Author Archives: Elle

Have You Driven North Branford Lately?

Aaaaaaand WE’RE BACK!
Missed us? Yeah, we were on hiatus while we both worked on solo projects. Don’t worry, there are no plans to disband. (But let’s be honest, if we did, Emme would be the Kelly Rowland to my Beyonce Knowles.) Anyway, once upon a time, two incredibly brilliant and sexy ladies took a trip to North Branford…
Wiki Me
As you loyal readers know, the OneSixNine girls love looking up towns on Wikipedia, where we learn things like that North Branford is a Town in New Haven County with a population just short of 14,000 spanning 26.6 square miles. One of the town’s most notable residents is former 7th Heaven star Adam LaVorgna.  Also, the North Branford High School baseball team is the official high school baseball team of OneSixNine. (That’s not on Wikipedia… yet.)
See Something

Accompanied by the OneSixNine entourage, we went to check out the amusement and recreation options at  The Connecticut Sportsplex.  Unfortunately, the only competition OneSixNine entourage members ever excelled at was Academic Decathlon, so we stayed away from the Connecticut Sportsplex activities involving,  well, sports.  We went in for one of their specials – The Laser Tag Fun Pack – which is two rounds of laser tag, 20 arcade tokens, and free soda at the concessions area, all for the low, low price of $13.

We really got down to business when it came to spending our 20 arcade tokens. While the Family Fun center doesn’t have a ton of arcade games (it’s no Smiles Entertainment Center, a/k/a The Entertainment Center Formerly Known As Milford Amusement) it’s certainly got enough to keep you busy while you’re waiting for your turn at laser tag.

The Scene at the Family Fun Center

Wack-a-Mole, anyone?

The Deal or No Deal machine, in a perpetual state of "No Deal."

Of course, the best part of a visit to any place with Skeeball and Push-A-Coin is the fervent, irrational pursuit of tickets for the purpose of winning low quality toys. Entourage member Jay was on a mission to win us a new friend to accompany us while OneSixNining. Her name is Dora, she is inflatable, and we understand she is quite the adventuress.

Dor-ahh the Explor-ahh or Dorer the Explorer, depending on which accent Emme is using.

The Prize Counter

Do Something

Just so you all know, I am a Laser Tag connoisseur.  Just hand me a Nerf blaster and set me loose in an old warehouse filled with mirrors and old tires covered in fluorescent paint? You must not know ’bout me. However, I am pleased to report that the Connecticut Sportsplex laser tag is high quality. It has accurate guns and a big, well-maintained, two-level arena.  A+

Now, if you’re not a laser tag person, and are looking for something more along the lines of a hybrid of jai alai and bumper cars, the Connecticut Sportsplex has the activity for you! “Cyber Sport (TM) combines a sporting experience with a highly maneuverable vehicle that adults and kids love to play.”  It’s also the favorite activity of Americans who want to make fools of themselves.

Even getting in the cars is tough for us

Eat Something

After the Sportsplex, we went to dinner at Abate where the service is friendly,  the chicken is lemony,  the pasta is delicious and Dora was almost left behind.

We learned that Abate took first place in the North Branford Pizza War. Abate defeated Amato’s, Bella Lisa, Bobby’s, Lomonaco’s, Lombardi’s, Oregano’s, Slice and Giovanni’s. Not participating in the war was Luigi’s Antimilitarist Apizza, which was granted status as a conscientious objector.

Drink Something

After Abate’s we headed over to Doody’s Totoket Inn, conveniently located near Abate’s. Doody’s is a pretty nice little divey bar. The clientele seemed nice and politely tolerated a bunch of people hanging out with an inflatable Dora the Explorer.

Talk to Someone

I have to give props to Emme, she actually chatted up some folks at Doody’s and learned all about the scene there. Me? I just sat there and talked to Dora. She taught me how to say “cerveza” and told me all about her journey to the Purple Planet. Que emocionante!

