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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Melt

Do you remember this Duracell commercial?  It is probably a distant memory since so few devices require batteries nowadays (praise be the iPod!), but I was recently reminded of this creepy tv spot because I really needed to recharge my batteries.  I have been running around for weeks and was starting to feel like the Grandma who passes out in her pasta.  I needed a serious energy boost and with so many friends out of town this weekend, I decided to seize the opportunity to become a recluse for three days.  I talked to no one and spent the time reading, watching movies, and laying out at the park.

Since I was parked on my couch for a large chunk of the weekend, I watched a lot of cooking shows.  By Sunday, I had to make one of the recipes I had seen on TV.  But which lucky Food Network chef would I choose to emulate?   Ding ding!  The winner was Emeril with his tuna melt and salad.

I’m pretty boring when it comes to tuna salad – I just like the tuna fish and mayo and won’t touch it if I see celery so I left out the majority of Emeril’s mix-ins.  I did, however, like one of his additions so I threw some capers in there for a little salt.  Emeril’s best suggestion was the cheese – brie.  After a few minutes in the sauté pan, the brie got extra creamy.  It put the melt in tuna melt and took the American classic into international territory.  But don't think that this tasted like mush just because there's creamy cheese on top of a mayonnaise-based tuna.  Thanks to a nice coating of butter, the bread got browned and crispy in the pan, providing a bite along with the creamy middle of the sandwich.  

 I also followed Emeril’s lead when it came to the side salad.  I tossed hearts of palm, avocado, and tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It might sound bland with its lack of dressing, but all this needs is good olive oil, salt, and pepper to bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables.  It is the ultimate easy Summer salad. And that's a good thing; because I plan to have the ultimate summer. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Basic Brown Butter

It was a little strange to get back to cooking after a long weekend of restaurants with my parents, but it was time for some real food.  I eased back into the cooking game with fish over quinoa on Tuesday night, but by last night, I was ready to really get in there.  My parents helped me stock my fridge before they left, and one the things they treated me to was fresh pasta from Eataly. 

This season, they have a pea and mint ravioli that looked too good to pass up.  I wanted something light and Springy that would let the fresh pasta shine.  I decided to top it with some sauteed asparagus and instead of a heavy cream or tomato sauce, I made brown butter.  I had never made brown butter and didn't really understand how it worked.  Every time I put butter into a hot pan, it seems to just melt away - never more than a deep yellow color.  Where does this brown come from?  Sure enough, if you put enough butter in the pan and let it go for about five minutes (while whisking), it turns brown and gives off a nutty aroma with the taste to match.  I poured the brown butter over the pasta and asparagus and topped with some parmesan.  It was superb.  Just goes to show you that the simplest meals made with quality ingredients (i.e.: fresh pasta) don't need to be anything crazy.

For this dish, sauce-less was the way to go.  Not only did it work with the pasta, I learned a new technique.  I hear the phrase brown butter tossed around in restaurants all the time so I suppose now I can hang with the big dogs.  Woof.

Mediterraneo Meal

I can't believe I forgot about Mediterraneo.  The food is simple but well prepared and the atmosphere - when you can sit outside in the European-type cafe space - is a joy.  Since my parents weren't flying out til late on Monday night, we were actually able to stuff three full meals into our schedule.  The final meal of the trip had to be Italian.  After all, first I denied my father Little Italy in favor of Chinatown and then on Monday afternoon, while picking up some groceries at Eataly, I witnessed the following exchange at the pasta counter:
  • Random Woman: ...and half a pound of the squid ink fettuccine
  • Daddy: [leaning over me] ooo yea.  
  • RW: Excuse me?
  • Daddy: [licking lips] That's the bomb right there. 
Forget the fact that my father still uses the phrase "the bomb", he was clearly jonesing for some quality Italian food and I knew I had to make it right.  They had to head to the airport at 7:30 and we wouldn't be hungry til around 6:30.  Since the dinner window was pretty small, I racked my brain for good Italian within walking distance.  Oh yes!  Mediterraneo!  We made sure to get a table where we could watch people strolling the Upper East while we nibbled on Italian fare.  I got a goat cheese and eggplant pizza prepared just how I like it - extra thin crust and very light sauce.  My Daddy got the squid ink pasta arabiata with shrimp (he couldn't get squid ink off the brain) that had a nice al dente bite and my Mommy had a caprese salad.  If I'm not mistaken, I heard my father call the meal "authentic". 

