Summerfest Renamed New Bedford Folk Festival

New Bedford Folk FestivalThe organizers of New Bedford Summerfest are pleased to announce a new name for the festival in 2013 – New Bedford Folk Festival. This name better reflects the primary objective of the festival, which is to bring the best in traditional and contemporary folk and acoustic music to New Bedford, MA. The festival will continue to feature great music, including the festival’s renowned music workshops, fine vendors of arts, crafts and clothing, a children’s activity area and terrific food. Dates for the 18th annual festival are July 6 and 7, 2013. Performers already booked include John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Anais Mitchell, Lori McKenna and Ellis Paul.

For further information, visit www.newbedfordfolkfestival.com or email info@newbedfordfolkfestival.com.

New Bedford Chowder Festival Review and Results

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

This year’s New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival may have been interrupted by rain, but as we all know, inclement weather will never come between New Englanders and their “chowda.” For 2012’s Seventh Annual Chowder Festival the crowds packed in as usual to try samples of clam chowder, seafood chowder, kale soup and stuffed quahogs from some of the South Coast’s best local eateries.

Thanks to the massive tent covering Custom House Square, even those latecomers who were greeted by rain could stay dry as they enjoyed steaming warm samples from 25 different tables. While the portions may seem small, I can assure you that after making your round in the tent you will be plenty stuffed. However, in my mind there is no better way to spend a Sunday leading up to NFL kickoff!

Despite the showers in the afternoon, I was still able to catch the headlining band once the rain had passed though. Another Tequila Sunrise is a great Eagles cover band and they made a great musical fit to the occasion with some of my favorite classic rock hits.

As usual, there were many varied chowder recipes this year, but I’m sure that the real question on everyone’s mind is who won? So, without further ado, here are this year’s 2012 New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival winners:

New Bedford Chowder Festival 2012Judges’ Choices:

Best Clam Chowder:
1. Me and Ed’s
2. Cotali Mar Restaurante
3. M&C Cafe

Best Kale Soup:
1. Mike’s Restaurant
2. The Madeira Cafe
3. Cotali Mar Restaurante

Best Seafood Chowder:
1. Lafrance Hospitality
2. Vivvy’s
3. Braza Rotisserie

Best Quahogs:
1. Sail Loft, Padanaram Village
2. Whaling City Diner
3. Rivers End Cafe

People’s Choice:

Best Clam Chowder:
1. The Pasta House
2. SouthCoast Hospitals Group
3. Me & Eds

Best Kale Soup:
1. The Madeira Cafe
2. Mike’s Restaurant
3. Emeritus

Best Seafood Chowder:
1. Freestone’s City Grill
2. LaFrance Hospitality Co.
3. Braza Rotisserie

Best Quahogs:
1. Southcoast Hospitals Group
2. River’s End Cafe
3. Whaling City Diner

Best Table Presentation
1.  Inner Bay Rest.
2.  Southcoast Hospitals
3.  Vivvy’s

Overall, every winner earned their title as South Coast’s best. I especially liked SouthCoast Hosptials Group’s quahogs which were generous both in portion sizes and seafood content. Of course, who could expect anything less from a culinary group that seems to place in at least one category every year?

Also, there were some diverse and exceptional seafood chowders out there, but I have to agree with the judges in saying that LaFrance Hospitality’s crab and corn chowder really stood out in my mind as being one of a kind and incredibly tasty. Of course, I’m always a sucker for food with a kick to it!

While the winners were congratulated and were well chosen, this isn’t to say that there weren’t some incredible samples that didn’t make it into the winner’s circle. For example, Braza Rotisserie is a newcomer to the festival but presented a kale soup similar to what grandma might make in terms of its generous content and rich broth. Braza also placed third for their seafood chowder in both the judges vote and the people’s choice.

The Cedars also did not place for their clam chowder, but it was absolutely my favorite. With a smokey sort of flavoring it definitely enticed my pallet and stuck in my memory until I came to the voting booth.

In summary, hardly a bad sample could be found and yet again the South Coast has shown that this is a great place to be for culinary excellence and top-notch seafood!


Rebecca Correia – Each and Every Detail

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

It’s hard to imagine that if you live in Greater New Bedford you haven’t heard of Rebecca Correia.  An incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and musician Rebecca is a featured artist at many of top music spots not just in this area, but nationally.  If you’re already a Rebecca Correia fan, here’s some great news: she is on the verge of releasing a new album and this article has all the details!  If you have yet to hear this triple threat talent, this is the perfect time to learn more about her.

Rebecca Correia was raised in Rochester, MA which makes her a local girl by all accounts, but her talent has taken her all across the nation and she has performed with many great artists including Natasha Bedingfield, Livingston Taylor, Tracy Bonham, Reel Big Fish, Black Eyed Peas, and Ryan Cabrera (to name a few).  Correia divides her time between the South Coast and Nashville and also performs everywhere in between; from NYC to LA.

Future album cover?

I met with Rebecca Correia earlier this week at the ever wonderful Mirasol’s Cafe and I was excited to learn more about her new album, but also to get a better definition on how I should describe her to those who have never heard her play.  You see, Rebecca Correia doesn’t fall tidily into most radio categories; her music is emotionally charged and certainly has some country influence but also touches upon numerous other inspirations.

