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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tempura Treat

Today, someone brought sushi from Toyama to the office for lunch and I filled my plate up with sashimi, tuna rolls, and dumplings.  It was good but nothing to blog home about.  (See what I did there?  I took an old-school phrase and updated it for the 21st techy century.)  The dessert, on the other hand, was something to try.  Tempura cheesecake.  Others turned up their noses at the decadent dish, but I was intrigued and couldn't walk away without tasting it.

Though cheesecake is not my fave, I was baited by the tempura casing.  I'm Southern.  Fried is a food group to me.  This is something that should probably be on This Is Why You're Fat, which of course only made me want to try it all the more.

Between delivery and waiting until lunch was over to try it, the tempura shell was a little soggy, but you could still tell it was good.  I mean, it's not like it kept me from eating it.  When it comes to unnecessarily fried desserts, I'm partial to Oreos, but if you like cheesecake, try this.

Speaking of cheesecake, Juniors, the famous cheesecake store will be selling $0.60 slices tomorrow in honor of their 60th anniversary, in case you're interested...

Monday, July 26, 2010

With a Cherry on Top

After a weekend of restaurants, it was time for me to get back in the kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, I love eating out, but it was time to do a little cooking of my own.  For my first meal back, I wanted to make sure it was a goodie so I tried out not one but two new recipes.  A pork chop with a cherry sauce, roasted asparagus and shitake mushrooms with gorganzola butter, and Israeli cous-cous all came together as a perfect meal.  The butter melted over the vegetables and gave the meal some extra zip.  I'll probably use the extra butter to top off a steak in the near future.  The cherry sauce was easy and made all the difference in the meal.  It added a new dimension to the hearty, salty pork.  The best accompaniment to the meal was my Real Housewives of New Jersey.  

Not too shabby for a Monday.

A Bit of Bubbly

I almost forgot to blog about a cute little bar we went to on Friday night after the comedy show and dinner!  That would have been a little sad because it was a good little find.  With Susan's direction, we left the West Village and took the E to TriBeCa to check out Bubble Lounge.  As the name implies, Bubble Lounge is alllll about champagne.  From the menu to the artwork, there was bubbly everywhere I turned.  Champagne is great, but it tastes much better when it's served with dessert, and Bubble Lounge recognizes this fact.

We tried the fondue which came with homemade marshmallows (a revelation compared to powdery, bagged mallows I buy at the grocery store), strawberries, chocolate, caramel, and a cookie.  The cookies can be ordered rare, medium, or well done.  We chose rare, of course.  Based on the waitress' recommendation, we also ordered the frozen tiramisu canolis, which were good but very rich.

Between the dessert, champagne, and comfy couches, Bubble Lounge is a nice, low-key, after-dinner spot.  It's been a while since I've been on a first date, but I'm sure gals still love chocolate and champagne so this may be a good place to keep in mind, boys.

Brunch in the 'Burg

I was sad my big brother was leaving on Sunday, but we had to squeeze in one more meal before he left, so we met up in Williamsburg for brunch at Le Barricou for some French bistro fare.  The first thing I liked were the fresh croissants on the table.  Way to go, Le Barricou; you had me at hello.

Allison and I shared the cucumber yogurt soup to cool us off.  It was more cucumber than yogurt and the fresh herbs popped.  Cucumber is one of my favorite flavors, which is weird because it's not much of a flavor.  Oh well, I love it.  For my main course, I ordered the merguez and eggs because I love that spicy lamb sausage and it's not easy to find at restaurants.  The merguez came with frites, a small salad, and sunny side up eggs.  I made a little switcharoo because I was feelin poached eggs.  I was very satisfied with my brunch and I believe Matt and Allison enjoyed their croque madames because they looked yummy (pictured below).  You know what else looked yummy?  The pancakes.  A girl at the table next to us ordered them.  Our mouths dropped when we saw the waiter place two one-inch thick cakes in front of her.  I wanted to take a picture but decided that was rude.

The best part of brunch actually occurred when we were walking back to Matt and Jen's apartment after the meal was over.  We passed a shuttered deli that had a fabulous name: Lady Octopus.  Even better was their slogan.  The awning read "good food = happy customer".  I couldn't agree more.  Though I don't think the Lady made such good food since it's now closed.