Would I tell you to travel from Tribeca for Mediterraneo?  Probably not, because you hopefully have your own neighborhood eatery that will hold up.  However, if you happen to be in my [far superior] Upper East neighborhood and craving Italian, remember this place.  It was the perfect last meal with my parents, but hopefully it won't be my last meal at Mediterraneo.

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

I admit, I have not seen as many Woody Allen films as I would like, but I am told "Midnight in Paris" is quintessentially him.  Woody or not, I loved it.  It was wistful and romantic but not in a romance movie sort of way.  The love was less for people, more for a city and a lifestyle - which I think is the one true love.  Maybe I just haven't found "it" yet, but I have never felt for a person what I have for a city.  A hot guy may make me perspire a bit, but New York and Paris (and even my lowcountry home) have made me weak in the knees. 

Woody Allen captures the electromagnetic force that has made these cities not just a home but a part of me.  I find a kindred spirit in Owen Wilson's character and an enemy in Rachel McAdams' (though she and the other supporting characters play their roles with a simple elegance).  Sometimes, I, too, yearn for another time and/or place and this movie made the act of yearning (as much as the time and place yearned for) beautiful.

Oh and there is a ridiculous cast.  Famous people galote.

Seafood in the Garden

On Sunday night, my parents and I went to Chinatown for some good Chinese grub.  It was only when there were about four grains of rice left in my bowl that I realized I forgot to take pictures, so I apologize that you can't view the delicious food we ate.  I know of a few good places in Chinatown, but for various reasons, they weren't going to work out for us, so I did a little research.  After reading that chefs like David Bouley head to Oriental Garden for top Chinese seafood, I figured it was a good place to try. 

We started with a couple of dumplings - quality dim sum - though my favorite was the complimentary pickled veggies they put on the table at the beginning of the meal.  One of our entrees was a roast duck that came with pork, squid, mushrooms, and more - it allowed us to get a little bit of everything in one dish and was very tasty with very tender meat.  After hearing about the seafood, we decided to get a prawn dish that had peas and some other veggies.  It was wonderful, not over-sauced, and the prawns were huge.  This was super fresh seafood.  Although I only found this place out of frustration for not being able to eat at my usual Chinatown places, it is now being added to the roster.  It was was worlds better than the usual non-Chinatown Chinese restaurant.  My Mommy said she'll never look at her normal take-out place the same way again.

Seconds at Socarrat

My parents don't usually like to visit a place twice when they come to New York.  They figure there is so much great food to try, why miss out on a new restaurant by going back to the food you've already experienced.  They made an exception, however, for Socarrat Paella, a restaurant I've blogged about before.  Since it was Father's Day weekend, this reservation was made particularly with my Daddy in mind (though I am not complaining because it happens to be my favorite restaurant).  And yes, you read that right - Socarrat Paella now takes reservations in their second location (in Nolita), which makes life much easier.  The food is just as good and the space is roomier.

I would actually go as far as to say that my meal was better this time than any other time I have eaten there.  The paella itself was as tasty as always (we got the pescado y mariscos again), but this time we got some new apps.  Our first two appetizers were good (croquetas and garlicy sizzling shrimp) and staples for this cuisine, but the other two were fantastic.

The second I picked up the menu, the scallop carpaccio jumped out at me.  I told (not asked) my parents that we would be ordering it.  I had never had scallop carpaccio (it was prepared ceviche style, I believe), but I liked it - a nice break from tuna tartar.  It was fresh with a nice zing from the flecks of sea salt and a drizzle of paprika oil to bring it back to earth.  All over a bed of avocado.  Everyone at the table agreed it was near perfect.  We were wowed yet again by a braised pork shoulder recommended by the waiter.  After he raved about it for a solid five minutes, we were worried we would disappoint him if we didn't order it.  He was right.  Crispy on the top, falling apart underneath - it was cooked impeccably.  It was a special for the evening, but the waiter said it's being requested so often that it is making its way onto the specials list most nights.  As if the paella wasn't amazing enough, those two apps merited Socarrat Paella its second blog mention.  This may have been a Father's Day dinner, but I can confirm that the daughter was beyond pleased.


Thanks to the weather, my parents' flight was delayed on Friday so they didn't arrive in NYC til 2 AM.  On the upside, they found a new hotel one block away from my apartment so I was still able to greet them upon arrival. Our plan for tapas at the neighborhood wine bar was now out of the question, but we still had to quell their stomach grumblings so we headed to the diner (my personal nearby fave = Ritz) for a late night snack.

