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Thursday, December 31, 2009

NYC: Great Place, Missing 2 Great Restaurants

There are many things NYC lacks, but the two I find most significant are Chick-fil-A and Heiwa's.

Yes, I have heard there is a Chick-fil-A in the NYU dorms, but I think it's an urban myth and even if it's not, I don't feel like bribing a student.  I made it three days before taking control of my mother's car and heading to Truett Cathy's phenomenal establishment while I was home for the holidays.  Please note, I did not take my Daddy's car because he recently signed a lease on a new Z4 convertible.  While this on its own is neither new nor significant, the fact that he got this automobile in black with red interior is.  He claims he wound up with that color palette because it was the only one available in a stick shift.  I maintain he's going through a midlife crisis.  What's next?  Leaving my Mom for a cocktail waitress à la Tiger Woods?  Or worse - heaven forbid he loses the 'stache!  So anyhoo, I commandeered my Mom's more suitable vehicle and headed to the drive thru for the truest breakfast of champions there ever was: the chicken biscuit.  Now, I know that "drive thru" connotes fast food, but it is much, much more.  A perfectly seasoned piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a buttery biscuit is, hands down, the best way to start the day.  I happen to know there is a Chick-fil-A in the dirty Jerz and a couple in Maryland.  I know this because Dave and I stopped there on the way to and from a family trip to DC and consumed more food than I previously thought humanly possible.

On the other side of the spectrum, Heiwa's is speedy hibachi.  There are several restaurants in GA that do this (Heiwa's being my fave), but I have yet to find one in the Northeast.  It's like one of those cook-in-front-of-you places, but they cook off to the side, resulting in the same amazing food for a fraction of the price.  All I should really have to say about this place is "shrimp sauce".  I'm not sure what's in it, but I'm most certain it's bad for you, which is probably why I love it so much.  Don't let the name fool you, you don't need shrimp to enjoy this sauce.  It tastes good when smothering every item on the plate.  

So there you have it NYC.  I have made your mission perfectly clear.  I don't care how you do it, but get these restaurants up here PRONTO.  Thanks.

Merry Movies

To me, Christmas break is primarily about sitting around in pjs and going through my list of must-see movies.  While I was home I had to take advantage of the low movie ticket prices ($7.50 compared to $12.50 in NYC).

First stop: Sherlock Holmes with the rents for some good old family bonding.  The story was a tad slow to develop, but Guy Ritchie the former Mr. Madonna did a great job directing.  The blue/gray color scheme and slow-mo moments were perfectly timed and executed.  The film exhibited a good mix of humor and mystery and while there was a small romantic storyline, cheesiness was kept to a minimum and it didn't water down the plot.

The second movie I saw while home in the SAV was Up In The Air.  Great movie.  Last year, Dave and I began a tradition to jam in all Oscar noms pre-awards.  This one was definitely on the list this year due to recent buzz.  Unfortunately for Mr. Smiles, I had to see this one with Mark, Allison, Matt, and Jen as he did not make the trip to the South.  No worries, I still have to cross Precious and Brothers off my list before heading back to work.  The movie was incredibly realistic.  I will refrain from much further discussion as I do not want to give anything away, but I think it was very well done.  The film exposes insecurities we don't even know we have.  You won't leave happy.  You won't leave sad.  You leave going "Ok, there ya go."  Congrats to American Airlines and Hilton Hotels for the prominent and frequent product placement.  As someone in the advertising field, I recognize and respect that you either got incredibly lucky or sold your soul to achieve this.  Either way, well done.  On the advertising subject, I must say I love the HSBC ads that show the same picture and 3 different interpretations of value.  Like the one showing the back of a bald head where one picture says style, the other soldier, the third, survivor.  Genius.  It actually makes the walk to the plane more enjoyable since they're always in the jetway.  Can't wait to see the next one.