Thus, when I asked Rebecca that critical question “how would you describe your musical style?” she had an interesting answer; the singer/songwriter category.  You may not often hear a radio DJ say “and now, for the best of singer/songwriter hits…” but actually, some great musicians fall into this genre such as John Mayer and Torie Amos.  Rebecca told me that she usually describes her music as being most like Sheryl Crow, and I can definitely hear that when listening some samples on her website; www.rebeccacorreia.com.

Now to get to the details you have been waiting for; her new album.  Titled “Each and Every Detail” the album is a fan funded project that is only months away from release once it hits its nearby funding goal.  “It’s been overwhelming to have this response” Correia told me in regards to the number of fans who have donated to see this project come to reality, “The fans have made this possible.”

Rebecca playing at the 2012 New Bedford Portuguese Feast.
Rebecca playing at the 2012 New Bedford Portuguese Feast.

If you haven’t yet donated, it’s easy to see why others have.  The album will be what Rebecca Correia’s called her first “full band adventure” since 5 or 6 years ago.  “Full band adventure” seems like the best possible term when you hear about the collaborations she engineered for this album.  “I tried to pull as many of my favorite musicians together as I could to be a part of this… I made sure everyone was included.”  One of the highlights includes a duet with Matt Cusson, a singer/songwriter who has performed with big names like Brian McKnight and Christina Aguilera and was awarded the John Lennon Songwriting Award for Best Jazz Song in 2009.

Another highlight of the album includes tracks with Reggie and Jenny Lynn Young, a couple with amazing credentials and musical talent.  Reggie Young is a guitarist of legendary status as he had played on recordings for such names as Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.  His wife, Jenny Lynn, is a cellist and Rebecca Correia was excited to discuss the new dynamic this collaboration brought to her album.

Overall, the new CD promises to be varied in its sound and style and have lots of surprises for new and old fans alike.  She said the tracks will range from an indie vibe, to a guitar driven sound, to rock n’ roll and even a touch of R&B.  Needless to say, it’s a very musically inspired album.

According to Rebecca Correia, the music has been recorded and all that is left is for it to be mixed, mastered and printed.  In order for it to see the final stages of production, she is hoping for a last drive in fan funding. If you are hoping to be able to groove out to “Each and Every Detail” sooner than later, you can donate by following this link.  “Each and Every Detail” was so named after a lyric in one of her songs, and due to the fact that so many people were included in the making of it.  Hopefully you can become part of the vision by donating today!

Follow Rebecca on Facebook and Twitter for updates and future shows.

New Bedford Oktoberfest 2012

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

We’re starting to feel the crisp approach of fall in the air, and soon the leaves will be turning magnificent colors and autumn will be upon us.  Of course, for beer lovers worldwide, fall time means more than apple picking, pumpkin carving and scenic drives; fall time means Oktoberfest is here again!

The New Bedford Oktoberfest will be kicking off its 7th year of drinking brews and dancing to tunes on Saturday, September 22nd.  The fest takes place at Custom House Square in historic Downtown New Bedford and goes from 3-10 p.m.  Oktoberfest is not only a great time to try out some unique beers with your friends, it is also a major fundraiser for a great cause.  This year, proceeds will go to benefiting Star Kids and The Childrens Advocacy Center of Bristol County.  A fundraiser that involves drinking beer and listening to great music can’t be a bad time!

Besides the fact that Oktoberfest is for a great cause, it is also an event that should not be missed due to its selection of seasonal brews.  Everyone who can consider themselves a beer connoisseur knows that this is the best time of year when it comes to pumpkin ales, hard ciders and fall time favorites.  This year, the New Bedford Oktoberfest will be featuring Berkley Beer Company, Cisco Brewers Nantucket, Just Beer, Woodstock Inn Brewery, Sam Adams, Smuttynose and the Mayflower Brewing Company.

In addition to the brews is the food which will be sold by Pizans, Rose Alley and No Problemo.  There will also be a winegarten.  And of course, there will be the music.  The Slow Burning Nuggets will take the stage from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. with their eclectic mix of what their Facebook describes as “Space/Electronic/Rock/Pop”.

Afterwards, The Tree will take the stage.  They are a high-energy band that started from UMass Dartmouth/New Bedford that plays a fusion of hip-hop, rap, funk, reggae, rock and everything in between.  I have heard a lot about The Tree but have never seen them play, so this seems like a great addition to this year’s music line up.  The Boomcats will follow up that performance with some “good old blues fused rock and roll”.

At 6:45 p.m. the local favorite J. Kelley Band will perform and be followed up by Putnam Murdock and the Insatiables.  Putnam Murdock has an illustrious history a musician and a songwriter, so this performance promises to be an interesting one as well!

Crisscross Orchestra will perform as the final act of the night, closing out Oktoberfest at 10 p.m.  This 11 member ensemble features an interesting variety of instruments such as steel pans, the Irish pennywhistle, trumpet, electric guitar, flute and the accordion.  The result is African roots influenced music led by award winning West African Ghanian musician and composer Obuamah Laud Addy.

Needless to say, all in attendance at the NB Oktoberfest can expect a night of good food, great drinks and entertaining music.  Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance by going to Rose Alley Ale House or Pizan’s Pizzeria.  Tickets are $25 dollars at the door.

2012 New Bedford Santa 5k Fun Run

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

Use the discount code “NBG” and get $5 off this race: http://www.thesightings.com/register/

What traditions do your friends and family uphold during the holiday season?  Perhaps you go to an annual tree lighting, spend time shopping together, or get into season by trimming the tree whilst listening to your favorite carols.  How about dressing up in Santa suits and going for a friendly 5K run together?