Though 11 AM isn't late by NYC Saturday morning standards (most people are still sleeping off their Friday night), we made sure we were out the door by then so we could head to Williamsburg for a food fest.  I have written about the Brooklyn Flea and all the great food there, but I have yet to tell you about what happens in that very same location just one day prior to the Flea.  Why waste that great Williamsburg space on the day the flea market takes over a different Brooklyn location?  Furthermore, why not do away with the stuff and make room for more food, since that's the best part anyway?  While the flea market set up camp elsewhere on Saturday, the Williamsburg space is flooded by tents as well - but this time it's only food vendors.

After scanning the options, we split up so we could conquer as many vendors as possible before the lines got out of control.  I think the total came to around $45 and with that, we ate the following:
  • Pork Pupusa (I wrote about this in my Brooklyn Flea entry and knew my parents would love it - I was right)
  • Sunday Gravy: this is some guy who makes "gravy", which I know understand is a tradition in any self respecting Italian household.  It's basically pasta sauce that's been groovin all day and includes sausage, maeatballs, braised pork, and beef.  At this stand, you can buy a jar of it for $15, which seemed like a lot until I realized one jar is a full meal for at least four people.  If you wanted to eat it there, like we did, you could get it on a sandwich or over pasta with parmesan and ricotta.  We went with the pasta (homemade by another Smorgasburg vendor) and it was the best thing I ate all day.  If you buy a jar of this stuff, I guarantee you could compete with any Italian restaurant in the city.  
  • Vietnamese Crepe: Crepe filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and other goodies.  It was served with greens so you could make a wrap and a sweet and spicy sauce that tied it all together.  I've never had Vietnamese street food, and although this was not the best dish of the day, it whet my appetite for Vietnamese food..
  • Mac and Cheese with Dandelion Greens: good and creamy, but not as good as other mac and cheeses I've tried around the city, S'mac still coming in as the champ in my opinion.  I will, however, award points for presentation.  The mac was served in a bamboo paper cone - very cute.
  • Chorizo Sandwich: Served on perfectly crusty bread and reminded me of the merguez sandwiches I used to eat in France.  The chorizo was good; the bread made it.
  • Desserts
    • Cupcake
    • Frozen banana dipped in melted chocolate (which then froze on the banana) and rolled in nuts
    • People's Pops (strawberry basil flavor)
  • Drinks:
    • Bubble Tea
    • Arnold Palmer
We walked our food over to the little grassy area and splayed our finds on a bench, astonished by how much we were able to get for less than $50.  Go forth, my sons and hit up Smorgasburg, but make sure you go early enough to beat the crowds and get the best goods and go with a friend so you can try as much stuff as possible.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Squash Pasta

Last night was a make-something-outta-nothing night.  I had a lot of random ingredients in my fridge/freezer.  Plenty of snacks, not much dinner material.  I had some frozen organic butternut squash chunks that I found at Whole Foods a week or two ago.  I didn't know butternut squash could be done in a microwave steam-fresh bag.  Only at Whole Foods.  Please note: though the squash was organic, please don't think I really care about that sort of thing.  When it comes to the organic debate, I figure I haven't died yet eating the "bad" stuff, so I'm probably cool.

Anyway, I steamed the squash in the microwave directly in the bag (one less dish to wash - yay) and added it to a bowl of linguine.  I then tossed in some pine nuts, pasta water, cream, parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  The dish took about eight minutes total to make.  I pulled this recipe out of nowhere - and truth be told, I was nervous about putting butternut squash in pasta, worried the textures wouldn't work.  Not only did the textures work (and the pine nut crunch was crucial here), the flavor was great.  The nutmeg was pretty important.  If you don't have this spice in your cabinet, wait until you buy it to make this dish.  

I usually like fresh vegetables, but when you can go to a place like Whole Foods and find some more unique veggies in the freezer section, it's nice to stock up so you can create a last minute dinner if you need one.  I also ALWAYS have pasta and fresh parmesan on hand because if I have those two ingredients I can almost always figure out a way to make a good dinner.  Fill your kitchen with these ingredients and you'll never have to worry about overpaying or waiting for takeout.   

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pure Love

Typically, when we meet reps for lunch in my biz, we go someplace fancy and take advantage of those oh-so-fun expense accounts.  Fancy can be nice, but I follow the food, regardless of the setting.  Today, I was meeting a rep who happens to also be a friend so I knew she wouldn't freak out if I suggested something a little more laid back and ethnic so I threw out Pure Thai Shophouse and as I suspected, she was totally up for it.

I had read that Pure Thai Shophouse was the best Thai on 9th Avenue - a bold statement because there are a LOT of Thai places on 9th.  I had to see what made this place stand apart from the others.  Pad Thai is Pad Thai, right?  Wrong.  The appetizer offerings were good but standard.  The main course selection, however, included some dishes I had not seen on a Thai menu before now.

