New Thing #359: A New Kind Of Scotch

Highland_ParkI guess this is as good a New Thing to post about on Christmas Day as any. One of the first gifts I was given this holiday season was a new kind of scotch that I've never had before.

I should probably know more about scotch and the differences between scotch and whiskey than I do.

But, as is usually my M.O., once I find something I like I kind of settle in.

And for a long time Johnnie Walker was the type of scotch I drank when I was in the mood for it.

But, as this is the year for trying New Things, I gave Highland Park a try on Christmas Eve.

See, I'm not a huge scotch drinker.

But once the holidays hit, I love sitting back at night with a glass of scotch.

I'll have one sometimes during other parts of the year - but my scotch drinking is pretty well confined to the weeks between Thanksgiving break and the end of the winter break in January.

Growing up I remember it as a big company gift - my dad would always end up with a bottle or two of scotch at the holidays from another company. (And it was always the drink we left Santa on Christmas Eve. Hmmm….) And I remember, too, that sometimes his siblings would gift a nice bottle of something to each other. Maybe my grandfather too.

So this year, when my brother was asking about a gift I said, "At the risk of sounding like an old man, you can get me a nice bottle of scotch." He's not the one who gave me this bottle, though, so maybe I'm sending off a 'Give me a bottle of scotch' vibe these days.

This one looked impressive to me - you can see in that picture above how it was packaged, with that black case. It had a corked top, too - that's kind of classy.

And I liked it.

I can't quite put my finger on the difference between scotch and whiskey - scotch goes down a little more smoothly for me. (At some point I'll look it up and read up on the difference.)

But I do know it's a fun little indulgence for me during these relaxing holiday times.

As you read this, in fact, chances are good that I'll be kicking back with my dad and brother and enjoying a glass before our Christmas Day dinner.

And if alcoholic beverages don't do it for you as a Christmas Day New Thing, on Christmas Eve I had an apple and pecan tort that my father-in-law made. (Of course a former judge would make a tort! Right?!) I'm pretty sure I've never had that before. It was a little sweet - at least the pecan part was. But the apple part sure was good. I think I'd really like an apple tort.

Merry Christmas.

New Thing #353: Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin_Choco_CookiesThere's no real name for the cookies my wife made for dessert on Wednesday night. (With the help of my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, I should probably add.)

She told me 'pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies' would work.

But, based on how desperate I was for a New Thing as the clock winds down on my work days before the final push of New Things before the end of 2013, I think I might have a different name for these so-called pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies:

I think I'll call them "Miracle Cookies".

OK, OK. Miracle might be a bit of an exaggeration.

But I really was afraid I would have to force a New Thing, and with just 12 New Things left in the year, I didn't want to waste one.

Then my wife brought out dessert and there were these cookies.

When she told me what they were I wasn't thrilled - I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff.

I won't drink pumpkin coffee. (My wife loves it.) I might eat a pumpkin donut, but there's a long list of preferences before you get to pumpkin. (My wife loves them. Not my preferences. Pumpkin donuts.) I'm not the greatest fan of pumpkin pie. I've never had pumpkin cookies before.

So I took a small cookie and tried it.

They were delicious.

I think the chocolate chip taste does a good job for me of neutralizing the pumpkin taste.

My wife says she got the recipe from someone she works with. (My 2-and-a-half-year-old weighed in and said, "Mama, I want cookie." Then she wildly flailed her arms to show me how, as she said, "I mix!")

I hope my wife's co-worker doesn't mind if I now share that recipe with you. Mix the following:

-One box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix

-One can of pumpkin (that just sounds awful to me. Who wants a can of pumpkin?)

-One bag of mini chocolate chips

After mixing separate the batter out as cookies. (This might seem obvious to you, but I'm not a cookie maker. I thought they just come in little pre-made circles.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy.

New Thing #345: Cheeseboy

Grilled_CheeseOn Friday night we hit the mall for the one night of the holiday season when we spend a night at the mall as a family. (It actually wasn't all that crowded, which worked out well since my wife hates crowded malls and my youngest daughter got tired and cranky, forcing us to leave sooner than we wanted.)

We decided to have dinner at the food court, since we thought the restaurants would probably be crowded, and we suspected our youngest might be too tired and cranky to sit at a restaurant.

The problem was, I didn't feel like food court food.

Then, when we sat at a table I saw our solution: Cheeseboy.

