I Eat All the Pasta So You Don’t Have To: Blackjack Pasta Bar

I happen to be a gigantic fan of Italian food, and in case you haven’t heard, Boston happens to have a bunch of Italian restaurants. HOW PERFECT! Recognizing that everyone I know has a different favorite joint, I decided to start a series where I go to all the different top-recommended-by-friends restaurants and give them a go. Hence, I Eat All The Pasta So You Don’t Have To. In related news, I’ll also be starting a series where I document my pasta-weight gain.

After a bit of a lackluster start in my genius-inspired Italian food tour of Boston, I was eager to find a restaurant worthy of the K10 Stamp of Approval. Luckily, I went to the right source: two of my former student staff members from London, who are current/recent grads of my university employer and therefore have great restaurant selections exactly in my price range; in this case, Blackjack Pasta Bar by Fenway.

These guys.

These guys.

THE K10 LOWDOWN: I was a little surprised to see that it wasn’t really a restaurant, but more of a take-out/delivery place with a few tables. For that, the menu is SUPER extensive, with an excellent option to make your own pasta dish (pick a pasta, sauce, topping), all for the low, low price of $10. Throw in a drink and it was a wallet-friendly $12. I did my usual gamble and ordered the “spicy tomato” sauce (I LOVE spicy food, and whenever I go anywhere that offers it, I say very seriously to the waiter, “I want a spice level of 6 on a level of 5. I’m not joking.” 90% of the time it’s only medium hot. Come on people – I CAN HANDLE IT). This time around, it was actually pretty spicy! Hurray for you!

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Throw in the fact that the cashier had a Boston accent, which still tickles me, and I wish that I lived closer so I could patronize this fine establishment more often.

Bonus: Afterwards we wandered around to get ice cream (of course) and walked by Fenway park, where the Sox were playing the Yankees, RIGHT when something exciting happened judging by the cheers, and cheered lustily along. Beantown pride!

They pointed out that in the first picture, there was no food included and this is, after all, a restaurant review. Hence the roll.

They pointed out that in the first picture, there was no food included and this is, after all, a restaurant review. Hence the roll.

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Top Things I Have Learned About Boston

Image via pintrest

Image via pintrest

So I recently moved to Boston for the foreseeable future for a real-person life and a real-person job, after living in DC for six years and then spending most of May 2012-June 2013 abroad or living with my parents (gents, form a line). Although I’ve visited the city as a tourist a few times and lived here for a month in the summer of 2012, my time thus far has taught me several important things about the Hub. And because I am selfless, I shall share with you.

  • The Red Sox are literally always playing a game at Fenway as I am on my way home from work. The T line I take from work to my house includes the stop for Fenway, one after where I get on. And it doesn’t matter what time of day I get on the train, from 4pm to 8pm — the Sox are inevitably playing 20 minutes later. Meaning that the train is CRAMMED full of sweaty fans in Sox gear. Why does the baseball season last from essentially April 1 – March 15?
  • I may be smart enough to keep my (negative) opinion of Boston sports teams to myself – mostly – but I shan’t be quiet any longer about Dunkins coffee. Guys, it sucks. Admittedly, I don’t drink coffee coffee, but I tried their latte and it was terrible. The best chain latte I’ve ever had? Panera, actually. Get down wit yo bad self.
  • Pretty much everyone hates the T, but those people have apparently not commuted much in DC. Yes, the lack of transfer points is infuriating (most of the lines intersect in downtown Boston and then extend to Cambridge in the north and then out to Brookline/Allston/Brighton in the west, where I live, but to transfer to another line you have to ride alllllll the way back in to Boston and allllll the way back out). So that’s annoying, but in my experience the train has been pretty prompt and speedy. Try getting down to a DC metro platform and being greeted by, “The next train will arrive in 25 minutes.” THAT is the pits.
  • Boston pride is a thing, and it’s awesome. Besides the pride in the sports teams, which is cult-like, the slogan of “Boston Strong” is everywhere, and I love it. Walk up and down Bolyston (where the bombings occurred) and you will see sign after sign — even “Public Library Strong.” Walk past neighborhood bars, and you see that they have a special collection for X victim going. Even street graffiti professes the Boston pride.  Image

In order to do some Very Important research on this topic, I also watched a couple of Boston-centric movies, aka ones with Ben Affleck. And the top thing I’ve noticed in those movies (besides the accents and, you know, the robbing-of-banks-ness) is the incredible amount of Boston pride. It’s not quite like anything I’ve experienced before. I have plenty of pride for my hometown in Virginia and my adopted hometown of DC, but Boston is such a tough little nut that people will always defend. And while I may have slung some choice curse words towards the Patriots just yesterday (okay, I may already be an un-fan of the Pats, but because of their STUPID pre-season game, JEOPARDY WASN’T ON!!! Unacceptable), I’m still excited to make Boston into my home and to wrap myself up in some Beantown spirit. 

