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Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus

Like the circus itself, the writing of The Night Circus is mystical and enchanting, filled with ornate scenes of ice gardens and paper forests that can only come from the most romantic and whimsical of imaginations.  If this is what runs through author Erin Morgenstern's mind on a regular basis, I would love to take a swim around her head for a while.  To its visitors, the mysterious Cirque des Rêves is a place to live out their childhood fantasies.  However, those who are truly a part of the circus (like the tattooed contortionist, clockmaker, and redheaded twins) are more deeply connected than they realize, as their entire world is the game board for a challenge of strength and magical ingenuity between Celia and Marco, the pupils of two prideful men who deem them disposable.       

It took a while for me to realize that the story jumps back and forth between time periods that converge as you reach the challenge's culmination.  The shifts in time, combined with Celia and Marco's dreamlike illusions, make it seem like you are reading through a mist.  The mist fades as Celia and Marco's challenge comes to a head, the two magicians straining for their independence and the chance to love each other.  It may be billed as a love story, but romance plays a small role in this novel.  It is more about the entwining of fates, the power of storytelling, and the [lack of] limits to imagination.

As the book reaches its conclusion, you feel just as you do when you leave the circus tent: grounded.  With no more acrobats flying above or lions being tamed, everything around you suddenly feels ultra-real and dull and you wonder if you'll have to wait a full year to feel bewitched again.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, September 27, 2012

3 on Thursday

It's finally arrived: my three weeks of crazy begins tomorrow with Steph's wedding weekend.  Did I get everything done with my apartment before leaving town?  Of course not.  Does that stress me out?  Yes, yes it does.  Instead of freaking, I just keep telling myself it will all get done on the week nights between now and October 11th (my ultimate deadline).  In the meantime, I'm keeping my sanity by focusing on the little things that brought me joy this week:
I have decided to grow some of my layers out and my hair is finally getting to a point where I can do fun things with it, like piling it all on the top of my head in a messy bun.  Life is way easier without all the stray pieces falling out.  The next goal is to master the curling iron.

After dinner the other night I couldn't decide if I wanted oreos or fleur de sel caramels so, like any normal person, I decided to have both.  While sitting in front of the TV it dawned on me that I should combine both desserts instead of eating them in sequence.  I sandwiched the soft caramel between the oreos and enjoyed a slam dunk of a dessert.  Try it for yourself and be amazed.

I got my first shellac manicure on Sunday.  I never really understood what was so great about the shellac/gel manicures.  True, they're guaranteed to last at least 14 days, but they're expensive ($30-$50), so I would rather just paint my own nails for about 1/8 the cost.  I only went because a couple friends wanted some girl time and Rebekah had found a coupon for $19.  At that price, I figured it was worth a shot, especially because I had a wedding and trip to DC lined up for the two week time period following the mani.  I don't want to say I'm hooked because at full price, I just can't afford it.  I will, however, say that I'm no longer opposed to it.  These things are indestructible!  I've been banging them all over the place and they haven't come close to getting chipped.  I don't see the need to get one of these fancy manicures on a regular basis, but before a big event it's my new must.  It's worth the cost just so you don't even have to think about messing up your nails right before all those close up pics of you holding your bridesmaid bouquet.  Though I can't compare it to any other place, I recommend Karen's Nails on Lex between 61st and 62nd.  The prices are good, they have a large selection, and Michael, the adorable gay Asian (gaysian?) man who rushes to help you with your selection is an absolute genius with the colors.  I told him I needed something conservative because I was going to a wedding and he mixed up three colors (including a very slight sparkle) to create the perfect shade.    

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunbutter Snack #2

Since my pear/sunbutter/granola snack worked out so well, I tested out another variation for breakfast the other day.  This time, I smeared sunbutter on a rice cake (made with brown rice because a regular rice cake just didn't seem healthy enough) and topped with blueberries.  The creaminess of the sunbutter and juiciness of the berries makes the rice cake less cardboard-y.  In fact, the rice cake became downright tasty once it was hooked up with these flavorful toppings.  It was a great way to start the day and kept me nice and full all morning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Banana Bites

Lindsay and I had planned an evening in to drink wine and watch Modern Family (she needed to catch up on last season's finale before this week's season premiere).  I knew there wouldn't be much time to cook a full dinner, but we didn't want to settle for takeout and Linds needed to use up some veggies before they went bad.  We made a no-lettuce salad with all the produce in Lindsay's fridge (cucumber, bell pepper, shaved carrot, greek olives, mushrooms, pecorino romano, grape tomatoes, and cajun chicken cutlets that I grabbed from the prepared section of whole foods).  There were so many fresh and flavorful ingredients that we dressed the salad simply with oil and balsamic.  It was simple, healthy, and incredibly fulfilling.

