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Tuesday, February 28, 2012


If you ever want to find a good burger, Matt Greenberg is the person to call.  He has made it his goal to try every [good] burger in the city so when we were meeting up with Brad and wanted some gastropub food, we let him do the picking.  He led us to Whitman's at 9th and 1st, one of the few burger places that didn't feel too gimmicky.

The sides all looked great so we ordered four of them.  You'd think that was excessive, but we ate them all, so I think it was just right.  The fried pickles were sliced very thin and very lightly fried - the most chip-like fried pickles I've ever had.  The chipotle dipping sauce was good as always, but then it was on to something else with a sauce: blue cheese fries.  You could tell they used good quality blue cheese and made their own dressing from scratch.  This was neither just crumbled blue cheese nor overly creamy bottled dressing.  Cheese fries are common on a menu; blue cheese fries...not so much, but they should be.  We also ordered sweet potato fries.  They were good but not as exciting as the first two appetizers or our final choice: crack kale.  The kale was fried so it was all crispy and slightly sweet.  It disintegrated on your tongue like cotton candy.  Do I need a deep fryer to make this happen?  If so, I should invest in one or perhaps just go back to this restaurant more often.

Then it was burger time.  Matt got the Juicy Lucy, the signature burger that's stuffed with pimento cheese and topped with special sauce.  The stuffing didn't jump out at you so this just tasted like a very good quality burger.  Brad picked the Revis, which had cheddar and horseradish sauce.  I'm not sure why I haven't tried this combination before, but it works on roast beef so it only makes sense that it would be a beautiful match for a burger.  Finally, I got the PB&B, which stands for peanut butter and bacon.  Another combo I've never thought of for a burger but boyyyy was it good.  The burgers were also perfectly sized.  Small enough that you can finish it all, but big enough that you're more than satisfied.  Another bonus: the drinks are reasonably priced.  This is definitely worth a trip, but bring cash because that's the only form of payment accepted.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jammin Salmon

My mother very recently gave up her flip phone and is now the proud owner of an iPhone.  I'll admit, I didn't think I would see her using it for more than a phone, so I was shocked to get an email from her detailing the salmon recipe she found on her Epicurious app.  My mother had never used the original Epicurious website and now she's found her way onto the app?!  I'm so happy my Mommy has embraced technology and, more importantly, passed along this great recipe.

You might shrug this off when I describe it to you because it's so ridiculously easy.  Put a little olive oil, salt, and pepper on your salmon and stick it in the oven (it'll probably take about 25 minutes on 400-425). While that's cooking, mix softened butter with lime juice, lime zest, garlic, and chili powder.  The original recipe didn't call for chili powder, but I was feelin feisty so I went with it.  I recommend the addition.  It adds a little smokiness that will make this lime butter all island-y.  Once the salmon comes out of the oven, top it with a dollop of butter and some extra lime zest.  The butter will melt over the salmon for a flavor that is unlike the typical dill, lemon, or caper toppings you usually find on salmon.  Even my father - not a regular salmon eater - liked this one.  The citrus makes it tropical, the chili powder adds depth.  Overall, it will make you rethink salmon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

As American as Apple Tart

It was so nice to have Monday off work for Presidents' Day so I could have an extra day to finish some errands.  But when life hands you a free day, you shouldn't just spend it running errands; so I decided to do a little cooking.  We all know I'll take any excuse to celebrate and a holiday as seemingly pointless as Presidents' Day is enough to get me thinking about a special dish.

I decided I needed to honor our presidents with something all-American and immediately thought of apple pie.  I was a little daunted by the idea of making a crust from scratch - that's too much baking for me and the type of thing I always mess up.  Instead, I decided to make an easy version of a French-style tart.  I unrolled some puff pastry (one of the greatest things to be found in the freezer section) and topped it with apple slices that I had peeled and tossed with lemon juice, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Why did I use brown sugar instead of regular sugar and cinnamon?  Because that's what I had in the house and I found a recipe saying it would work so it meant one less ingredient to buy.  After arranging the apple slices on the pastry, I brushed the edges with an egg wash so it would get that gorgeous brown color.  Then I baked it for about 20 minutes at 415 and that was it.  

