Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monument Mountain & South Street Package and Variety (Another Secret Spot for Great Indian Food!)

   My family recently hiked on Monument Mountain in Great Barrington. We’ve been doing the same hike for awhile and decided to change things up. This was a refreshing new hike for us!

   We started out by taking the Indian Monument Trail. According to the brochure/map, it was “the most gradual, providing walkers with a leisurely ascent up a former carriage road.” You start on a path that runs along the side of the road where you can hear the cars buzzing by and you stay on that for quite a while. Then, you head directly through the woods, which was an easy path to take, but there wasn’t much to look at. The path was very straightforward and gradual, but I struggled with how boring it was. It made it seem longer. We took this path because we had our son with us and we weren’t sure of how difficult each path would get.

   Once we got near the top, there were some rocks that appear to have been chipped away at/formed to serve as steps.

   At the top, there were some large rocks that we could rest on to have a snack and enjoy the view. To get the best view for picture taking however, you have to climb on top of the rocks, which can be nerve-wracking for those who have children with them or who have a fear of heights. I wouldn’t say it’s the most kid friendly mountaintop I’ve ever been on. There are some steep cliffs and dangerous edges! But the view was beautiful!

   On our way down, we decided to take the Hickey Trail. This trail was a lot more fun!There were several log bridges that you had to cross (that weren’t too far off the ground)   and a cave with a tiny stream of water pouring over the edge of it. We all found this path to be far more enjoyable.

   There was also a third trail, the Squaw Peak Trail, that was supposed to have the best views, but we didn’t attempt it because the map said it ran along the top of steep cliffs and that sounded a little too risky to do with a child. If you’ve done this trail or know anything about it, write me and let me know! I’d like to know if it would be appropriate for children.

   Overall, my family had a great experience. If we go back, we will skip taking the Indian Monument Trail the whole way up and take one of the other trails. They seemed to have more interesting things to look at. I need a little bit of excitement while I’m hiking!

A few points I wanted to make:

- I would say this hike is probably best for kids 6 and up. I think younger kids are capable of doing the hike, but I would worry about where they’ll want to explore once they get to the top. Keep a close eye on them!

- There are no bathrooms or portable toilets, so make sure you use the bathroom before you arrive to the trails.

- Bring your bug spray! Once you’re going directly through the woods, the gnats and mosquitos can get a little crazy around your head.

- It states this in the map but I want to make a point of restating it, please keep your dogs on their leashes. We went past several people who did NOT have their dogs on leashes and this makes the hike more uncomfortable for other people, especially when you have children with you. Dogs are curious creatures and that doesn’t go away just because they’re on a hike! Several of the dogs we passed tried to approach us (and it wasn’t always in a playful manner) and it was a little scary. You never know when animals may decide to act out. Just keep them away from other hikers, it’s courteous.

One of the most exciting parts of our hiking adventure though wasn’t the hike. It was this:

   South Street Package and Variety near the corner of 143 and 8 (South Street) in Hinsdale. I know, it doesn’t look like much, but this caught our eyes as we were driving by:

   Any hole-in-the-wall Indian place that is buried in the hilltowns is worth a try for us! Most people probably wouldn’t even think to stop and try it, but we LOVE hidden finds like this!

   When you go in, it looks like a typical package store (that’s a convenience store for you Michigan folks!) but there’s a little dining spot in the back. Nothing fancy, but details like that aren’t important when you’re passionate about good Indian food!

   The owners were a very nice family from New Delhi, India. We chatted with the husband for awhile while his wife cooked our order. It’s always fascinating to learn about other people and what brought them to Western Massachusetts! I just love meeting new people!

   We ordered the Chicken Saag, Chana Masala, Chicken Tikka, Pratatha, and Raita and they were all DELICIOUS! We especially liked the Chicken Saag and Chana Masala! We practically inhaled it! Even my son loved the Chicken Saag and he normally won’t go anywhere near anything with green in it!

   The food was great and very reasonably priced. We will DEFINITELY be dining there again. If you are ever in the Hinsdale area and LOVE and appreciate good Indian food, please support this business.

A final thing I wanted to add...

   Please know that I do not make any money from this blog and get nothing for free. I am not asked to visit or review any of the places that I write about. I do this strictly for fun and as a way to catalogue my family’s adventures. Hopefully, it will inspire you to visit and support some of these businesses though and go on some adventures of your own. Thank you for reading and thank you for supporting local businesses!   

   To read a little history about Monument Mountain, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_Mountain_%28reservation%29. To read more reviews of the Monument Mountain hike, go to: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g41586-d2008981-Reviews-Monument_Mountain-Great_Barrington_Massachusetts.html. 


Friday, July 19, 2013

Top 5 Places to Eat in Michigan

   It’s funny what you miss when you move away from “home”. A recent visit with family had me thinking about my home state of Michigan and some of the places I liked to go when we lived there (specifically the restaurants). Although there are lots of good restaurants in Western Massachusetts, sometimes I really crave the food at some of the places we used to frequent in Michigan.

   This inspired me to compile my Top 5 Places to Eat in Michigan list. If you currently live in Michigan or plan on visiting, look these places up and give them a try. Then write me and let me know what YOU think of them!

Here they are in no particular order (although I did save the best for last).

