No Place Like Boston for the Holidays

By OIB | 12/15/2014
Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 7.36.11 PM

By Lindsey Roman

We are now into the second week of December, and naturally the holidays are on my brain! From purchasing the perfect Christmas presents, discovering mouthwatering recipes to bring to parties and admiring all the glitzy, glamorous clothing on display, thoughts of revelry and cheer are all-consuming. Last weekend was my real official kickoff to the season as I shopped Small Business Saturday for gifts, and this past weekend the holiday spirit continued.

Friday and Saturday, Nick and I visited a couple bars for drinks and dinner, Barney Fanning’s downtown and The Draft in Allston. Bars around the city were decorated in a festive fashion and I couldn’t escape all the warm, cozy vibes of Christmas lights, trees and holiday tunes…not that I would want to escape. Singing along to “Jingle Bell Rock” while watching the Bruins game in the company of others who are in the holiday spirit…what’s a better winter night consist of?

Prior to going out, we wanted to enjoy some downtime at home, but also get a bit more jazzed up about the weekend than we were feeling from the gloomy weather outside. I knew just how to get the party started – break out the LIQS! All week my excitement had been building to wait for the perfect time to try these tasty little shots of fun. If you haven’t heard yet, LIQS are a new concept that combines the size and portability of a shot with the flavor of a cocktail made with the highest quality liquor…just right for some pre-bar fun or enhancing a party. Not to mention, they’re low-calorie, so that’s one thing you don’t have to feel guilty about consuming during the season of over-consumption.

I’ve got a long list of friends who I will be gifting LIQS to. They come in single-flavor 3-packs, so think ideal stocking stuffer or a Secret Santa or Yankee Swap present! Find them at over 100 liquor stores around Massachusetts – not a Mass resident? Not a problem. You can buy LIQS through their website as well. I’ll tell you another idea that I know I’m going to be doing with these: On New Year’s Eve, instead of PDA or ringing a measly little noisemaker when the countdown hits zero, why doesn’t everyone at the party throw back a LIQS shot? You can thank me later.

As you know, Sunday is a Funday and I didn’t want mine to be any exception. I met up with my friend Shiloh and we headed downtown for some holiday shopping. As soon as we got off the T, we were instantly hit with two things: a cold blast of air and the craving for warm hot chocolate. The two seem to go hand in hand.

As we walked, we passed an intriguing storefront and ventured into Caffè Nero on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing. This has been one of the most aesthetically appealing cafes I have come across in the area. The song lyric “these are a few of my favorite things” was playing in my head as I took in many things I love; caffeinated beverages, mouthwatering pastries, walls covered with classic books library-style and Christmas decor strung up everywhere.

Even though it was a large space, the shop was jam-packed with college students doing homework on laptops (I don’t miss those days), and we unfortunately couldn’t find a seat to enjoy our hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies – but alas, you can’t always get what you want. The treats were good enough that we enjoyed them even out in the chill!

Our next stop, and what we were venturing downtown for in the first place, was the Downtown Holiday Market. On Washington Street, just look for the old Tello’s store space and that’s where you’ll find it! Walking into the market, we were surrounded by a bevy of friendly local artisans and vendors with tables displaying unique wares of all kinds. Each day, the market features locally made items like beautiful, handcrafted jewelry, intricate glass ornaments and trinkets, silk scarves, a delicious variety of caramels, fresh baked goods, local honey, amazingly built wooden puzzle boxes, homemade granola and nuts and a variety of artisinal hot sauces.

Shiloh and I perused the many colorful scarves from Mao Sim Silk, then eyed the many handmade jewelry displays. We smiled when we saw the adorable glass items made by B&B Glass Studio – my favorite were the snowmen, because ‘tis the season for those!

I oo’d and ahh’d over the Tico Art puzzle boxes, which Shiloh and I literally couldn’t stop playing with. Designed to look like a fun creature or object, for example, an owl or baseball, each box features a “key” which you must find and pull out which unlocks the other pieces of the box until you can open it, revealing a little storage space. The great thing that the vendor told us about Tico Art is that the wood grows in Central America, and the products made from it are designed by Costa Ricans and Americans working cooperatively. Besides puzzle boxes, there were also home decorative items made from this wood for sale as well.

At the next table, we taste-tested the sweet and savory flavors of granola and honey pecans from Roasted Granola Co. I wasn’t a huge pecan fan before, but these converted me!

I would have kept taste-testing but Shiloh wanted to move along to the Alex’s Ugly Sauce table. She tried a few flavors of the small-batch hot sauces recommended by the very knowledgeable woman running the table. The peppers for the sauces are all locally grown. While Shiloh didn’t try out the kind she ended up purchasing (far too hot for her liking), she purchased it for her boyfriend, who claims that no sauce is spicy enough for him. We’ll see how he feels about ghost peppers!

I’ll refrain from listing all the items I purchased because I know the people who will be getting them as gifts are going to be reading – it’s very hard as a blogger to keep these things a secret! Just know that you will find something for everyone on your list at the 2014 Downtown Holiday Market! You can find the list of vendors and products they sell on the market website. Check it out any day of the week, 11am-7pm Saturday through Monday and 11am-5pm on Sunday, until January 10th. For those of you with kids, or hey, even if you’re just a fan of the big guy, take a free photo (bring a camera) with Santa from noon-2pm weekdays or 3-4pm weekends. Personally, I’m sad that I missed my photo opportunity with jolly old St. Nick!

After getting our local product fix at the market, we came across So Good Jewelry which was a perfect ending to our Sunday fun. In college, Shiloh had actually introduced me to the other location of So Good Jewelry on Newbury Street where wall after wall was lined with every kind of affordable “costume” jewelry imaginable. I don’t know about you, but costume jewelry is what fits my budget, and at So Good Jewelry you can find necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings to match any outfit in your closet. I have a thing for statement necklaces right now and the store is filled with them. I purchased one, along with two pairs of earrings and a couple of Christmas presents for some of the ladies on my list.

After spending what seemed like an eternity spent perusing the jewelry, it was time to call it a day. There was Christmas decorating to do at home! However, my holiday activities are far from over. Next week I’ll be back at it again, and I’m proud to say that so far I have been making good on my promise to purchase all my Christmas presents local this year!

Places Mentioned (in order):

Barney Fanning’s – 99 Broad Street, Boston, MA 02110
The Draft Bar and Grille – 34 Harvard Avenue, Allston, MA 02134
Caffè Nero – 560 Washington Street (Downtown Crossing), Boston, MA 02111
Downtown Holiday Market – 459 Washington Street (Downtown Crossing, in the old Tello’s space), Boston, MA 02111
So Good Jewelry – 443 Washington Street (also located at 349 Newbury Street), Boston, MA 02111

Lindsey Roman blogs at New England State of Mind. You can follow her on Twitter @LindsRoman.

Original link to blog post: http://newenglandstateofmind.com/2014/12/09/no-place-like-boston-for-the-holidays/