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Thursday, February 28, 2013

3 on Thursday

I went into this week thinking it would be a return to normal, but it's turning out to be just as busy as last week!  I don't mind at all though because this week I may be busy but it's all related to seeing friends I haven't seen in a while.
I've enjoyed the short-form, multi-media format of tumblr since joining not long ago (refer to previous "3 on Thursday" post here), but my own tumblr is just a compilation of random things that make me happy.  I'll keep it up because we all need a happy place, but one thing I missed was the idea of a theme.  I like structure and felt that was lacking in my tumblr universe.  Basically, I wanted to take the more systematic approach I use for this blog and apply it to the short form framework of tumblr.  Thus, a new tumblr was born.  I'm calling this one "First and Last".  When I was in high school, someone mentioned a theory that the first and last sentences of a book will tell the entire story.  Basically, they were trying to figure out if they could get away with doing even less work than reading the SparkNotes.  I'll be testing the theory by rating how well you can understand the story by reading just the first and last lines.  Check it out! 
Move over Carrie Bradshaw!  I just got my very first pair of Manolo Blahniks and it's a pretty good feeling.  There was a sale at What Comes Around Goes Around (one of the city's great vintage/thrift shops) and there they were on a shelf, looking all dainty.  I couldn't believe no one had snagged these perfect condition pumps, especially when I saw the $69 (with tax) price tag.  But for some reason, these shoes were covered by Harry Potter's invisibility cloak until I walked by.  They are the perfect heel height for a taller gal like me and the cutouts make them fun when ivory pumps can easily turn dowdy otherwise.  I feel like such a grown up now that I own fancy shoes, even if they aren't exactly new.

It finally happened.  At age 27 I have just been summoned for jury duty.  I know everyone complains about jury duty and tries to get out of it, but I'm intrigued by it.  You get to see the justice system at work and hopefully some Law and Order type crazy case.  That said, I am now realizing how inconvenient it can be.  I mean, I do have a job that needs to get done.  We'll see how it all pans out soon!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Liberty

The bars in the West 30s all have the same pub feel, which is fine for what they are bound to become: happy hour spots for all us Midtown suits.  I was happy to walk into The Liberty and see something different in this part of town.  Instead of mirrors displaying a beer logo and tvs airing some version of NYC sports, The Liberty has an art deco feel with black and white mosaic tiles, damask wall paper, and bow tie clad bartenders.  It's nice to see Midtown West class it up a bit!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Because our NYC Dawgs board meeting was scheduled at supper time, we all planned to grab food on our way to Hansel's apartment and eat during our working session.  Hansel lives in the financial district, an area I am wholly unfamiliar with so I picked up food from the place closest to her apartment, grk.  After stuffing my face with this fresh Greek food, I immediately went online to see where else it was located.  Nowhere.  That's what I learned.  The only location of this restaurant is in the entirely inconvenient [to me] Financial District.  Why, grk, why?!  I enjoyed your food so much and need to be able to eat it on a far more regular basis.  Consider this my plea for you to open up another branch, preferably in Murray Hill.

Here's the thing: there aren't a ton of Greek restaurants in Manhattan.  There are a couple of wonderful taverna style places, but those are for sit down meals and tend to be pricier.  Other than grk, there's no place for a good gyro.  You could always go for street meat, but though it's fabulous at 3 AM, it seems too greasy in the light of day and doesn't come with any sides.  And, sure, all diners are owned by Greeks and have a few Greek items on the menu, but it's not the same as going somewhere devoted to this type of food.  grk is the solution.

I wanted to try one of the sides, so I ordered the yeero plate, which comes with your choice of meat (chicken, pork, or lamb & beef - I got lamb/beef), tzatziki (traditional, spicy, or basil - I got basil), 4 pita triangles, and side (chips, brown rice, or aegean slaw - I got slaw).  The meat was not greasy, the portions were ample, the yogurt in the tzatziki was thick, the pita soft and just charred enough, and the slaw had the perfect blend of spices that I can't figure out.  I didn't think I would love the slaw but I ended up stuffing into my pie hole in forkfuls too large to be considered ladylike.  I didn't try the yogurt, but it looked like there were some interesting toppings (fig preserves, savory options) and it is imported from Greece.

