The Hunt for Delicious Seafood (and Beer) in New England

As shared in my previous blog, the first half of our Boston trip was not exactly smooth.  That included no seafood for me, which made me very cranky.  However we still had another 5 days to spend in the area, and our next stop was to my husband’s best friend’s house.

Tony’s childhood friend, Brian, and his wife, Sam, live in Newburyport, Massachusettes.  Their home is one of the cutest I have ever seen, looking like it belongs in a home decor magazine.  Each room showcases a bit of New England flavor, from the nautical curtains to the posters of cities in Maine.

Arriving at their home was an extra special occasion, as their daughter was born only 3 weeks before Matilda.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it.  It was adorable to watch these future best friends interact with each other.  It was even better to see the two new dads and lifelong besties in action with their baby girls.

Besties for life

Da Bears

Our time with Brian and Sam was wonderful and relaxing.  We finally had the opportunity to do some of the things we had attempted with my family.  This included eating oysters and lobster, and drinking quality New England beer.   It also included doing some Halloween-type things given the proximity to the holiday.

On Friday night, we hit up two different seafood restaurants.  We started off at Sea Level Oyster Bar for the delicious oysters.  I seriously ate about 12 on my own.  It had been such a long time since I’d enjoyed quality oysters and I relished every briny, tangy slurp.  I wanted to keep ordering more but Tony quickly reminded me of the price tag so I slowed down.

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seafood

After our oysters, we drove to New Hampshire for dinner.  That is one thing I always find so cool about New England – you drive for 20 minutes and you’re in another state.

We were introduced to Petey’s, a divey-looking seaside restaurant.  The decor and look of the restaurant almost gave it more credibility in terms of the food we were about to eat.  It was right by the sea, and the outlet focused more on the quality of food than the decoration.  It’s exactly the type of place you know will satisfy your taste buds.

seafood

seafood

seafood

LAAAAAABSTAAAAAA – Finally!!!

Tony ordered a stuffed lobster and I ordered the “lazy man” lobster (no shell).  I was trying to feed Matilda while enjoying the food.  It was just as amazing as I had hoped.  We coupled the dinner with pumpkin beers (cinnamon rim even!) and went to bed that night with full and happy bellies.

Saturday was our last full day before flying back to Zurich, and we took the opportunity to really celebrate Halloween.  We started off at a pumpkin patch where we captured the most adorable photos of the baby girls with pumpkins.  There were also fresh and warm cinnamon sugar donuts to be tried, and I almost passed out from the delicious taste.

We then drove to Salem, the city best known for the witch trials in the late 1600s.  The Salem Witch trials have a lot of controversy and intrigue attached to them.  Salem as a city itself had a spooky sense about it, with magic stores, fortune tellers, and stores dedicated to witchy-ness on every street.

I made a stop over to the cemetery and saw headstones dating back to the early 1700s.  The cemetery also had a section bricked off and dedicated to those that were hanged in the witch trials.  Everything about it felt eerie.

Part of the memorial for those killed in the witch trials

Salem also hosts a small and delicious brewery called Notch Brewing.  The bar is held in an old warehouse garage, and the beers are all German or Czech inspired.  It was surprisingly child-friendly, but they made sure to post plenty of signs about “no running” or “minding your children”.  I guess it’s a good thing Matilda can’t walk.

Matilda knows the value of a good bar

We ended up leaving Boston extremely happy and satisfied.  We spent time with my family and great friends, and enjoyed some delicious seafood and beer.  I hope our next visit to New England is sooner rather than later.

 

 

Cinque Terre, Italy

Tony and I recently came back from an amazing road trip to Cinque Terre, Italy.  It was one of the most random but most spectacular places I’ve visited thus far, and I am excited to recount it here.

As is the Swiss way, there was another holiday in May.  This time it was a 4-day weekend recognizing Ascension, and we rented a car along with our friends Katie and James to drive down to the Italian coast.

Our trip started in a small seaside town called Rapallo and after a long drive, we stopped for lunch at a highly recommended place called Nonna Nina.  It was a home turned restaurant, where Nonno and Nonna literally were cooking in the kitchen and serving the food.  We were starving when we sat down and we were the only customers, trying to patiently and humbly order food from this lovely older man.  We ended up with multiple delicious plates of fresh pasta, and the world’s most amazing chocolate gelato that tasted like cake batter.

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After driving for about 20 more minutes, we ended up at the small hotel we would be spending the night in.  It was a sunny afternoon and we took our time wandering through the city, along the water front, and marveling at the boats and very Italian buildings.  The smells wafting from unique, small white flowers mixed with pasta and seafood from local restaurants made for a very warm feeling in my heart.

