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Friday, November 30, 2012


I would put Leoci's in Savannah up against any Italian restaurant in New York.  I went there for the first time on Saturday and absolutely loved it.  The homemade pasta is what propels them into the superior Italian stratosphere and their sauces keep them there.  I ordered one of the daily specials but tasted everybody's meal so I can say for sure that it was all good.  

Allison and I both ordered cappelini in saffron cream sauce with grilled calamari and a whole trout.  Good.  My Daddy ordered acorn squash stuffed with risotto, pork, and cheese.  Good.  My Mom ordered lasagna that was made without ricotta but with lots of layers.  Good.  Mark ordered gnocci with "hunter sauce" (beef pork, veal ragu with cream and peas).  Good.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't describe anything as less than good.  I probably should have picked a better adjective because "good" just doesn't do this pasta justice.

One thing you get in Leoci's that you may not get in New York: a great patio seating area with bocce.  Another thing that's harder to come by outside our small town: conversation with the chef who walks up to each table to chat about the meal.
Unfortunately, the other pics didn't turn out so well so you just get to see the lasagna.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

3 on Thursday

Now that the long Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, I'm already counting down to Xmas break.  The time will pass quickly as it always does when I'm happy - and happy I am because spending Thanksgiving at home reminded me of how many amazing things I have in my life: wonderful family and friends, the culture of a beautiful, historical city, and a cozy new apartment that I get to call home.
My latest Netflix pick was "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary following Jiro Ono who, at 85, is still working every day to perfect the sushi he serves at his small 10-seat restaurant.  In addition to learning about the fishing industry and father/son relationships in Japan, you get to watch Jiro - who may be the most adorable man ever - in his element.  I was fascinated by the rigorous apprenticeship process and Jiro's work ethic.  I'm not sure you can call it work ethic because that implies perseverance through work and Jiro loves what he does so much that "work" clearly has a different definition for him than it does for me.    

Heavy post alert: Now that I'm a homeowner, my parents told me it's time to set up a will dictating where my assets should go in the [hopefully unlikely and unfortunate] event of my passing.  Since I am unmarried and childless, the first instinct is to just dump everything into my parents account; however, I saw this as an opportunity to do something good.  I have decided that should I die before I marry and have kids the majority of my money will go to charity.  I am now in the process of picking the right charities and there are TONS to choose from.  The point of this post is not to talk about death and bring you down.  The point is to remind you in the middle of this holiday season how important it is to give back.  I haven't finalized my charity plan yet, but I can tell you that I want to donate to causes that are near and dear to my heart.  This is where everyone is different and there is a charity for everyone from pet lovers to cancer haters.  I am not here to judge what's important to you, but I do urge you to figure out what tugs at your heartstrings and spread the good.  While I was trying to sort out what I care about most, I discovered Charity Navigator, which organizes charities based on cause, financial status, popularity, and more.  Based on personal experiences both good and bad, I have decided I would like to support groups that fight domestic abuse and groups that support literacy and study abroad.  What cause is most important to you?    

A few weeks ago while I was in Athens, I spotted one of the greatest inventions: a Towable Tailgate.  These guys take tailgating to a whole new level.  You can customize this mini trailer with a tv, grill, stereo system, cooler stand, and more. It's super intense and I want one. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oyster Roast 2012

I added "2012" to this blog post's title because after the success of this year's event, it's sure to become an annual thing.  Oyster roasts are commonplace in The Lowcountry for good reason - they're freakin awesome.  Basically, you create a pit outside and roast the oysters on a grate above an open flame (we roasted 5 bushels - each weighs about 60 lbs).  Once they're cooked, you pour them out on the table and get to shucking.  The best part (other than the oysters themselves) is that everybody has great conversation while they're hunched over the picnic table, sleeves rolled up, batting away gnats with their elbows.  It's a fabulous southern tradition and one that I'm happy my brother introduced to our Thanksgiving weekend tradition.