This may sound like an unlikely way to celebrate the holidays, but if you witnessed the 1,600 jolly St. Nicks running through New Bedford streets last winter, you know that it is no joke. This year, the Santa Run will happen again on Saturday, December 8th and they are expecting an even greater numbers of participants in what is described as a “fun run” that invites runners of all ages and abilities to join.

New Bedford 5k Santa Fun RunRace director Geoff Smith is a two time Olympic competitor and two-time Boston marathon champion, but he does not expect everyone in the Santa Run to be a serious runner.  In fact, he encourages everyone to join, whether they prefer to run, jog, walk or even push a stroller.  I sat down with Geoff and Director of Marketing, Matthew Neumann the other day to learn more about the 5K.  Geoff explained that the purpose of the Santa Run is to “get everybody off the couch” and “bring people together for the holiday.”

Getting into the spirit of the season by running in a Santa costume is quite unique to most parts of the county, but New Bedford is not the only city that hosts this event.  Geoff told me that in the past seven years these Santa races have become increasingly common in the UK and Europe.  The largest number of recorded Santas was in Derry City in Northern Ireland where there were 12,965 participants.

There are only a few cities in the United States that currently host the Santa Race, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the newest to join as a “sister race” to the city of New Bedford.  Geoff and Matt mentioned that in the spirit of friendly competition, it will be interesting to see which city registers more runners.

To register for the run or to read more about it, go to thesightings.com.  Use the discount code “NBG” and get $5 off! The cost of registration includes the full Santa costume; hat, beard, belt, jacket and trousers.  The New Bedford Santa Run is also a fundraiser that benefits the South Coast Hospitals cardiac program.  It is recommended that you register as early as possible since there may be more registered runners this year than costumes available.  Additionally, there is a discounted registration fee being offered up until October 31st.

The Santa Run starts at 11 AM at New Bedford City Hall and it ends at City Hall as well.  This year’s course was slightly modified due to the construction, and the new route will no longer include the treacherous Johnny Cake Hill, making it a bit easier.  Furthermore, the cobblestone streets are limited and sidewalks can be used for strollers.  Overall, Geoff and Matt assured me that the run is quite easy and that a 5K (or 3.1 miles) is quite manageable by most everyone.  Geoff noted that, “it is more about the experience than it is about the run”.

The Santa Run is a jolly, one-of-a-kind way to walk/jog/run your way into the holiday season while also sharing in the spirit of giving to a great cause.  If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, email info@thesightings.com to find out more about sponsorship packages.  Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/santasightings.


10 Unique Date Ideas

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

When you’ve lived in the same area for a while it becomes easy for everything to take on a “been there, done that” vibe.  Trying to be inventive with date ideas can really leave a person stumped, and that goes for all ages and relationship types.  If you feel like all of your date ideas have boiled down to the same restaurant, movie theatre or bar maybe it’s time for some fresh ideas.  Luckily, Greater New Bedford has plenty of fun things to do that are often overlooked.

Hopefully in this “10 Unique Date Ideas” article, you will find at least one thing you’ve never done before that will bring a little fun back into your relationship… even if it’s not a relationship of the romantic variety!  A lot of these ideas are bound to work just as well with a group of friends as they are with a significant other.

1. Go Kayaking
Osprey Kayak WestportYou are sure to have a memorable experience at Osprey Sea and Surf Adventures.  Located at 489 Old County Road in Westport, Osprey offers a variety of kayak rentals as well as Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP).  Osprey is situated at the head of the East Branch of the Westport River, which is a truly picturesque area.  Not only are kayaking and SUP excellent workouts, they allow you the chance to take in the beauty of the area at your own leisure.

Osprey caters to paddlers of all levels.  If you and your date are beginners looking for lessons they offer them.  On the other hand, if you are looking to amp up your kayaking or SUP skills by going into the waves you can also gain further instruction from their experts.  Osprey also offers SUP and kayak tours that range from scenic and casual to adventurous and physically demanding.

Whether your idea of fun is bird watching on the river or testing your limits against currents, Osprey Sea and Surf Adventures can help you get there and make for an unforgettable date.  For more information on rental costs, courses and tours go to: http://ospreyseakayak.com/.

2. Find Your Inner Child
No matter your age, acting like a kid can be a lot of fun.  If you’re looking for a way to loosen up on your next date, consider doing something you haven’t done in a long time.  If you’re really looking to bring out that 12 year old self, there’s always Lazer Gate (http://www.lazergate.com/) located at 288 Plymouth Avenue in Fall River.  Decked out with black lights and cool laser guns you can team up together to take opposite sides and navigate the mazes and catwalks as you exchange laser fire.  If you’re worried about being surrounded by actual children, go late at night, especially on weeknights (you’re an adult, you get to make your own bedtime!).  Lazer Gate is open until 10 PM weeknights and until midnight on weekends.  With events like college nights and free mom and dad nights you won’t be the only big kid there anyways.

And speaking of black lights, indoor mini golf puts a crazy spin on an otherwise typical date cliché.  Ocean’s 18 (www.oceans-18.com) in New Bedford creates an under the sea theme and actually serves wine and beer to those 21+.  Additionally, Ocean’s 18 has a golf simulator for those looking to practice their swing.

