Around Town: Saturday in Brookline

Over the weekend I had the chance to explore an area in Boston that technically isn’t even part of Boston. Sandwiched between Fenway and the Allston/Brighton neighborhoods, Brookline is a municipality of its own. Not unlike other areas in Boston, Brookline boasts a small town feel with small businesses and restaurants situated between residential buildings. Brookline is a walkable area with ample parking, which made it the perfect way to spend a beautiful Saturday with my boyfriend.

Brookline Porch Fest & Coolidge Corner Arts Fest

This weekend was Brookline’s first Porch Fest as well as the Coolidge Corner Arts Festival. Both events drew crowds to the area to enjoy the outdoor music played on residents’ porches, browse local artists’ wares, and indulge in food truck fare. I enjoyed walking around and listening to the different types of music that faded in and out from each side street.

The Arts Fest brought artists of all types including jewelry, clothing, and home decor. In particular, the art from the Pop Zoo Etsy Shop stall caught my eye. The unique pop art creations and custom pet portraits were simply awesome—who does’t need a pop art pillow of a naked mole rat?!

naked mole rat pillow

Shopping on Harvard Avenue

Brookline’s Harvard Avenue is filled with small businesses. Two of my favorites from Saturday were Simon’s Shoes and Boston General Store.

Simon’s Shoes is a locally owned shoe store carrying hard-to-find brands like Naot Footwear. The small business has been a Brookline staple for years and prides itself on its commitment to the community. On June 11th and 12th, Simon’s is hosting a Naot Trunk Show and Donation Event—Everyone invited to attend the trunk show will be able to contribute to Rosie’s Place, a women’s non-profit in Boston. Try on a pair of Naots at the event and a pair will be donated to those in need. For every pair of Naots purchase, two pairs of shoes will be donated.

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Boston General Store is relatively new to the Brookline area and occupies half of the KaBloom flower shop. The store is full of American-made household wares, accessories, and everything you never knew you needed.

boston general store brookline

Lunch at Pizzeria Dante

After walking around and shopping, my boyfriend and I stopped at the newly relocated Pizzeria Dante. The Brookline pizza and sandwich shop moved from it’s Beacon Street location to 415 Harvard Ave just a couple of months ago. My boyfriend has been eating here for years but this was my first time. I had a salad with grilled chicken but will definitely be ordering one of their huge sandwiches the next time I go. If you’re looking for delicious pizza, salads, and sandwiches you must check this place out!

Have you been to Brookline? What are your favorite spots in town?

Weekend Trip: Wine, Beer, and Food in Hampshire County Massachusetts

When people think of Massachusetts, they usually think of Boston, the eastern epicenter of the state. But there’s an “other side” of Massachusetts that they’re missing out on: Hampshire County in Western Massachusetts.

A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit Hampshire County, Massachusetts with my boyfriend. We spent two days and one night exploring the towns of Northampton, Southampton, and Easthampton. Taking ourselves out of the guidebooks, we experienced Hampshire County the way that locals do and had a fun-filled weekend at the best wineries, breweries, and restaurants in the area.

Getting to Hampshire County, Massachusetts

Hampshire County is less than 2 hours from Boston. Just north of Springfield, it’s a quick and easy drive from Boston or NYC, making the area perfect for a weekend getaway. If you don’t have a car, the area is also accessible by bus, train, and air—Bradley International Airport is about a half hour away.

Small Oven Bakery Picnic Lunch at Black Birch Vineyard

We started our weekend off by picking up a picnic lunch at Small Oven Bakery, a quaint woman-owned bakery in Easthampton. Co-owners Amanda and Julie opened Small Oven Bakery just 2 years ago and have quickly become a local favorite.

We arrived at noon to a packed house and were greeted warmed by Julie who was packing up our lunch. While Julie prepped our lunch, my boyfriend and I chatted with Amanda for a few minutes over coffee about our love for all things bakery and small business related.

small oven bakery easthampton

With our picnic lunch packed, we hit the road and drove to the beautiful Black Birch Vineyard a few minutes down the road. The weather was perfect—warm and breezy with bright sunshine. Owner Mary Hamel greeted us and encouraged us to relax and enjoy our food on the picnic benches before our wine tasting.

black birch vineyard western massachusetts

The winery doesn’t serve food so visitors can bring their own to eat on the picnic benches and Adirondack chairs out back. The atmosphere is very relaxing and family friendly. Our fellow wine tasters included a family with a baby, a ladies birthday celebration, and a group of friend with dogs.