If only I had an excuse to go all the way downtown again tonight, I would go back to grk and order the exact same thing all over again.  So, again, grk, please open up a location near my apartment soon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: "Pavilion of Women"

Madame Wu runs her large household - the most prominent in their Chinese village - with precision.  She always knows what is going on and pays attention to even the smallest of details, able to distinguish the subtle differences between each of her sons' footsteps.  On her 40th birthday, instead of handing the reigns over to her eldest daughter in law, she decides to continue running the household but that it is time for her husband to take a concubine.  Family, friends, and servants are all shocked by this decision, but Madame Wu assures them it is not due to marital strife but because she does not want to bring shame to the family by becoming pregnant at such an age.  As Madame Wu settles into the Autumn of her life, she begins to explore her new freedom.  She has lived her life according to strict cultural guidelines, but as she begins to study with a foreign priest she discovers she may have always wanted more out of life.

While it was interesting to sense change simmering below the surface as China approaches WWII, there is little action throughout the story.  As Madame Wu grows closer to Brother André she experiences an awakening and her outlook on responsibility, education, and love shifts.  Something like this is a major life event but it is written without flair.  If Madame Wu is excited about this new world view, no one can tell because it is described in facts not feelings.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Penelope stands out in Murray Hill as the one adorable brunch place.  It's a cutesy cafe with rustic windows serving simple but comforting foods like grilled cheese, the BLT, and salads.  Unfortunately, since it's the only restaurant of this category in the neighborhood, the line is always ridiculous.  In no mood to wait for an hour and a half, I always sport a frown and walk someplace else nearby.

Monday, however, appeared to be the best day to try it out for supper.  Since I had the day off work for Presidents Day, I was able to get to the restaurant a little early and put our name on the list while I waited at the bar with coffee and a book.  Turns out, the whole group had to be there, but we showed up during a miracle of a window where we didn't have to wait long for a table.

Since I saw some version of the chicken meatballs on the menu in three separate places, I concluded they must be a house specialty.  I chose the version that came on a bed of arugula with a dusting of parmesan cheese.  Moist doesn't even begin to describe these meatballs.  I was concerned that I'd be disappointed by white meat meatballs, but they were infused with pesto and had enough flavor to render salad dressing practically unnecessary.  I also snuck a fry or two from Lindsay and Beth's plates and they didn't even need ketchup.  Unfortunately, my picture didn't turn out well so you'll have to use your imagination.

No longer deterred by the wait, I'm determined to eat at Penelope again.  It'll take a little planning by putting my name on the list while I run an errand or two, but I think it's worth it for this oasis of a café in the middle of Curry Hill.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 on Thursday

It is very weird to come back from a beach vacation spent entirely in bikinis to freezing cold New York.  At least my trip away gave me the reminder I needed that it won't always be cold and dreary.  Spring will soon arrive and I can spend all my time outdoors.
New favorite nail color: Essie's "School of Hard Rocks".  It's a green that falls somewhere between army and avocado skin that's dark enough for winter without being a downer.

Before leaving for vacation I attempted to ice skate.  It's definitely a fun winter activity but my Southern blood was not prepared for it.  I basically wobbled around the rink.

My favorite picture from my Curacao vacation.  I tore through three books while I was there and my favorite place to read was on our room's private patio.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: "Unorthodox"

There is a small handful of Orthodox Jews in Savannah and they generally stay to themselves, but in a small Southern town, it is impossible to section themselves off completely because there are simply not enough resources for them to live a completely sectioned off Jewish life.  Still, I pretty much thought that was as religious as it got.  I was very very wrong.