Wait a minute - why am I even telling you about this salad?!  Sure, it was fine enough, but a little on the boring side.  And you don't come to this blog for boring.  Don't worry, things got interesting for dessert when we made the opposite of boring: banana bites.  Fresh Direct had sent Linds a bunch of extra bananas and she needed to get rid of them before they spoiled.  If you ask my Mom what she would do in this situation, she would scream "banana bread" (or maybe "chocolate chip banana bread"), but that requires baking so the option was off the table for me.  Instead, we made an easier and healthier treat: frozen chocolate covered bananas.  

It takes no time to melt chocolate chips in a double broiler (use dark chocolate to keep it healthy).  Once it's melted, simply dip 1/2"-3/4" slices of banana in the chocolate and put it on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet to set.  I wanted to top the bites with sprinkles or coconut for color and contrast but couldn't find any at the store.  Instead, we crushed up Oreos for a makeshift topping that didn't look as fun as sprinkles but tasted much better.  By the time we were done eating supper, the banana bites were ready to come out of the freezer.  The bananas take on the texture of really firm ice cream without all the pesky calories.  They may not be terrible for you, but they certainly taste decadent.  They're also perfect for parties thanks to the quick prep time and pop-ability.  By pop-ability I'm referring to the ease with which you can just pop these suckers in your mouth.  It's an important factor to consider.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunbutter Snack #1

I have a couple weekends coming up where I need to look G-O-O-D.  With that as motivation, I am trying my darnedest to eat healthy and exercise for the next few weeks.  I was inspired by some healthy snack suggestions I saw in my latest Real Simple and picked up a jar of sunflower butter (aka sunbutter) to activate.  In case you've never tried it, sunbutter is basically peanut butter that is made with sunflower seeds.  It's not supposed to taste exactly like peanut butter, more like an allergy-friendly way to mix it up.

For my first sunbutter snack (which serves as a great breakfast), I spread sunbutter on pear slices and topped with granola.  It was an extra crunchy snack, and I think all that chewing made me fuller faster.  As you can see, it was enjoyed along with the latest People Country issue.  Gotta get my country with my crunchy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort's memoir about making millions in the stock brokerage game is too wild to believe.  This is the yuppie "American Psycho"/"Wall Street [the movie]" era, but it's a real account.  I didn't realize it was possible to make that much money.  What is even more jaw dropping is reading what Belfort does with the money once he has it: a 165 foot yacht, gold watches for all hospital employees in the wing when his children are born, prostitutes galore, and drugs, drugs, drugs.  I have no idea how his wife put up with all of his shenanigans.

Let's talk about the drug use a little more because it becomes a centerpiece of the story.  Though it seemed like some of the narcotics stories were repetitive, I must say it was exceptional to see such immense quantities ingested while still managing to be productive at a level few have attained sober.  It's also interesting to see how the main drug user views his enablers - like pawns.  After reading this, I would love to have a sit down with one or two members of Belfort's entourage.

Though I don't understand the stock market or the financial world in general, it was interesting to read about the tactics [of questionable legality] employed to increase the already massive fortune these characters have built.  I call them characters even though they're real because they are too crazy to believe.  Only a few moments root them in reality, like the business dealings with shoe magnate Steve Madden.  Reading about their partnership, you suddenly stop and realize - whoa - that's a real dude.  This crazy life all happened.

They are currently filming a movie version of the book with a top notch cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill), and I can't wait to see how it turns out.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

3 on Thursday

I spent all last weekend running errands for the apartment and it still didn't all get done.  That means every day after work is devoted to apartment prep, as is this upcoming weekend.  It's my last chance to get everything perfect before a string of three weekends that includes two weddings, a trip to DC, and very little time to breathe.  No pressure!
Just a bunch of birds chillin on a traffic light pole.