It's amazing how presentable this dessert looks for how little effort it requires.  Want to make it look even more impressive?  You have a couple garnish options: drizzle with caramel, dust with powdered sugar, a dollop of whipped cream here, a scoop of ice cream there...any combination of these accoutrements will work.  After I spotted a dark chocolate salted caramel sauce in the grocery store, I knew I found the perfect topping.  Soooo good and made even better by my sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Forget the prez; with this dessert, I'm pretty sure I could run the country.
Just out of the oven

After I scandalized it with toppings

Thursday, February 23, 2012

3 on Thursday

This week has been electric with anticipation of a major upcoming trip.  Here's what's buzzing through my head:
On Saturday, I gave Matt and Jen a date night while I babysat Avery.  Though they saw a good movie and ate a great sushi meal, I think I scored the better end of the deal.  Matt had left a huge pan of delicious baked ziti on top of the stove, made with all local ingredients found in their Brooklyn neighborhood.  Before indulging in two bowls of it, I had a couple hours to play with the cutest gal around.  Avery and I had a pretty fabulous date night ourselves.  PS - if you're looking for new baby books, Is Your Mama a Llama is a clear favorite - I read it three times.

This sauce is the BUSINESS.  Most chocolate sauces aren't dark chocolate, so it wins points right off the bat.  But then to add sea salt caramel?!  In love.

The biggest thing going on in my life right now is my upcoming trip to Israel with Birthright.  Everything I've heard has led me to believe that this will be the trip of a lifetime.  Over the course of 10 days, I'll trek all across the country and experience a culture that is vastly different from my own.  I leave on Sunday and am about ready to jump out of my skin.  I don't fully know what to expect so I can't wait to get back and tell you all about it.  Don't worry, I've been stockpiling blog posts that will automatically upload while I'm away so it's not like I'm leaving you high and dry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Inspiration Station: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

Yes, I know last month's Inspiration Station was also a John Hughes movie, but I couldn't resist using Ferris Bueller as February's inspiration once this teaser clip came out:
Could it be?!   A modern day Ferris adventure is exactly what the world needs.  Sadly, no.  While we now know this was just the beginning of a longer Super Bowl commercial for Honda, it still got me thinking about some things you might enjoy:

  1. The Dish: When they try to eat at a fancy French restaurant, Ferris impersonates Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago so sausage had to be the base of my dish.  I decided to make a potato and sausage gratin using apple chardonnay chicken sausage.  I used a mandolin to get perfect thin potato slices and then cut the sausage into 1/4" thick slices.  Make sure you grease your casserole dish so you can actually get the tasty potatoes out once it's cooked.  I layered the potatoes like shingles, topped with a layer of shredded cheese (gruyere is the classic gratin cheese, but I used another aged cheese that I found because it was less expensive but still provided that earthy flavor), sprinkled with chopped cipollini onions, added a layer of sausage, and then repeated.  After two full layers of everything, I added one more layer of potatoes and reserved some cheese for the end of baking.  To lighten it up, I used half and half instead of cream (pour until it's about 3/4 of the way up the dish) and then baked it at 350 for a little over an hour.  In the last 15 minutes, sprinkle some more cheese on the top and finish cooking until the potatoes are soft and the cheese is browned.  It'll need to sit out for a few minutes to tighten up, but once it does, you're in for a treat.  This is so much better than the gratins you find at steakhouses because you get to add your own fun ingredients and control how fattening it is.  Using a strong, aged cheese adds a ton of flavor so you don't need too much of it to get the taste you want (despite what those steakhouses try to make you think) and I can now tell you that heavy cream isn't necessary to get the flavor you want.
  2. The Doodads:
  • Sloane wears a great fringe jacket throughout the movie that, thankfully, is back in style.  I'm a big fan of fringe in unexpected places so it doesn't look too line dance-y, but I'm already over the fringe hobo bags and boots that were so popular a year or two ago.  This bathing suit top uses fringe to add sex appeal on the beach without showing too much skin.  Unfortunately, I already forgot where I found this so you'll have to do some searching online.
  • I still have not realized my dream of commandeering a parade float and leading the crowd in a crazy singalong, but I'm pretty sure the feeling is the same as the one I get at karaoke.  New York is filled with karaoke bars where you can fill a private room with your friends and belt it out for a few hours.  One of my new favorites is Radio Star Karaoke because of the great drink specials.
  • Every day can't be a parade day, but I recommend incorporating some confetti or streamers into your home to make it extra cheerful.  I'm a big fan of these garlands from Confetti System that remind me of the parade floats and get me in the mood for a little Twist and Shout.
  • I did the shower faux-hawk for years after I first saw this movie.  I may not have fully matured out of this phase, but I have moved beyond No More Tears shampoo.  I still don't use fancy shampoos, but a hairdresser recently used Bumble and Bumble's Surf Spray on my locks, and I was pretty pleased with the results.  It may not be faux-hawk, but beachy waves is a look I may actually be able to rock outside the shower.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saltie and Skee-Ball