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I was instantly in love with Rapallo.  It was extremely charming in multiple ways.  Dinnertime found us at a local seafood restaurant called Il Grottino.  3 of the 4 of us ordered spaghetti with clams, and they brought it out in what looked like a long witches cauldron.  Our friend James ordered a seafood platter and was so excited by what was included (a huge plate of fish), that he hugged the waitress.  It was pretty funny, as we didn’t speak each other’s language, yet his hug transcended any miscommunications.

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We slept well and got on the road early towards Cinque Terre.  Cars are only allowed so far within these small towns and so the boys had to park pretty far from away from the city center.

Cinque Terre actually means 5 towns or 5 lands, and these 5 little villages stretch along the mountains surrounding the sea.  We were staying in Montorosso, which I believe was the largest as it had the most hotel options to choose from.

Montorosso (side note, I have seen 3 different spellings for this town)

I was happy to call this home base as it had a full beach and a variety of cute shops to choose from.  Our first day, we explored the sea shore and then hopped on the trains to visit to the two towns that were furthest away.  Previously, you were able to hike between the 5, however recent flooding has now made this impossible.

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While in Montorosso, we had the opportunity to taste more seafood and some authentic pizza.  The seafood restaurant we visited on our last night was recommended by another local restaurant.  Their house specialty was a huge vase filled with seafood.  Our waitress was pouring it out into a bowl, and first all we saw were clams and mussels.  Then all of a sudden, it gave birth to a full octopus and lobster.  My mouth opened in shock and awe.  James wanted to hug this waitress too.  If you wish for a similar experience, make sure to stop at Belvedere along the water.

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From a shopping perspective, there was a great sandal store I had to see, and Tony was enthralled with a wine shop.  The sandal store was called Lanapo, where adorable sandals were handmade, leather, and reasonably priced.  I purchased the Portovenere pair in mustard yellow for 85 Euros.

Tony and James fell in love with Cantina du Sciacchetra.  And maybe not even the shop so much as the owner, Lorenzo.  It was a true bromance.

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Lorenzo was pretty incredible.  Everything in his shop he insisted you taste and his English was impeccable.  The wines, liquors and pestos were all made by his family and was some of the most fantastic tasting items I have ever experienced.  We have multiple jars of pesto and bottles of wine and grappa in our home now because not only were we charmed by Lorenzo, but also his hard core talent for pleasing the palate.  It was on this trip that was I was introduced to grappa, a liquor made from grape skins.  It is not for the faint of heart, but was quite delicious.

The final special part about Montorosso is the statue carved out of the side of the mountain rock.  Il Gigante was created in the early 1900s but was bombed during WWII so he has no more arms.  It was pretty impressive to see up close.

DSC_3202 DSC_3200Riomaggiore

The first stop after Montorosso was Riomaggiore, the town furthest away.  Just like the other towns, in my opinion it looked similar, with it’s beautiful coastal views and orange-tinted buildings.  However, the buildings here seemed to have the highest amount of differing colors, including reds and blues more often.  My eye is always drawn to strong reds and these are some of my favorite photos.

We had a quick drink here and didn’t spend oodles of time, as we wanted to hit up another of the 5 “terres” before deciding where to eat dinner.

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DSC_3157Manarola

Manarola was next, and the timing was awesome because the sun was starting to set.  The reflection off the water and buildings created a heavenly glow that warmed the whole scene and illuminated the buildings in a magnificent way.  We did some more casual exploring, just enjoying our time in these beautiful and amazing cities.

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Dinner was back in Montorosso at a restaurant called Ciak.  We ordered oysters as an appetizer and they were the biggest I had ever seen.  Damnit, I love Europe!

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Vernazza

The views of Vernazza were just as beautiful as the other places and was one of the only towns you could get to via the hiking path.

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What did make it even better was the awesome restaurant we ate lunch at.  It was called Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre., run by two Sicilian brothers (my people).  While their food was out of this world, that wasn’t the best part.

 

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They spoke English really well and were some of the funniest people we had ever encountered.  They asked us where we were from and had some fantastic one liners.

“You live in Switzerland? What do you think of the Swiss? Have you ever tried to touch one of them?  Their blood is ice.”

“Why do Americans eat eggs?  We don’t have no eggs here.  We even have a sign that says, ‘No eggs, this is Italy, eat our food!’  Really, go look.”

“You know what, I like Americans.  Except Americans from San Francisco.  We tell them, ‘no tap water, because it’s illegal’, and they get angry and go somewhere else.”

The icing on the cake was when an American couple sat down behind us.  The man ordered food for his girlfriend, ordered 1/4 bottle of wine (who does that?) and sent back the free bread because “people from California don’t eat bread”.   Our waiter asked, “Are you from San Francisco?”

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To close, Cinque Terre stole my heart.  I highly recommend a visit to anyone and everyone!