What's great about these boots is not that they were only $35 at Forever 21 (but what a steal!).  The best part of this purchase was how I had no idea what to do with them.  I knew it was a trendy piece that could make an ensemble, but I am not whom one would usually refer to as trendy so I did a little crowd sourcing.  Right after I walked out of the store I tweeted "Just bought a pair of ankle motorcycle I just need someone to teach me how to them #fashionchallenged"  Within 30 minutes I had three responses that gave me tons of outfit ideas.  Social media is not just about stalking ex boyfriends and the sluts they start dating after you.  Now it can help you get dressed in the morning!
Part of my decorating process includes a little DIY action.  I picked up these fun knobs (and the bowl they're sitting in) from Anthropologie.  It seems small, but something as simple as new hardware can change the way a room looks (or so I'm hoping).  I've been very concerned about having an apartment that looks sophisticated but still unique.  Here's hoping I have some "oo where'd you get that?!" moments when the apartment is unveiled. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ikea Cafeteria

What if I told you I just went to a great new restaurant but it's a little out of the way?  I'm sure you would ask just how far out we're talking.  Well, it's in the middle of nowhere in Brooklyn, and I had to take a subway and shuttle to get there.  Most people would reserve a trek like that for a James Beard nominee or whatever restaurant the latest Top Chef winner has just opened.  Me, I make that trip for Ikea.  

I was on a mission for night stands that I plan to kiss with a little DIY tenderness and food was the last thing on my mind.  Once I arrived I realized my grumbling stomach needed to be tended to and this may be my rare chance to finally try the Ikea food court.  I am completely sold.  Some food is better than others, but one quick glance and you can figure out which items to go for.  I'll give you a hint: go with the meatballs.  Nothing is more Swedish than meatballs and they do a fine job.  For $4.99 you get a huge plate of about 20 meatballs, lingonberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  That $4.99 is the combo price, which means you also get a side salad or soup (the salad is measly; go with the soup, especially if it was the sweet butternut squash and apple that I had) and a fountain drink.  Other than those characters in the Dragon Tattoo series, it seems like all Swedish people are super nice.  They were happy to offer a taste of the meatballs before I committed and allowed me to trade my fountain drink for an elderflower juice box.  My drink choice was both because I'm not a Pepsi fan and because elderflower sounded extra Swedish.  It was the exact opposite of Pepsi, and by that I mean it was good.  It was Vitamin Water-esque and tasted like Sweden.  Sweden tastes like melting snow and efficiency.

I love my night stands, but Ikea could stop producing furniture altogether and I would still be happy.  Even McDonald's looks expensive next to this lil restaurant whose meal is much more well-rounded.  It seems a little extreme to go all the way to Ikea for lunch, so make up some bogus excuse about needing new throw pillows and get you some Swedish meatballs, pronto.    

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


After one drink at Cash Bar, Brutus and I were ready to go somewhere new so we headed to Teqa for tacos and margaritas.  I had been waiting for a restaurant buddy to try this restaurant because I tend to be a fan of non-chain upscale Mexican restaurants (i.e.: not Dos Caminos or Rosa Mexicano), especially if they're not too pricey.

Teqa isn't exactly cheap, but it won't break the bank.  The tacos come two per order and range in price from $10-$14.  Brutus and I started with an order of guac.  It was clearly made to order with huge chunks of avocado and spiced to our preference.  We then got an order of the Taco de Pescado del Baja (tempura mahi mahi) and an order of the Carne Asada tacos and went splitskies.  Both versions were very good, but I think I preferred the carne asada.  My only complaint is that they were a little small for my taste.  At their size, three tacos per order would have been more appropriate.

The prices may be similar to those of the upscale chains, but the menu is a nice adaptation of trendy worthy Mexican fare.  The bar scene, though not packed, was lively enough as it serves as a different setting from any other place in the neighborhood.  The best part, however, I learned as I perused the website after the fact.  Apparently, if you're not a chain you have the flexibility to hold a $25 drunk brunch.  I would consider that a serious benefit to breaking out on your own.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cash Bar

A speakeasy sort of loses it's appeal when it's no longer hidden.  Cash Bar is the latest not-so-secret bar to open in New York and the first [to my knowledge] in Murray Hill.  The entrance was supposed to be behind an "out of order" ATM machine, but the door to 58 3/4 E. 34th Street was already propped open.  So much for the allusion.

