1. Yeah, that’s just a Colonial guy in breeches and spatterdashes. Ignore him.
They re-enact the Boston Tea Party, or something. It’s a tourist thing to do. Like Duck Tours and whale watching.
2. Our gods are The Sox, The Pats, the Bruins and the Celtics.
You must never blaspheme the gods in front of a Boston native. Praise the demi-gods Tom Brady, Robert Paxton Gronkowski aka “Gronk” and David Ortiz aka “Big Papi.”
3. A liquor store is a ‘packie,’ ‘jimmies’ are sprinkles, a ‘spa’ is a deli, ‘frappes’ are milkshakes and it’s a ‘rotary’ not a roundabout. Got it?
After I run this packie, I’ll take the second exit off the rotary to get a frappe with jimmies at Town Spa.
4. We nevah pronounce ouwah ah’s. (Translation: We never pronounce our R’s)
You’ve probably heard the famous phrase before. All tourists have fun with it. Let’s say it together, shall we? Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Not so hard, right? Don’t say it to a local.
5. Good luck parking your car in Harvard Yard, or anywhere for that matter.
Meter maids are on the prowl, all the time. You parked at 5:59 when the meter expires at 6? $25 to the City of Boston. If you drove in, leave your car at the hotel and take the T. Definitely don’t try to drive in if you’re attempting to go to a Red Sox game. You will not succeed in finding parking, unless you have a large disposable income.
6. Yes, the Fens and Revere Beach have nice scenic views, but you better beware of needles.
Massachusetts has a serious opiate addiction problem. It’s very sad. Also beware the junkies; you’ll know them when you see them, and you will see them.
7. If we dig out a space on the street for our car, you can’t legally park there.
Of course, we may have to mark our territory with some chairs or trash cans or a 36-pack of Natty Lite.
8. ‘Dunks’ is slang for Dunkin Donuts, and it is the elixir of life.
Munchkins from Dunks are a perfect treat to bring to work, a party, a museum event, a tailgate, your cousin’s wake, etc. Boston runs on Dunkin.
9. The T is our subway, metro, whatever.
It generally stand for ‘transit’ or ‘transportation’ and is part of the larger MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It’s not very fast, especially on the Green Line that runs through universities like Boston University, Northeastern, Boston College, etc. But remember, patience is a virtue.
10. Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ is our anthem.
And our anthem. It’s played at every game, at the bottom of the eighth inning. It’s also not uncommon for a drunk guy, or kid (pronounced “khed,” though not actually a drunk child), to start up a chant on the T and get the whole car, including the driver, happily singing along.
11. “’Yankees Suck’ is our other anthem.
And it’s chanted at every sporting event. We’re confident that Jesus hates the Yankees, too.
12. Timberland boots are acceptable footwear no matter the season.
Also, “nice” cargo shorts are acceptable formal attire.
13. Every winter, we inform everyone that we’re moving south.
But we don’t. And every summer, we stick around to enjoy Martha’s Vineyard and “The Cape” aka Cape Cod.
14. We use ‘wicked’ as an adverb, both ironically and seriously.
Went to Kelly’s Roast Beef last night and got some chicken fingahs. It was wicked pissah.
15. In addition to Kelly’s Roast Beef for late-night bites, Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston (Eastie) and Union Oyster House in Government Center are our Boston go-tos.
Don’t forget the D’Angelo’s chain for a variety of hot and cold subs. Yes, subs. Not heroes, not grinders, not even sandwiches.
1. You’ve sat on the curb with your heels on your lap to eat street meat from the stand near Sissy K’s.
2. You’ll always drink Harpoon and Jack’s Abbey over Samuel Adams because you know that the Boston Lager isn’t actually brewed in Boston.
3. You know that to get served after 2am, all you have to do is go to a late-night restaurant in Chinatown and order a pot of “cold tea.” (Whether they give you beer or white wine is up to the proprietor.)
4. You suspect the bouncer at T’s still has the fake ID he confiscated from you when you were 19.
5. You can remember the days when you spent your weekends covered in PBR and highlighter ink from a BU or MIT frat party.
6. You’ve stolen salt and pepper shakers from the South Street diner at 4am But then felt intensely ashamed about it the next morning because that waiter was really good-natured about how drunk you were.
7. You’ve also, obviously, drunkenly ridden that mechanical pony outside of South Street at 5am.
8. You’ve been kicked out of White Horse for falling down too much.
9. When you go out of town and order a ‘Bacahdi and coke,’ you have to force yourself to pronounce the “R” because out-of-state bartenders never seem to know what you want.
10. You never forget your ID because all these students gallivanting around means you’ll be showing ID until you’re 75.
11. However you remember the days when a fake got you into Daisy Buchanan’s — easily.
12. You’ve felt the wrath of doing way too many pickleback shots at The Draft.
13. And if they ran out of pickle juice, you know what way too many Fireball shots can do to you.
14. You’ve ended up at JJ Foley’s after hours and mysteriously spent your entire paycheck.
15. You know that whenever you go to pay in Boston, the bartender’s going to ask if you’d like to pay cash or just “run the cahd.”
16. You’ve tasted the glory of adding Fireball to your Downeast Cider. (Also: Guinness and Downeast Cider, tell me that’s not good.)
17. You know that 90s night at Common Ground is the only time you can enjoy the Spice Girls without shame.
18. You’ll never say no to a pitcher of PBR. Obviously.
19. You’ve been genuinely impressed by the karaoke singers at Hong Kong, and equally impressed with the scorpion bowls and teriyaki sticks that go around like hot dogs at a Red Sox game.
20. You’ve been ripped off paying for booze at Fenway and the Garden — because it’s just that important to drink at sporting events.
21. You or someone you know has gotten into a fight at Coogan’s. But, hey, they have dollar drafts so you’ll always be back.
22. You’ve played “beirut” or “root,” never beer pong.
23. You’re used to “happy hour” specials being more about food specials than drink specials.
24. You’ve ordered yourself at least three $1 burgers from the Avenue. (Now $2 burgers…)
25. You either regularly order a Tito’s and soda at Tia’s, or you absolutely hate the people who order a Tito’s and soda at Tia’s.
26. You know that nothing goes better with your fried clams and Martha’s Vineyard oysters than a cold Cisco Grey Lady.
27. Your friends keep telling you that Quincy Center has some awesome bars, but since they shut down Marina Bay, you have no real desire to take the Red Line out that far.
28. You’ve enjoyed a “Hobo Special” of a 40 and a hot dog at Bukowski Tavern. The one in Inman Square. You know the Back Bay one is for rich yuppies.
29. Your fanciest moment was when you got dressed up to sip craft cocktails and listen to live jazz at the Beehive.
30. Since the T stops running before last call, you’ve decided to just sober up with a walk around the Commons and wait until it reopens, rather than pay for a cab.
Fill your day with el Rastro flea market, off-the-beaten-track sightseeing, and tapas in La Latina.
There’s nothing better than a lazy Sunday, am I right? Sleeping in until 10 and spending an additional 15 minutes or so slowly stretching beneath the covers before you tumble out of bed to make a cup of coffee that you’ll serenely sip on as you flip through The New York Times. You’ll either remain in your pajamas all day or, if the weather is nice, venture out to the park or the beach to sip and read something there. Maybe you’ll go out for breakfast. Maybe you’ll catch a movie. Either way, you can rest easy knowing that the day will stretch long and uneventful in front of you, for the Bible tells us so. “And on the seventh day He rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)
Lazy Sundays in Madrid are not an option because this is one of the liveliest days of the week. The two bookends to your Spanish Sunday are El Rastro marketplace and tapas in La Latina. The filler activities are simply activities that you shouldn’t leave Madrid without partaking in. If you read my first post about what to do with a day in Madrid, you’ll have gotten most of the mainstream events out of the way and can look forward to a day slightly more filled with locals. Shall we begin?