We sampled some apps, but the best was our entrees.  Mallory got pad thai and I ordered the special but asked for a little extra spice.  I don't remember what it was called, but there was shrimp, shiitake, glass noodles, ginger, snow peas, tomato, and jasmine rice.  Sorry about the picture - I was mid-meal when I remembered to snap it.  It was a wonderful departure from my typical pad see ew.  The ingredients were fresh and the noodles light so I didn't enter my typical post-Thai food coma.  The portions were ample and at lunch available for a mere $8 - pretty tough to beat.  Between the prices, the portions, and the variety of dishes, I think Pure Thai Shophouse is the current Thai ruler of 9th Avenue.

Book Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I didn’t want to like it, I really didn’t.  People evangelize Dave Eggers’ work like it was penned by the Good Lord, himself.  I didn’t want to drink the Kool-Aid.  I’m better than that, I thought.  My tastes are more discriminating and I will not succumb to a mere craze in the literary world.  He just can’t be that fabulous.

Oh, but he is.  Eggers’ slightly fictionalized account of raising his younger brother after his parents both die from cancer around the same time is powerful.  Yes yes the story is interesting and sad, but what makes it great is the unique writing style.  Eggers is boldly self-aware and often breaks down the fourth wall to discuss the book’s themes.  His stream of conscious style is a constant reminder that he is still a young man in his early to mid twenties and no amount of circumstance will re-wire that.  He is funny, suave, and frustrating as hell – in other words, completely captivating.  Take my advice and don’t wait as long as I did to read this book.    

9 out of 10 stars

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bluegrass, Bourbon, BBQ, and...Broccoli

This weekend was the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, an event I look forward to every year.  Since I had just come from brunch, I wasn't super hungry but I wasn't going to miss the chance to soak up a little of the South.  The timing of my arrival was perfect.  My friend Daniel was visiting from Chicago and when I got to Madison Square Park, he was on a break between meat runs, so I didn't need to worry about stuffing my face when I was already full.  Instead, we did something that was a little more my speed.  We drank bourbon.

Many New Yorkers know 11 Madison Park as one of the city's fanciest restaurants.  During the Big Apple BBQ, however, the patio area becomes a casual spot to have a few drinks and listen to a live bluegrass band.  Since the weather turned ugly halfway through the festival, it was nice to be seated underneath an overhang with drinks to warm our bellies.  Though I've enjoyed this event every year, my experience this year was different and maybe a notch better.  BBQ is great, but it's even better when enjoyed alongside good music and a nice mint julep.

On my way home, I realized I needed to pick up something for supper, but I didn't want to deal with the crazy bbq lines while it was still raining.  Instead, I made a quick detour at my favorite sandwich shop, No. 7 Subs.  I picked up a broccoli sandwich with ricotta salata, lychee muchim, and pine nuts to save for later.  Once again, No. 7 has created a great sandwich where a vegetable takes center stage and I didn't even care that there was no meat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Heart Three Tarts

I don't usually go crazy over sugary stuff and my sweet tooth is discerning - I don't like just anything, but I usually like a little something sweet to finish off a meal.  As I was leaving brunch yesterday, I walked by Three Tarts, a combo dessert and gift shop in Chelsea.  Truthfully, it wasn't the sweets that drew me in, it was the adorable mugs and serving pieces.  Once inside, however, the desserts looked too good to pass up.

They bake everything in their small kitchen on-site and offer tins of most of their goodies to give as gifts.  Everything looked so dainty, and since I only like a little something when it comes to desserts, dainty really appeals to me.  I decided to go with a mini goat cheese panna cotta with blood orange gelee.  This creamy and tart little sparkler was the perfect size to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I may need to find people in need of gifts just so I have an excuse to stop in here again for myself.  

Tipsy Tastes

Carlen's week in New York was coming to an end, but I got in one more meal with her before she left town.  This was one brunch I wasn't going to miss.  Carlen's boyfriend had joined her for the last three nights and I had to give my stamp of approval.  After he picked a good restaurant, he passed my boyfriend test.  

