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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner with a View

Last night, a few co-workers and I took a tennis lesson and headed to Water's Edge restaurant afterwards for a bite.  I have never seen such an amazing view.  From their Long Island City location, you get an unparalleled look at the Manhattan skyline, which only got better as the fog lifted.  Looking out over the water at the lights, buildings, and bridge, I remembered why I moved here.  I would be happy just sitting outside on the deck with a glass of wine, watching the sunset.  But I was even happier that my experience last night didn't stop with a glass of wine.

We started with a few appetizers:

  • Amuse bouche of fois gras with poached pear on a crisp
  • Oysters
  • Harvest Salad (frisee and radiccio with candied nuts and blue cheese)
  • Fried Squash Blossoms (stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, topped with pepper relish) - these were the best.  They looked beautiful and tasted better.
  • Heirloom Tomato Terrine with Mache salad
After the apps, which were simple but incredibly fresh and wonderful, it was time to make the tough entree decision.  I finally landed on the scallops, and I am so glad I did.  Three huge scallops, each topped with a huge piece of seared fois gras atop a sweet sauce (can't remember what), parsnips, and brussels sprout leaves.  It was one of the best dishes I have had in a while and certainly one of the best scallop dishes, though you can't really go wrong with large amounts of fois gras.  All the other entrees looked lovely, as did the sides we ordered for the table, but I hardly glanced over at those dishes since I was basically in a relationship with my own.

At around $35 per entree, this place does not come cheap, but the food was wonderful and I would be happy to spend that money just to get that view.  Apparently, the pitcher from the Mets feels the same way because he was dining next to us.  It was far better the Top of the Rock.  If the idea of heading to Long Island City is a little unnerving, I recommend taking the free (yes, free) 10 minute ferry from 23rd street (East side) that leaves every hour on Friday and Saturday.  Honestly, I can't decide which I liked better, the dinner or the view.  Thankfully, I didn't have to choose.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Italy and Eataly

While my parents were here, we checked out Italian mecca Eataly, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's massive (I'm talking 50,000 square feet) Italian marketplace.  There are several mini cafes, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, breads, and anything else you could think of.  I was in heaven!  We went there with the intention of just checking it out, but once we saw how amazing it was, there was no way we were leaving empty handed.

I picked up some of the fresh pasta (braised veal agnolotti), some lamb, sausage, pork chop, and some hen of the woods mushrooms.  The quality was off the charts and the total only came to $21.  The quality is also apparent in the staff.  When I asked a question about food prep to the butcher, he launched into a comprehensive explanation and even wrote a recipe on the wax paper that wrapped my meat.  I'm hooked.

By 6 PM last night, my parents had hopped into a cab and headed to the airport and I was home, re-acquainting myself with my DVR.  It's hard to believe, but since my parents had been here for a nice long stay, I hadn't eaten at home in a full week.  It was time my stove saw some love.  Thankfully, my parents left me with my Eataly care package, so I was all set to prepare a great meal.

I made lamb meatballs (with oregano, cumin, paprika, and red pepper) and served them with the fresh pasta (which was INCREDIBLE - I'll be back for more very soon), and hen of the woods mushrooms.  Tossed it all with a lot of butter.  Delicious.  The executive decision has also been made that next time my parents visit, we're going back to Eataly, stocking up, and cooking a nice family meal at my apartment - restaurants be damned!

Sour Game Leads to Sweet Dessert

After a depressing UGA game on Saturday night, we were in no mood to go to the bars and instead headed around the corner to Veniero's in the hopes that a sugar rush would help us forget that we had just lost to Mississippi State.  Veniero's is an old school Italian bakery that has been around forever.  We picked up a couple things to take back to my apartment and were most impressed with the mini fruit tarts.  I was also impressed by the price.  A mini tart anywhere else is over $2.  At Veniero's, we got three minis for just over $4 and they were more authentic.  It's no coincidence that Veniero's has been around since the 1890s, and I encourage you to see for yourself exactly why they'll never go anywhere.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dumpling Day

My Mommy knocked on my door nice and early yesterday morning because there was a lot we wanted to pack into one Saturday.  We started by heading to Orchard House, my neighborhood coffee house for a cup of java, a scone, and a glance at the New York Times.  Orchard House has been in the 'hood about exactly as long as I have, so we share a special bond.  I like the vibe, the coffee, and the free WiFi.