Lessons in Connecticuting:

  1. Unlike our Clinton journey, we learned that there’s not much to do in North Branford any time of the year, with the exception of the Potato and Corn Festival.  Yep, you read that right.
  2. Talking to strangers is much easier in dive bars than it is on the street.  Did you know that Doody’s is a family restaurant, owned by at least 3 generations of Doodys?
  3. Surprisngly enough, a restaurant can be named after feces and still be successful.
  4. Elle likes to think that being Beyonce makes her the cooler blogger, but obviously she’s forgotten the Nelly and Kelly hit “Dilemma.”
  5. Having a local as a guide is super convenient.  Having a sportsplex is even more convenient.  Having a professional explorer is the most convenient.

Remember that time…

…. we had a blog and we used to post stuff on it? Man, that was great.

We’re not dead, we swear. There will be more towns up here soon.

Clintons of Fun?

As you diligent readers know, Emme and I have put the Bluefish Capital of Connecticut on Colbertsian notice. How is it possible that the former summer home of beloved children’s author/illustrator Dr. Seuss could get our collective Irish up? It’s easy – Clinton now has the distinction of being the only town that we have had to TWICE drudge our exceedingly busy and important selves to in order to give it a proper OneSixNining.  The fact that we couldn’t properly evaluate a town of 16 square miles of land (13 thousand people!) in one day is a problem, considering that we later schooled North Branford in just a few hours and that has 25 square miles of land.  We also are totally awesome at looking up towns on wikipedia.  In case you didn’t already know that.

See Something

Clinton: Day 1 was Black Friday. We thought we’d kick off the Christmas shopping season by checking out the scene at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets. Emme and I would be lying if we said we were Clinton Crossing newbies.  I mean, we’re not shopaholics or anything, but I’m starting to get to know some of the staff at the J.Crew store. Black Friday is a special day in the retailverse, however, and I’ve never seen Clinton Crossing so busy. Deal-hunters were out in full force ready to get their hands on the legendary brands, abundant selection and real savings.

Great deals!

The line at Coach.

Do Something

Of course, Emme and I weren’t there just to observe the Black Friday shoppers. You can’t expect us to visit a premium outlet mall and not partake.  We, too, perused the “abundant selection” and made some purchases at J. Crew. Stores we also love include Banana Republic, the Nike store, Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren. Stores we elected to pass by include Dress Barn, Dress Barn Woman, Juicy Couture and the Crocs store.

Some of the stores at Clinton Crossing

Saks outlet all decked out for the holidays

Eat Something

After the outlets we headed over to Hanami, a Japanese restaurant on Route 1. If you want to know what we had, well, you can just screw off. It was a month ago. Stop expecting so much from us, okay? I can tell you we weren’t disappointed. It was a nice place.  Interruption by Emme:  I know that I had the sushi — super yum!  Our dining companion had something soup-based.  I forget what Elle had.  But it was all totally tasty, and the waitress was very prompt and friendly.  Recommend!

Drink Something

After Hanami we made our way to the center of Clinton to The Coffee Break. Alas, The Coffee Break (and it appears, almost all of Clinton) was closed. It wasn’t a huge surprise as it was after 6:00 the day after a holiday. Emme and I decided we’d return to Clinton at a later date to drink something and talk to someone.

Fast forward about three weeks. (During this time, Emme and Elle survived a Nor’Easter, were shocked by the relevations of Tiger Woods’s extramarital affairs, and completely lost track of what is going on in the health care debate.) Now older, wiser, and possibly facing higher taxes on our Cadillac health care plans, we returned to Clinton at 3:00 the Wednesday before Christmas. And what did we find? The Coffee Break – closed. Again. Malone’s Sandwich and Coffee House? Closed. Some other place we saw that I forgot the name of? Closed. Determined, we drove along Route 1 in search of someplace to “Drink Something.” Seeing an ironically snow-covered sign for a place called Beach Donut Shop, we stopped there, thinking we might be able to score a coffee.

