Upscale dining and shopping

For my Merrimack adventure, I brought along two dates: me and myself. With the new outlet mall having opened just off the Everett Turnpike within the last year, this outing seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to take myself out on a much-needed “me” date. As I leisurely wandered the discount heavens of Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, Cole Haan and Bloomingdale’s, I started remembering how much fun it could be to make a purchase without clicking “add to cart.”

Although the store list is top-notch, the Merrimack Premium Outlets are lacking in viable food and beverage options. I was able to grab a cinnamon pretzel at Auntie Anne’s to fend off hunger, but had trouble finding a spot to grab the glass of white wine that I was craving. So I spent a couple hours — OK, maybe four — inflicting some damage on my bank account before making my way down Continental Boulevard to Giorgio’s Ristorante on Amherst Street.

When I lived in Nashua, this spot was a staple for me but I hadn’t been back in years. It seems many people now prefer the larger Milford location, which is lovely, but I still have a place in my heart for the New York-esque vibe of the Merrimack location, which is deceptively located within a strip mall. Lo and behold, my favorite trusty bartender was still behind the slab and knew to make me a Bellini Martini without even having to ask. Although I recognized no one else, there was a jovial feeling between those of us in the bar area and we chatted and complained about the snow with much camaraderie.

Although my plan was to nod to my old haunt and move on to dinner elsewhere, I ended up ordering a small goat cheese, strawberry and pecan salad and indulging in some of Giorgio’s irresistibly breath-killing pesto dip and bread. While scanning the hip Saturday night clientele around me, I suddenly found myself hating my outfit. But luckily, I had a trunk full of fabulous new purchases. After settling the tab, I rifled through my bags then sneaked back inside to the bathroom and did a full outfit overhaul.

Feeling fabulously refreshed, I headed to Buckley’s Great Steaks, where I had really intended to have dinner. The more casual tavern side was packed despite the storm, further proving what a fearless (or crazy?) bunch we New Englanders are. A dapper gentleman offered his fireside bar seat to me, citing that he was heading out after finishing his drink. In exchange, I put his on my tab and hopefully bought myself a little good karma as well. The salad I had at Giorgio’s foiled any visions I had of a perfectly cooked filet with my fabulous glass of wine, so I re-assessed and went for a perfectly cooked burger and sweet potato fries instead.

The greenhouse-style tavern at Buckley’s has one glass wall that stretches up to the ceiling so I was able to watch the snow fly from my warm and cozy seat at the bar. Although this would be the perfect romantic setting to cuddle up with a loved one, I found myself feeling satiated with my little threesome.

I’ll be romping around Hampton soon! If you have any suggestions of where I should go and what I should do, let me know by commenting on the wall of my Facebook page or via my website. NH