El Rastro is Madrid’s famous open-air flea market and is held on Sundays and public holidays. Beginning in the Plaza de Cascorro near La Latina metro station and ending with Ronda de Toledo, the declining street of La Ribera de Curtidores and its smaller side streets are completely packed with vendors selling everything from cheap scarves and artisan jewelry to painted clay sangria pitchers and bootleg DVDs. You can literally find anything you’ll ever need here, except produce. Make sure to grab a café con leche and a quick breakfast at your hostel, Way Hostel, or a nearby pastelería before taking the short walk to the Plaza where the market begins. Also, don’t forget to stop at the ATM for cash. Some of the vendors have credit card machines, but most don’t. And remember my tips! Keep that money on lock down to avoid pickpocketers in the crowded space. I also recommend bringing a backpack or a larger bag to put your purchases in because we’re not going right back to the hostel after the market.
They say el Rastro runs from 8am to 3pm, but if you get there after 1, you’ve basically missed it all because the stands like to pack it in early. Try to get to the market by 9 or 10 so you have plenty of time to stroll and shop at your leisure. Don’t buy all the things you want at the first few stands because you’ll see about a hundred more stands along the way with better items, and you’ll wish you had bought that cool Heineken sweatshirt instead of your lame I ‘Heart’ Madrid sweatshirt. Do haggle, bat your eyelashes, and speak in Spanish. ¿Cuanto cuesta, señor?
When you’ve finally made it to the bottom of the Rastro hill, it will most likely be around 1 o’clock. You must be hungry. Grab some fresh fruit from the frutería and chow down on inspired tostas, open-faced sandwiches, from one of the restaurants near the Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo. Rest your weary feet while you people-watch with the locals.
A very short walk away from where you are luncheoning is la Tabacalera. The first time I bought weed in Madrid, my new dealer friend took my BU friends and me to this abandoned tobacco factory-turned-art exhibit, and it was so fucking cool. To get here, simply walk down the Ronda de Toledo towards the Embajadores metro stop and then make a left up Calle de Embajadores. The Tabacalera will be on the right side of the street. “FABRICA DE TABACOS” is carved into a worn cement plaque above a graffiti-covered metal gate that has turned a dark green with rust, but this isn’t the entrance, which is down a side street. You may have to do a bit of exploring to find it, but when you do, you will be blown away by what is inside.
The cultural space is part government-owned and part self-managed social centre. Art of all genres covers the white walls. A culture dedicated to freedom and exploration resides here, and La Tabacalera de Lavapiés is home to many different exhibits, performances and even parties. Take some time to walk around and enjoy the gritty art scene of Madrid.
The Royal Palace, while the official, not the actual, residence of His Majesty King Felipe IV of Spain, is an impressive piece of architecture. Either walk the half hour there or take the metro to the Opera stop.
Entry to the palace costs about 10 euro. The palace is home to interesting exhibits like the Royal Armory and the Royal Pharmacy. You can spend some time inside enjoying the rich mahogany windows and doors and fine Spanish marble. Truth be told, I never made it inside, but instead walked around the exterior and toured the Plaza de Oriente on the west side of the palace.
TEMPLO DE DEBOD
By the time you make it through the Palacio Royale, it should be nearing sunset, the perfect time to head over to the Temple of Debod. The temple is an Egyptian temple that was dismantled and reassembled in Madrid in the Parque del Oeste. The site is at a slightly higher elevation, and it overlooks Madrid’s large urban park, Casa de Campo. There is actually a cable car that runs out of the Parque del Oeste to Casa de Campo, but the teleférico isn’t always open, so best to check their website for hours.
After you’ve had your fill of site seeing, feel free to either take a half hour stroll through the city back to your hostel in Tirso de Molina, or walk over to the Ventura Rodríguez stop and ride the 3 metro to Puerta del Sol. Either way, you’ll have to walk through Sol, so might as well take a break along the way in one of the many bars for a caña of Mahou, a refreshing Spanish lager. Go drop your Rastro purchases off, take a shower and put on something fly, yet easy to walk in, for the rest of your night out.
I know, I know. Flamenco is an Andalucía thing. But the dancers at Las Carboneras in Madrid have just as much foot-stomping, chest-beating soul as the Romani gypsies who created flamenco to begin with. Traditionally, this folk music combines singing, dancing, guitar playing and rhythms of hand clapping and finger snapping. It is passionate and fiery, and the dancers and musicians put all they have into their performances.
Flamenco dancers take control of the scene. Whether they dance fast or slow, hard or soft, the guitar player and singer watch for what the dancer is going to do next and strum or sing in that sexy, raspy voice accordingly. The other dancers sit on stools near the musicians on the tablao, clapping their hands rhythmically, occasionally letting out an encouraging cry or yelp. The display is heartfelt and fluid and will leave you entranced and clapping along.
While there are, of course, many flamenco clubs in Madrid, Las Carboneras is my personal favorite and in a perfect location to continue on to your final activity of the night. Make sure to be there by 8:30 for the first performance.
My favorite part about living in Spain was how socially acceptable it is to munch while you drink. More often than not, bars will offer you anything from potato chips to tortilla española to croquetas to go along with your copa de vino tinto, or glass of red wine. (Check out my tips for visiting Madrid for a rundown on the history of tapas.) Sundays are the best days to go out for tapas, an activity that the Spanish have turned into a verb, tapear. I’m not sure why, but it seems like everyone who’s anyone is out and about tapeando in la Latina on a Sunday in Madrid, so dress accordingly.
The main streets to enjoy the tapas culture are Cava Baja and Cava Alta. They are both a short walk from Las Carboneras and run parallel to each other. Young people crowd these two thin, winding streets with terraced buildings, looking unfathomably chic and classy as they duck in and out of bars or stand around high tops taking dainty bites of patatas bravas. There are endless spots to stop for a bite and a beer over here, so don’t miss out on Casa Lucas, for higher end traditional Spanish cuisine, and Cervercería la Sureña for a 5 euro bucket of Mahou and some chicken fingers with other 20-somethings.
If you come to these streets to engage in tapas culture, and you will, make sure to make a stop at El Madroño in the Plaza de Puerta Cerrada before you reach Cava Baja. Have a shot of Madrid’s strawberry liqueur named for their Coat of Arms, “El oso y el madroño,” meaning, “The bear and the strawberry tree.” The shot is served in a chocolate filled waffle cup, a delicious chaser to your sweet chupito.
Below are some of my favorite places to eat tapas outside of Cava Baja and Cava Alta. Keep in mind, you’ll have to pay for some things, but all in all tapeando is cheap and a great experience to share with a few friends.
Mercado de San Miguel–
This is a tourist trap, but I don’t care. The San Miguel Market is a big, crowded glass market place with over 30 vendors placed in strategic sections, selling everything from cold drafts and select wines to pickled onions and olives to every kind of meat you can think of cooked up Spanish gourmet style. It’s hard to find a table to stand by, not sit at, so somebody should hold one down while the other goes to pick out some delicacies to enjoy. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh croquettes and empanadas. Don’t buy too much here- it’s not cheap, but it is something to see.
All walks of life come into this low key bar just off the La Latina metro stop for the fast service and the plates of warm tapas that the bartender places in front of you with every new beer. It’s a great place to relax and watch fútbol and enjoy some salty fried food and cold beer. Make sure you try the calamares!