Before I left for Savannah, Mark asked me if I would make any apps since he knows that's my specialty.  Just as I did for Thanksgiving, I made one fallback (bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers) and one new recipe. The newbie this time was Brussels sprout prosciutto sandwiches.  It was way easier than I expected.  You'd expect something this easy to be ugly, but it looks nice and pretty - like a bowl full of shiny emeralds.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture so you can't see how good they looked, but check out this recipe to see where I got my inspiration.  I tweaked the original recipe a bit: I halved the sprouts, put them on a foil lined cookie sheet, and drizzled with oil and whatever spice blend I have lying around (big fan of Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning).  Once they were nice and browned, I tore prosciutto into manageable bits, sandwiched between two halves, and skewered with a toothpick.  The original recipe calls for cooked prosciutto, but I think prosciutto is best as is.  Next to the jalapeno poppers, this app was basically a healthy salad.  I'm sure I'll make them again soon and won't forget to whip out the camera.  Allison also made a bangin app, but I'm not going to describe it now because I already have plans to steal it and make it for book club next month (giving her credit, of course) so you'll just have to wait on that one.
Photo courtesy of Greg Greenberg


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: I Have Iraq in My Shoe --> On Quarterlette!

My second piece was just published on Quarterlette today!  Once again it's a book review but that's all the info you're gonna get.  For more, head here.

Gobble Gobble 2012

Now that we're in year 5 of Thanksgiving at Mark and Allison's, we've started settling into our own traditions.  When we combined the Sand and Konter families we kept some favorites from each side (two turkeys, corn and carrot souffles, cranberry sauce, etc.) and then incorporated some new dishes that have since become depended upon to fill out the spread (two types of dressing).  Each person in the family has their own dish and role in the meal, including me.

My dish, however, is the only one that changes every year.  I am always in charge of appetizers, but I always make something different.  I feel like Jeff Daniels' character in "Pleasantville," the soda shop owner who gets to paint the windows at the diner for Christmas.  It's the one time a year he gets to express himself and do whatever he wants.  My appetizers may not be as artistic as all that, but it is fun to play around, especially during a holiday that's all about tradition and doing things the same way each year.  I guess for my dish, the thing that stays the same is the fact that it always changes.  Did I just confuse you?  Good.

Like always, I made one dish that I've tried before in case the new recipe didn't work.  This year's fallback was bacon wrapped potatoes with hot sauce sour cream.  They went over just as well as they did at book club a couple weeks ago.  The new dish was a hot ricotta dip.  I absolutely loved this.  I used this recipe and it turned out perfectly.

You could actually pick out the individual flavors of the lemon zest and red pepper flakes as well as the herbs - oh, the herbs!  Rosemary and thyme are so perfect for Fall/Winter and the flavor of the fresh stuff makes a real impression.  I know you won't believe that a dish made entirely of cheese won't weigh you down, but this is not a heavy appetizer.  Ricotta is a lighter cheese by nature and once the egg is added it poufs up like a souffle.  In case you didn't know, souffle is French for "classy" so make this and you'll be one fancy bitch. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Yesso to Spasso

I am dreaming about cheese.  Not just any cheese: the housemade stracciatella at Spasso.  It's been nine days and this cheese is all I can think about.  It falls somewhere between the firm outside and creamy inside of burrata cheese and is a stringy gobbledy goop in a bowl, topped with olive oil and sea salt.  It is the perfect start to a meal.  Any meal.

Perhaps I was just on a cheese high, but I genuinely enjoyed everything I had at Spasso.  First off, I respected that the waiter picked up on our price point and taste preferences without asking many questions and suggested a wonderful wine.  We thought we had made our decision, but he offered us a taste of something that he claimed we would enjoy way more and for only $8 additional dollars.  He wasn't upselling us for a measly $8, he genuinely wanted us to enjoy a superior wine and let us taste each to back up his claim.  