After we got the necessary caffeine buzz, we tackled the Brooklyn Bridge.  At just over a mile (each way), it is a nice walk with a great view.  If you've never done this, I highly recommend it, and if you have, do it again - it's not just for tourists.  We got to other side just in time for Grimaldi's to open their doors, but we had something better in mind for lunch.  We took the subway back into Manhattan and headed to Chrystie and Houston for the Dumpling Festival.  $20 got us four plates of food, so we decided to split one ticket.  We started with the Malaysian lemongrass dumplings (pictured below) after eavesdropping on Mario Batali's convo next to us and hearing they were good (and yes, he was wearing the standard orange crocs, shorts, button-down, and navy fleece vest).  He was right about the Malaysian dumplings, but Macao Trading Co.'s dumplings were amazing.  I'll have to actually go to the restaurant now.  Suddenly a bajillion people decided to show up and the lines grew to overwhelming lengths.  It was at this time that we decided to use our third ticket to get two pomegranate ginger ales from Bruce's.  Surprisingly spicy and refreshing.  Our fourth and final ticket went to sticky sweet rice dumplings (some filled with sesame paste, others with nuts).  I'm glad we picked a dessert dumpling to end our meal, but they were super sweet.  One order came with five dumplings, but one was enough to satisfy me.

After dumplings, we walked around the LES so I could point out some sights to my Mom.  By sights, I mean I showed her all the bars and restaurants I like, which doesn't sound like crazy fun but whatevs.  After buying a pair of earrings at a cute little boutique, I couldn't resist a stop into Russ & Daughters.  My Mom was amazed by the fresh bagel/cream cheese/lox sandwiches.  I can't say I blame her, but I had my eye on something else and walked away with a quarter pound of chopped liver.  Chopped liver may weird some people out, but I love it.  Russ & Daughters makes a pretty good version, but nothing will compare to Mildred/Grandma's, probably because my Grandma uses way more lard.

After all that walking, I was ready for a shower and a nap, so I headed home to do just that.  Throw a little How I Met Your Mother in the mix, and it was the perfect rest before dinner.

Hella Tiella

I am SO happy to report that there is a nice new restaurant on my corner.  Tiella opened in July, and I have been waiting for the right moment to check it out.  A dinner with my parents and Aunt and Uncle seemed like the perfect time, so we made that our Friday evening activity.  I have been thinking about this restaurant for a while and have poured over the menu.  Clearly, I am not the only one because this tiny wonder has become quite the UES secret.

We started by ordering the spinach flan with gorgonzola sauce (rich sauce, but that's what makes it good) and the salmon carpaccio with orange and fennel.  The carpaccio was incredible.  The citrus flavor was lively and perfect for the unseasonably warm weather we had this weekend.  For the main course, I chose the Nera pasta (black ink cuttle fish fettucini with scallops and mushrooms) and could not believe how fresh and light the pasta was.  I did not try anybody else's entree, but I think that is because they all looked so good that I wanted an excuse so go back and order it for myself.  Daddy could not leave without dessert, so we ordered the baba rhum (sponge cake soaked in rum) and it was heavy on the rum and better than most I've tried.

Tiella is a great addition to the E. 60s and although it's nice, it still has that neighborhood feel.  If you feel so inclined to check it out, stop by my apt first and I may treat you to a pre-dinner cocktail.

Forget Diamonds, Give Me Ruby!