Image via Boston Magazine

Image via Boston Magazine

I Eat All the Pasta So You Don’t Have To: Greg’s Restaurant

I happen to be a gigantic fan of Italian food, and in case you haven’t heard, Boston happens to have a bunch of Italian restaurants. HOW PERFECT! Recognizing that everyone I know has a different favorite joint, I decided to start a series where I go to all the different top-recommended-by-friends restaurants and give them a go. Hence, I Eat All The Pasta So You Don’t Have To. In related news, I’ll also be starting a series where I document my pasta-weight gain.

I could not be prouder of myself than when I came up with this genius plan. I get to eat a ton of Italian food while hanging out with friends, all in the name of research and writing?! You guys, I am so freakin’ smart I blow my own mind.

I kicked off my explorations with a visit to the favored place of Lauren, aka college roomie, aka bff, aka lady whose apartment lease I took over. Called Greg’s (Lauren: “I know… not very Italian), the only thing she told me was, “It’s wonderful and cheap and the waitress is funny.” My response: “I’m so there it’s insane.”

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THE K10 LOWDOWN: For what the menu offers (pretty standard steak and Italian fare), the decor of the restaurant (fairly chintzy checkered tablecloths), and the prices (my meal was $15 with tip), I shouldn’t be surprised that I wasn’t overly impressed. They brought out free bread which is my standard for determining if I like a place or not, and salad came with the meal, which was nice. But my cheese ravioli was pretty drenched in the meat sauce and overall didn’t have a particularly inspiring flavor. Luckily the serving was so big that Mama has lunch tomorrow. YESSSS.

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Also, we got ice cream at JP Licks afterwards, which was so good that I’m uncomfortably full now.

So, overall impression on Greg’s  — you could take me back and I wouldn’t be kicking and screaming, but there’s gotta be better out there. Onward!

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How to finally nest (ish)

For someone who loves stability, I have been remarkably without a home for the past year+. I’ve thankfully always had a roof over my head and a bed(ish) to sleep in, but since I moved out of my last actual abode in May 2012, I’ve slept in – count em – twenty nine different beds/homes. The largest chunks of my time involved spending July 2012 in Boston (where I got to experience wonderful university housing beds – it was so uncomfortable I honestly had to go buy a foam padding thing from BBB the next day cause I’m a princess), August-December 2012 in London (another time spent in university housing, except I funnily enough had three single beds to call my own. I like to be crazy!), and April-July 2013 in the parental dwelling (where I stubbornly refused to give up my first comfy bed in a year unless it was to a worthy elder).

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to finally – FINALLY! – be able to unpack my bags for the final, foreseeable time, and unwrap my belongings that have been in storage since last May.

Alas and alack, we are not at that point yet. My first two months in Boston are consisting of me living with two very good friends of mine (it’s an awesome Three’s Company/Big Love kind of situation, except not actually) and then a month-long sublet with a rando who I literally agreed to live with because she laughed at my jokes and didn’t seem murdery. The person moving out (from whom I am subletting) has two cats and I was a inch away from saying, “…but can the cats stay?” I HAVE CAT NEEDS, PEOPLE.

How I inserted myself in with my friends/roomies/hosts, the married couple. I think they find me adorable

How I inserted myself in with my friends/roomies/hosts, the married couple. I think they find me adorable

Anyway. Come September 1, I have a home again! Where I actually live, and pay rent! And not sketchy back-alley rent but a rent attached to a lease! (At least, I think so. The property manager just scribbled out the name of my friend, since I’m taking over her lease, and handwrote mine in. I got panicked that the Boston Public Library wouldn’t accept that as a viable proof of residency and did some questionably-legal things to get that library card, but that’s a story for another day).

