All posts by leahklein

As far back as I can remember, I would wake up from my nap time to the smell and sounds of something cooking in the kitchen. I would stumble out of my bed and slowly make my way to the kitchen. My mom would be there chopping, stirring, mixing, or washing. I would rub my eyes take a deep breath and eventually be awake enough to either taste something she was chopping or ask to help out.

A Few New Additions to Your Wine List for Summer: Wines of Tejo Portugal

   

 I have been a fan of Portugal’s most well known fortified wine for a very long time.  Port was really my first introduction to “spirits”  and I didn’t venture beyond it for a long time because I was perfectly content.  When I was in university, I lived in Montreal’s “little Portugal” and became a lover of Portuguese food (and pastries) and I’m sure I had Portuguese wines as recommended by the waitstaff then but I was a student at the time thus had no wine “cellar” to speak of.  This week, I got an introduction to another side of Portugal both regionally and in terms of wine.  Porto is made in Northern Portugal in the Douro Valley.  The wines I was invited to sample and learn about, as a guest of the Comissão Vitivinicola Regional do Tejo (Wines of Tejo), are from further south. Wines of Tejo are from closer to Lisbon and are produced along the Tejo (pronounced Tay zjoo) River.  

There were two white wines that I was especially drawn to as well as two reds. They will each be new additions to my summer wine list. Last year I added the Albariño and this year I’m adding an Alvarinho. (Do you see a pattern here?)

I’m starting at the top with the wine from the Tejo region that I instantly connected with making it my favourite of the bunch. I tasted 8 out of the twelve being presented.  

(1) Fiuza & Bright’s 2014 Alvarinho, VR Tejo was a beautiful buttery yellow colour in the glass.  It is fragrant without being perfumy or heady, which reflects the wine’s taste. There is a nice clean minerality that I’ve learned is something I really appreciate in wines. The minerality gives it a beautiful balance and multiple dimensions.  This is a wine that I would keep very cold. I would serve it both with an apéritif or with dinner.  It is light enough to have with just a few salty bites (olives, salumi, a bit of cheese, and a little quince paste for sweetness).

At first, I found the (2) Quinta do Casal Monteiro’s 2014 Quinta do Casal Monteiro Branco, DOC do Tejo, a bit too light and flat, but then it surprised me when I paired it with food. This is a wine that I would keep as an apéritif because it does have a lightness that could get lost with a meal. The Quinto do Casal Monteiro truly sings when paired with a nice manchego and membrillo.  It would also be great with little chunks of Parmesan and drizzle of honey, or proscuitto and figs.    

I tried two reds: one I liked and one I loved. The best news is that the one I loved is about $2 less expensive.  That never happens to me! (3) Falua’s 2013 Conde de Vimioso Tinto, VR Tejo was the one I liked.  It had a little bit of spice to it and heat ever so slightly in the back of the throat.  It was dry without leaving your tongue feeling parched.  

The red I loved was (4) Casal Branco’s 2014 Terra da Lobos Tinto, VR Tejo. The Quinta do Casal Branco had a peppery, vegetal taste and a soft sweetness that came through in the aroma. I loved that the sweetness stopped at the nose and didn’t carry through to the taste which was more earthy in flavour.  

The other wines I enjoyed are perfect for summer.  For one, in my notes I wrote “drink alone”, which doesn’t mean drink it alone on the front porch, but rather it is really nice without food.  It is a wine to keep chilled and on hand for when a friend comes over to chat and you pour a glass of wine to enjoy together perhaps before dinner or on a summer’s afternoon. (5) Pinhal da Torre’s 2013 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional Branco, DOC do Tejo reminded me in taste of a Champagne.  It had a slight vanilla taste and a clean, dry, lemony mouth feel. For the other, I wrote “Perfect summer with aperitif”.  (6) Quinta da Ribeirinha’s 2012 Vale de Lobos Reserva Branco, VR Tejo has a very slight smokiness under flavours of apple, grapefruit and my beloved minerality.  

Now for a few technical notes:

(1) Fiuza & Bright‘s 2014 Alvarinho, VR Tejo

This is an Alvarinho (Albariño) that is fermented in stainless steel tanks. If you haven’t tasted an Alvarinho or Albariño I recommend giving it a try this summer. 

 (2) Quinta do Casal Monteiro‘s 2014 Quinta do Casal Monteiro Branco, DOC do Tejo

This is a 50% Fernão Pires, 50% Arinto.  The harvest and crushing are mechanical and the fermentation is in stainless steel.  

