Valentine’s Day weekend has always been an exciting time around the Taco household. Not only is it Valentine’s Day, it’s close to SB’s birthday, and it’s also Valentino’s birthday. As such, we always try to do some exciting stuff when Valentine’s Day rolls around.
This year the weather wasn’t especially loving. Was there snow? Well, a little.
But it was really about the wind and cold.
1 degree was actually pretty good, at some points it was down around -6 with a wind chill of -25. Good outdoor weather.
This was pretty much how Pig felt about it.
Of course, we are not a group to let something as silly as deadly cold get in our way, especially with birthdays coming up, so earlier in the week the boys and I ventured out to a new store and got some mixins’ for a Valentine’s/Birthday cake.
Finding cake stuff is not easy here. The stores that are most convenient to us are either small (expensive) markets with limited selections, or Whole Foods – none of which are good when you want a chemically-laden trans-fat loaded, high-fructose corn syrup mass of gooey cakey obesity. So the boys and I tramped over to a “Star Market” which is the closest thing to a “normal” grocery store we have within walking distance of us.
On Friday morning we actually baked the cake itself so that it would be cool by the time we got home that night. See, we had a big Friday planned since it was the start of the weekend. The problem was that a full on-call shift at the clinic stood between me and freedom.
The good news was that before I went to the clinic I was able to snag a free lunch, and listen to a person who went on a three year silence and meditation retreat in Tibet talk about mindfulness. So that was cool.
After that, it was off to the clinic to work. This is my office, well, my space – well, the area where I work. It isn’t really mine, though I do like one of the desks more than others.
The student attorneys have no windows in their office, it’s fun.
I actually had the place to myself for most of the afternoon though, being the Friday before a holiday weekend meant that the place was pretty dead. When I got out of the clinic to leave for the evening the upper floors of the building I was in were entirely empty.
After leaving the law school I headed down to Boston proper to meet up with SB for her birthday dinner.
It was very cold. Very cold indeed.
The destination was a place called Jacob Wirth, which despite looking like an Irish Pub on the outside, is actually modeled after a German beer hall on the inside.
We’d actually been here before, way back when we first moved to Boston and after we’d spent 10 years in the RMV, however I didn’t even remember that this was the same place until SB told me so. Jacob Wirth is one of those places that – in addition to being out of our way – is generally too expensive for us. However, SB being the coupon-hawk that she is, we were able to get a Groupon that, with an additional discount, allowed us to get 35$ worth of food for 17$, not too bad. Of course it didn’t cover alcohol, but still.
However, before I talk about the food, I have to talk about the men’s bathroom. It is one of those “divey” bathrooms that sticks with you. In fact, as soon as I walked in there I immediately remembered it. Well, it was before I even walked in there actually – you have to go back into this tiny hallway and then through a little door. Then you enter the palace of kings.
This imperial lounge even features (mostly) functional urinals so close to each other than you can pee all over your companions at a moment’s notice.
Bathroom aside, Jacob Wirth is actually really good – not only because of their food, but because they have a big draft beer selection (kind of necessary if you feature German food). I was actually really excited, because I was finally able to try one of Sam Adams’ nitro beers, which had already denied me on a previous Friday outing.
1. Left: Samuel Adams Nitro Belgian White – Boston Beer Company [Me]
2. Right: Mosaic Session IPA – Blue Point Brewing Company [SB]
The Sam Adams was AWESOME. I love nitro beers (for an explanation of what that is, see this post) and Sam Adams did not disappoint. You really just have to try a nitro beer to fully understand it. SB’s beer was good too, though it had a kind of funky flavor palate for a session IPA – not bad, just different.
[As an aside, I am now on Untappd – a smartphone app that is literally a social media platform for beer, so hopefully I won’t forget which beers I’ve had anymore! I can now track what beers I drink, where I drink them, and when I drink them! Technically you can too, if you are also on Untappd. Of course this all relies on me actually remembering to “Check In” on the app in the first place 😛 .]
For dinner I had: Boursin Mushroom Burger (Angus Burger Patty Grilled and Topped with Creamy Boursin and Sautéed Mushrooms) and SB had: German Burger (Angus Burger Grilled and Topped with Swiss Cheese and Served between Red Cabbage and Sauerkraut), both of which were AMAZING.