After our messy street food, my parents and I decided to go a little more refined for dessert before I went back to work.  A friend had told me about Ruby et Violette and I have been dying to try.  I am so happy the three Mercer sisters decided to put their Ivy League educations to good use by baking the best cookies I've ever had.  I'm not one to chase cookies, but these are soft and inventive - worth the chase.  They rotate the flavors daily, which makes me think I need to return on a regular basis just to try them all.

The cookies are neither large nor cheap, but don't let that hold you back.  We ordered three cookies for $6: the Friday Night Foosball (peanuts, pretzels, chex mix, and dark chocolate), champagne and strawberries (with huge chunks of fresh strawberries), and the Geisha Seduction (chrystalized ginger and dark chocolate).  The cookies are so rich, you don't need a giant one to satisfy your sweet tooth...but with all the amazing flavors, it will be difficult to pick just one.

Jamaican Me Happy

I am a little behind in my reporting because I have been so busy with my parents, but now that it is Sunday evening, it's time to play catch-up...all the way back to Thursday.

My parents are fun and adventurous eaters, so when I met them for lunch on Thursday afternoon, it was no surprise that my Daddy begged for street food.  Unless you're talking roadkill, street food does not exist in Savannah, so I was not about to take my parents to any old Halal cart.  No no; only the best for my parents, which is why I took them to the Jamaican Dutchy.

The Jamaican Dutchy serves scrumptious Caribbean food out of a street cart.  Daddy got the curried goat, Mommy got the stewed chicken, and I got the Jerk chicken.  All meals came with slaw, rice and beans, and sweet plantains.  The food was so flavorful and they managed to stuff an impossible amount into one small styrofoam box.  Daddy got the small meal (which was not small by any definition of the word) and Mommy and I each got mini meals (more than enough food).  At just $6-$7 for the mini meal, this is a steal and a great break from the build your own salad we're all accustomed to eating at lunch in Midtown.

Friday, September 24, 2010

HIde-Chan and Seek

Wednesday night seemed like a good time to try Hide-Chan Ramen, the pork broth restaurant I've been hearing so much about.  I was excited to take my parents because this is definitely not the type of thing you can find in Savannah.  I had heard about the grilled pork toro (pork cheek), so I knew that was a must for an appetizer.  It was salty and delicious.  It melted in my mouth like a piece of good sashimi.  We also got an order of pork buns to start because they're hard for me to pass up.  The mayo and lettuce was a nice twist.

When they placed our soup bowls in front of us, I was shocked at how much they gave us for a mere $9.50 a bowl.  I could barely make it through half!  I recommend doing what I did and adding bean sprouts and a hard boiled egg to yours.  At only $1 each, these additions bring the total up to $11.50, which is not bad for as much food as you're getting.  I never expected to like the egg.  It kind of reminded me of the scene in The Birdcage when Agador (Hank Azaria) throws eggs in the soup, confusing all dinner guests ("peasant soup is an entree!").  It's hard to explain, but it was delicious in the soup.  It may be a ton of food, but it won't leave you feeling overstuffed.  I'll be going back.

After dinner, we went back to my apartment to relax and wait out the rain before heading across the street to Dangerfields for some stand-up comedy.  We missed the first two acts, but that doesn't matter because everyone knows (and if you didn't already know, you do now) that the acts get progressively better.  We were sitting close to the front and every comedian - no fail - made fun of my father's [and I quote] "porn star moustache".  My father later engaged in a conversation with the comedian on stage about he and my Mom's sex life.  I consider that the low point of the evening.

Gleecap: Diva-meter - 9/21 Episode

It feels like I've been waiting forever for the return of Glee.  I have been so excited for so long that by the time Tuesday rolled around, I worried I may have built it up in my head.  Would I be disappointed?  Would the songs be terrible?  The jokes no longer funny?  Not a chance.  I loved it.  With that, let's re-launch the diva-meter this season!