(3) Falua‘s 2013 Conde de Vimioso Tinto, VR Tejo

This is an Aragonês, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is hand-harvested and fermented in stainless steel.  It is then finished with 6 months of oak ageing.  

(4) Casal Branco‘s 2014 Terra da Lobos Tinto, VR Tejo

This is a 60% Castelão, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is fermented in stainless steel with no oak ageing.  

(5) Pinhal da Torre’s 2013 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional Branco, DOC do Tejo

This is 100% Fernão Pires.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks.

 (6) Quinta da Ribeirinha‘s 2012 Vale de Lobos Reserva Branco, VR Tejo

This is a Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer blend. It is hand-harvested, has a pre-fermentation maceration for 16 hours, fermentation in stainless steel and French oak barrels.

The Trouble With Letting Go

I’m a pretty sensitive person and it’s taken me years to build up the callouses life requires.  It’s odd, in some ways I’m really good at letting things roll off my back. Yet, for many things that I know I should not hold on to I clench in my fist and it takes me a while to even realise that in one hand I have a fist straining to keep closed right.

  
As for the many things I let go of; I let these things slip away creating little shiftable lines like the creases of a sand dune that come and go.  Lately though, I feel like I have been having asking myself to let things go, and another, and another and another…  Looking back, those creases are now becoming deep canyon-like crevices that I’m not sure will so easily fill back up with sand.  

I pride myself on not letting the inconsequentials bother me. I don’t tend to sweat the small stuff. I’m too old for that now. Much much harder is brushing off things that hurt deeply even though you know the stinging sands whipping against your skin is just a consequence of where you stand and that you feel.  It is not the throwing of stones. These are tiny specks of rocks that, on a good day, beneath your feet feel silky and warm, tickle between your toes, and cling to your ankles long after you have left the beach reminding you of your wonderful day as you stand on the porch watching the sun slip into the earth as it sets.

I suppose I just have to have faith that even the deepest crevice will eventually fill back up with as many tiny specks of sand as it needs.  That, and perhaps a walk on the beach soon will be my solution.

Growing Season is Here: Now Just Add Cooking

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Just as the farms are starting to grow some delicious things for us to eat here in New England (or to be fair the greenhouses are doing a lot of the work right now), the kids’ schedules are going crazy.  From end of year events, special meetings, concerts, recitals and ball games, planning for dinner is a bit of a nightmare.  I find myself buying the foods I love, fresh corn from Florida, green beans, local lettuce, and New England springtime treats like ramps and fiddleheads but not having time to figure out what to make with them.

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I tried Just Add Cooking earlier this year, and what I love about them is that they work with local chefs.  Culinary Director of the Grafton Group, Mark Goldberg is working with Just Add Cooking to create summer entrées that are quick and easy to make and take no longer than 30 minutes.  Memorial Day started with a black bean burger with cucumber, avocado and lime.  This week (orders due by today, May 27th) chicken with watermelon, feta and arugula will be a perfect way to taste summer.  Then, seared salmon with summer peach salad is on the menu for the following week (orders placed by noon on Wednesday, June 3)

If you want a little help getting through these last crazy weeks of the school year, then you can enter to win a free trial week of Just Add Cooking here.
Win a free trial week of Just Add Cooking here. Open to residents of MA ONLY.

Not a Photographer Nor a Critic

When I chose my degree, based on a careful consideration that a) I might decide to be a lawyer and b) I was in a big school and wanted to be in a small school, I found myself studying Philosophy at McGill.  In retrospect, I think I chose well.  Thinking about life, ethics and meaning was both invigorating and depressing and somehow through it all I learned some excellent skills that I have been able to apply to all of my work. I remember clearly that a professor once taught us early in the degree is that, “You are not philosophers.  You are students of philosophy.”  That resonated so well with me.  What I love most in life is learning and, perhaps to a fault, I consider myself always a student.  I learn from everything I see and do. I learn from the people I cross paths with.  What I don’t consider myself is an expert in anything because in true philosopher form there is always more to learn.  I suppose by now I’ve been doing some things long enough to have reached a certain level of expertise, but ask me to list any of those things and I will likely freeze like a deer in the headlights.  In this age of websites and social media small companies can look big and big companies can behave like small companies.  The clout that you could only get by following a certain path has a new roadmap no road map at all. The term “expert” and lofty titles are slapped on names willy nilly here and there.  It’s almost comedic.