In the meantime, I have this whole nomadic thing down to a science. The basic rules:

  • When feeding off the teets of a friend’s generosity (yup), be sure to leave secret signs of yourself around the house. If you are staying with a married couple, even better! See above.
  • Never assume a plate is microwave-safe.
  • You haven’t really worn out your welcome until you’re accidentally blown the fuses in your nomadspot
  • There is no sadder thing than to excitedly unpack your backpack into a dresser of your week-long home, only to find that your three shirts don’t exactly need five drawers.
  • I like to believe I can sleep in most places, but I at least need a window. And wifi. And high standards of living. JUST KIDDING I really just need a window. Windowless rooms are the pits.
  • Laundry is for fancymen, and ain’t nobody got time for that. If it is not visibly dirty or have a five-foot-smell radius, it’s fine.
  • When you do have to get your laundry sent out since you don’t have a home and obviously don’t have a laundry machine, assume that something will get stolen/lost, and it will probably be the t-shirt present you got from your mom less than a month ago
  • Bedbugs aren’t that scary, you guys. Man up.
  • Most important one: you never realize how powerful your friendships are until you are in the wandering state of moving. I have relied on the kindness of several friends just to get me up to Boston, including and not limited to: a friend driving me to the airport, her wonderful parents taking my bags in their car since it wouldn’t fit in hers,  friends graciously hosting me immediately upon my arrival, a friend offering to lend me a sofa bed when I realized my August sublet option would only be an air mattress, and another friend sourcing a real bed for me to borrow and, without asking, volunteering to help me move it.

As much as I love traveling, I seriously can’t wait to stretch into a new joint and start nesting, y’all. Mainly because I picked up a blanket from the store that I proclaimed I loved more than my current hostess, and she threw it on the floor in anger. It’s a really good blanket.

(A week later, after she had accidentally had five limoncellos at dinner with her family, she came home and sheepishly told me the blanket was really good.)

"You work for a university? So do you, like, teach?"

The problem of working in higher education can be boiled down to two points: the “what if” syndrome and the dangerous combination “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” syndrome.

The “what if” syndrome attacks me almost every time I’m on a new college campus, and has an alarming tendency to start me down a path of doubting almost everything I’ve done in my life. I’m walking around this campus, which is obviously more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen, with well-rounded photogenic students attractively lounging around on the quad under the sun (because it’s ALWAYS a beautiful day). Suddenly I’m struck with doubt: “OHMYGIDDYGOD. GW is terrible. Only devil children go there, and it smells like a urinal. I’m surprised people are still allowed to walk on it and it hasn’t been declared a SUPERFUND sight yet.”

This is, of course, ridiculous. GW has no need to pass out HAZMAT suits at orientation. Sometimes you get a whiff of urine, but once upon a time I was wandering down the brick paths, gazing at the lines of tulips along the sidewalk. I have also been that incredibly attractive and well-rounded student posing on the quad like there’s a photographer shouting instructions.

I actually delved into my MYSPACE to find a picture I took on my first campus visit… and it’s literally of nothing important on campus at all. I think I was overly impressed by the flags and the tulips.

Nevertheless, I always have to wonder “what if?” when I see people relatively my age living a different life. What if I had decided to go to X college? Would I have still studied International Affairs? Would I have even heard of International Education? Maybe I would be some sorority girl dance team captain who purchases clothes on a regular basis and not continue to wear the same (plain) tshirt from high school.

You see how dangerous this is. And this is my life! I actually caught myself thinking today (as I was strolling down a beautiful gardened and shaded path on campus), “I wish I could just, like, live fifteen lives and do everything I want.” Well… yeah. I think everyone wants that, ya idiot.

The second syndrome is the combo “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” outrage. I am in the delicate stage in my life where I am beautifully ageless (or so I like to think). While this is a bonus for my modeling side career, it doesn’t work so well when a parent wants to feel their child is in capable hands. (Yes… their 18 year old children. I know.) So I stress over how to do my hair so that parents think I’m trustworthy, what shoes to wear to promote my “stylish yet mature” aura, and if stenciling in wrinkles would be overkill.

However, I also have a tendency to prematurely age myself. In all honesty, I’m not THAT much older than the undergrads and I like to think I’m relatively hip (or at least as hip as I ever was in my hippest youth). I think I age myself because I yearn for the day that I can go to bed at 9pm with no shame or judgement. But every time I see widdle freshies walking around campus with a pair of khaki-wearing and map-toting parent, I feel a twinge of, “That was me! but now I’m ADULT! If I were living in the 1500s I would have 32 children by now!”

In conclusion: today, I spent an INORDINATE amount of time talking about my cats (old maid Kristen) but ALSO talking about my mother (little baby Kristen). I think this point brings it home. AAAND scene.

THE BELLY! (maybe I’ll just end every post with a cat picture).