Emme has informed me that this photo is funny

Turns out Beach Donut (not to be confused with “Donut Beach,” the tastiest of the unmade Frankie and Annette movies) focuses more on bulk rather than individual donut sales. A cafe it is not. Plus, you walk in and you’re pretty much in the middle of the donut-making action. We did snag a couple of their very yummy products but it was, in Emme’s words, “the most awkward donut-buying experience of my life. And I’ve bought A LOT of donuts.”  (Note from Emme: I grew up in a place called The Colonial Do-Nut Shop.  Proof of its existence circa 1983?  The place still doesn’t have a website and is closed on Sundays.  But anyways, Colonial made all their donuts by hand in the store, and clearly Beach Donut does the same thing, the difference being that Colonial is quaint and friendly, and Beach Donut is full of racks and on hipstered-out young teen trying the punk thing a few years too late.)

Ultimately, were able to get beverages at Dunkin’ Donuts, a small coffee and pastry shop on Route 81. You may have heard of it. Dunkin’ Donuts is a truly innovative patisserie. While most cafes cater to faux intellectuals, aspiring screenwriters and procrastinating graduate students (“Come, hipster, have an organic, fair trade coffee. Listen to this wonderful Joni Mitchell CD. Stay awhile. Have another coffee. Converse loudly about politics with all the wisdom and insight only a casual reading of The New Haven Advocate can provide”) this is not the scene at at Dunkin’ Donuts, coffee shop of the proletariat, whose interior charmingly proclaims “When you are finished, kindly return to your UPS route.”  (Elle’s apt description of Dunks has forced me (Emme) to add this GREAT link from a 2007 Boston Phoenix article about the Dunkin brand — a must-read for Dunkin’ devotees).

As I stepped up to the lovely rose and pumpkin-colored counter and began asking questions of the barista, I got the impression that he was not well versed in the authentic espresso method. No matter, I’m not so pretentious as to believe one must be an alumnus of a qualified Italian bar man school to make an acceptable caffelatte. I ordered a medium (coffee sizes in English? How droll!) iced caramel latte and was impressed by the both the quality and size of the drink. I wound up disposing of half of my “medium,” but carefully, so I did not spill it on myself and drown.

In short, Dunkin’ Donuts is far and away the best coffee shop in Clinton…if you’re in Clinton past 2:30 PM.

Talk To Someone

We’re getting better at this one, we swear. We did chat a little bit with the young employee at Beach Donut (again, not “Donut Beach”). At one point we asked him if we were still in Clinton or if we had crossed over into Westbrook. He wasn’t entirely sure. Maybe we aren’t missing out on much by not talking to people on these outings.

Lessons in Connecticuting
  1. Shoreline towns are not good late-fall-early-winter destinations.  Emme’s other life is in a beach community, so she should have known better, but whatever.  Clinton, you have a giant supermall.  You should have one coffee shop that ISN’T Dunks be open after 2:30.  On a weekend. Furthermore, many CT towns have a town green.  In most of these towns, outside the green you can find a bunch of chain stores and not much else.  This is absolutely true for Clinton.
  2. We’re not closed-minded; we’d love to see the inside of the Coffee Break and find out if Malone’s sandwiches are the best in town.  If you’re reading this, proprietors, we accept your invitations for some free samples and will gladly update this entry.  But it better be free.  We spent all our money on gas driving to Clinton.  TWICE.
  3. We really shouldn’t have to talk to someone in every town.  The Beach Donut kid didn’t even know where he worked.  I don’t know which this reflects more poorly on — Beach Donuts, their employees, or Clinton’s memorability.
  4. Splitting a town into two visits isn’t the terrible idea we thought it would be, and I’m glad Elle didn’t try to lie to you and pretend we did it all in one day.  Cause she thought about lying to you, you know.
  5. Everything good in life comes from Massachusetts.  Dunkin Donuts, the only place we could find a beverage in Clinton, is a Mass-based company.  Meaning that we should abandon OneSixNine and reconsider ThreeFiveOne.  Obviously this is Emme writing.  But I’m just saying, Clinton did not do a whole lot to sell me on the wonders of Connecticut.

