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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2nd Annual Burger Throwdown

This Sunday marked the 2nd Annual Burger Throwdown, and it was a huge success.  Last year clearly set the bar because everyone brought their A game.  Short of having a clown pop out of the burger patty, I'm not really sure what we burger competitors can do to top this year.

I titled my entry The Southern Comfort.  It was a ground beef patty mixed with Jack Daniel's, stuffed with pimento cheese, topped with a vidalia onion that spent an hour on the grill, and jalapeno mayo.  It wasn't bad, but I am sorry to say I did not place this year.  Matt and Jen came in 2nd place with their burger topped with mango relish, candied bacon, and goat cheese (they also made a caprese burger that was topped with pesto, mozzarella, tomato, and basil, which was a worthy entry).  But it was Greg and Susan who took home the gold with their Hurricane Katrina burger.  Since Susan hails from the Big Easy and Sunday was the five year anniversary of the disaster, they decided to make a burger dedicated to and inspired by N'awlins.  It was their patty that did it for them.  It was a mixture of ground beef, andouille sausage, and shrimp they had sauteed in bacon grease.  It was so flavorful and the shrimp gave it a nice texture.  They topped it with havarti and a bacon remoulade.  Unreal.

Unfortunately, we forgot the prizes this year (last year the winner received a vase, which now graces Matt and Jen's entryway), so all Greg and Susan walked away with was our respect.  Next year, we won't be so thoughtless.

I highly recommend throwing some sort of food competition with your friends.  In addition to the burgers, our lovely hosts, Matt and Jen, served several appetizers (their famous guac, hummus, ricotta with honey, and a Ramen salad) to offset the meat overload.  It was a relatively inexpensive event and the trashtalking and beer kept us entertained for hours.  I'm already concepting next year's entry...
ricottaRamen salad
burger assemblage

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bagatelle Brunch

Want a party?  Go to Bagatelle for brunch.  I've written about Bagatelle before, but I've never given you the full 411 on brunch.  Believe me, you need to be briefed beforehand so you know what you're getting into.

We arrived at 1:30 on Saturday to celebrate Steph's bday, and I saw a few disbelievers in the group.  I think they were just surprised to see so many sequined dresses in daytime.  They soon realized that lack of moonlight is no reason to slow the party.  The music is pumpin, the drinks are flowing, and everyone is dancing on the chairs and banquettes.  By 2:45 everyone in the restaurant is out of their mind nuts.  And all wearing sunglasses inside.

Let's be real here; you're going for the experience, not the food.  But since we were technically there to eat brunch, I'll let you know how the eating portion of the day works.  Pick your choice of app (3 options) and entree (4 options).  You can also order off the regular menu, but why would you when it is more expensive  and you're already paying an arm and a leg and, as mentioned, you're not there for the food?  I went with the salade bagatelle to start and was very happy with my choice.  It was basically a caesar salad on bibb (my favorite lettuce - and yes, I know it sounds weird to have a favorite lettuce) over the standard romaine.  My only problem with the salad was the chopped red onions.  They were strong and induced the kind of breath that is probably not conducive to flirting in this scene.  I went with the croque monsieur for my main course and was pleasantly surprised.  After living in France, it's very tough to eat a croque monsieur in the US.  On average, I ate 4 of those tasty ham and cheese yummies per week while I was en France, so I think of myself as quite the croque connaisseur.  While not perfect, this one was much more authentic than I anticipated and I gobbled it up partly because I enjoyed it, partly because I knew I should soak up the booze.