Cervecería el Cruz–
This is a classic bar to stop by at any hour, even for a break while you’re at el Rastro because it is right in the middle and a stone’s throw away from el Diamante (in case you can’t find this place on Google. Because you can’t. It will take you to the wrong bar). You may not recognize the Plaza at night without all the stands, but Cervecería el Cruz is a la Latina staple. Enjoy super fresh razor clams and deep fried lamb intestines with a squirt of lemon. Tastes better than it sounds!
Museo del Jamón–
This chain is dedicated to Spain’s most prized meat- ham. Cured ham legs for sale, Jamón Serrano or Jamón Ibérico, hang from the ceiling, and the walls are covered with photos offering meals like bocadillos de jamón, ham sandwich, and a beer for 1 euro. Get a beer there and wait for your tapa. It’s disgusting and hilarious. It’s a bowl of different types of cubed ham.
I hope you enjoyed your Sunday in Madrid! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section if anything is unclear or you’d like some more advice.
You’ve only got one day in Madrid, and you want to get the most of it.
Here’s a step by step guide of what to do with 24 hours in Madrid.
This is going to be hard. Not to gush, but there are just so many places I want to take you. For this reason I’m planning two one-day trips, and you can pick which one you want. Today’s guide is perfect for a Thursday. Both hypothetical trips will begin at 9 in the morning in May (best weather-warm but not yet scorching). We will be staying at in a 12-bed dorm in Way Hostel, a very down-to-earth convergence of fellow travelers. The youth scene at this hostel is so welcoming that you almost just want to hang out in the common room filled with couches and people watching TV or in the kitchen where travelers from all over the world are cooking up meals from their respective countries. The location is great, near the Tirso de Molina stop on the 1 train, and within walking distance to both the heart of the city (Puerta del Sol) and the seedy neighborhood Lavapies where lingering men will ask lingering people if they’re looking to buy some “chocolate” or at the very least, some Indian food.
The square around Tirso de Molina is filled with flower carts, sketchy characters, kids playing on the playground, and average bars that will serve you and two friends a plate of paella with your caña (small glass of draft beer) of Mahou. This plate of paella will be your tapa; see the first post for an explanation of tapas.
Most importantly is the small pastelería in the square (if you’ve just entered the public space from the hostel, it’s diagonally to your right) where you can buy a loaf of crusty white bread or a pan de chocolate for breakfast. Make sure to wash it down with a café con leche, i.e. the elixir of life in Spain. Don’t ask for an Americano. Also, you’re on vacation. Don’t ask for skim milk or fake sugars because that’s silly, and how do you even say that in Spanish?
Shall we begin?
After your breakfast, it’s just a short walk from Tirso de Molina to el Parque del Buen Retiro. I’m not going to give you step by step directions to the park, you can figure it out, but take my word for it that going from Tirso de Molina to the park is easier via your feet than it is via el metro.
El Parque del Buen Retiro is a great place to get lost in. I’ve spent hours there with my friends, walking on dirt paths rather than grass, due to Madrid’s drought, accepting sprigs of rosemary from old ladies, finding little hidden statues or pieces of art that look like they’ve been there for a thousand years.
Depending on where you start at the park, it’s probably not too far from some museums. I suggest you visit the Reina Sofia because that’s where you’ll find works by Picasso and Dalí, but if you want to check out el Prado and its long halls of classic Spanish portraits and works by artists like El Greco and Velázquez, the two aren’t very far from each other.
After all this walking around and stuff, you must be culturally pooped and hungry. Treat yourself to a metro ride, because el metro vuela, to Gran Via where you’ll walk just a few blocks to your lunch destination of El Tigre. (There are two in Madrid. You’re going to the one at Calle de las Infantas, 30, just a short walk from the metro stop).
El Tigre is semi-touristy, but with good reason. I suggested going for lunch instead of its busiest time of dinner because being there for dinner is just kind of gross. It’s so packed that you’ll never find a table, the air is moist with the heat of bodies packed together, and if by some miracle you find a seat, it will most certainly be covered in spilt beer and old plates that the waiter won’t bus. At around 4pm, however, El Tigre is a totally different place. You will find a quiet, clean table and a waiter will politely bring you a giant cup of your choice of beer, sangria or mojito for only five euros (as opposed to 6 euros at night). Each giant cup comes with a well-packed plate of tapas. Go with two other people and you’ll be graced with a plate of paella, a plate of tostas with jamon and tortilla, and a plate of patatas bravas.
After you’ve had your fill it’s time to walk it off again. Find that metro at Gran Via, you know, the one near that McDonald’s that looks like a castle? In front of you you’ll see a wide pathway with shops on either side, slowly declining. You’re on Calle Montera. Follow it. Don’t make eyes with the prostitutes. The Spanish kids running around with their parents certainly don’t seem to mind their presence.
This path of hookers and cheap clothing/shoe stores and weird pizza places that serve olive-topped, rectangular slices will eventually open up at the nexus of the city, Puerta del Sol. Get acquainted with this spot while the sun is still out because you will be returning at night, but don’t stray too far from the path that the Gran Via hill has laid out for you. Continue to the other side of the circle that will soon be filled with young people drinking hard liquor and cans of Mahou. Follow that decline until you reach Calle de las Carteras (“Street of the Wallets”- watch yours as you pull it our repeatedly to buy things that you don’t need on this street), which will take you to another inviting space with a surplus of cafes and restaurants that meets with Calle de Atocha. There’s a very fancy Haagen Daaz here attached to a theatre, which has always served me as an impressive landmark.
If you have a second and want to throw in a little more site seeing, pop a right at Calle de Atocha and walk down for a few blocks until you see an archway. That archway leads to el Plaza Mayor and it’s a cool spot with a lot of expensive tourist-trap restaurants but also one or two places that sell bocadillos de calamares for two euros.
Are you over this big, beautiful square? Me too. It’s a nice place to hang and people-watch, but I think it’s time for a siesta. Make your way back to the intersection of Calle de Atocha and Calle de las Carteras. Walk past the theatre and Cine Ideal and onto Calle del Doctor Cortezo, and keep going down. Once you’ve hit my favorite Chino (it says “Alimentacion” and “Hiper Bazar” on the awning) you know you’re close to Tirso de Molina. Thank goodness! Something you recognize. Go take a nap and recharge your batteries because we aren’t even close to being done with the night. Before you knock out, make sure to make a reservation at Arroceria Gala on Calle de Moratín 22, and ask to sit in the garden, for 10pm. No, that’s not too late to eat dinner. Spoiler alert, you’ll be up until 8am anyway.
Arroceria Gala is the perfect restaurant to be served big portions of paella in the pallera (pan). It is a classy family place amid endless tapas bars on Calle de Moratín, offering a quiet and pleasant dinner of savory saffron rice underneath the glass, greenhouse ceiling covered with plants and flowers. I completely understand, however, if you’d rather not spend money or engage in a fancy sit down dinner. Like I said, the neighborhood is flush with other places to fill your stomach. If you wanted to go back to Sol and find a place to fuel for the night in its margins, I could work with that, too. Food is food and it’s all good enel barrio. Besides, it’s Thursday night, Madrid’s Friday, and it’s time to take a page out of the European book of getting drunk.