  • A lot of characters have disappeared.  -3 because I'm sad to see Ken Tenaka and Black Dude leave.  
  • Everyone has fresh haircuts.  +1 because those glee clubbers would [mistakenly] be so sure of their immediate bump in cool factor that they would get their hair did to match.
  • Love the return of Finn's inner monologue.  +1
  • Rachel: "You don't speak English. [Talking louder and in broken English] I need people swaying behind me while I sing solos." +3  I'll also give this another +2 for a great Telephone rendition.  It fit and the tension was unmistakable.
  • There's Asian camp.  +2 right there.  The fact that the camp is devoted to getting the kids to become tech-free earns them another +2.  And one more +1 because this reminds me of when Quinn suggested Tina's new identity should be computer programmer in the Gaga episode.
  • -2 for the Tina/Other Asian pairing.  She's goth; he's apparently got rock hard abs (thank you for the gratuitous shirtless shot, writers) - this match-up would never happen.
  • Some favorite lines:
    • Mercedes to Kurt: "Is that a men's sweater?" +1 because although I never thought Kurt would abandon his diva-ness, I liked the affirmation.
    • Rachel to Finn: "Controllist isn't a word." +2 because I would not have been able to stop myself from making that correction either.  Just yesterday, someone at work said discerning when they meant disconcerting.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying anything.  Divas do not keep these sorts of things to themselves.
  • Was that Broadway star Cheyanne as the new Vocal Adrenaline director?  -1 only because I'm not sure.
  • +3 for Quinn being a Cheerio again.  She hasn't displayed much diva behavior since becoming pregnant.  But now that she's back on the squad, I have a feeling there's a diva in there who's just begging to break free.  I'm getting really excited about this character development.
  • All songs this episode were pretty fab.  We had some hip hop, some top 40, and some show tunes.  A little something for everybody.  All of my multiple personalities were happy.  Most songs were also relevant (maybe not Billionaire, but you can't win 'em all).  Therefore, song choice earns a +4.
Total: 14 --> The season 2 premiere was the diva equivalent of Celine Dion.  Even if you try to escape her, you're always pulled back in by her raw talent.  No one disputes her amazing-ness, and I don't think that anyone can argue that Glee is back and better than ever.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

High Quality

Earlier this week I headed to Quality Meats with some co-workers for a huge, filling steak dinner.  Quality Meats has all the normal steakhouse offerings but in much hipper digs than the traditional Palm or Del Friscos.  The food was great, so let's jump right in:

  • We were greeted with an amuse bouche of roasted mission figs with carmelized black pepper and coriander.  I could have saved mine for dessert.  Good start, Quality Meats.
  • We started with the shrimp cocktail.  There was only one shrimp per person, but they were colossal.  The best part of this app was that each person got their own personal tray of three sauces (traditional horseradish cocktail sauce, a ginger soy, and a creamy cilantro).  Forget being the best part of the app; this was the best part of the meal.  The sauces were so good, we ordered another round of shrimp just to have an excuse to keep eating the sauces.
  • We all had steak for the entree, of course.  This also came with a delicious homemade steak sauce, made tableside.  Once again, the sauce was incredible.  
  • For sides, we ordered the parmesan waffle fries, asparagus, and best of all, the broccoli bites.  These little fried broccoli and cheese cubes were by far the table's favorite.
  • Don't skip dessert.  Not only did we not skip it, we ordered four:
    • Passion fruit tart with diced tropical fruit and raspberries (my favorite)
    • Apple tart that I think was dripping with some liqueur (brandy, perhaps?)
    • Warm brownie with chocolate sauce and a pistachio brulee
    • Sticky toffee pudding with almond ice cream
Everything was delicious, and I woke up still full.  I also woke up with the conviction that they need to start bottling the sauces.  Listen to me, Quality Meats!  You and I could make a fortune off this!  I must be able to get these sauces on a more regular basis.  If anyone has any ideas how we can make this happen, please contact me ASAP.
Sauces: the only picture you really need to see

Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 9/20/10 Episode

As great as it was to hear Chuck finally say "I'm Chuck Bass" at the end of this episode, there were still some things that left us wondering what was going on.  Onto our unanswered questions of the episode...

