Top 5 Most Memorable Al Fresco Moments of 2016

Ah, yes, the first Monday of the month. How awesome is it though that we have a more pleasant, easy start to the week!? One less “Monday blues” for the year.

It’s been a little quiet around these parts. With my parents back in VA after a week-long visit with us, there’s a lot less buzz in our home to keep it warm and cozy. I’d keep the holiday spirit going forever if I could, but the peace and normalcy that follows a lovely time with the family, and the craze from the end of the year, can offer a sense of comfort too.

As I look back, I see how hectic yet somehow more organized, trying but oftentimes enlightening 2016 has been for me. I can easily come up with a wishlist, a bucket list, AND a “conquered” list to enumerate all my desires as I look on with hope every new year. I find myself, however,  enjoying a nice night-in for NYE this time around, and most inspired by the places and the memories that truly stayed with me. They’ve been my ‘happy pill’ and they’re mine to keep forever shared with people that, in those moments and beyond, touched my life.

What’s been the most rewarding and exciting about my little passion project here is the story behind every photo I get the share with you all. A wise friend once told me that the journey is the destination. On top of the wonderful food and places I’ve been fortunate enough to experience, I can’t forget about everything and everyone that have led me there. So inevitably, I’m sharing with you Al Fresco moments that brought me a lot of joy, usually in the form of happy-dancing tastebuds, a full belly to carry me through the next week, and sore cheeks from smiling ear to ear and laughing (never) too much.

With that, I give you my most memorable Al Fresco moments of 2016:

1. The Black Pearl, Newport, RI (see my post here, or their website here)img_3167

The hubby and I found the Black Pearl by chance, on a stroll around Bannister’s Wharf while in Newport over Christmas, and it was love at first sight. It’s hard to beat a view like this, a “Magic Elixir” concoction, and award-winning clam chowder. A source tells me that they’re not only closing for winter break but also demolishing the 40-year-old outdoor bar for renovations. Now we have this photo for keeps and are eager for a chance to go back!

2. Old Angler’s Inn, Potomac, MD (see my post here, or their website here)img_2722

Old Angler’s Inn in October was a scenic drive and would be a worthwhile post-hike reward through Great Falls Park which just happens to be its friendly neighbor. We could catch a glimpse of their outdoor garden from our patio seating, though it was closed that day. Everything from the butter, the salad, the seafood and the desserts were tastefully and thoughtfully done. They also have an excellent service team that moved our table inside as smoothly as they could when it started pouring on us mid-meal. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and the charming, historic interior at Old Angler’s Inn.

3. The Ruby Slipper Cafe, New Orleans, LA (see my post here, or their website here)dsc00505

I don’t think I gave the Ruby Slipper Cafe enough credit in my original post for the mouth-watering food my girlfriends and I were able to enjoy. Because of its popularity, it is common to wait in line for seating at the restaurant, at either location, but our experience with their Magazine St. location was excellent. We were able to easily access their “no wait” feature and keep track of our place on their list in real time and be notified once our table was ready. I’m a sucker for chicken brunch dishes, and their Chicken St. Charles did not disappoint (wish that was the picture I could show you!). Instead, this is a glimpse of my mimosa that I was sipping with the girls as we were getting ready for our table. New Orleans is awesome. The Ruby Slipper Cafe (and the mimosas/bloodys) is certainly worth the wait .

4. Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, Richmond, VA (see my post here, or their website here)img_2710

As part of our trip back to VA, the hubs and I made it a point to have as much good barbecue as we could get our hands on. Our friends who grew up in the Richmond area highly recommended Buz and Ned’s – for good reason. Richmond’s Best BBQ has been put to the test by ‘Throwdown with Bobby Flay’ and ‘Man V. Food,’ and local foodies. The best part is the deliciousness and serving side that you get for the price. It was so get a real taste of home.

5. Boston Winter, Boston, MA (see my post here, or their website here)img_3263

Some of my favorite forms of eating “al fresco” are street style. There is no lack of that at Boston Winter, with a variety of ‘themed’ food and all the enticing smells to reel you in. It’s the perfect, and surprisingly delicious, way to get your belly warmed up as you pick your poison: mulled wine, or other varieties of wine, or your choice of beer. It should keep you warm as you stroll around, drink in hand (yes, sip and stroll within the premises), right in the heart of Boston.

 

And because I feel like it deserves it’s own category in my book, my favorite almost Al Fresco moment of 2016 is:

Pickety Place, Mason, NH (see my post here, or the website here)

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Hard to compare this sweet setting with anything else I’ve experienced before. And if not for a friend’s invitation, Pickety Place would still be completely off my radar. It’s kind of what I like about it. I felt as stuffed as the big bad wolf by the end of my meal, but also totally in heaven. Now I’m up for the challenge of maintaining VIP Lunch Club status for a free lunch after 6 visits within 12 months. Sounds like a good 2017 resolution to me 😉

 

What are you looking forward to in 2017? I hope that this new year brings you lots of adventures and memorable moments to last you a lifetime!

 

Valerie

 

 

Becoming Little Red Riding Hood

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True to their mission, Pickety Place transported me to a time and a place where the best things are the little things. This hidden gem sparkled even brighter on a snowy winter day. Totally worth the morning fast and drive from Boston.

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Pickety Place looked like it was straight out of the pages of a story book. Many places in New England likely are. This one in particular inspired Elizabeth Orton Jones’ illustrations, particularly the home, in her re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood.

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Step into the herb shop and you’ll quickly catch the sensational aromas wafting in the air and notice the drying bunches all over the store.

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All sorts of decor and home items fill the shelves at every nook and cranny.

