Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lehigh Valley Blog Roll - Main Street Depot restaurant, SteelStacks Farmers Market, Emmaus businesses and Horns Restaurant in Bethlehem

Good news for restaurant lovers in Allentown - there's a plan afoot to promote all of the city's culinary wonders - from takeout to diners to white-tableclothed-full service places. As I wrote about in a LVStyle column last year, Allentown has the broadest variety of dining options in all of the Lehigh Valley, and it's high time you experienced it for yourself. Stay tuned!

There have been some terrific posts this week by some of my favorite bloggers and media outlets. I share them here because it's good stuff, it's a busy week for me (big party this weekend) and I couldn't have said it better.
  • Horns – New Sustainable Restaurant Coming to South Bethlehem by Michele of Bethlehem
    A new restaurant under construction at 123 West 4th Street near Play It Again Records should be open in early September. (One of the last old-fashioned record stores in the Lehigh Valley!)
    *Update: It's open, and we can't wait to go with Emilie and Rick when they're in town!
  • Open for Business by Lehigh Valley Style
    Four new businesses in Emmaus:
    ~ Cake Chic 500 Chestnut Street, 484-201-6206
    ~ Thai Thai House 302 Main Street, 610-965-0466 (this was the place that was almost a swingers' club)
    ~ Creamery on Main 332 Main Street, 610-928-1500
    ~ Design Elements 304 Main Street, 610-928-1144
  • The Wooden Match by the El Vee
    Details about Cigars International taking over the former Main Street Depot restaurant project in Bethlehem. This is the beautiful building at the entrance to Sand Island. Our friend Lauren's dad is involved in the project; she said that he is in charge of the beer list! (Cool job.)
    *Update: My book club met here for beers and book talk last week! To answer the $65K question, yes it does smell like cigars, but no, it is not smoky. We just indulged in beer and nachos (like all good book club members do) but we'll be back for "real food." I kind of expected there to be a big Monday night football scene, but the Phillies game was on and no one really seemed to be paying attention. Maybe Sundays are different, but the TV's above the bar really aren't a focal point in the room.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boating in the Lehigh Valley

Earlier this year, we took a canoe trip down the Little Schuylkill with our Hawk Mountain friends, then FH participated in another canoe trip with the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Institute. Maybe it's because it's so stinking hot, or maybe it's because I love to try new things, but I am jazzed to check out some boat-related activities this summer.

The first is a series of canal boat dinner cruises in Easton. The canal boats are available for historical, educational tours nearly all the time, but these are the only tours I have heard about that include dinner and a show. The canal boats are pulled down the Lehigh Canal by mules - where else can you get a ticket like that in the Lehigh Valley?

If you're looking for something to do on date night other than dinner and a
movie, sign up for The National Canal Museum's one-of-a-kind dinner cruises.
Guests will enjoy a full-course meal and historical stories during a gentle ride
along the restored Lehigh Canal aboard the canal boat Josiah White II.

There's still time to catch The Elite Cruise that departs 5:30 p.m. July
23 with a variety of land and sea options including crab bisque, filet mignon
with bordelaise, chicken Alaska and pastries and desserts.

The summer closes with Clambake on the Canal, which departs 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and features clam chowder, shrimp, haddock, steamed clams, corn on the cob with drawn butter and classic desserts such as apple pan dowdy and shoofly pie.

In the fall the National Canal Museum will celebrate Oktoberfest with a cruise that
departs 1 p.m. Oct. 8. It features traditional German fare such as chicken and
dumplings, bratwurst, sauerkraut with knockwurst, German chocolate cake and

All events are catered by Kasey Lynn's Catering Service and will include entertainment. The cost is $40 per person. RSVP at 610-559-6613. (Source: Lehigh Valley Live)
Next, I want to take a paddle boat ride in Allentown. I member taking a paddle boat out on the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season to see the monuments and flowering trees from a completely new vantage point.

Looking for a fun afternoon or evening that doesn’t involve the crowds of Dorney
Park, the drive to Easton, or the pocket-emptying power of The Sands? Check out
the paddle boat rides going on at Cedar Beach Park’s Muhlenberg Lake.

