New York- June 12, 2019

June 12th. Many things have happened on that date in history. In 1099 Crusade leaders visited the Mount of Olives where they met a hermit who urged them to assault Jerusalem. The 12th of 1923 saw Harry Houdini escape from a straight jacket while suspended upside down 40ft in the air. “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, and Richard Burton premiered at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City in 1963. In 1987 Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. June 12th is the birthday of Anne Frank, George H.W. Bush as well as actors Jason Mewes, Timothy Busfield, Eamonn Walker, and Jim Nabors. And most recently, the person who is  President of the United States, on paper anyway, added to his long list of embarrassing comments and stated he would accept information from a foreign power on his political opponents and not involve the FBI. And lost in all that information is my birthday, June 12, 1973 which is at the root of my trip to the Big Apple. After a pretty rough beginning to my year which saw both the end of a relationship followed by surgery requiring my head to be cut open, I made it a point to be very selfish and do something just for me on my birthday.

I found out months ago that one of my favorite guitar players, Paul Gilbert, was not only playing at the Iridium Jazz Club in NY, but also playing on my birthday. As such, I not only got a ticket for the show but splurged for the meet and greet before the show which not only entailed the usual swag bag and photo op but also a guitar lesson from the man himself. But first, let’s get the bad news out of the way.

I made my reservation to spend the night at the Manhattan Hotel at Times Square. In short, DO NOT stay there. The price was reasonable for New York and the rooms shown on the website appeared very modern, bright, and clean. I can only assume most of the photos were of their higher end suites and rooms for my room appeared nothing like them. The hallway leading to the room was dark and dank. There was obvious dirt on the hall furniture, pealing wall paper, and stained ceiling tiles galore. While my room seemed clean, the furniture was old, scratched, and dented. The bathroom was beyond dated with many chipped tiles and the overall lighting of the room was again dark making for an uncomfortable space. Fortunately I wasn’t going to be spending much time in my room. The only positives I can say is that the staff was courteous and I did not wind up with bed bugs (thank goodness). I did my due diligence in making all this known to the hotel manager. OK, enough of my complaining, it’s time to head out.

First off, for anyone who has never been to New York, do not be surprised at the prices. One might look at the cost of things and feel they are overpriced and compared to other cities and towns, yeah, they are. But it’s across the board. No one place is getting the better of you than the other. It is what it is in New York. I started my evening grabbing a couple of drinks and light snack at the SuperNova Bar inside the Novotel Hotel. It’s a decent enough bar with an outside area that has a great views, specifically of Times Square. So far, a good start to the evening. Afterwards, I made my way to the Iridium for the meet and greet.

 

This is only the second time I’ve gone for a meet and greet and I have to say this one exceeded my expectations. First off, there was only three of us total which made for a very personal and intimate experience. Paul himself was so completely laid back, down znHwEmpEQQSDfcHNxIqv%Qto earth, and friendly. I never once got the feeling that he was phoning it in. He genuinely seemed to enjoy spending time with his fans. It started off with a guitar lesson where he first went over some alternative playing techniques which was followed by a couple music theory lessons. You can easily see how much he loves playing guitar, talking about it, and passing on what he knows. The lesson was followed by the usual photo op. Then we got sit through their sound check which was basically a short 4 song set being played just for us. The experience ended with the usual swag bag of a T-shirt, guitar picks, CDs, and autographs. Meet and greets are always a bit pricey but compared to the last one I did, this was less expensive and definitely had more bang for the buck. Well done by Paul, his band, and his crew all around.

Once the meet and greet was done, it was time for the show. I paid the extra $10 bucks for reserved seating and combined with being there for the meet and greet, this got me a great seat right up front. Similar to a comedy club, the Iridium has a two item minimum which can be any combo of food and drink. However, while again it’s on the pricey side, where it differs from a comedy club is that the food is much better quality if not somewhat basic. The show itself was awesome. I had seen Paul before and this show was so much more. I’ve been a fan of his since the late 80’s and liking his stuff with Racer X and less so with Mr. Big. I have to say, over the years he has not only gotten better but his playing has matured so much. While he retains his technical chops and ability to shred, he has now coupled that with so much more soulfulness and fluidity. His new material from his new album “Behold Electric Guitar” is simultaneously a departure for him yet still quintessentially Paul Gilbert in his technique. In addition to his new material, he performed a couple of cover songs that he made is uniquely his own. One was a genius mash up of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and one of his older songs, “Scarified”. The other was a little tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore with the song “Still I’m Sad”. Please check out the embedded videos to see what I mean. Playing as part of four piece with keyboards rounding out the bass and drums made for a fun, groovy set. Not just a great guitar player, Paul tells very funny and entertaining stories setting up his songs as the set goes along. The only down side is that it made the 2 hours quickly pass by. If you are a guitar player, a fan of guitar players, or just a fan of good music, you owe it to yourself to check out Paul Gilbert (Disclaimer: Paul Gilbert nor his associates has paid me one red cent to write these kind words. Ahem, ahem, cough, cough.)