When it came to food, Laurie and I split a pasta dish: pappardelle with braised oxtail ragu and ricotta salata. It was wonderful.  The ragu was the perfect consistency - not too thick and not too soupy.  We also tried the fried cauliflower caponata, which had currents for a sweet surprise in the salty chopped veggie mix.  It was a lighter side dish that still had a lot of flavor.  I don't usually go for dessert, but we had ordered conservatively for dinner so we decided to see if the sweets were as good as the rest of the menu.  Neither of us wanted anything big or too rich so the chamomile panna cotta with cherries and candied hazelnuts was the perfect choice.  The panna cotta had a creamier texture than usual - that's not a complaint; the thicker texture made every bite more satisfying.

When it comes to nicer restaurants, I don't normally want to go back immediately.  I am usually glad I went but file it away as an experience, a place to cross off the list.  Spasso stays on the list.  I'm just not ready to move on.  

Now if you'll excuse me, it's nap time, and I have a feeling that once I close my eyes I'll be eating stracciatella in my dreams.      

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Decoded

I didn't think I would pick up a book by Jay-Z and I certainly didn't think I would relate to a book by Jay-Z. I was wrong on both counts.

When my office reviewed a case study of a Bing/Jay-Z cross promotion, I was impressed by the innovative marketing.  For the month prior to the book's release, actual pages were released (5-10/day) in places relating to the content (i.e.: the housing project where he grew up).  Using "", people could locate the pages online or in person.  Once they found it, they received credit to be entered into a drawing for a signed copy or the grand prize of concert tickets.  The game itself relied on Bing's technology like Bing Maps and Bing Entertainment features like song clips.  I discovered the campaign after it was over, but I figured if Jay-Z was willing to participate in an out-of-the-box campaign, perhaps his book was out-of-the-box as well.

I don't really follow hip hop and only know the big rap songs that crack the Top 40.  I like them fine enough and can tell when some artists are more talented but don't know the genre well enough to understand what sets some apart from others.  If Jay-Z is right (and based on his hoards of followers, he is), the hip hop masters are the ones who are dedicated.  As a boy, Jay-Z poured over the dictionary to increase his vocabulary in an effort to make his rhymes the sickest.  As he dissects his own songs, you see how each word is meticulously chosen to convey complex themes and metaphors throughout each verse.  I'm going to make a bold statement: Jay-Z is a genius.  Like most successful artists, his brain just works differently and I am in awe of the poetry he creates.  Even the narrative pieces of the book have a rhythm that flows like one of his raps.

I also respect how self aware he is.  I am not sure if this is a trait he possessed as a young man, but after years in the game, he has a clear view of his own position within the bigger picture and doesn't apologize for much.  This "realness" is what got me hooked.  Politically correct or not, he is comfortable throwing around the word "nigga" and talking about his experiences on the streets (even if they sound stereotypical).  Whether you agree with the lifestyle or not, it is/was his life and I appreciate him sharing it with the general reader in his own words.  If I felt he was holding back, I would not have been able to take him or hip hop as seriously.

As the title implies, this book decodes Jay-Z's songs as well as his life.  Breaking down his childhood and background as a hustler, you understand the story he was compelled to tell through his music.  It would be easy for Jay-Z to write a tell-all, but this gossip-free book offers more than petty gossip ever could.  It has the power to change one sheltered white girl's perception of hip hop.  I can respect authors and enjoy their work without feeling like we can be buds.  I don't know if we would be besties, but by the time I finished reading, I felt like Jay-Z and I could sit down to a conversation and have no problem finding common ground.  So, HOV, thanks for changing my outlook on you and the hip hop genre.  If you want, I'm up for grabbing a burger at Spotted Pig or even babysitting Blue Ivy so you and Beyonce can have a night out on the town.  Just let me know.  Holla.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