Part I:  I am not a photographer

When I was in elementary school I had my first dark room experience. I continued in college spending time in McGill’s dark room developing photos (hmmm I wonder where those are now). I had a basic knowledge of my camera and a fairly good understanding of the process of developing photos. Since then, the lenses I lugged around Europe in a backpack are sitting in a closet somewhere with my relic of a camera.  Since then, I’ve acquired a new camera with lots of settings and buttons that I am just now beginning to understand and explore.  What has changed is the equipment.  What hasn’t changed is my eye.  I see everything in pictures and snapshots.  Just as I see movement and choreography in music that I hear (less now that I don’t dance as much). I take a lot of photos (as anyone who follows me on Instagram knows all too well). I am a freelance writer so I have flexibility and mobility and I live in an amazing city. I have two busy, active, beautiful (no bias here) children. I have a husband who works his tush off so I can raise our children and pursue other things.  It is the combination of all these things that allows me to play with my camera and capture some pretty cool shots.

Having access to all this doesn’t make me a photographer. Yes, I can snap a great photo. I understand light a little bit. I know what I like or dislike when it comes to composition.  I get a few great shots because I take a lot of photos and play with my settings. What I can’t do, and what differentiates me from a photographer. I cannot strategically and methodically create the setting for the picture that you may want.  I don’t have the equipment or the knowledge to produce a specific photograph on demand.  What does this mean?  It means I continue to take photos and learn. It doesn’t mean I won’t do a job for someone who wants photos for social media.  It means I will take photos for you, but my limitations are your limitations and my fee will always reflect that.  If you are a small business that needs a little help with photos for social media, I can do that.  If you have a budget for a photographer and need photos for a website, print material and more then I will refer you to the many talented photographers in the area.

Theme and Variations dress rehearsal. Boston Ballet. (center) Principals Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga.
Theme and Variations dress rehearsal. Boston Ballet. (center) Principals Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga.

Part II:  I am not a critic

I have a lot of opinions.  I rarely filter my opinions and those who know me well understand that I am a harsh critic but only for things I care about and love.  My family perhaps knows this best (for better or for worse). On my blog and in my writing, I do not want to be considered a critic of any sort.  That doesn’t mean that I wear rose coloured glasses and sugar coat my writing.  It means I don’t have a salary or budget to visit a single restaurant several times in a row, see a performance several times per program, and order multiple pieces from a particular clothing line’s look book.  In addition to not having the budget, I don’t really want to be known for my reviews or critiques. I write because I enjoy everything more when I can share it with someone.  The joy I get from art, good food, travel, beautiful design, or a great cocktail or glass of wine is so much better when there’s someone there to share the experience with.  Do you the see the smile in Boston Ballet Principal dancer Misa Kuranaga’s face in the photo above?  What I love about this photo is that little smile and glow.  That’s the feeling I get when someone tells me they tried something, went somewhere, did something and enjoyed it as much as I did.

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I write about my positive experiences not only to share them with you, but also to support the artists and artisans who share their work in some way with us all.  I have to have a pretty bad experience to call out a person or place, because my goal is to share what I love and not waste time on failures and faults.

If you want to come along for the ride, the best way to see what I’m up to is to follow me on Instagram or twitter (@ohbabyboston, @bffoodie).  If you prefer to read posts on your commute home or at your desk, you can get Leah’s Life: Pearls & Oysters delivered to your inbox by clicking on the follow button.

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5 Memorial Day Weekend Options In and Around Boston

IMG_5655This Memorial Day Weekend should be sunny and warm.  Here are a few ways to celebrate and commemorate those who have put themselves in harms way and continue to do so in the name of our country.  For our family Memorial Day always includes our local parade, a time to reconnect with friends and our community and some time out in our fair cities appreciating where we live.

37,000 flags on Boston Common.
37,000 flags on Boston Common.

Boston Common is a great place to go for a picnic or a stroll through the Common and Gardens.  The carousel is up and running too.  This sea of flags is extremely impressive.  I think we will pay our respects here again this year.  Sometimes I know it’s hard to get the kids out of the house, so try giving them a camera to capture what they’d like about the destination.  This definitely gave me more time to take photos (even though somehow I ended up with my iPhone and Henry had the good camera.

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You don’t have to host a cookout, you can ask friends to join you on a picnic.  Here are a few fab places to enjoy a picnic this weekend.