Alas, the time finally came for Mark to go to the airport, and we were stuck in the apartment waiting out the rain.  Thankfully, we had entertainment.  Lola the Puggle regaled us with her dramatic interpretation of Zagat's.  Matt was a talented ventriloquist, but Lola really stole the show.  In fact, she gave me some good ideas about where we should eat next.

Yerba [muy] Buena

Saturday night, we headed to Yerba Buena for what was to be a wonderful dinner.  I've been to Yerba Buena before, but I've never gone after the menu the way I did this weekend.  We discovered the maitre d' used to live in Savannah and soon became BEST friends.  Our new buddy hooked us up with a round of champagne and a black olive aioli and octopus crostini (pictured below), compliments of the house.  It was a great way to start the evening, but the best was yet to come...

We couldn't decide what to get.  Our solution: get it all.  We started with the ceviche mixto, a bowl filled with octopus, clams, shrimp...basically a seafood extravaganza.  Next up were the arepas, probably the best dish of the evening.  Two mini arepas arrived stuffed with short ribs, jicama slaw, and chipotle sauce and within seconds they were gone.  (Both apps are pictured below.)  For our entree, we ordered the short rib with pomegranate glaze.  And finally, we ordered two sides.  The hongos (mushrooms) were a great choice.  There was a drizzle of chipotle mayo sauce, which made for a earthy/spicy/creamy mix that excited my taste buds.  We also munched on the palmitos fritos, which were fried heart of palm sticks.  I had no idea you could fry heart of palm, but I'm glad they found a way.  The crunchy shell gave way to the smooth heart of palm for one interesting bite.  I also tried a bite of Mark and Allison's sweet plantains with truffle crema.  I would have thought the crema would be paired with savory plantains, but that dish only further supported my belief that everything is better with truffle.  

I washed everything down with delicious drinks made by friendly bartenders.  The Desert Rose was sweet with a lovely rose petal garnish and went right down.  I wanted to step it up a notch with the next drink and one with jalapeno caught my eye.  I requested a slight tweak (I wanted pineapple juice added), and the bartenders were happy to accommodate.

A couple tips: don't forget to go to the bathroom.  If you don't need to go, just walk in and wash your hands so you can read the rules.  They're cute and make Yerba Buena stand out a bit from other restaurants.  Also, they serve a great brunch with a sweet unlimited drink special.

I almost forgot how much I liked Yerba Buena.  Never again.  This place is remaining at the top of my list.

Lovin' Lukes

On Saturday, I met up with Mark and Greg to devour some lobster rolls at the UES outpost of Luke's Lobster.  Lobster rolls scream summer about as loudly as those little suckers scream when they're dropped in boiling water.  Lobster rolls are all the rage right now, but I'm partial to Luke's.  It's just massive chunks of lobster, a tiny bit of mayo, and a buttery bun.  No celery here.  Good, because it's not a lobster salad roll.  $15 may be a little pricey for a sandwich I finished in a matter of seconds, but it was too good to savor.

Laughter and Lega Tibs

My brother was in town this weekend!  Mark and Allison arrived in NYC Thursday night but, lucky for me, work decided to pick this time to pick up and get busy.  I met up with them along with Matt, Jen, Greg, and Susan for a comedy show at the Comedy Cellar in the West Village.  I highly recommend comedy shows.  For a two drink minimum you get two hours of laughter.  Not everyone feels the need to pay to laugh, but I was laughing a lot so I figured it was worth it.  Even some of the smaller comedy shows draw super big name comedians, and you may be lucky enough for one of them to pick on you during their act.

After the show, we walked across the street to Meskerem for some Ethiopian cuisine.  I'm not sure if it was the taste of the food or the fact that I just love eating with my hands, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.  I ordered lamb marinated in rosemary, onions, and peppers, which was served over a spongy flatbread with two sauces.  One of the best things about living in New York is having all types of ethnic cuisine at your fingertips.  My meal was different, tasty, and fun because it was easy to share around the table.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Who here has checked out any of the McDonald's that's been through its make-over yet?  You may laugh - and go right ahead - but I think they look super snazzy.  What up, new color scheme?!  New typefaces, bold green and black added to the red/yellow color palate, and funky tables and chairs make Mickey D's look like quite the happening spot.  I've seen the commercials for their new smoothies, but I'm thinking they should market this new, hot look.  Emily agrees and would like to go on a double date there.  So come on boys, step up because she's quite the catch.  We may not be cheap, but based on our love for McDonald's, we just may be cheap dates.

