Sunday, September 30, 2012

Willkommen zum Oktoberfest

{Welcome to Oktoberfest}

Fall is back! Well, I supposed it has been unofficially fall for over a month now if you count fall as the start of the school year. You could say this is the 4th week of fall if you go by the NFL's calendar. However, you could be true to the solstice and only admit to it being the end of the first week of fall; nonetheless, its undoubtedly the time of year that indicates a select few things to celebrate. First: football, second: Oktoberfest style beer, third: football...

While I clearly am a football fan, that is not the focus of this post. This last Friday we went to a mock Oktoberfest celebration at a quaint German restaurant which got me thinking about what my favorites are, especially since Howie goes crazy for Oktoberfest style beer annually at this time of year. For those of you who know me, you know at least one of two things: (a) I'm not a huge beer person, and/or (b) I'm a huge beer snob. Both are true. I don't always drink beer, but when I do I prefer the good stuff (props to who knows where that line comes from). I don't really do light beers (no Coors, Bud, Miller, etc) unless there is nothing else to drink and I'm not into very hoppy "man" beers. If I can taste the bitter aftertaste in my nose, it's a no-go. So here goes:

5. Blue Moon (by Coors - US of A)
Disclaimer: This beer is making it to the list only because it is my go-to bar beer.
I am well aware this is not an super high quality beer; its the generic "girl beer." With that noted, it was too difficult for me to confidently decide between the runner's up for this spot so Blue Moon is the pick because of the frequency with which I drink this beer. It is a wheat beer - my favorite style. In fact, almost all the beers on my list of acceptable beers to drink are wheat beers. This style is light and fruity in flavor with a smooth finish. Runner's up: Hoegaarden, Sam's Summer Ale, Pumpkin Wheat, Schneider Edel-Weisse.

4. Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
A new beer on my list, Delirium Tremens is quite a treat. Similar to a wheat beer (jury is out on the official classification) it's light in color and smooth in finish - but you don't need a lot of this as the alcohol content is pretty high for a beer.

3. Oktoberfest (by Sam Adams - US of A)
I didn't choose the title of this post without reason. Oktoberfest style is definitely my second favorite in every way. Crisp, full bodied flavor perfect for the season. I'd even accept other brands of oktoberfest. But I do wish it lasted longer than 2.5 months out of the year, as does my boy since its at the top of his list too (see below).

2. Hopfen Weisse (by Schneider - German)
I'll admit, I've only had this beer once - but it's that good. Since you've probably figured it out, Howie is the driving force behind my beer snobbism by exposing me to these fabulous finds. After hunting for a specialty beer store, we hit the jackpot only 5 miles from where we live. This is the type of store that you walk into where the walls are lined with over-sized bottles of specialty beers and you get to select as many or as few of exactly what you want. That is where we found this little gem. It's a wheat beer so its that golden honey color, on the fruity side, with the smoothest finish you can find in a beer. The flavor is so unique and the aroma is just as enticing. I might be drooling thinking about this one.

1. Franziskaner Weissbier (by Spaten - German)
This has been my favorite beer for a while now, though the Hopfen Weisse might take over after I try it a few more times. Howie introduced this as a surprise one time while visiting my family (he and my dad have a tradition of trying new beers and styles as often as they can). It is a wheat beer; I'm sure you are surprised by this. The flavor is full and on the sweeter side with a very smooth finish. If you like wheat beer, this is the best it gets.

Howie's Picks: 
5. Dos Equis Amber
4. Delirium Tremens
3. Guinness
2. Oktoberfest (Sam Adams specific)
1. Schneider Edel-Weisse 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fulfilling a dream

While at the Big E last week, I was able to live a dream: to ride an elephant. Really my dream was to ride any exotic animal. I made an attempt at the Bronx Zoo to take advantage of the camel rides, but when I got to the Asia exhibit, there were only 4 year-olds in line causing me to bail out of my mission. However, as we walked by the elephant rides at the Big E my excitement could not be contained and I convinced my friends to join. Here are some commemorative pictures of the event for your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Big E

The Eastern States Exposition began in the early 1900s as a way to boost the agricultural economy in New England and has since turned into one of the largest state fairs today known as The Big E. To call it a "state" fair is a bit of a misnomer, as it is a fair for all of the New England states.