I feel like the last time we were at the mall (this is the Natick Mall, for those of you keeping score at home), this Cheeseboy wasn't yet open…though it might have been. I get confused because there's also a new french fry place next to it that is the same kiosky-type food place. That was definitely open the last time we were there. (We also had the french fries from the french fry place - French Fry Heaven. We had the fries with cheese. They were fine - just salty.)

CheeseboyI had a bacon and chicken grilled cheese (pictured above left. At right is the kiosk. One thing that hasn't changed through 365 New Things In 2013 - my shyness about taking pictures of such things as kiosks in crowded malls. Sorry for the blurriness.) and my wife had the chipotle chicken sandwich. I really liked mine. I'm not sure she was crazy about hers.

I looked up their locations on-line - they're strictly northeast right now - there's a bunch in Massachusetts at different malls, and there's one location in the Providence mall,  another couple along I-95 in Connecticut, and then another one in Jersey City.

I'm not saying you should go out of your way to go there - it's just a grilled cheese, but a good grilled cheese. But it was definitely a nice change-of-pace quick meal in the mall for someone who wasn't feeling like eating Sbarro, McDonald's, Chinese or Indian fast food.

I'll keep it in mind for next year's holiday venture to the mall.

New Thing #342: A Cookie From Meeting Street Cafe

Meeting_St_CookieI've never been to Meeting Street Cafe in Providence, Rhode Island. But I have had one of their cookies.

My co-teacher had raved about the food there on more than one occasion.

She spent some time there in October, I think, and floated the idea that she'd bring me back one of their big cookies.

She didn't.

I was kind of bummed because it was at a time I was kind of desperate for New Things.

She promised to get me something the next time she went…and that next time came over Thanksgiving weekend.

That picture above doesn't do the cookie very much justice.

First of all, it doesn't show how big the cookie actually is. And secondly, it doesn't look too delicious in that picture. Trust me when I tell you that it's a very big cookie and it's  quite tasty. (Though I am sure it's entirely unhealthy. It left a gigantic grease stain on the bag.)

Meeting Street Cafe is off of Thayer Street in Providence - right on the Brown campus.

What I'd like to look into someday is their sandwiches, because I'm told that like the cookies, the sandwiches are also huge. You can order a half sandwich and it's still very big.

Two notes about the cafe from my co-teacher: she says they have the best Reuben around (not sure if that's just Providence or anywhere, but still, that's high praise for a Reuben), and they serve breakfast all day.

I've been in Providence about three times in my life - all to visit my cousin who went to Providence College.

I'm thinking that at some point I'll have to go back and visit the other college campus so I can try out these sandwiches. That might have to be a New Thing in 2014.

New Thing #333: Ritz Chips

Ritz_ChipsI'm not a huge snacker. But when I do snack it's usually on something I love, like Cape Cod potato chips.

So I'll go way overboard and eat entire bags at a time.

And that's the kind of snacking I could do on this newest snack food I discovered.

To say I discovered it is kind of misleading - there was a bag sitting open on the counter the other day that I just started to devour.

I didn't even realize what I was eating.

Let me start with a couple of weeks ago - the girls asked for a mid-afternoon snack. They wanted some crackers and hummus. We had some graham crackers, some regular, circular Ritz crackers (one of my favorite children's malapropisms is when my girls ask for one Ritz cracker and they say, "I'll have a Rit." Is that a malapropism?), and some plain Ritz chips.

I had never seen Ritz chips before, but they were pretty good. It was like a Ritz cracker just in chip form. Nothing wrong with it.

But that day I had one and gave the rest to the girls and that was that.

The other day, though, when I came home from school and started noshing on these other Ritz chips that were on the counter, I just could not stop. I couldn't figure out why I found these irresistible, more than the previous day at least, until I finally took a close look at the bag - they were cheddar-flavored.

Delicious. I literally could not put them down.

The last thing I need today, the day after Thanksgiving, is something to snack on.

But I bet the cheddar-flavored Ritz chips go really well with leftover turkey sandwiches.

New Thing #327: A Starbucks Breakfast

Starbucks_BkfastI realize I've been writing about Starbucks a lot this year. You might wonder why, considering my strong preference for Dunkin' Donuts.

The thing is, since I like Dunkin' so much, I've done just about all there is to do there.

At Starbucks I have a routine - either a mocha or a hazelnut macchiato.

And I don't think of those as 'start my day' drinks - they're more 'afternoon pick-me-up' or 'end of day' drinks.