Back to movies.  While home, I also caught up on some movies from the comfort of my couch.  First up was Obsessed.  Somehow it was the only film my whole family could agree on from the On Demand menu.  Beyonce surprised me as being not bad, particularly during the fight scene when she yells "come here bitch" and drags a half-clothed Ali Larter through the house by her leg.  While home, I also used my Best Buy gift card to purchase The Hangover and Mystic River.  It had been a long time since I'd seen the latter flick and forgot how great it was.  If you haven't seen it, put it on your list now, it's worthy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Egg-celent Idea

I am not what you would call skilled with eggs...yet.  Sure, I can scramble with the best of 'em, but when it comes to more advanced techniques like poaching or flipping to the perfect over-easy without breaking the yolk, I tend to flounder a bit.  I had pretty much given up and decided I would stick to comfortably scrambling at home and heading to the diner next door for any other egg dish I may desire.  But then last night I had a dinner interesting enough to renew my inspiration for preparing those trickier egg meals. 

Let me backtrack.  I went to dinner at Bocca di Bacco last night with some co-workers.  I enjoyed the dinner, but must admit my favorite part was the warm and cozy atmosphere (exposed brick, rustic wooden tables, and likely-gay but oh-so-cute waiter walking around in a santa hat and super tight jeans) that felt perfect on a frigid NYC evening.  We orderd an antipasti meat platter and a cheese plate (usually my fave, but I've had better) for the table, and then I had a ceasar salad to start.  The salad was quite tasty, but hey, it's a ceasar salad, I'm sure I could find it elsewhere. 

What I would be hard-pressed to find would be a replication of my entrée.  The plate was lined with prosciutto, which was then topped with white asparagus and brown butter, and then - wait for it - a poached egg.  Never before have I seen such a combination and loved slicing open the egg and allowing it to mix with the brown butter to create a unique sauce for the dish. 

There are tons of wonderful Italian restaurants in New York City, and while this one was very good it didn't stand out overall.  However, that one dish was enough to inspire my imagination and renew my drive to properly execute multiple egg preparations.  Whoever happens to be the next dinner guest chez moi will be one eggs-tremely lucky person.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My friend Big Brad has been campaigning for a shout-out on this blog for quite some time, but thankfully he understands this sort of thing must be organic.  I'm not gonna holla just for the hell of it; it has to make sense.  Well, the day has arrived.

Just before disappearing from Gchat, Big Brad mentioned having an "unreal" meal this weekend in LA (his current city of residence).  After reading his description of a Wowshi, I realized I had to find the menu for this Bella Pita place.  The website was not super informative, but I managed to learn the following:
  • Wowshi: a stuffed pita (filled with chicken/herbs or beef/cheese/onions, among other choices).  The pita is then folded over like a pie, baked, cut in half, and then you just pile in whatever you want.  Big Brad prefers the chick wowshi stuffed with yogurt sauce, hot sauce, tomatoes, red onion, cabbage, and peppercini.
  • Best part: it's only $5.25
  • The bonus: it's open til 2 AM
  • I wasn't quite sure this was as amazing as Bradley said it was...until I saw the picture

A big thanks to Big Brad for bringing this Cali find to my attention.  Though I have not tried it myself and, therefore, can not provide my official stamp of approval, it is definitely on my list next time I hit up the West Coast.
    As if that wasn't enough of a blog contribution, Brad sent me to this sorta food related site.  I like both bacon and beer, so I enjoyed it.  Big Brad, I am proud to say you've earned your blog shout-out.  Congrats.

    Oh and ladies, he's single.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    An Engaging Experience

    Many of you may know I am ridiculously close with some of my cousins.  My first cousin, Matt, also happens to be my very best friend in the world.  His brother, Greg, was the best man at my brother's wedding, and now it's his turn.  Just before Thanksgiving, Greg proposed to the amazing Susan Silbert future Mrs. Greenberg in an incredibly adorable manner (just ask if you want the full story).  An equally adorable engagement party was befitting such a fab couple.  Which brings us to Jackson Heights, Queens on Sunday, after the Blizzard of 2009 for an intimate gathering of friends and food.