Cubasian Invasion

Asia and Cuba.  Two places that don't really seem to jive...or so I thought.

Wednesday night, my favorite date, Steph (sorry, Dave), and I hit up Miami Beach style hot spot Asia de Cuba for a Restaurant Week dinner.  The cheaper Restaurant Week menu was our incentive this time, but I don't think I'll need to added motivation to return - our meal was great!  Everything is meant to be shared and Restaurant Week diners choose 2 apps, 1 entrée, and 1 dessert for $35/person. 

We started with beef dumplings two ways.  This was the perfect starter because it showcased the unlikely Asian/Cuban marriage well.  Three dumplings were steamed Asian style with a nice broth and three were fried almost like empanadas with a plum sauce.  They weren't afraid to add a little spice, which I liked because it helped differentiate these dumplings from the million others around the city.  The next appetizer was a mondo salad topped with tons of calamari, hearts of palm, cashews, and bananas.  This was no normal appetizer salad.  It was larger than an entrée (which we still had coming), so Dave got some yummy late night leftovers.  We were already filling up, but the honey rum glazed pot roast of pork was too good to pass up.  A slight tap with our chopsticks and the meat effortlessly fell apart.  By this point, we were full and tipsy off our lychee martinis (the signature cocktail of Tess and Steph dinner dates), but we further stuffed ourselved with a slice of coconut cake with chocolate ganache and coffee ice cream.  The "slice" was more like a mini cake, but we didn't let it intimidate us.  We are food warriors, and we soldiered on.  Even though it was Restaurant Week, we weren't given tiny portions or made to feel like second class citizens who weren't bringing in the bucks.

We didn't manage to get one of the normal tables, so we were seated at one long, high, tightly packed table.  While this made eating a little less comfortable, it made it easy to make friends (then again, that could have been the lychee martinis).  Our new gal pals next to us weren't able to finish their ahi tuna and wasabi mashed potatoes so they offerred us a taste.  We didn't mind helping out.  After all, what are friends for? 

A dark pic of the dumplings

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Joe Shmoe

Trader Joe's is a truly amazing place and now that there is a 2nd Manhattan location, New Yorkers are collectively a much happier people.  Since I, too, want to be happy, I checked out the new locale as my Monday night after-work activity (what a thrilling life I lead, I know).  The new store is huge with gorgeous, wide aisles and a large selection of items with very low price tags.  It's amazing how, after three years in New York City, I have become a person who is most turned on by wide aisle space in a grocery store.  What's next?  Will I start elbowing people on the street when they walk too slow like a real New Yorker?

And not for nothing, but the service at the new Trader Joe's was spectacular!  "Are you finding everything you need?"  "Is this your first time here?  "Do you need someone to take your buggy outside?"  I'm pretty sure they would have walked my bags onto the subway platform if I allowed them.  The produce looked great, but I focused my shop on the frozen food because I feel that's what makes Trader Joe's really unique.  I stocked my freezer with all sorts of yumminess.  On Tuesday night I cooked up a plate of chicken with tomatoes, wild mushroom risotto, and white and green cauliflower in garlic butter and herbs.  Every ounce of the meal came from the frozen food section but you'd never guess it.  Now, if we could just get the Trader Joe's folks to build a location in the UES...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pigging Out in Williamsburg

Yesterday was all about eating in Williamsburg.  We started the afternoon by going to 3rd Ward's 3rd Annual Pig Out! celebration.  3rd Ward is an artist collective that offers classes and workspace and apparently some pretty awesome events.  Check it out if you're artsy...or if you just like fun, porky events.  The team from the Goods truck (an Air Streem trailor on the streets of Williamsburg that's supposed to be awesome) prepared a roasted pig which they worked into okra gumbo and pulled pork sandwiches with slaw (pictured below).  The food was wonderful.  I was nervous about the gumbo because the okra was finely chopped, but the flavor was on point.

The live music was a great accompaniment to the food and the overall setting was nice and funky.  We were surrounded by avant-garde art installations, including a frozen lemonade stand powered by a bicycle, pictured below.  No, I do not know that boy on the bike but congrats, mister, you're famous!  Thankfully, we got there early so there was plenty of food, but it soon became too hot and crowded, necessitating a relocation.  