By now you should be well rested and looking fine (remember my tips, ladies, wear wedge heels!). After dinner, it’s time to engage in botellón, which is basically Spanish street pregaming. Good spots for this include, but are not limited to, Tribunal (for the punks), Atocha (for the Americans), Alonso Martinez (for the bars), Chueca (for the gays), and of course, Puerta del Sol (for everybody). We’re heading to Sol because it’s just something you have to do. Stop at the aforementioned chino or Alimentación for some alcohol. My personal favorite is a bottle of gin and a bottle of Fanta Limón (ginevra y fanta, por favor), but I’ve seen some kids get a liter of Coke and mix it with a bottle of one euro red wine (vino tinto) to make some gross sangria. Whichever way you choose to drink, the convenience store will also sell you plastic cups so you have a vessel in which to pour your beverage. Post up near a fountain or wherever there aren’t too many cops and enjoy drinking and watching other people drink. Buy a can of Mahou off the guy selling them for a euro. Just remember to pace yourself. This isn’t the land of funneling beers and shot for shot. This is the land of the slow drinker who maintains his or her buzz consistently throughout the night without getting sloppy. That’s why their clubs are open until 6am and ours are only open until 2am.
The reason I say we should drink in Sol is because there are a lot of promoters there who speak all kinds of languages and who will get you into their respective clubs for free or at a reduced cost, and some even offer you a free drink. My friends and I would usually hold out for Moondance, a small, but fun, lounge that plays a hilarious mix of European techno, Rihanna, some Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys, and crap like David Guetta, or Joy Eslava, a bigger, badder club that is shaped like a theatre, all the sweaty, alcohol-induced dancers taking up every space of the sphere.
Some other touristy clubs are Kapitaland Pachá, but I didn’t have much fun at either. Kapital is cool because each of its seven floors has a different theme and on the bottom floor, the largest dance floor, there is some random, crazy arctic blast of cold air that dries the sweat right off your neck before you produce some more. However, it’s absolutely filled with Americans and other douche bags, so that’s no fun. Pachá is somewhat similar in size and clientele, and both charge way too much at the door, 18 euro if memory serves.
You’re best bet is Joy, and with a name like that, who wouldn’t want to go? Even if a promoter doesn’t hook you up, the line’s never too long and it’s always a good time. You should be heading over there around 1-1:30 am. So go ahead and dance your face off and make your liver cry. After all, you’re only here for a few more hours. Plan to stay there until 5:30. It will close at 6, when the metro reopens, but it will still be very dark out. If you’re hungry, and really how could you not be, the Chocolatería San Ginés is open and right next door. Have some churros con chocolate while you check out your messy self in the mirrors that line the walls and laugh because you’ve truly had one crazy night.
Keep an eye out for Part 2, A Day in Madrid on a Sunday, my other favorite day in this lively city!
Some advice before going to Madrid, from how to avoid getting your pocket picked to what you can’t leave without eating.
Like many university students, I made the best decision of my life when I chose to spend a semester studying abroad. Madrid presented me with an adventure everyday. From practicing my Spanish to trying different food and exploring a new city, to fitting myself and my habits into the molds and customs of a fascinatingly foreign culture, I enjoyed allowing myself to be swept into the tide of Madrid, a city that is both Euro-chic and very old, with a sort of royal grandeur backed up by centuries of Spain’s role as a major world power.
At the end of my studies, I jotted down a few tips that I would pass on to friends who were looking to tour the city themselves. Here are my general impressions of what you should know before you go to Madrid.
1) Guys, keep your wallet and valuables in your front pockets. Ladies, wear a small messenger bag for your passport, money, lipstick, whatever. Keep that thing on lock down. I don’t want to see it creeping to the side of your hip, and then behind you, because you will have your pocket picked. Man, woman, young, old, the Madrid pick-pocketer is a pro. Stay away from the doors on the metro, anyone in a suit, and anyone reading a big spread out newspaper. And don’t even think about wearing a stupid fanny pack. You better look fresh if you don’t want all the Madrileñas snickering about how stupid you look in that throaty, mouth-full-of-spit-and-cigarette-smoke way of theirs.
2) Wear comfy shoes. Madrid is a walking city, so why hide underground in the metro when you can take in the sites as you take in the sites? Also, again, ladies, unless you want to roll your ankle, find some cute wedge heels to wear out to the clubs. This city is old and full of cobblestones. A stiletto heel will be your downfall, literally.
3) I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but try not to act too touristy and attract unwanted attention. Try to blend in, or you will be harassed often. When my Irish friend came to visit from Dublin, I had to protect her from a pickpocketer before we even made it to the hostel from the airport, and on our walk to the hostel from the metro, a group of men tried to put a scarf on her. Don’t ask me why, the point is she stuck out like a sore thumb and people took notice.
4) “Chinos” are like bodegas, or corner stores, run by Chinese immigrants. Yes, it’s a little racist to identify the stores by the race of people running them, but Madrid is a little racist. Chinos are mostly open all night and will sell you all the munchies and wine/liquor that your heart desires. While some stop serving liquor at a certain time at night, most are just trying to get money, so you shouldn’t have a problem buying a bottle whenever the spirit takes you.
5) While you’re in Madrid, there are a few things you can’t leave without tasting. Any bar/restaurant will have these staples: Spanish tortilla (like a potato omelette), Jamón Serrano (salty cured ham), vino tinto (red wine), croquetas (omg so good), paella (you should know what this is), patatas bravas (potatoes with a red sauce), etc…..
6) Bocadillo means sandwich. Eat this often. 100 Montaditos is a chain with many bocadillos. Most common is Bocadillo de Jamón Serrano, and it will be your whole loaf of bread and butter, or should I say, bread and ham because there aren’t many other fixings on a Spanish sandwich.
7) There will be promoters everywhere trying to entice you into their bar/club with free shots (chupitos) or free mojitos and sangria. Don’t, as I once did, go to each place, take your free drink, and leave. The drinks they give you for free are sugary and awful and will result in the worst hangover of your life. I’m talking opening the door of the cab at a red light and only managing to say, “Lo siento, señor,” before you vomit onto the street.
8) With the castellanoaccent, or Spanish accent, C’s and Z’s are pronounced with a lisp, not S’s. If you’re trying to sound like a local, make sure to put your tongue between your teeth when saying “Grathias,” not “Adioth.”
9) You will see many statues and sigils of a bear on its hind legs next to a tree. This is Madrid’s Coat of Arms, and its origins date back as far as or even farther than 1212, when the council of Madrid hailed a flag of a bear to identify themselves when they arrived in support of the Christian King Alfonso VIII of Castille during the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against the Almohads. The strawberry tree came into the picture later.
10) Tapas are not just small plates of food that you order to share, as American Spanish restaurants and other “tapas bars” would have you believe. Tapas are the free swag that comes with your alcoholic beverage at any bar/restaurant in Madrid. Some places offer some great free food, like croquettes and paella. Others only offer pickled onions or olives or potato chips. You can, of course, order off the menu if you want a little extra. The point is, eating with your drink is something I got used to very quickly and still take part in today. According to the tour guide of a tapas tour I went on, it’s some sort of a law in Spain that you must serve food with drink. Legend has it that this king was very sick and got better by drinking a little wine and then eating a little food, repeatedly. At the same time, the peasants would come into town and spend any extra money they had on wine, getting absolutely hammered, and bringing down production. So, the king decreed that every tavern must serve food with drinks so the farmers don’t get too drunk and stay healthy.
As you can imagine, tavern keeps probably didn’t like giving out free food. In an attempt to cheat the system, they would pour all their old wine and liquor together with some fruit and other stuff and call it Sangria. That’s right. Your favorite white girl cocktail is actually just jungle juice. But I digress. The reason tapas are called “tapas” is that some other king was at the beach once drinking beer and someone put a piece of ham over his glass to keep the sand out. He absentmindedly ate the ham, enjoyed it, and asked if someone would bring him another one of those “tapas” or “tops.” Well there you go. There’s your history for the day.
11) El Prado, the national art museum, has free admission Tuesday through Saturday from 6 to 8 pm and on Sunday from 5 to 8 pm, but the lines are long, so get there early.