The Big E is a well known attraction to those in New England; however, this was the first year I've ever attended despite spending my teenage years as a resident of Connecticut. For those of you who've been, you know its a never-ending display of food, games, rides, shopping, farm animals etc. For the first timers, its admittedly a bit overwhelming. The first few hundred feet into the fair grounds it seems like just a normal northeastern carnival: the tents are colorful, the food trucks are ostentatious, and the rides and games are twinkling with gaudy light fixtures. As you continue walking you realize the fun seems to go on for miles (and I assure you, we walked miles that day around and around - to the point of waking up sore the next morning).

I'm sure my experience was fairly traditional, but lets relive it, shall we? It was a crisp September morning when me and two lovely ladies departed from southern CT on a mini road trip to meet our long lost buddy from PA school who moved back to MA after graduation. We had been plotting this trip for a while and were looking forward to a food-filled day of fun (that's what the repeat visitors to the Big E were looking forward to anyway).

The first thing we encountered upon arrival were the Budweiser Clydesdales... humongous, majestic horses famous for their appearances in Bud commercials throughout the year, and mostly during major football events later in the season. I have always loved horses and as a child I begged to take riding lessons; however, my mother never caved in on that request. As you can imagine, these horses were quite a sight as they are literally huge. In commercials they are often accompanied by their canine friends, dalmatians. I guess the Big E wanted to do things right so on cue at the back of the tent where the horses were kept were two dalmatians arguing over a bone.

We then moved through the warehouses to take in all the goodies being sold by various vendors. There were gadgets and gizmos of plenty, whosits and whatsits galore. There was even a mini winter wonderland to walk through with blasting air conditioners and falling 'snow.' One of the warehouses was entirely devoted to farming and contained pigs, chickens, vegetables, llamas, alpacas, and landscaping displays. My favorites: the piglets and chicklets. 

As for the food, you can get almost anything deep fried at the Big E. Fried pickles, fried zucchini, fried dough, fried twinkies, fried chicken, fried cookie dough, french fries, and so on. The two that I was lucky enough to indulge in were fried oreos - bangin - and fried cheese curds - not so bangin. The cheese curds were the brain child of our one friend; let's just say I won't be having those again anytime soon. In addition to carnival food is a multitude of carnival games rides; however, those are not my specialty so I'm not going to discuss them. Just know that every carnival ride known exists at the Big E.

Finally, you can't really talk about the Big E without mentioning the state houses. Along one strip in the fair grounds are six old style brick houses dedicated to the states of New England: Connecticut (holla), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Each house contains select food and vendors from the state. In Connecticut, the big deal was the Pez. The United States Pez factory is located in Orange, CT. Each state house had something different to offer - maple syrup, soaps, lobster rolls, cotton candy, sweatshirts, hats, and other paraphernalia. I purchased some all natural soaps and some Vermont maple syrup for my boy during my tour through the houses. Overall this was a very successful and exciting adventure.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A little country in the big city

I've been on a few adventures since being out of school and not yet at work. One of which was an excursion into the city to one our of favorite restaurants: Hill Country Barbeque. Since Howie is from Texas, he's always on the lookout for "home-comfort-foods," aka real barbecue and real mexican food (I'll leave the explanation of the italicized "reals" for Howie to explain in a guest post since these are two of his hot-button topics). I actually first heard of this restaurant through an old high school friend who attended college in the city. Though it took some convincing to get Howie to try it because he is highly skeptical of the quality of northern bbq, it has turned into one of our top choices of places to eat in the city.