...which brings us to The Commodore.  Yes, we had already eaten our fill, but while in Brooklyn, we needed to take advantage of all the great food we had been hearing so much about.  The Commodore is a nautical throwback to the 70s and all its wood-paneled glory.  While I may have looked out of place in hipster-centric Williamsburg, I certainly seemed to have dressed according to theme at this place in my white shorts dotted with anchors, cable-knit halter, and Sperrys.  I was ready to hop on the nearest yacht.  Note to self: Southern fashion doesn't quite translate in Brooklyn.  There were tons of boat drinks and a great 2 for 1 happy hour from 4-7 daily (including weekends).  I would have loved to have taken advantage of the special, but we were all about ice water in yesterday's water and food, that is.   We ordered the pork of the day, which was a sandwich topped with baked beans.  We also ordered the fried chicken plate, which came with three thighs, hot sauce, mini biscuits, and honey butter.  Juicy on the inside with major crisp on the outside.  Somebody has been taking a class on Southern fried goodness, and I award them an A+.  Finally, we scarfed down the Adult Cheese.  I agree, that is probably the worst name for a dish, as it recalls images of toe cheese and sounds grody, unappetizing.  The taste, on the other hand, is great.  The buttery, grilled sandwich oozes with about 12 different cheeses that I'm still trying to identify and poblanos (don't worry, it's not spicy).  I'll definitely make my way back to Brooklyn for the food at The Commodore.  But next time, I'll wash it down with some drinks.
We finished the day by grabbing homemade popsicles at Cupcakeland because it seemed a shame to end the afternoon without a little dessert.  I can't speak for their cupcakes (and truth be told, I'm not a cupcake fan), but the pops were just what the doctor ordered on such a hot day.  Yesterday's flavors were watermelon and the oh-so-sweet-and-refreshing cucumber/lime.
After running around in the heat all day, I had no problem watching a movie and falling asleep when we got home.  If you're wondering, my latest Netflix pick happened to be Up, and it was great.  Yup, I cried.  Twice.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Market, Milly, and a Movie

I got to a late start tonight since I was up til all hours last night (starting at The Smith, which makes a pretty solid but pricey lobster roll on Fridays, fyi).  After sleeping in and relaxing, I decided it was time to make something of the day.

I started by hitting up a flea market in my neighborhood that I never knew existed until reading about it in this week's issue of Time Out.  If you're into good bargains, head to 67th between 1st and York because there you will find amazing jewelry, among other things.  I'm not just talking about fun costume pieces.  There's a supreme stash of estate jewelry sold by none other than Rosalind Harris who played the eldest daughter in Fiddler on the Roof.  She was actually really nice and has a wonderful collection.  Stop on by for a brush of semi-stardom or simply for the flea market finds.

Next it was off to run an errand or two, but I was distracted by INA, a designer consignment store.  They have four locations around the city, and if the UES branch is any indication, all are stocked with amazing designer deals.  I'm talking Louboutins at nearly 70% off.  I walked away with a cute, mod Milly dress in perfect condition for $88.

I had some time to kill and a free movie ticket in my purse so I thought, "why not?"  Final thought on Cyrus: actually, I'm not sure what my final thought on that movie is.  The acting was good (love Marisa Tomei), but it was a small budget, Sundance film, and it definitely had that feel.  I thought it was cute, but it's weird watching the guys from Talladega Nights and Superbad and not see that kind of humor.

Now it's time to finish getting ready for what I'm sure will be another fabulous night in the city!

Friday, July 16, 2010

More Mezze

Just finished lunch and am sooo full right now.  Although I've been to Meze Grill plenty of times, I just realized I've never blogged about it.  Shame on me!  I guess there's no time like the present...

