Russell Orchards | Ipswich, MA | Apple Picking

After a long summer of stickiness and humidity, I, like many other Boston-area folks, jumped to celebrate fall at the first signs of crispness. And what better way to start off than with the quintessential New England autumn activity: apple picking?

I ended up at Russell Orchards in Ipswich (just a mile from Crane Beach, about an hour northeast of Boston). This was my first time apple picking, and Russell did not disappoint: apple cider doughnut smells wafted through the parking lot, enticing us weary travelers from the get-go (an hour in traffic is nearly a lifetime for someone who bikes 10 minutes to work!).

The basics:

  • parking is free, a 10 lb. bag of apples is $20 on weekends, and a dozen doughnuts is $9.50 (trust me, you will need a dozen)
  • the only bathrooms are port-a-potties in the parking lot
  • it’s about a 5 minute hay ride from the parking lot to the orchards
  • they grow about 15 varieties of apple

Why Russell is great:

  • Big Darryl: a giant (and I mean giant) pig lives on the premises, and is available for pictures when he is not sleeping
  • they have a dog that hangs out in a golf cart
  • the apple cider doughnuts are out-of-this-world-amazing
  • in the early fall, it’s still warm enough to visit Crane Beach if you are so inclined

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Boston Calling | Government Center | Music Festival

 

On a typical day, Boston City Hall Plaza is not the type of place you’d associate with summer fun. The Brutalist architecture of city hall more readily conjures images of prisons and oppression than of crop tops and coconut milk. But hey, it’s the 21st century – why not have both?

Boston Calling transforms the normally bleak, concrete plaza into a sea of people bobbing their heads (some adventurers doing all-out dance moves) and sipping Sam Adams. This year’s Friday set featured Future Islands, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The National on a perfectly balmy summer night. For those of you considering going to the festival next year, here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • unlike other music festivals, Boston Calling doesn’t sell out (yet), so the mood is relatively mellow
  • if you’re a Boston-area native, the venue is highly accessible by numerous T lines
  • the latest set ends around 11, so you still have plenty of time to go out in the surrounding area, or to just go home and grab some rest before the next full day of music (note: this could also be seen as a con. sorry bros)

Cons:

  • Boston Calling hasn’t established itself fully as an arts and music and food/drink festival like some of the other more popular ones have, so you’ll have to settle for a few murals in the corner and fairly standard (though tasty) Boston fare
  • every potential sitting/napping surface is concrete – bring a blanket or thick jacket if possible
  • because it’s so urban, there is no Boston Calling experience (no CarpoolCalling, etc)

 

For all of its flaws, Boston Calling provides a great time, cheap(ish) tickets, and convenience. It’s sort of a representation of everything that’s great about Boston and everything that’s horrible about Boston: in what other city could you hold a music festival right in downtown?

 

 

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Felipe’s | Harvard Square | Mexican

 

I’m from LA, so you Bostonians can’t fool me with your “burritos” and your “tacos” and your “fashion.” I know what’s up. But I also know that getting lunch (or satisfying drunchies) for $5 in Harvard Square is tougher than it may seem.

Enter Felipe’s.

A Mexican fast food joint currently housed inside its sister restaurant (Flat Patties) while completing construction on its new Harvard Square location, Felipe’s is exactly what you want and expect it to be: chaotic, confusing (why do they steam-melt the cheese?), cheap, and filling. And with a line out the door pretty much every weekday, you always leave feeling like a) you really deserve your goddamn burrito and b) you are part of the Harvard Square in-crowd. Arguably terrible things to feel for both your health and your ego, but the moist, flavorful carnitas and just-spicy-enough tomatillo salsa makes it all worth it.

Pro tips:

  1. Get a burrito, not tacos, just in case there isn’t enough seating and you have to sit on the benches outside.
  2. Extra napkins. Duh. It’s Mexican food.
  3. If you have enough room, take advantage of Felipe’s short-term roommate and grab yourself a malted milkshake for a cool $4 – pennies compared to Shake Shack around the corner.
  4. Keep an eye out for the opening of the new location on JFK street – rumor has it there will be a rooftop patio and a full bar.

Moroccan Hospitality Restaurant | Spring Hill | Moroccan

Moroccan Hospitality Restaurant is a little bit off the beaten path (unless you’re a regular at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville), so it took me a while to try this unassuming little restaurant. Its Yelp listing gives the wrong address, and the sign is only visible from the other side of the street, so if you’re going just make sure you go to 585 Somerville Ave (between Union and Porter).

On a Friday night at 7pm, the place was pretty quiet and surprisingly full of old people – not sure if this is a regular thing, but they were cute. The further we got into our meal, the less white hair we saw and the louder it got. This is just, you know, something to be aware of. By about 8 it was bustling, but still quiet enough to maintain a good conversation.

To get to the important part, the food was great. I went with two other people and we ordered a pot of the Moroccan mint tea, bastilla, makkouda, the lamb couscous dish, and the roasted chicken. For those of you who have no idea what I just said, let me break it down:

  • bastilla: sweet and savory pasty dish made with chicken, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and probably a lot of butter. It might sound weird but was the favorite in our group.
  • makkouda: potato-based appetizer that comes with a delicious smoky sauce. Another crowd pleaser.
  • lamb couscous: in this dish, a generous portion of lamb was served atop a mound of couscous (a grain) and vegetables. The meat was tender, the couscous was flavorful, and we all left happy with this choice.
  • roasted chicken: literally a roasted chicken. An entire chicken. If you don’t know, that’s a ton of food, but really why would you order roasted chicken at a Moroccan restaurant? I definitely recommend going for some of the more unusual dishes.

They don’t have a liquor license yet, so if after your meal you’re hankering for a beer, head over to Aeronaut Brewing Co. a few blocks away. They’re a new local brewery with interesting flavor combinations – of the brews I’ve tried, my favorites include one brewed with maple sap instead of water and another with notes of smoked local butternut squash.

Either way, $50 including tip for three people for a fun, filling dinner is hard to beat. Check this place out next time you’re in Somerville! They also offer Moroccan teatime from 3-5pm daily if you’re not ready yet to take the dinner plunge.