3. Take a Hike
While Southeastern Massachusetts may be rather built up with cities, highways and other developments, it is not without beautiful reservations and state parks.  No matter what the time of year is, you are subject to find some breathtaking views if you are willing to put on some walking shoes and take a short drive.

The Dartmouth National Resources Trust (DNRT) maintains 40 acres of walking trails that includes the much talked about Daffodil Field which is a popular sight in the Spring.  To learn more about the Daffodil field, read our article (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/daffodil-field-at-parsons-reserve/2011/04/20).  To learn more about the trails and the DNRT, go to http://dnrt.org/.

Another beautiful area in Dartmouth for walking paths is the Lloyd Center for the Environment (http://lloydcenter.org/).  Featuring 5 trails, this area has stunning views of Buzzards Bay, Demarest Lloyd State Park, Mishaum Point and the islands.

If you are more into paved paths, two great local state parks offer incredible ocean views and plenty of nice picnic spots. The first is Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven, and the second, Fort Tabor is located right across the New Bedford Harbor.  Both have interesting historical context and easy to walk on paths.

4. Challenge Your Taste Buds

If you find that dinner usually consists of the same old pub food or pizza, maybe it’s time to try something with a little ethnic kick to it.  There are numerous intriguing places to eat in the South Coast, and spicing up dinner a little can spice up your date as well.

If you’re interested in getting sushi for dinner check out my article on 5 Spectacular Sushi Spots (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/5-spectacular-sushi-spots/2012/04/24).  Testing out new sushi rolls and eating with chopsticks can be an engaging way to spend your date night out!

Of course, Portuguese cuisine is a staple of New Bedford culture.  My personal favorite place for Portuguese food is Antonio’s Restaurant which offers huge servings of authentic Portuguese foods.  For more information about Antonio’s, or to look at the menu, go to http://www.antoniosnewbedford.com/.

Thai food is also delicious and a personal favorite of mine.  If you’re looking for a restaurant off the beaten path, check out Sivalai Thai Cuisine in Fairhaven.  Located in a cute little place it has a charming atmosphere and amazing food that ranges from sweet Pad Thai to spicy Pad Kee-Mao.  You can also stick to the downtown area and share a Thai dinner at the equally charming Spicy Lime restaurant.

Finally, if you’ve been missing the rich flavors of Korean cuisine ever since Ginger Grill changed to Commons, drive over to Dartmouth and check out From the Seoul.  New Bedford Guide’s Elsa Yeung called it “the best, most authentic Asian food in the area” and I have to agree!  To read her whole review go here (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/restaurant-review-from-the-seoul/2012/04/28).

5. Find a Unique Event

There are often many interesting and one-of-a-kind happenings in the South Coast, but they often go unnoticed due to a lack of advertising or just not knowing where to look.  The New Bedford Guide’s Event Calendar is a great way to stay in the loop about fun upcoming events and to plan a date night that ventures away from the monotony of the “same old thing”.

Next time you are stumped for a date idea, check out the calendar.  You and your date could go to a Yoga or exercise class together, or hit up a farmers market and cook a fresh and local dinner at home.  You could go to a free informational documentary viewing, or take in the sights with a New Bedford harbor tour.  Whether you’re into the bar scene, running in road races or anything in between, there’s a lot to be found on the calendar.

Of course, it nearly goes without saying that AHA! night in downtown New Bedford is perfect for finding unique events for your date night.  There are always lots of art showings, musical performances and other activities and demonstrations that will make you glad you got out of the house for the night.  For more information on the next upcoming AHA! night, go to http://www.ahanewbedford.org/.  For more about why you should factor AHA! into your social calendar, check out this article (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/5-reasons-aha-is-great/2012/05/10)

6. Check Out Some Local Music

Whether you like to dance or just prefer sitting back and taking in some relaxing tunes, Greater New Bedford has a variety of music offerings.  If you’re looking to bring your date out to check out some tunes, 5 Live Music Spots in Greater New Bedford (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/5-live-music-spots-in-greater-new-bedford/2012/07/20) can help you find a promising location.  Of course, the New Bedford Guide Event Calendar also often posts about upcoming musical performances.

If you’re willing to spend a little more money to catch some music, the Zeiterion Theatre is always featuring varied performances.  Located in downtown NB, the Zeiterion Theatre is a beautiful place with great acoustics.  In the upcoming year the Z will house acts that range from big names like Art Garfunkel and Lyle Lovett to national cover bands and even theatre productions and classical music performances.  Check out their site to find tickets to an event that will dazzle your date!  (http://www.zeiterion.org/)

7. Indulge in some Microbrews or Local Wine

New Bedford may not be on the same level as Portland, ME or Burlington, VT when it comes to microbreweries and brew houses, but it isn’t without variety when it comes to delicious brews.  If you and your date are beer lovers, a fun night can be had testing out some unusual brews.  Two microbrewery locations that frequently change up their beer options are the Pour Farm Tavern and Rose Alley Ale House.

On the Pour Farm Tavern’s website they claim “We Always Choose Creative Brews” and this is very true.  PFT features dozens of drafts beers that are often difficult to find anywhere else.  Additionally, they have numerous bottled and canned selections, and a decent list of 22 oz bottles that are great to share.  Nearly every Thursday PFT hosts taste testing at 8 PM.