Meze Grill is basically the Mediterranean version of Chipotle or Moe's.  First you decide if you want your meal as a wrap, salad, or rice bowl.  Then choose your meat (chicken, steak, lamb, or falafel) and pile on the toppings (potatoes, hummus, pickled turnips, kalmata olives, tahini, tzaziki, feta, and the list goes on and on).  It's a great, quick lunch place if you happen to work in Midtown West.  If you don't live or work nearby, I wouldn't push you to cross town for it, but for those of us in this 'hood, it's great.  Maybe it's the unique topping choices or maybe it's just because I like telling people how to assemble my food in front of me, but whatever the reason, I'll be back.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Soup Truck - Day 2

Still electrified about the Restaurant Week soup truck, I walked in the rain to grab a cup of Chilled Edamame soup from Megu.  I was excited because I've heard good things about Megu but sadly, the soup left me wanting.  It was watery with mini [soggy] bread cubes floating on top.  It looked like a mint green hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.  In fact, it had the same consistency and level of sweetness as hot chocolate, too.

Don't get me wrong, it had good flavor, but there's only so much sweet soup I can handle.  It's very hard to make a meal out of it.  It was very one note, needed to be thicker, and could have used a little spice or crunch.  Thankfully, I had brought a chipotle chicken salad sandwich from home.  I had intended to eat both as a soup and sandwich combo, but the sammie ended up taking center stage.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Welcome Back, Restaurant Week

Today marks the beginning of 2010 Summer Restaurant Week and I couldn't be more excited (or as Chandler Bing would say, "Could I be any more excited?!").  I already have a dinner reservation set for next week, so you'll hear about that later, but more important right now is that today brought the return of the Restaurant Week Soup Truck - yippee!

All of today's soups looked great, but I went with db Bistro Moderne's chilled corn soup with corn and chanterelle fricassee and oil drizzle with a side of flatbread.  It was sweet and even though it was cream based, it was still refreshing on this warm summer day.  I only wish there were a few more chanterelles and maybe a dash of pepper.  That little taste definitely made me want to check out the full restaurant.

Can't wait to see what's in store tomorrow!

Book Review: Orange is the New Black

I need to thank Allison for telling me to read Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman's memoir of spending just over a year in prison.  Imagine the least prison likely person possible.  You're probably picturing me right now.  Well that's basically what it was like for Piper Kerman a blond WASP who ran with the wrong crowd for a couple months after college.  Ten years later, she opened the door to a couple of cops who arrested her for drug trafficking and money laundering.

The book provides an inside look at a women's correctional facility and it is both odd and interesting (actually, it's interesting because it's odd) to sympathize with the hardened criminals who become Kerman's friends.  My biggest complaint is that the book was full of poor segues.  Kerman's individual snippets of life in the clink were great little nuggets, but they didn't always flow.  On the other hand, I loved how she overlaid the progress of Martha Stewart's trial, an event I remember clearly.

It's a quick read, so pick it up and learn a little bit about life in the big house.

Foursquare Four Life

In new news, I just joined Foursquare.  I was very anti until I read on the Pinkberry website (yes, I was on the Pinkberry website) that you can get coupons if you're on Foursquare.  It's amazing how quickly hatred can turn to love when discounted Pinkberry is involved.

Now that I'm on, I'm turning into a little Foursquare fiend.  If you're unfamiliar, Foursquare is a social networking program that allows you to "check in" to whatever place your at (bar, restaurant, office, street lamp, etc) and let your friends know where you are (or not if that feels too Big Brother for you).

The more you check in, the more points and badges you accumulate, to the point where you can become Mayor of a destination.  Basically, it's a big game, and I love games.  More pointedly, I love winning games.

Now that Foursquare is one of the social networking biggies, I'm interested in seeing how advertising will evolve around it and just how long it will remain cool.  I'm still a Twitter holdout, but I'm pretty proud at how well I'm embracing technology.

In the Red

I had a wild night on Friday night - very rare for me, which meant I woke up on Saturday morning remembering why I usually leave going out to Saturday nights.  We were meeting friends in the East Village so we chose KGB Bar as a meeting spot after seeing it was a Critic's Pick on

After reading the rave reviews, I expected greatness but was a little let down.  It just seemed a little sketchy with no one inside the bar save for a few of the costumed performers from the theater downstairs.  However, I now realize that we were there at 9 PM, post-happy hour (though it doesn't strike me as a happy hour spot) and pre-going out.  This is why I now conclude it is really weird to go to a bar before 10 or 10:30.  Otherwise, you just feel like a loser.

I would like to check out the bar late night, though.  The 2nd floor dive is communist themed and everything is red.  Under the right circumstances, it could be a cool place.