  • How did Serena know the artifacts in the blood stained bag belonged to Chuck?  In my experience, the photo is on the inside of the passport.
  • Why do none of Vanessa's outfits match?
  • Is Blair an idiot?  Why give all that up?  Getting back to college and NYC on-time is not very important when you could be the next Princess Grace.
  • How did Lily manage to work up blueprints for the nursery so quickly?
  • Why is nobody weirded out by Dan's having an illegitimate child at the ripe age of 19?
So not too many unanswered questions this week, but that's because it was such a great episode that began to tie up some frustrating, loose ends.  Until next week!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goodbye Hello Pasta

I discovered one of my favorite restaurant chains, Noodles and Co. while visiting Matt in college.  It's an amazing quick service restaurant that puts together delicious pasta/sauce combos.  Unfortunately, it does not exist anywhere remotely close to where I live.  I thought I was finally lucky enough to get a Noodles and Co. knockoff in my area when Hello Pasta opened in the city.  Wrong.

I could tell it wouldn't be another Noodles and Co., but the menu still looked great with plenty of sauces to choose from.  I couldn't decide which to get, so I ordered two: the Al Funghi and the Salmon with Tarragon.  Big mistake.  That just meant I had not one but two disappointing meals.  The mushroom sauce on the first dish was sour and basically free of mushrooms.  The salmon was a little better, but it was very blah and didn't even come close to what I could make for myself on a bad day.  I thought it was a nice touch when they offered to top my pasta with parmesan or mozzarella but was sad to find they just dumped some of the fake parmesan from a can on top.  The only good thing about the experience was that I was allotted a free Vitamin Water with each order.  I suppose that softened the blow of bad food - but just barely.  I was so excited to receive my loyalty card with all its great benefits, but I see now I will not be putting it to use.

Yum Yom

After 24 hours without food or water, I turn into quite a grumpy gal, which makes Yom Kippur a difficult holiday for me.  Whatever weight I may have lost during the fast found its way back to my body the moment I walked into my family's break the fast celebration.  My aunt and uncle set out a super spread. We're talkin' bagels, salad, another salad, quiche, corn pudding, and sushi.  I filled up, chit chatted with the fam, and then headed over to Greg and Susan's for break the fast part deux.

I was too full to eat when I got there, so I just boozed and shmoozed.  It wasn't long before Susan decided to break out Taboo.  I am a major board game fan, so this evolution from holiday meal to game night was more than fine by me.  Craig and I made a good team, but we were no match for married pair Alli and Ben.  Of course, after a couple rounds I was ready to eat again, so I grabbed some of the cheese grit cake/casserole (definitely getting that recipe) and some desserts (yes, dessertS, plural).  Now that Fall is in the air and Winter is not far behind, I am reminded of the beauty of game nights.  All you need is good wine, good company, and a good game - no need to brave the cold!

Thrilling Thrillist

This past week was Fashion Week, which means the Beautiful People came out in droves.  I was lucky enough to attend the Thrillist party, which was held at The Griffin.  I had never been in the Griffin before, but I like what I saw.  Velvet couches, mirrored walls, filigree galore, and a slew of small chandeliers that came together for a dramatic effect made the lounge feel upscale without that "trying too hard" feeling.  I sort of felt like I was standing inside a music box.  But the best decor was temporary: male models.  There were five gorgeous men standing on tables for our viewing enjoyment.

Models aside, The Griffin seemed like a great place to grab a drink in Meatpacking.  But the prime view of the models made Fashion Week a new favorite time of year.  I'll admit, I am not a fashionista - not by any stretch of the imagination.  Shopping is not my thing, and I am more comfortable in my classic, preppy threads than in the season's hottest trends.  But fashion week is a great way to pretend I'm trendy and I am happy to fake it til I make it, especially when male models are involved.  I highly recommend you snag an invite to one of these parties next year.  Why would you pass up an opportunity to check out hot clothes, ogle at hot people, and discover a hot lounge?