My night unofficially ended by checking out a couple of high end roof top bars, specifically the St. Cloud Roof Top Bar and 230 Fifth Rooftop. The former is atop The Knickerbocker Hotel having both an indoor and outdoor bar that also has a great view of Times Square. The latter is farther away with a large indoor section and an outdoor bar the next floor up. Both very different in their decor and equally nice. That said, they were both dead with the St. Cloud closing early. So, while the city may never sleep, it seems most of the people actually do.

Despite a couple of not so great things, I had a great time and very much enjoyed the quick jaunt up to Manhattan. The only thing I would do different in the future is pick a night with more people out and about and do a much better job in choosing a hotel.

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Los Angeles- January 2019

Here’s another one for the “late” file. This was a trip my friend Artie and I had been talking about for a while. A trip to hang out on Sunset Strip at the Rainbow and pay homage to our metal roots as well as Lemmy from Motörhead and then had to the annual NAMM show and check out all the new music gear and listen to numerous bands playing on various stages. Oh and of course get our drink on. I suggested to Artie we should hike out to the old MASH set at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. For anyone who is a fan of the show or just taking a day hike in general it is well worth the trip if you are in the area. The rusted out vehicles are original from the show having been left there after filming was done. The Mess Hall and sign post were recreations after the fact. That area has seen its share of fires and in actuality one had just came through the November prior to our trip. Despite seeing some areas of fire damage, it did not take away from the beauty of the area. The best part was probably when we discovered the bridge was out on the trail to the site and in trying to cross, I took a bit of a “swim”.

If you are a fan of metal and hard rock, then taking a night to hang out at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip something you should do once. It’s actually a chill bar and with the legality of things in California, a place once can really chill out. Plus there is a statue to honor the man, the myth, the legend, Lemmy. What more can you ask for. We had a blast and after being told “If you are going to stumble around in here, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” we felt it best to get back to the hotel, which I don’t remember.

The final part of trip was the NAMM show in Anaheim. This was a blast. As a guitar player I was in my glory seeing all the displays of new and unique guitars, amps, pedals, etc. Overall, it’s basically a 3 day party. There are gourmet food trucks lined up and down the main street feeding you until your hearts content, numerous stages with bands playing live music throughout the day, and hotel bars open to everyone. While I didn’t happen to meet any famous musicians, I did get to meet Ken Haas of Reverent Guitars, one of my favorite brands.

It was a quick long weekend trip but well worth it.

Poland: October 2018 (aka traveling with family)

To say this blog post is a bit late would be much more than an understatement. For whatever reason, I just could not sit down and get in the right frame of mind to write about this trip. This trip was many things. It was glorious to visit family I’ve known about and had never met before. It was bittersweet in that it was the last trip with my ex-partner, a person I greatly enjoyed traveling with. It was trying and frustrating traveling with my family, specifically my parents, who complained about many things on a trip that was paid for them. It was exciting to learn from my mother’s family they had genealogical information on her biological father whom we knew next to nothing about. It was surreal to talk with mother Babci’s brother in Warsaw who was a proud and staunch, real life, original gangster communist. It was delicious to eat all the food there. It was heartwarming to see the meal  my mother’s family prepared for us in Jasieniec. It was surprising to see how rude the Frankfurt Airport personnel was with taking my dad to the connecting flight (especially since my tripe to Germany in 2017 was so positive). Given the time that has transpired and the things that have occurred in my life since then, I find it hard to write about this trip in great detail. Rest assured it was a trip I will cherish and recommend to anyone interested to visit Poland.