The rides are organized by Hyde ‘N Creek Paddleboats and cost just $5
per person for every half hour you’re out on the water. Hyde’s tent sits atop
Sparkle Island in the middle of Muhlenberg Lake... The paddle boats are
available every weeknight from 6 p.m. to sunset, and on the weekends from noon
until sunset, according to their Facebook page. Stop by and enjoy a peaceful
paddle on the lake after work, bring the whole family for an inexpensive
afternoon weekend, or take your beau out for a unique evening date. Hyde ‘N
Creek Paddleboats is open until October. (Source: My West End)

Then, I want to paddle in the Lehigh River with the Wildlands Conservancy. It completely full-service - equipment and guides provided - and the guides take care of shuttle service as well.

Explore the Lehigh River with Wildlands Conservancy! All equipment is provided
and all trips include beginner instruction and are led by our professional guides. Have a blast and learn about the unique ecosystem and the fascinating history that surrounds the Lehigh River. Everyone must pre-register. Space is limited, register today!

August 13th, 6:00pm
Full Moon Evening Bike & Boat Trip
Don’t miss this trip as we bike along the D&L Trail from Sand Island in Bethlehem to
Canal Park in Allentown, then paddle on the Lehigh River back to Sand Island.
We’ll stop on an island for a campfire before finishing our paddle under
moonlight. Trip will take approximately 4 hours from start to finish; cost is
$40/pp. Register by August 10. Maximum: 30

September 24th, 9:00am
Walnutport to Northampton Lehigh River Paddle
Join us for this debut trip as we paddle the Lehigh River starting at the Walnutport boat launch and ending at Northampton’s Canal Park. We’ll meet in Northampton and provide shuttle transportation to Walnutport before launching and paddling this
beautiful stretch of river. Trip will take approximately 4 hours from start to
finish; cost is $40/pp. Register by September 21. Maximum: 20

October 2nd, 1:00pm
Autumn Bike & Boat Trip
Celebrate the beautiful fall season! We’ll meet at Sand Island in Bethlehem and bike to Canal Park in Allentown before getting in canoes and paddling downstream back to our destination. Trip will take approximately 3 hours from start to finish; cost is
$35/pp. Register by September 28. Maximum: 30

Oct. 15th, 10:00am
Fall Foliage Lehigh River Paddle
Close out our season with our traditional paddle down the Lehigh River while the fall foliage is at its peak. We’ll meet at the Wilson Avenue river access and provide shuttle transportation to Canal Park in Allentown where we’ll journey back downriver in canoes. Trip will take approximately 4.5 hours from start to finish; cost is $40/pp. Register by October 12. Maximum: 30

If you have a group of ten or more, we’ll set up a personalized trip for you on the date and time that you prefer. For more information or to register for a trip, contact Wildlands Conservancy’s Outdoor Recreation Manager at 610-965-4397 ext. 135 or email (Source: Wildlands PA)
Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lehigh Valley electronics recycling - where, exactly?

My all-in-one printer has a paper jam problem. Not a death sentence, right?

After a somewhat confusing phone call involving two well-meaning Dell customer service representatives in India, the final verdict is not the news I expected.

My printer is a few years old. So old that the warranty expired a year and a half ago (oops).
Warranties are not available for purchase once the existing warranty expires. And even if it was under warranty, Dell would send me a brand new one instead of replacement parts. But it is expired, so... I need to buy a whole new printer. The good news is, a new one costs less than an extended warranty would have cost. The bad news is, I have to figure out how to throw away this electronic device.