Of course something was missing. We’d actually ordered some fried pickles as an appetizer, but they never came. SB had been told their fried pickles were good and I had read the same thing online, so when our burgers came out before our pickles we were a bit baffled. However, our server owned up to his mistake and gave us the pickles on the house.
They were good, I’m not sure they were exceptional – they were fried pickles – but I’d certainly get them again. Of course the funny thing about getting them for free, is that it actually didn’t help us that much since we had a 35$ Groupon (which are a one-use deal, in case you weren’t aware). So by losing the price of the pickles, we’d actually devalued our Groupon. Not to be discouraged, we took advantage of a special Valentine’s Day menu and ordered a couple of chocolate covered strawberries to share!
They were yummy-licious, and totally worth it, even with a (half-made) cake waiting at home. After our strawberries we decided to head home considering how cold it was, but no Friday trip home is complete without stopping in and getting some beer first.
Upon arriving home, we also found a few packages waiting for us! The first was huge and was my new suitcase.
It’s actually a little larger than our old suitcase was, and considering that our old suitcase was irreparably damaged, this one is nicer too.
The boys also had a package from Grandma Meem, but it couldn’t be opened until Sunday (Valentine’s Day/Valentino’s Birthday).
They were surprisingly ok with waiting, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the cake in the kitchen. And, speaking of that cake, Valentino was very pleased with the final product.
The story of our Valentine’s Day cake is always an interesting one, namely because both SB and Valentino have a say in the matter (and Tristen and I – and now Pig – make the cake, with Valentino usually helping with the icing). This year there was a bit of a difference in opinion because SB wanted a super chocolaty cake, while Valentino was feeling something more strawberry-lemon. Taco to the rescue.
The end result was a two layer, triple-chocolate-fudge cake with strawberry-lemon icing and red sprinkles on top. It was a universal success, and we ate on it for four days.
The next day our fun times continued. As SB is a member of the Starbucks Cool-Kids Club she gets a free drink around her birthday. We used this as an opportunity to try one of Starbucks limited-time Valentine’s Day drinks (which has kind of become a tradition for us). Unfortunately this time around their drinks weren’t too special, they were basically all variations of hot chocolate or lattes which were basically hot chocolate, additionally, the only real change to the cups was a switch from check-boxes to check-hearts.
Still, it’s more about the conversation than it is the coffee, so we still enjoyed it.
After coffee and grocery shopping we headed out in the arctic again to walk up to Inman Square. Why would we do such a thing when it was so freaking cold? Because Meem had gotten us a gift-certificate for Inman Oasis (spa) for Christmas! So, when coupled with our Bruins tickets, Meem had continued to provide Christmas bounties long after December had passed.
Our package included a 45 minute massage followed by a 30 minute private soak in a Japanese style wooden tub made of Jarrah wood. They also have a communal, much larger tub, but if you have two or more people you can get a private tub. So we had 75 minutes of Saturday awesomeness to experience.
In a rare twist I didn’t have the masseuse work on my legs very much, I’ve kind of lost hope there until I can afford to try acupuncture (which is really the only “mainstream” treatment I haven’t tried – at least not more than once). So I got a “Sports” massage as well, which even though I don’t play sports I guess it makes sense since I work out 7 days a week. It was very nice. The masseuse ending up working on my permanently numb spot on my upper right back/neck area, and according to her it’s actually my rhomboid muscle that is pretty much trashed. While this numb spot predates law school, law school has definitely made it worse (but as a good aside, the numb spot I used to have on the right side of my waist hasn’t returned in several years). So yeah, it was a good massage, and as usual 45 minutes felt like about 5 – massages always go by so quickly.
After the massage it was time to robe up and reunite with SB for the soak.
SB and her masseuse had actually beaten us to the tub, probably because I spent a solid 5 minutes trying to explain my problems to my masseuse – she had never heard of the diagnoses I wrote down before, which honestly didn’t surprise me since they are all basically ways of saying “We have no idea what is wrong with you, have a nice life 😀 .”
The tub was awesome, and to her credit SB had paid attention to the instructions. Of course operating everything required pressing one button.