Jeff (the boyfriend) is friends with the chef at Tipsy Parson who helped us navigate the Southern-inspired menu.  The farmhouse decor, view of the greenery outdoors, and Stumptown coffee made this restaurant the perfect place to wake up and start the day.  When we sat down, the chef brought out fresh warm doughnuts, chocolate chip muffin, and cheesy cornbread.  Everything was good, but I probably should have taken it slower because I didn't have as much room leftover for the main event.  Jeff ordered pulled pork spoonbread with eggs and corn souffle, Carlen ordered shrimp and grits, and I got the mushroom toast.  Mine may not sound as exciting, but it was fabulous.  Thick-cut grilled potato bread, topped with a mound of fluffy herbed ricotta, wild mushrooms, and scrambled eggs.  I was disappointed in myself that I couldn't eat it all, but the portions were huge.  That may also be because they brought out a plate of thick-cut bacon halfway through the meal.  Usually I'm not a fan of the thick bacon because it seems people don't cook it as long as I think they should, but this was nice and extra crispy.

Usually I like to go back to a restaurant so I can try the rest of the menu.  In the case of Tipsy Parson, I want to go back just so I can have the mushroom toast again.  Tipsy Parson may have the vibe of a neighborhood spot, but this UES girl will travel to Chelsea zip code for some of their comfort food.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Re-creation Station

Now that I know how to poach eggs, I decided to re-create a dish I had at a restaurant, with my own little twist of course.  Though unplanned, it worked out nicely that the meal I decided to make ahead of time was quick and easy because I ended up staying late at work on Thursday and was ready to eat right when I got home.

I spread the leftover prosciutto from Monday's picnic on a plate, topped with roasted asparagus, carefully placed two poached eggs on top, and drizzled with truffle oil.  The meal took 15-20 minutes to make (the amount of time to roast the asparagus) - that's it.  I'm going to brag for a moment here.  This tasted like a restaurant dish.  Salty from the prosciutto, creamy from the egg yolk, and sturdy from asparagus.  The truffle oil didn't hurt, either.  (When does it ever?)  If I'm able to keep re-creating restaurant meals at home that taste as good as this one, I may never leave the apartment again.

Trompe l'Oeuil

You think that's mashed potatoes in the picture, don't you?  Sorry, Charlie, no dice.  Your eyes deceive you because under the herb marinated salmon you see is a creamy pile of pureed cauliflower.  The consistency is much like good, fresh mashed potatoes but a little lighter so you feel like you're being healthier.  It's a vegetable, but if you prepare it like I did, it's probably not much better for you.

I boiled the cauliflower til soft, mashed with a potato masher, mixed in a little cream and fresh parmesan, and pureed with an immersion blender.  So maybe the cream and parmesan erased all the benefits I added by switching the main ingredient from starch to veggie, but I don't even think it needed the cream so I'll leave that out next time and bingo bango - we're back to healthy.  The parmesan, on the other hand, that stays in - don't even think about taking that out if (when) you make this at home.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cool Cuban

While I was at home blogging, Steph g-chatted me to see what my big birthday plans were.  When I told her I didn't have anything on the books (after all, the big celebration was Saturday night), she was downright appalled.  She was having none of it.  Next thing I knew, I had dinner plans at Coppelia, a new restaurant that conveniently enough was both on my list and right by the PATH for Steph.

Coppelia may look like a normal diner at first glance, but look closer and you'll see Cuban touches like stained glass and an aqua ceiling.  If you do your research, you'll learn Coppelia is run by the guys behind one of my faves, Yerba Buena, which should peak your interest.  After the waiter lists off all the available hard-to-find drinks (Mexican Coke, juices, etc.), your interests should be more than peaked.

Steph and I split an appetizer of Pizza Cubana, which was basically a cuban sandwich on crispy flatbread with pickled onions and spicy mayo.  We also got two sandwiches and split them: the grilled cheese (cheddar, tomato, bacon, and jalapeno) and the cuban (recommended by the waiter).  We made the cuban sandwich a deluxe so we could have some yucca fries.  The food was dang good (pork was nice and juicy) and very reasonably priced (the cuban was huge and only $8).  There are few Cuban restaurants in the city and even fewer that are relatively inexpensive so I think these guys hit it out of the park.

We were extremely disappointed when we got the dessert menu.  We were too full to eat anything but the menu by Pichet Ong was mouthwatering and more extensive and inventive than the typical Cuban choices.  We now know we need to save room next time.  And there will definitely be a next time.

Based on this birthday, I'm thinking 26 is going to be a good year.  Between the party and the food, it has gotten off to a terrific start.  I am so happy to have such amazing friends who pull me away from the blog so I can continue the celebration - just giving me more material to blog about.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gorgeous Gelato

It's here.  Though I started celebrating over the weekend, today is my actual birthday.  I have officially entered my late 20s.  As evidenced by all my posting today, I spent most of my birthday relaxing in the apartment.  Lame, perhaps, but it's my birthday and I'll do as I dang well please.