Can't tell you how much this 2-course prix fixe costs, but I can tell you that you'll spend a nice chunk of change.  Drinks are $15+, so be prepared to drop $120 per person.  But think of it as a fun, all day activity that you're not going to do every weekend.  Plus, this is your best chance so get your fill of beautiful people and Euros.
Bday girl and fab bf, Gav breakin it down

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The SkinNY Dish

So here's the skinny on The SkinNY: It's a hilarious parody of MTV's The City that I have not been able to stop watching over the last few weeks. Can MTV make this into a real show? If so, I would actually start watching MTV again. Just watch the video and try to tell me that you don't want a ShaBuYa shot.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review: Little Bee

Just finished a great book.  If you want a quick read, be sure to pick up Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  Note, I said quick read not beach read.  Though you could read this on while laying out, don't expect chick lit.  It may move fast, but it's not exactly light.  The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Nigerian refugee Little Bee and British magazine editor Sarah.  Their backgrounds couldn't seem more different, but their lives will be forever interwoven after one tragic day on a beach in Africa.  I'll honor the author's request on the back cover and tell you no more other than to go and read this book.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fruit and Fabric

I have a couple things on my mind today:
  1. Dried fruit.  Ever notice how some dried fruits get their own special names and others do not?  Grapes become raisins and plums become prunes, but apricots become simply dried apricots.  Why do some fruits get the shaft and who gets to make these major decisions?  I want to be that girl.  I think it would be a relatively smooth transition from media planning to dried fruit naming.  It's all about branding, baby.
  2. I bought jeggings yesterday.  Correction: somebody else bought me jeggings yesterday.  I've been adamantly anti-legging for years now, which is why I wouldn't have pulled the trigger if somebody else's name wasn't on the credit card.  Still not sure if this was a good move.  Am I trendy now?  They look something like the ones below but not exact.  I most certainly will not be wearing them with the shoes in the pic - this ain't Williamsburg. 
  3. I can't stop eating.  Nor can I stop thinking about food (see point #1).  Is it possible I have a tapeworm? 

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Motivation to Throw a Party

I knew two things when I came home tonight:

  1. I wanted a home cooked meal
  2. I wanted something quick and easy that didn't require me to do a big grocery shop since I didn't leave work until after 8 PM
One of the benefits of throwing a party is having all the leftovers.  I had a ton of random ingredients in my fridge that separately were nothing special.  However, when I threw them all together in a pot, they created something wonderful.  I picked up a zucchini on the way home and sauteed it with leftover onions and cremini mushrooms.  I then tossed the veggie mixture with some cous-cous and stirred in some leftover arugula, prosciutto, and truffled ricotta.  It was creamy, hearty, and utterly satisfying.  I recommend throwing a party if for no other reason than to discover an amazing dish out of the leftovers.

August Astroturf Soiree

I recently carpeted my patio with astroturf and figured that was as good a reason as any to throw a party, so I set up a bar, donned a party dress, and got to cooking.  By the time we were ready to head to the bar, every crumb of food was gone and we had made a serious dent in the liquor, so I'm deeming the party a success.  Here's a rundown of the menu:

  • Potato wedges.  Matt was impressed by how crispy the potatoes were.  He asked if they were fried in duck fat.  They weren't, but I took the fact that he thought they could have been as the highest compliment.  I served the potatoes with - count 'em - two dips:
    1. Curry mayo
    2. Truffled ricotta (thank you Whole Foods for this delicioso spread, it made my mouth happy)
  • Prosciuotto/asparagus bundles
  • Grilled corn, cremini, and shrimp quesadillas.  Made with two cheeses (jack and fontina) and served with pico de gallo and avocado
  • Lemon artichoke tapenade, artichoke, and steak crostini
Of course, all the food tasted better because we were eating on my impossibly green astroturf.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What a Name

After a filling dim sum lunch we moseyed from Chinatown to SoHo to walk off all the shumai, turnip cakes, pork buns, and taro puffs.  The goal was to burn calories, but that was a lost cause once we spotted The Best Chocolate Cake in the World.  That's quite a claim, isn't it?!  I had to find out if they were just cocky or if they had the goods to back it up.  Since the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, cake), I bought myself a slice.

First impression: too sweet.  Next time I would try the bittersweet instead of the semisweet (those are the only two cake options).  I did, however, really like the texture.  There were about 8 thin layers of alternating cake and meringue with a layer of not-too-thick, fudgy icing dripping down the top.  It was too sweet to make it through a whole slice (even though the slice isn't that large to begin with), which is a shame because one small slice will set you back $6.50.  The brocade style mini cafe is cute and great for a grab-n-go panini or espresso, but I'm not sure I would make it a destination.  Though tasty, I think "best in the world" is a tad inflated.