    The spread:
    • Bunuellos - huge balls of sweet fried dough.  Like an oversided Puerto Rican version of my treasured Southern hush puppies.
    • Empanadas - beef, chicken, and cheese varieties
    • Churros - some of them were filled with dulce de leche.  A revelation.  Why are all churros not made this way?  I now think the people who make them the regular way are stupid.
    • A cheese plate.  4 types.  Served fancy-like with grapes and melba toast.  Booyakasha.
    • And now for my contributions:
      • Stuffed cremini mushrooms - some with sausage, some with spinach and cheese.  I can't take credit and must thank the phenomenal Stew Leonard for his help when the snow forced a change in menu.
      • Panzanella salad - this is a bread salad.  Yes I know, bread in a salad instead of lettuce - I must be crazy.  Maybe so, but not because I prepared this dish.  It's an Italian specialty, but I made it with Greek flavors (chopped kalmatta olives, bell pepper, tomato, feta).  Greek ingredients in a traditionally Italian dish?  I'm such a rebel.
      • Proscuitto-wrapped cornichons - cornichons are miniature, salty, French pickles.  Next time I'll add roasted bell pepper but it was still tasty, as evidenced by the empty serving dish.
      • Spicy shrimp and avocado on cucumber
    Sadly, I remembered to take pictures after all the food was gone, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Burgers on B

    After watching Invictus, we decided it was time to refuel with some burgers.  There are so many amazing burgers in the city, and I am set on determining which one is best.  I am happy to participate in all necessary research.  The latest burger joint to make it on my list, thanks to Jen's suggestion, was Black Iron Burger at 5th and Ave B.  My first thought was this: their monogram is BIB, and that's about as perfect as you can get for a restaurant.  Keep reading for the rest of my review:
    • A downside may be the location.  5th and B is pretty far over so the subway's not a great choice and I'm not happy about taking a cab to get a burger.  However, it's right across from Ace Bar and all their fun games (ie: skee ball).  This one's a wash.
    • The bun was not great (a tad stale), but the burger itself was good.  I got mine topped with horseradish cheddar and grilled onions.  I would have been happier if there were more onions, but the cheese was great.
    • Best part of dinner: the appetizer of fried pickled tomatoes.  This combines two of my favorite apps, fried pickles and fried tomatoes.  The resulting hybrid is incredibly tasty when dipped in the accompanying tangy sauce.
    • Overall, Black Iron Burger was tasty but doesn't hold a candle to burger stars like J.G. Melon or Shake Shack.  I'd be very happy to return if I happen to be in the area, but probably won't be making a special trip in the near future.

    Inside Invictus

    Dave and I managed to duck out of the rain on Sunday and meet Matt and Jen at the Kips Bay movie theater to see Invictus.  Definitely not bad, but not the Best Picture Oscar winner I was hoping for.  Thoughts below:
    • In typical Clint Eastwood fashion, this movie was looong.  They could have cut out a solid 45 minutes and nothing would have been lost.
    • Not much happens.  You're going into this movie knowing that South Africa wins the Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela is not assassinated.  Sorry to ruin the ending.  Because there's no major action, they should have capitalized on the areas open for development, like Mandela's family life or the changing dynamic of the security detail (who were my favorite characters).
    • Morgan Freeman did a great job; I was very impressed - he clearly did his homework.
    • Though not central to the plot or quality of the film, there was one very good looking rugby player on the screen.  It probably doesn't matter, but this blogger found him to be great eye candy.
    • Fun Fact #2: This former Abercrombie model mentioned above is actually the son of Clint Eastwood and his flight attendant mistress.  He can also be seen briefly in Eastwood's film Gran Torino (he was the white, quasi-thug, sorta-boyfriend of Sue, seen only for a moment before Eastwood's character shoos him away).
    • Overall, it was an enjoyable film, but not as great as the last 3 Eastwood films I've seen.  Check it out, but maybe wait for it to pop up on Netflix.
    • Fun Fact #2: Thanks to my Colombian-born boyfriend who only knows how to speak Latin, I know that the title of this movie is pronounced "inWictus".  Knew that studying a dead language would come in handy one day.

    Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 12/7 Episode

    Yes, I know, it took me a full week to recap this episode, but it was a busy week and that's that.  Since I'm sure you've waited so long to see just what left me scratching my head after last week's episode, I'll jump right in...
    • Wolves?  I know they're driving from a country home, but it's Nassau County, NY; a pack of wolves does not seem like a plausible choice of animal road blocks.
    • Drama kids are now preppy, closeted skanks?  When did this happen?  In my day, they were just weird.
    • Jenny's into dealing drugs now?  Really?  Hopefully this will turn into me asking "Jenny's into taking drugs" in an episode or two.  It would probably be super hard to stay on top of the scheming and be Queen if you're high out of your mind...but really fun for me to watch.
    • Did that woman at the co-op meeting really think it was appropriate to provide the details of her husband's infidelity while she was still shaking Rufus' hand upon their first meeting?  Slow your roll and wait for the appetizers to arrive, lady.
    • What was up with the hats this episode?  Tripp and Maureen were sporting some crazy chapeaux.  I wasn't aware this getaway to Nassau county required Trip to hop in a time capsule and return to his days as a Newsie in the 1920s.
    • How many cabs did Serena think there would be in the middle of nowhere? 
    • Who else was hoping that when Serena pulled The Old Man and the Sea off the bookshelf it would open a secret passageway, not Nate's 3 year old pot stash?
    • "I'm Jackie and you're Marilyn": did the worlds of GG and Legally Blonde just collide?
    • Chuck's Mom...WTF?
    • And the biggest question of all...MARCH?!  Why are they making us wait that long for new episodes?!
    See if you contain your sadness for the next couple months because I'll be back in Springtime with more Unanswered Questions.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    The Scoop on Poop

    Getting pooped on by a bird is not - I repeat, NOT - good luck.  Much like rain on your wedding day (I now have Alanis Morrisette stuck in my head), the luck theory behind this unfortunate occurrence has been completely fabricated to make us feel better about the fact that we were just pelted by a load of feces from one of our avian friends.  How do I know?  Because it happened to me yesterday and to test my luck, I bought a lottery ticket.  Suffice it to say I am not a millionaire. 

    I was walking to Chipotle for lunch yesterday when I felt something strike my leg.  I worried that I was maybe hit by a rude New Yorker's cigarette and immediately looked down to survey the damage.  It was then that I saw a half liquid, half solid mass on my ankle.  A loogie from a nearby bum?  Nope.  Upon further inspection I realized it was, in fact, bird dookie. 

    I immediately abandoned the lunch trip and ran to the nearest Strawberry to purchase new legwear.  I then threw away the damaged tights and proceeded to sanitize in the office bathroom.  Physically, I walked away unscathed; mentally, I will never be the same.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Schoolhouse Rocks

    For Dave's birthday, he wanted to celebrate at "the best restaurant in Fairfield county": Schoolhouse Restaurant.  Now, I'm not fully familiar with the Connecticut area, but I'm no dummy and smart enough to know that a county encompasses multiple cities, making this a mighty bold statement.  Well Mr. Smiles, I am here to say that you were right...but don't get used to hearing that phrase.
    • I probably shouldn't have to explain this, but this small and adorable restaurant is a former schoolhouse, located in an unassuming area just over the Wilton train tracks.  
    • We started with what may just be the best soup I have ever eaten.  Jerusalem Artichoke Soup doesn't sound like anything special, but the creamy concoction tasted like Fall in a bowl, topped with toasted pine nuts.  I wish this soup would come out of my showerhead instead of water.
    • We also shared a cheese plate.  If you have ever gone to a nice restaurant with me, you may know that getting a cheese plate is my absolute favorite thing to do.  I love trying each cheese with the recommended pairing of quince paste, wine macerated cherries, honeycomb, or whatever other combo they come up with.  Our server was very knowledgeable and was able to tell us about each cheese as  well as provide a recommendation for the order in which we should try them.
    • For the entrées, Dave ordered a NY strip with potato purée and kale, and I ordered the duck with barley, golden beets, and beet leaves.  It was at this point, for the 3rd time over the course of the meal, I had to remind Dave it is inapporpriate to lick your plate in a nice restaurant.
    • For dessert, we had the honey panna cotta that was served with some sort of fig paste, goat cheese, shortbread, and fresh grape sorbet.  The waiter must have overheard us talking about Dave's birthday, so they presented the dessert with a candle - nice touch.
    • It wouldn't be a birthday celebration (who am I kidding; it wouldn't be dinner) without a bottle of wine.  The restaurant had a nice list with a good mix of medium to high priced glasses and bottles.
    • Don't be fooled by the sample menu on the website.  Yes, the menu is small, but it changes frequently to accomodate seasonally fresh ingredients.  They also support local Connecticut farmers, so everything served is not only delicious and seasonally relevant; it's home-grown.
    • Dinner is not the only thing they do well - the brunch menu looked yummy and apparently they have a $40, 4-course dinner on Thursdays that may actually get me to ::gasp:: go to CT during the week.
    If you're looking for a great, low-key fine dining restaurant in the Connecticut area, Schoolhouse is pretty money.