On a picnic bench overlooking the vines my boyfriend and I gobbled down our lunch from Small Oven Bakery—an open faced Roasted Cippollini and Radicchio baguette, a Boston Brisket sandwich, and a chocolate mint cake.

small oven bakery easthampton

After stuffing our faces, we headed into the winery, a converted barn with an authentic rustic feel. We tasted through, making sure to sip and dump because we were driving. Our favorites included the steel casked Chardonnay, Riesling, and 2013 Pinot Noir.

black birch winery western massachusetts

All of the wines were good but I was especially impressed by the Chardonnay, as I’m not usually a fan of the varietal. I enjoyed it so much I purchased two bottles to take home! Both Black Birch Vineyard and Small Oven Bakery were recently voted as The Valley Advocate’s Best of 2016.

black birch vineyard western massachusetts

Abandoned Building Brewery

We left Black Birch Vineyard and drove to Northampton where we were staying for the night so that we could drop off the car before heading to the breweries. Since we’re both big beer drinkers, my boyfriend and I called an Uber to take us safety to Abandoned Building Brewery, our next destination.

abandoned building brewery easthampton massachusetts

The aptly named Abandoned Building Brewery is situated in an abandoned building along the Easthampton Rail Trail. Windowless with swagged lights, mismatched couches, and board games, there’s a nostalgic feel to the brewery.  The comforting and homey space took me back to my high school college days of drinking in a friend’s basement.

abandoned building brewery craft beer flight

Kimaya, an staff member who has worked at the brewery since it opened, greeted us with two flights which we brought to the seating area. Seating is limited which encourages a communal experience with both the people and dogs visiting the brewery. We sat and chatted with some local residents while drinking our flights.

abandoned building brewery craft beer

While the company was great, the beer was even better! Brewer and owner Matt Tarlecki crafts the ales using hops from the brewery’s own hop field and malts from Massachusetts’s only malt house in nearby Hadley. My favorites were the Pennhurst Pale Ale and the Dirty Girl IPA and my boyfriend especially enjoyed the Nightshade Stout.

If you’re in town on May 7th, Abandoned Building Brewery is celebrating their second anniversary with live music, food trucks, and an outdoor beer garden—an event not to be missed!

New City Brewery

Our next stop was at the close by New City Brewery which sits literally next door to Abandoned Building Brewery. The breweries are next to each other along the Easthampton Rail Trail which makes for a comprehensive beer tasting bike ride. We saw quite a few cyclists who popped in for a pint with their pups. Although we don’t have a dog ourselves, we loved that so many places were dog friendly!

Open since 2013, New City Brewery is best known for its Jamaican style ginger beer crafted by brewmaster Sam Dibble but also offers regular beers. Devin, one of the four co-owners, welcomed us with open arms and two flights—one flight of New City’s beers and a second mimosa flight made with the ginger beer. As someone who loves ginger beer and mimosas, I was in heaven with the mimosa flight!

new city brewery western massachusetts

Like it’s next door neighbor, New City was hopping on the beautiful Saturday and appeared to be setting up for live music. With large windows, open space, and natural light, New City Brewery exudes a friendly hipster vibe—the good looking men behind the bar don’t hurt either.

new city brewery western massachusetts

Hotel Northampton

We caught an Uber back and checked into Hotel Northampton, our home for the night. Built in 1927, Hotel Northampton is a beautiful red brick building in the heart of town.

There was a platter of fresh fruit, cheese, and sparkling water waiting in our room when we arrived. A handwritten note and personal introduction from Ruby, the head of marketing and public relations for the hotel, made us feel very welcome.

hotel northampton massachusetts

Although historic with a traditional American feel, Hotel Northampton has the amenities and comforts of a modern hotel. Everything about the hotel was great—updated and spacious rooms with natural light, comfortable beds, a delicious breakfast, and free WiFi.

hotel northampton western massachusetts

Northampton Brewery

After a long day of visiting drinking establishments, we were more than ready for dinner at the Northampton Brewery. A quick walk from Hotel Northampton, the Northampton Brewery is New England’s oldest operating brewpub, serving up American style food and delicious beers.