So on Friday I decided to try a Starbucks breakfast.

The way it goes at Dunkin' is once or twice a week I'll get myself a large coffee there in the morning along with a breakfast sandwich and maybe also a donut.

I know what I'm doing there.

The idea occurred to me this week to try a Starbucks breakfast when I went in for an evening Starbucks drink and saw their breakfast sandwiches sitting in the glass case they have there. They looked really good. I just didn't know what to get. (As far as Starbucks food, I've only had some of their food as dessert before - never the breakfast stuff.)

So on Friday morning I got myself a Pike Place coffee (a venti - also a pretty New Thing. Usually I get grande, and lately I've been getting talls for the evening drink), which was better than I remembered. (Though nothing will ever beat the Pike Place coffee I had in Seattle at the original Starbucks - that was an excellent, excellent coffee. But that could have been psychological.)

Then I ordered a ham and cheddar artisan sandwich. It was delicious. The bread was especially good. I might have liked a little something extra with it, but I played it safe and went just with the sandwich. (You can see my order in the picture above. That's when I was back in the poor lighting of my car on a rainy morning. If there's one thing I haven't improved at this year during 365 New Things In 2013 it's having the guts to take on-the-spot pictures. I would have rathered take a picture of the sandwiches in the glass case…but there were people around.)

So that's my Starbucks breakfast debut. It's slightly out of my way to go to Starbucks on the way to school, so it won't happen that often, but it might be something to try every so often on the weekends as an alternative to Dunkin' all the time.

New Thing #324: Jabby Brau

Jabby_BrauRemember when I told you about Jack's Abby, the Framingham beer makers? Well, my wife found another type of their beer on sale at the store recently.

So I gave it a try the other night.

If nothing else, 365 New Things In 2013 has expanded my tastes in beer.

And this is another one that's nice to know I'd enjoy if I ever found it at a restaurant somewhere.

It's true - there are some Boston bars that every so often Jack's Abby retweets who sell the brewery's beers. I would be thrilled to walk into some place and see it on tap.

But I digress.

This particular beer is called Jabby Brau - a name that I imagine has something to do with the flavoring or origin of the beer or something, but I don't really get.

I will tell you this - it's a tasty beer, with a little kick.

I think I still prefer the Smoke & Dagger, but this one is a little more like a casual drink I can have with a meal - the Smoke & Dagger feels more heavy, like a socializing beer.

They call it a "Session Lager". Maybe they mean the same thing.

I don't know. I'm no beer expert.

I just know it tastes pretty good.

New Thing #321: Caramel Brûlée Latte

Caramel_BruleeI'm not much of a fan of peppermint or gingerbread, so when places like Starbucks come out with their holiday flavors it doesn't do a whole lot for me. But I have to admit, the caramel brûlée latte at Starbucks definitely caught my interest.

As did the fact that between 2 and 5 p.m. all weekend they were selling this drink or the peppermint mocha or the gingerbread latte 2-for-1.

And I definitely didn't want one of the other two flavors.

The caramel brûlée latte was very sweet. But it wasn't bad - and it provided me with the caffeine kick I needed for some Friday afternoon report writing.

It's not the healthiest drink, calorie-wise. Click here for that information.

Now, you may remember that I am in love with the hazelnut macchiato. It's the only Starbucks drink I've had in the past year.

And, truth be told, this caramel brûlée latte has not unseated the hazelnut macchiato as my beverage of choice.

But until they start offering the hazelnut macchiato in a 2-for-1 deal, if my wife's picking up one of her flavored Starbucks drinks, well, I'll be getting a free caramel brûlée latte.

And I'll be OK with that.

New Thing #306: Caffe Americano

Karma_AmericanoI'm no coffee expert. I think I've written before about my go-to coffee drinks:

There's dark roast or french vanilla (or the classic old regular) at Dunkin' Donuts, hazelnut macchiato or mocha at Starbucks, and regular coffees almost everywhere else.

But Karma Coffee isn't really like everywhere else.

Here's the thing about Karma Coffee - it's one of those independent coffee shops which sells complicated beverages that I don't really understand.

It's like Starbucks in that way....except with Karma I like their regular coffee and don't feel the need to find something flavored.

Actually, I've liked everything I've had at Karma so far. (Karma, you'll remember, is where I get my coffee most Saturday mornings now that I'm taking my daughter to dance class in the same parking lot as this coffee shop.)