Once everyone arrived at the bar, we headed to Mayahuel for dinner and more drinks.  We ordered a ton of dishes and my pork belly was as good as I remembered.  I also had a bite of the hanger steak and thought it was great.  Tender and served with a sweet plantain mash, I may actually order it next time over the pork belly.  Coincidentally, everything in Mayahuel is also red...except the politics.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nuts About Norma's

My coworkers and I decided to take full advantage of the lazy Friday by heading to one of my favorite spots during our lunch break.  Norma's is located in Le Parker Meridian hotel and is sadly open for breakfast/lunch/brunch only.  Let's break it down:
  • Food: Delicious
  • Presentation: Gorgeous
  • Portions: Huge
Everything on the menu looked good - from the waffles to the magic mushroom grilled cheese - but decisions had to be made.  The complimentary smoothie shot is also a great way to start any meal, but then it was on to bigger and better things. We shared the rich and creamy lobster mac as an appetizer and then I ordered the artichoked benedict for my entrée which was a jumbo plate of poached eggs served over artichoke hearts (instead of the english muffin) on top of potatoes and porcini mushrooms and a rich sauce.  It was amazing but I felt like the plate grew as I ate.  I barely put a dent in it.  Lauren got some yummy looking papaya mango brown butter cinnamon crepes, Serie got crabcakes, Emily ordered a monte cristo, and the other Emily had the seared tuna cobb. 

The only complaint I heard was that our tight (but cute) outfits restricted how much of the ginormous plates of food we were able to eat.  Bummer.  So sorry I didn't take pictures - I should not deprive you readers like that.  Double bummer.  Don't expect a loud, crazy brunch, but the food is great and it's very light and airy inside (think: all white with a single fresh flower on each table), which is why I suggest bringing your parents here for brunch next time they're in town.  They'll love it as long as you avoid the $1,000 caviar frittata. 

Pat Conroy is a Prince

Pat Conroy has wowed me once again with The Prince of Tides, his novel about a family's tumultuous home life and their conflicting feelings toward each other.  I love everything about Conroy's writing style and how he makes me yearn for my own Lowcountry. 

The novel follows Tom Wingo as he relays the complex story of his upbringing to the shrink of his sister who has been institutionalized following her most recent suicide attempt.  The story of the Wingo family is simultaneously comforting and heartbreaking.  Even after they heal, they still seem a bit broken, which I suppose is realistic. 

8 out of 10 stars.  The Lords of Discipline slightly edges this one out as my Conroy fave, but just barely. 

A Doozie of a Deal

New Yorkers, it's time for y'all to to give a collective "thank you" to the deal gods because Scoutmob just launched in NYC yesterday!!! 

What's Scoutmob and why should I be excited, you ask?  Basically, it's a coupon site (a deal a day) with all the deals being hyperlocal.  It's similar to Groupon, which I have blogged about before, but my humble opinion is that this is way better.  On Groupon, you pay to play - for example, you pay $25 to get a coupon worth $50.  On Scoutmob, you just get the  Are you picking up what I'm throwing down?!  I said FREE!

Another great thing about Scoutmob is that once you click on the deal it goes straight to your phone so you just need to show the text or email to the friendly waitress or cashier when you want to redeem your deal.  You never need to print anything out from your computer, which is highly convenient because I never go anywhere without my phone, but I'm not usually seen bopping around town with my laptop and printer.  Ain't technology grand?!

I've already gotten my first coupon - 50% off at Hill Country.  I'm gonna go NUTS on the sides.  I love the greenbean casserole, mac and cheese, and sweet potato bourbon mash.  That's another point for Scoutmob - the deals are all for places locals love to go.  And if you peruse the site, they have all sorts of local info in the Scoutfinds section where they showcase local artists, pics, hotspots, etc.