After reading "Unorthodox" by Deborah Feldman, I now know that Hasidic Jews are not simply Orthodox Jews, they are Orthodox, Orthodox Jews.  Feldman's account of growing up in the insular Satmar community in Williamsburg is harrowing.  Girls are not given a true education, are submitted to degrading hygienic practices, and are regulated in every aspect of their lives.  While I respect anybody's decision to practice religion as they please as long as it is of no harm to anyone else, I was shocked that there was so much I did not know.  This is an entirely different religion from the Judaism I know and so much of it is kept under wraps.  The customs governing marriage are interesting and at times scary.  I admit, I find it hard to imagine living like this but was so enthralled to learn of all the things that are secretly happening right under our noses.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


If you ask just about any New Yorker what's on their brunch bucket list, the name Balthazar will likely pop up.  On any given weekend, the line is out the door.  Even on a freezing Sunday like we just had, the wait was over an hour.  This French bistro is as close to Paris as you can get in SoHo.  I loved the charm but needed the food to be good to make it worth it.  And it was.

We started with the bread basket - a must since Balthazar runs a stellar take-out bakery at the front of the restaurant.  I'm not a sticky bun gal, but I'll make an exception for this one.  For my entree I went with the eggs meurette, two poached eggs in a red wine sauce with mushrooms and bacon lardons.  I took a risk with this one.  I had no idea how red wine sauce would work with eggs, but it did.  The whole thing was on top of a piece of bread that was crusty enough to resist complete sogginess just enough.

All my concerns that Balthazar was for newbies and tourists, with the hype overshadowing the food were put to bed after this meal.  Next time the weather's nice you just might find me on a bench outside, serving my time in the hour long line.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oh No!

Sorry I've missed a post or two. I'm on vacation in the Caribbean and had a bad reaction that left me with an eye that is completely swollen shut. Don't worry about me - it's already starting to get better and there will be a fresh post on Monday!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: "You're Not Doing It Right"

I was absolutely obsessed with Michael Ian Black's first book, "My Custom Van". The wacky essays were so hilarious I didn't care that there was essentially no point to the whole thing other than making me snort from laughter, of course. When I saw he had come out with another book, I figured it would be the same as the first, though I'm sure ant small amount of research on even an unreliable website would have told me otherwise.

Instead of a collection of random essays, Black has given us a somewhat linear recap of his life. In a 180 from the last book, this one gets personal. The humor is still there in full force, but this time, it is being used to guide us all through the difficulties of an unconventional childhood, marriage, and raising children. Humor is now become a tactic for making certain topics less uncomfortable.

At first I was disappointed to see something other than the off the wall essays I expected, but I quickly came o appreciate this more grown up Michael Ian Black. If nothing else I know that if I one day have a moment (or 10) of resentment toward my husband or kids, someone else has felt the same thing. And that someone else is wildly successful in Hollywood and, now, literature, which means he must be right about some things.

3.8 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 11, 2013

La Giara

La Giara is one of the few places in my immediate neighborhood that I hadn't tried, so I was excited when Marilynn decided to hold her 25th birthday brunch there. I never thought of it as a brunch place - walking by, it seems more like a traditional Italian supper spot.

Turns out, they do a great drunk brunch. The food is decent (my prosciutto mozzarella arugula sandwich was quite satisfying) and reasonably priced (food is $9-$12). As long as you order a meal and a drink ($6.50 for a Bloody Mary or mimosa), they'll give you unlimited refills. I went with the mimosa, but if you get the bloody, they bring you seemingly boring vodka and tomato juice. If you want to spice it up, you have your choice of fixins from a bucket filled with horseradish, pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Leek, Asparagus, and Prosciutto Quiche

Oh no! A whole bunch of asparagus about to go bad - what to do?! Here's what: I quickly sautéed it with leeks and prosciutto bits. Then I put the mixture, along with fontina cheese, in a frozen pie crust and poured an egg mixture (3 eggs and 3/4 cup milk, beaten) over the whole thing. I baked the quiche at 400 for 15 minutes then turned the heat down to 350 and continued baking for another 35 minutes.

By the time I was finished getting ready for work I had a nice breakfast waiting for me. Now that the dreaded blizzard had begun, it's nice having something warm in my belly before walking outside and into the snow.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

3 on Thursday

I should probably take things slow this week in preparation for a much needed vacation, but that just wouldn't be as interesting so I've been running at full speed and trying new things.
Grand Central turned 100 last week and it is just as beautiful now as it ever was.  It is one of my favorite places in the city, and I love that I get to walk through it every day.  Like many of us, I often keep my head down, changing the song on my iPod or looking out for street signs.  But if you're ever walking through the gourmet food market in Grand Central, do yourself a favor and look up so you can see this beautiful chandelier.

