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Friday, June 28, 2013

Pea Salad

You and me go together like peas and carrots...except I don't like peas and carrots.  But once I discovered how great Greek yogurt and mayonnaise could be as a dressing, I wanted to see if it could save this dish.

Once of my biggest issues with peas and carrots is that I don't really like cooked carrots.  I do, however, like raw carrots, especially when used as a vehicle for dip or dressing.  Serving peas and carrots as a cold salad turned it into something I actually enjoyed eating that took minutes to prepare.  I defrosted frozen peas and tossed them with sliced carrots, the yogurt/mayo dressing, salt and pepper, and fresh mint.  I took the dish to book club and based on how little was left, it seems I'm not the only one who prefers this version of peas and carrots.  Another great potluck/picnic dish to add to your recipe box.  You're welcome.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Cardinal

I'd heard The Cardinal was churning out good Southern food but never made it down to 4th and B to see for myself.  Seeing a $24 BBQ plate on the dinner menu just seemed so anti-Southern I couldn't bring myself to go.  That kind of Southern food is supposed to be down and dirty and cheap.  It just didn't seem right...but that didn't stop me from wondering how the food tasted.  I found a compromise between principle and curiosity this weekend when I discovered they had a great brunch deal.

At brunch, the entrees are $13-$16 and for only $5 more you get unlimited mimosas.  That price point was much easier to swallow and I was impressed enough with the food and atmosphere that I'm now considering a return for supper, even if it is a little more expensive.  I recommend you start with brunch though because (do I need to say it again?) $5 unlimited mimosas.

I ordered the fried chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy.  It was way more food than I could handle.  The gravy could have used a little salt, but the chicken and biscuits were great.  Seriously amazing biscuits.  I also tried some of Albert's pork chops and eggs which also came with sausage gravy as well as a strip of bacon that was practically a meal in itself and a side of cheese grits.  In the South the cheese is mixed into the grits so I was a little disappointed that an order of cheese grits meant grits with a layer of cheese on top.  Then I tried it and tasted how great the grits were and didn't even care.  I've never said this about grits, but they didn't even need the cheese.  The grits were that creamy and delicious on their own that I'm assuming there's some cheese in there that they're not telling us about.  Albert was not as impressed with his first grits experience but then again, Yankees are silly.  He'll learn.


  1. It's cash only so come prepared or use the ATM they have in the restaurant. 
  2. They have sweet tea and cheerwine on the menu.  Southerners know what I'm talkin about.  (Though charging $4.25 for Southerner knows what that's about.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Perk Kafe

When I moved from the UES to Murray Hill, my food options expanded.  I felt bad complaining since I had so many more cuisines at my fingertips, but there was one thing noticeably missing: the coffee shop.  Thanks to the TV show Friends, many kiddies of my generation assume groups of New York pals convene on comfy couches in coffee houses to gossip and sip coffee every weekend.  They also imagine artsy types do their writing hunched over laptops in one of those quaint coffee spots where the baristas know your name and never rush you out.  In reality, New York is filled with just as many Starcucks as any suburb.  If you want a cute coffee house, you usually have to go downtown and even then many don't have seating.  If you're reading this in a small Midwestern town and I just shattered the illusion, I apologize; but now you understand how upset I was when I realized Central Perk was not as realistic as I thought (nor are the apartments on that show, but whatevs).

It may have be harder to find good coffee houses than I imagined, but I was determined to not become a Starbucks statistic.  Thankfully, I found a coffee oasis by my old apartment and spent almost every Sunday there doing exactly what I had always pictured New Yorkers doing: sipping coffee while reading The Times or typing away on my laptop.  Sure, when I moved I could replace it with home-brewed coffee on my rooftop, but that's just not the same and doesn't help me during the cold months.  I begged the coffee gods for some help and my prayers have been answered because a new coffee house recently opened directly across the street from my apartment.

Not only does Perk Kafe have seating, they serve Stumptown, my favorite roast.  And when they hand you that delicious Stumptown coffee, they'll have taken the time to make a design in the foam, a touch that does not go unnoticed.  Coffee and seating are the most important things because, let's face it, if the brew is bad or I have nowhere to sit and enjoy it, there's no point.  But beyond those non-negotiables, Perk Kafe has established themselves as my official coffee spot with their free wifi and great decor.  It's good to have a place to sit, even better when that place is filled with distressed wood, mosaic floors, subway tile, and a neon sign behind the counter for splash effect.  The all glass facade lets the light stream in and bounce off the mostly white decor for a feeling that is simply "weekend."  And based on an interaction I witnessed last time I was in there, I could tell they recognize regulars and remember their orders.  I may have found my Gunther!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jack's Wife Freda

I have to admit, Jewish food is never top of my list.  I didn't grow up around it so not only are items like bagels, deli sandwiches, and matzah ball soup far from my top cravings, I am usually turned off by those foods.  However, there's only so much protesting you can do when a restaurant consistently receives great reviews like Jack's Wife Freda does.  I would never describe Jewish food as trendy, but the crowd in the SoHo café would beg to differ, considering the lively, posh crowd I saw on Thursday night.