A little after 4, I decided it was time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful day so I headed to 10th and University to try Amorino, the new gelato shop that opened last week.  Not only is the gelato tasty, it's art.  Don't just settle on one flavor.  Choose as many flavors as you want and they'll pile it onto a cone in a floral design.  Since I was getting a small cone, they suggested a max of three flavors so I went with salted caramel, speculoos (a biscuit flavor), and raspberry sorbetto.  I took mine to go and licked my beautiful cone (don't take that the wrong way, pervs) in Washington Square Park while watching the goings on.

The gelato was tasty and refreshing, but I'm not sure it was better than any other gelato.  The presentation, however, made the price worth it for a one time treat (and mine wasn't even as pretty as the others - my scooper seemed to be in a rush).  Though as an Upper East Sider, the ice cream shape was a novelty that probably won't drag me from my hood often.

Baby's Day Out

I took yesterday and today off work for my birthday and wanted nothing more than a great park day.  Because Matt and Jen are busy with a 9 week old baby, I knew they wouldn't be able to attend my party so we made plans to meet up for a picnic.  Central Park is one of my favorite places in the world so I was beyond excited to be a part of baby Avery's first Central Park experience.  We found a nice shady spot where we could watch local kids playing soccer and set up our spread.

We had hummus and veggies, baguette and cheeses (provolone, manchego, blue, humbolt fog, teleggio, and a double cream gouda), prosciutto, sopresatta, sauteed artichokes, wine, watermelon, and pastries from an Italian bakery in Brooklyn.  Avery was a little upset when she realized we got to eat everything and all she got was breast milk.  Just give it a year - as you can see from the photo below, we've got a future foodie on our hands.  When she is old enough to eat real people food, I'll be the first to bring her back to the park for her very own picnic, including wine.  Of course I'll bring the wine - I'm going to be the cool aunt.  Plus, her Mommy was my fake ID, so it seems only fitting.

I had tons of leftovers, so when it was suppertime I used them to create a delicious pasta dish.  I tossed linguine with prosciutto, sauteed artichokes, rosemary, a touch of cream, and parmesan.  It may have been one of those thrown-together dishes, but it turned out great.  After dinner, I watched a favorite movie ("Cruel Intentions") and went to bed dreaming about the birthday to come.

Felice Feast

As the polo match was wrapping up, Carlen called to let me know she had arrived in New York for the week for work so we made plans to meet for dinner and drinks.  I was tired from being outside all day so Carlen was nice enough to make it convenient for me by meeting near my apartment.

We had both eaten late lunches, so we were far more concerned with getting a good glass of wine than the food.  Regardless, we ended up at Felice, a wine bar that happens to serve great food.  Though we are both usually red wine gals, we wanted something light, crisp, and Summery and the waiter steered us in the right direction.  Instead of ordering heavy, we split a small salad (arugula, raw shaved artichokes, shaved parmesan, and hearts of palm), an order of risotto (with burrata, peas, and crispy pancetta), and a chocolate mousse cake.  The food was simple and satisfying and the atmosphere (dark wooden floors, exposed brick, and glass wine cask chandelier) was strictly European.  It was the perfect Summer evening spot that felt entirely local.  If you live in the East 60s, this is a great place to keep in mind for a low key (maybe even romantic) evening.  If you don't live in the East 60s, you should plan to pay me a visit.


Polo Party

How I managed to actually wake up after partying all night, shower, get dressed, and make it to the Governor's Island ferry I will never know, but I did.  I did not remember to set an alarm and when my phone rang at 10:23 AM and I heard Emily's voice on the other end, I debated going back to sleep.  Something inside told me I needed to rally, so i jumped in the shower, threw on a sundress, and made a quick stop at H&M to pick up a fascinator.  For those who were not as engrossed in the royal wedding as I was, a fascinator is a type of hat that's all the rage.  Basically, there was a giant flower coming out of the side of my head.  I rocked the look.

We arrived at Governor's Island, set up our picnic, and commenced our people watching.  Everyone was dressed to the nines in their finest, seersucker, bowties, summer dresses, and wedges.  We must have picked a good spot, because socialite Olivia Palermo was right next to us.  We were surrounded by the most beautiful people I have ever seen and believe it or not, being part of this fancy shmancy affair was completely free.  Neither the ferry ride nor the ferry ride nor entry cost a cent.  There were several food vendors that were cheap (my turkey, gouda, jalapeno mayo sandwich was too big to finish and only $9), but I recommend bringing your own picnic so you don't have to worry about standing in line for food.  The champagne, was pricey ($85+ per bottle or $17+ per glass) so I recommend bringing your own drinks as well (technically not allowed but totally done as long as you don't bring it in the bottle).