Japanese in Chinatown?

This is a very special weekend.  Dave's friend Andy (who you may remember from our Indy 500 trip) is visiting on his first ever trip to NYC!  We have taken it upon ourselves to make sure he has an amazing trip so I have turned into Tess, cruise director extraordinaire.  While we were finishing up at work, Andy got most of the touristy stuff out of the way, meaning we take over when it comes to local food and fun related activities, starting with dinner last night.  Usually, I'm the one coming to the table with interesting restaurant options, but Dave really came through on this one after receiving a tip from a co-worker.  I [warily] trusted him, and off we went to meet up with another Indy pal, Jimbo and his sister.

Let me set the record straight on two things regarding Chinatown East:

  1. It is not in Chinatown.   In fact it is all the way in the UES on 3rd, between 92nd and 93rd.  While I am perfectly comfortable in the UES, some of you readers out there may worry about getting a nosebleed all the way up there.  Get over it.  It is well worth the trip uptown.
  2. You don't go there for Chinese food.  You don't even look past the sushi menu.  I don't even know if they serve Chinese food there.  Keep reading to understand why.  

The reason I say you don't look past the sushi menu is because of their all-you-can-eat deal.  You can get all-you-can-eat sushi for $25.95, all-you-can-drink sake, beer, and wine for $14.95, or the jackpot all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal for the ultra-low price of $31.95.  Don't believe me?  I agree, it's outside the realm of imagination for such a deal to exist.  That's why I've included proof:
I was a little nervous that we would be walking into a dive, but the restaurant was clean and surprisingly nice inside.  We started the evening off with a round of sake bombs (yes, included in the price).  Now it's a party.  Fueled with sake and beer, we sought to try everything on the menu (why not, when it's all included?!).  The sushi was also worlds better than I had anticipated.  Since they're practically giving it away, I thought we would be getting the dregs of the sea, but the fish was quality.  Not Morimoto, but better than a lot of neighborhood sushi places out there.  

The whole bill with tax and tip came to $40.55 a person, which is amazing considering how much food and alcohol you can squeeze out of this place.  It may be a little far uptown, but I'm always up to traveling for a good deal.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Holey Cow

You may think black holes only exist in outer space but oh no, a few months ago one opened literally around the corner from my office on 9th between 52nd and 53rd.  Holey Cream is a doughnut and ice cream shop that dips their doughnuts in icing and toppings to order.  I call it a black hole because I know once I go in, I'm never coming out.  I'll lock myself inside and eat everything.  My strategy was to keep a safe distance by walking on the other side of the street.

Yesterday, Wendy threw a wrench in my plan of avoidance by bringing one of their doughnut ice cream sandwiches straight to my desk.  She had chosen a doughnut with plain icing and no toppings (which include cookies, candy, and cereal) and stuffed with cookies and cream ice cream.  How did I not think of this great doughnut/ice cream combination of forces on my own?  I scold myself for having an underdeveloped imagination.  Halfway through the bite, the textures meld together.  I would recommend sharing and maybe some utensils because it was huge and messy.  Miraculously, it was just under $5 so if you're sharing with an equally gluttonous buddy, you've found yourself a great deal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Fishy Week

Top Chef is better when I cook my own meal to go along with it, as I learned this evening.  While I am gravely disappointed about the judges' decision for Kenny to pack his knives and go, I was comforted by the fact that I'm still the Top Chef in my own kitchen.

Tonight's dinner marked my third fish meal in a row.  It's my own homage to Shark Week.  Sushi last night, today's Mediterranean lunch at Milos, and a Mediterranean-inspired fish meal tonight.  I may soon sprout gills.