Richard, always ready to try something new, was good to go without hesitation and when I realized the menu was influenced as much by Israeli/Mediterranean cuisine as it is by traditional Jewish food, I was much more intrigued.  Drawn to that Mediterranean food, I went straight for the Haloumi appetizer.  The salty cheese was topped with sweet grapes for a light start to the meal.  It was gone way too quickly.  I followed it up with the kefta kebab, meatballs served with hummus, tahini, and pita slices.  It was fabulous and reminded me how amazing hummus can be when prepared by people who know how to do it.  Richard loved his catch of the day (whole branzino with cous cous) and slurped down his matzah ball soup.

Jack's Wife Freda is completely separate from what I think of Jewish food to be - and I mean that in the best possible way.  Old world tradition has fallen into trendy SoHo and adapted.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Potato Salad with Yogurt, Arugula, and Dill

As a child, I watched in horror as people would pile grocery store potato salad on their plates at grill outs.  It looked like a gross mess and even made a weird "squirslop" sound as it plunked onto the plastic dinnerware.  In recent years, however, I've become a fan of potato salad when it's homemade with good ingredients and not overdressed.  In most cases, this means if I want the kind of potato salad I like, I need to make it myself.

I've found a new favorite recipe that is practically as easy to make as it is to buy that weird slop from the grocery store that I refuse to eat.  The best part is that it incorporates better ingredients not usually found in potato salad so I guarantee your fellow picnic goers will thank you for taking the initiative to change it up.

Cut up small red potatoes into bite size portions and boil til fork tender.  While they're boiling, take a few moments to exert the only real [minimal] effort this dish requires: cut shallots super thin and mix your dressing.  The dressing is just 2 parts greek yogurt to 1 part low fat mayo and salt/pepper to taste.  It's so simple but when these two ingredients come together, you have a tangy sauce that seems like it has more layers than it actually does.  Drain your potato chunks and run them under cool water to bring them closer to room temp.  Toss the potatoes with the shallots, dressing, fresh dill, and roughly chopped arugula.

If we work together, we can make sure this is the only kind of potato salad served at summer parties.  I have faith in us.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

3 on Thursday

Tomorrow I'm headed to Baton Rouge for Patricia's wedding.  Knowing Patricia, this will be an extravaganza and I can't wait!
I finally saw what all the fuss was about at Beekman Beer Garden.  All the way down at the South Street Seaport is an outdoor space that's fun in the daytime (ping pong) and breathtaking at night (amazing view of the Brooklyn Bridge).  Great spot for summer socializing. 
A good cocktail on top of a whimsical, illustrated menu is a great mid-week treat.
I'm always in the Thomkins Square Park area at night on my way to Alphabet City bars, when it's a little to sketchy to walk around in the park.  Last weekend I happened to be in the area in the daytime and simply strolled.  They've got some amazing flora in there that served as the perfect backdrop for my dog park and street hocky creeping.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: When She Woke

In this re-imagining of "The Scarlet Letter," Hester Prynne becomes Hannah Payne and instead of a simple letter sewn onto her clothes her public shame takes the form of chroming, where a criminal's skin is altered to match the color of their crime and then they are released into the world.  Needless to say, this is a futuristic adaptation of the novel, but the themes are as relevant as ever.

We have moved West, leaving the puritanical Boston of the original behind for a modern, evangelical Texas. When Hannah is released from prison, her red skin (for murder) is a target for harassment.  She must navigate a world where it is impossible to fade into a crowd and dueling organizations (one reminiscent of the KKK, the other of the underground railroad) let her know just how prevalent racial tensions are.  Between the existence of crazy date rape drugs and a raging war on abortion, the theme of women's rights is at the forefront of this novel.

Adaptations of such lauded works often turn cheesy, but I found Hillary Jordan's novel to be an inspired take on a classic.  Though set in the future, it still manages to feel very realistic and would certainly inspire conversation.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


What?  Huh? *Nervous Giggle* *Nervous Giggle*.  That was my response when I walked into my birthday dinner with Albert to discover that the whole time I thought he had planned nothing beyond the idea of us doing dinner together on my bday, he was really plotting to arrange something with a group of my closest friends.  Not only did he want me to be surrounded by my besties as I turned 28, he wanted me to be able to hit up a blog-worthy restaurant since those are pretty much the two things that make me the happiest.  Check and check.

I had been to Danji once before for lunch, but they have a very different menu for dinner, and I have been dying to try it after hearing rave reviews.  Unfortunately, it has been tough convincing a group to go there for a fun weekend dinner since it's not in the area of town we either live or go out in and would therefore requires a little extra planning.  We usually don't have time or patience for extra planning.  I guess my Grandma's right: we are a lazy generation.