Better than the sheer fabulousness of the event was the fact that I finally found where all the Southern and/or preppy boys have been hiding.  I was in heaven!  Finally, boys who know how to dress.  Now I just need to figure out where these boys are the other 364 days of the year.  I'll be back next year to lounge with the beautiful people and maybe land a bowtied boyfriend.
Stomping the divots - just like Pretty Woman

Lowcountry Love

Today is my birthday!  Since today is Tuesday, I knew I wouldn't be partying day-of so the birthday celebration began on Saturday.  A few of us gathered before the party for dinner at Lowcountry because it seemed only fitting for a girl from the Lowcountry to eat at Lowcountry.  The menu included all of my Coastal Southern favorites and I had to try all of it to see how it compared to home.  The verdict: this restaurant does a great job of classing up my favorite Southern dishes.
  • Appetizers:
    • Fried pickles with green goddess dipping sauce
    • Fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce
    • Crab Dip
    • Softshell crab special with black eyed pea salsa
  • Main Courses (everyone ended up trying everyone elses):
    • Shrimp and Grits with cheesy grits, andouille sausage, and spicy tomato sauce
    • Fried chicken biscuit with gravy
    • [Flintstone-sized] bourbon cider glazed pork chop served with peas and mashed potatoes and honestly some of the best collards I've ever had.
  • Desserts:
    • Banana bread pudding - this is not just bread pudding made with bananas; it's bread pudding made with banana bread
    • Pecan Pie Sundae with salted caramel sauce - a messier version of my Mommy's famous dessert.  I may have to make my mom add salted caramel sauce from now on. 
Sorry for not describing every single dish, but my description would have been "great" and "delicious" for everything so I'll just tell you it was all good and that you should go.  If Southern food isn't your thing (and why wouldn't it be), you should go for the $6 PBR + shot of bourbon deal.  That's a happy hour level deal all day long.  On top of that, the wait staff is a plaid-wearing, jovial group that made the meal that much more enjoyable.

This Southern gal was extremely pleased with her birthday dinner choice.  It's cheesey, but the food was wonderful and the company was even better.  I definitely felt special.  Though my choice for the birthday party bar turned out to be not so great (too packed), the relocation to the downtown Galway Hooker worked out perfectly.  I may be sick of the Midtown location of this bar, but this West Village outpost was perfect for a party.  And party we did.

Summer Supper

Even though last week was a short week because of Memorial Day, it was jam-packed with events and client meetings so when I got one night to myself, I needed to spend it at home, preparing a meal.

The meal started with a Summer corn salad that I made up while daydreaming at work.  I tossed together corn, radishes, ricotta salata, avocado, and a lemon vinaigrette.  It was fresh and seasonal and the ricotta salata set me on an Italian-style path.  For the starch, I roasted potatoes with rosemary and tossed with some truffle oil to give it a strong flavor without any effort.  For the main course, I picked up some Chilean sea bass but didn't have any Italian-ish marinade.  Thankfully, inspiration hit as I browsed the aisles of Whole Foods.  I went to the anipasto bar and grabbed some peppadew peppers, marinated artichokes, and some of the juice they were sitting in.  All I had to do when I got home was pour that over the fish and bake.  Healthy, delicious, and meal-theme-appropriate.

My meal came together so nicely that it made me forget how stressed the week had made me.  Everything tasted great - I would even use the corn salad over the fish (or chicken or portobella mushroom, or whatever other protein I use in my meal).  It just worked.  In fact, I am hereby recommending it for your next summer meal.

Sleep No More

Last Tuesday I went to Sleep No More, an interactive theater experience.  I can't really describe it, and I don't want to.  I went in knowing nothing, and I recommend everyone else go in blind as well.  All I'll tell you is that for 2.5 hours you wear a mask, don't speak, and explore four floors of a building that has plenty of nooks and crannies.  I will also tell you that it is incredibly sexual.  I saw penis.

Don't be scared by the penis remark.  It's an amazing experience and I highly recommend you check it out.  Sorry, you're not getting anymore details out of me.

Treehouse Treat

If you're in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and it's nice out, I highly recommend Treehouse, an adorable little place tucked away in a neighborhood that has the perfect deck for brunching.  Eggs Sardou - basically eggs florentine with the addition of artichokes.  It came with roasted breakfast potatoes, but I recommend you try the potato salad.  I'm not usually wild about potato salad, but this vinegar-based one was great.  The potatoes were just firm enough and it was perfectly dressed.