Matt's birthday last weekend was an all-afternoon affair at Full Circle Bar, the skee-ball bar in Brooklyn.  A fun day at the bar will always last longer if the bar comes with games, which means we stayed there for several hours.  I now know that, like beer pong, skee-ball abilities are at their best at about the 2-3 drink moment.  After that, you just get sloppy, which is why we decided to walk around the corner to Saltie to re-fuel halfway through and stay steady at that 2-3 drink point.

This tiny sandwich shop is for take-out only, which means you need to be careful because the second you walk out with your sandwich, you'll be harassed by people who want a bite.  I tried the Clean Slate, which had hummus, bulgur, pickled veggies, and yogurt on naan bread.  It was a huge, deliciously messy ordeal that will only set you back $9-$10.  At first I thought it was a little too mushy with all the hummus, but then the pickled veggies pop up and are like "hello, we thought you could use a little liveliness."  I also tried a bite of another vegetarian sandwich on focaccia and thought it was even better.  It's those pickled veggies that make these  sandwiches so good.  The folks at Saltie don't worry about scaring people away with ingredients like pickled veggies, sardines, or chicken liver.  More sandwich shops need to take note.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: The Murder of the Century

Paul Collins' murder mystery is riveting because it's entirely true.  The Murder of the Century is the historical account of an 1897 murder that enraptured the entire city of New York.  After pieces of a corpse are found in separate packages around the city, New Yorkers went wild trying to determine who the victim was and who could have committed the crime.  It was all anyone could talk about for months due to the involvement of two of the biggest newspapers of the time, the New York Journal and the New York World.  These papers, helmed by the Hearst and Pulitzer families, respectively, embroiled themselves in the case as much as the police as they each tried to take out each other with more and more salacious headlines.

As interesting as the case itself is, another draw to this book is reading about the same streets I walk down every day and how different they were 115 years ago.  It is hard to believe people used to be able to swim in the East River or that the top of the city used to be all woods with nary a shack in sight.  I don't typically read historical works, but Collins keeps the reader's attention by writing it as a novel.  I suppose this time in history at the turn of the century was so exciting, the truth is more interesting than fiction.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beecher's Cheesers

When it comes to cheese shops, I'm pretty loyal to Murrays, but there's a new guy in town that's offering some interesting competition.  When it comes to straight cheese selection, Murray's still wins out, but when you want a fun meal, Beecher's is the place to go.

When you walk into the Flatiron cheese temple, you'll be in the shop and cafe area.  I immediately walked downstairs into the Cellar where I grabbed the last table and enjoyed the setting while I waited for Amy.  Just as you would assume, the Cellar is dark with tea lights stuffed into bricks and low wooden tables filling up the simple space.  Lucky for us, we arrived in time to take advantage of happy hour, which lasts until 7 PM.  The happy hour specials include $5 glasses of wine, $6 specialty cocktails, and a $7 version of the cheese plate.