The dinner menu lived up to my expectations.  We started with a kim chi trio and kept ordering from there.  Dinner is served tapas style and we steadily worked our way through both the traditional and modern sides of the Korean menu.  We ordered the scallion and pepper pancake (tons of filling - not all egg), vermicielli noodles (sweet and delicate), crispy tofu (far more satisfying than I could have imagined), spicy honey chicken wings, bulgogi beef sliders, rice cakes, and short ribs.  All the dishes were good but there was no debate about the best dish of the night: bossam.  This crispy yet tender pork belly was served with dehydrated daikon kim chi and paper thin cabbage for wrapping.  There was one extra left on the plate and I didn't even bother going through the "no, you take it" routine.  I just grabbed it.

I'm a big fan of K-Town, but it's nice to see Korean food go beyond they speedy KBBQ setup.  This was sophisticated without abandoning traditional Korean flavors.  Birthday success!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Asparagus with Avocado and Feta

I recently found a recipe for a veggie sauté that was served as part of a breakfast dish underneath egg in a hole.  However, if you take away the egg and toast component, this is just as well suited for a veggie side dish at suppertime.  The first step is to sauté shallots and asparagus with crushed red pepper.  I had no idea how important this red pepper would be, but it pretty much made the dish.  Once the veggies were ready, I tossed them with avocado, feta, and a little dill.  And then I ate it fast.  Really fast.  Because it was really good.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is Gone Girl Lite.  All the twists and turns but done in a humorous way.  Someone goes missing and information as to what exactly went down is exposed in a backwards manner.  Bernadette Fox was a high powered architect until she had somewhat of a breakdown, at which point she and her husband move to Seattle where he becomes a demigod at Microsoft.

Bernadette does not suffer fools and in her mind, everyone in Seattle is foolish.  Her one spot of happiness is her daughter, Bee, an extremely gifted student who doesn't mind her mother's eccentricities.  Bernadette has alienated the other mothers at Bee's hoity toity prep school and has outsourced a friendship with a virtual assistant who does all her bidding.  Tension between Bernadette and just about everyone is high when she suddenly disappears, leaving everyone wondering if she is a criminal, crazy, or framed.

By writing the novel entirely as a compilation of emails, letters, and article excerpts, author Maria Semple reveals all the details in a unique and tantalizing way.  You feel like you are living the story as it happens, thanks to Semple's topical references.  Because the book jumps around as characters correspond with each other, reading it felt like I was catching up on an email chain at work where the next note could very well be from me.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

3 on Thursday

I am still reeling from my fabulous birthday weekend.  I was surrounded by my favorite people throughout the weekend - it was more than I could have ever hoped for.  If the birthday is any indication of how the year will go, 28 will be wonderful.
When I was home I got to stop by Back in the Day, my favorite Savannah bakery.  The shabby chic decor is adorable and the desserts (especially the bourbon bread pudding and star brownie) are great.

It's always a good feeling when your friends "get" you.  Ashley clearly gets my style and got me an incredibly thoughtful birthday gift.  The fact that she thought of me while planning her wedding was pretty unbelievable but I was floored when I saw that she picked something out in my favorite colors of navy and green and incorporated the kind of personalization I love (monogramming, anchors) along with a message embroidered inside the clutch. 

All I can say about this birthday is WOW.  I was completely blown away.  These flowers are two (of several) surprises from the weekend.  The tulips were a gift from Lindsay because she thought she would be out of town for my party but wanted to be there in spirit.  Turns out the trip was canceled so we were still able to celebrate together (even better) but the flowers are such a nice reminder of what a thoughtful friend I have.  The roses are from Albert and are my first ever gift of flowers from a boy.  Cue the "aww"s. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


After appearing on a Travel Channel show naming it one of the best sandwiches in America, there is always a line at Zunzi's in Savannah for The Conquistador.  The description may not wow you (baked chicken with lettuce, tomato, and sauce on French bread) but there's something magical that happens when the white and pink sauce comes together over the tender tender chicken.  It looks too big to bite but just try it because then the sauce will drip out and when you put the sandwich back down the bottom of the bread will soak it up.  It's a massive sandwich for just under $10 and well worth the wait.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


a.Lure has been open a little over a year but I hadn't been so Mark and Allison were anxious to show it off.  When I looked at the menu and saw lamb carpaccio served with blue cheese ice cream I understood why.  Blue cheese ice cream?  That's the sort of thing that gets me toe-tappin' giddy.  If it's done right, that is - nobody likes a gimmick.  And it was, indeed, done right.  Oooh yea it was.  