Happy Holidays From Emme & Elle

This year, Governor Rell decided against paper cards and sent her holiday greetings via the internet’s many tubes. The e-cards, she says, are environmentally friendly, save taxpayer money and reach more residents of Connecticut. We think this is a great idea and are going to follow the Governor’s lead. However, we are going to do even better than merely saving money and saving the planet – Emme and I are also going to save our valuable time. Instead of spending hours agonizing over what to do for our holiday card, we’re just going to use Jodi’s.

Season’s Greetings From OneSixNine!

Clinton, You’re On Notice

More to follow.

Don’t Rain On My Drinkfest

In my world, Christmastime means one thing – less than 3 months until the New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I’ve already begun preparations – practicing my reel steps, shopping for uncomfortable sweaters, and learning how to say “The priests are eating eggs” in Gaeilge (thanks, Rosetta Stone).

Then last Thursday morning I opened up The New Haven Register (while eating a breakfast of eggs with my priest friends) and learned that the New Haven police department is planning a St. Patrick’s Day “crackdown.” For as long as I can remember, public drinking laws have been “unofficially” suspended on Parade Day, but Chief James Lewis says this year will be different. As St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland (even though post-glacial Ireland never had snakes), Chief Lewis is hoping to drive the drunks out of New Haven.

So when hundreds of thousands of people converge downtown March 14, there will be no U-Haul trucks with kegs or wagons filled with cases of beer allowed. Officers will be instructed to tell cooler-toting people to return them to their cars, Lewis said.

As for spectators who still insist on drinking, “There will be tickets written that day,” Lewis warned.

Personally, I always thought the reason that the police didn’t enforce public drinking laws on Parade Day was because they couldn’t. How can you enforce “no public drinking” when the public drinkers outnumber police officers 50 to 1? (Statistic completely made up.) What say you? What do you think of the “Great St. Patrick’s Day Parade Crackdown of 2010”?

Late Bloomfield: Boozing Our Religion

Oh, the weather outside is frightful..ish. Yesterday the ladies of OneSixNine would not be deterred by the impending snowpocalypse and ventured out into Bloomfield (which is, in fact, as beautiful its name implies, but more on that later.) Since the storm was predicted to hit New Haven in the early afternoon but not touch northern Connecticut until later, I packed my things to spend the night at Emme’s place in Hartford. After our trip to Bloomfield (beautiful as its name implies) we spent our evening doing what everyone else in Connecticut was doing – sitting at home and bracing for the PARALYZING NOR’EASTER that COULD START ANY MINUTE NOW OH MY GOD. I think I speak for everyone when I say that was the lamest snowpocalypse ever. Still, I’m glad we have that shared experience. I feel like I’ve bonded with all of you – as though you were right there with us as we played Clue and watched “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” on USA.

Anyway, on to Bloomfield. Bloomfield, aside from being as beautiful as its name implies, borders Windsor, East Granby, Simsbury, Avon, West Hartford and Hartford (41°50′39″N 72°44′29″W if you’re scoring at home). And what I’ve learned from my brief time there is that Bloomfield is big on two things – beer and religion.

See Something

I want to preface this bit by noting something about casual, unannounced visits in places of worship – they’re uncomfortable. Even if you’re just going there for totally innocent looking around. Even if most places of worship are very welcoming of visitors. And even if you’re at a place that’s run by your own team.

We experienced that last one at St. Thomas Seminary. The buildings there are really beautiful (even if the name doesn’t imply it). In fact, if I knew anything about architecture, I’d tell you what style they’re in.

I can tell you that The Archdiocesan Center at the Seminary offers “22,000 square feet of retreat and conference rooms, 80 dormitory style guest rooms, catering and conference services and recreational facilities.” There is also a Catholic Book Store and Gift Shop, which we did not visit. We really didn’t linger at the Seminary. The grounds were so quiet that it felt like we were trespassing even though, had we been approached by a passing Seminarian, we could have been like “It’s cool, man. We, too, enjoy incense and Bingo.”

However, if you think the Catholics have a monopoly on striking religious buildings in Bloomfield, you haven’t seen The First Cathedral. I have to admit that as we drove down Route 187 and it came into view, I took the Lord’s name in vain. (Guess we should have swung back to the seminary afterward for a quick confession.) The First Cathedral is huge, but I guess it needs to be since it’s home to 11,000 members – the largest congregation in New England. The edifice is allegedly built in the shape of a dove, a fact that we can’t verify since the OneSixNine helicopter was in the shop this weekend.