1. Badawest in Flint. I LOVE BADAWEST! We make sure to eat there every time we visit Michigan. I’ve eaten at a lot of different places now and I can’t find better Middle Eastern food. Some of my favorite dishes are the Hummus (It’s so good and creamy that I could eat it off of my hand), Tabouli, Lentil Soup, and Shish Tawook sandwich. Only downside, the bread. It’s flat and not impressive. We used to go to a place near Sterling Heights when we lived in that area and they baked their own pita bread that was amazing (and gave you this delicious garlic spread with it). But you’ll be able to look past the bread once you taste the delicious food. I don’t think they have their own website, but you can find out more information and view the menu here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/badawest-restaurant-flint.

2. Bi Bim Bab in Novi. Delicious Korean and Japanese food, all in one spot (and for a decent price).  We have a pretty good Korean restaurant out here, but what I miss most about Bi Bim Bab are all of the tasty side dishes they bring out before your meal. Some family favorites are the Bulgogi, Sun Du Bu Chige, and the Dragon Roll. Only downside, the location is a little strange. It’s in a little mall that doesn’t really have a lot of other businesses in it (or at least it didn’t last time I was there), but who cares. That keeps it under the radar. You can visit their website here: http://www.bibimbabrestaurant.com/index.html.

3. El Azteco in East Lansing. I don’t think I can accurately describe how much my husband LOVES this Mexican restaurant which resides close to his alma mater, Michigan State. He used to go out of his way to eat at this place whenever he could when we lived in Michigan. The atmosphere is really nice and you can sit on the roof in the summertime and enjoy your Margarita or Sangria. Some of my favorite dishes are Topopo Salad and the Guacamole and Bean Tostadas. Only downside, it can get busy (and noisy) on the weekends in the fall when there’s tons of college kids around. Check out their website here: http://www.elazteco.me/ELAZTECO.ME/restaurant.html.

4. Stage Deli in West Bloomfield. This Jewish Deli offers a variety of tasty dishes. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered anything here and NOT liked it. I used to frequent their smaller location in the food court of Somerset Mall during my lunch breaks when I worked in Troy. Some family favorites are the Matzo Ball soup, Lox, Stock & Bagel, and the Mitch Albom Cobb salad. I also used to love buying a loaf of their House-Baked Seedless Rye bread to take home with me. Only downside, I can’t think of any. You can read about their locations and view their menu here: http://thestagedeli.com/.

5. Sposita’s Ristorante in West Bloomfield. Once you have a steak at Sposita’s, all other steaks at other restaurants will be a disappointment. We loved the cozy atmosphere and how low-key everything was (in comparison to Lelli’s, which is a similar restaurant). The owner was always very friendly and made you feel like an old friend. We always had great service and great experiences. The ONLY thing we order at Sposita’s is the Filet. IT IS THE BEST! Don’t waste your time ordering anything else. Go there for the steak! The Zip Sauce on the Filet is to die for!! We ask for an extra little cup of it on the side so just so that we have more! The only downside, the decor is a little out of date, it’s not particularly kid friendly (although it’s not un-kid friendly either), and the food is pricey. But you get A LOT of food for what you pay for your meal. It’s not just a meal, it’s an experience! First they bring out bread, then they bring you a salad with various toppings, then you get a cup of minestrone soup, then you get a small plate of pasta, then you get your entree which includes potatoes and a vegetable. It’s like a tasty train of food! I used to skip the plate of pasta because I wanted to leave room for the Filet (and I don’t eat a lot of pasta any way). We used to go there every year on our wedding anniversary (until we moved away). On our first anniversary, we brought the top layer of our cake (which you are supposed to freeze and eat on your first anniversary) with us for dessert. Our server took it in the back, put it on a plate with a candle, and came out singing “Happy Anniversary” to us! It was SO SWEET! Every year on our anniversary, I LONG for Sposita’s! I miss it terribly! Nothing will ever compare for me. It holds a special place in my heart. We’re already planing on going there next time we visit. I couldn’t find a website with their menu on it, but you can find the address and some more information here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/spositas-ristorante-west-bloomfield.     

Us at Sposita's for our 6th Wedding Anniversary, the last one we spent in Michigan.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Bend (Part Two)

   You may remember my post about The Bend in Chesterfield from last summer (click here to read) where I said that I was disappointed. WELL, I decided to give it another try last weekend and I have to say that my opinion has changed. It was lovely! Now that my child is a little bit older and a more experienced swimmer, it was a totally different experience! There still isn't a sandy "beach" but if you have on water shoes the rocks are no big deal. There are also some patches of tiny rocks where you can put down your beach towel and lay comfortably. The water was very clear and surprisingly not too cold. There was a little current that was perfect for throwing your inner tube in and floating down the river (of coarse, not too far). There were families hanging out and collecting rocks and even people playing guitars. It was very peaceful and fun. I imagine if it were the 60's, this would have been a perfect hippie hangout!

   I still stand by my previous statement that I don't think it's the best beach for small children. There are lots of rocks that they can slip on, the water gets really deep really fast, and the current in the river can push swimmers downstream. But small children can still wade in the shallow parts and collect rocks. If your kids are a little bit older (I'd say 7+), this place is great! My family had a blast!