Inside, they've papered the walls with bills, stuck coins on the tabletops, and named all the drinks after presidents whose faces you see on your currency.  I appreciate the theme they're trying to establish but in such a small space the thematic elements still seemed spaced out and the wallpaper was almost cheesy.  On the upside, the small space made it easy to become familiar with the bartender.  It didn't feel weird to have her holler from behind the bar to ask me how dirty I wanted my martini.  Not sure this one is built to last, but it's always nice to try something new and I'll take a friendly bartender in an sub-par space over a too-cool-for-school one any day.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Cask was the first "cool" place I spotted in my new neighborhood, and I've been dying to try it ever since I moved in.  It seemed like a more sophisticated post-work watering hole so Podz and I took our sophisticated selves there post-work on Wednesday night.  I had tried once before to eat there, but when we were told the wait was an hour long, my Mom and I headed elsewhere.  This time, the wait was the same, but we decided to take our chances and sip on drinks while staring down the people sitting at the bar.

The bar itself doesn't feel crammed and they offer the full menu there so it is a fine place to enjoy a meal.  Once two people got up, we swooped in and were able to order long before our table would have been ready.  I now actually probably prefer the bar because it means spending more time with my new chipper buddy of a bartender, Peter (who apparently lives directly across the street from my old apartment - go fig).  My original impression was that Cask was a wine bar/high end beer kind of place (it looks kind of gastro-pub-y with dim lights and lots of wood).  That's all there, but they actually pour a good cocktail, too.  It's not a huge cocktail menu, but it is well thought out with a good mix of alcohols and sweetness levels to suit anyone.  I loved my bourbon sage smash, which was bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sage.  It was simple and served as a perfect transition into Fall by being refreshing without using Summertime flavors like mint.

When it came to the food, my favorite item (by far) was the philly cheese steak spring rolls.  I would have bet the steak would dry out when dipped in the fryer, but that was not the case.  It was perfectly cooked and mixing the chipotle ketchup and chili aioli made a great topping.  It ended up being a pretty far departure from the original philly cheese steak, but that didn't make it any less delicious.  The next best item was the flat iron steak flatbread.  Imagine a typical flatbread pizza and then increase the size by 25%.  I'm pretty sure there was a full filet on there and it was nicely seasoned with cumin.  The gorganzola and caramelized onions were piled high, making it a difficult dish to eat, but I'll gladly handle a little mess.  If we had known how large the flatbread was going to be, we wouldn't have ordered the tuna burger, which was good but not a home run.  The bun overpowered the tuna steak and it could have used more wasabi aioli.  The side of green beans and roasted tomatoes was also good but screamed for garlic and a little salt.

Good drinks, good food, and a young professional crowd - what more could you want?  I've been on a nice lil streak in the bar/restaurant department lately.  Turns out, Murray Hill has much more to offer than I originally thought.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

3 on Thursday

My parents came up for a few days to help me get my new apartment all set up.  It's like a totally new place.  There is still plenty to do, which means this weekend will be primarily business, not pleasure.  It's a little stressful, but it's worth it now that it's all coming together.  For once, I wasn't overly sad when my parents left.  That's because they'll be back 4 weeks from today - let the countdown begin!
Is there anything better than a guy in a suit/tux?  Nothing even comes close.  I'm not one to swoon over puppies, but show me a bunch of men all dressed up and I go weak in the knees.  A suit or tuxedo will make any guy look hotter, but the tumblr Guys In Suits takes celebrities who are already stunning and amps their hot factor by showing pictures of them in formal wear.  Sometimes the pics are from magazine shoots, other times they're snaps from the paparazzi, and every time they're very sexy.  Can someone pass me a towel so I can wipe the drool from my keyboard? 

I don't like apple juice, but when it's mixed with flavors like raspberry or black current, it goes down nice and easy.  Red Jacket Orchards is located in the Finger Lakes region and their juices can often be found at green markets around the city.  It's always nice to try something local.  What are some of your local faves?

I love stumbling past fun graffiti/street art and this #DontGoHome series is a great one to walk past when you're already tipsy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Silver Lining

I'm kind of over the speakeasy trend but can't deny the fact that such bars usually devote themselves to the art of mixology.  Silver Lining is no exception.  Larger than most speakeasy bars (owing to its location in residential TriBeCa), Silver Lining transports you to the Jazz Age as soon as you walk down the stairs and hear the trio playing away.  The bartenders are mustached and suspendered, though I'm unsure if that's a theme-related requirement or a happy coincidence from hiring hipsters.