We ventured inside briefly and saw the Grand Lobby. This is one impressive non-denominational church. Unlike at the seminary, we did stop by the gift shop. The proprietors were very nice, and their merchandise included this amusing t-shirt, as well as “The Bad Girls of the Bible,” “The Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible,” and “The Really Bad Girls of the Bible.” Much like at the seminary, we didn’t hang around for too long. After all, there was a Nor’Easter coming and there was a lot of Bloomfield left to see.

Drink Something

As I’m sure all you studious students of Connecticut history know, Thomas Hooker was the puritan founder of the Colony of Connecticut. The nice thing about having a founding father like Mr. Hooker is that Connecticut companies, like the Brew Pub formerly known Trout Brook, can innocently adopt the name “Hooker” and then make a killing on hilarious merchandise.

Oh, the witty folks at Hooker Beer. The brewery is a pretty cool place. It has open houses – just make sure you obey the rules!

The scene at the brewery on a Saturday afternoon with a storm coming was pretty tame. Emme was telling me that sometimes it gets pretty crowded – like in one of the photos on the wall. Closer inspection of said photo confirmed Emme’s firsthand knowledge – she’s in it. Can you find the back of Emme’s head? You should know what it looks like by now!

The big attraction at the brewery was the Nor’Easter beer. And what an appropriate day to indulge! I made sure all our Twitter followers were updated on how much we were enjoying Nor’Easter while waiting for the Nor’Easter.

Do Something

As per the rules, we took a tour of the brewery. What I learned is that brewing beer, much like math class, is tough. There’s all this science stuff involved. Who was the dude who, thousands of years ago, discovered that fermented grain tastes good and makes you act silly? Props to him, because I still don’t understand how the stuff is made.

Mmmm, tank of Nor'Easter!

On the way out, Emme bought herself a growler of Nor’Easter (or, as Emme’s native people might say, “A growlah of Nor’Eastah”) and the Hooker folks threw in some innuendo at no extra charge.

Eat Something

After the brewery we headed to Concetta’s, an Italian restaurant located in the Bloomfield Shopping Center (which also has an Ocean State Job Lot, a definite sign of sophistication). Concetta’s was recommended to us by one of Emme’s co-workers and it did not disappoint. It was your standard, though very tasty and very plentiful, Italian fare.

Also, if some of our Jewish friends are feeling left out by the Catholic and non-denominational Christian stops on our tour, don’t fret: we made some time for your people as well.

Talk to Someone

As usual, the OneSixNine will disappoint our readers with our willingness to meet people on our journeys.  We can’t help it, we’re just such great conversationalists that it’s hard to find a reason to talk to anyone but each other.  We did get to chat up the Beer Girl at the brewery, who was super pleasant.  And she even gave us Christmas cookies!  Emme suggested getting OneSixNine business cards to pass around so people would know how legit and important we are when we go places, so if you’re looking to buy us a Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Solstice gift, you’re welcome for the suggestion.  And thank YOU for thinking of us!

Lessons in Connecticuting

  1. Letting Elle be in charge of writing the post and using her camera for photos cuts our turnaround time down by, like, a month.
  2. Bloomfield has a lot of religion.  Which, for at least one lapsed Catholic, is both surprising and a little overwhelming.  It’s humbling to be in really religious places when you’re slacking and your mother is judging you for not going to confession.
  3. Worshipping false idols (or no idols) does not guarantee asign from the heavens in the form of outrageous snowfall.  Hartford was surprisingly snow-limited this morning when the oft-delayed storm had finally come and gone.
  4. Don’t trust Connecticut weathermen.  Or Aonghus.  Both misled us several times yesterday.  But you can trust Curt Cameron (not to be confused with Kirk Cameron… who, ironically enough, attends a megachurch).
  5. Eating dinner across from the University of Hartford women’s basketball team is a good way to feel short and unathletic.  And old.