12) Don’t rush. Relax and enjoy yourself, because that’s how the locals do it. You won’t be eating lunch until around 4pm and dinner isn’t served until around 10 pm, so if you need a small snack in the in between hours, sit down and have a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy whatever free plate of food comes with it, whether it be potato chips and olives or small tortilla bites.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Madrid! Check out my other posts on what to do once you make it to the city.
Traveling for the first time can bring you a whirlwind of emotions, from excitement to fear. So I offer you a bit of advice to help you take that first step into the wonderful world.
I’m talking about long-term, solo travel, here. Just because you spent a week by the pool at a resort in Mexico, getting drunk off margaritas and riding ATVs on the beach, doesn’t mean you’ve truly been to Mexico or traveled. So for the individual looking for a more real experience, but who is maybe afraid to take the plunge, keep reading.
I’m no expert, and I certainly have a lot to learn, but I’ve figured out a few things that I wish I had known when I first started traveling.
1) While saving up money as a fallback is a good idea, you don’t need to be rich to travel. So many people that I talk to back home are always saying how they’d love to do what I do, but they don’t have the money. And I do? You just have to want it. What’s the point in slaving away at a job you hate, living the same life every week, just to scrape by? Hell, I can just scrape by anywhere in the world, but at least I’ll be adding experiences to my belt, possibly on a beach somewhere…
2) No, hostels aren’t gross and scary places. I don’t know if it was that ridiculous horror flick Hostel or what that has made so many of my fellow Americans fear hostels, but many of my friends and acquaintances back home have been horrified by either my staying in hostels or my suggesting that they stay in hostels. Either they think they’re bound to be dirty places, filled with leering foreign men who are just waiting to rape you or rob you in your sleep, or they are just not thrilled with the prospect of sharing a room with 11 other people. My advice? Get over it. Hostels, in my experience, are often the highlight of a trip. Sure there are some shitty ones, but for the most part they offer a home away from home and are a great way to meet other travelers and find things to do. You needn’t worry about privacy, either. There is definitely some unspoken rule about reading other people’s energies. If you want to be left alone, your new roommates will pick up on that and stay clear, and if you want to make friends, the possibilities are endless.
3) Learn a trade. I can bartend, serve and generally work in any sector of the hospitality industry. I am also a writer and possess a fair knowledge of social media, brand marketing, research, etc. These skills have helped me find places to work in exchange for food and a place to sleep. And when the day comes that I can stop moving, I’m sure that these skills could also provide me with a paid job in a foreign country. Sites like workaway, helpx and WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) are great sources to find volunteer work in exchange for room and board and at least one meal a day. From working the front desk at a hip hostel in Santiago, Chile, to picking grapes in a vineyard in Italy to helping at a zoo in India, the opportunities are endless.
4) Trust people. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Americans seem to generally not trust foreigners. Our media has instilled us with such fear of “the other” that many Americans are afraid to branch out. “You’re going to Colombia?!?!” Friends and family would ask me. “But it’s so dangerous. Don’t get your head chopped off!” Ok, Mom. Colombia was a grand old time, and I felt perfectly safe there. The whole world is dangerous, even America. That doesn’t mean that everyone is out to get you. Using sites like workaway and helpx is a good way to realize that the world is full of good people, just like you, who want to help you and welcome you into their country. Couchsurfing also promotes building bonds with strangers. Obviously, keep your wits about you and trust your gut, but you won’t immerse yourself in any culture if you stay hidden in your bubble.
5) Embrace the journey, not just the destination. I get it. You’re eager to make it to the next city. But what about all that space in between? You may not save time, but you’ll certainly save money and gain experience if you take the long way. Instead of flying, try booking passage via boats, buses or trains. You get to see much more of a country when you take your time moving through it, and you train yourself in the art of patience along the way.
6) Enjoy just being somewhere new. Every traveler knows that small thrill in the pit of your stomach, that quiver just below your ribs and into your heart that bubbles up and out of your throat, manifesting itself into a giddy giggle. It’s the excitement of being somewhere new, anywhere. It could be a pit stop in the middle of Colombia or a big city in Vietnam. Every place on Earth that you haven’t been before is new and offers fresh stimulation that should be celebrated.
7) Learn to be low-maintenance. When you’re backpacking or traveling for a long period of time, chances are, you’re trying to save money. You’re probably also trying to save luggage space. Many people aren’t good at traveling because they find it difficult to live without their comforts. If you’re serious about seeing the world, then you need to learn to be comfortable with less. I wouldn’t call it “survival,” but it’s damn near close. Carry the essentials and be thankful when you get a bed or a hammock to lie down in. Accept any free meals offered to you. When it comes down to it, you’re not going to need all the things you think you’ll need, and chances are, you can buy whatever you’re lacking in your backpack along the way. This lesson never became more clear to me than when I was backpacking in South America with only a handful of comfortable outfits, no makeup and a kindle. As long as I can stretch my legs and read a book, I can be comfortable anywhere.
8) Plan, but also be spontaneous. Resist the urge to spend hours scouring the internet and planning out an exact itinerary. Don’t only rely on your guidebook. If you’re going for a long period of time, planning out everything will only serve to limit you. With each new hostel or town you enter, you will meet so many people, locals and travelers alike, who will tell you where they went and show you pictures, so that you’re now wishing you didn’t bother buying that flight to Santiago out of Cusco, and you’d much rather have more time in Peru so you can see some other cities, maybe venture into Bolivia… The point is, you’re free and you can go wherever you want. Your choices and your plans will constantly change. Accept it, and go with it.
9) Embrace your freedom. Travel solo. Maybe you disagree, but I don’t think that you’re truly free if you have to worry about someone else’s wishes. For this reason, I prefer to travel alone, and I think that new travelers should learn to go it alone, as well. I’ve noticed, from traveling with others and from talking with people I’ve met in hostels, that traveling with a best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend can often harm your friendship and your experience abroad. Obviously this doesn’t apply to every friendship or relationship, but I’ve found that when you travel with someone you’re comfortable with, you tend to complain more to them about the strains of travel, and they complain back, fueling a circle of negativity. When shit hits the fan, you’re more likely to blame each other than keep a cool head and just figure it out. When you’re alone, you have no one to blame but yourself if something goes wrong, so you just move forward because, in a foreign country, you don’t want to dwell on hiccups and attract attention to whatever situation you’ve gotten yourself into. Another issue comes up when you want to do different things. Maybe your friend wants to stay up all night getting drunk with those cute Argentinian boys, but you want to get a good night’s rest so you guys can make that 8 am tour of a waterfall. Maybe you want to talk to that Swedish nice girl with the guitar, but your friend hates her because she was loud in the dorm rooms that morning and woke her up. Somebody either has to trudge along unhappily to something they’re not interested in, or you guys split up for a few hours.
There are good parts of traveling with others, of course, including having someone to watch your bag at the bus station while you go to the bathroom or rub your aching shoulders. However, I’d prefer, at least in this stage of my life, not to be tied down by anyone or anything, and to have the freedom to do whatever I feel like, wherever I feel like doing it.
At the Downeast Cider House, you can find out just how that delicious, cloudy beverage is made.
From fermentation to canning to tasting, you’ll get your fill and more with a tour of the Downeast Cidery.
Upon receiving your first pour of Downeast Original Blend Cider, sounds of shock and delight are bound to follow. Just looking at that cloudy, orange liquid is enough to make your mouth water in anticipation of an unexpected sip, something apart from the Magners or the Angry Orchard ciders you are accustomed to drinking. That first mouthful of Downeast takes your senses on a journey, back to a crisp October day apple picking with your family as a child and enjoying the local farm’s cider with a basket of fresh-picked apples by your feet. You down the glass immediately, smacking your lips and thinking, That was tasty. Why, I’ll have another. A similar experience ensues as you polish off your second glass, and only then does it hit you that you are indeed consuming an alcoholic beverage.