Amy went with the wine, but I had to order the specialty cocktail when I realized that for only $6 I would be able to sample one of the bartender's creations that was much more involved than any cocktail found on a typical happy hour menu.  On the night we were there, the cocktail was coffee infused vodka with milk and other things that made it taste like a mudslide.  It was rather strong so all I needed was this one cheap drink to get a nice buzz for the evening.  The last item we took advantage of during happy hour was the cheese plate.  Since it's the happy hour version, it's small, but it's a great way to get a taste of what the shop has to offer.  Our mini plate featured Humble Pie (a cow's milk cheese that oozed all over the place) and the restaurant's own jack cheese.  We wanted to branch out beyond the happy hour specials so we opened up the rest of the menu and picked out one of the six mac and cheese options.  We chose one with balsamic mushrooms and fennel.  I love the addition of fennel in mac and cheese when the fennel has been nice and caramelized like this.  The mushrooms were good but a little salty.  There was the perfect amount, but had there been more, the balsamic vinegar would have taken over, so I'm glad they exercised restraint.  I still recommend, however, going to s'mac if you want the best mac and cheese around.  The last thing we ordered was the Brussels sprouts in duck fat with marco polo cheese (a nutty, salty, firmer cheese) and bread crumbs.  Every item on the menu is made with cheese, but there wasn't so much on this one that you felt like you weren't still eating a vegetable.

Every single item on this menu incorporates cheese - that's pretty much my idea of heaven.  I could eat that type of food anytime, but I recommend making sure you go during happy hour.  The dark cellar setting and shareable food will definitely put you in the mood for a couple glasses of wine so you might as well go when you can drink on the cheap drinks and apps.  Murray's will still remain my go-to when it comes to stocking my fridge, but it's nice to have a restaurant that completely satisfies any cheesy craving.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

3 on Thursday

Happy Thursday!  I'm extra happy because tomorrow is a half day and there's no work on Monday, all thanks to Presidents' Day.  Short work weeks always put me in a good mood.  Other things putting me in a good mood:
I thought this year's Grammys were fun to watch, which is good since so  many people tuned in due to Whitney Houston's untimely death the night before the show.  The performances were spectacular and I'm glad Adele took home the most awards of the evening because her soulful voice is identifiable and simply beautiful.  I did, however, want to give Bruno Mars a shout out in this post's picture because I think his sound is fabulous and it's a shame he had to go up against Adele all evening.  But the real thing I want to talk about in this post is the fact that Chris Brown performed.  I will admit, he is an extremely talented performer; but I can not comprehend why the Grammys would allow him to sing and dance in a lavish performance - the essence of glorification - when he bashed in his former girlfriend's face and showed zero remorse.  I'm going to stop before this turns into a full on rant and let the good people from HelloGiggles take over because they say it so well.  Shame on you, Grammys.  You sit atop a musical throne and used your influence to tell the world that abuse isn't really so bad as long as you're a good performer.
Lucky Brits.  The Royal Mail is releasing Roald Dahl stamps.  Like most of you, I grew up on Dahl's imaginative novels and would love to see their illustrations grace my rent check envelopes.  Not that the US has awful stamps - I saw a very pretty one celebrating the year of the dragon - but I'm just a little jealous.  
Yacht Rock is an Atlanta thing.  Every week, these guys dress in leisure suits and aviators and sing cruise shippy songs.  I'm talking so much Hall and Oates.  There's no better way to describe their sound than "smooth".  Concert goers usually dress up in captain's hats,  and I've missed the experience.  Lucky for me (and all New Yorkers), Yacht Rock is coming to NYC about twice a year so we, too, can get groovy.  I highly recommend checking them out - I'm pretty sure they'll be back on cinco de mayo.     