Getting My Just Desserts

To jump into their premiere season with a bang, Top Chef: Just Desserts decided to give away free dessert all over the city from food trucks this past Tuesday.  I have to thank Twitter for bringing this amazing deal to my attention.  Once I found out one of the food trucks would be parked in close proximity to my office, I decided to do lunch backwards.

They weren't giving away boring, tiny samples.  They were giving away full-size treats from some of the best bake-shops in New York.  On top of that, there was no regulation on how many treats you could try.  We were trepidatious about asking for more than one and spent the entire time in line trying to choose the single best dessert available, but it turned out they were happy to let us try everything!  I'm not a cupcake gal, so I passed on Billy's Bakery (though my office pals were disappointed because they think Billy's is the city's best cupcake), but I did get a cup of Breyer's ice cream, two Godiva truffles, and a compost cookie from Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar.

Momofuku's Milk Bar is 100%, hands down my absolute favorite dessert shop in the city.  When it comes to sweet treats, it cant be topped.  I couldn't believe I was able to walk away from this food truck with a full size compost cookie, which is filled with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, butterscotch, oats, and chocolate chips.  It reminded me that I haven't had a Momofuku moment in quite a while and it is probably time I head down to the East Village for some crack pie, cereal milk, and cake truffles.

Top Chef, I recommend you do this before every episode.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 9/13/10 Episode

I have been walking around like quite the lil sourpuss knowing Summer is over.  Sure, sweaters and boots are cute, but that warm fuzzy feeling fades quickly once I realize I need to start bringing a jacket with me when I leave the house.  Though I'm not a big fan of the cooler weather, there is one thing that abates my bitter attitude: the return of TV.  Reruns be gone!  Last night we were able to say "bonjour" to our Gossip Girl buddies who have either been prancing around France or practicing their baby daddy skills.  But what would a new Gossip Girl season be without a bit of befuddlement.  This week's unanswered questions are as follows:

  • Is that chick supposed to be the one and only Gossip Girl or merely stalking Nate?  I'm going to go with option c: serial killer.  Buffalo Bill is pretty much the only other person I've seen who keeps a string map with pictures of their target in his room.
  • Why is Vanessa ok with Dan?  I don't even think Mother Theresa would be cool with her ex-bf hopping from Serena's bed into Georgina's baby mama drama.
  • Has Dan met Georgina?  Why would he sign the birth certificate without doing his own paternity test when he has already seen Georgina wreak havoc all over Manhattan?
  • How does Rufus not know how to get in touch with Dan?  Doesn't Dan live in the apartment Rufus owns?  And isn't that apartment just over the bridge in Dumbo?  It doesn't take Carmen San Diego to track Dan down.
  • Does Georgina really have the authority to fire a waiter at a party she wasn't even invited to attend?
  • And most importantly, when they go on their big double date, WHERE ARE SERENA'S PANTS?!
So friends, I think that just about wraps it up.  I hope you're as happy as I am that TV is back in business.  It certainly helps make Fall sting a little less.

Gossip Girl Grub

Poor little Sasha.  She just moved into a new apartment and her cable has not been set up yet, putting her in a dire situation when it came to watching last night's Gossip Girl season premiere.  I couldn't leave a girl hangin, so I invited her over to watch our favorite Upper East Siders and eat a Gossip Girl inspired menu:
  • Gossip Girl'd Cheese: (Girl'd Cheese...grilled cheese...get it?!) Made with Vermont white cheddar and mini-sized for a little app
  • Upper East Sliders: Mini crab cake sliders
  • Chuck [Sea] Bass Tacos: served with pico de gallo, tropical salsa, avocado, and cotija cheese (the Mexican cotija was a good touch)
  • Since I don't bake, dessert came with help from the store: Mini French fruit tarts (correlating to the season opener's Paris setting)
I made tons of food - way too much for two people, but I couldn't help myself!  Once I thought of all those puns, I had to cook all of them.  No matter, Sasha took some home for her roomies, and I still have leftovers to take me through the rest of the week.  AND in a rare victory, all the food was ready at the same time and just in time for the show to start.  Major success.  A good meal was the perfect compliment to the premiere and a great way to say "welcome back" to some of my favorite characters on TV.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Finale Feast

Despite my lack of HBO, there was no way I was missing last night's season finale of True Blood.  Thankfully, Greg and Susan were kind enough to have me over for a little viewing party, which of course means we turned it into a reason to feast.