3 on Thursday

After a two day work week, I am currently relaxing in Savannah with the fam for Thanksgiving.  Could not be happier.
The last 5+ years in NYC have been great.  This city has nearly everything but has been lacking in the country music department.  If this weekend is any indication, the musical tide is turning.  In three short days I packed in not one but two country music concerts.  The first was Eli Young Band who turn out a more rock and roll sound when playing live.  They have recently started tearing up the charts and people have begun taking note.  Not sure if country is for you?  Well, if you're a Tom Petty fan, this group will be for you - we may make a country believer out of you yet.  Concert number two was Zac Brown Band.  I can't tell you how happy this concert made me.  First, I was just happy to see some boys from my beloved home state make it to the big time where even New Jersey kids are belting out all the lyrics to their down home tunes.  It was tough to swallow such an expensive ticket when I used to see them for $10 in Athens, but they deserve it.  Second, they put on a great show.  They are all incredibly talented, especially the fiddle player.  And finally, in addition to hearing all their great songs, I went nuts over the covers.  Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" led into John Mayer's "Neon" (a fellow Georgian whose first album was huge for me in high school...though I felt seriously old when none of the other people at the concert knew the song), "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was one of the best things our group could hear, and hearing "America the Beautiful" followed by Metallica's "Enter Sandman" just before "Chicken Fried" was a fabulous way to end the show.  As much as I love it up here, homesickness is inevitable.  Getting to see concerts like this is the best antidote.  

Elizabeth Banks is a great actress.  I think the world has figured that out by now.  Did you also know she's an Ivy League grad - magna cum laude, no less?!  Combine beauty, brains, and a sense of humor and the woman is bound to be unstoppable.  She's built a cute lifestyle website filled with recipes and social commentary.  It's a great place for a little mental health break.

Saw this magazine spread and could not help but audibly "awww".

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pinwheels for Potluck

After ducking out the last couple months, I decided to participate in an office potluck.  This month's theme was tailgating, which leaves the field wide open (no pun intended).  Since I was short on time and cash, I decided to make a timeless potluck item: pinwheel sandwiches.

I rolled up tortillas with mayo, shredded cheese, cajun spiced turkey, and broccoli slaw.  You may think this is unworthy of a post, but they turned out well and the broccoli slaw was a nice non-lettuce crunch.  I had to do something to make these guys different than the ones you find on the prepared grocery store platters and my solution was spiced turkey and broccoli slaw.  Eventually I'm sure I'll post about haute pinwheels, but for now, you get the plain ones.  They may have been simple, but that doesn't mean they weren't all eaten.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pounds & Ounces

I need to remember how many great restaurants are in Chelsea.  Lindsay gets credit for finding my most recent Chelsea spot, Pounds & Ounces.  Once I got past the overly heavy front doors (I recommend lifting weights before holding them open for anyone), the first thing to catch my eye was the long, curved table that snaked down the middle of the restaurant.  Lindsay and I ended up sitting at our own two-top so we didn't get to mingle with random table neighbors, but we still benefited from the lighthearted mood it set in the restaurant.

We decided not to have drinks, but they looked delicious and came by the glass or pitcher.  They already have great music going so if they only had deals on the beverages, this place would be the perfect spot for party brunch.  Though I can't attest to whether or not the drinks tasted as good as they looked, I can tell you the food was as tasty as described on the menu.

Lindsay is a benedict connoisseur so I would guess that their version was good based on her clean plate.  They call it the classic but I would say it strays far enough from the original to earn a new name.  Porchetta, asparagus, and smoked tomato hollandaise make for an original brunch specialty.  I went with the huevos rancheros pizza.  Spicy roasted tomatoes, black beans, guanciale, avocado, and a sunny side up egg made up the toppings for homemade flatbread.  Using a sunny side up egg instead of scrambled felt lighter and rejuvenated from the heavy breakfast burrito version.  My only complaint was that the middle was too soggy to pick up and it was sitting on top of thin parchment paper that ripped when I cut my pizza.  All they need to do is switch it from the [albeit] cute pizza pan to a regular plate and that one tiny problem is solved.   If my primary complaint is plate selection, I think they're doing more than a fine job.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Potatoes

It was my turn to host book club this month and I couldn't resist picking up S'mac since it just opened in my neighborhood.  I can't describe how good this mac and cheese is and how happy I was to have an excuse to order the mongo size.  I didn't want it to be a complete cop out, so I also cooked a dish myself.  (My book club is strict - you must put effort into the food you bring and you must actually talk about the book.)