northampton brewery western massachusetts

Like many small businesses in New England, Northampton Brewery was family owned and operated by siblings Janet and Peter Egelston and has ties to New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose Brewing Company. Not surprising, the beers were delicious! Along with nachos, a pulled pork sandwich, and pizza, my boyfriend and I enjoyed the Blue Boots IPA and Conundrum beers.

northampton brewery western massachusetts

Tunnel Bar

After dinner we checked out the infamous Tunnel Bar, voted by Buzzfeed as one of the top places to drink before you die. Tunnel Bar is a former train passenger tunnel from 1896, making for a cool underground experience.

tunnel bar northampton western massachusetts

Photo courtesy of Tunnel Bar

The long and narrow cocktail lounge was packed but the martinis were worth the wait.  It was a long day so after Tunnel Bar we retired to Hotel Northampton for some much needed rest.

Sylvester’s Restaurant

The next morning my boyfriend and I woke up refreshed and ravenous. We grabbed some coffee at the hotel and headed over to Sylvester’s Restaurant. Located in the house of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the graham cracker, Sylvester’s Restaurant is a Northampton landmark and has been voted Best Breakfast and Brunch in Western Massachusetts for years.

sylvesters restaurant northampton massachusetts

We feasted on the Benedict Sly’s style, the banana Nutella French toast, and a homemade pop-tart style pastry that was to die for. Known for their eggs benedict dishes, the Sly style Benedict was delicious and almost more than I could eat. My boyfriend and I shared both dishes and still had leftovers to take home!

best brunch western massachusetts

Around Northampton

Stuffed from breakfast, we walked off our food around town. Home to Smith College and four others nearby, Northampton is a quintessential college town. Walking around instantly brought me back to my own college days in Madison, Wisconsin. Northampton reminded me a lot of Madison and I felt at home amongst the tall trees, beautiful buildings, hippie shops, and tiny cafés.

downtown northampton massachusetts

Aside from its college charm, Northampton boasts a small town vibe that makes you feel like you belong.  Everywhere we went, the people were friendly, welcoming, and excited to share their town with visitors.

Our weekend in Hampshire County was a wonderful break from the hustle of life and a good reminder that there’s more to Massachusetts than Boston. While the trip was full of adventure, there’s much more to explore and we can’t wait to go back to Hampshire County. If you’re looking for a romantic weekend away, a fun trip with friends, or a family-friendly place to explore, check out Hampshire County, the “other side of Massachusetts.”

Disclosure: This trip was hosted by the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council and the local businesses mentioned in this post. Although sponsored, all opinions are my own.

Boston Wine Expo 2016 Review

Last weekend I attended the 2016 Boston Wine Expo. Held on President’s Day weekend for the past 25 years, the Boston Wine Expo is the wine tasting event of the year for serious wine drinkers. After a great first experience with my boyfriend at the 2015 Boston Wine Expo, I was excited to attend the Silver 25th Anniversary this year.

The Expo took place on both Saturday and Sunday at the Seaport World Trade Center. We opted to go to the Grand Tasting which featured over 1,800 wines from 200 wineries. The Grand Tasting was held on Sunday, which was also Valentine’s Day. After a filling breakfast at home complete with Valentine’s chocolate, my boyfriend and I headed out to the Seaport in sub-zero temperatures. For some reason the weather gods seem to frown on the Expo—it fell on the coldest two days this year and during a blizzard last year.

boston wine expo 2016

Immediately upon entering the Expo, I noticed that the rows were wider and the tables were more spaced out. The 2015 Expo was very crowded, both due to it’s popularity and ticket trades on account of the blizzard. It was nice  to see that the organizers took this into consideration.  The increased spacing made it much easier to walk around  without the fear of bumping into someone and spilling wine.

We worked our way up and down the rows, sipping everything under the sun. When attending tasting events, I try to focus on new-to-me brands. There were several that stood out to me this year, including Brooklyn Oenology’s Broken Land, Bodegas Taron’s 2014 Rosado, and nearly every Vinho Verde offered. I also enjoyed new favorites from some of my go-to’s including the Magic Door Cabernet Sauvignon by 90+ Cellars.