I've tried their cappuccino and their regular coffee...but that regular coffee is where the problems start. They ask me hard questions when I just say "coffee", like "Ecuadorian?" Or maybe it was "Guatemalan?" I'm not sure I remember. But either way, it's the kind of question I'm not prepared to answer when I just want a cup of coffee.

Same with the rest of the coffee menu there. But as I work my way through the different beverages on the menu, I'm trying something new almost every week...and I'm doing my best to learn about them.

My most recent try was a Caffe Americano, and what I learned about it was, according to Wikipedia, it's espresso with hot water added to it. The site says that gives it a similar strength as (though different flavor from) regular drip coffee.

Which is good for me to know - because I'm very afraid that one of these things I ordered will end up not having enough caffeine...or any caffeine at all.

(All coffee places - independent or no - call non-caffeinated coffee decaf...right?)

New Thing #303: Cabbage Wraps

Cabbage_WrapEvery so often when we need an easy dinner for our family of five, my wife will pick up a rotisserie chicken To Go from Sudbury Farms. I don't love this kind of chicken.

It's OK...I've just never been the biggest fan of chicken on the bone.

It's usually too much work for little reward - It's a meal that doesn't always fill me.

And I figure that I don't like all the work, dirtying my fingers, pulling meat off the bone, just to end up still hungry.

(I guess I'd make a pretty terrible bear.)

But earlier this week I really enjoyed this chicken - and who would have guessed I'd have cabbage to thank.

First of all, there wasn't a lot of pulling chicken off the bone. I came home later, and my wife had already put most of the chicken meat on a plate.

There was rice, there were cabbage leaves, and there was the chicken.

I put the chicken in the wrap and added a little bit of salt, and it was extremely delicious.

Now - understand where I'm coming from here - I've been to The Cheesecake Factory with people who order the fish tacos there. And the fish tacos come in some kind of leafy wrap. And I never thought those were legit tacos...because tacos have shells, not leafy wraps.

But then I had this cabbage wrap, and I'm all turned around.

So you're going to have to give me a minute to gather myself.

Everything I know about wraps has been turned on its head.

New Thing #297: Preparing Tomorrow's Breakfast Today

OmeletWhen she saw what I was up to, my wife told me this wasn't really a New Thing. But I promise you I've never done this before.

On Sunday morning we went to a favorite breakfast spot and they had a steak and cheese omelet.

I like this breakfast spot, and I've enjoyed many a meal there...but this was by far the best breakfast I've ever had there.

Immediately I started plotting when I could make myself a steak and cheese omelet...but it just seemed too complicated for a weekday breakfast.

This week, though, we had cheeseburgers for dinner.

And that got me thinking about breakfast.

I know I've told you a bunch about my eggs-for-breakfast routine.

Usually the eggs are sunnyside up, but if there's a roll sitting around I'll scramble the eggs and eat them in a sandwich, and sometimes I'll roll up some cheese and ham in an omelet.

But I'm not too creative.

Then I'm sitting there at dinner looking at an extra cheeseburger and some leftover veggies. It was actually the mushrooms that first got me thinking about an omelet.

I ate three-quarters of the burger (I have a lot of trouble passing up a second cheeseburger), and chopped up the other quarter. I put it in a tupperware with the leftover veggies, and just like that I was ready for breakfast the next morning. (I love going to bed looking forward to breakfast.)

Meat. Cheese. Vegetables. Eggs.

It's The Omnivore's Omelet. You're welcome.

(I must say, though, that the morning wasn't all sunshine and roses. First of all, I didn't make the best omelet. The insides were a little too big for the eggs - I had trouble wrapping it all up. Secondly, it was a little too much for a breakfast on a school day. It sat heavy all day. I just couldn't post this without letting you know the full story.)

New Thing #293: A Bloody Mary

Bloody_MaryBelieve it or not...I don't think I've ever had a Bloody Mary. It's not tops on my list for beverages...ever, really.

But Sunday afternoon (early afternoon) my friend Justin decided to start his day with I decided to follow suit.

I figured, at the very least, it was a New Thing.

I'm not sure why I never usually order one. Probably the name. I'm not sure I'm interested in a 'bloody' anything.

Plus, as my friend Dave mentioned last week, if you're not a fan of tomato juice, it's not really the drink for you.

Tomato juice is probably fourth or fifth on my depth chart of juices (Orange, Apple, Cran-Grape [that's preferable to either cranberry or grape for me], then it's a pretty far drop-off to whatever is next). So if I'm mixing a drink, I'd go to a soda before I even got close to tomato juice.