After brunch, I went to Megan's pool to get some color before the wedding.  I am a firm believer that a tan is the best accessory and a couple hours of laying out gave me the glow that pulled my outfit together.  While at the pool, we watched a group of people playing beer pong on a floating beer pong table.  It was an inspired contraption and I must have one.  I also must have a pool...

Brunch was great (especially the large mimosas that only set me back $4.50 a pop), but nothing could beat the wedding.  Heather and Jason - I wish you all the happiness in the world and I am so happy I was able to celebrate with you.  I am also so happy you threw an afterparty - I am definitely filing that idea away for my own future wedding.

Hell Yea to Hill Country

In addition to getting Memorial Day off work, I also had the Friday before as a free day, so I decided to get all my errands done before leaving Saturday morning for Heather and Jason's wedding (more on that later).  Of course it wasn't all boring errands (it never is with me) - I had to sneak in a restaurant from my list.  I think Hill Country BBQ is fine but not totally my bag.  It's Texas-style bar-b-que, which is very different from BBQ from the Southeast.  BBQ just isn't BBQ if pulled pork isn't involved, and unfortunately, Hill Country is all about brisket.

Hill Country Chicken, on the other hand, is more my speed.  Fried chicken is something I can definitely get behind and their menu and the line outside had me thinking they knew what they were doing.  I was going to get a fried chicken meal until I saw a fried pimento cheese sandwich on the menu.  What?!  We all know how much I love pimento cheese sandwiches so there was no way I was missing out on this.  It was nice and gooey, but I have to say, there is still something nostalgic and near-perfect about a plain, unadulterated pimento cheese sandwich.  Next time, I'll probably just stick with the fried chicken because I also had a small piece of that and loved it.  It was not of the extra-crispy variety but it had all sorts of spices and us Southerners do not shy away from spice.  It went perfectly with the blistered corn salad I got as a side dish.  Don't worry, there are plenty of unhealthy sides to choose from, but you shouldn't dismiss this salad just because it's not deep fried or creamy.  I am way more of a pie person (vs. cake) and the pie selection looked too good to be true.  For only about $3 I could get a mini pie but I had a tough time choosing just one.  I settled on the blackberry peach and it was amazing.  I'll be back to try the other flavors.  

The best part of my meal was washing it down with a nice, homemade lemonade that came with - brace yourself - free refills.  Unless you're drinking tap water, don't count on getting free refills in Europe or New York City.  More than the fried chicken, the free refills brought me right back home to the South.  Hill Country Chicken, take note: this free refill policy will keep me coming back again and again so never get rid of it.

Gleecap: Diva-meter - 5/24/11 Episode

I'm so sad there's no more Glee for the season but before we start crying, let's get into the Diva-meter of the season finale:

  • Rachel knows everything there is to know about Broadway - there's no way she would buy Cats tickets. -1
  • Quinn takes quite the whack at Rachel during the pillow fight +1
  • Finn and Rachel's date takes them from Central Park to Midtown West to the West Village.  That's barely do-able if given all day.  -1
  • Quinn flips out and it's awesome - nice acting chops.  She's most concerned that she's the popular girls but sadly even Zises hooks up and she's alone.  +1
  • Song Recap: 
    • The main two non-original songs of the episode ("I Love New York" and "For Good") fit perfectly. +2
    • The original songs also worked (I'm lumping the Matthew Morrison song in this category although technically it was a plug for his new album). +2
    • Um Vocal Adrenaline is not supposed to do an original song; that's New Directions' thing.  -1
  • Finn seems a bit over-confident about his kissing abilities.  -1
  • Santana goes on a Spanish rant!  +2
  • At the end of the previous episode, Quinn cryptically insinuated that she had big plans for New York.  I thought there was going to be some major glee club sabotage going down but all she did was cut her hair.  -1
  • +1 for all the cute couple-ness: Blaine gazing at Kurt with his chin in his hand, Kurt and Rachel bonding over New York, Mercedes and Sam's budding courtship, Santana and Brittany's peaceful come-to-terms moment, and finally, Rachel finally realizing that it's stupid not to date when she doesn't graduate for another year.
  • I would totally see a "Pip Pip Hooray": a Broadway Musical about Pippa Middleton.  +1
Total: 5 --> Though totally absent of great Sue Sylvester lines (thankfully she satisfied us in the previous episode), this episode was still a very pleasant way to bring the season together and set us up for Season 3.  Though it's not looking good for Jesse St. James - the biggest diva of them all - the glee kids diva'd it out all over NYC.  I'm going with Elton John for this episode's diva counterpart.  He does the ballads and the poppy stuff and you always feel good and calm after listening.


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