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A little bit of love

Written by Emmy on 12 July 2012

Lest we leave you to believe all that happened when a group of ex-editors hit Boston was a well-documented drinking session, there was much much more.

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After our session at drink, we took in a quick movie followed by a very long dinner. Never a group to pass up a good ethnic meal, we headed to Addis Red Sea.

IMG_0195In my favorite movie, “When Harry Met Sally,” Harry tries to make a joke about a relatively bad date he had gone on:

“We’re sitting and we’re talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, “Hey I didn’t know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I’ll order two empty plates and we can leave.”

Our experience at Addis Red Sea: less quick. Though the food was delicious — a big plate of spicy and savory meats and vegetables on top of injera — I think they had to go back to Ethiopia to collect the ingredients. Several hours later, we emerged.

The next morning we combined two of our collective favorites — more omelets and a store full of books — with a bookstore cafe brunch. Just what the blog was missing: more images of breakfast eggs.

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I don’t want to give the misimpression that all we did on our weekend together was eat food; it’s just that it’s hard to photograph friendship and we favor photography on this blog. But jokes aside, it was a fantastic weekend and while we had a blast traipsing around Boston, we really could have been anywhere. After spending so much time trapped in a newsroom and so many additional hours together by choice, there is very little that this scrappy group could not enjoy doing together.

IMG_0200Note: This wine was named for a brigade of Chilean revolutionaries; we have appropriately adopted it as our own

The crew trickled out over the course of the afternoon, heading back to points south. I held out for a midnight train to Georgia (really, for a 5am train to New York, but same idea). Chaz and I still had one activity to get in. Can you guess? An authentic Thai dinner.

We headed out to Brookline to Khao Sarn, which our best internet sources claimed would be the best around. We walked in at nearly 9 p.m. and found ourselves to be essentially the only diners present. That on its own might have been disconcerting, but there were a couple delightful surprises on the menu.

Yes. Hello, betel.

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Okay, it wasn’t actually betel, but spinach leaves, a substitute that is more easily acquired in America. It nevertheless evoked our sidewalk picnic in Bangkok. The other appetizers were delicious, even if they did not cause such heartfelt nostalgia for the checkpoint. We sampled a spicy, crunchy papaya salad and a very refreshing summer roll.

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As we walked ourselves down memory lane, we were also blown away to see khao soi grace the menu. Many of Thailand’s wonderful dishes have made it firmly to the United States. Pad thai is nothing if not an American staple at this point. Khao soi, on the other hand, has not made quite the same exodus from its homeland. The spicy broth, filled with crunchy egg noodles and tangy vegetables, is a staple of Northern Thailand’s cuisine and we ate quite a bit of it up in Chiang Mai. It tasted spectacularly familiar. We also sampled a mango Thai curry, spicy and fruity all at once.

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The spice and authentic leaves made for the proper condiments on top of a lovely weekend.

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120 reasons to visit Boston

Written by Emmy on 26 June 2012

Chaz and I first met once upon a time as writers at The Brown Daily Herald. Then we graduated to being editors and along with a wonderful cohort of friends became the 120th Editorial Board.

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Post-graduate life has flung us up and down the east coast — well, Boston, NYC and D.C. — but we’ve done our best to keep in touch. And from time to time, we reunite up close and personal. I missed the D.C. version of the reunion back in December, but in mid-March, nearly all of us made the trek up to Boston.

Ben, Joanna and Seth made their way up on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, but I wasn’t able to leave till after work on Friday. I boarded a train late afternoon and arrived in Boston in time for a late, late dinner. I walked into the restaurant and was immediately handed a wine glass and, in 120 tradition, a tequila shot. There is nothing I love more than a good tradition, even if the cheap shots are hard to swallow.

On Saturday we met up with some of Chaz’s local friends for brunch. A few of us threatened to board a train to Providence in order to eat omelets at our favorite dive diner, but we practically decided to settle for something a bit closer, paying a visit to Mike’s City Diner, which perfectly fit the bill of casual, diner and dive. We sampled a huge portion of the menu between the ten or so of us. As I snapped my way down the table, Chaz remarked, “How many pictures of omelets do we really need on the blog?” The answer: Quite a few.

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After lunch we walked the city and took in some modern art, applying a few of the skills we picked up as liberal arts students. But after walking through glass curtains and interpreting symbolic art, it was time for a new activity.

We had decided to make an afternoon event out of Drink, a trendy hotspot in Boston, where there is no menu — the idea is that you are at a cocktail party with your friends (albeit a much classier one than the kind we would throw for ourselves). You sample drinks based on the loose description of what you would like to be imbibing. We arrived only 15 minutes after the 4 p.m. opening, and there were already no seats available. But we were able to finagle ourselves into a little spot at the bar, and we settled in for a cultural experience.

The waiter asked us each what kind of drink we would like and we each responded with a poetic description of our ideal beverage, using adjectives like “light” and “minty” and “citrusy” and specified our favorite base liquors and mixers. Our waiter took it all in and returned with a selection of beverages, handmade to match each of our descriptions.

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The result was an array of exciting drinks, but we felt like we had given our waiter almost too much direction. Because we had each described — using a bevy of adjectives — our preferred drink, we each got our preferred drink. We had hoped for more surprise and so for round two, took a different tactic.

Instead of describing a drink, we each supplied one word — “mint,” “cucumber,” “orange,” and “fruit.” This time, the results were a little more unexpected.