Lindsay is on the committee for Sunrise on the Rocks, which sends children with cancer and their siblings to camp for free with the money raised from their fun events.  This year, they raised enough to send at least 2 kids to Sunrise camp and give them a very special summer.  When being charitable involves food and an open bar, it's hard not to be philanthropic.  Hopefully you can tell by the pic above that we managed to have a great time while raising money.

I went to my first Knicks game on Monday night!  It's hard not to have a great time when you're only 10 rows back from the players, but it was just a great atmosphere in general.  I'm proud to have another team to support! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday 2013

Because I had no vested interest in either of the teams playing in this year's Super Bowl, I didn't feel the pressure to do anything major.  Without a team I cared to root for, there seemed to be no need to go to a party and stay up late, only to feel exhausted on Monday.  That's not starting the week off on a good foot.  Of course I still watched the Super Bowl because I love the commercials and Beyonce as the halftime act.  Since I was devoting so much time to watching the annual sporting event, I felt like I should cook some special tailgating inspired food for supper, even though I was just watching by myself.

Though I don't like hot dogs, I like sausage so I prepared andouille sausage dogs, which I thought were fitting since the Super Bowl was being played in New Orleans.  I heated up the sausage on my grill pan while I got some onions nice and caramelized.  This dog really doesn't need anything else, but you could always drizzle some remoulade sauce over the top instead of traditional ketchup and mustard.  I didn't have any remoulade sauce or the forethought to prepare any but it still tasted just fine.  On the side, I made potato skins.  These are super easy to make, they just take a little planning because it takes at least 45 minutes to bake them.  While the potatoes cooled off to a point where I could handle them, I crisped up some bacon.  After hollowing out the potatoes, I filled the boats with the chopped bacon and cheese.  I put them back in the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the skin and then topped them with a dollop of greek yogurt that I mixed with salt, pepper, and scallions.

When you're eating good food, it's easy to forget that you're being lame and watching the Super Bowl alone in your apartment.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Caramelized Garlic Chicken

If you're looking through a cookbook entitled "Quick and Easy," the recipes should be just that.  Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook was actually a birthday present from my parents when I turned 22 and was moving into my first apartment in New York a week later.  I was new to my cooking passion and it was the perfect cookbook to get my feet wet, particularly for a working girl with long hours and a tight budget.  As my skills progressed and I amassed more recipes, I forgot about my starter cookbook.  A couple weekends ago, while I was trying to get out of a cooking funk, I pulled half my cookbooks off the shelf and poured over them for inspiration.  I forgot how many handy tips and tricks were in this one!  I marked several apps for future parties and found one chicken dish to make right away.

Cook 3 cloves of garlic in a skillet with butter on medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, just until the garlic turns golden brown.  Then stir in 2 teaspoons of brown sugar until it's all melted - this is the caramelized part.  Sprinkle some salt over chicken breasts (I used the pounded thin ones so they would cook quickly) and add them to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes, turning once, until each side has turned white. Add a little water (about an 1/4 of a cup) and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is glazed and cooked through and the liquid has evaporated.  I knew I did it right when the chicken was golden brown.  The finishing touch: each chicken piece gets a basil leaf or two, a tomato slice, and a piece of havarti cheese.  Tip: Once you've topped the chicken with the basil, tomato, and cheese, put it on a foil lined cookie sheet and stick it in the broiler so the cheese gets nice and melty.

Since it doesn't really require any chopping and prepping, this dish takes about 20 minutes, start to finish.  However, because the garlic gets nice and sweet and really coats the chicken (especially when you use the thin cutlets), it tastes like something that's been roasting in the oven for much much longer.  Sure, it was simple, but it was yummy enough for me to immediately text my mom: "Wow oh wow was this caramelized garlic chicken good!  You must make it ASAP!"


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