Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Boston and Seneca Falls, Part One

I spent the weekend before last in Boston and Seneca Falls, NY with my sister, Ellen Aim. I was lucky enough that JetBlue was the cheapest airfare I could find. I especially like JetBlue when I can go through the JFK airport. It's clean, the food is decent if overpriced, and there is free wifi. Plus, so far I've had pretty good luck with making connections and the planes leaving on time (it was late leaving JFK for Houston, but I had no connections to make and no children with me, so I didn't mind, but if I had had the kids with me...ugh!). I also like the TV sets on the back of each chair. Every now and then the sets don't work, so I wouldn't totally rely on those being there. You can still check one bag for free as long as it's under 50 pounds. There are also free chips and beverages. So, there is my plug for JetBlue.

I've been to Boston before, but driving down from Vermont. We've been to the aquarium a couple of times and the Italian district. It's totally different when you use the train/subway system and stay with someone who lives there (well, just outside of Boston, anyway). The subway system is nice (it would probably take me a while to figure it out) and I would LOVE to be able to not need a car. I hate driving in Boston. I don't like driving in Houston, and Dallas even less, but Boston? Boston is the worst. The city is great, the driving is terrifying.

So Thursday Ellen Aim and I went to a couple of her favorite pub spots. We went to Grendel's Den where they have half-price food from 5:30 to 7 PM. The beer is great (we had the Cambridge Ale), the food is...so-so. The pretzels were fine and the spinach/artichoke/snow crab dip was oookay, but we ordered some sort of Camembert dip (I remember it was supposed to have caraway seeds in it) that was orange. The light was dim. Perhaps it was pink. We tried to like it, but after eating half of it decided it "had grown off of us". I don't see it on the website menu at the moment. Still, the pub is worth a second try next time I visit! The butternut squash ravioli with sage and brown butter (damn, everyone makes that dish, but at least it is worthy of repetition) was perhaps a special as I don't see it on the menu. This was not bad at all. Oh yes, it had pecans. Lovely pecans. So definitely worth a second try. After that, I am not sure what we did. There was walking around and hanging out at her apartment, visiting a cute little Japanese store, and so on. We ended up at John Harvard's. I didn't take notes and I don't see what we had on the menu. Figures. I think we had the Oktoberfest brews (excellent), but I also had some sort of special stout, which was malty and wonderful. I'd go back for the beer. The food was not as impressive. We had mozzarella sticks, which were dry and lukewarm. However, they were very generous with the sauce. I was exhausted at this point and we went home.

Friday! Time to drive out to Seneca Falls, where we stayed at John Morris Manor Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast here is absolutely wonderful. It's clean, it's cute, and I would absolutely stay here again. I love bed and breakfasts so much more than hotels! They do have two dogs, who are friendly, but also not shy. May not be the place for you if you are really not a dog person. It would be a shame to miss breakfast here, though. Seneca Falls, itself, however, was not too exciting. We had a hard time finding a place to eat. Many shops appear to be out of business. We ate at a pizza/pasta place that did not have its alcohol license yet. We ordered pasta. We were served with what looked like at least a pound of pasta each. It was unremarkable in flavor. The garlic rolls that came before the pasta were crusty, warm, and flavorful. We filled up on those.
Then back to John Morris Manor (where there is no wifi, but we lived). We horked a couple of chocolate chip cookies and went to bed.

Saturday morning, we were treated to a fresh fruit plate, tea, pancakes with blueberry sauce,and a sort of baked egg frittata (but looked like it was baked in a pan and then cut into squares--very fluffy and light and delicious. I'm going to try this.) with cheese. The other guests (two couples at the same table with us) were utterly charming. There was also juice. Dogs did a bit of begging.

I have neglected to mention that since Thursday morning (the morning I left for Boston), every thing I ate had a bitter, metallic aftertaste. Everything. Water. Bread. Worst culprits were greens and sweet things. I was so paranoid that I had some mysterious dental issue going on. It wasn't so bad the day I got to Boston, but the absolute worst day was Saturday, the day we were going on the wine trails. So that was a bit of a downer.

So keeping in mind that I could not properly taste wine to save my life, we started at Eleven Lakes Winery, which is just down the road from John Morris Manor. This is exciting because it's new and had their grand opening on October 3rd. I bought a bottle of red for Doug. It's long gone now, but I'm pretty sure it was the Cabernet Franc. The innkeeper at John Morris Manor recommended it.

Then we had cheese further down the road. Oh, the cheese tasted so good and then the weird bitter taste symptom appeared. We both bought the Horseradish cheddar cheese (I'm sorry I don't have the name of the farm that made the cheese at the moment. I'll try to find it).

Then we went to Knapp Winery in Romulus (insert Star Trek joke here). Again, taste buds fail me here, but I will say putting pictures of cats on the label that look like they have been to the taxidermist is not a good marketing idea. There is a huge selection here. They have a whole category of "fruit" wines, which is really not my thing, but there it is. Neither of us cared for any of the wine we tasted (I will say you can taste anything they sell in your wine tasting--I can't remember how many wines you get to have in one tasting, but it's a significant amount). However, once we realized we could taste the limoncello or limencello, we had to try it. The lemoncello is quite good and Ellen Aim bought a bottle (wish I had, too). Next time I'll try the limencello. Maybe I'll even try the restaurant next time! This vineyard was very popular--it was full of people and cars when we arrived.

Our last vineyard stop was Americana Vineyards and Winery, where we went to last year.

We resolved to go again this year, because the food there is wonderful, and the Apparition wine (blend of Cayuga grapes) was a favorite. Really, this winery is the one to go to for wine made from Cayuga grapes. The Cayuga White is also very good. Clean, crisp, dry. The Apparition is a bit sweeter (not at all too much, mind you). The Finger Lakes region seems better suited to white wines in my very limited experience so far. The winery also had a tasting menu of blueberry wines, which we had to try. Avoid that. The best of those was the last item on the tasting menu, which was the dessert wine. That was okay.

Waiting for a table at lunch was a long 45 minutes or so.

It was worth the wait. Everything tastes fresh and in-house. The bread on the sandwiches is very classy. The menu was different than last year, so we couldn't get the little dish full of nibblies we had last year. I had a grilled chicken sandwich with arugula pesto and sweet potato fries (not soggy! crispy! delightful!) and Ellen Aim had pork chops with mashed red potatoes and kale. Oh, the kale was sort of disappointing. It had sliced carrots in it and what tasted like reduced apple cider in it. It was too sweet for me. I am noticing a trend here. It may not escape your notice I'm not a huge fan of sweet things. Really, I like sweet things. In moderation. It didn't help that when I ate sweet things, the bitter after taste in my mouth was at its worst. Perhaps the kale was just fine. Maybe Ellen Aim will weigh in. It was her dish, after all. The winery also sells fudge, which is delicious for a small bite. I really loved the coconut fudge.

The winery also has a very friendly adorable cat.

I was totally exhausted at this point (I am also predictable), so we went back to the inn. We decided not to venture out again into the depressing place that Seneca Falls is at night (we did find a liquor store...no Tuaca, but we got some Godiva liqueur). We put a disk of Supernatural in and ate some of the lovely Horseradish cheese with some leftover crackers in the car and called it a night. We had to eat in the living area instead of our room (completely understandable). Fortunately, the room was empty so we didn't have to share Supernatural with the other guests.

I'll save the rest of the trip for another post.

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