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Not only were our drinks exciting, but they were new and unfamiliar. We started probing a waitress about what had gone into each drink (I mean, come on, we’re all ex-journalists); she did us one better and supplied us with printed receipts detailing the precise calculations that had gone into the delightful cocktails we were sipping.

Fully equipped with the knowledge of what had gone into our drinks, we took on new airs of sophistication around our fancy drinking. Chaz and I also invoked an old rule from a previous classy drinking experience and mandated that everyone had a chance to sample each beverage.

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We also ordered a few snacks, but given that the establishment was called Drink, the beverages were more the focus of the event. The french fries were a delight, but we found the cheese plate to be a bit stingy. (We have high cheese plate standards.)

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By the time we were ready for round three, the establishment was really hopping and there was a long line to get in. We briefly debated cutting our visit short, but our spot at the bar seemed almost too valuable to give up.

For our last round, we went the single-word route again: “creamy,” “caramel,” “nutty,” “gin” and “mint sour”. OK, so “mint sour” is two words, but that was intentional. I ordered “mint” in round two and had been delighted by my drink. So delighted that I wanted to experience mint again, but I wanted it to be sour. So I felt I needed to provide a directional nudge. My punishment — if you call it that — was two somewhat similar drinks, but with enough of a difference that they felt like two distinct rounds.

“Gin” had been Chaz’s word and upon receiving his drink, he remarked, “This is the alcoholiest drink I have ever loved.”

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Several drinks and several hours later, we emerged into broad daylight, and after taking a few moments to adjust, returned to reality outside of underground cocktail parties and fancy drinks with poetic titles and potent ingredient lists.

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Feliz cumpleaños, Chaz

Written by Emmy on 21 December 2011

As I once mentioned in the early days of Absurdity Checkpoint, I believe birthdays to be very important. And though I could not be in Boston for the actual day of, I journeyed up north in order to take part in at least the celebratory portion of Chaz’s 23rd.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon in time for some last-minute party planning efforts and, of course, dinner at a neighborhood Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. As is apparently tradition with a checkpoint birthday dinner, little photographic evidence survived. (Monochromatic dishes in a dark restaurant just don’t pop well on a cellphone camera.) We celebrated afterward with Diana and many of Chaz’s new Boston friends.

My visit was brief, but there was obviously as much food stuffed in as possible. Sunday’s main event was brunch. We went to Masa, a southwestern restaurant not far from Chaz’s apartment that I had been to with friends the year prior and remembered as being quite excellent. There was a wait to be seated, as is often the case with a Sunday brunch expedition, and so we had coffees at the bar. At the peak brunch hour of 1 p.m., Masa was packed entirely with twenty-somethings just like us.

By the time we were seated, we were both feeling ravenous and so quickly devoured the homemade cornbread, served with three different spreads — apricot and habanera jam, molasses honey butter, and cranberry and chipotle jam.

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Chaz had the stuffed Mexican omelet, filled with fresh veggies and cheese.

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I ordered the “ultimate” breakfast burrito with black beans, veggies, cheese, chorizo and eggs. Much to Chaz’s chagrin, I ordered it with egg whites.

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We powered through our meal so that we would have time to take a tour of Chaz’s office before I set off on my train back to New York. The trip, though very brief, gave me a quick glimpse into Chaz’s new grown-up life. This was the checkpoint’s first reunion since we bid farewell in the Detroit airport and so much had happened in the few short months since. Since the checkpoint began, we’ve gone from college kids to carefree summer adventurers to “professional,” working “adults.” But the moral of the (still-evolving) story is that we’re still best friends, despite the daily separation of about 225 miles. And so the checkpoint lives on — one adventure at a time.

How do you say 23 with a Boston accent?

Written by Chaz on 20 December 2011

My friend Diana came up to Boston for my birthday right before Thanksgiving, and having not explored much of Boston’s restaurant scene, I was excited at the excuse to go out for a nice dinner. I picked Prezza, an Italian place in the North End.

Of course, the checkpoint has a long history of birthday coverage. Though this one fell under very different circumstances, and in fact on the other side of the world, I figured it was as good a time as any to bring the camera.

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We began with prosciutto served with roasted red peppers, buffalo mozzarella, olive tapenade and aged balsamic vinegar. Frankly, I think both of us could have done without the prosciutto, but the toppings were delicious, especially the mozzarella.

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We shared two entrees: potato gnocchi in a veal ragout with wild mushrooms and parmigiano cheese, and roasted halibut with butternut squash and sage risotto. The gnocchi were really good, as homemade pasta usually is, but it was not exceptional, especially considering my high expectations. The halibut, on the other hand, was out of this world.

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I didn’t even know you could cook fish like this halibut. The top was perfectly browned, while the rest of the filet was still tender. The butternut squash and risotto made a great mild complement to the fish. Though all of the ingredients were different, I was reminded of the composition of the amazing chicken dish we had at the Ahwahnee.

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After dinner, we took a walk down Hanover Street to Mike’s Pastry, where we contemplated our dessert options. Despite the late hour, the place was packed with people just like us, looking for a sweet bite after dinner.

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We ditched the crowds — always a questionable choice — to head next door to Caffe Vittoria, where we got a quiet table and shared a piece of tiramisu.

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Possibly the best birthday cake — and, in fact, birthday evening — that I could have asked for.