Regardless, it was something to try. It had some olives stuffed with bleu cheese. It was fine.

But I switched to beer after one.

New Thing #292: Maine Lobster Tracks Ice Cream

Lobster_TracksMy wife brought home some new ice cream this week. At first when I heard what it was called I admit it sounded disgusting.

"Lobster" and "Ice Cream" are not words I usually associate with one another...unless it's summer, and I have both - separately - for dinner and dessert.

But, thanks in no small part to the small print on the carton, I realized "This product contains NO lobster."

And it turned out to be quite tasty.

Here is what's in the ice cream: it's vanilla ice cream with lobster-colored chocolate cups filled with caramel and - this is the best part - a "unique eclair crunch".

I can't tell you how good that eclair crunch is  - I want only eclair crunch ice cream.

It's Gifford's ice cream, which I've never had before - my wife picked it up at Sudbury Farms grocery store.

Here's a look at the ice cream itself - I recommend you try it out if you're in the area:


New Thing #289: McHale's Bar & Grill

McHale'sWhen I planned my Sunday in New York to watch football, there were a couple of parameters we needed to work around: -The place we went to had to be near 53rd Street and Avenue of the Americas, which is where the bus drop off and pick up happened

-The Jets game would need to be featured prominently, with the rest of the football games available to watch

-The place needed to be relatively affordable.

I thought we'd be drowning in choices in that section of midtown.

But when I got off the bus, it took longer to find an appropriate place than I expected.

Finally, I found McHale's Bar & Grill.

My brother gave me some good advice - he didn't have a specific place to recommend, but he did say I'd fare better heading down towards 8th or 9th Avenue rather than spots close to Times Square.

So, getting off the bus with as much time to spare as I had on Sunday, I was able to scout the area for a place.

I popped into a couple of places around 10am, as the staff was getting ready for the day. It was one thing, I discovered, for them to offer the Sunday Ticket...and another to see for myself whether or not they had enough TVs to show the games. McHale's came as close as anything to offering what I was expecting in my mind. (And, I realized later, New York City - well, Manhattan at least - is not well suited for a large TV screen layout. Most of these places go up, rather than out, meaning their multiple TVs are spread out among multiple floors.)

McHale's is on 51st Street, right off 8th Avenue. Downstairs there's a bar with a few TVs. Upstairs is another bar with a larger selection of screens, including a big screen they lowered from the ceiling to show the Jets.

Turns out, it's a popular spot for lunch for the matinee-going Broadway crowd. (The Gershwin, where Wicked plays, is right across the street.) But that didn't interfere with our game-watching experience. We had the Jets on the big screen and one of the TVs behind the bar, with the Browns-Lions game on another TV and the Eagles-Buccaneers game on another. (There's also a back room where the Packers and Vikings games were on, but they were out of our sight in the other room.)

It wasn't all of the games simultaneously like I was dreaming of, but like I said yesterday, that probably allowed me to be more social with my friends, which is a good thing. (And a lot of Sunday's games didn't go my it's better I was only seeing the occasional score on the crawl rather than watching them fall apart play by play.)

The food was OK...not great. (The highlight was a brussels sprouts with bacon appetizer.) The beer selection was fine.

But the best thing about our day was the fact that we could stay there for seven hours and not once did I feel guilty about taking up a table or the need to move on. (Part of this was due to a somewhat inattentive waitstaff. But that was OK with me on Sunday.) When I tried to find places in Boston where I could watch the Jets (before football on my phone!) I always worried about taking away a prime viewing spot or a television the bar wanted to use for a different game.

And I know I shouldn't feel that way, but certain places ended up making me feel that way.

To its credit...that never happened on Sunday at McHale's.

New Thing #279: Apple Squash

Apple_SquashWe're still trying to be creative with the apples over here. And my wife hit on something clever this week.

Apparently she just googled 'apple' and 'squash' because she had some squash in the farm share.

(I'm not sure I would have thought to do that - apples and squash seem like separate entities to me. I might have searched 'apple squash' to see different ways people squash apples, but that's not helpful when preparing food.)

Anyway, she found this recipe and made it with some pork the other night.

The apple squash was a lot like applesauce, which you may or may not have expected to hear.

What gave me pause, though, was the pecans.