A sucker for photo booth fun, my boyfriend and I had a blast at the Infiniti gif-producing photo booth stationed between their beautiful cars.

boston wine expo 2016

There were a number of small businesses at the Expo this year, many of which were food or snacks which allowed me to graze while I sipped my wine. My favorite was McCrea’s Candies, a local Boston company with the best caramels ever. While all of the flavors are delicious, the Black Lava Sea Salt Caramel is to die for!

mccreas candies boston wine expo 2016

Wine wasn’t the only alcohol at the event—Jonathan Pogash, aka The Cocktail Guru, was in attendance with some tasty cocktails too!

the cocktail guru

Although the Boston Wine Expo is huge, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into someone you know and low and behold, I ran into my blogger friend Jodi at the event.

boston wine expo 2016

On our final round, my boyfriend and I found the Troublemaker Wine kissing booth, a delightfully fun addition to the Expo!

boston wine expo 2016 troublemaker

Once again, the Boston Wine Expo stands as the perfect Valentine’s Day event in Boston. What better way to celebrate the day than drinking wine with the one you love? See you again next year!

Valentine’s Day Events in Boston

Valentine’s Day is this weekend and if you’re like most people, you’re scrambling to find something to do with your signifiant other or group of friends. It’s easy to find a restaurant with an expensive prix fixe menu but that’s boring and overdone. Here are 7 things to do in Boston with your friends or significant other that are more fun than dressing up and going out to dinner.

Valentine’s Day Drinking Events

Boston Wine Expoboston wine expo

The ultimate Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day event, the Boston Wine Expo is February 13th and 14th at the Seaport World Trade Center. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the BWE is the perfect way to celebrate with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or group of friends.

I attended the BWE with my boyfriend last year and we can’t wait to go back. Read my Boston Wine Expo 2015 review to see how much fun we had. Tickets start at $99 a person, including tastings, and for a limited time, Sunday tickets are $10 off so buy your Boston Wine Expo tickets here.

Valentine’s Gras Pub Crawl

For those seeking something less refined, there’s a Valentine’s Day/Mardi Gras themed pub crawl hosted by Pub Crawlers of Boston on February 13th. Tickets are $23—get more info and buy your tickets here.

Valentine’s Day Couples Events

Muse Paintbar Couples’ Nightsmuse paintbar couples night

The newest in paint-and-drink nights, Muse Paintbar is offering Couples’ Nights from Friday February 12 through Sunday February 14, 2016.

Muse offers multiple sessions throughout the day and evening and all evening sessions on Saturday, February 13th include a glass of Prosecco. Tickets are $35-$55 – check out the calendar and paintings at Muse Paintbar here.

Alice’s Table Flower Arrangement Classflower arranging class boston

Don’t buy a bouquet of flowers for your love; make one together! Alice’s Table is offering pop-up flower arrangement classes at The Street at Chestnut Hill.

The innovative company is partnering with Shake Shack for the perfect couple-friendly event with burgers, beer, flowers on February 13th. Tickets are $75 and include a bouquet you make and take home – buy your Alice’s Table Valentine’s Day tickets here.

Valentine’s Day Exercise Events in Boston

YogaWorks Back Bay Acro Yoga Workshop

Formerly known as Back Bay Yoga, YogaWorks Back Bay is under new ownership and amping up their workshops. The studio is offering an Acro Yoga workshop on Valentine’s Day. Come with a loved one or friend to this partner yoga workout. Don’t have someone to drag along? Come anyway and YogaWorks will pair you up with someone! All levels welcome and tickets are $40—get a FREE week at YogaWorks Back Bay and sign up for YogaWorks Valentine’s Day Acro Yoga here.

Cyc Fitness Valentine’s Rides

Boston’s newest indoor cycling studio, Cyc Fitness is a great full-body workout for you and your girlfriends. Located in the swanky David Barton Gym on Arlington Street, Cyc Fitness is hosting both love and heartbreak themed rides all this week. Also, Cyc Fitness has teamed up with the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The studio will donate $1 every time you ride until the end of February as part of their Calories for a Cause campaign. Classes are $27—check out the schedule and sign up for a Cyc Fitness Boston class here.

Xtend Barre Newbury Streetvalentines day xtend barre newbury class

Looking to be healthy for Valentine’s Day? Sign up and bring your sweetie for free on February 11th at 7:45pm. Unlike other barre classes, Xtend Barre is very man-friendly so your Y-chromosomed paramour won’t feel out of place. Classes cost $30 each without a membership—a great deal for 2 people! Don’t miss this awesome workout—sign up for this  Xtend Barre Valentine’s class here.