I have heard about electronics recycling, but I've never done it myself, so I did a little internet research. I discovered that Lower Saucon Township is having an electronics recycling EVENT in September, which gives me a little bit of time to get the rest of my old equipment organized and ready for recycling. Here are the details:

Electronics Recycling ProgramNext event: September 24, 2011 ~ 9 am - Noon

WHAT’S ACCEPTED: Computer monitors (CRTs, Plasma & LCD displays); laptop & notebook computers; televisions (standalone, console, wide-screen, projection-screen, CRT, Plasma, LCD); computer systems (CPU Units); computer peripherals (printers, scanners, plotters, copiers); computer accessories (keyboards, mice, speakers, cords, cables); external disk memory & hard disk drives (confidential data destruction available); circuit boards & electronic components/chips; network hubs, modems & routers; photocopiers & multi-use copies (copy, fax, scan, print); telephone telecommunications/switching systems; PDAs, PDA cradles, & other hand held devices; cellular phones & cell phone chargers; toner cartridges (ink jet & laser jet); CDs, DVDs, magnetic tape, car batteries, household batteries, fluorescent lamps.

*NOTE: THERE WILL BE A SMALL FEE CHARGED FOR ALL THESE ITEMS: $1.00 each – answering machine, cell phone, copier, CPU, fax machine, keyboard, laptop, microwave, modem, pager, printer, radio/stereo, telephone. $5.00 each – Monitors $20.00 each – Televisions $0.25 each – Fluorescent lamps

Of course the newer version of the same all-in-one printer I just ordered does not use the same ink cartridges, so I will probably bring those along, too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Friday night out in Easton

My dear high school friend was visiting her family for the weekend and set aside Saturday night to visit with my FH and me.

It's been a while since she's been "out" in the Lehigh Valley and she was staying on the east side of the area, so I suggested dinner at Sogo in downtown Easton. It really has come a long way in the last 15 years, and I hoped she'd be impressed.

I didn't count on the street closures related to the Crayola Factory's 15th Anniversary being an impediment to our travel for a 7:30 p.m. dinner reservation. We who are familiar with Easton handily avoided the barricades and found a parking space (meter parking is free after 6 p.m.). But our friend was forced to navigate a series of one way streets through an area that is less than desirable to be lost in. She ultimately found a space on Northampton Street and arrived at the restaurant just a few minutes after we did.

We'd already put our names in for a table on the outdoor patio (one of the best in Easton IMHO - covered and above street level). Before we could even order a drink at the inside bar, we were whisked away by the hostess and seated al fresco. We enjoyed our delicious meal of sushi, edamame and sashimi, and shared a bottle of wine. Though the service wasn't remarkable, our orders were accurate, and our server was completely unobtrusive to our conversation and we were not left waiting.

Our friend suggested ice cream after dinner, but we knew that Purple Cow Creamery had already closed for the night (it was after 9 p.m.), so we offered to walk her to her car. On the way, we heard some laughing and talking going on inside Connexions Gallery. We stopped in and caught Anthony Marracini and a large group of art lovers in the middle of this event, a festive art auction for a program called Lehigh Valley Art Wars, which earlier this year pitted 16 artists against each other in a timed and themed paint-off. In the contest, these 16 artists were whittled down until the audience and jury decided on one winner. The winner, Alexander Clare, received $1000 and a solo gallery show. I had heard about the art wars but had not paid much attention to the contest. Maybe you'll recognize his work from Brew Works...

After we parted ways with our friend, we determined that we'd swing by the newly-opened Black and Blue on the way home. We found street parking one block away (in the direction of the Northampton County Courthouse). When we walked in the door, the bar was full but the restaurant area was empty, and the crowd was decidedly young and hip. Music was playing over a PA system - loud but not noisy. The bar's 12 microbrews on tap were listed on a chalkboard on the wall. We both caught up with people we hadn't seen in a while and tasted some delicious beer. It felt like Porter's and Which Brew and some of my favorite cozy Washington, DC, bars, wrapped in one. We'll definitely be back to sample some of Black and Blue's popular menu items as well.

If you are going out for dinner, even sort of last minute, I would encourage you to try to "make it a night" instead of just going to a restaurant. That could mean going to some place for a drink, stopping by an art gallery, or seeing a free concert in the park, a show at a theater, or a baseball game before your meal, or getting ice cream after (if you are finished earlier than we are). It might take a little bit of research, but it can really make an evening memorable.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Rivers Brewing Company to open in Easton

I am so happy that Noel Jones of Neighbors of Easton does such a bang-up job reporting the hyper-local news of her neighborhood before anyone else. I love reading her blog.