If you want to get out on the water for a little bit, I recommend a visit to the Boston Harbor Islands.

Go to the MFA for free during their Open House.

Go see a parade (Cambridge’s parade starts with a bang as the cannon goes off in Cambridge Common.)

A Patio is Naked Without Cocktails: Dori on a Tuesday (Cocktail Recipe)

This is a post sponsored by Wayfair.com where you cannot buy the ingredients for this cocktail but where you can buy all the fun accessories that you need to make the drink in, pour the drink from, sip the drink on, and kick back and rest your feet on.  As always, all opinions are my own and I have a lot of them, which is perhaps why it is taking me so long to choose just the right floor cushions for our front porch.  Thank goodness for idea boards.  I keep my patio daydreaming on here so I can focus on getting my work done but I won’t forget about those fabulous ideas I had to dress up our cocktail parties this summer.

Cocktails Round Serving Tray
A great vintage or “vintage style” tray is essential not only to help with transporting drinks to the patio, but it also sets the tone for the party. A splash of your own personal style is always welcome. This is the Vita V Home Cocktails Round Serving Tray.

One of my favourite things about spring and summer in New England is that after a long cold winter, we are extremely appreciative of patio weather.  To me, patio weather means easy entertaining.  I love to spontaneously invite friends and neighbors over for a cocktail and a few little bites (which more often than not turn into dinner) on the patio.  The kids can play outside, and if we start to approach dinner time a quick call for pizza extends the night right up to bedtime. This quick easy cocktail is perfect for any day of the week. You just need a few things on hand.

Dori on a Tuesday Cocktail

(This cocktail is called Dori on a Tuesday.  It was created on a Tuesday afternoon but can be enjoyed any day of the week preferably from spring through early fall, but you can also go wild and enjoy it all year long.)

You can find San Pellegrino’s Aranciata at most grocery stores (at least in and around Boston). You can find the really cute ones in a bottle at Tuscan Market (pictured here) or at specialty stores. Luxardo cherries can be found at many liquor stores and specialty markets. They are available locally at Formaggio Kitchen and Tuscan Market.

Ingredients:

  • Campari
  • Aranciata (A Sparkling Orange Juice Drink such as San Pellegrino’s Aranciata)
  • Sweet Cherries in Syrup (Ideally Luxardo Cherries)
  • ice
And there you have it the DOT Cocktail- Dori On a Tuesday. Cheers!

Directions (serves 1):

  1. Fill a rocks glass with ice.
  2. If you are new to Campari, add 1 oz of Campari.  If you are a Campari drinker go for 1 1/2 oz of Campari.
  3. Add 4 oz of Aranciata
  4. Add a splash of syrup from the cherries. If you have a sweet tooth, add a few more splashes (1 tsp. -no more)
  5. Spill in two cherries from the jar as you’re pouring in the syrup.
  6. Stir with a fancy swizzle stick (or the handle of a regular spoon) and serve.
Professional 2 Quart Soda Siphon
I love the look of this sleek and elegant soda maker. You can add a little extra fizz to the cocktail as is, or you can make a less sweet version with orange juice and seltzer water. This is the Liss Professional 2 Quart Soda Siphon available at Wayfair.com.

If you want something a little lighter and just naturally sweet, you can substitute fresh orange juice and then use your seltzer maker to add a little effervescence to the drink.

Lucy Boxed Cocktail Napkins (40 Count)
I’m a little obsessed with the octopus this summer. These cocktail napkins come in a cute box so all you need is a rock or a small votive to place on top so they don’t blow away and you’re all set for cocktail hour. No plates allowed. These area the Boston International Lucy Boxed Cocktail Napkins on Wayfair.com.

A cocktail on the patio is always better with something salty to nibble.  My rule for cocktail parties is that every thing should be finger food.  Put out some cute napkins, pour some olives in a dish, put a few crackers, cheese, and charcuterie on a board and the evening is just about perfect.  Here are some of my favorite cocktail party bites: cornichons, olives, saucisson sec, proscuitto, chunks of a good Parmesan (serve with some quince paste, honey or truffle honey), specialty crackers (olive oil crisps, cheese crackers, Italian breadsticks), burrata, and for something a little sweet after I break up squares of a really good chocolate (1 dark/1 milk- Michel Cluizel, Lindt, or whatever your favourite is)

Cheers to many spring and summer days on the patio.

Thrill of Contact: Boston Ballet’s Season Finishes with Agility, Grace and Guffaws

Dusty Button in The Concert.
Dusty Button in The Concert.