    The bday boy enjoying scotch and dessert

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    "If you're tired you take a napa; you don't move to Napa": Top Chef Semifinals

    I actually didn't want to watch last week's episode of Top Chef.  In fact, i allowed the show to sit in my DVR lineup for a full 24 hours before I decided to get it over with.  Why did I refuse to watch one of my all-time favorite shows?  I couldn't bear to see any of the top 4 contestants leave.  The judges seemed to be as torn about the decision as I was, as they were scrounging for complaints about each contestant.  In the end, it was Jennifer's turn to pack her knives, and I was a little sad.  Some of my thoughts from the episode are as follows: 
    • Eric Ripert's mentee was immensely talented and was the only lady left.  Now that she's out of the competition, will she allow a romance to blossom with Michael Voltaggio?  Their lovechild would probably have seasoned his own amniotic fluid.  That was probably a gross thing to say.  Sorry.
    • Kevin had motion sickness on the train during the Quickfire.  I kinda wish we got to see him blow chunks all over Padma's baby bump.
    • Michael needs to get over this whole "Kevin's food is simple and, therefore, not as good as mine" thing.  It's tasty.  Deal with it.  I think he's just jealous there's no facebook group for his soulpatch and Kevin is the only one with facial hair facebook love.
    • Kevin continues to surprise me.  First we find out this carnivore gives up meat for lent; now we learn his restaurant serves all sustainable protein.  Did I mention he's a Southerner?  Rock on, dude.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    What's On Second

    Perhaps I was not very globally aware during middle school, but I did not know much about the Second Sudanese Civil War.  I had heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan, but knew nothing more than the fact that they were orhphaned boys in Africa escaping some sort of turmoil.  "What Is The What", Valentino Achak Deng's story of survival taught me about the conflict itself and provided deeply personal insight to how it affected these Lost Boys. 

    I am always captivated by a story that sheds light on a history with which I was not previously familiar; and when the history is as remarkable as this, it is difficult to put the book down.  It is hard to believe such events took place in the very recent past.  Deng has lived through more terror than most can imagine and still emerged with the desire to help others.

    How do I feel about a "memoir" being penned by someone other than the person whom the story is about?  I don't mind.  Deng worked hand in hand with Dave Eggers and gives his full blessing - can't really argue with that one.  I also can't complain about Eggers' writing style.  He may have typed the words, but Deng's voice shines through, particularly during the transitions between the past and present day when Deng addresses a tertiary character.  It is a reminder that this is not a faceless story, it is his life - and an incredible one at that.

    Overall Rating: 8 out of 10


    Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 11/30 Episode

    The drama has returned!  The annual Thanksgiving episode did not disappoint.  Some secrets were revealed and others were left dangling in front of our faces, urging us to come back for more juicy episodes.

    • What was that face Nate was making when discussing Dan's girl troubles on the phone?  After concluding "it must have been the threesome talking," he gave an eye roll and head shake.  Does he realize he is on the phone and Dan can't actually pick up on this non-verbal sarcasm?
    • Was Serena wearing a cat suit?
    • Does anyone care about the Dorota/Vanya storyline?  I certainly don't.  GG writers, please kindly remove this plotline from future episodes.  Thanks.
    • Why wouldn't Serena tell Lily that Maureen is a crazy lady who orchestrated a political scandal?  I'm sure with this bit of info, Lily would be less likely to kick her daughter out.
    • How big do we think this Dr. Van der Woodsen secret is?  It has the potential to be huge, but it could also be a big let down, like when Serena reveals the real reason she went to boarding school is because she "killed someone" when really she just watched someone do a line of coke.
    • Is everyone deaf?  When Rufus is telling his joke, there are about 5 different side conversations happening but nobody outside of the 2 people in a given convo seem to notice.  The table wasn't that long.  Everyone would have heard everybody else's business.
    • What breed is that high horse on which Vanessa's mother seems to be permanently perched?  We get it; you like helping people, but in doing so, you seem to piss more of them off.
    • Shouldn't Nate hate Maureen a little more? He may want Serena all to himself, but that skank allowed him to take the fall for the biggest thing to happen to the Hudson since Sully.


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