Rose Alley Ale House also prides itself on having an incredible beer selection, which features “40 constantly rotating taps with some of the finest beers from around the world”.  The basement portion of Rose Alley is only open at certain times, but focuses mostly on “local micro brews and Belgian beers as well as a few of the all time favorites.”  Conversation over an international brew and a tasty appetizer at Rose Alley Ale House is certainly a great way for beer lovers to spend some time together.

If you are more into wine tastings, Westport Rivers Vineyard Winery (www.westportrivers.com) is a local place with beautiful views and frequent tastings and weekend tours.  In addition to its wine offerings, the grounds of Westport Rivers are breathtaking, and it’s not a bad idea to buy a bottle after the tasting and find a spot to sit and enjoy.

Travessia is also part of the “coastal wine trail” and is an urban winery located right in downtown NB.  They are open Thursday- Saturday from noon to 6:00 PM and Sunday from noon to 5:00 PM.  You can test out their delicious wines and buy some bottles to add to your home collection or enjoy with dinner when you get home.  For more information, go to http://www.travessiawine.com/.

8. Share a Romantic Dinner

Some say that romance is dead, but it can be found if you know where to look!  Greater NB is host to some wonderful restaurants where you can wine and dine your date in a cozy intimate setting, or even with beautiful ocean views.  Check out New Bedford Guide’s “5 Greater New Bedford Romantic Restaurants” (http://www.newbedfordguide.com/new-bedford-romantic-restaurants/2012/08/14) to find the ideal location for your next big date.

9. Go Rock Climbing

Carabiner’s indoor rock climbing facility in New Bedford is a great way to have some fun while exercising.  It is sure to be a day neither of you will soon forget as you challenge yourself to scale the massive walls.  Even if you have never been rock climbing before, Carabiner’s is designed to be accessible and unintimidating, offering a personal belayer at the rate of $50 for 2 climbers.  Of course, you can also “learn the ropes” for yourself by taking the belay course which is $35 per person and includes an hour of training, a day pass and all rental equipment.  Learning to belay on your own is well worth it if you plan on making this thrilling date a regular activity.  For more information on rates and options go to http://www.carabiners.com/.

10. Check Out a Museum

You don’t have to drive to Boston or Providence to check out a museum.  While the museums may not be as large in scale, they can provide a fun and cultured afternoon.  New Bedford has three museum-type places that I would recommend checking out.

The first is the New Bedford Whaling Museum (http://www.whalingmuseum.org/) which has become a major part of the city and has a long history in and of itself.  The concept of a whaling museum in New Bedford was first set out in 1903, and since that time the collection of artifacts, exhibits and information has grown greatly.  If you have never been to the museum but live in the area, it really is a worthwhile endeavor as the whaling history of this region is rich and imperative to how the city developed.  The museum isn’t dry and boring either, it has plenty of intriguing artifacts to check out.

The New Bedford Art Museum (http://newbedfordartmuseum.org/) is relatively young as far as art goes, having gotten its start in 1996.  However, it changes its exhibits frequently to reflect both local and global collections.  One of my favorite exhibits I saw there featured old photos of New Bedford.  It was interesting to see how the city has changed in some ways but is very familiar in others.  The museum is not huge, but its thoughtful exhibits make it a good time if either you or your date happen to be an art lover.

Located in the historic New Bedford Institute for Savings building, the Ocean Explorium is much like an aquarium, featuring exhibits that focus on marine life and the ocean.  While the Ocean Explorium is a great pull for children, it has intriguing exhibitions and presentations that are sure be educational and interesting to any age group.  For example, there is a ray and shark touch tank where you can actually feel the aquatic creatures.  There are also presentations done for general audiences (not just kids!) that feature the very cool Science on the Sphere, which is a spherical projection system that creates an image of the planet in 3-D.  Of course, the Ocean Explorium can also make for a great family outing if you’re looking to plan to get out with the kids as well!

Modern Parent, Relish the Experience of Motherhood

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

Becoming a parent is and always will be a mixture of excitement, anticipation, hard work, and yes, a bit of nervousness.  In modern times, some of the needs of new parents can be met through online resources such as parenting blogs and shopping from home. However, if you just had a new addition to your family or have one on the way, you probably have already discovered that the sheer number of sites out there can be overwhelming. For the modern parent looking for a little help, local woman and mother Denell Pepin has an innovative new blog site called MoPa.

MoPa (short for Modern Parent) is a trendy blog that is just getting its start but already has a lot to offer when it comes to highlighting everything from baby gadgets to back to school fashion. The website and social media components of MoPa are dedicated to today’s modern parent lifestyle and celebrating parenthood as well as highlighting the individuality of mothers everywhere.  In addition to frequent posts highlighting cool new products, MoPaShow.com also posts a monthly “Modern Mom Series” which shares interviews and photos of unique moms who have blended their lifestyle and motherhood into a successful package.

Denell and her two boys.

I sat down with MoPa creator Denell Pepin the other day to find out more about her blog and about the idea of a “modern parent.”  I do not have any children myself, but having friends and family who have recently had babies I have learned that it can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Denell explained to me that too often new mothers find that their own sense of individuality comes under strain within the first few demanding years of raising a child. This is a concept that Denell is no stranger to, having been both a trend forecaster in NYC for Cotton Incorporated and now living the role of mother to two boys.  Thus, Denell created MoPa as a landing page for moms to both shop at and get daily inspiration from.

