Past years' had comprised of well-illuminated backdrops for photos and benches for tired toes. This time, the tunnel was made narrower with the placement of a bar and small tables along the perimeter to encourage sipping and speaking. The sleepy polar bear and I had entered the tunnel later in the evening out of curiosity, and was surprised to find nothing more than a restricted area for alcoholic beverages. Our attempt to exit the tunnel from the south access was denied by a member of security, then again by a different member of staff as we re-entered to make our proper departure.
Moreover, crowds were ruthless, shoving and pushing past others in the narrow alleyways to navigate towards the tree. Given the disheartening news of Korea's Halloween stampede just a few weeks prior, the scene was absolutely horrendous to find oneself within.
Delayed until at least the 6:10 PM mark, many members of the crowd were becoming restless. Then, suddenly, after a hasty countdown, the entirety of the tree flashed bright. A brief moment of "oohs" and "aahs" surrounded us. Then, as we expected, members of the crowd began to shift in various directions. We hurriedly navigated to the base of the clock, where I clung on for dear life should either of us be swept away in the chaos.
Eventually, freedom was attained. We then headed over to Pastelitos, where the sighting of hand pies and a sample of Fruit Ponch had persuaded our return.
The palm-sized Pastelitos were offered in sweet and savoury varieties: Apple Pie and Guava Cheese on one side, and Chicken and Beef on the other. A small container of either Chili Sauce or Garlic Coriander Sauce would accompany the pies.
Aggressively biting into the first pie, the sleepy polar bear expressed frustration, "It's sweet!".
"It must be my Guava Cheese one."
"Oh it's sweet? I though it would be savoury because of the cheese."
The Beef Pastelito was comparatively tastier. This remark was made independently of the pie shell and improved by the addition of the garlic coriander sauce, which we conclusively found as the best element of the purchase.
- The Blackstone Coconut Porter was crafted in collaboration with the Porter Brown Society, with $1 from each can being donated to the Blackstone Foundation Library.
- The Organic Coffee Porter had resulted from a partnership with local coffee roaster, Balzac's.
- Winter's Ale, which I had the opportunity to sample on tap, was a lightly spiced concoction ideal for welcoming winter and its breadth of festivities.
- Nightmare on Mill Street was a seasonal offering: an easy-drinking Pumpkin Ale with aromatic notes of pumpkin spice gracing every sip.
"It tastes good though!" My household taste-testers agreed. "Like a Christmas fruitcake in the form of a tart."