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The Triple A Road Trip: Annapolis, Alexandria, & Arlington

So, it has been a long time since I was last able to publish something on here and I’m glad to be back… for now. I guess you could say we didn’t stay with the “A’s” as we also visited Great Falls. Conversely, we could really stretch the definition to quadruple A as we visited the Arboretum (National Arboretum). However it is defined, this was a fun last minute road trip. By last minute, I mean extremely last minute. I’ve tried to make it a yearly tradition to take time off for my birthday and do something or go somewhere. Of recent years, that has combined doing the American Cancer Society ACS bik-a-thon (a very worthy charity if you are into cycling) and taking a short trip. This year my partner Teena and I were leaving our travel plans to a last minute decision. It came down to this road trip and a last minute cheap flight to anywhere. Unfortunately the last minute cheap flight had many travel date restrictions which did not work out so the road trip won out.

Getting there, we opted to forgo traveling down I-95 and took the back roads through Delaware and Maryland crossing Kent Island and the William Preston Lane, Jr Memorial Bridge which all but takes you right into Annapolis. On Kent Island we took a little side trip to the Southern point of the island which was met with road construction and a private road which thwarted reaching our destination point. On turning around, we saw signs for “Historic Stevensville” and decided to check that out instead. Warning, if you plan on seeing this, do not blink. No this is not some obscure Dr. Who reference. The historic downtown is literally the meeting of several corners. It passed so fast we literally had to go back to confirm what we saw, err, or rather, didn’t see. So onward to Annapolis.

Overall, Annapolis is a visually charming town with small, colorful row homes. There are a lot of the typical tourist shops selling trinkets and T-shirts. It is apparently home of the sailboats “Woodwind I” and “Woodwind II” the latter of which is featured in the movie “The Wedding Crashers”, at least according to the tourist map. And in case you didn’t already know, home of the U.S. Naval Academy. However I have to say, to me, the town was a little too small. I’m not speaking in overall acreage but more of the size of the streets and how close together the buildings are situated. It was a little claustrophobic to me.

That said, what it lacks in street width, it makes ups for in dining and libations. Admittedly, we were only there for one night so it is possible we picked the best two places but I doubt that. Our first stop was the Fox’s Den. Situated in a sub street level unit under other stores and restaurants, its location, decor, and drink selection gave it a speakeasy feel. They have a nice selection of cocktails of which the Penicillin 1870 and District Boulevardier we can speak for as being quite excellent. Additionally, they have a unique craft beer selection and the coconut cream ale I ordered had a perfectly sculpted head in addition to being the smoothest beer I have ever had. Not enough O’s in the word smooth to describe its taste (sorry Genny Cream Ale). We then moved on to find our dinner for the evening. For this I have to give credit my partner Teena for seeing that Café Normandie had IMG_2480rabbit on the menu, a recent favorite of mine, in the form of a rabbit pot pie. The restaurant has a rustic feel to it and though they have a rather refined appearing menu, nothing about the restaurant came off as pretentious either. We opted for a bottle of wine with dinner. While I would like to come across as a connoisseur of fine wine, I honestly just recognized the name “Rothschild” from TV and movies when I ordered the Château Malmaison-Rothschild, Médoc. It was a good gamble as the wine was not only good on it’s own but went very well with the rabbit. The portions were plentiful, so much so, we had no room left for dessert. We soon went back to our hotel and drifted off into our food coma induced sleep.

The next morning we were off to the DC area. Our first stop was to the National Arboretum. While there is no admission fee, they do work partially off of donations. They have quite the impressive collection of Bonsai trees on display, some growing since the 1600’s. Overall, I’m for any green space within city limits. However, traffic noise was quite noticable which did take me out of the moment at times. Likewise, I would have liked to see more foot paths through the park rather than or in addition to black top roadways to get around. It’s a very worthwhile excursion but I might recommend doing it during the cooler spring or autumn months.