Denell was very excited to talk with me about MoPa’s first upcoming event on September 23rd.  This event is intended to take the idea of MoPa offline and into real time by providing a night out where attendees can interact with both local and national sellers while enjoying mocktails, light refreshments, music and workshops. According to Denell, participants should expect the event to be much like a beautiful baby shower that combines shopping and educational opportunities together to create a “chic and contemporary modern day expo” where new and expecting parents can mingle and chat with others from the area.

There will be five program rich workshops at the September 23rd Modern Parent event including how to best approach a baby registry and some health inspirations from the ladies at Boutique Fitness. The MoPa event will be attended by national brand representatives such as Bumble Ride, and there will also be local participants such as the New Bedford-based, internationally acclaimed jewelry artist Isabelle Grace.  Since MoPa is all about the lifestyle of the modern parent, all sales aren’t just directed towards baby gear; there will also be exhibitors for beauty products, parenting services, and much more.  Additionally, some lucky mothers will be eligible to win incredible giveaways for attending.

For new and expecting parents, this is really a great opportunity, and Denell expressed her hope that in the future this will be “an event that women look forward to every year.”  She explained to me that MoPa online and offline is geared towards giving women a chance to relish the experience of motherhood and enjoy the lifestyle of being a modern mom; “We’re all about discovering trends in baby gear & gadgets, accessories, furniture, clothing, skin care, parenting services, and more.”  It is her intention that this first MoPa event will be a night of celebrating parenthood for all in attendance.  Additionally, Denell seemed thrilled to be bringing so many quality vendors to Greater New Bedford and hopes that this event will open the door for MoPa to be involved with many other community events in the future.

The Modern Parent event will take place at the Hawthorne Country Club in North Dartmouth.  Festivities begin at 3 PM on Sunday September 23rd and end at 7 PM.  For tickets, go to www.mopashow.com.  Tickets are $15 for one person, or $20 for two people. All participants will receive a Swag Bag and the first 50 people to sign up will receive a VIP Swag Bag with great products.  For current and soon-to-be parents, this is a do not miss evening!

New Bedford Chowder Festival 2012

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

Without a doubt, New Bedford has come to host some awesome annual festivals.  Whether it’s the thousands of people cramming into Madeira Field for the Feast, dozens of bands taking the stage all weekend at Summerfest or locals providing demonstrations of the fishing industry at the Working Waterfront Festival; New Bedford can pride itself on being rich with varied cultural experiences.

However, even as we watch the final weekends of summer dwindle away, there is still much to look forward to for the fall.  One fall festivity that has become incredibly successful and is a must-attend community event of the year is the annual New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival.  Taking place on Sunday October 7th, the Chowder Festival tends to pack Custom House Square in downtown New Bedford and provides participants with tantalizing tastes from 25 regional restaurants.

If the idea of taste testing dozens of seafood chowder, kale soup, quahog and clam chowder samples sounds like something you’d enjoy, here’s the 101 on the New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival:

1. When, Where and Costs

Custom House Square – Photo by Sally Spooner.

As always, the Chowder Festival takes place under a large tent covering Custom House Square in downtown New Bedford.  The tent allows for the event to resume come rain or shine.  This year the Festival will be on Sunday October 7th, which is the day before Columbus Day.  The combination of a three day weekend and cool early fall time weather should allow for people to be able to enjoy themselves all day long.

The festival starts at noon and ends at 5 PM.  Tickets for this event tend to sell fast, and the tent is often very crowded so buying tickets in advance or getting there early is recommended.  Tickets bought in advance are $15 and can be purchased at the Downtown New Bedford Office which is located at 105 William Street on the second floor.  Also, tickets can be bought on their website;  www.downtownnb.org or at other participating locations which will be announced soon. Tickets bought at the door are $18 and children ages 6-12 are only $5.  Children 5 and under are free.

2. Chowder Show Down

Winner trophies and plaques – photo by Sally Spooner.

For those of you who have never been, the Chowder Festival is a competition between the twenty-five participating restaurants.  Over the past six years, local eateries have faced off to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in either the People’s Choice Award or the Judge’s Choice Award in five categories.  The categories are; best clam chowder, seafood chowder, kale soup, stuffed quahog and table presentation.

As with any similar food festival, participants are given a voting card to fill out once they have sampled to their heart’s delight.  The votes are submitted (usually at the center of the tent) and tallied later to determine the winner. The Judge’s Choice award is determined by a blind taste test, which eliminates the issue of favoritism.

Since 2006 the New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival has amassed an impressive Hall of Fame of past winners.  Last year’s coveted Best Clam Chowder People’s Choice Award went to Bittersweet Farm.  Freestone’s pulled off Best Seafood Chowder according to the people, River’s End Cafe was elected Best Stuffed Quahog, and Best Table Display went to Marlees Seafood.  Interestingly enough, the People’s Choice Award for Best Kale Soup went to none other than St. Luke’s Hospital, which also placed second in two other categories… now that’s some good hospital food!

For a full list of Hall of Famers in for both People’s Choice and Judge’s Award since 2006, click here.

3. Food & Drink

Photo by Sally Spooner.