I'm not a huge nut guy. It's not like I hate them or like I'm allergic or anything, it's just that, given the choice, I'd rather not. I like my salad with greens and apples, but I don't like the walnuts, thank you very much. Often I feel like nuts are an unnecessary addition.

And I didn't necessarily enjoy the nuts here, but I didn't hate them. They didn't get in the way. It was a very tasty side.

I wonder if I'd like the apple squash even more without the nuts...but the nuts gave it a texture that reminded me of an apple crisp, so maybe that was a good thing.

Either way, it helped get rid of a couple of more apples.

Only about a thousand more to go.

New Thing #274: Lamb Rogan Josh

Rogan_JoshSometimes I'm not the most adventurous eater. I've tried different ethnic dishes, but I don't exactly go seeking them out.

And for a long time I didn't even really try them - there was not much in my food rotation that came from a foreign country.

That said, it's only in the past decade - and probably less - that I've tried Indian food.

And I love it - but once I find a dish after trying something new, I'll usually get it over and over again.

Which is why last week, when we ordered some Indian food, I decided to try something new.

My wife was picking up the food on the way home from work, so I told her to surprise me with something other than chicken tikka masala, which is my go-to dish. (But I told her to maybe get a small order of the chicken just in case I didn't like the New Thing she was getting.)

She ended up bringing home something called Lamb Rogan Josh, which in the menu is described as "tender lamb pieces cooked in yogurt with almonds and a blend of exotic spices."

Now, I don't know if this is a universal Indian dish like the tikka masala or if it's a dish specific to this one restaurant named after the guy who cooks it, Josh Rogan. (And I hope that's not offensive. If it is, I didn't mean it as an offensive joke - it's just, I look at the name of that dish and it looks like some guy's name.)

It was good - it was really tasty, and also spicy. (Full disclosure - one of the reasons I was reluctant to try Indian for so long was the spiciness - I thought all curry was spicy. I didn't know that, like buffalo sauce, you could get it made more mild. I'm not a fan of spicy anything. Turns out there's not much curry I don't like. And I love love love na'an. I will dip na'an in whatever kind of sauce all day long. Even if it's a little spicy.)

It wasn't too spicy, though. I had it with the rice, and I'm glad I expanded my Indian repertoire a little bit.

And when I was done, I cleansed my palate with a little bit of chicken tikka masala.

New Thing #270: Jack's Abby Brewing

Jacks_AbbyHere's another thing that makes my wife so wonderful: Not only does she put up with Sundays that are dominated by me watching as much of as many different football games at the same time (side note: This is not as easy as you might think, and it is something I am really, really good at), but last week before the games started she told me, "I'm going to the store today and I thought I'd pick up a new beer for you to try. It's made in Framingham. You know, New Thing."

Sorry guys, she's all mine.

And the beer, incidentally, was delicious.

I had no idea there was a brewery in Framingham. Jack's Abby Brewing located in the southern part of town, best I can tell, and according to the box they - 3 brothers founded the brewery - do their best to use local ingredients. (They also grow hops [do you grow hops? do I have that right?] and crops on a family farm in Vermont.)

The box also says that there are seasonal brews, but the three core beers offered are Hoponius Union, Jabby Brau, and the one I had - Smoke & Dagger Black Lager.

Now, I'm not usually a dark beer kind of guy - but this beer was great. It was smooth, which is not something I can really describe about beer, but I know it when it happens, and this beer was smooth.

It was also large - the beer came in a 4-pack with half-liter bottles, larger than your average beer bottle. Or my average beer bottle, anyway.

I'm kind of thrilled to know there's such a quality beer product being produced right here in Framingham.

They offer tours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Less than 100 New Things to go - that might have to happen within the next three months.

New Thing #268: Grilled Cheese With Bacon and Apple

Grilled_CheeseOur farm share has left our house with a surplus of eggplants and apples. This led my wife to put out a call on Facebook for any recipes calling for a surplus of eggplants and apples.

She received a number of creative responses, and at left you see the end result.

It's a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and apples.

Now, I've had different variations of grilled cheese before - anytime something has avocado I jump at it, and I'm pretty sure at some point I've had a grilled cheese with avocado. I've especially had it with bacon. (Bacon and tomato is a favorite.)

The apple and bacon was a new combo, and it was fine. But when it comes to using up our surplus of apples, I'm really looking forward to my wife's apple crisp...or maybe an apple pie. Those are apple creations I just love.

