Trattoria Alberto

M and I had dinner at Trattoria Alberto yesterday.

We went early (around 5:30pm) because we were hungry (neither of us had eaten since breakfast), and didn’t see any reason to wait until later. There were a number of people at the bar, not many in the dining room (one other couple when we first went in). Smoking is obviously allowed at the bar.

(Side note: That’s one of the things I’ve disliked the most about living in Pennsylvania. It’s not smoke-free. I’m not a holier-than-thou ex-smoker, but I do appreciate a smoke-free environment.)

Alberto’s is lovely, decorated in what looks like Tuscan style with murals on the walls. The tables are covered with white linen. The lighting is low. The ambiance is well-suited for a romantic dinner.

The service was very good, as was the food. The only complaint I have — the word complaint seeming a little strong — is that the bread didn’t seem all that fresh. However, the dipping oil (olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes) was very tasty and softened up the bread.

For an appetizer we split a tomato dish: Jersey tomatoes with basil, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, cucumbers, and peppers. Very fresh and very tasty. The waiter brought it on two plates, knowing we were splitting the appetizer. Nice touch.

M had the Rigatoni Boscaiola (rigatoni pasta with sausage and wild mushrooms). The pasta was cooked al dente (perfect!). The tomato sauce carrying the sausage and mushrooms tasted fresh. Delicious!

I had Gnocchi Tricolori (potato dumplings with roasted red peppers and fresh spinach in a Gorgonzola cheese sauce. Wonderful!! The gnocchi was perfect, the sauce was rich, and it was a treat to the taste buds.

We were both too full for dessert. A terrible shame, really, as I would imagine their desserts are just as good.

Wrapping things up

M and I went to New Jersey for the weekend to visit with my family. My sister and her husband had their summer party on Saturday. Lots of people, lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of fun.

The weather was hot and sticky, pretty much typical of what the weather has been since summer rolled in and decided to stay for a while. There was some rain, but it didn’t dampen the party or anyone’s spirits. In fact, most people stayed out and played in the rain, getting cooled off and having fun.

M and I went early so we could spend some time with my parents before the party. This is our last visit before we move back to the Bogs. I’m going to miss the monthly visits. It was nice being so close by. I’m hoping all the visits have encouraged family members to start making a few visits out to the Bogs.

We were supposed to go the shore on Sunday, but the weather didn’t cooperate or permit. We ended up spending the day at my brother’s house, relaxing, eating, and getting caught up on life. I enjoyed it. A big thanks to M & K for the sleeping accommodations, and to K for the fab food.

Last Tuesday M and I went out to Longwood Gardens for what I hope wasn’t the last time. We’re hoping to go at least one more time before the big move. We’re also making plans to come back here for the occasional visit so we can see the gardens during the different seasons. Our passes are good for a year. Might as well use them.

(Tree draped in red. Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. July 2007)

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On Saturday (21 July), M and I went to lovely (ugh!) Camden, New Jersey for the XPN-Festival.

The weather was fairly decent. Sunny, warm, but without the soupy humidity that settles around this area in the summer months. Sitting in the sun for most of the late afternoon made us appreciate the cooling of the evening that much more once the sun set.

The XPN-Festival is a 4-day musical event sponsored by a local radio station (WXPN). It’s held in Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront. They have two stages set up as well as numerous vendors selling beer, food, other drinks, and a wide range of stuff (t-shirts, jewelry, etc.).

The directions to Wiggins Park provided by the XPN website were not very good. They got us to Camden, but didn’t lead us to Wiggins Park or the Waterfront area. This resulted in us taking a small and unwanted tour of Camden. I’m fairly well convinced that Camden is one big, bad neighborhood, but I could be wrong. The areas we found ourselves in made us both uncomfortable and it was good to find our way back on a main road and headed in the right direction.

The acts we heard/saw were great. Ryan Shaw was awesome. Good energy, great music, and I had the added advantage of being familiar with his music since we own his latest CD, This Is Ryan Shaw. I highly recommended it if you like R&B.

I also enjoyed Los Lonely Boys. I’ve only heard one of their songs prior to this concert so I wasn’t as familiar with them. Their music is pretty diverse, combining Latin sounds with soul, blues, and Texas-style rock ‘n roll.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were the last act on the main stage. They’re best described as a blues-rock band. Grace Potter’s voice is a little like Janis Joplin and a little like Bonnie Raitt, but not enough to be anything other than her own style and sound.

The big excitement of the evening didn’t happen on the stage. Some crackhead, being chased by the police, drove into Wiggins Park.

M had gone in search of dinner for us. All the food vendors were located in one area. We had agreed on cheesesteaks. Our cheesesteak and hoagie time grows shorter and shorter. We indulge when and where we can now. (No doubt gaining weight in the process.)

The first time M went in search of food (leaving me behind to save our prime spot on the lawn by the main stage), it was between acts and the lines were so long that he decided not to wait but to go back later. This is an important detail to take note of, the fact that the lines were long and the food vendor area was massively crowded.

He went back later, while the Los Lonely Boys were playing, to find that the lines had died down considerably. He walked up to the cheesesteak vendor only to be disappointed as he wasn’t serving anymore. I don’t know why. Perhaps he ran out of cheesesteak ingredients. Since our second choice of food was gyros, M went to the gyro vendor.