We then made our way to Alexandria, VA and the Hampton Inn which would be our accommodations for the next two nights. Though outside of the Old Town district of Alexandria, that was balanced by the overall room price, the inclusion of a hot breakfast, and a free shuttle to and from Old Town making it’s location rather moot. Over the next two nights, we fully took advantage of the shuttle and wandered up and down King Street sampling numerous watering holes and their various cocktails as well as multiple restaurants pacing ourselves with appetizers and meals. There is such a multitude of great places to eat and drink, I think one would have to work hard to be disappointed. While I can’t go into detail regarding every place we ate, I can at least list a few of them. La Tasca has amazing tapas style appetizers and sangria, Hen Quarter has great fried chicken, comfort food, and bourbon (and bourbon flights). If you prefer something a little more mainstream but still with it’s own identity, check out a regional chain called Blackwall Hitch. Like more of a dive bar feel (said with all due respect) hit up the Bayou Room, the lower level of Two Nineteen Restaurant. There seems to be something for everyone on King Street. The one place that stands out from all the rest also happens to be another French place, La Fromagerie. They have a wonderful assortment of cheese and charcuterie you won’t find at many places. Additionally, their wine selection is even more unique. I asked our server if she could surprise me with a wine I would not normally be exposed to. I was presented with a 2016 Domaine De Clovallon Les Indijènes. From what was explained to me by our server as well as reading online, this is an unfiltered wine that is allowed to ferment spontaneously that comes from old vines which had survived a regional catastrophe. The result was an aroma of berries that was slightly musty and a taste and feel that was earthy with a hint of fruit, dry, and mineral like. It was without a doubt the most unique wine I have ever had. Despite what you may think from my description, it was quite excellent. As an added bonus they have an out of place yet hilarious painting of John Goodman from The Big Lebowski. I am most certainly this eatery’s target demographic.

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Old City Alexandria has much more to offer than just food and drink. Their waterfront region is quite vibrant with parks making for a nice evening stroll as well as water taxi services to DC  and National Harbor. So nice, it makes me wish nearby Philadelphia could / would bring theirs up to par. There are ghost tour bar crawls and many small museums we did not get a chance to visit while there. Additionally, they seem to support local artists a great deal. To be repetitive, there truly is something for everyone.

The Next day we proceeded to Great Falls National Park. It’s a very short ride outside of the DC area but a world away in scenery. It is a National Park so there is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle which covers all passengers that is good for 3 days (or $5 per person by foot or bike). As the name suggests, this is home to a rather splendid water fall. There are several viewing points to get that photo op you are looking for with two of them wheelchair accessible. There are also multiple hiking trails, with one that goes through the ruins of the old canal locks. The falls are as great to view as listen to and the trails are nicely kept and marked. Though I have to say the “ruins” are a bit underwhelming. Afterwards we then went to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. This stop piqued my interest as I have a fascination with the Masons, the Knights Templars, and their rumored connection. As one might expect, it is quite lavishly ordained in its architecture with highly sculpted columns, murals, and statues. There are several floors with varying information regarding Washington himself, the construction of the monument, and the Masonic organization itself. The 9th floor has an observation deck with a great view of Alexandria and DC in the distance. While Alexandria has Philadelphia beat on the waterfront, Philadelphia’s Masonic Temple and tour far outweigh the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

Our final day was spent visiting Arlington National Cemetery. For what the George Washington Masonic Monument has in
its opulence, Arlington has in it’s simplicity, tradition, and somberness. Whatever your opinions are of war and the governments who engage in them, I think and hope we can all agree those soldiers who have defended  their country during times of war should be honored. It takes a special person to put their life on the line forIMG_2552 something larger than themselves. The tombstones and memorials are beautiful in their simplicity with maybe the exception of the Memorial Amphitheater IMG_2586which is not only ornate but quite large in stature. Overall, it is a crossroads of beauty and sadness. Many memorials create a place for quiet contemplation and introspection such as the eternal flame marking the grave site of JFK and Jackie Kennedy. Those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are rather awe inspiring in their precision of motion, dedication, and commitment. The changing of the guard alone is worth visiting these hallowed grounds. Though I had visited here years prior, I am glad we decided to include this on our trip.

So many people make visits to the DC area specifically to see the nation’s capitol. I’m not saying there aren’t things to see in DC. However, do not overlook the areas surrounding the capitol. There is much in the way of history, nature, and entertainment around DC that one should check out. Specifically, I can’t recommend Alexandria enough. So much so, that my partner and I are already looking to go back.

Another World Close To Home

While I have been to the area numerous times, starting as a kid when our parents took us tubing on the Delaware River, it has only been the past 5 years or so that I have truly appreciated the cross river towns of New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ. They have become a regular destination for me whether it be a day/weekend trip with my partner Teena, my yearly day trip with my sister’s Renee and Dianne (which I always look forward to), or more recently to spend the evening dining on amazing food and seeing a show. The towns offer numerous activities and each have their own distinctive personality. Whether you enjoy shopping, cycling, simple to fine dining, bed and breakfast weekend trips, art, there is something for most everyone.