As a server in a rather touristy area of Boston, I find myself recommending the cider over our other choices to my guests. “Ever had Downeast?” I’ll ask. “It’s really good. Unfiltered. Brewed locally just across the harbor (pronounced ‘hahbah’) in Charlestown (pronounced ‘Chahlestown’).” My patrons, hearing the word ‘local’ almost always jump on board and order a pint, followed by the aforementioned squeals of approval. Unfiltered? Brewed locally? How quaint. How very New England.
Well, I had had enough of just telling people that the brewery (cidery?) was so close by, so I decided to check it out for myself and purchase a Living Social for an affordable tour of the brewery plus two Downeast pint glasses and a down payment on a growler of cider. Whatever that means.
The cidery resides underneath the Tobin Bridge, which thoroughly confused later Uber drivers who couldn’t quite figure out our pin point location and found themselves crossing the bridge and canceling the trip.
The large warehouse opens unceremoniously in the front, a sort of deck with a small game of corn hole serving as a foyer before the entrance to the building. A smiling girl in a cool Downeast t-shirt welcomed my cousin Faiez, his girlfriend Alex and me to the brewery from behind a fold up table.
In the background, I could see the titan-like, gleaming silver fermentation tanks lined up like guards.
The smell of fermenting apples hit my nostrils with my first step into the warehouse. “It smells like an apple with a yeast infection,” I exclaimed to Alex, making her laugh with agreement. The atmosphere at the brewery was pretty laid back. Thin, pale employees walked around cheerfully, either leading tours or cleaning growlers or pouring drafts at the bar around the corner. Visitors rested their fresh drafts on barrels and munched on free bags of snacks or sat at the games table to play Jenga or miniature finger Twister.
Apparently this whole area serves as an office during the week, and opens up as a bar on the Fridays and Saturdays when tours commence. As we waited for our tour to start, I nibbled on some of their spicy apple ginger cookies and bought a few rolling papers with the Downeast logo on them.
A nice young woman with thick glasses and a sarcastic yet chipper demeanor led our tour. She explained to our group of about 10 eager drinkers that the founders, Tyler Mosher and Ross Brockman, started making their famous cider out of their dorm rooms in Bates College in Maine because they wanted a cider that actually tasted like fresh pressed apples.
So, in 2011, after college, they kept bottling the stuff in Waterville, Maine until 2012 when the worst harvest of apples hit their home state. So they moved to Massachusetts where the apples were still growing and settled up in Leominster for about a year. Eventually, Ross’s brother, Matt, found the current Charlestown location and became co-owner. The Charlestown spot has a maximum capacity of eight fermenters that it meets with fervor, producing that delicious original blend plus many other variations of hard cider, both filtered and unfiltered. The secret to their unique flavor? Rather than using a champagne yeast in the production of the cider, they use an ale yeast because it holds the flavor better.
Like at any brewery or distillery tour, the tour guide explained to us how the stuff was made. The apples are fermented for two weeks, during which time they produce carbon dioxide, alcohol (yay!) and heat. The optimal temperature that the workers there look for is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The cider is then cooled by glycol tubes and then after another two weeks, the temperature drops to 32 degrees so that the yeast goes to sleep and sinks to the bottom. This yeast is then removed and reused for future batches, because yeast is expensive. The remaining cider is then flash pasteurized at 115 degrees to kill any lingering yeast that might cause the cider to continue to ferment. Then the cider chills out in some artsy cool holding tanks until it’s ready to be canned, at which point they’ll add a bit of CO2 back in for some fizziness.
Next, our tour guide walked us through the canning process. Why cans? Because they are cheaper, lighter and easier to ship, and because they have a light and air tight seal, which means that there is neither room for oxygen to sit and nor any way for light to enter and ruin the cider, making it taste like wet cardboard. The cans idea was also an homage to Maine college boy life, where hunting and going to the beach are a weekly habit and bottles are banned from both of those scenes.
Our group got to taste Downeast’s delicious Original blend, their Cranberry blend, made with 10% fresh cranberry juice, their hard lemonade and their Unoriginal blend.
If you’ve been paying attention, you might guess that the Unoriginal tastes like the other brands. I guess they caved and made a cider fermented with champagne yeast to give it that drier taste that nobody I know loves. As our tour guide said, “It’s unoriginal because it’s how everyone does it.”
Later at the bar, I sampled the sweet and rich Maple Oak blend, a specialty blend that’s made in their two original, old school fermenters from Maine, complete with heating pads plastered to the sides and an opening at the top to cool the brew. This just goes to show that the employees at Downeast take the proper amount of time and give a little extra effort to create fresh flavors for their fans. Demand is so high, in fact, for all their blends that they are currently looking for a new warehouse that can fit additional fermenters so that they can expand their blooming business.
“Locally grown, fresh pressed, gluten-free, not from concentrate.” The way cider should be, indeed. I know it’s a hike, but it’s worth it for a sweet taste of that New England nectar, straight from the source. Keep an eye out for their specialty brews like their hard honey cider and a pumpkin blend coming in the fall!
PENTALUM luminarium attracted Boston residents to The Lawn on D in Southie for a glorious, light-filled weekend.
The inflatable maze, by Alan Parkinson and Architects of Air, created an awe-inspiring space-within-a-space using colored, translucent PVC and inspiring geometric architecture.
PENTALUM luminarium, a blow up sculpture that creates the feeling of walking through a stained glass window, graced Boston with its presence on May 28 through May 31 at The Lawn on D in South Boston.
The Lawn, an experimental and interactive outdoor space for Boston residents and visitors, was the perfect location for PENTALUM, creating a nice transition from the orb-like swing sets, lounge chairs and ping pong tables to the colorful, inflatable funhouse.
After paying the affordable $5 cover charge, guests were asked to remove their shoes before entering the sculpture and to watch out for any sharp objects in their pockets.
Inflatable and de-flatable, PENTALUM is made of thin PVC, polyvinyl chloride, that lets in natural light to create an effect that has been correctly described as “somewhere between a womb and a cathedral,” both encompassing and inspiring.
Fluid geometric designs in red, blue, green and everything in between serve to make the guest breathe in sharply with awe at the surreal surroundings and greet the newly clothed light with spirituality.
You forget at once that there is material around you as you are enveloped in a sort of smooth and weightless perfection. You feel completely alone and at peace, and simultaneously one with all of the other guests who are experiencing the same sense of wonder. Soothing electronic tones, created by David Bickley, play quietly in the background as children seem to frolick in slow motion as if they are moving through water, and a few comfortable souls curl up in suggestive-looking pods.
The sculpture, and other luminaria like it, have attracted over 3 million visitors in 41 countries since the foundation of Architects of Air in 1992. Founder and artistic director Alan Parkinson’s intent on creating a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and color is made possible by his combined influences of architecture, from Islamic geometry to Gothic cathedrals to Archimedean solids. Visitors wander dreamlike through the labyrinth of tunnels and domes, experiencing their relation to space through the art.
Architects of Air has built six sculptures in total that tour the world with ease, taking only 4 hours to anchor and another 20 minutes to inflate. While the Boston exhibit is hitting the road, you can catch the next one, called Arboria, in Bad Pyrmont, Germany from June 12-21. In the meantime, The Lawn on D will still be open for games, activities and events, both public and private, until October 12.
Coppersmith is changing the perception of your neighborhood restaurant for the better.