As I mentioned in my previous post, work has got me stressin', and nothing relaxes me like cooking and enjoying a meal.  I had already taken out some halibut, so I knew that would be the centerpiece of the meal.  For the main course, I modified a recipe I found on Epicurious (paprika halibut with olives, onions, peppers, and mushrooms), served with feta cous-cous, and then I attempted to replicate the haricots verts from last week's dinner at The Standard Grill.  The aroma was on target, but it was missing a little something.  I think there may have been some nutmeg in addition to the cinnamon at The Standard, though I can't blame them for wanting to keep a few tricks up their sleeve.  My version was not exact, but it was still a great side dish.  The meal was nice and healthy and made me feel a little better about watching Kenny get kicked off, though I know he would have re-created the haricots verts dish perfectly.

Munching at Milos

I'm going to tell it like it is right now.  Work is HARD.  We are super busy which means everyone is putting in some long hours, stressed to the max.  In my opinion, the best way to relieve stress is with a great meal, which is why I headed out to a nice lunch with some coworkers once we got everything in the office under control.

Milos, a Mediterranean restaurant specializing in fish, is easily one of my favorites in Midtown, which is why I can't believe I was so irresponsible as to not blog about it before.  If you work in Midtown, this place is a must because they have a phenomenal $25, 3-course prix fixe lunch.  They graciously give you four choices for each the first and second courses and two choices for the dessert course.  It's nice to have so many options on a prix fixe menu, but I don't need so menu choices because I always order the same thing:

  • Course #1: Meze Plate - Heaping portions of fava bean hummus, taramosalata, and tzatziki served with cucumbers, olives, a pepper, and a mini spanikopita.  Ridiculous.  Do not pass this up.  Every dip is amazing.  The tzatziki is unreal.  I had no idea they could make yogurt this thick. 
  • Course #2: Loup de Mer - Sea bass served with broccoli.  The fish was light (necessary after the heavy first course) and the broccoli was nice and buttery.
  • Course #3: Usually, I go for the berries but our waiter did such a good job describing the honey walnut cake that I was swayed.  I'm glad I tried something new, particularly because the lavender honey ice cream was delicious.  It tasted light purple.
The meal was as good as ever.  Actually, this time it was better because we sprung for an extra appetizer for the table.  After sitting down, we noticed a server placing an impressive structure on a neighboring table.  After our waiter described the Milos special - a tower of lightly fried, paper thin rounds of zucchini and eggplant surrounding more of that luxurious tzatziki and garnished with cubes of fried cheese - there was no way were were turning back.  Bring it to us now, we said.  It came to the table looking like Jenga for veggies.  If all kids were told they could topple a tower of "chips", pick them up with their hands, and dip them in some of that yogurt, they would all eat their veggies.

After a meal like that, work worries...what work worries?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book Review: Look at Me

I'd picked this book up and put it down at Barnes and Noble countless times, not sure if it would be for me.  Finally I decided it was time.  The stamp on the front denotes it was a big time award finalist, so I figured it had to be worth my time and I finally picked it up and walked it to the register.

I thought I liked it...until the end.  Throughout the novel, you know the lives of the seemingly separate characters are going to converge, and they do.  But what happens next?  You receive some sort of closure (but not full - I suppose I'm greedy, but I want to know more) from one character but have no idea what happens to the rest.  After 415 pages, I've built a connection to these characters and the author, Jennifer Egan, has spent all this time developing them.  After all that, we deserve to know what comes next.