I am also happy that the owners of Cosmic Cup are planning to open a brew pub in the West Ward of Easton. To the uninitiated, it's bounded by the Lehigh River to the south, the Bushkill Creek to the north, 16th Street to the west (in the direction of Wilson Borough) and 6th Street to the east (close to Centre Square Easton/"The Circle").

Thanks for the tip, and the beautiful writing and photography, Noel!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flash mob in Easton... and if you don't know what a flash mob is, don't worry

The owners of Easton retailer Mercantile Home are planning a very cool, new community art project.

It's called a flash mob, and you can be a part of it for free. Maybe you've heard of this concept - there was a TV show on earlier this year about it, and it's a YouTube phenomenon. A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire (source: Wikipedia, couldn't have said it better myself). Sometimes participants perform a coordinated dance, spontaneously break out into operatic song, or even stage pillow fights, throw confetti or just applaud. The surrounding crowd is usually dumbfounded at first, and ultimately entertained.

Up until now, I haven't heard of any truly substantial flash mob efforts in the Lehigh Valley. You can either join the fun by being a part of the mob, or be there to witness Lehigh Valley pop culture history on July 23.

Rehearsals: Sunday, July 17, 11 am & Friday , July 22 , 6 pm at 516 Northampton St.
Performance: Saturday, July 23, 10:30 am at Easton’s Farmer's Market

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Northampton Community College online classes are cool

I've been out of college for a couple of years. Scratch that, TEN years, as I was so kindly reminded by my alma mater, inviting me to my reunion. How did this happen? Just yesterday I was having Capitol Lounge hot wings and gift beer for dinner, or sharing popcorn with the "Queer Eye" guys on ironing night at my place in Cleveland Park. I've lived away from DC so long that I'm told that my old neighborhood is already un-hip.

I started my MBA at Lehigh when I was at a big corporate job, while staring down another monthly accounting report and wondering how I could improve my job performance vs. squeaking by another month, only knowing as much as I needed to know for my department to "close" correctly, and let the accountants go home before pizza was ordered. My first class was an online accounting class.

Then my position was eliminated and I took an incomplete in my first class while I looked for full-time employment. This past spring, motivated by a new job and a friendly reminder from my B-school adviser that I would lose my credits if I didn't get a move on, I enrolled in the entry-level MBA course again (this time in person). I'm not saying I was the star pupil - by no means was this the case - but I did well, met some great people, and learned a LOT about accounting from a fantastic professor.

I paid a visit to my friendly recruiter who set me back on track, reminding me that I needed to take a couple of pre-requisite courses (see aforementioned # of years since college? that hurts). However, I could take them at Northampton Community College (LV natives call it "Nack-Ack" or "Nack") and save a bucketload of money. The classes at NCC would cost me $342 each instead of $2,520. I am not exaggerating.

First, I had to enroll as a credit-seeking student at NCC. Apparently my history of sushi-making with Courtney, eating yummy student soup creations at Hampton Winds, and tasting the wines of France in non-credit classes didn't qualify me. I did the application online and requested a copy of my undergraduate transcript be mailed to the admissions office. I waited with great anticipation until a FAT envelope (a great sign!!!) arrived in the mail.

After I enrolled in my online class, I received information about how to log on to Blackboard, where to get my textbook, and how to take my online quizzes. I didn't expect much, but... it's actually pretty amazing. The technology that NCC employs is far beyond that of my MBA program's and although there's no lecture, there are regular discussions led on the board by our professor, a well-written textbook, and thoughtful assignments. And, I can see how I did on every assignment, what my grade is to date, and how my quiz grades stack up against my classmates'. I'm only required to take one more class at NCC - statistics of all things - and although I have enjoyed my online experience, I think you'll find me in the classroom for that one.

Have you taken any classes for credit at NCC? Will we see you on a billboard sometime soon (Lisa, I know that you already have one)?