I made bacon wrapped potatoes that were super easy and certainly a crowd pleaser.  Cut up new potatoes into bite size portions and boil til fork tender (about 5 minutes).  Toss them with olive oil and fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme (if you don't have these, you can just use whatever seasoning strikes your fancy - salt and pepper works fine) and then wrap them in bacon (it will take about 1/3 -1/2 strip) and secure with a toothpick.  Stick them in the oven at 400 til the bacon looks done (about 20 minutes, flipping once).  Serve with sour cream mixed with hot sauce.

Luckily, I was able to snap a pic before they were all gone, but the nearly empty bowl should be an indication of how popular they were.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Butternut Squash and Leek Sauce

I love creamy things.  The problem is that creamy meals are always the least healthy...until you get to the Fall/Winter when a couple of the most popular vegetables can be easily turned into velvety soups or creamy sauces.  I've seen so many butternut squash soup recipes that I should have thought about how that could translate into a sauce, but it took a healthy eating blog, SkinnyTaste, to show me the light.

Simply puree cooked butternut squash in a blender while you sauté chopped leeks and garlic (about 5 minutes).  Once the leeks are done, add the pureed squash along with salt, pepper, parmesan, and sage (reserve a little for plating) then toss with the pasta and add pasta water to achieve the desired consistency.  Be sure to reserve the pasta water because you're definitely going to want to thin it out a bit.

This pasta was seriously good.  All the creaminess of an alfredo without the fat.  I ate it during the first snow of the season when all you want is comfort food.  The added comfort of this particular food is knowing it won't result in thunder thighs.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

3 on Thursday

As happy as I am to see my Dawgs secure the SEC East title this weekend, I was even happier to have a few more days of nice weather before the harsh New York winter makes its presence known.
I can't believe I forgot to share pics of my Halloween costume!  Though I usually throw a party, I took a year off since the holiday fell too close to my housewarming party.  Just because I wasn't hosting the festivities doesn't mean I took a year off from the holiday as a whole.  When it comes to Halloween costumes, I always make my own.  They are typically more cerebral (lots of wordplay) and always done on the cheap.  This year I went as 50 Shades of Grey.  The only thing I paid for was my manicure (a french tip with two different grey polish).  I used a skirt I had at home and then made a top out of paint samples pilfered from Home Depot.  Loved the result!

Before the power went out during Hurricane Sandy, Danielle and I started a Homeland marathon.  I am now obsessed!  Sadly, I got rid of my Showtime so I'll be finishing Season 1 via Netflix.  Lots of intrigue in this one!

Turns out, if you ignore the cold seasons, they still come anyway.  Not buying appropriate clothing in protest will not stave off the chill.  This weekend, I gave myself a budget of $250 and went out in search of Fall clothing.  I found two dresses at Coup de Coeur, a boutique by my apartment that carries trendy clothes at a reasonable price, a great pair of peeptoe snakeskin booties at Second Time Around, and the above pictured shirt at Pookie and Sebastian.  Pookie is usually a little too pricey for me, but I splurged after coming in under budget on the other items.  I'm so glad I did because this shirt is absolute heaven.  It is the closest you can get to wearing a sweatshirt and still looking cute.  It doesn't look super special in the pic, but when paired with bangles and cute ballet flats it made the perfect brunch outfit.     

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

I love that Trader Joe's sells Brussels sprouts in shredded/slaw form.  They're great to sauté with vegetables but this time I decided to use them for the base of a simple salad.  When it comes to nuts in salad, I know the walnut is usually everybody's first pick.  I, however, prefer pine nuts or sunflower seeds for my crunch because the size and texture is more to my liking.  Now I have another that I can add to the approved nut list: pistachios. They add great crunch to the salad and are one of the more flavorful nuts (almost but not quite as buttery as pine nuts) so not much else is needed.  All you need is a light dressing (oil, lemon, balsamic) and some shaved parmesan (I used a gouda/parmesan hybrid that I love and had on hand).  One final ingredient that I almost overlooked in this recipe is fresh parsley.  It doesn't change the texture of the salad but adds a great herb flavor.