You might notice, though, the griddle upon which that grilled cheese sandwich is cooking. I'd like to tell you a little bit about that. (I should mention before this tangent that my wife also cooked up some eggplant and potatoes together and sliced them up like fries. That was pretty good.)

About ten years ago or so, my wife and I were engaged, and we went to places like Macy*s to register for our wedding in anticipation of being showered with gifts.

It was surprisingly fun for five minutes or so, because they give you a scanner and you get to scan items into your registry. There are only so many plates and cups and silverware sets you can scan, though, before it gets boring. So my wife took over after a few minutes, and I think she even went back to a couple of stores by herself to complete the registry.

But one thing caused me to take notice: this griddle.

I stopped and exclaimed, "We have to have that!" She laughed. She thought it was nonsense.

But, in the first of what would become a ten-year pattern of initially poo-poohing and then not only accepting but loving my forward-thinking ideas, my wife pulled a full turnaround.

I'll admit - the griddle sat untouched for a long time. A year, maybe two.

But then she started to use it to make pancakes. Occasionally it was used for burgers. Grilled cheese. Since we've had our daughters it makes an almost once-a-weekend the very least it's out a few times a month.

And, I don't mind telling you, that griddle may just be the most-used item of them all from our wedding gift registry.

It's a great underdog story.

New Thing #261: Karma Coffee

Karma_CoffeeThere are good coffee smells and there are coffee smells that remind you of a dead animal....or worse. Unfortunately, the coffee brewed at Karma Coffee in Sudbury smells terrible.

It's that smell - which isn't always there, but which I've smelled enough to have associated with the place - which prevented me from trying out Karma Coffee before last weekend.

But Karma Coffee is tucked away behind the dance studio where my girls take lessons.

And, as I've told you, my new Saturday morning routine involves taking my daughter to her dance lessons at said studio.

So, based solely on proximity, all future Saturdays (and one past - I went there this past Saturday) will feature some kind of coffee from Karma Coffee.

It turns out the coffee may stink something awful - but it tastes something delicious.

The menu is relatively simple - there's coffee, cappuccino, espresso, iced beverages...for my debut I chose an iced mocha. (My only complaint - maybe I should have gone with something a little more caffeinated. I'm not sure the iced mocha cut it for my first coffee of the day -  I had traces of a headache the rest of the day. But I think that's my fault much more than Karma Coffee's.)

I've had iced mochas at both Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks. This one was - by far - the best I've ever had.

That's a promising start for sure.

The space is interesting - there's a little seating area in the front, and there's a wide open space in the back, including the big coffee-making machine. (I think. I'm not sure exactly how that works.) It's a local coffee brewer - it's not a big corporation. I think that's part of what makes it so good.

There are roughly 30 more weeks of dance practices for my daughter...and visits to Karma Coffee for me.

The approaching autumn weather also means it's about time to switch back to hot coffees.

That gives me enough time to explore Karma's entire menu - first hot, then maybe cold.

It'll never smell like a pack of ground french vanilla from Dunkin' Donuts...but if everything else on the menu tastes like their iced mocha, I think I'll learn to live with that.

New Thing #250: Corn And Fruit Share

Corn_And_FruitYou may remember that when we re-started our farm share this year, we also decided we were going to try the corn and fruit share for the eight weeks it was being offered. We're nearing the end of those eight weeks, so I think it's time to weigh in:

And I'll be honest...

I don't think we'll be doing it again.

The corn and fruit are fine.

We're getting about 12 ears of corn per box, and a bunch of peaches and plums and some apples.

But they're nothing extraordinary - and it's not all that much different from what we could walk up to a farm stand and get...and possibly get cheaper.

(And then there's the potential for what happened this week, when they had our regular veggie box for our pickup, but were out of the corn and fruit boxes. So I had to go back Thursday to get the corn and fruit. Which means we have a lot of corn and fruit to eat before the next box comes...not to mention the unnecessary trip back to the farm.)

It's not been all negative - I haven't had peaches in the house for a long time. And when we had some in these boxes, I was able to throw some peaches into a smoothie or two. (Also, for what it's worth - and despite the extra trouble of going back for the box a second time - my wife was quite pleased with this week's corn and fruit selection.)

But for the quality of the corn (don't get me wrong - it tastes fine - but again, it's nothing extraordinary) and since the amount of fruit we've eaten has dwindled, leaving us with more than we need....

Next year I'm pretty sure we'll just be getting the box of vegetables.