The drink menu is small, but this bar comes to you from the Little Branch guys so they have a few tricks up their sleeves.  The menu indicates "bartender's choice" as a drink option.  Basically, just tell them a few things you like and they'll whip something up.  I said I would like something spicy and when the bartender asked if I had a spirit preference, I told her I would like whisky or tequila.  She soon returned with something she called the El Guapo.  It was tequila, worcestershire, tobasco, sugar, and cucumber.  It was absolutely wonderful with everything in the right proportion.

The drinks are the number one priority, but when when plenty of bars have sprung up claiming to have master mixologists (which most do), Silver Lining's Jazz band sets it apart.  The music keeps things lively but still calm enough to have a conversation.  If you're looking for a quiet place to bring your parents/grandparents when they visit and TriBeCa isn't too inconvenient, this one's a winner.

Sorry no pics...oops.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Edamame Avocado Slaw

My renovations are coming along nicely and though I don't have gas yet, I do have a working fridge and microwave (finally!) so I can move beyond the takeout only phase of eating.  I still have to get creative because I don't have a sink to wash dishes in or a countertop to cut veggies on, but just having a refrigerator opens up the possibilities.

Once I got my much-missed appliances back, my first stop was Trader Joes, where I knew I could find plenty of frozen items that would turn into a full meal with a little microwave treatment.  While there, I also picked up pre-shelled edamame, avocado, and a bag of broccoli slaw.  Mix those three ingredients with mayo, cilantro, chili powder, salt, and pepper and you have an easy, vegetarian side salad.  You don't need a ton of mayo (I actually added more slaw after this picture was taken to take the mayo ratio down a notch).  Once you start mixing the salad, the avocado will break down and add to the creamy texture.  On the complete other side of the spectrum, the slaw itself is extra crunchy and then the edamame falls somewhere in the middle.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Supper at Supper

My cousin Jon has decided it's time he got back to his Midwestern roots and is moving to Chi Town.  Jon can always be counted on for a sarcastic comment and will surely be missed so for his last night in Manhattan, we sent him off at Supper, an Italian restaurant in the East Village.

I had heard of Supper when a friend was going there on a date, but I just assumed it was a good low key Italian restaurant.  It's far more than that.  This is the place to go for an intimate dinner, whether it's one on one or for a large group.  We were of the large group variety and I have rarely been in a more private yet relaxed setting.  Nothing more than a reservation is needed to secure the private room that is four rooms deep in the restaurant.  Once in this special room, you'll have your own bathroom, chandeliers, and the ability to plug in your own iPod to control the music.  Once inside, it becomes a dinner party in your own dining know, if your dining room happened to be in Italy and someone else was doing the cooking, cleaning, and serving.  Soooo not at all the same thing.

Just about anything would taste good in a close and personal environment like that, but the food happens to be particularly good.  When I saw oil and vinegar on the table, I anticipated we would be getting bread.  I did not know we would be getting a white bean topping with it.  The white beans were small, like pigeon peas, and were prepared with a dash of red pepper flakes and plenty of garlic.  Thank goodness there were no boys to impress because I didn't want bad breath to keep me from eating three pieces of bread with these beans.

I have only recently discovered burrata, but soon after I learned about this remarkable cheese, I found out it's hard to find it on a menu.  Just my luck.  I watch this cool cheese being made on a cooking show and then don't get to eat it.  What a tease.  I was so excited to see it on the menu that I ordered it as my appetizer without hesitation.  Basically, burrata is creamy mozzarella inside a firm mozzarella purse.  As Matt described it, it's a mozzarella turducken.  It is fabulous.  So fabulous, the restaurant imports it from Puglia each week.  You break the outer mozzarella layer and the inside oozes out like egg yolk.  The burrata was served caprese style and really could have served three or four people as an appetizer.  Because I didn't realize how large it was going to be, I also ordered some of the fresh pasta.  I chose the tagliatelle with a tomato sauce and prosciutto and found it to be as good as can be.  Whenever you're dealing with fresh pasta, it becomes very difficult to mess up.  They were smart not to oversauce and just let the pasta shine.