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine Shmalentine 2012

Once again, I found myself single on Valentine's Day.  Not a problem here!  Just like last year, I used the holiday as a reason to prepare myself a special meal.  Last year's Valentine's supper was so delicious I knew I had to step up my game, which means it was theme time.  I decided to prepare three courses, each one featuring some shade of red or pink.  It's only "too cutesy" if you don't deliver on flavor.  My dishes not only fit the day but tasted great, taking this meal from cutesy to creative.

The salad is one I had not made before but will definitely repeat.  I used endive and radicchio as the base and then topped with sliced radishes, halved grapes, and blue cheese.  Grapes and blue cheese are a fabulous combination, made better with high quality blue cheese.  I like to read the little signs with descriptions of each cheese, and when I found one that read "The best blue cheese we have in stock.  If you haven't tried it, now's your chance," I knew it was the one for me.  Turns out, Whole Foods did not oversell.  This cheese was creamy, not too pungent, and evened out the crunchy radishes, endive, and radicchio.  All this salad needs is a light vinaigrette and you're set.

Half of the main course came already prepped from the fish counter - crab stuffed salmon.  True, it turns coral when cooked, but it starts pink.  And no, I didn't make it myself but 1) I couldn't pass up a full serving of crab stuffed anything for under $6 and 2) when you realize what I made as a side dish, you'll understand why I took the easy way out with the fish.  That's right, that is HEART SHAPED RAVIOLI next to the salmon.  Not only did I cut my ravioli into little hearts (using wonton wrappers as the noodles), I created that gorgeous fushia filling by mixing roasted beets, egg, parmesan, and goat cheese.  It's a little hard to tell they're heart-shaped in the picture, but believe me when I tell you this is a show-stopper.  Better yet, it tasted amazing.  Just top with a little butter/oil and parmesan and you will have your beloved eating out of the palm of your hand.  In this case, I was my own beloved but whatever - I turned out to be a great date.

For dessert, I tried to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant recently and topped fresh ricotta with raspberries, almonds, and honey.  Unfortunately, I used a new brand of ricotta that was unusually salty and I didn't candy the almonds like I wanted to (I got out of work late and had to make some sacrifices).  Those small blips aside, it was a good dish that I know would be great with just a few tweaks.

See what you're missing out on, boys?!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mediterranean Rice Bowl

It's very rare that I have a vegetarian meal, but the other night my apartment was totally devoid of any meat so I threw together a rice bowl that was satisfying without the meat and helped me on my quest to be slightly healthier [in preparation of an upcoming trip where I'll have to get into a bathing suit].  This is one of those "throw in whatever you have" meals so the veggie combinations are endless.

Just cook rice and top with your favorite hummus (I'm really liking Whole Foods' jalapeno hummus), add your favorite veggies (I sauteed yellow squash, zucchini, and lotus root with olive oil, salt, and pepper), and then finish it off with crumbled feta.  I bought the lotus root in the freezer section at Whole Foods a while back but never knew how to use it.  It seems like it is mostly used in Asian cuisine, but I think it's versatile enough for this dish.  It is a little tougher without the thick sauces that usually cover it, but the flavor was good and it kept this dish from being too mushy.

I happened to love my veggie choices, but I'm thinking sliced snow peas, cucumber, mushrooms, and pickled veggies would also all work.  I was surprised by how fulfilling this meal was - I highly recommend it on a busy day.  Hummus is one of those things you should always keep in your fridge for a quick and healthy snack, and if rice isn't one of your pantry staples...well I just find that weird.  The rest of the ingredients involve no more than a quick stop at the bodega on the way home.  If I keep going like this, I don't think I'll have anything to worry about in the bathing suit department. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bathtub Gin

One of my brother's best friends was in town last weekend, interviewing for fellowship programs.  I was determined to make my brother proud and show him how amazing NYC can be so we filled the schedule with museums, restaurants, and [of course] bars.  Between dinner and an apartment party on Saturday night, we went to Bathtub Gin, a speakeasy in Chelsea.  Enter through a coffee house and walk into a damask and tin roof-filled bar.  Even the bathroom got the proper decorative treatment.  Communal sinks sit outside stalls that house the type of toilets with a pull flush.  Not sure why, but I found that dang pull flush to be super fun.

