Category Archives: North End

ArtVenue; An Artful Resurgence

Photo by Evan Smith

Artists of all genres, mediums and ages devote countless hours to their craft, their passion and their labor of love. Finding time to research venues and keeping organized with follow-up and follow-through proves to be a more daunting task that you would think. Three art-admirers put their heads together and created ArtVenue, a site that acts as a curating matchmaker between artists and local businesses. Whether it’s blank wall space behind the cash register of a clothing boutique, in a dimly lit entrance of a cigar shoppe, or next to a shelf full of hair products in a salon – ArtVenue gives more artists the chance to display their work and gain exposure and potential revenue from their sales. Businesses get a cut as well, but, most importantly, they become supporters in a reciprocal movement that is sure to gain momentum with every artist and business sign up at ArtVenue. This is the start of a grassroots art resurgence!

ArtVenue, a MassChallenge finalist, is currently inviting artists and businesses to sign up and create a free profile on their site which is currently in beta. Check out the video below to see how ArtVenue works!

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There’s a New Deal in Town

I endorse the business model under which sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and other deal-of-the-day sites follow. Enjoying a delicious meal worth $50 when I’ve only paid $20? Yes, please. Partaking in 12 yoga classes when I only needed to pay for one? Ommmm. I am a huge fan of deal sites but in my hectic life I often neglect checking them; I’m just too busy or it simply slips my mind. Thank goodness there is one ultimate site, DealGator, that aggregates deals from every existing deal site (Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.) and presents them to me at one place and one time. How convenient is that?

DealGator is stupendously time-saving. Instead of aimlessly browsing other deal sites and hoping for a specific deal, I can just select or deselect deal categories and watch the list of deals instantly reorganize before my eyes! The site will even send a personalized list of completely new deals to my email every morning, saving me yet another step.

Let’s say I’m browsing restaurant deals and want to filter out Mexican food due to my preexisting burrito habit, entering the keyword “Mexican” excludes Mexican food related deals from my list. It’s like having a Vegas buffet catered to my dietary needs, taste preferences and gluttonous cravings I can have modified even while I feast. The combination of customizable deals is infinite and the only way to discover them is to go to DealGator and see for yourself!

See ya later, alligator!

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Restaurant Week in Boston

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

I like to write, I like to make art, and I sure do love to eat. I’m entering a point in my life where I eat to savor, not just to nourish. And, depending on the hour, I also eat to [over]indulge. In my figurative mind, a delicious meal is like an engaging painting. A clean empty plate is like an untouched blank canvas and ingredients make up the subject and focus of the piece. Taste translates into sight and each hue of flavor provides color, depth, contrast and reason for that work of art to be. A chef is a taste artist, a painter is a visual chef, you get the picture.

I personally lean towards being a visual chef (artist) and food’s biggest fan, and I won’t accept this “starving artist” role. There are ways around this cliche and I couldn’t think of a better time to be here in Boston. Boston Restaurant Week is just around the corner, which means I have a few days left to spend some quality time at the gym before it’s August 15th and I turn into a glutton for Boston Neighborhoods‘ sake, or so I tell myself. It runs August 15th-20th and then the 22nd-27th.The alphabetized list of restaurants participating in Restaurant Week with their menus and restaurant info are just a click away. At this point I’ve thoroughly memorized the prix fixe menus from restaurants A-through-Dante. There’s a ‘Wild Salmon & Crab Burger’ from Bambara with my name on it.

When making your own dining itinerary, be sure to follow the six Restaurant Week Tips as mentioned on the site:

  1. Make reservations for Restaurant Week as early as possible, they tend to go fast.
  2. Do not make reservations at more than one restaurant for the same meal period, as it prevents others from getting the reservations they want.
  3. If you need to cancel your reservation, do so with as much notice as possible so restaurants have the opportunity to rebook the table.
  4. Look for specially priced wine pairings to accompany your meal – some restaurants offer wines by the glass or pairings to accompany the whole meal at reduced Restaurant Week prices.
  5. Some restaurants extend their participation in Restaurant Week by offering their prix fixe menu for an additional week, so ask your server.
  6. Tax and gratuity are not included in the prix fixe price. Be sure to show appreciation for good service by tipping generously…it’s good karma.