Downside: it's cash only.  This is not something I typically balk at, but when appetizers are around $15 and entrees average $20, the policy seems excessive.  Lucky for Supper, I enjoyed the food and atmosphere enough that I will happily stuff my wallet with enough cash in advance to look like a stripper who just left work.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Cannibal

The Cannibal makes it easy to enjoy beer.  If a place claims to know beer, you hope they're not serving Bud Light.  Here, the entryway is lined with refrigerators that hold all kinds of beers you've never heard of.  These are the kind of beers with funky labels and names.  Next, you don't want froo froo food when you're drinking beer.  You want meat.  And as the name would imply, the menu here is meat-centric and includes a pigs head cuban, tartares, and lardo toast.  Other than the radishes or corn, you won't find any vegetarian friendly dishes.  The menu is printed on butcher paper, a nod to the in-house butcher who churns out beef jerkey and other nibbles that you can grab to go.  We didn't have time for a full meal, so we shared just one small plate of the lamb tartare.  It was a nice take on steak tartare.  Instead of garlic providing the spice, this was chopped with jalapenos and in lieu of chopped hard boiled egg, this was topped with a large runny egg yolk.  My mother, a woman who has never eaten tartare and is leery of any raw food other than the california roll, polished off half this dish.  Thank you, Cannibal, for making a convert out of her.

Finally, the atmosphere just makes the beer go down that much easier.   Beers are best enjoyed outside in the warm Summer air and if you walk through the tiny restaurant, you'll enter a garden oasis with picnic tables, vines, and strung lights.

The rowdy post-college crowd of Murray Hill doesn't strike me as a group of beer connoisseurs.  Thank goodness The Cannibal has joined the neighborhood so they can learn a little something.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

3 on Thursday

I loved having a 4-day weekend.  I spent the first two days running from event to event and the next two days barely leaving my bed.  It's all about balance.
I have wanted to see Clybourne Park since I read an article about it in New York Magazine back in April.  I loved the idea of a set playing such an important role in a show and wanted to see what it was all about.  Two months later, the show won the Tony for Best Play and I became determined to see it before it left.  I didn't want to make the same mistake of letting silly errands get in the way of me seeing a great show, like I did with Venus in Fur and Scotsboro Boys.  When I found out it was closing on Sunday, I made the decision to get tickets and see it over the weekend, even if it meant seeing it by myself.  Thankfully, it didn't come to that as Lindz was up for an evening of cheap theater, thanks to the beauty of rush tickets.  It was fabulous.  It was dark but still hilarious, touching on latent racial issues.  From the actors to the set designers, bravo to all involved.    
Yes yes, my favorite season is ending and it's sad, but I am completely consoled by the return of football season.  I returned to the Pourhouse to watch the Dawgs snag a W with my fellow NYC fans.  I was in a rare state after participating in the hour of open bar before kickoff, but I still managed to get a pic with the two handsome boys above, Matt and Aaron Kooden. We Savannahians never stray far from one another, but I guess that's what happens when you bleed red and black.   
I'm a total aquarium freak, but I don't hate on the aquarium's close cousin, the zoo.  I can't believe I have lived in New York for five years and never made it to the Bronx Zoo.  This place is huge and amazing.  I can't recall ever coming in such close contact with a tiger so that exhibit quickly jumped to the top of the list.  The gorillas were my other favorite.  They had such clear personalities!  A ticket will set you back $30, but it's a completely worthwhile activity.  If you're like my Bubba and I, you'll try to read every plaque in the place (much to the chagrin of my sister-in-law who finds us much too slow).  This zoo is much too large to read everything.  Lindz and I were there for 4.5 hours, and I didn't come close to soaking up all the random factoids I wanted.  I think I'll just have to turn this into an annual excursion to learn it all. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hunger Games Viewing Party

When Beth told me the Hunger Games DVD she pre-ordered had arrived, I invited myself over for a viewing party.  I love any excuse to build out a theme party so I pulled my hair into a Katniss-style braid and started planning the menu right away.  I should tell you that I use the term "party" loosely.  It was just the two of us so we diluted some of the themed craziness to seem less like losers who plan a two-person party centered around a teen book.