If you're reading this from the ATL, I hate you because you've been able to use Scoutmob for quite some time now.  I'm jealous that you've been wheeling and dealing way longer than I have.  If you live outside of Atlanta or NYC...tough noogies for now, but it looks like they have plans to expand.  I'm also not happy with you iPhone users because you get the snappy Scoutmob app.  I hear they're developing one for Blackberries and Androids soon, so I'm holding my breath.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Halibut in a Hurry

Now that I'm back from my vacation, it's time to re-acquaint myself to normal life.  Back to the real world.  I figured the best way to drag myself out of vacay mode was to prepare myself a home-cooked meal for dinner tonight.  I had halibut but didn't quite know what to do with it.  While I was picking up a few ingredients at the bodega, I decided to get a little adventurous.  I grabbed some coconut milk, bamboo shoots, a red bell pepper, onion, and asparagus.  When I got home, I mixed it with some red pepper and curry powder and voila!  A new (to me) dish was born!  I'll need to play with the quantities a bit, but it was definitely a good start.  The halibut was substantial, but the dish still felt light.  I served it over rice and was definitely satisfied.  The best part was that it cooked up really fast and after getting back late last night and working at full speed all day, I wanted something quick that would leave me the majority of the evening to relax (and blog, of course).  Not too shabby for only having been back 20 hours!

Happy Birthday 'Merica

What a fabulous long weekend I just had!  I now plan to give you the full play-by-play so you can be insanely jealous.  Let's begin.

Dave and I landed in Savannah just before midnight and were welcomed by my loving parents who were cool enough to drive us through Krystal on the way home.  Three cheese Krystals later, I was in a great mood and falling asleep in my old twin size bed.  We woke up on Friday ready to go and ran a couple errands before lunch at Smoke Station for some juicy pulled pork.  I ordered mine with brunswick stew and fried okra on the side.  The stew was good but a little watery and the okra was legit.  It was nice to be reminded what real BBQ is like.

Friday night we went to what is probably my favorite place in Savannah, Bonna Bella Yacht Club.  Bonna Bella started life as a marina around the riverbend from my house.  We were patrons then, and we are certainly patrons now.  It's close by automobile but even closer by boat, so we made the 2 minute trip down the river for dinner.  I started the meal in the best way possible: with a really good drink.  The bartender mixed up a Bloody Pirate, which is a bloody mary made with horseradish infused vodka and an Old Bay rim.  While we were waiting at the bar, the manager walked around with a Super Soaker filled with whipped cream infused vodka.  I'm going to remember that for my next party - it was a crowd pleaser.  We had the crab, black bean, and corn fritters for an app, which were basically hush puppies but better.  For the entrees, all the boys ordered jambalaya and all the girls ordered fish tacos, each with a different sauce.  All the food was delicious, but I would have licked my lips over cardboard in that setting.  They have corn hole and ring toss set up, two bars, and fabulous seats on the river so you can enjoy the food while watching the sunset.

It's hard to believe you can top that, but we certainly tried.  On Saturday, while the boys were playing golf, I did some damage at the Polo outlet and headed to the Hilton Head house for lunch and a few hours around the pool.  Did you know deviled eggs are a Southern thing?  I didn't, but apparently they are because Dave had no idea what he was looking at.  Rather than explaining, I ate about 2 dozen with a side of my Aunt Sally's gazpacho.  We headed back with just enough time to shower and get ready for dinner at the new hot restaurant, ele.  Were we in LA or Savannah?  I couldn't really tell when we handed our keys to the valet in front of the swanky new fusion restaurant.  Dave and I split the ele roll as an appetizer, which was filled with salmon, tuna, white fish, grouper, yellow tail, crab, scallions, cream cheese, and asparagus.  It was a perfect roll.  Mark and Allison also shared a sushi roll for their app and we did a little trade.  Theirs was good, but ours was better.  Ha.  Point 1 for Tess and Dave.  My parents shared a dungeness and blue crab salad that looked great.  I'll bet it tasted great, too.  Unfortunately, we'll never know since they inhaled it before we had the chance to taste.  Daddy realized no one else tried it, so he offered up a bite, but we opted against the remaining piece of cucumber skin.  I suppose that's a good sign.  All the entrees looked tasty, but I was mostly concerned with mine.  I ordered two appetizers as my main course, the fresh rolls and the lobster soup with curry and coconut.  Both were good, but the soup was large and very rich.  By the end of dinner, I was nearly comatose after a day in the sun and an evening full of discussion of [now former] UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans' DUI indiscretion.  Tip to future Athletic Director: if you're the guy who does a "Don't drink and drive" PSA at the end of every football game, don't get caught behind the wheel, wasted and clutching the red panties of a girl who is not your wife.