I don’t think there is a wrong way to see these quaint towns, but if you want to see both in one day, may I suggest starting out in Lambertville. Specifically, with Rojo’s Roastery. 20090706-clover-rojo3Located on Union street a little off the main shopping area. Part coffee shop, part industrial space with glass garage doors that they open when the weather is nice, it is the perfect place to get your caffeine fix before starting the day. The main district centered around Bridge street is the perfect place to walk around and stretch your legs visiting the  many antique shops, art galleries, specialty food stores such as Savour, and home decor stores. Once you have worked up an appetite, there are many great restaurants to grab lunch and a good cocktail (or two, or three). We typically dine at either The Lambertville Station or The Lambertville House. Both have an excellent menu and well made cocktails. I’ve always felt Lambertville had a slightly European feel between the art galleries, iron railings, and window shutters commonly seen which again gives it a distinctively different feel than it’s neighbor across the way.

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Once refueled, it is just a short walk (or drive) across the bridge to New Hope. One of the few places you can cross the Delaware River without a toll. To me, New Hope has a decidedly different feel. The oddly angled streets, the now defunct canal that bisects the town, and it being more hilly in nature has always made it feel a bit more hobbit like to me. Again you will find more shopping but in contrast, the stores here are more eclectic and exotic in nature. You will also find more local clothiers as well. Likewise, you will new-hopefind many places to eat of a wider range. From John & Peters, a straightforward bar that showcases local music to Nektar which has a wide selection of wines and whiskies along with small Tapas like dishes. Though very different from each other, the Gemini in me likes them both equally. Sometimes you just want a simple bar and hear some live, original music and sometimes you want a good Manhattan. Again, there is something for everyone and every taste. Restaurant wise, I would say the two standouts are The Logan Inn and Marsha Brown. The Logan has a warm and inviting atmosphere, the main dining area is further warmed figuratively and literally by a cozy fire place which makes for a perfect dinner setting after a long day walking around, especially in the winter months. The inn itself has a reported history of being haunted, with Room 6 supposedly being the most active. Sadly, I cannot report first hand on this as I have for some reason never stayed there. A mistake I must remedy soon.

At this point, I must go on a slight tangent and talk specifically about Marsha Brown. 37503a67eb51bc76f45ef63dfd656993--creole-kitchen-chopped-saladWhile I have been there once prior and dined in the first floor bar area, it was on a more recent visit that I really appreciated this establishment. An old church converted into a restaurant, Marsha Brown is a Southern Creole inspired venue which offers some of the most unique atmosphere I’ve ever dined in, eclipsed only by their magnificent menu. I do recommend making a reservation as this is not a place you can easily just show up and get a table. Once we arrived, we were escorted to a table located in the balcony that at one time I imagine had and organ and/or choir. Once seated, we have a spectacular view of the main dining area and the magnificent mural on the back wall.  A bar that lacks for nothing, unique appetizers to classic oysters to main courses that tantalize one’s taste buds. My Manhattan was perfectly mixed and balanced. Oysters from the West and East Coast created a mollusk variety of goodness. My NY Strip with Creole style Bayou dry rub was cooked to perfection (medium rare) and was the most flavorful, tender steak I’ve ever had. If you ever want to splurge and treat yourself to an out of this world meal, this is the place to go.

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As I said, there are many things to do in the area. After our meal at Marsha Brown, we 26197938_10156004256339380_4881106365029906533_othen went to the New Hope Winery to see local singer/guitarist/songwriter and all around nice guy Jeffrey Gaines perform. The winery has a nice 250 seat indoor venue and hosts shows on a regular basis. The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad has an old steam locomotive that has dinner excursions as well as themed rides during Halloween and Christmas. The Delaware Canal Towpath trail offers hiking and cycling along both sides of the river of various distances. There is tubing and rafting down the Delaware River itself and hiking at nearby Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Last and certainly not least, there is the Bucks County Playhouse which not only continues to operate but like the Logan Inn has reports of being haunted.

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Some things to take note of. Parking is at a bit of a premium in both towns. Metered parking in Lambertville is commonly found but does use the Parkmobile app for convenience. New Hope has a mix of metered parking and kiosks along with paid lots. Lots can be upwards of $20 but if you park in the lot behind The Logan Inn, it’s free if you are staying at the inn or half price if you dine at the inn and show your receipt. In addition, the weekends can get pretty crowded, especially when the weather is nice.