2.5/5 stars.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Go Fig

Last night we wanted to eat in the neighborhood before heading out, but where to go?  Thus began the impossible quest to find a good restaurant within a five block radius.  It's not like there aren't great restaurants in my 'hood, it's more that when it comes time to pick one, nothing perfect ever comes to mind and we suddenly become super picky people. 
What about this one?  We ate there last week.  Here?  Nah, too heavy before going out.  And the excuses go on...
Finally, after consulting menupages (because after two years in this apartment I seemed to suddenly forget every restaurant nearby) I remembered that Fig and Olive was right around the corner.  Done.  Lucky for Dave, Restaurant Week has been extended so he got his first taste of the wonder that is the $35 prix fixe.  He started with the steak tartar (very good), moved on to the scallop and shrimp paella, and finished with the chocolate pot de creme.  I opted out of the Restaurant Week menu and started with the cucumber and pink peppercorn soup (served with a little open faced cucumber sandwich) and then had the sea scallops with truffle artichoke tapenade.  The scallops were the best dish of the evening.  They were served atop the tangy tapenade and topped with shaved mushrooms, pine nuts, and a sweet aged balsamic.  The flavor was on point.  You'd think two appetizers wouldn't be enough to satisfy me.  I didn't either, that's why I made sure we started the evening with a cheese plate.  Not the best cheese platter I've ever had, but it's still a plate of cheese.  You can't really go wrong.

They accidentally brought Dave the wrong entree at first and in addition to being incredibly apologetic, they brought an extra desert (shortbread topped with marscapone, strawberries, and a dab of chocolate).  It was the perfect bite to end the meal.  It's always nice to see a restaurant own up to their mistakes and correct them.  Fig and Olive proved to be a great date place, but I also love it for a night with a gal pal when you can have a drinkypoo (or two) and share the crostini and other apps.

From dinner, it was off to Chelsea for a little pregame at Em's apartment.  I loved having a time to digest before heading to the bars, but it wasn't long before we decided it was that time and hopped in a two second cab to the West Village where Diablo Royale was the watering hole of choice.  The bar area in this restaurant isn't huge, but it's fun.  Make sure you order a Michelada when you're there.  It's basically a Mexican bloody mary.  I'm not totally sure what's in it, but I know there's beer, lime, hot sauce, maybe some tomato juice and tequila?  Whatever it is, it's tasty and served in a nice large glass.  I woke up on Friday morning craving a fun evening.  It was all I thought about all day at work.  Now that it's Saturday morning (or early afternoon) and I've taken in my current state and surroundings, I've judged that such a night was realized.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gold Standard

Last night, I headed down to Meatpacking with some co-workers to check out the Standard Grill.  You may have heard the best part of The Standard is the scandalous view into the non-curtained hotel rooms - use your imagination.  But I'm here to tell you, the food's not bad, either.

We started by sharing a few apps:

  • Charcuterie plate, which came with about seven different meats 
  • What's a plate of meat without cheese?  So next we ordered the heirloom tomato/mozzarella salad.  Tomatoes are much more fun when they're not boring old red.
  • Charred octopus with sweet potatoes and chiles - a new flavor combo for me.  The flavors worked together, but the sweet potatoes should have been a little firmer, their texture detracted from the octopus, which was perfectly grilled.
When it came time to pick our entrees, everyone started talking about how good the halibut looked (with white and green asparagus and a poached quail egg).  By the time the waiter came to take our orders, everyone had decided on the halibut.  NOT SO FAST.  Time to step back and think about this.  We go to a trendy, Meatpaking restaurant and everyone's going to order the same thing?  No way am I going to waste a trip all the way down there without checking out the extent of their kitchen prowess so although it looked good, I branched out by ordering two appetizers as my entree.

  • Fois gras with huckleberries - they won me over on portion size here with the two huge slices.  I prefer fois gras slightly seared, but this was still very tasty.  My only complaint is that it could have used more huckleberry.
  • Haricots verts salad (tossed with yogurt, cinnamon, and crispy shallots).  Such a simple dish but so delicious.  I need to figure out how to replicate it.  Although the components sound heavier, the chilled green beans were very refreshing.  It was perfectly juxtaposed with the richer flavors of the fois gras.
You'd think six girls would take it easy on the desserts after a meal like that, but then you really wouldn't know me very well.  I thought we were ordering two, but somehow we wound up with four.  I'm not complaining.