Much like kale, substituting this for lettuce gives you something to really chomp on.  Instead of needing lettuce + something crunchy like bell pepper, you get it all in one ingredient.  Who doesn't like making life easier?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amor y Amargo

Karina's latest hobby is mixolgy. She has begun experimenting with different cocktails at home and is pouring over literature to make herself the most accomplished amateur mixologist in Queens. It makes sense that the best way to learn which drinks you fancy and how to make them is by getting out there and trying them. We made a date last Tuesday to do a little research and hit up two bars that specialize in bespoke cocktails to see if they would inspire Karina.

The second bar was Death and Co., but I've already written about that one so check out the previous post via it's hyperlinked name. The first bar we went to was Amor y Amargo, which is actually owned by the Death and Co. crew. While Death and Co. has a little of everything, all of their subsequent ventures have a distinct specialty: Cienfuegos = Cuban and rum, Mayahuel = Mexican and tequila/mezcal, and Amor y Amargo = bitters. Bitters are technically digestifs but are usually used to flavor drinks vs. being the drink itself. Apparently, there all sorts of artisinal bitters out there, most of which are made in Brooklyn (go fig). At Amor y Amargo there are about 30 different types of bitters on hand ranging in flavor from rhubarb to burlesque bitters. When I told the bartender I was a whiskey drinker and in the mood for something seasonal (since last night was the first night the cold weather really made its presence known), he directed me to the smut peddler which was a whiskey based cocktail featuring cinnamon, among other flavors. Forget a blanket on cold nights - this drink will warm you right up.

The bar is small. Real small. There's only room for about 15 people total. The benefit to this is that it allows the bartender to really concentrate on making your personal drink absolutely perfect. There was much precision that went into the drinks and that takes time. The only way he was able to devote such time was because he wasn't backed up with orders since the bar can't accommodate a crowd. The downside to the small bar was that it became that much more evident that the staff was not super friendly. They were by no means rude and I'm not asking for a banner when I walk in the door, but it when there are only 8 people inside the whole place, it's pretty evident that they're not making conversation or checking if you're ready to order.

In addition to finding a new under-the-radar bar, I was happy to support downtown businesses that are recovering post Sandy. All in the foodie industry are urging New Yorkers to "eat down, tip up" and I was happy to oblige.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Buford Highway: Queens in Atlanta

I know Jen was upset to leave New York, but she, Matt, and Avery have made themselves a beautiful life in Atlanta.  They told me one thing that eased the transition was seeing how close they were to Buford Highway.  Buford Highway is a sketchy area, but one that's worth visiting if you want authentic ethnic cuisine.  Matt and Jen are adventurous eaters and often ventured all over the city (usually in Queens) to find the most legit food so this felt like home to them.  It is a loooong strip of restaurants (mostly Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican) so we ended up eating both lunch and dinner there on Sunday.

Our first meal was dim sum at Oriental Pearl.  It was just as good as the New York Chinatown restaurants, and nearly as busy.  For supper, we went to El Rey Del Taco for Mexican that went beyond the chicken/beef options.  We tried to get in as many different meats as possible (one taco each of tongue, cheek, and steak, a pork burrito, a chorizo quesadilla, and a mixed grill dish that had three meats including [most notably] bacon - that last one was pure hangover food in the best way possible.)  The food was greasy and delicious and came with an amazing green sauce that we poured over everything.

Atlanta has emerged as a premier dining city with all sorts of nouveau cuisine.  While it's nice that there is no shortage of unique restaurants for date night, girls night, or a birthday, I highly recommend you trek to Buford Highway when you're in the mood for something cheap and different.
Starting Avery out on chopsticks early

Friday, November 9, 2012


I had planned a trip to Georgia for the Ole Miss game and some hanging out with my Atlanta friends, but I was worried that I wouldn't make it out due to Hurricane Sandy.  I was worried about getting to the airport so I left about four hours before my flight.  Because the city was rapidly running out of gas, there were no cars on the road and almost no one in the airport.  When I got to the gate, I saw that there was an earlier flight leaving at 6 PM and asked if I could get on it (with just four minutes to spare before they finished boarding).  The gate attendant switched my ticket free of charge and I walked on the plane to find it nearly empty, affording me an entire row to myself.  I'm not going to say I deserved it, but after a week without electricity, water, or heat (and no complaining from me), it was time for some good karma.