After a massage, shower, a 30 minute soak, and another rinse-off shower both SB and I were pretty much gelatin. So we got dressed (which was difficult in the relatively cramped quarters of the bath room) and then headed back out into Siberia and made our way home.
That night we followed up our relaxing day with beer – the only way to end a relaxing day (or a normal day, or a bad day, or really any day).
I’ll be honest, I only noticed this can because the name of the beer is “Steal this Can” (similar to a System of a Down album simply titled “Steal this Album!“). I had never had this brewery (Lord Hobo) before and I wavered on getting it – because we already had a 12-pack from Sierra Nevada (pictured above) – but ultimately decided to buy it as a reward for getting an “H” for my placement in New Mexico (Yay me!), something I had just learned that same day.
Turns out, this American IPA had a better can than it did taste. It wasn’t bad, it just was really malty for an IPA, which I felt like cheapened the flavor profile of the beer, of course with a brewery name like “Lord Hobo” then maybe that is intentional.
I have a mixed history with rye beers, let alone rye IPAs. Its a hard flavor to balance and sometimes its just to bitter, or the hops aren’t contrasted against the rye properly. In the trail of rye beers I’ve had, Ruthless from Sierra Nevada falls flat in the middle, it’s neither bad nor especially good. That said, the bottle label is pretty awesome.
An old classic, this was probably one of my first “strong” IPAs (though not my first IPA, that was Upland’s Dragonfly IPA, and I absolutely hated it at the time, though I’m ok with it now). Torpedo is an extra IPA, so it’s strong, but its not super strong – which makes it a nice stepping stone to stronger IPAs. As such, I continue to recommend it.
This was probably the most “straight-forward” IPA of the bunch in this Sierra Nevada sampler. This means that I don’t have a whole lot to say about it because it wasn’t super memorable – however, being super memorable isn’t always a good thing for beer. So this one also gets my recommendation, despite being nothing super special. This would be a good 6-pack kind of beer.
This was the beer in the sampler back that I was most interested in. Of course SB
drank stole the first one, so it was a couple days before I actually had it. The wait was mostly worth it. I say mostly because this “experimental” IPA definitely feels like it’s still in the processing stage. While the 5 hops all have unique flavors, I feel like things are still a bit too “mixed up” for a final brew. Of course it’s no small feat to brew a good beer with 5 hops, and this one is good, but I think it could be better and I have a feeling that Sierra Nevada will improve this one over time.
In addition to our beer we also watched Inside Out, which was absolutely amazing and you really should watch it – like seriously.
On Sunday morning, we got more coffee! Also, the boys finally got to open their Grandma Meem present, turns out it was Valentine’s Day Peeps shaped like Hearts – perfect for Valentino, which was fitting since Sunday was his actual birthday (and Valentine’s Day)!
While my love of Peeps has faded over the years, they are still fresh and new to the boys (especially Pig, who was happy to eat them stale in New Mexico) and as such they were pretty excited to dig into them.
And dig into them we did. Not only did we have Peeps and coffee, we even had Peeps and cake later on – because sugar on top of sugar is twice the health benefits.
Most of Sunday was spent working on clinic stuff for yours truly, it actually got a bit hectic later on, but I finished things eventually and made everyone some BBQ chicken pizza for our Sunday night dinner. We had pizza and cakes while watching Adventure Time, which is once again our go-to show now that football is over.
So, all-in-all, it was a great Valentine’s Day Weekend! SB is now 30, Valentino is 3, and everyone had lots of good food, good relaxing, and good beers. Can’t ask for much more than that!
Sadly, after all the fun last weekend and then this weekend, we’ve used up most of our special plans in the short term. Of course even though things are getting back to normal, I’m sure we’ll find ways to keep ourselves out of too much trouble 😛 .
Until next time,
[P.S. – After an unknown amount of lost hours, we (and by we I mostly mean Meem) have figured out the majority of the image problems on the blog, it’s still not perfect – images still have to be rotated prior to upload, but things should be a bit easier from now on. As for the end-user experience, pictures should load faster since they have smaller file sizes on average thanks to an extra “compression” step I am taking.]