Greg and Susan prepared the main course and side dish: chicken marsala and potatoes with all sorts of onions and spices on top.  They owned up and said their aunt cooked it and sent them home with leftovers over the weekend.  I don't care who made it; it was good.  I wanted to try out a couple new recipes, so I came with two dishes:

Maybe I was channelling the Bon Temps crew or maybe I was just missing home, but I ended up making some Southern style grub.  Until recently, I didn't realize deviled eggs were a Southern thing - I thought they were just yummy picnic fare.  I whipped up a batch and played with the spices to make them my own.  I've always left the deviled eggs up to my Mommy - why should I try to make them when she always does it for me?  Well, I think my eggs would make my Mom proud and now that I have my recipe down, I'll be making them again for future parties.  I also wanted to latch on to the end of Summer so I made shrimp rolls.  Obviously, lobster is the first choice, but they can be a tad cost prohibitive; plus, shrimp is a low country fave.  I added some thyme and chili powder to make it a little more than shrimp and mayo and loved the result.

For a mini finale recap: I didn't think the final episode was the best one of the season, but we did learn a few new things about Bill and Sookie's relationship and the whole witch storyline, so it definitely wasn't a total loss.  It may not have been terribly dramatic, but they did a good job setting things up for next season.  Overall, this season was much better than season two, which means I'll be going crazy waiting for the fourth season to begin a whopping nine months from now.  Thankfully, I have the return of Gossip Girl (tonight!) and some other favorite shows to keep me occupied while I wait.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Very Veselka

After watching UGA lose to South Carolina yesterday afternoon, I needed something to perk my spirits up once again.  Lucky for me, Dan arrived in NYC for a visit yesterday, and seeing his smiling face for dinner was just what I needed to make me forget the depressing football loss.

Dinner was a very last minute thing.  Matt and I were in charge of picking the place, and since we didn't know exactly how many people would be joining us or when we would need to be there, we had to pick someplace that was flexible.  Due to our last minute-ness (and truth be told, the fact that we had been drinking all day while watching football), this was not the time to try to get into the hottest restaurant in town; however, we never want to settle for anything merely ordinary.

Veselka won the vote so we headed down to the East Village to try a little something new.  Veselka is nothing fancy.  In fact, it's a diner; but this diner has a twist: it's Ukrainian.  That means that instead of bacon egg and cheeses, you're ordering borsht, stroganoff, and pierogi.  Like most diners, Veselka is 24 hours and most popular for the late night crowd emerging from the East Village bar scene after last call.  Even though it is busiest at 3 AM, it was still packed at 9 because people don't want to wait for the bars to close to enjoy good, Eastern European food.

Since it was my first time at Veselka, I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so the meat plate was the perfect dish for me.  The meat plate came with a cup of soup and I had to pick the borsht.  When in Rome...The waiter said most people ordered the borsht hot, so that's precisely what I did.  It tastes nothing like it looks.  It was like a magenta chicken soup - not bad.  The meal also came with a small salad with dill dressing, but I only had a couple bites to save room for the main course: stuffed cabbage with mushroom gravy and four pierogi (2 meat, 2 potato).  I'm guessing the food was authentic, but I wouldn't really know, so maybe I'm confusing "authentic" with "good", because that much I can say for sure - it was mighty tasty.  The stuffed cabbage was good, but I was expecting to see exactly what my grandma makes on my plate and the flavor of Veselka's version was good but different.  Don't worry, Grandma, I will always like yours best.  I think next time I eat at Vesleka, I am just going to order plate after plate of pierogi because they were amazing.  The dough was thick but did not overpower the filling of which there was tons.  This was not a situation where the dumpling is all dough or noodle with nothing inside.  They come with sour cream, shredded beets with horseradish, and onions.  I used a little of the toppings, but the pierogi had enough flavor on their own that they did not need a single thing.