The best part about getting on a flight two hours early was that it meant I made it in time for dinner.  Because my parents didn't expect me to leave so early they were still on the road so I had a window of opportunity to meet up with Patricia for dinner.  She was already at the restaurant with her fiancé and another couple, so I hopped in a cab and met them at Watershed.

Watershed was previously located in Decatur but just moved to the Brookwood Hills neighborhood.  One of the owners is an Indigo Girl and the restaurant has snagged a James Beard award.  Those two details might lead you to believe that it's a pricier place, and it is.  However, they nailed it with the food so I didn't mind the price tag.  And no, my palate was not stunted because I had been subsisting on Pirates Booty and halloween candy during the hurricane - I was still able to recognize good food.

My lamb shank ragu over hand cut paperdelle with crispy brussels sprout leaves was perfect.  There was a hint of spice in the sauce, but it was a deep, smoky spice felt in dish's under-notes (if top-note is a wine term, I'm guessing under-note can be a food term).  This is the kind of dish that makes you feel whole again.  I also enjoyed a couple bites of the "very good chocolate cake in a jar."  It was rich without being dense.    

Side Note: I grabbed some matches on my way out and loved that they included their fried chicken recipe.  Great touch.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

3 on Thursday

What a crazy week last week was!  I am happy to say I survived my first (and hopefully last) New York disaster.  I was not around for 9/11 or the infamous summer blackout, but I have now had the full disaster experience with Hurricane Sandy.  I'll touch on the Hurricane in today's "3 on Thursday," but I'm not going to make this an entirely Hurricane-focused post because I've been living and breathing it for too long.
Sometimes, in dire circumstances, you just need to laugh.  The Sunday before Sandy hit, I discovered Miguel Bloombito on Twitter (@ElBloombito).  For those non-New Yorkers, our Mayor is famous for delivering news - whether for celebration or tragedy - in a monotone.  He also attempts to speak Spanish at all these press conferences with zero effort towards the accent.  He also manages to summarize 30 minutes worth of English speech into a minute and a half of Spanish.  From this, a parody Twitter account emerged.  Miguel Bloombito tweets in fabulous Spanglish and lent some levity to the dire situation we were all handling for the week following Sandy's strike.   

Losing power is one thing; losing water is another.  It was all fun and games on Monday and Tuesday when we were drinking wine and painting our fingernails by candlelight; but once I woke up on Wednesday to find I could not flush my toilet, this hurricane officially became a pain in my rear end.  I must say, seeing a New York disaster from the inside perspective is interesting.  I come from a small town where we are banded together all the time, but when you move to New York, you learn to embrace the "every man for himself" attitude.  You figure, a city this huge must be disjointed.  But then tragedy strikes and there is a camaraderie like none other.  Basically every storefront above the 39th St. power divide opened their doors to help those in need.  Banks encouraged people to use the ATM area as a charging station and gyms allowed any New Yorker to use their locker room facilities to grab a warm shower.  Beyond that, I have had so many people reach out to check on me, even offering to shelter me for a full week.  I was touched.  Compared to those in Staten Island and New Jersey, my loss of electricity, water, and heat was a mere inconvenience.  I am so happy so many people have been turning out to help those in serious need.  I took the compilation of photos above as I walked back to my apartment after showering at the gym.  Above 39th St., life appears to go on as if nothing had happened.  Below 39th St., however, it was a ghost town, illuminated only by the light packages (flares) that the city put up after we had lived in complete darkness for a couple days.   
Flesh flowers every week are a must in my apartment.  They just make me so happy when I come home!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Believe it or not, I learned about this book a long time ago from Diana Agron's tumblr but then ended up reading another one of Jonathan Tropper's novels first.  I thoroughly enjoyed "The Book of Joe," but while I gave that one a 7.5 out of 10, "This Is Where I Leave You" is easily an 8.  Again, Tropper mixes humor and heartbreak to make for a highly believable story because life is never all one and not the other.