As previously mentioned there are 25 booths that will be participating in this year’s New Bedford Seaport Chowder Festival.  The booths are set up in a circle around the perimeter of the tent so that traffic can flow from one station to the next.  So far, announced participants include; Braza Rotisserie, Cedars Assisted Living, Cotali Mar Restaurant,  Emeritus at Dartmouth Village; Freestone’s City Grill,  Inner Bay Cafe & Grille,  Lafrance Hospitality,  M & C Cafe,  Madeira Cafe, Me & Ed’s,  Mike’s Restaurant, The Pasta House,  River’s End Cafe, The Sail Loft; Southcoast Hospitals Group, Seaport Inn & Marina; St. Michael’s Restaurant, Vivvy’s  and Whaling City Diner. Some of these eateries are new to the festival, while others have been competing every year from the very start.

For those who aren’t big on seafood, Cafe Arpeggio will be selling coffee, homemade ice cream and sandwiches.  There will also be drink vending available outside of the tent which features local beers and wines as well as soda and mixed drinks.  All food and drink items besides the samples are not included in the ticket price.

4. Entertainment

The Chowder Festival can get very crowded, but it is also dedicated to family fun for those with young children. The YMCA Lobster Races are always a big draw for children, and there will also be craft activities organized by the New Bedford Ocean Explorium and Global Charter School.

This year’s musical entertainment will be provided by a very talented Eagles tribute band called Another Tequila Sunrise.  Another Tequila Sunrise is considered to be one of the premiere Eagles cover bands in the nation and have been touring the country for over ten years.  In addition to this band bringing an exciting musical experience, Another Tequila Sunrise also features Keith Brindle who is a New Bedford native.

Photos from the 2011 New Bedford Chowder Festival – Provided by Sally Spooner


5 Greater New Bedford Romantic Restaurants

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

Whether you’re on a first date or are in a seasoned relationship, finding a romantic setting can pose a challenge. Too often you may find every date night ends in front of the TV with take-out or at the same old bar down the street. Whether you’re looking to impress someone with a memorable first date or in need of someplace spectacular to celebrate your anniversary, there are a number of places in Greater New Bedford that are sure to do the trick.

Each of the restaurants you’ll read about in this article feature a sort of atmosphere that make them stand out from your average eatery.  Keep in mind that ambiance often comes with a price tag, and these restaurants can be categorized in the high priced to fine dining category.  It also never hurts to make a reservation beforehand, as some of these spots get quite packed.  Therefore, plan accordingly but know that both the food and atmosphere you pay for won’t soon be forgotten!

1. Cork Wine and Tapas

90 Front Street, New Bedford, MA

Cork Wine and Tapas New Bedford RestaurantCork’s innovative menu features both tapas (a variety of appetizers) and full entrees that are unlike any other food selection around.  The menu is often changed to reflect exciting new options and always focused on fine cuisine. While Cork may be quite artistic with its culinary splendors, their menu has plenty of suitable options for a variety of pallets.  For example, they offer a dressed up bacon cheddar burger and other traditional favorites like fried calamari or Caesar salad.  If it’s exotic you’re looking for however, they also cater to that with items like their coconut curry lobster.

Aside from a menu selection that will appease both you and your date, Cork has a great atmosphere.  Along with an impressive selection of wine and aesthetic presentation of food, the restaurant is located in downtown NB in the Joseph Tabor building, a structure which has been a fixture of the area for over 175 years.  The heavy stonework and classic New England craftsmanship make for a spacy interior and a beautiful setting for your special night out.

2. Airport Grille

1569 Airport Road, New Bedford, MA

Airport Grille New Bedford Restaurant Located at the New Bedford Airport, the Airport Grille is quite secluded from the rest of the city and offers an upscale atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re in Boston or NYC for the night.  The interior of this restaurant combines sleek and sophisticated architecture with cool dim lighting in a cozy and intimate sized package to make for the ultimate romantic dinner spot.  This restaurant also has a variety of wine options to assure you can find a great pairing with whatever you order, and the bar is a focal point of the design.

The Airport Grille specializes in American and European fare and prides itself on having the best in fresh and local food.  As with Cork, there are both exquisite fine dining specialties and regular everyday fare to be found on the menu.  For example, there are salads, a burger option, several mouth-watering steaks and even a delicious take on the classic comfort food, Mac & Cheese.  For the gourmet adventurer, they have some very intriguing dishes such as duck carbonara.

3.  Waterfront Grille

36 Homers Wharf, New Bedford, MA

Waterfront Grille New Bedford RestaurantWaterfront Grille is the only waterside restaurant in the downtown area.  This alone gives it a one-of-a-kind feel, with a seasonal deck for dining and a charming atmosphere that would fit right in as an upscale Cape Cod eatery.  This restaurant offers great views of the wharf and many of the boats that dock in the New Bedford Harbor.

True to the waterfront theme, this grille specializes in seafood ranging from a lobster dinner to sushi and even featuring a raw bar.  If you and your date are seafood lovers Waterfront Grille is a great place to get exceedingly fresh fish of all sorts.

4. The Candleworks Reastaurant

72 North Water Street, New Bedford, MA

The Candleworks Restaurant New BedfordLocated in historic downtown NB, Candleworks is one of the most intimate restaurants in the area.  As with Cork, Candleworks is located in a historical building that still possesses all the charm of old New England architecture. The interior is cozy and quaint with stonewalls, fine dining place settings and a full bar.  There is also outdoor dining available seasonally and several tables with fire grates that provide a romantic ambiance you won’t find anywhere else.

Candleworks has a large menu that is best described by their Facebook “a casual affair with upscale flair”.  The menu is host to many of classic favorites such as filet mignon and baked scrod.  Along with great surf and turf options there are delicious options for pasta lovers, and even some basic sandwich options.  One thing is for sure; neither you nor your date will go hungry at Candleworks!