This year, Boston Ballet gave their mixed bill programs titles to highlight a common thread among each of the varied works on the bill.  These titles gave you a sense of what to expect, but allowed the programs to span the decades and step in and out of different styles of music, dance, costumes, and choreographic works.  Thrill of Contact could have just as aptly been called The Need for Speed. This program has some of the most challenging choreography from both classics such as Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and contemporary choreographers as in Jeffrey Cirio’s fremd.

Balanchine's Theme and Variations
Balanchine’s Theme and Variations

I was invited to see Thrill of Contact by the ballet, but as always, all opinions are my own. I know I’ve said this before, but Thrill of Contact is another great opportunity for someone who has only seen the classical “story ballets” to try something different.  Watching Thrill of Contact, reminded me a bit of a lazy Sunday afternoon in a cushioned rattan chair on some grand porch, a chilled cocktail on the side table and a copy of The New Yorker in my hands and no plans for the rest of the day.

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Principals Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, part of Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact program.

When I go to the ballet and think about how to write about each program, throughout the program I take notes about what I see, how I feel, and ideas I have about ways to share the experience.  After seeing Thrill of Contact twice, I decided that it was definitely The New Yorker …and then, Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen stole my thunder.  After the show on Friday, during the post performance discussion, the very last question asked was about Jerome Robbins’ inspiration for The Concert. Mikko Nissinen pointed out how The Concert is “us”.  It is that cartoon-worthy cast of characters that come and go to the theatre, opera, ballet, and symphony.  So The New Yorker it is and let me explain a little bit more about what I mean.

Jerome Robbins The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody).
Jerome Robbins The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody).

The New Yorker has a wonderful mix of in-depth articles, contemporary prose or fiction, and then there are the famous New Yorker cartoons. There is always an article or two that you clip and copy to send to someone you know will truly appreciate it.  There are the cartoons you cut out and put on your fridge or your Facebook wall because you want everyone to share a laugh.  Thrill of Contact is kind of like that.  You want everyone to see The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude to talk about everything from the costume design to the meaning and motive of William Forsythe.  You want to discuss the intricacies of fremd.  You want to laugh together about the characters in The Concert.  You want to reminisce about the beauty and feeling of being swept away by the energy and grace of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.

Principal Misa Kuranaga in Balanchine's Theme and Variations.
Principal Misa Kuranaga in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.

Theme and Variations was choreographed by Balanchine in 1947.  It is a “tutu dance” that has gorgeous costumes and classic Balanchine dancing.  This is an extremely difficult and fast paced piece that I wouldn’t have realized except for a few imperfections that Friday night.  The choreography, as confirmed in the post-performance talk, is some of the most difficult to dance of any other piece, but because the dancing itself is so airy and light the audience is easily fooled.

Principal Jeffrey Cirio in Balanchine's Theme and Variations.
Principal Jeffrey Cirio in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.
Jeffrey Cirio choreographed fremd which premiered as part of Thrill of Contact.  Pictured here is Second Soloist Altan Dugaraa.
Jeffrey Cirio choreographed fremd which premiered as part of Thrill of Contact. Pictured here is Second Soloist Altan Dugaraa.

fremd premiered in this program on May 14th, 2015. fremd, in constrast to Theme and Variations has simple costumes and many influences in both style of dancing and choreography.  fremd is choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio who is also a principal dancer at Boston Ballet.

Principals John Lam and Kathleen Breen Combes in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
Principals John Lam and Kathleen Breen Combes in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. (left to right) Principal Kathleen Breen Combes, Principal John Lam, Second Soloist Bo Busby, Principal Erica Cornejo.
William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. (left to right) Principal Erica Cornejo, Principal John Lam, Second Soloist Bo Busby, Principal Kathleen Breen Combes , Principal Misa Kuranaga.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude was choreographed by William Forsythe in 1996.  William Forsythe is known for his fascination with Balanchine’s style and for his ability to twist and reshape the movement vocabulary of classical ballet.

Principal Kathleen Breen Combes in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, part of Boston Ballet's Thrill of Contact.
Principal Kathleen Breen Combes in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, part of Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact.
The Concert choreographed by Jerome Robbins has the audience laughing out loud throughout the piece.
The Concert choreographed by Jerome Robbins has the audience laughing out loud throughout the piece.