Veselka is also great for brunch (especially if you still haven't made it home from the night before), but it can be a little heavy before a night out, so it was a good thing my hot Saturday night plans consisted of a chick flick by myself in bed.  Eastern Europeans have been in New York longer than most of the cultures that now make up our melting pot, so it's great to enjoy the food from the group that may have flown under the radar but has maintained a constant presence.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Rad Rosh

Last night, Matt and Jen invited me, Greg, Susan, and Richard, honorary Jew to their apartment for Rosh Hashanah dinner. I may not have made it to services this year (sorry, Grandma), but I made sure to celebrate the holiday by sharing a lovely, home-cooked meal with friends and family. I also made sure to take a picture of the challah for proof to show my Mom that we incorporated blessings (and thus some semblance of the actual holiday) into the holiday meal.

We started with matzah ball soup. It was amazing. I know it was amazing because I actually ate the entire bowl. I never do that. Typically, I eat half a ball (please contain dirty comments) and slurp a spoonful of broth to be nice, but then leave the rest and wait for the real part of the meal to start. Not last night. The broth was filled with yummy spices, parsnips, and firm matzah balls. I prefer hard balls (again, please keep the dirty comments in check), so this was my kinda soup.

Next up, we had brisket, brussels sprouts, and sweet kugel. Everything was amazing and Matt and Jen get a big round of applause for putting together a holiday meal that would make any Jewish Grandma proud. My contribution was the challah. When I asked Jen what I could bring, she texted either the challah or chocolate babka and Susan would bring whichever I didn't. I responded that I would pick up the challah since I didn't know what a babka was. Jen was appalled that I didn't know, considering there is a Seinfeld episode devoted to it. Well, now I've tried it (warm, with berries) and think it's pretty good. For your viewing enjoyment, I've included a clip of the episode:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: Girl in Translation

I'm not into chick lit, so this was my version of a beach read, as it was interesting enough and a super quick read.  This debut novel from Jean Kwok follows a young girl, Kimberly, and her mother after they immigrate from Hong Kong.  While Kimberly is unbelievably smart, she must succeed while hiding the fact that she lives in filth and moonlights at a sweatshop - something I can not even begin to relate to, which is why I was intrigued.  I enjoyed the subject matter, but I felt the writing was not quite as sophisticated as that of Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls), a favorite author.  It was not as dramatic as I would have hoped, but it really came together at the end.  

Review: 6 out of 10 stars

Fab Fiore's

We needed to fuel our bellies before heading out of the city for the Labor Day weekend and Gav wanted sandwiches.  Since we were leaving from Hoboken (still a pretty foreign place to me), I was unable to contribute any suggestions, but luckily, Gav had us covered and insisted we grab food from Fiore's.

This place is legit.  They've been around since 1913 and have perfected the art of mozzarella.  Gavin sent Steph and I in to grab three sandwiches, his only requirement that they all have mozzarella.  I followed Steph's lead and grabbed three baguettes from a bin that we brought up to a counter.  Steph did all the ordering, which was best because I was still taking everything in.  We decided on one with roast beef, one with prosciutto, and one "Italian Special"- all with mozzarella, of course.  We had each drizzled with some oil and vinegar and that was it.  The total came to around $35, which is nothing considering each sandwich was actually two full sandwiches.  You had to reeeeally push yourself to eat more than a half.  Trust me, I tried because I didn't want to stop eating the Italian Special (roasted red pepper, mozz, salami, prosciutto), but my tummy is only so big.

I'm thinking of taking a little trip on the Path back to Hoboken just so I can have another sandwich from this place.
(This is a 1/2 sandwich)


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