Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Out of the Ordinary Eating

It's probably due to all the Lucy Knisley I've been reading lately, but I've found myself on a kick for new, interesting food. Tired of my own cooking, which is limited and revolves almost entirely around cheese, I've explored a few new restaurants of late, and I'm going to share my experiences with Bluebird Tavern, the new place that opened up in Tortilla Flat's old space on Riverside Drive.

From what I've heard and read, Bluebird has been getting mixed reviews since it opened, but I'm not one to let others' opinions influence me in matters of eating. I've been to Bluebird Tavern twice now, and have had great experiences both times. Service is prompt and friendly, the food is phenomenal, the beer list includes Allagash White (which is a huge plus right there), and the atmosphere is pleasant and cozy.

I'll say from the start, it's a pricier venue than most. But sometimes you actually do get what you pay for, and I feel like this is one of those cases. All of the meats are house-smoked and cured, or so the waitress informed me, and the Butcher Board is phenomenal. I also enjoy the flatbread, which changes daily (I had the mushroom flatbread - quite wonderful). In fact, the menu is set fresh every day, with a few regular staples and lots of daily specials and choices. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I did notice that there are quite a few vegetarian options. They also get HUGE props from me for being able to make their dishes to order - I have a nasty allergy to tree nuts, and they were happy to make a Butcher Board that was Me-Safe.

This is not your steak-and-potatoes style tavern; the menu is more eclectic and adventurous. The Butcher Board I ordered at my last visit contained liver tureen, orange and fennel sausage, veal tongue, and Whipped Lardo (which sounds like what you'd get if the Pillsbury Doughboy got himself into a domineering relationship, but is actually an incredibly delicious spread.) Not your average fare, and well worth a try.

Though it's certainly possible to have a less-than-satisfactory experience anywhere, my feeling on some of the lukewarm reviews Bluebird has recieved is that they're based on peoples' expectations. Bluebird defies the traditional definition of "tavern", and stretches beyond the burgers and fries fare that we've come to expect of a pub. In my opinion, Bluebird adds a dash of sophisticated eating to Riverside, and it's a welcome addition.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Play Ball!

Don't let the excessive amounts of rain we've been having fool you; it is, in fact summer in Vermont. That being the case, I am obligated to write about baseball, the national pastime and a summer staple.

Let's say you want to take your friends and/or family our for a night of baseball, but don't want to drive 3.5 hours down to Boston and drop $80 a person on a Red Sox ticket. Let's also say you've noticed those really bright lights blasting into the sky from time to time over near the hospital. Hopefully, if you didn't already know, you're starting to suspect that there's a ball field right here in Burlington, where for less than the price of a movie ticket, you can take in a game.

Enough dramatic lead up. I'm talking about Centennial Field, one of the nation's oldest ballparks and one of the city's historic gems. It first opened in 1906 (though the grandstand wasn't built until 1922), and was originally used by the University of Vermont. Over the years, it has hosted not only the (now discontinued) UVM baseball team, but a variety of minor league teams including:

-The Burlington Cardinals (Class D Northern League) from 1935-1941
-The Burlington Athletics (Class C Provincial League) for one season in 1955
-The Vermont Reds (Double A Eastern League) from 1984 until 1987, when they became the Vermont Mariners.
-The Vermont Expos from 1994 until 2006, when the name was changed to the Vermont Lake Monsters (short season Class A, New York-Penn League).

Centennial has also been home to several well-known players on their way to the Majors, such as Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cabrera, Paul O'Neill, Chris Sabo, and Jason Bay. That's the great thing about minor league baseball: you never know when one of those young players you're watching will one day be headed toward the Hall of Fame.

Here's the details: tickets are $7 for a bleacher seat (for which you will want to bring a cushion) or $8 for a grandstand seat (highly reccommended). Home games usually start at 7:05 p.m. (or 5:00 on Sundays) and run about two and a half to three hours. Between innings, while sipping beer and enjoying your hot dogs, you'll be entertained by Champ, the Lake Monster's mascot, as he leads the crowd in chants or harasses the visiting team. For me, it never gets old, and never fails to make me feel a little like being a kid again during the summer time.

I have another reason for writing about Centennial though; as you may or may not be aware, there have been grumblings about Centennial's days being numbered. A recent article in the Burlington Free Press revealed news that Major League Baseball has some issues with the field that need to be addressed if it is to continue hosting professional teams. With UVM having axed
its baseball team, it's unclear who's going to foot the bill for upgrades.

Without pointing fingers, I'm going to simply say that it would be a huge loss for Burlington if Centennial went under. The upgrades could attract more fans, higher class franchises, and prolong the life of a historic landmark; not to mention continue to provide great local entertainment for Vermont baseball fans.

For more info, including game schedules, check out: http://vermont.lakemonsters.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t462


Friday, July 10, 2009

Music Review: Myra Flynn

I should have warned any readers from the beginning: many of my entries are going to be about music. I will try to keep it local, however much I may want to rant about other widespread interests. I devote entirely too much time to strange musical ideas (like how much I'd love to see a modern artist take on and update some old Doc Watson songs...particularly if Jenny Lewis ever got the itch to attempt that...)

Ahem. Back on task.

The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in my attendance of musical live acts around town. While that includes some of the famous bands that visit the area, more often I'm catching some of B-town's homegrown artists. There are a few gems that I would highly encourage the local folks to see, and I'm going to start with the one I try to catch most often: Myra Flynn.

Myra has been getting a lot of local press recently, in part because her CD release party was last month at FlynnSpace (and was an awesome show with great guest appearances). I first saw Myra play at the Half Lounge on Church Street, and this remains my favorite venue for her. Half, for those of you who've never been, boasts what is possibly the world's smallest stage for a musical performer. That being the case, it provides a very up close and personal listening experience; as in, do not come expecting to have a loud and rowdy conversation with your friends. This atmosphere is more for those who really want to pipe down and enjoy the music.

Myra's style is "neo-soul", and her original songs are beautiful, as are her covers of such tunes as "Volcano" (a favorite of mine, though I prefer BellX1's version over Damien Rice's solo. Yeah, sue me.), "Wild Horses", and "Breathe Me". Myra is a breath of fresh air if, like me, you've grown tired of trite, stereotypical lyrics. Myra's songs are poetry put to music (and she has at least one spoken word piece that she performs from time to time), and the energy of her live performances is nearly unmatched.

Among many other venues, you can check out Myra's tunes backed by a full band when she plays at Red Square or Nectars, or opt for her duo Quiet Songs (with guitarist and back-up vocalist Paul Boffa) at the Half Lounge. You won't be disappointed. As for me, I'll be at Half Lounge this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. to catch Myra and Paul. Feel free to come up and say Hi - just not while the music's playing.

For more info, go to www.myraflynn.com