So, if you are from the area and have yet to visit either of these two towns, I would highly suggest you correct that situation as soon as we are out of this January freeze. They are local gems a short drive away that everyone should take advantage of.

Local Flavor- Giumarello’s

As much as I like to dine while traveling, one still has their favorites close to home. And if I’m going to have kind things to say about restaurants abroad, I would be remiss if I did not give similar accolades to those establishments I enjoy locally.  Without a doubt for me and my girlfriend, that place is Giumarrello’s. Granted we may be a little biased as this was where our first date took place but I was already aware of how good Giumarrello’s was at that point. I can simply sum up why in four points, a fantastic cocktail list, an excellent menu, great atmosphere, a pleasant and attentive staff.

The restaurant has a low lit yet very warm atmosphere that, along with the staff, is very welcoming. There is a mix of seating with reserved tables, first come/first serve tables, and a large seated bar area. There is outdoor seating available and a selection of tables in both the reserved and first come/first serve areas are perfect for people watching, if that is something one enjoys.

 

One of the reasons my girlfriend and I quite enjoy this establishment is their cocktail menu. While they have an equally extensive wine and beer list, it is definitely the variety and quality of their cocktails that keep us coming back. Of the many you can pick from, two have become my regular go to cocktails. The first is the Vesper Martini (pictured left). If you have seen the Bond movie “Casino Royal” with Daniel Craig, then this may sound familiar to you. The martini uses both gin and vodka along with a little something extra to make this a very smooth Martini with just a little bite. They make if perfect every time. As good as that cocktail is, it has recently garnered some tough competition in the Dubliner (pictured right, nearly finished). This whiskey cocktail is very flavorful, balanced, and beyond smooth. There is definitely something for everyone on their cocktail list.

 

As good as the drinks are, the food is even better. The menu has an excellent mix of steaks, seafood, and Italian dishes along with interesting appetizers and decadent desserts. Both the oysters and the shrimp pancetta have been regular favorites of mine to start off with. On this recent visit, I opted for the wild mushroom bisque and I was not disappointed. For my main course, I got the bone in ribeye “Cowboy” steak medium. I don’t eat steak that much at home and actually don’t order it out much either. Every time I get steak here, it is cooked to perfection, and this was no exception. I can’t say I have one favorite dish from their main courses. I try to not order the same thing every time I’m there and they have all been outstanding.

As I mentioned before, the staff is impeccable. They are attentive and polite without being overbearing. The waitstaff has their timing in that regard down pat and the waitstaff and kitchen have their timing down to a science. Any mistakes are corrected or otherwise addressed. Honestly, I’ve only encountered one and even then it was brought to my attention by the waiter without me even noticing it first. One nice touch is that the manager is very present and aware. Each time we go, he has always stopped by the table to ask how our meal was. Always pleasant, he seems earnest to here what one has to say.

If I were to have any criticism of the restaurant, I would say the parking. The parking is a mix of self park and free valet, however there seems to very little self parking. On many nights only the valet seems available and as one who carries very little cash, I feel awkward not having anything to tip valet. Perhaps I bear some responsibility in that regard? While it would be nice to have more self parking spots, I’m not sure they have anywhere to put the additional spots.

Despite that one area of criticism, it does not impact my view of Giumarello’s at all. I feel this restaurant hits all the marks and if you live in the area of Haddon Township, NJ this restaurant should be on your list.

Boston- Food, Fenway, Friendship, and METAL!

This was certainly not my first foray to Bean town. It’s a city that thanks to one of my best friends Brian Haley I’ve explored multiple times. One of the many things I like about Boston is that it has so much to offer but is not so large it becomes daunting. It has history, great restaurants, and a great public transportation system that allows you to easily go all over the city. This was one of those three day whirlwind trips (not my first) Brian and I planned out many months ago centered around seeing one of our favorite metal bands, Anthrax. As usual, there was much more than just the concert.