Perhaps it was because we arrived before the crowds did, but the bartenders were genial and attentive.  One of them made me a delicious cocktail with gin, raspberry, and egg whites that created a thick, sweet foam.  It kind of tasted like one of those strawberry real fruit popsicles - and I love those things.  The drinks are not cheap, but the atmosphere is fun so it's a great place to have a cocktail or two before hitting up your less expensive, longer term bar for the evening.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Say Wallsé

Ok so I recently ate a great meal but didn't take a single picture of the food.  I was on a second date and there is only so much crazy you can reveal that early so you will have to be satisfied with my descriptions.

Wallsé is an upscale Austrian restaurant in the West Village that has been on my list for a while but previously disregarded because it was just a little too nice (think: $38 entrées).  Never would I have suggested a restaurant so fancy for a first dinner date, but when the reservation was simply made, it was not one I would refuse.  I planned to order conservatively (read: just an entrée) so I wouldn't be "that" girl who just dates around the NYC scene in order to eat well.  My dining companion had other thoughts.  In addition to a very nice bottle of wine and the amuse bouche of trout mousse in a little cone (very fishy and a slightly odd shape to eat, but good), we ordered two appetizers.  The first was scallops with a sweet bacon and mache sauce that wasn't overly fruity like many scallop accompaniments.  Next was spatzle with braised rabbit, wild mushrooms, and corn.  This was my first time trying the doughy egg noodles and I am now in love.  They were lighter than gnocchi with a kind of dreamy creamy texture.  I thought gnocchi had the market cornered on pillow-like starches, but this was practically angelic.  The dots of corn added sweetness to an otherwise very savory and woodsy dish as well as a nice nip to bite down on when the other ingredients, like the rabbit, melted.  It was my favorite dish of the evening.

We ordered a couple à la carte sides (potato, veggies, and spatzle) that I didn't touch because I enjoyed the last app and my entrée so much.  For my main course, I ordered the trout with roasted cauliflower, almonds, and raisins.  Part of the reason I ordered fish was because I feared the meaty Austrian staples would be too heavy.  I mean, even the harsh Arnold Schwarzenegger accent sounds heavy.  Turns out, Wallsé makes these rich, stew-y meals seem practically light.  The portion size is just right, the sauces just thick enough, and the meat perfectly tender that you don't feel weighted down.  Regardless of how unexpectedly light the food turned out to be, I'm still glad I went with fish because the trout had a nice crisp skin and the raisins added a richer sweetness than other fruit would have provided.

For dessert we ordered some sort of layered chocolate and coconut mousse with chocolate ice cream.  It was nice and airy but not as special as the other courses that evening.  They also brought out a plate of mini cookies - don't you love when restaurants do that?  Such a nice touch.  Another nice touch: the artwork.  Award winning director Julian Schnabel lives right across the street and two of his paintings hang on the walls.  If you have the cash and maybe a special occasion coming up, I recommend Wallsé.  I can't imagine it's easy to find fine Austian dining of this quality. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

3 on Thursday

My last full, 5-day workweek before a couple of short weeks and long vacation has been as busy as expected.  Somewhere in the middle of it, I decided it was time to get back to the gym after a very long absence.  Somehow being super busy made it easier to just jump into it - by adopting an "it'll always be busy so no time like the present" attitude, I made it onto the treadmill last night and it felt great.  But then I realized this week has been filled with great things...
Even though my newfound team won this year's Super Bowl, I didn't think it was the best ever.  The game wasn't super exciting, the commercials didn't stand out, and the halftime show was pretty bad.  (Please, Madonna, stop trying so hard to be hip.  You're 53.  I felt like it was watching a concert of "I'm not like the other moms; I'm a cool mom.")  What I did like, was the Super Bowl party.  While the fiances/husbands/boyfriends watched in one apartment, the girls got together in another in Hoboken.  It was really nice being with just the girls - girls who love football, mind you.  We partied potluck style with the football cake balls (shown above) being everyone's favorite (funfetti cake and icing mixed together, dipped in chocolate). 
Photographer Miho Aikawa's latest project, entitled "Dinner in NY", is an intimate view inside New Yorkers' lives as they eat the main meal of the day.  I wonder what sort of image the photographer would capture if she paid a visit to my home during suppertime.  Like the single folk depicted in the collection, you would probably see me eating at the coffee table, watching tv - not because I don't have a real table, but because I like the company.