There will be more blogs entailing all the miraculously delectable foodie adventures to come, so keep an eye out!

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Gelato is [eat first, research later].

Gelato is Italian for Ben & Jerry’s.

Gelato is scrumdiliumptious.

Gelato is this and that tempting picture to the right.

Lately in this heat and mugginess, I feel like I’ve been swimming through the Boston air, and judging from the damp states of people’s shirts they might feel that way too. Glacial ice chunks taking a plunge into the iciest glass of Arctic water couldn’t cool us down. We can’t help but succumb to the sun’s wickedness but luckily there are ways to obliterate our discomfort-and from the inside out.

While I love and appreciate a frosty milkshake, sometimes the dairy sits a bit heavy in my belly. Not the best feeling in the middle of a summer day in the city. Today while ambling down Hanover Street, I decide I need to try a gelato shoppe I’ve walked by numerous times when I lived in the North End a few years ago. Gelateria is always bustling with customers flowing through their double-ended street entrances, a tell-tale sign of popularity.

Gelateria’s atmosphere is a playful tug-of-war between the past and present. Old photos display antique Vespas and Italian landscapes, but the bright red counters and waffle cones wrapped in American flag paper signify the “now”. The two main counters contain rich flavors like tiramisu, espresso, Stracciatella, Limoncello andcoconut. You can choose up to three flavors in one dish; I went with watermelon, strawberry and orange. If I had the budget and gall, I’d have sampled all of the flavors. Gelato is denser in texture and flavor but is a bit more healthier for me, a nice change from creamy yet airy ice cream I’m so used to. I would recommend going to Gelateria with ten friends, getting a tri-flavored cup per friend and enjoying all the deliciously cold treats that Gelateria has to offer.

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Espresso Self

Great writers had their vices, some of liquid, powder, loose-leaf and/or solid form. Walter Benjamin took to his mescaline and William Faulkner once said, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.” I consider myself to be a budding wordsmith striving for a lucrative writing career, but I keep to legal and caffeinated stimulants. Cappuccinos, mochas, lattés, café this and that’s, you name it, I’ve sipped it to galvanize creativity and I fully blame the espresso bean for its impetuous qualities on which I am hooked.

There is no such thing as bad espresso, some espressos just happen to be better than others. Today, in the North End, I took to Hanover Street on a java reconnaissance. Must find the perfect tiny porcelain cup of espresso, I thought as I strolled into Modern Pastry, Caffe Vittoria and Caffe Lil Italy. Farewell, fatigue!

As soon as I walked into Modern Pastry I was hit by a fragrance-wall of fresh breakfast pastries. Buttery, flaky breads and warm berry fillings inspired my palate. My eyes took in the colorful imports and cupcake sprinkles but immediately settled on the gleaming coffee machine behind the counter. One quick cash-only transaction later I sat down with my espresso, tapped in a bit of sugar and embraced the bitterness. I needed a bit of milk to cut the bite, but I jitter-bugged my way to the next café.

Caffe Vittoria was Boston’s first Italian café, established in 1929. The old coffee machines, serving as an eclectic and accumulative beacon of the past, created the backbone of Caffe Vittoria’s ambience and nostalgia. The wireless Internet gave it modern-day appeal. My cup of Lavazza espresso went down smoothly, and I mellowed for a while to let the buzz settle.

I felt I had the mental capacity to write an epic, threefold novel, or the perfect stream-of-consciousness, but I ventured off the beaten-path to Caffe Lil Italy. It was a small, reliable, less frilly and less obvious spot that might not see as much foot-traffic as the previous cafes, but my to-go cup was a damn good one. Perhaps the sweet difference was a switch to brown sugar, but I would certainly recommend Caffe Lil Italy to any coffee connoisseur. It was a delight. The table of elderly Italian men shooting the breeze and sipping their own espresso drinks confirmed the integrity of this establishment.

I implore you to take it upon yourselves to explore every side street of Boston’s historically rich neighborhood that is the North End. Both printed and online sources can only offer so many reviews and you’ll never know what will hit your senses with newfound content and keep you coming back for more.

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Boston Neighborhood Sites