The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody) was choreographed by Jerome Robbins in 1956.  It is a pantomime ballet with a wonderful cast of characters.  The acting is not overshadowed by the choreography or dancing though with both characters and choreography playing a starring role throughout.

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Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact is playing through May 24th.  Tickets can be purchased in advance here and you can find out more about discounts and group rates here.

Please note that for the performance on Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 there will be a Pre-Curtain Talk: Join moderator Russell Kaiser, Boston Ballet Assistant Artistic Director, with Principal Dancer Lasha Khozashvili,  and Company Members Dawn Atkins and Lauren Herfindahl prior to the evening performance to hear their insights on Thrill of Contact.

*This informal discussion is free for all the evening’s ticket holders and is held at Boston Opera House one hour before the 7:30 pm performance. Guest speakers subject to change*

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Vine Brook Tavern: A Lexington Revival

In it’s heyday Vinny Testa’s was a hot spot, a suburban gathering hall, one of the few places in town you could catch up with neighbors and enjoy a casual meal.  Those were big shoes to fill and after Vinny Testa’s lost it’s luster Lexington sort of lost it’s dining hall.  Of course they weren’t the only restaurant in town, but the energy and vibe of the grand space that had the town’s young and old coming in again and again for large plates of tasty food, a place to hang their hats and shoot the breeze for a while faded too.  Until now.

Finally, someone had come in and restored the space to a new glory.  Vine Brook Tavern is a great space for a casual dinner, business lunch, or a huge fancy “to do” thanks to it’s well designed spaces.  The owner and chef work closely together to put out really good food including classics (fish and chips), classics with a twist (a Cobb salad with a little heat), and unique contemporary dishes (shaved cauliflower salad with beets, Brussels sprouts and a ginger sesame vinaigrette).  The Vine Brook Tavern family is just beginning to create what can once again become that town gathering spot.  Families will be celebrating everything from graduations or weddings to lost teeth, surviving skinned knees and learning to read.  Neighbors will gather for wine tastings and book club discussions.  Business folk will take an extra 5 minutes on their lunch break to linger and chat with their colleagues and community members.

When I first moved to New England, we stayed with friends in Lexington and now even though we live in Cambridge, I still have been hoping for something good to replace the old Vinnie Testa’s.  I’ve been in a few times: once when the tavern first opened, a couple times after my daughter’s piano lessons for a mother daughter lunch, and recently to try their new lunch menu as an invited guest.  I will definitely continue to visit for a working lunch, lunch with friends, and dinner with the family.

Here is a peek at what Vine Brook Tavern is all about.

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You’ve Got A Fremd in Me: Choreographer Jeffrey Cirio Seamlessly Premieres in Thrill of Contact

Boston Ballet principals (left to right) Paul Craig, Whitney Jensen, and Paulo Arrais in Jeffrey Cirio's fremd part of Boston Ballet's season finale Thrill of Contact.
Boston Ballet’s (left to right) second soloist Paul Craig, principal Whitney Jensen, and principal Paulo Arrais in Jeffrey Cirio’s fremd part of Boston Ballet’s season finale Thrill of Contact.
Thrill of Contact is Boston Ballet‘s season finale at the Boston Opera House and Principal Dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s début on the big bill as a choreographer. Cirio’s fremd is sandwiched between George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and the program doesn’t miss a beat.  t’s a bit like watching someone walk the red carpet in a Chanel jacket, some gorgeous Louboutin heels and a fabulous pair of pants that you assume is part of the Chanel design but in fact is made by some young unknown designer. The outfit looks fabulous and you can’t get over how flawlessly each piece holds its own.

As a dancer, Jeffrey Cirio is technical, theatrical, and overall a power house. The precision and dedication he puts into his art of dancing is also reflected as clear as day in his choreography. Cirio’s piece is so well crafted that it’s complexity almost goes unnoticed.  Each detail, from the movement, the music and soundtrack to the lighting and the staging, has a purpose. There are no garnishes for garnish sake nor are there forgotten points.