I woke up the next morning ready for some serious 4th of July pool and boat time.  Mission accomplished.  We grilled out for dinner and then Dave and I went with Mark and Allison and a few of their friends to watch the fireworks from the top of City Hall.  You didn't know I was such a VIP?  Well take note.  We had an amazing view of the show and felt pretty bad-ass to boot.  Before we left, we made sure to take a sharpee and sign the wall of the dome alongside our predecessors in 1906.  After the fireworks we headed to Rocks on the Roof, the bar in the Bohemian hotel that may just be Savannah's hippest spot.  It was there that I was reminded how cheap alcohol is when you don't live in a big city.  I miss $3.50 beers.

Monday was more boating as we took Dave to Tubby's Tank House for some fried seafood and then to River Street and City Market to show him the sights.  I knew I had to bring a little treat back, so I bought a bag of taffy from River Street Sweets, which my mischievous dog promptly ate the moment I turned my head.  We grilled out again on Monday night (fish and steak tacos) with a cheese plate and watermelon-feta skewers for apps.  We capped off the night by watching Hot Tub Time Machine, which I am surprised to say was much better than I would have guessed.  I can't believe I'm about to recommend it, but here I go - rent it, you just might like it.

Tuesday was a little gloomy because I knew I would be on the plane back to the city before the day's end.  I made sure to get in another good restaurant so we went Rancho Alegre for a Cuban lunch.  I think I was 15 when this place opened and 10 years later, I still order the exact same thing every time, the ropa vieja.  The meat is simmering in spices next to a pile of black beans and rice and the most amazing sweet plantains.  We chilled for a couple hours and then stopped by Chick-fil-A before a tearful goodbye at the airport.

I'm happy to be back in NYC, but I'm definitely missing Savannah.  But admit it, if you had a weekend like that, you'd be pretty sad to leave, too.  America, I think we celebrated your b-day with style.

My signature in city hall
A refreshing, summery app

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cheftestant Showdown: Top Chef Recap, 6/30 Episode

Last night's episode saw the demise of Tracey who, as a self-proclaimed clairvoyant, shoulda seen it coming.  The chefs were practically shaking when Padma told them they had to make desserts, which was less about the cheftestants, more about promoting the new "Top Chef: Just Desserts" spinoff.  "But I'm not a pastry chef," Amanda whined.  To which the guest judge responded by basically calling her an idiot because even his grandma can make a pie.  I guess Arnold's theory that pastry chefs live in a magical world with unicorns is off-base.  Maybe he's been taking all the drugs Amanda did in her 20s (did anyone else find that to be a really random time to bring that up?). 

Then it was off to the park for a picnic where Alex would like to "take advantage of an intern" Lewinsky style.  It's not the mile high club.  That's not an item to cross off your list if you're not in politics.  For a more detailed account of the episode and to see which chefs are rising to the top, keep reading.
  • Arnold: 
    • Innovation: 3
    • Drool Factor: 5 - Probably the best looking dish I saw.  It's also nice to have a chilled soup on a hot day - good thinking.
    • Chef Likeability: 3 - In episode 1, we learned he prepped for the show by getting a stylist and a facial. Now we learned he doesn't grill because it clogs his pores.  We get it; you're gay.  But you don't need to keep pointing it out; the cat's outta the bag.  That said, he was far less annoying this episode than before.
  • Angelo:
    • Innovation: 4 - I'm intrigued by "smokey" egg salad and lettuce wraps are an unconventional picnic choice
    • Drool Factor: 4 - High score when you combine his elimination challenge dish and his quickfire pie
    • Chef Likeability: 2 - This is a big step up for Angelo who never eclipses 1 in this category, but he was all magnanimous while extoling Amanda's ribs so I figured I'd throw him a bone.
  • Amanda:
    • Innovation: 2
    • Drool Factor: 2 - Accoding to the judges, her asparagus was simply to die for...but I could make that at home.  Over it.
    • Chef Likeability: 2 - I don't like her use of "prison rules"
  • Kenny:
    • Innovation: 3 - Pie was unique, picnic was just ok
    • Drool Factor: 4 - All points go to the pie here.  I love bananas foster.  Love currents.  That pie was BANANAS.  Very glad he finally got a much deserves win.
    • Chef Likeability: 5 - All points here are due to the fact that his girlfriend goes by the name JUICY.
Looks like Kenny wins this round with Arnold (surprisingly) pulling up in a close second.  Until next week...


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