When hospitality and community combine, the social impact is deliciously positive!
In the culinary world of Boston, most restaurants will tell you that their business is about hospitality, service or food and beverage. Not many could venture to say that their business is actually about goodwill and social impact, that is, until the idea for the Coppersmith came along.
“We are in the business of community,” said one of the three owners/developers of Coppersmith Restaurant, Travis “Tbone” Talbot, a hired gun and a bold, trend-breaking presence in both the hospitality and philanthropy spaces, noted for his participation in the Boston Bites Back event at Fenway Park to raise money for the One Fund.
“The new model of hospitality is giving,” he said, smiling lightly under his characteristic Red Sox cap, a fan despite his Canadian origins.
While still a for-profit restaurant, Coppersmith, set to open at the end of this fall, is creating a unique business paradigm focused on community, specifically the communities of South Boston, South End, Dorchester and Fort Point/Innovation District, that is intent on collaboration with local non-profit organizations as part of everyday business, as well as providing a “third space” between home and work for residents to relax, be entertained and eat a great meal.
“We see ourselves as being a hub, a place where people can socialize and be a part of the community. We like to say that Coppersmith is an authentic neighborhood restaurant, not just another restaurant in the neighborhood,” said Talbot.
The venue, located at 40 West 3rd Street in Southie off the Broadway T stop, settled in a rustic copper foundry (formerly the Dalquist Manufacturing Co.), will feature a large, 88-seat communal-style dining room, two dueling food trucks, an indoor and outdoor bar totaling 59 seats, a street-side patio with 60 communal-style seats, a roof deck and raw bar, and a grab-and-go café. Much of the décor and design of the venue comes from the original building and reclaimed materials from the demolition.
Coppersmith plans to use their historic space and goodwill relationships as a home base for activities like fundraisers, educational “family dinners”, food literacy seminars, cooking classes, and food truck competitions, where a portion of proceeds would go to charities, and initiatives within the community like the organization No Kid Hungry.
Each area of the spacious restaurant can offer a different style of dining, all of which will be a mix globally influenced preparations and traditional dishes with “adventurous” updates, according to Executive Chef Chris Henry, formerly of 9 at Home and Drink with the Barbara Lynch Group.
“We want to start with a broad range of offerings and narrow it down based on community feedback,” said Henry. “We want to let the neighborhood dictate the direction that we take, while still making sure to be socially responsible with all of our vendors and ingredients.”
In a recent press release, Henry revealed a “sneak peak” at the menu, divulging fare options like lobster fritters with pimenton aioli, food truck offerings like thin patty burgers or tacos and street corn, large meals like a roasted pig or clam bake, or bar snacks like homemade beef jerky and spiced Macrona almonds.
“At the end of the day, we want everything to be accessible,” said Henry.
Clearly, there is something for everyone, and Coppersmith means that. From their nearly 20 partnerships with non-profits to the food they will provide, they are conscious of how they can be of service to their audience in every capacity.
One of the many ways that they intend to create community wealth is through employment and workforce development initiatives. Coppersmith’s most impressive initial partnership is with Triangle Inc. in Malden, an organization that works to empower people with disabilities, teach them life and vocational skills, and place them in paid, competitive jobs so they are active and productive members of their community.
“Coppersmith is a community partner that values their mission of providing good food, but also values being a true community employer,” said Jeff Gentry, Director of Youth Services and Community Relations at Triangle.
Coppersmith’s partnership with Triangle is two-fold. Triangle has been aggressively recruiting students and adults with disabilities for their Career Pathways Program and their Barista Training Program. The restaurant is guaranteeing eight position slots for Triangle recruits—three in food prep, three in barista, and two in custodial.
Triangle has received both state and federal training dollars at Bunker Hill for the recruits to do 100 hours of culinary training and be ServSafe Food Handler Certified. The recruits, six from Boston Public Schools and six adults from career centers, will also have to spend 35-40 hours at Triangle or their career centers doing job readiness training, according to Taciana Saab, Workforce Development Coordinator at Triangle.
“We are looking for commitment, attendance, positive attitude and a desire to learn and grow,” said Saab, gesturing with her hands as she sat in her cubicle at Triangle. “Not every student at job readiness training will make it to Bunker Hill.”
On the barista side, Joel Costanzo, Program Director of Youth Services Division at Triangle, will be using his talents as a barista from his time as General Manager of Atomic Café Coffee Roasters to train and develop student skill sets. The program, for which he is still recruiting BPS students and recent grads, includes 10 weeks of training, eight of which will be hands-on activities, learning the day-to-day operations of the café at Coppersmith.
“They will be on the floor with other coworkers, learning about teamwork and how to interact with people in a social environment, and I’ll be right there, guiding, helping and supporting,” said Costanzo.
Costanzo said that he hopes to begin training in mid-July and is looking forward to giving students the skills they need to start a career.
“If you can do vocational training and career development at a hip restaurant in Boston, in the real world, you sink or swim every day,” said Gentry as he walked around their large Malden offices. “So many people with disabilities have been protected from failure their whole lives, and it’s incredibly disabling. Young people should have ability to mess up a latté or see what happens when you skip a shift. It’s a realistic approach to developing individuals.”
General Manager Paul Bruno, formerly of Dillon’s with Glynn Hospitality Group, expressed excitement at the opportunity this partnership brings for networking, both to raise awareness about Triangle’s cause, and to get Coppersmith’s name out as a company that wants to get involved in the community and is willing to help anyone who needs it.
Talbot reiterated this notion of making the restaurant available to the non-profit world and going beyond just providing a space.
“We are a part of so many different goodwill collaborations and want to provide as many opportunities as we can,” he said.
Another impressive partnership that Coppersmith is involved with is the Fresh Truck, “a retrofitted school bus that operates as a mobile healthy food market to support food access and community across Boston neighborhoods.” To start, Coppersmith built the truck for them out of a school bus, using their connections with Building Restoration Services and their food storage expertise to design the space based on how people would move through it.
“This is not your typical food truck,” said Josh Trautwein, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Truck, who found inspiration for the truck when one of the main markets in Charlestown had to close for a year for renovations, leaving the low-income residents lacking for fresh produce and unable to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
To enter the bus, you simply walk in through the front door, and can stroll down the aisle, handpicking produce from the shelving units along the driver side that carry 30 to 40 different kinds of food. A counter top for additional space, games for kids, cooking demonstrations, etc. runs along the passenger side. Payment via cash, credit or food stamps happens at the back of the bus, where a set of stairs has been built into the back bumper for customers to exit. WIFI and electricity is built onto the bus, as well.
In addition to mentoring Fresh Truck on things like bus maintenance and food storage, Coppersmith is storing the bus and their food for them on-sight, saving the non-profit thousands of dollars each year and helping the business work towards becoming a more sustainable model. This is only a small example of the circle of reciprocity that is part of the daily agenda and operations at Coppersmith.
“They leverage the resources that they have to streamline costs of nonprofits,” said Trautwein. “Connectivity to a restaurant and food space is a huge asset to us. Funders and partners look at that and see it as invaluable.”
Trautwein said that going forward in the future, Coppersmith and Fresh Truck will work together to figure out how the two businesses fit into the broader food and health ecosystems. For example, Coppersmith and Fresh Truck are exploring food rescue possibilities to get healthy offerings to families living in shelters or people who don’t have access to prepared foods.
“Coppersmith sees us as a resource to be a ‘vehicle’ and partner in their development of new initiatives that they want to support,” said Trautwein.
As if Coppersmith didn’t already have enough community partnerships. They will also be working with non-profits like Slow Food, Let’s Talk About Food, Pine Street Inn, Men With Heart, Future Chefs, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, among 12 others, and they are always looking for more ways to redirect their resources back into the community.
