May 24, 2012

Relish This: Blackie's Hot Dog Stand - Cheshire, Conn.

Oh. So. Good.
Perhaps it's the refreshingly rare birch beer fountain soda. Or the bold, distinctive spice of their famous homemade hot pepper relish. Or those familiar red countertops and the wonderful lack of pretense.

Whatever it is, my summer days are never complete without a visit to Blackie's Hot Dog Stand in Cheshire, Conn.

This fine establishment has been serving up simple, yet consistently fabulous burgers and dogs for 84 years now. So let's just say that they know what they're doing.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: Old-school hot dog and hamburger stand that has stood the test of time.
  • Where You'll Find it: 2200 Waterbury Road, Cheshire, Conn.
  • When to Go: Every day throughout the year, except Friday. Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. from January through March and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. April through December.
  • What It'll Cost: A couple of bucks apiece. Cash only!

May 12, 2012

London: Where I Died and Went to Heaven

Just across the pond, you can, in fact,
enter heaven on Earth.
My husband and I recently returned from 10 days away, in Europe, with my in-laws. Along with my brother-in-law, his wife, and their 3-year-old. And yes, we no doubt resembled this bunch. Except there were more of us.

By some miracle of God, we did not all gouge one another's eyes out, as I may have initially expected.

Thankfully, my husband and I enjoyed some alone time here and there, separate from the fam (as so wisely prescribed in this recent TravelDudes blog entry.) And so all in all, it turned out to be a very lovely trip.

I am lucky enough to have a friend in London named Brian (known to many of us back home as Stu), whom I hadn't seen in nearly 10 years. Nowadays, Stu is happily basking in the historic beauty of London, no doubt drinking pints upon pints of delicious local beer on a regular basis, taking in the sights, and generally enjoying the heck out of this ridiculously fabulous city with his wife and newborn daughter. 

We couldn't wait to take full advantage of our alone time to meet up with this lucky bastard and have him show us around.

Eat anything this man recommends.
Stu did not disappoint. In fact, I am fairly certain he may have missed his calling as a tour guide. With the aid of his meticulous directions, provided along with his cell phone number just in case, we found our way to London's Borough Market

There, outside the Market Porter, a popular pub, where droves of British businessmen gathered outside during their Friday lunch hour to chat amiably over freshly draught pints of beer (seriously, what bastards!), we were reunited.

After catching up over an ale or two, we followed Stu into what, for foodies, has got to be the center of the universe.

Freakishly large rabbit, no?
Borough Market is an outdoor food market overflowing with fresh, um, everything - vegetables, meats, seafood, baked goods, cheeses, breads, and the list goes on and on. The variety is dizzying. A local guide (a la Stu) comes in very handy.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: Foodie Nirvana.
  • Where You'll Find it: Borough Market, London, England. Check out the map for the layout of the various stands.
  • When to Go: Open Thursdays, 11-5; Fridays, 12-6; and Saturdays, 8-5.
  • What It'll Cost: Whatever you like. Go nuts, or just indulge in the Greatest Grilled Cheese Known to Man for a few measly British pounds. Bring cash. Probably easier that way.

Stu offered up a number of options. We couldn't make up our minds on what sounded best to eat, so we told him to bring us to all of them. 

And eat we did.

I won't bore you with all the details. But I will tell you the facts in a nutshell: where to go, what to eat, and why.

May 2, 2012

My Old Kentucky Home

The mint julep. Bourbon, sugar, and mint leaves.
And, the nastiest-tasting official drink around.
I'm not big into gambling. Or bourbon. Or hats.

But I embrace all of the above for one Saturday in May. Namely, the Kentucky Derby.

Luckily for me, my husband has family in Kentucky - awesome, fun-loving, heavy-drinking family who last year were kind enough to invite us to stay at their place and then drive us to the Derby and celebrate with them. Score.

The Derby itself is one of those things you should try one day, just to say you've done it - whether you pay several hundred dollars per person for the good seats, several thousand dollars for the really good seats, or a mere 40 bucks for general admission, which gets you all the space you'd like on the inner track.

Among the many sights of
the Kentucky Derby.
Not weird ... at all.
In truth, the inner track doesn't quite have the glitz and glam of the larger stadium.

You won't, for instance, have a reserved seat per se, though you can bring your own lawn chair.

You can't actually see the track. (That's what the big screens on either end of the stadium are for nowadays.)

Annnd, there's no shelter to speak of to protect you from the elements. So bring an umbrella ... or if you're really classy, a tarp.

But, really, where else on the planet can you drink freshly made mint juleps with the masses, chow down on giant turkey legs while standing around in a dress and fancy hat, and spend the day hoping to make money off of animals with funky-sounding names?

Besides, you've got to admit that it isn't all that often you come across a half-man, half-horse jumping rope with the local kids. These are the trenches, people, where you will experience the real deal.

And I swear to you it's all worth it for those two short minutes of pure excitement during the actual Derby race.