Second soloist Altan Dugaraa plays a central role in Jeffrey Cirio's fremd.  He is a time keeper, a master puppeteer, and a manipulator of sorts throughout the piece.
Second soloist Altan Dugaraa plays a central role in Jeffrey Cirio’s fremd. He is a time keeper, a master puppeteer, and a manipulator of sorts throughout the piece.
fremd means foreign or alien. With the movement in fremd, Cirio is creating something new and different without alienating his audience. The music and soundtrack plays a role almost visually impacting the dancing as lighting usually does. The beat and ambient sound of Apex Twin, the static and electricity layered with spoken German of Olaf Bender, and the sweet melodic sounds of Frédéric Chopin and John Field make similarly stylized movements look completely different. From classical to pulsing beats, to spoken word and then to complete silence, the music is so contrasted but yet not disconnected. At one point, there is a void in the soundtrack until you realize the music has been replaced with just the sound of bodies moving through space. Often when music stops, even intentionally, there is a level of discomfort for the audience, it’s like being caught naked, there is a riff of uncomfortable little coughs and clearing of throats, but in fremd the silence was met with silence.  It seemed to suck us, the audience, into the movement even more.

The duets that Principals Lia Cirio and Paulo Arrais perfom in fremd are strong and intensly connected. Second soloist Altan Dugaraa’s power and soulful movement projects far beyond his physical self. There is an incongruousness on stage between the three that creates the sensation of fremd with a constant transfer of control, focus and attention between the duo and soloist.
Cirio’s dancers Altan Dugaraa, Lia Cirio, Paulo Arrais, Whitney Jensen, Paul Craig, Emily Mistretta, and Bradley Schlagheck, create illusions of bending and twisting time. If you’re old enough to remember changing the speed of a record on a record player, or twisting the turntable slowly backwards in a sort of reverse slow motion, then you might be able to visualize how the dancers seem to manipulate time. Sometimes the still moments in between are even more powerful than the complex movement in between because it sort of reverberates through you as you take it all in.

Principals
Principals Whitney Jensen , Lia Cirio, Paulo Arrais, and Second Soloist Paul Craig in fremd.
fremd is filled with grace and beauty even when the music doesn’t reflect that. Watching Jeffrey Cirio’s piece you lose track of where you are.  At moments, you wonder how a dancer got somewhere without seeing a transition. The matching of classical ballet movement to the expected more “alien” awkward movement that you see in contemporary ballet is done perfectly. There are points in the dance when you wonder if you are seeing things or not seeing things with rapid flicks of a finger or wrist almost imperceptible but just strong enough to catch the attention of your eye. The spacing, especially in the beginning and end of the piece, forces you out of your familiar comfort zone of sitting back and taking in the dance as a whole, because you have to choose what to watch and what to cast away into your peripheral vision.  There is a lot of interplay with dancers in the background and foreground exaggerated with lighting, spacing, costumes and a contrast of duets and solos.

fremd 3
Second Soloist Altan Dugaraa and Principal Lia Cirio in fremd choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio.
The experience of fremd, at The Boston Opera House definitely makes me want to be come more familiar with Jeffrey Cirio’s work and I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of something groß.

Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact is at the Boston Opera House through May 24th. Tickets are available here or rush tickets can be purchased at the box office.  For more details on getting to the ballet on a budget you can go here. As a blogger, I have been invited to see Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact as always all opinions are my own.

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Shop Chestnut Hill Square: One Stop for Sanity Sake

Athleta is one of my favourite shopds for workout gear and casual styles.

I live in Cambridge but shop in Chestnut Hill.  I don’t know when it started.  I’m guessing it had something to do with working over at Solomon Schechter Day School and going to the gym at Wellbridge (when it used to be in Newton and when I worked out daily -those were the days!).  Even though my work is at home in Cambridge now and my working out…well that’s a whole other blog post…I still shop in Chestnut Hill.  The Atrium Mall, where I bought everything from for bridal shower gifts at Tiffany’s to maternity and baby clothes and where I entertained my then infants and toddlers on cold wintry days or blistering hot days at the play space, is long gone.

As they say, when one door closes, another opens.  I’m pretty sure that phrase has nothing to do with shopping but in this case  it will.  Next to the Atrium Mall was an old abandoned grocery store and a giant pockmarked parking lot.  If you haven’t been to Chestnut Hill lately, you will be shocked.  Where an empty lot once stood, now lives a little town center of sorts with a giant Wegman’s, restaurants, a cycle studio, and shops galore.  If you build it… they will shop, eat, workout, and work.

I recently joined the Boston Brunchers for a hosted tour of the shops at Chestnut Hill Square and finished off our tour with a fabulous dinner at the cornerstone of the area, still standing the test of time: The Capital Grill.