  • The Deal Closer: chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings.  It was presented in a large glass mixing bowl with a spatula.  Who doesn't love eating dessert with oversized cooking utensils?  
  • A warm, gooey brownie topped with ice cream and caramel.  Read that simple description.  It's pretty obvious we destroyed it.
  • Wake and Bake: Warm chocolate chip cookies served with a jug of milk.  Good name; good dessert.
  • My favorite: strawberry rhubarb crumble.  The other desserts were oozy/chocolately/cutesy, but the flavor of this one was different and stirred me out of my choco coma.
The food was good, but my favorite part is that it was not overcomplicated.  If you ever have a picky eater in the group and find it difficult to agree on a fine dining restaurant, try Standard Grill.  The food is fancy but not too frilly from the apps to the desserts, which were like the baked goods that come out of my Mommy's kitchen on steroids.

That's All She Twote

I finally caved.  First Foursquare, now this.  I kinda feel like I sold my soul.  It's not that I think anyone will care to know what I'm doing on a second-by-second basis, but I decided to jump on the bandwagon so I can keep up with marketing trends and follow others.  More specifically, I would plan to follow the food trucks.

I don't know the lingo.  Tweet?  Twit?  Twat?  Ew.

Follow me if you wish.  I may surprise you (and myself) with pithy insights in 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

WTF for a Minute

Soooo my background disappeared and now at 1 AM [instead of sleeping] I've been trying to replace it.  Not happy with this sitch.  This current background is probs temporary so don't be discouraged.  Same fabulicious blog so KEEP READING!  If anyone is good with computer-y stuff, feel free to reach out and get me out of my current state of eek.

Going on a Joyride

I have mentioned my love for food trucks and street food in the past.  I have also touched upon my fondness for Pinkberry-type fro-yo.  I have often pondered how wonderful it would be if those forces combined.  No longer do I need to wonder because such a truck exists and parks at 52nd and 6th on Mondays (then moves down to Wall Street).  

The Joyride truck serves both original tart and buzzed, which tastes just like original tart but has a shot of caffeine.  Not sure how they do that, but I loved it.  If you just want the buzz, they serve the revered Stumptown coffee.  Basically, they're able to satisfy your mid-day snack craving and your afternoon pick-me-up all at the same time.  All the good toppings are there, including a new one, jaggery, which is like maple syrup that comes from a Sri Lankan tree.  Don't worry about choosing - you can put on as may toppings as you'd like...and I like.  My small buzzed was not small at all and only cost $4.50 ($4 for regular, not buzzed), which means I'll be back next week. 

Party Hardy

The Princeton Review just released its official 2011 list of top party schools and guess who's numero uno?!  That's right, my alma mater, UGA!  I give myself a little credit for helping build the foundation of what would become such an award winning university.  I am not ashamed to say I partied.  In fact, I'm proud to say so because I emerged with a great education that I had a phenomenal time obtaining.  Congrats to my fellow Dawgs.  We've earned this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sun vs. Seafood

After spending hours upon hours at the beach yesterday, we decided to take a break from the sun.  Well, it was more like Dave decided I needed to give my pale skin a little time out.  There's only so much my fair complexion can take.  We opted to watch the much talked about Inception over watching me get sunburnt.  I'm still thinking about the movie.  Was the top falling over or was it still spinning?  How many dreams within a dream within a dream were there?  These are tough questions and it was a confusing movie but thankfully, we went in with full bellies so we didn't worry about being distracted by hunger.

Before the movie, we stopped by my favorite CT summer spot, SoNo Seaport, for some fried seafood outside (don't worry, my pale skin was protected from the sun's rays by an umbrella).  I always order the same thing: the softshell crab sandwich, and today was no exception.  However, this afternoon's meal was better than usual because this time I decided to start with the seafood bisque.  It was filled with tons of different types of seafood and the base wasn't overly thick/creamy, so it didn't seem weird eating a cream-based soup in the middle of summer.  I also stole one of Dave's fried clams and it was yummy enough to make me think about changing up my order next time.  If you're ever in the CT area and in the mood for a summery snack, head to SoNo Seaport.  I may not have spent the day laying on the beach, but sitting on the deck overlooking the water comes in at a very close second, and I'm sure my albino-style epidermis was thankful for the rest.


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