hour away in Figueres.

Barcelona is an amazing city, and I loved the week I spent there with my best friend.  I think one could probably get a taste of the city in 2-3 days, but spending an entire week there was really nice – it allowed us to relax and properly enjoy each experience, including the beach, the balcony of our apartment, and dancing the nights away in Barceloneta.  If you love to eat, I just hope you love seafood!

P.S. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!  You can see what mine looked like here.

November 26, 2007 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

Sicily: Wine and Chocolate

I am neither a foodie nor a wine connoisseur.  This blog is about traveling (and eating while traveling), and I haven’t been to Sicily.  That’s not going to stop me from sharing this with you though.  lol  If you’ve been reading my blog, you might remember my trip to A Southern Season a couple weeks ago.  My friend and I saw a neat wine and chocolate recommendation while we were there.  I’d been thinking about it during the week, and I decided I needed to know what they were like.  On our way back from South Carolina, I made poor Jason stop in Chapel Hill to get a bottle of wine and some chocolate.  Don’t worry – I let him pick out some for himself too!

The wine was Montalto Nero d’Avola 2004, a varietal (yes, I know some fancy wine words from my friend’s blog) from Sicily.  It was $10.99 and had a screw cap closure (apparently the type of closure matters?).  One of the SS staff members recommended it and suggested pairing it with the famous Sicilian bar, Bonajuto.  The lady in charge of the chocolate at SS was sure to explain to my friend and I that Bonajuto is not your traditional chocolate – it’s not shiny and it’s not smooth in texture.  I was intrigued, so I wanted to try both.

I had some of the wine with dinner and was surprised.  It was sweet, but sweet as in sweet-for-an-Italian-red not too-sweet-like-CH’s-Christmas-red.  It was very smooth – no tannin to speak of.  Maybe it is “ponderous” or maybe even “ripe“?  heehee  Anyway, I think it is a perfect beginner wine!  Or a good red for those who normally prefer white.  (Or me, since I’m not a big fan of the smoky/oaky reds.)

And the chocolate – I handed Jason a square, and he popped the whole thing in his mouth.  “Oh man, this is awful!”  “Now, I told you it’s not like regular chocolate!  And I can’t believe you just ate $1.00 worth of chocolate that fast.”  Determined to fully appreciate the chocolate, I slowly nibbled it.  As promised, it wasn’t like any chocolate I’d had before.  It was unmistakably chocolate, but it didn’t have the smooth, creamy texture.  Instead, it was a little dry and very grainy – almost the texture of sugar.  It was very flavorful.  I really liked it, and I would absolutely eat it (or similar) again – if I don’t have to pay $8 for one little bar!  And I definitely won’t waste expensive chocolate on my husband again.  Sheesh.  I’ll just buy him some Hershey’s wax.

Your traveling link:  Next time you’re in Sicily, you can take a tour of the famous Antica Dolceria Bonajuto.

P.S. This has nothing to do with Sicily but everything to do with wine: don’t forget that the new Beaujolais Nouveau was released yesterday!  Grab some and drink it as fast as you can.  😉

November 16, 2007 at 2:00 pm 2 comments

NC Eatin’: Rowan County

 

Sunday, November 11, 2007
Farmhouse Restaurant
1602 Jake Alexander Blvd S
Salisbury, NC

I’d planned to have lunch in Gastonia on our way home, but we ended up leaving earlier and having eaten more recently than I expected.  We ended up stopping for lunch in Salisbury.  I’d visited Salisbury when I was little, though I don’t remember why.  Probably to learn about its role in the Civil War as a prisoner of war camp. 

As we pulled of the interstate, we saw a sign for “Farmhouse Restaurant.”  That sounded promising, so that’s where we headed.  It was very cute – rustic.  It was kind of like a cross between Cracker Barrel (minus the store) and one of those farmers market restaurants.  The other patrons were mostly middle aged locals, which struck me as funny because I’m sure my parents would like the place.

Our server was adorable – a petite young woman who was obviously pregnant.  She took good care of us.  I had fried chicken, fries, mac & cheese, and a biscuit.  I was very pleased with everything except the mac & cheese.  If you like slaw, Jason loved the barbecue slaw.  Actually, he doesn’t normally like slaw, so you might like the barbecue slaw even if you don’t like regular slaw.  The hushpuppies were good except for the hint of fishiness, though some would probably like that.  Overall, we were very impressed with the food we got, especially for the price ($6 each).  We’d definitely return.

November 15, 2007 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

Sparkle City, SC

This past weekend, Jason and I scooted down to Sparkle City (Spartanburg) to catch up with some friends.  Spartanburg is a sleepy little Southern mill town.  It doesn’t have a lot going on, but it has its charms.  The downtown area is really cute, and, if you’re there during the warmer months, they have free live music on Thursday evenings.  (Music on Main)  If you are into history, you could hop over to Cowpens to see the Civil War battlefield or visit Walnut Grove Plantation.  The campuses of Wofford and Converse Colleges are pretty if you just want somewhere nice to sit on a bench.

Spartanburg is home to a few good restaurants.  We visited some while we were there – Hops, a small microbrewery chain with delicious honey butter croissants; City Range, a decent steakhouse with amazing bread (make sure you get the kind with cheese and spices on top!); and Waffle House.  Yeah, I just listed Waffle House as a good restaurant.  lol  For Spartanburg, it really is!  And to be honest, the chocolate chip waffle I ate was delicious.  We also visited Papa Sam’s (or Papa’s Breakfast Nook as the sign says).  Papa Sam’s is a Spartanburg institution.  I’d describe it as a ghetto Waffle House.  If you go there, make sure your eggs are cooked and consider bringing your own syrup.  I’d really recommend avoiding it altogether though.  Just go to the Awful Waffle.

I’d tell you about how great visiting our friends was, but you don’t know them or you were there!  It was really terrific to see all those people.  I wish we could do that more often.

November 13, 2007 at 1:35 pm 1 comment

NC Eatin’: Alamance County

Friday, November 9, 2007
Blue Ribbon Diner
1004 Mebane Oaks Road
Mebane, NC 27302

Jason and I went to see some friends in South Carolina this weekend, so I knew I could get in a couple of county visits too.  I knew we’d be going through Alamance around dinner time on Friday and figured we should stop there.  I did a little poking around on the ‘net for a place to eat, and I stumbled upon a recommendation for Blue Ribbon Diner.  Their website is www.bestfoodintown.com, so I decided we had to eat there.  They have two locations – one in Burlington and one in Mebane.  I’d been to Burlington several times, mostly to visit BridalMart, and I’d always wanted to visit Mebane.  So Mebane it was.

(more…)

November 12, 2007 at 10:17 am Leave a comment

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