Between Peeta's bakery and the rolls from the different districts that line Capital tables, bread plays a major role in these books.  We decided to make seaweed biscuits to represent District 4, Finnick's hometown.  We took canned biscuits (Pillsbury style) and pushed seaweed salad (from the sushi section) into the top before baking.  Easy and super thematic.  Fair warning: though these look cool, unless you're a big seaweed fan, they may taste weird.

We weren't going to make squirrel, but we thought chicken and steak skewers seemed like something the tributes would eat while trying to survive in the arena.  We grilled up kabobs that we marinated with olive oil, garlic, white wine, and season salt.

Finally, we made "nightlock" pavlovas.  The pavlovas (baked meringue shells) I was looking for were sold out, so I bought mini meringue cookies instead.  Then I heated up blackberries and blueberries with sugar until they made a sauce that we could pour over the top.  Unfortunately, the cookies were a little chalky, but I guess that's the risk you take when you go with an unfamiliar brand.  Overall, the dish was easy and after throwing out the cookies, the berry sauce could be poured over ice cream for a dish that is just as thematic.  Our berries were not poisonous, but the gamemakers would likely have been so impressed by how pretty the dish looked that they would have spared our lives, too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


When Ash suggested we meet in my new neighborhood for a much needed happy hour catch-up sesh, I jumped at the chance to try Terroir.  Terroir, "the elitist wine bar for everyone," surged to such levels of popularity that they expanded their original location, an adjunct of the East Village restaurant, Hearth.  There is now a location in TriBeCa and one just 6.5 blocks away from my apartment in Murray Hill.  Yippee - something in my neighborhood that's not a college sanctuary!

Just because it's a wine bar that's not geared toward the immediate post-collegiate crowd doesn't mean it's stuffy, which you'll quickly learn from the chalkboard walls spacing out the exposed brick, magnetic letters, and quirky signs on the bathroom doors.  (I actually chuckled aloud and stood outside the bathroom with my hand on the doorknob til I finished reading them.)  The wine list is basically a three-hole-punched manuscript with section introductions that are bound to put you in a giddy drinking mood (who can resist a parody of SNL's "D*** in a Box"?).  "Wine Bar" to me often means an excuse to charge more for glasses of vino because you call it your specialty.  Terroir, however, is reasonably priced with plenty of happy hour specials.  We wanted to savor the last few days of Summer so we ordered a delicious bottle of French rosé.  It managed to be fruity without being sweet.

There is a great menu of nibbles so we ordered three small dishes to share.  Once again, we had to pick something ultra Summer-y so we started with a salad special of heirloom tomato, watermelon, and basil.  Next we tried one of their fried ball varieties.  Since we were going veggie on the other dishes, we chose the oxtail risotto balls.  They tasted like a ragu without the tomatoes.  Good flavor, but a little over-fried (yes, there is such a thing).  Finally, we tried the tomato, basil, and egg bruschetta.  They hit it out of the park with this one.  The egg's contribution was entirely yolk - no whites allowed (is that reverse racism?).  Before cutting the incredibly thick country bread (that was still soft enough on the inside and crunchy enough on the outside to accommodate our bites - I was worried upon seeing the huge slice), Ash smeared the yolk all over the top so we each got some of the smooth sauce on half.  The tomatoes, which had just the right amount of garlic seemed to have been stewed and was almost like a tar tare.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Aunt Carrie's Clam Cakes

Because laying on the beach wasn't relaxing enough, we spent our last afternoon in Rhode Island just driving around looking at typical New England streets.  We had zero plans and just went wherever the sights seemed worthy.  For me, worthiness is often related to food, so I wanted to make sure we tried some authentic New England seafood.  I missed out on the lobster roll, but I did try a Narragansett specialty I had never heard of: clam cakes.  I envisioned crab cakes made with clams, but discovered they were more like fried dough in funnel cake batter.  Basically, they're New England hush puppies with a faint essence of clam flavor.

We picked ours up from Aunt Carrie's, which [according to local Sam] is supposed to be the best.  They recommend dipping them in clam chowder but we were still too full from breakfast.  That was a big mistake on our part because I could tell how good it would have been.  They were also a cheap snack: less than $4 for half a dozen huge balls of fried dough.  If you are trying to convince yourself these aren't terrible for you, you'll have a hard time as you try to wipe away the grease that results from pulling these straight out of the deep fryer.  A heavy snack like this doesn't seem easy to handle on a hot day, but greasy fingers are no trouble when you get to wash them right off in the ocean.


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