Do you know of a great Valentine’s Day event that isn’t included in this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tour

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of checking out the newest beer tour in New England, Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tours. Based out of Boston, Pints of Portsmouth is a Boston-to-Portsmouth, New Hampshire beer tour inspired by the San Francisco-to-Napa wine tours in California.  It’s not surprising that Allo Gilinsky, the founder of Pints of Portsmouth, hails from Northern California.

Joining the ranks of Boston transplants, Allo and his innovative craft beer tour is a perfect fit for Boston. Shuttling up to 20 beer lovers to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and back, the all-day tour includes visits, tours, and tastings at 4 breweries, lunch, water, and a Pints of Portsmouth beer koozie. Allo guides the tour, providing a itinerary and background information on the breweries.

boston to portsmouth beer tour

I was invited with my friend Jodi on the Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tour last weekend with a group of known beer lovers and bloggers. At 9:30 on Saturday morning, we met the group and luxury shuttle bus outside of the conveniently located Assembly Square T Station. Allo greeted us with a huge smile, detailed itinerary, and gift bags on our seats. I was immediately impressed with the attention to detail that went into the Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tours—koozies, social media reference guide, and name tags to boot!

pints of portsmouth beer tour

The 45 minute drive to Portsmouth flew by and before I knew it we were at our first stop: Smuttynose Brewery. The famous brewers of Finestkind IPA and Old Brown Dog, two of my favorite local beers, Smuttynose has a beautiful new brewery which they opened in 2014. All of the beer is brewed on site in the green, sustainable facility.

smuttynose brewery

Upon arrival we were greeted with Smuttlabs‘ newest beer, Smoked Cherry Short Weiss. If you’re a sour beer lover, this limited release is a must-try! The tour showed us everything from the bags of malt and fermenters to the bottling line. After the tour we got to taste 4 additional beers, all of which were delicious.

smuttynose brewery

Easily excitable when it comes to new beer, I took home a box of assorted sours, including the Smoked Cherry Short Weiss. Pints of Portsmouth has a cooler on board in case you purchase chilled beer and plenty of room for any other beer that you purchase.

smuttynose brewery

Photo by Fest Pics

The next stop on our Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tour was to a brewery unfamiliar to  this beer geek—Earth Eagle Brewings, known for their Gruit style of unhopped beers. We tasted 3 more beers over a lunch of sandwiches and nachos. I particularly enjoyed their White Light Gruit Herbed Ale.

earth eagle brewing portsmouth

Photo by Fest Pics

earth eagle brewing

Our third brewery of the day was Beara Irish Brewing Company. An unassuming brewery located amongst a cluster of stores, Beara offered us a tasting of 3 beers including a Java Stout, a Maple Wheat, and an Irish Stout.

beara irish brewing company portsmouth

The fourth and final stop on the Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tour was at Throwback Brewery. Owned and operated by two women, Throwback stole my heart with their founder story, beautiful farmhouse brewery, and collaborative efforts with local farmers in both their beer and food. I highly recommend the poutine-yum!

throwback brewery new hampshire

Owner Nicole Carrier set a private space for our group in a partitioned area. Seated between stainless steel tanks of beer, she explained the name and local ingredients behind each beer including Merry! Happy! Dreid-Ale, a ginger flavored beer, and an IPA called Donkey-Hote named in honor of the late donkey they inherited when they purchased the property.

pints of portsmouth beer tour boston

After a long day that flew by, it was time to hit the road and get back to Boston. We arrived back around 6pm safe and sound and with a newfound appreciation for the beers of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

If you’re looking for a fun beer-themed day trip from Boston, I highly recommend Pints of Portsmouth. The company offers several tours as well as custom tours which makes it the perfect gift for the beer lover in your life or a fun outing for birthday parties, reunions, bachelor/ette parties, and more.

While my trip was compliments of Pints of Portsmouth, this is a tour that I would gladly pay for. The day-long trip is priced at $110 and includes tours and tastings of 4 breweries, a designated driver to shuttle you around, water, and a koozie—a great deal for an awesome experience!

Special thanks to Allo from Pints of Portsmouth and Mike Johnson of FestPics for the tour and photos.