One of my new favorite blogs/art projects is Paris versus New York, a tally of two cities.  The artist makes a side-by-side comparison of New York and Paris in all sorts of categories.  From directors (shown above) to snacks to animals.  The images may be simple, but they're also cute and accurate.  I'm so glad someone has finally immortalized two of my three favorite cities in one place.  If there was some place where I could find a similar comparison that includes Savannah, I would be completely beside myself.  Now, if I could just pick my favorite, I would buy one.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review: Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Can you really call this a book?  I read it cover to cover during the commercial breaks of an hour-long tv show.  Whatever you want to call it, I found Ilene Beckerman's quick stroll down memory lane to be refreshing.  All major events in Beckerman's life - from dates to divorces - are tied to an outfit.  While I was reading it, I realized I could match every significant memory in my life to what I was wearing at the time.  I remember a special trip to Atlanta to pick out three outfits for my bat mitzvah because Savannah didn't have boutiques at the time.  I remember hating "shiny shoes" at 4 years old so I wore tennis shoes with a fancy velvet dress to the ballet in Atlanta.  I could also tell you what I wore to my first fraternity party, first day of work, and first date with my ex-boyfriend.  All that, and I'm not really into fashion.  There's just something about an outfit that stays with you, defines you even.  Perhaps that's why the off-Broadway show based on this book is so successful.  Do any of you have a favorite outfit linked to a special memory?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thighs Surprise + Orange and Fennel Salad

On a whim, I bought chicken thighs stuffed with apples and cherries at Whole Foods.  I always gravitate toward chicken breasts, but these just called my name.  Partly because they were just so cute and tiny but also because they were so cheap (five stuffed thighs were only about $3.50).  I drizzled them with olive oil and baked til they were cooked through.  I can not even tell you how amazing and cinnamon-y this made my apartment smell.  It smelled the way a fireplace feels.  Does that make sense?  Probably not, but there it is.

I am now re-thinking my dark meat prejudice (racism?).  Since the cut of meat is so cheap, you can afford to stuff it with nicer, richer ingredients without breaking the bank.  I was afraid I left it in the oven too long, but because it was dark meat, it was still super tender.

I'm trying to maintain the healthy new year lifestyle, so I made a salad on the side.  I sliced fennel and spread it over mixed greens with orange segments and avocado.  I had some ricotta left over and thought "why not," so on it went as well.  I made a quick vinaigrette with dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  The fennel has a sweet anise-y flavor, especially when raw.  I hate anise, but because fennel has a great crunchy texture and usually paired with other interesting flavors, I always end up loving it.  This salad is the perfect way to highlight it.  The pop of the juicy citrus, plus the creamy avocado and ricotta, and then the snap of the fennel - it all played off each other in the best way.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Destination: Destination

Last weekend, Ashley introduced me to Destination Bar & Grille, an East Village hangout that will remain on my radar for their great happy hour.  Not only are the drinks cheap, but the happy hour specials last until 8 PM every day of the week - yes, even Saturday.  If that alone doesn't get you down there, then you should be happy to know that the cost efficient cocktails are also tasty. (I tried The Decibel because I can't see a spicy/sweet drink and not order it.)  We weren't ordering food because we were just enjoying a drink or two before dinner, but I glanced at the menu and it looked both good and cheap.  Other good and chep things: jello shots.  We didn't try them because we were attempting to act like decorous young ladies who have already graduated from college...but I'm guessing I'll go back for the $3 gelatinous drinks when I don't have to worry about being too sloppy for dinner.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gnocchi Bake

I used to make gnocchi all the time and then suddenly stopped.  I'm not totally sure why, but I think it has to do with how heavy it can be.  It's the size and shape of pasta, but it's made with potato so if you eat it like a bowl of macaroni, you'll get full fast.  I decided it was time to bring it back into my diet, but needed to apologize to my dear gnocchi for neglecting it for so long so I decided to dress it up in a baking dish instead of a boring old sauce.