My train arrived at 1:15pm on a Saturday and Brian was there to meet me at South Station. Our hotel, The Verb, was close by and we were quickly checked. Definitely a different hotel. The hotel has a music theme to it. A small area of great music memorabilia and a small record library available to guests as each room is furnished with a record player. If you are looking for something like the Four Seasons, this may not be the place for you. Parking is a flat fee of $48.00 (not nightly/daily) which for city parking is phenomenal per my friend Brian. It is also located right next to Fenway and around the block from House of Blues where Anthrax was playing making things quite convenient. If you are looking for a place that is a lot of fun with friendly, helpful staff, and you don’t mind a sign with a large guy who looks like Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors, then this maybe right up your alley.

Being the gentleman that Brian is, we had a couple rounds of McCallan that he brought for the weekend. We quickly headed out and started an unplanned bar crawl of the Fenway area bars. Unfortunately, we neglected to pace ourselves not acknowledging we are no longer in our early twenties. After a brief break back at the hotel, we decided to hit The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar. I rarely say “no” to oysters. The darkly lit but warm decor was perfect for our last stop of the night. The food was excellent with a wide selection of savory choices but nothing too out of the ordinary. After starting with a round of oysters, I went with the safe choice of their cheeseburger. It was quite good despite being a common menu item. Flavorful, juicy, and cooked to order. We rounded out the meal by sharing some bread pudding, as any hardcore heavy metal fans would do. However, the star of the evening was their Manhattan (hopefully you are not sensing a pattern to my blog articles). I’m quite a fan of both Gin Martinis and Manhattans and this was by far the best cocktail of that ilk I’ve had. I simply let the waiter surprise me with his choice of bourbon from their vast selection and viola, perfection. His choice was Basil Hayden’s small batch bourbon from Clermont Kentucky. It was the perfect balance of sweet combined with the slight bite of bourbon.

The next day, after breakfast, we decided to take a tour of Fenway Park. I highly recommend this if you have the chance. Even if you are not a baseball fan, there is a lot of history here. Some well known, some not so much. While they have replaced many of the original seats, there are still sections under the 2nd level that still have the original seats from when it first opened in 1912. The view from the seats atop The Green Monster is quite good and to me is worth a return trip to see a game from up there. You have the lone red seat commemorating when unsuspecting fan Joseph A. Boucher survived Ted William’s record 502 foot dinger.  The prior owner’s Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey names in Morse Code on the left field scoreboard which is where they used to have picnics and listen to the Red Sox away games. It was also a great surprise to see that they have created Fenway Farms where they grow produce on the roof to supply the stadium food services.  A very well done and informative tour.

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Before we knew it, it was time to get to the show. We arrived early as I had surprised Brian by getting the VIP meet and greet before the show. It is something I’ve wanted to do and I knew Brian being an even bigger fan that I would enjoy it. One might get exaggerated images of backstage passes and partying with the band but that is not the case. There was a pretty large group who had gotten the package and it was well organized for the most part. It was also pretty quick but I think it rather had to be. I can only imagine how many fans they meet and sign autographs for before each show and this was the last show of their American tour. Even still, they were very down to earth, very appreciative of their fans. In particular, Joey Belladonna seem to really light up when I told him how great it was to see him back with the band.

Anthrax shared co-billing with Killswitch Engage and they had two opening bands in The Devil Wears Prada and Code Orange. All the bands put on a great show and put out their all.  However, Brian and I were there to see Anthrax and we were not disappointed. Their set was intense and they played a great mix of old and new songs. Joey’s vocals are still amazing after all these years and their energy has not diminished one bit. It’s been 26 years since I first saw them and they still do not let down their fans. The mosh pits were still fierce and despite some minor aches and pains post show, I was please to know I could still hang in the pit. And just when you thought the intensity could not get any higher, they hit the war dance part of “Cry for the Indians”, their closing song, and the floor went insane. Just of sea of bodies moving like a tidal wave. Thankfully I had the big man Brian to help keep me vertical. It was great to see that even though those in the pits are much younger than Brian and I, they are still very cool and maintain proper pit etiquette, helping up those who fall to the ground, and not making intentional moves to hurt people. On the funny end, I’ve always known I’m not as heavy as I look and it was once again confirmed here. In my still successful run at crowd surfing, Brian and the guy who tried to get me up dropped me and the security guard who got me at the front of the stage collapsed under me. Oops. Still quite a rush.

Boston. Just go there. You will have a great time no matter what you do. If you have the chance, take the Fenway tour if not take in a game. If you are fan of Metal, go see Anthrax. They put on a phenomenal show. You probably still have plenty of time but why wait?