While M was waiting to order our dinner, the above mentioned crackhead, driving an SUV, came barreling into the park. He smashed into the cheesesteak truck where M had been standing just a moment before. The idiot then smashed into the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck, swerved and hit a 10 year old girl who was thrown into a tree, then went barreling down a grassy area that had been coned/cleared out (thank the gods) for the performers’ vehicles to get through so they could bring their instruments down to the stage. He then ran into a truck near the porta-potties which finally stopped him. Had that clearing, with orange cones, not been there, or had there been an act performing on that stage, he might have driven over a lot of people sitting there.

It’s also a damn good thing the lines near the food vendors had decreased considerably. Otherwise, a lot of people could have been hurt in that area.

I saw none of this. I was busy saving our seat on the lawn and listening to the Los Lonely Boys. M came back with the food (amazing! I’d have forgotten about it), all wide-eyed and shaking from having witnessed the entire spectacle. Poor man. He was shaky for most of the rest of the evening.

You can read about the incident here.

It’s a miracle more people didn’t get hurt. It’s also a miracle that M had moved away from the cheesesteak vendor just before the crackhead showed up.

I suppose it’s not fair to call him a crackhead as I don’t know that he is a crackhead. Consider it a term of non-endearment. It’s said that alcohol and drugs were found in the vehicle.

Yet another reason to take those stupid SUV’s off the road. Not that it’s the SUV’s fault. There are too many stupid people driving around in those large, gas-guzzling vehicles. I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of SUV drivers act as though they own the road, without thought of who they might run over (as if putting a person in a large vehicle makes them invulnerable or something).

Didn’t mean to start ranting there. My apologies to any SUV drivers who know what they’re doing when they get behind the wheel.

You may have noticed the lack of photos in this post. I didn’t take my camera along. I sort of wish I had. Whenever we’re going somewhere that involves large crowds, I generally don’t take the camera as I don’t want to have to worry about it getting stolen. The crowd at the XPN Festival was a good crowd, though. Mellow. I don’t think I would have had to worry about the camera.

Hank’s Place

I’m going to be churning out multiple entries today in hopes of getting caught up here at the blog. We’re rapidly reaching the end of our sabbatical adventures, and I don’t want to leave anything out.

Before I continue with our goings-on, a little restaurant review is in order.

If you ever happen to be in the Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania area, stop by Hank’s Place for some breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner. Here’s the basic info (with a link to their website:

Hank’s Place
Routes 1 and 100
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
(610) 388-7061

Hank’s Place is popular with the locals. It’s likely you’ll have to wait in line for a table or a seat at the counter.

The food is good stuff. Comfort food. Home-cooking type food. They serve a lot of local dishes such as Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie (which is cooked in a pot and is not a pie), and pork and sauerkraut. But they also have items such as moussaka, spanokopita, and other interesting specials. They’re well known for their desserts. However, I’ve always been too full to have dessert so I can’t personally verify that.

The food is delicious, freshly cooked and often made with local, fresh ingredients. I had the Mediterranean salad on our last visit. It was made with romaine lettuce, fresh Jersey tomatoes (YUM!), fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, onions, olives, and salami, all nicely tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. M had Hank’s Portobello Burger with French fries. Because Chadds Ford is near the mushroom capitol of the world (Kennett Square), you can’t go wrong with any mushroom dish.

M and I have eaten there several times and have never been disappointed.

If you go, be aware that they don’t serve wine, beer or spirits, but I’ve seen people bring in bottles of wine so it’s possible Hank’s is a BYOB place. Their hours are listed on the website. Remember to go early for dinner and that they only serve dinner Tuesday-Saturday.

The Birmingham Meeting House and Beyond

We wandered around the Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery for a little while, trying to locate the mass grave of those on both sides who died near the meeting house during the Battle of Brandywine. The directions we had weren’t clear as to exactly where to find the grave.

(Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery. Photo by Robin. July 2007)

Eventually we stepped over the wall and made our way towards the meetinghouse.

(Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery. Photo by Robin. July 2007)

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Arriving at the Birmingham Meeting House

A good portion of the last third of our driving tour was on Birmingham Road, a road well traveled by M on his way to and from work. It’s also the road we take when we go out for a country drive in the convertible, or at least take frequently on our way from one place to another if the road is on our way.

There’s a hill on Birmingham Road where we’ve stopped before to admire the view. Osborne Hill. It’s at the intersection of Birmingham Road and Country Club Road.

(Osborne Hill. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

It was on this hill that General Howe and the British troops stopped for a tea break before continuing on to battle with Washington’s troops.

The tour eventually led us to the Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery. I like cemeteries. They’re very peaceful places. This one was no exception.

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Way behind

I really need to get caught up here at the Bogs blog. M and I have been so busy that I might have to give up on providing detailed entries, post a few photos, and be done with it.

The problem with that is this has become my journal of our adventures. It’s nice to have the details to look back on, especially after a few years go by. Memories tend to get a little fuzzy around the edges, and around the details.

I guess I’d better get to it, then.

Back to the Brandywine Battlefield.

(Ring House from the back. Photo by Robin. July 2007)

The Ring House is known as Washington’s Headquarters. I don’t think I need to explain why. As with Lafayette’s Quarters, the person for whom the house is named only spent one night there. If you know anything about the Battle of Brandywine, you know that this was where George Washington more or less blundered, thinking the British would be crossing the Brandywine River at Chadd’s Ford. The British fooled him, went north, and outflanked Washington and his troops. By the time Washington figured it out, it was too late. The British won that battle, but as we all know, lost the war.

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