“Non-profit worlds are amazing at helping others,” said Talbot. “We are simply applying our resources and unique skill sets in areas like marketing, logistics, and even volunteer manpower to help those making a difference.”
Chef John Radcliffe of Central Wharf Co. turns New England Clam Chowder into a fine dining experience.
From Seared Tuna Wonton Nachos to Broiled Oysters, Radcliffe combines seasonal and local ingredients with New England flavors and refined techniques to create a truly unique plate.
“Hey! ¿Qué pasa, man? ¿Todo bien?” says John Radcliffe, head chef at Central Wharf Co., on any given day as he greets his coworkers in the kitchen. The wiry chef, 31, wears his shoulder length brown hair in a low ponytail and his white chef coat a little wrinkled. A friendly smirk lingers on his bearded face as he describes to the wait staff in detail the special he’s prepared for the day, Scallops Florentine, broiled with shallots, spinach, herbs and Asiago cheese and finished with cornbread crumbs.
A Massachusetts native who has bounced around the American culinary scene, working under chefs like Roxanne Klein in California and Chris Schlesinger in Westport, Radcliffe is on the rise in Boston and determined to make a statement about sustainable local flavors with refined and inspired twists.
While John has a strong culinary background that ranges from preparing a traditional clambake on the beach to creating a ponzu demi-glace for blackened tuna tartar, his New England roots remain a strong influence and base for his cooking. You can often find him before the restaurant’s rush in the prep kitchen, two hands grasping a giant wooden spoon, stirring a large, steaming pot of New England clam chowder, which he makes with homemade mussel stock among other wholesome ingredients. This fragrant, creamy stew was one of the first things John learned to cook. As a boy growing up in the south shore of Massachusetts, specifically New Bedford, Dartmouth and Westport, John would dig up quahogs and mussels with his father, “Ragtime” Jack Radcliffe, grind them in an old-fashioned meat grinder, and make chowder with them.
“I love the ocean,” said John. “I think that comes through in my food and from my roots.”
Radcliffe’s style of cooking is usually seafood based, like any good New Englander. However his varied culinary experience adds a fun, creative, upscale element to his plates.
“A lot of my creations are stemmed off New England flavors, but they’re not New England style at all,” he said.
For example, one popular dish on Central Wharf’s winter menu is called “Goldwater vs. Rockefeller.” Oysters Rockefeller are a traditional broiled oyster with rich, Ritz-cracker breadcrumbs, bacon and butter. John likes to “play with new flavors,” so he created Oysters Goldwater, broiled with horseradish, blue cheese, artichokes and cornbread crumbs, to see how the two stack up against each other.
“Barry Goldwater was the 1964 Republican candidate who put Rockefeller out of the seat,” said John as he maintained perfectly polite eye contact. “Goldwater beat Rockefeller, so I’m hoping that my Goldwater oysters will become more famous than Rockefeller’s.”
While Radcliffe has worked erratic, 50-hour weeks as the head chef of Central Wharf Co. for nearly two years, and as a head chef in general for nine, he has been working and learning in kitchens for 17 years. When the young chef was 14 years old, he got a job dishwashing at a typical New England mom-and-pop restaurant in Dartmouth where he “had been watching and learning without knowing it,” to the point that when one fry cook called out sick, John immediately jumped behind the weeded grill to help. The chef asked what he thought he was doing, to which he replied, “We need two fish and chips and three fried clams, right?” He never dish-washed a day after that.
Radcliffe knew early in life what career path he wanted to follow, so he felt no remorse leaving high school early after a failed attempt to stop the construction of the new Dartmouth High School on wetlands that buffered run off into the Padanaram Harbor. He got his GED and worked at The Back Eddy in Westport under chef Chris Schlesinger who instilled in him some of his most sacred barbeque methods, such as “developing different spice rubs, pickling anything that came out of the ground, and smoking anything that once breathed.”
By the time he was 16, John was running an 18-burner sauté station and a five foot wood-burning grill alongside a bunch of hardened chefs, with whom he’d spend his summer nights starting fires on the beach and summer mornings surfing before heading back in to work by noon. He still surfs today year-round, donning a head-to-toe wetsuit to ride the winter waves that he says can keep him going for 45 minutes to an hour and a half before he goes completely numb.
John’s creativity truly flourished when he left home at 17 for San Francisco and attended the California Culinary Academy, which Le Cordon Bleu bought out while he was in school. He now has two Associate’s Degrees in the culinary arts from both schools. Halfway through his education, John got a job at a fine dining, 13-course menu, raw-food restaurant with a $5 million kitchen called Roxanne’s, where he claims he learned more than he did at school.
“It takes a lot to make raw food fine dining,” he said with a raspy, surfer-dude laugh.
While John says that there’s something to be said about working in a high-volume sauté station, filling up a restaurant with smoke and getting slammed on a Friday night, he prefers working in fine dining because he likes the detail involved in the process.
“I love the passion that everyone shares in the kitchen for putting out awesome food and even the interior competition. Everyone wants to impress everyone else, but in a friendly way.”
That being said, in the future, Chef John wishes to open up his own food-focused, 50 to 100 seat spot, ideally outside the city in a farming location, like Westport, that has a summer influx of tourism but still maintains a farming tradition and an emphasis on local ingredients.
“What really makes a difference on the plate is getting what’s local and fresh, especially seasonal vegetables,” he said.
For instance, in the spring, John will feature ramps and rhubarbs on his menu, and he is now featuring the Massachusetts native macomber turnip. He chooses his produce distributors for Central Wharf’s menu with care, buying from local companies like Cambridge Packing.
Radcliffe believes that it is the chef’s responsibility to set a trend of sustainability.
“We’re the ones feeding people who can afford to go out to eat, and it’s up to us to help the environment out,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would ever serve Chilean sea bass. It’s going extinct.”
John hopes to be able to only plate ingredients that are grown or produced within 10 miles of his location, but that doesn’t mean it will be a typical New England beach dive, serving up chowdah and slinging fried clams.
“I’ve got a lot of fuel to burn in terms of stuff I’ve picked up from California,” he said.
John also has the experience to build his future kitchen exactly how he wants it. In fact, Central Wharf Co.’s kitchen is his third kitchen design project after The Noon Hill Grill in Medfield and the Lakeville Country Club.
“The most important thing when designing a kitchen is knowing what type of food you’re going to put out so you can design the kitchen to have an even flow to push that food out, whatever your handicaps are.”
Even though Central Wharf’s kitchen is tiny, John designed it to be shaped like an L with each line of the letter flowing to the middle where the window is, which avoids traffic on the line.
His fellow cook, Omar Martinez, said he likes the flow of this kitchen in comparison to others he has worked in, and he said that he has learned a lot from John and John’s ideas.
“We learn from him and he learns from us,” said cook Marcos Orellana. “John does his job. He is a very calm person.”
His own restaurant will have to be put on hold for the time being while John takes care of personal matters. The charismatic chef is happily engaged to a woman of Italian background named Maria. The two got engaged on June 13, 2014 and have the wedding date set for May 23 on the beach in Westport. The reception will be held where John fell in love with cooking, The Back Eddy. Maria has a 7 year old daughter, Jocelyn, whom John says he already sees as his daughter. He likes to make pizzas with Jocelyn and cooks for Maria’s parents, Italian immigrants who have taught him the best way to make stuffed shells and a great recipe for cannoli filling.
To any aspiring chefs, John advises that you, “be a sponge, work hard, get your hands dirty, and don’t say no. Bounce around to different spots and try new styles. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone.”