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I absolutely love their signature items. It was hard to restrain myself, so I decided it best to hold off until the hubby and I can strategize and conquer together. He is the master chef in our kitchen after all.

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This shop, complete with a self-serve $1 hot apple cider and vintage iron fireplace, was a whole body experience. We were early for our 12:45 seating, so we had plenty of time to sip, pet the cat, and cozy up.

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In a few moments, we heard the bell, a call to the dining room, and were led to our seats.

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We were so lucky to find our seats in the sun room, practically the best of (almost) al fresco dining in the winter.

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Everything the staff served as part of their December menu was mouth-watering and a pure delight for the tastebuds. I was so stuffed by the dessert course that I could not even finish my pie which came as a surprise even to myself.

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To top it all off, we found this bear of a dog grace the grounds! Technically he is a Leonberger, I learned from the owner. Or he could very well be the big bad wolf in disguise.

Pickety Place came as a suggestion by a good friend, as if a myth or a legend I’d only ever heard of. I was slightly worried that my experience would fall short of my expectations from all the hype. Quite the contrary. I would go back to Pickety Place in a heartbeat and daydream of the food thereafter.

I would highly recommend Pickety Place as a destination to anybody that might want a food trip to remember. As the sign off the exit from the restaurant reads, “Enjoy your pickety day!”

Valerie


For more information on Pickety Place, go to pickityplace.com

Christmas in Newport, RI

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With its gilded history, inherent charm, and Stars Hollow feel, Newport was all sorts of perfect for a Christmas family getaway.

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We picked the Hotel Viking for its location, seated in the heart of Newport’s Historic Hill. It felt like a destination in itself with a highly-rated restaurant, beautifully decked halls and trimmings, and amenities. There didn’t seem to be a wrong turn in any direction from the hotel, which would suit wandering souls like my hubby and myself. So a-walking we went.

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It was early afternoon on Christmas day when we arrived and went exploring in Newport. I particularly enjoyed the serenity which served as a perfect escape from the usual hustle and bustle of a city. It felt like we had Newport all to ourselves. Save for the Starbucks that was likely the only place open that day, of course. It was brimming with all the caffeine addicts that could sniff it out from a mile away. On Christmas, we chose the quiet and surprisingly not-so-painfully continued our stroll empty handed.

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There were sweet decorations to behold at almost every corner. Even when the shops were closed, the holiday spirit of Newport continued to softly flicker and keep it alive.

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Quaint alleyways and nooks such as this gave us the magical feeling of being in Hogsmeade or a fairytale.

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I saw this patio and lovely seating setup outside of the Black Pearl and – wait for it – an outdoor bar. It was closed but I knew we had to come back when they opened the next day.

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Such a gorgeous spot to dine or drink in! And just a few steps down was this quaint marina off of Bannister’s Wharf. Perhaps my favorite spot in all of Newport. Bonus points for the coffee shop right next to it, the Coffee Grinder.

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My pops was tickled by the name of this boat – little did he know it’s an actual brand – since it had both my (pet name) and Alex’s names. Sort of.

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This anchor was a fun little touch. You best believe Alex and my dad tried to climb it, and confirmed that it had a safe rubber landing suited for all climbers, the young or the young-at-heart.

That evening, we had originally planned Christmas dinner at Sardella’s with the family, a short walk from our hotel. Since my mom wasn’t feeling herself at all, we ventured over to the restaurant to explain our circumstance and they happily accommodated. We waited at the bar, which offered a warm welcome and set a friendly vibe to the restaurant as soon as we walked in. Around us was an intimate interior and an air of nostalgia that came with the tasteful depiction of being at grandma’s, in my view. The kind that Alex and I get so emotionally attached to right away.

A few drinks at the bar and we were off, lugging our Christmas dinner in paper bags and pizza boxes to bring back to the hotel. It wasn’t ideal, but it had everything that mattered most to us especially at Christmas: family.

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The next day, we bulked up with brunch at the One Bellevue restaurant before going exploring. We continued to keep our activities less strenuous given that my mama was still fighting off a bad cold. Now I’m relieved I got my flu shot this year! What was nice about Newport though is that we were able to be creative with our site-seeing. They have a “10-mile drive” that includes a drive-by view of the mansions, historic landmarks of the city, and parts of the Cliff Walk. We were to see an overview of Newport from the comfort of our cozy car and keep my mom rested. There were portions of the drive that we could pull off for the overlook and snap away.

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By the end of our trip, though my parents decided to recuperate back at the hotel, the husband and I trekked our way to The Black Pearl. It was just what we were hoping for and more. The bartender whipped up some “Magic Elixir” for his patrons which was a hardy dose of hot ciders in 2 blends and whiskey. With a hot cup of cider, a view like this to marvel at, and a wild chance to stay outdoors over the holidays, I was in my happy place. I may have been in the clouds a little too much though because I totally missed my chance to order a bowl of The Black Pearl’s award-winning clam chowder from the bar. We’ll be back.

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By the time we got hungry, we were ready for some warmth. We walked back towards Thames St. and found Wharf Pub. It had space for al fresco dining and drinking but was closed that day. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of Southern-style home-cooked meals. Tater tots. Fish and Chips. Wings. Ah, SO good.

Our first Christmas in Newport was loaded with family time, rest and relaxation. We have so much left to see and are looking forward to be back to experience its most vibrant season in the summer, most charming time over the holidays, or both.

Hope you had a magical Christmas/ Hannukah/ Kwanzaa/ holiday!

Valerie


Accommodation: Hotel Viking | Featured Attractions: Bannister’s Wharf, Ten mile Drive, clips of the Cliff Walk | Food Stops: One Bellevue, Sardella’s, The Wharf Pub | Al Fresco Find: The Black Pearl