Just after Judd Foxman finds his wife mid-cheat with his boss, he finds out his father has died.  When he returns home for the funeral, he learns that his father's dying wish was for the whole family to sit shiva, the Jewish tradition of a 7-day mourning period.  Within moments, all siblings are at each others' throats; but through the course of the week, they come to terms with the reasons they all harbor such deep resentment towards each other.

Most coming of age stories watch a pubescent teenager become a woman or hit a recent college grad with the harsh realities of life.  "This Is Where I Leave You" has everyone coming of age in their late 30s.  I guess it's never too late to grow up.

8 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Epicerie Boulud

I broke my toe last Wednesday.  I wish I could say it was a Sandy casualty but, really, it was just me being stupid and clumsy.  When I could no longer walk the mile and a half to work (remember, the subways were shut down), I took a cab...that promptly got into an accident.  I finally made it to work only to find out that our share drive was down.  So, yea, Wednesday was not my favorite.  The silver lining was lunch.  After about two hours at the office I left to get my toe checked out at the emergency med where I was told it was, indeed, broken, but there's nothing you can do for a broken pinky toe but wrap it and wait out the pain.  Fab.  I hobbled til I could find food, which happened to be at Epicerie Boulud aka: Wednesday's silver lining.

Epicerie Boulud is the take-out station/café from Daniel Boulud, of high end French fame.  I ordered the jambon et beurre sandwich (ham and butter with gruyère on a baguette) that tasted just like the ones I used to order in France.  I know it sounds like a hard sandwich to screw up, but you'd be surprised how many people mess it up here.  It comes at a much higher price ($9.50 for something that would have cost half that in France, a solid $3 more than the [bad] versions in other US restaurants), but it's worth it for the fresh ingredients that end up being far more satisfying.  Sometimes the simplest food placates the hunger pains better than anything else.  Since I was eating at about 4 PM, this meal was going to serve as both lunch and dinner so I also got the Moroccan chickpea salad.  I thought $10 was much too expensive for a salad that size until I started eating it and realized how filling it was since it didn't have a lettuce base.  I like hummus but don't usually like whole chickpeas.  My previous distaste was a total non-issue here.  The salad was whole chickpeas on top of pureed chickpeas with tomatoes, cucumbers, and TONS of spices.  I was in love and ate it with a spoon.  I think it was a special, but I would love for them to make this a permanent fixture.

After a terrible day, Epicerie Boulud lifted my spirits and reminded me that Sandy was a mere blip in the middle of what turned out to be a good week.

Side note: This was actually my first broken bone.  Even though it was kind of a wussy one to break, I am oddly proud of it.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: The Sandcastle Girls

One perk of Hurricane Sandy was having plenty of time to read.  I had plenty of time to tear through a couple novels, including Chris Bohjalian's "The Sandcastle Girls."  I had previously read "Midwives," also by Bohjalian, and enjoyed it.  The synopsis for this particular book didn't look as interesting as some of his other novels, but when I saw a signed copy in the bookstore, I couldn't resist picking it up.

I found the book more engaging that I had thought.  The majority of the story follows Elizabeth Endicott, a well-meaning Bostonian from a prominent family, as she works in Syria to aid the victims of the Armenian Genocide and falls in love with a local man.  The rest of the story takes place generations later as Elizabeth's granddaughter, Laura, tries to uncover her family's buried history.  Previously, the only thing I knew about Armenians was Kim Kardashian, but it turns out the Armenian people have a history that goes much deeper than famous good looks and a reality show.  I had no idea there was a systematic elimination - of Holocaust proportions - of Armenians by the Turks.  If this was ever mentioned in my high school curriculum, I don't remember it, but give me a history lesson in novel format, and I'm sure to absorb some knowledge.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Down But Not Out

Well folks, I've been a smidge inconvenienced by Hurricane Sandy.  No power, no water, a broken toe, and a down server at work.  I hope you'll forgive the lack of posts lately, but blogging by candlelight is not ideal.  We'll be up and running again soon - thanks for your patience!


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