5. The Back Eddy

1 Bridge Road, Westport, MA

The Back Eddie Westport Restaurant This is the only restaurant that I deemed simply had to make the list even though it is not located in New Bedford. The Back Eddy has become famous for its delicious seafood, beautiful waterfront views, and funky interior design.  The Back Eddy is very close to Horseneck Beach, which makes it a short drive from anywhere in Greater NB.  Since it is open seasonally anyways, the location of this restaurant makes it ideal for a taking a romantic stroll on the beach before or after dinner.

The Back Eddy defines itself as “a seafood restaurant that does things a little bit differently” and I couldn’t possibly put it better.  With an indoor and outdoor bar and seating, the place can get jam packed but you won’t mind sacrificing a little elbow room when you see the beautiful views of the Westport river.

The food at Back Eddy will also make it worth the short drive.  The Back Eddy is dedicated to using fresh and local ingredients, which makes it a truly unique to the region dining experience.  The produce is supplied from South Coast and Coastal Rhode Island farms, the seafood is caught by New England fisherman, and even wine, beer and cheese options are artisan made.  The menu is a mixture of both surf and turf, with recipes ranging from the standard lobster and butter to a few very unique options such as their lobster casserole.

Total Recall (2012) Movie Review

By Shonna McGrail Ryan

Sometimes a movie comes out and despite awesome effects, huge promotional efforts and a compelling cast it still bombs at the box office.  Such was the case this weekend with Len Wiseman’s newest sci-fi thriller Total Recall, a remake of the well-known 1990 Schwarzenegger film by the same name.  Total Recall only grossed $26 million domestic in its opening weekend, which is a weak showing.  $26 million is an especially disappointing start when you consider that Wiseman’s last movie, Underworld: Evolution (a movie with far less advertising and less than half the production costs) made nearly a million dollars more in its opening.  So what went so wrong with Total Recall?  You’ll find no answers here; I thought the movie was pretty awesome.

As a brief recap from the trailer, Total Recall is about Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker living in a small apartment in a dystopian society with his wife (Kate Beckinsale).  Disillusioned by his boring life and plagued by nightmares of doing something more meaningful, he decides to try “Rekall”; a service that allows people to experience exotic memories.  The experience at Rekall jolts Quaid’s memories and brings him to discover that he has an erased past as a highly valuable spy.  Quickly everyone (including his wife) seem to be out to kill him and his only ally is a woman he can only remember from his dreams (Jessica Biel).

Total Recall 2012 Movie reviewThere are different trains of thought on why Total Recall had such a disappointing opening.  One theory says that Colin Farrell has lost his A list appeal, and Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel aren’t high ranking in Hollywood either.  This shouldn’t mean anything though; they are all well suited to action/sci-fi roles, and that’s purely what Total Recall is about.  It’s two hours of essentially non-stop action, which is what Len Wiseman is a master of. The visual effects are stunning, the action sequences are inventive, and there are equal parts hand-to-hand combat and gunfire, which keeps it interesting.

Another theory on Total Recall’s low numbers is that the original doesn’t have enough of a fan base to interest moviegoers.  Whether you loved or hated the original (or never saw it), it hardly matters because Wiseman did a lot to reimagine the plot and setting.  Total Recall takes place in a world where most of the Earth is uninhabitable and those who remain living are either stuck a dystopian colony, or are living in the United Federation of Britain (which is still plagued with population issues, but is a much nicer place overall).  The Colony is a dark society overrun with crime and illegal activity, which makes for a dynamic setting and presented an intriguing view of the future.  Additionally, Wiseman’s plot is steeped in political conflict, allowing for a believable spy story, but doesn’t slow down the action with heavy-handed concepts.

I already mentioned that Total Recall is packed with action and special effects, but it would be unfair to say that those are the only viable reasons to check this movie out.  For example, the plot is filled with twists that make you unsure even until the end what is really happening.  This isn’t to say that it’s confusing or irritating as plot twists can too often be.  It just keeps you wondering what to believe, which gives it a somewhat philosophical vibe.  After the movie, I couldn’t help but think about the difference between reality and illusion and dissect different things I heard and saw throughout the film.  I’m not trying to claim this is a mind blowing movie in terms of being thought provoking, but it is definitely interesting and has clever moments.

Another plot point to Total Recall is the theme of internal struggle as Quaid tries to figure out who he was, who he is and what is real and what is fake.  Farrell may not be poised for a bunch of Academy Awards in his career, but he pulls off these man versus self  themes with subtlety and, in my opinion, is believable as a butt-kicking secret agent.  There was also the romance theme of the story, which was equally downplayed but revealed chemistry between Farrell and Biel.

If I had to offer one theory on Totall Recall’s disappointing opening weekend numbers, I would say that science fiction is often a hit or miss genre with audiences.  Obviously, movies like Avatar make astronomical amounts of money, but many other gems often go unnoticed.  Who knows why, it may be attributed to too much action, too much dependence on a need to suspend disbelief, or the sense that it’s all been done before.  Still, The Matrix grossed only a little more when it opened back and 1999 and we all know it to be a science fiction landmark today.  So, if you are considering seeing Total Recall, I say give it a shot.  Especially you science fiction lovers out there; don’t let box office numbers dissuade you from seeing this one!

Total Recal 2012 Official Movie Trailer

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