Also done right: seared scallops with pulled duck confit, truffled cream corn sauce, and savory sweet corn ice cream.  These ice creams!  So new and funky!  Oo la la!  I can't forget the burger.  When I said I was getting too full to share, my dear Bub looked at me and said, "Tess, Wagyu is the Kobe beef of America.  When you see it on the menu, you just have to get it."  I learned long ago that it served me well to listen to my big brother, and this was no exception.  Aged cheddar, bacon, fried shallots, and garlic mayo made it a great burger.  Parmesan truffle fries are just the kind of fried potato a burger like this deserves.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bonna Bella

One of my favorite restaurants at home (we're talkin top 3 here) is Bonna Bella.  As a family not only from a Lowcountry/river town but whose home is actually on said river, we don't like to stray from the water and dining is no exception.  You can get to Bonna Bella by car or boat (more often than not, we go with boat) and though inside seating exists, I've never seen anyone using it.  Why would you when you can basically sit on a dock while you eat your food.  There's cornhole for while you wait for your food and a general laid back fun atmosphere.  I've never seen anyone in a bad mood at Bonna Bella.  One of my favorite dishes is she crab stew and they make some of the best around.  I had mine with a half pound of boiled shrimp and a beer.  Perfection.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Lulu's Chocolate Bar is a great downtown Savannah spot that always gathers a line.  For good reason.  The desserts are fabulous and going out for sweets and cocktails is a great way to end the night when you're not quite ready to go home but don't want to really go out.  My parents and I shared the pineapple upside down cake, the chocolate peanut butter pie, and the salted caramel cashew tart (my fave, by far).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

3 on Thursday

8 days at home was just not enough.  I may be back to my NYC habits, but I still miss lounging on the boat and having all the time I want to read.
Matt and Karina recently hosted us for supper at their new place and although apps are usually my fave, I have to call their dessert course the winner.  We had port with biscotti and stilton and I learned stilton and biscotti go really well together - a new trick that won't soon be forgotten.  We ate dessert while playing Cards Against Humanity, a parlor game that gets even better after a few drinks.  I highly recommend keeping it around the house for impromptu dinner parties.

The best part of being home is home cooking.  When I reviewed the grocery list my mom emailed me I knew immediately that she was asking me to pick up the ingredients for my favorite meal, chicken and wild rice casserole.  I can't get enough of it.  Fun fact: when my Daddy was trying to impress my La La and Grandpa because he wanted to ask for my Mom's hand, he cooked them this meal.  If you eat this meal, you'll understand why they couldn't tell my Daddy no.

The costumes and sets were just about the best parts of the Great Gatsby movie.  The acting was great, too, but the other stuff was what really shined.  And I am being quite literal.  There were sparkly diamonds and glistening marble all over the place.  I love the Roaring 20s and their unmistakable glitzy art deco vibe.  I sometimes think I belong in a different generation and long to have lived in that era.  Apparently I am a step closer thanks to Tiffany's, who created many of the jewels we see throughout the film.  Almost all of them are well out of my reach, but this onyx and pearl ring was actually my favorite item in the collection and at $475 is actually affordable.  My birthday is tomorrow and if anyone is still looking for my gift, this is IT.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Il Bastardo

Steph loves to go to Il Bastardo because it's easy for her to get to from Hoboken and they apparently do a rowdy, dance party brunch. It's hard to imagine that when you're eating lunch there on a random weekday (which I was fortunate enough to do thanks to a pre-memorial day off work), but the lunch deal gives you an idea of how crazy it can get.  Who wouldn't go nuts over a $10, 2-course meal?  I went with the caesar salad to start and the chicken paillard for my entree.  Both were well prepared, simple, Italian staples.  But here's where it goes from mild to wild: just $16 for unlimited wine.  Yes, please.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


In a smaller town like Savannah, locals flock to a new restaurant the moment it opens in hopes of infusing some variety into their diets.  My brother and sister-in-law are trendsetters and usually the first to try any new eatery, but I managed to beat them to this one (and as a visitor, no less!), which I suppose makes me the trendsetter supreme.

Oliva is an Italian restaurant run by the same folks behind Rancho Alegre.  I wasn't sure how they would transition from Cuban to Italian, but I now know that the wife of this husband/wife team was raised in Venezuela, immersed in the Italian culture and all the recipes are her invention.  Such a situation was surprising to me but even more surprising was that all the fresh made pasta dishes are only $15.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a hand cut pasta dish for less than $20 and I've certainly never seen it when the pasta is filled with chicken liver paté and topped with sage butter.  Also fantastic was my Mom's pappardelle with lamb ragu and my Daddy said his grilled Octopus was like eating lobster - considering lobster's status in the world of crustaceans, that's a high compliment.  Our beef carpaccio appetizer was an ample portion and set off with a nice zesting of lemon.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gone Fishin'

Apologies for the absence, but I've been home on vacay.  Posting will resume tomorrow!


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