After cooking the gnocchi, I lined a large ramekin with it and then topped it with marinara sauce.  Yes, the marinara sauce was from a jar, but I added bacon to it to make it special and smoky.  I then added a couple dollops of fresh ricotta cheese and grated parmesan.  It's all cooked, so I stuck it in the oven just long enough to brown the cheese.

My favorite thing about this meal was the presentation.  Not only did it look cute in the ramekin (would be great for dinner parties), it was automatic portion control.  The addition of bacon gave some extra flavor and substance to this otherwise meat-free dish.  Gnocchi is heavy on its own so adding beef on top of that is a little too much.  Bacon provided the meat flavor without taking up too much space in the tummy.  Since ricotta is sweet, I think combining it with the parmesan is important to add a little salt.

Welcome back to the rotation, gnocchi.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

3 on Thursday

This morning I heard one groundhog saw his shadow but another did not.  I don't know what to do with those mixed signals, but I really hope we're in for an early Spring.  I'm going to hope for the best and keep my spirits high with these Thursday finds:
I found these dark chocolate covered banana chips in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods.  The chocolate seemed more milk than dark to me but they're still yummy enough to satisfy my sweet tooth in just a couple bites.  I actually think I prefer the crunch of these to regular chocolate covered bananas. 
I'm really getting into Instagram, the app that allows you to take artsy fartsy photos on your phone.  But who wants to only look at those cool pics on their phone?  I think it's about time to invest in Blurb, a service that prints your Instagram photos in book form.  The price is reasonable and unlike the other printers out there, the books are large enough (7x7) to actually see the pictures.  How cool would it be to have a coffee table book of your own work?  
I spied this in the cheese case when I was looking for ricotta I needed for a gnocchi dish.  I like supporting local producers as long as the quality is there (which it usually is) and the price is right (which is not always the case).  This "handmade goodness" from Brooklyn was super thick and slightly sweet on it's own.   This was so far removed from the packaged ricotta you usually find. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meatball Sandwich

I usually stay in on Friday nights so I can crash after a long work week.  I typically order in as a little treat to myself, but last weekend I actually cooked since I had defrosted meatballs and needed to use them up.  While I love spaghetti and meatballs, I make it all the time and wanted to do something different - enter the meatball sandwich.  I cooked the meatballs in sauce just like I would for spaghetti and while they simmered away I grated fontina cheese and got the bun ready.  Most meatball subs come on a hoagie, but I went with a kaiser roll because I like that it's just crusty enough but not so thick and hard that  it's tough to get to the meatball.  Here's where my secret ingredient came in.  Last week, my mom sent me a bruschetta seasoning packet that she found at World Market.  I brushed each side of the roll with olive oil and then covered it with the seasoning and toasted it.  Though the meatballs were already seasoned, this gave it the real zip.

The sandwich was perfect.  I highly recommend using a kaiser roll instead of a hoagie so you get the right balance of meat/cheese and bread.  I also recommend using fontina instead of the traditional provolone.  It melts well and is a little nuttier, not so bland.  Tomato sauce is sweet and I never thought provolone has what it takes to stand out in it's overwhelming presence on a sandwich like this.

I wanted a little something on the side so I sauteed asparagus in butter with garlic and lemon zest and mixed it with Israeli couscous and pecorino romano.  It came out well and will be used again as an easy side dish in the future.  I may have made a departure from take out, but don't worry, I still spent the rest of my Friday evening like I usually do, watching my DVR.


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