When you first walk into Hill Country it's like walking into an entirely different time and place than the busy streets of New York. Located on 26th between 5th and 6th ave, right near Madison Square Park, Hill Country is a great place to indulge in the southern delicacy of barbecue. The art of barbecue varies from region to region in the south, but the premise remains the same: meats cooked over low heat for hours and hours basted in succulent sauce. With this barbecue comes additional treats for your belly: mac & cheese, potato salad, cucumber salad, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn bread, and more. The food is delicious and will send you directly into food coma if you aren't careful, which we usually aren't.

Aside from the southern comfort foods, this place is also unique because of its ambiance. With wood everywhere and mildly dim lighting, you feel as if you've walked into a southern hole-in-the-wall bbq joint. There are wood tables lined up cafeteria style, wooden chairs, a wooden bar, and stacks of fire wood along the back wall. When you enter, you are given a meal ticket that you bring with you up to the meat counter where you order your choice of beef, chicken, or sausage by weight as the meat is taken from the back where its likely just come out of the smoker. The meat is wrapped in paper, you are given a tray, and your meal ticket is marked before you move to the line for sides. At that station there is a minimum of 8 or so options to choose from in a variety of sizes along with an additional 5 or so desserts to choose. Your order is marked on your ticket and you are then free to sit anywhere you like. A waiter will come with options for drinks: water, iced tea, lemonade, soda, beer, the usual suspects. As you can imagine, its extremely easy to get carried away here.

My favorite: the 1/4 bbq chicken, with sides of mac & cheese or potato salad and cucumber salad. Howie usually goes for a multitude of things including sausage, brisket, and whatever else he finds himself drooling over... his eyes are always bigger than his stomach. This place has something for everyone and the food is excellent; its definitely somewhere you should try when you have time in NYC.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have no fear, the camera's here

So way back in July we had out photographer booking escapade. I was crumbling under the perceived pressure of my life and the need to book soon combined with the never-ending, in-depth group projects at school. After a few temper tantrums, Howie took the reigns.

With that said, after several weeks of searching and negotiating, we signed a contract with Tyler Boye Photography. I promptly 'liked' them on facebook and have been stalking their pictures as they post them since we booked. We are very excited about this decision and we are looking forward to planning our engagement session in the spring!
A word to the wise: Start early!! Unlike music, which was a piece of cake, sifting through photographer's websites and online portfolios is time consuming, especially because you are looking for that right style for your personality.

Another word to the wise: Speak with photographers on the phone. Most have extensive online portfolios that give you a great sense of the photographer's style; therefore, unless you are obsessive about seeing album styles in person, it's not a necessity to go meet with the photographers if you can speak with them on the phone.

Finally: Do not be afraid to negotiate this one. I'm not great at negotiating, but after putting the job in Howie's hands, we were able to get our dream studio at a more reasonable price. Keep in mind, the photographer can be pricey, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. You'll want to establish a budget range ahead of time and know how much flexing you are willing to do. Ours started at $2,000-$3,000 and we are ending up in the $3,500-$4,000 range to give you an idea.

With the photographer out of the way, it's on to the next big thing - the dress...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello again!

Hello my loyal friends and readers! I apologize for the delay in resuming my writing. Since we last were together, a lot has happened. I went into hiding around the time of my graduation from PA school. I then studied from dawn til dusk for 10 days for my board exam, wallowed through the 5 stages of grief as I felt as though I failed my board exam, interviewed for a job, got the job, pased my boards, and began my recovery from the roller coaster. As for September, I've been working on the never ending stack of paperwork for the new gig as well as trying to get my act together with regards to wedding planning. However, it is time I write; you can expect a complete return of regular posting!

What's coming next?
    Wedding planning updates
    New recipes
    New places to eat
    More on vitamins
    More on paleo and "real food" lifestyle
    Bucket list adventures

Since I'm back in action, feel free to comment here with post ideas or email me at