Let’s begin with the shops.  If you’re a parent, you understand the importance of one stop shopping.  The more a parent attempt to insert and extract their child from a carseat the more impossible said child will be for each errand.  When you shop Chestnut Hill Square, you can get a gift, pick up some crafts, get your groceries, restock the wine fridge, replace your sad holey sports bra, and order cupcakes for your son’s soccer team among other things.

Paper Source is a great place to go for crafting inspiration.  There are so many colourful and fun items in the shop that there really is something for everyone to look at.  I have found that even my “not so arty” child will be inspired if surrounded by the right materials.  I had forgotten that Paper Source had classes.  For our Chestnut Hill Square tour, we got to try out the embossing powder and heat tool to make mother’s day cards.  This was the perfect next step for my daughter and I at home, so I bought some of the embossing tools and powders. We have a huge collection of rubber stamps that were just lying dormant and now playing with the the powder and heat gun, they have a new purpose.

I try to limit my visits to Paper Source to once or twice a year because they have so many great gifts and materials for arts and crafts. i like to craft and so rather than buy ‘kiddie craft’ supplies i like to get quality craft supplies that both the kids and I can appreciate too.

I am a fan of cycling and spinning (two very different things).  I am a casual cyclist (like the clunky bike, flowers in a basket kind of cyclist), but in the spin studio I am like “Ted King watch out I will crush you!”  Obviously there is a lot of imagination going on in my spin class mind, but it is definitely one of the best workouts I ever get.  I haven’t tried Soul Cycle yet, but I look forward to checking it out.  One of my good friends is a Soul Cycle devotee.

Shopping at Francesca’s is a mother-daughter experience that somehow works.  We were introduced to Francesca’s on Project Runway and when my daughter and I walked into our first Francesca’s store she was so excited because of that connection.  What’s fun about Francesca’s is that there is a little something for each generation.  From gifts and jewelry to hats and clothes, it’s a bit like a fancy, modern. mini, flea market without the fleas.

A cheese board made for my friends and I. It begged to be purchased for cocktail hour.
I think I already said this on Instagram but flower crowns are the new black.
Isabelle is obsessed with all things anchors.
Bohemian chic. Reminds me of my college days.
Sweet Cupcakes at Chestnut Hill Square
Sweet Cupcakes at Chestnut Hill Square

 Sweet Cupcakes shop also makes cakes.  Who knew?!  Well now we all do.  They even have wifi and sometimes you need a little cupcake to help with the creative process right? If you’re a freelancer. You can find a spot at Panera, Sweet or Starbucks and have plenty of wifi to get your work done before picking up the kids from school.

Getting one’s hair done goes beyond grabbing a comb, a brush, and a banana clip these days.  You can go to the salon for a cut, color, or wash and dry.  You can go onto Pinterest and see 8.000 varieties of braids that look so easy (but you know are impossible).  Best of all, you can pamper yourself at a place like Dry Bar.  It’s kind of like getting a polish change but for your hair.  You’re not committing to a whole new hair cut but you can play with styles and order from the menu.  Dry Bar’s hair styles are all named after cocktails and they even have a Shirley Temple for the kids.  

 

In terms of other dining options at Chestnut Hill Square you can stop in at Sweetgreens for an entire menu of fresh, green, foods that must be delicious because it was a very popular spot the day we visited.  There is always Starbucks for a quick bite and a refueling on caffeine.  Brio is an Italian style restaurant with a kids menu and a very large, serene dining room.  If you want variety and speed, you can also shop at Wegman’s where they have a huge lunch selection from soup and salad bars to pizza, sushi, hot bars and more.

Sweetgreen is a tasty oasis with plenty of delicious ‘grow foods’ so everyone eats well.
Brio has an elegant setting but also is child friendly with kids menus and crayons so you can feed the kids between errands and enjoy a meal together in a nice setting.

Right next to Chestnut Hill Square is a restaurant that has been there for as long as I can remember.  The Capitol Grill is a place that steps back to a different time and place.  You’ll see children dressed in patent leather shoes and sporting little ties out with family members celebrating a special occasion, but you’ll also see a more casual lunch crowd or dinner group who just want the taste and service that The Capital Grill is known for.  They also have a burger menu at lunch.  I highly recommend the Kona Crusted Wagyu Burger with Shallot Mayo.  I love a great char and the coffee crust made the burger taste extra charred.  It was extremely well executed (and I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect once I took that leap but the shallot mayo is what drew me in.)

The Capitol Grill is an experience. A step back in time in terms of service and attention to detail. The food , on the other hand, is an up to date approach to your grandfather’s meat and potatoes.