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Friday, February 28, 2014


Our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived in Philly, which was fine because Albert had no intention of going there.  His alma mater (St. Johns) was already in the second half of their basketball game against [coincidentally, Philly-based] Villanova.  Priority numero uno was finding a bar to watch the game so we left our bags at the front desk and took to the streets to find a sports bar.  Since we were new to the area, it took a while to find a place that was showing the game and had a good vibe.  Just as we thought we found the perfect spot, we realized none of the tvs were showing the game.  We were about to turn around when I noticed a back door.  Hark!

Though the window of the door leading into the alley, I thought I saw the bright lights of a neon pub sign.  I didn't just find an acceptable viewing spot, I found a perfect bar.  McGillin's is the oldest pub in Philly and therefore draws a mixed crowd.  I loved seeing such diverse group.  I saw septuagenarians in sports coats two tables away from college kids and one table away from wedding guests fresh from the ceremony.  It was far more crowded than any similar pub in New York would ever be, but the bartenders still tried to make it feel like an intimate spot.

McGillin's set the pace for the whole trip.  Everyone in the bar was incredibly happy so I, in turn, was happy.  One point for happiness.  Point number two comes from a unique experience.  In this case, was surprised to find a beer sampler for $9.50 - that type of thing is big in breweries, not pubs.  The carousel included five local brews plus a sixth of the drinker's choice.  Finally, McGillin's gets a third point for introducing how economical it must be to live in Philly.  I would say the whole tab was $10 less than it would have been in New York.  I believe those three points make up for the three points by which St. Johns lost to Villanova that day.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

3 on Thursday

If you're a New Yorker, I highly recommend a weekend trip to Philly.  I went this past weekend as a belated anniversary/valentines celebration with Albert who planned the whole thing as a surprise.  I love exploring new places so a weekend getaway is ideal.  It's only about an hour and a half away so there's no need to take any time off work.  I was only there for about 34 hours but that was enough time for me to develop a little city crush.  There is a great food scene and a mix of neighborhood vibes that ranges from quaint historical to artsy.  Hopefully this week's "3 on Thursday" will inspire you to take a little trip.
There is great street art all around Philadelphia.  We saw tons of great murals, but this one in South Philly was one of my favorites.

  1. I'm not big on doing touristy things when I visit places.  My one exception for this trip was visiting the Rocky steps.  It's an iconic film scene that I just had to see for myself.  The idea was to then tour the art museum (that what those steps actually lead to) but none of the exhibits got us excited enough to pay the $20/person fee.  Instead of going into the museum we just sat on the steps and enjoyed the nice weather.  We knew temperatures would be dropping drastically this week so we wanted to take advantage of the warmth.  The people watching was a nice mix of tourists doing the Run while humming the theme song as well as local running groups.  Turns out Sly Stallone started a revolution working those steps into his training.  It was a complete coincidence that Albert wore that gray hoodie the day we visited the steps, but I'm glad his outfit choice was on theme.
  2. It's no Grand Central (one of my favorite places in all the land), but Philly has a pretty nice train station.  I loved the old wooden benches, stonework, and art deco fixtures.  It definitely beat Penn Station (where we left from) in terms of beauty and cleanliness.   
  3. I took being on vacation as an excuse to have a little sweet treat from Miel Patisserie by our hotel.  Mini fruit tarts have always been a favorite.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Victory Garden

Sometimes you taste something that doesn't belong...but you like it anyway.  That's what happened to me when I tried the frozen yogurt at Victory Garden.  It's fro yo that's made with goat milk.  The inevitable first question is whether or not it tastes like goat cheese.  It actually does.  It has all the tang of goat cheese that kind of makes the sides of your tongue curly upwards like the whale in Free Willy, but it's sweet.  

Using goat milk supposedly makes this yogurt a little healthier.  And as is bound to happen when someone waves the healthy wand over something that's supposed to be bad for you, something has to give.  For me, that something was the toppings, which seemed a little off the deep end - vegan fudge is an option, you know?  The goat milk flavor is unique enough that it doesn't need much.  Maybe a little granola or something non-vegan and you're all set.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

John Green's novel is pure Young Adult fiction.  It is written from the perspective of a 16-year old and the language is thus a degree.  You'll find plenty of "whatever"s and other teen speak, but you'll also find a number of words the book's intended teen audience will only recognize if they are heavily studying for their SATs.  I happen to like that.  The author is realistic about how teenagers speak, but he does not insult them by assuming they don't think in more eloquent terms.  Teens are usually smarter than they let on and Green credits them as such.

Hazel has come to terms with her condition as a terminally ill cancer patient.  She recognizes her lot in life and proceeds like any other 16-year old, with sarcasm.  The only difference is that she totes around an oxygen tank wherever she goes.  Her life, however, is awakened when she begrudgingly attends a support group for teen cancer patients and meets Augustus.  Augustus is in remission and has an unmatched zeal for life.  He's the jock to Hazel's bookworm but is nonetheless taken by her.  As their romance develops, Hazel begins to open up to new friendships and grows quite the backbone.  You'll cheer on this couple...and then you'll cry.  You'll sob.  Just warning you.

By the end of the one to two sittings it takes to finish this book, you'll be exhausted from the crying, yes, but you'll also remember how great it is to feel young and alive.  Look out for the movie version to hit theaters in June.

3 out of 5 stars (if I was a teenager I'd give it a 4)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. Abortion rates are at an all time low, but that seems to be because people are just getting pregnant less frequently thanks to contraceptive use.
  2. Move over mole people - this is probably the coolest thing to be done to old subway stations.  Can this please happen in NYC?
  3. I want to be in a secret society...or at least get invited to one of their events.
  4. While the world celebrates harmony during the Olympics, the situation in Kiev is dire.  As of Thursday afternoon, the death toll had surpassed 100.  Here's an article to provide better context around what happened.


Instead of really doing anything for Valentine's Day, Albert and I made plans to go out on the 15th with a couple of friends.  It's pretty much what we would do on a regular Saturday night, but being Valentine's weekend gave us the excuse to indulge a bit.  Also, going out on the 15th instead of the 14th meant we were able to bypass all the prix fixe menus and overly sappy couples that come out of the woodwork on the romantic holiday.

Our "go big" meal was a steak bonanza at Knickerbocker's.  Though there is an extensive menu, we went straight for the steak because they have an amazing T-bone deal.  If you get the steak for four it comes to $41 per person and is served with creamed spinach or broccoli and your choice of potatoes.  Of course it's still expensive, but that's easily saving $5-$10 per person when compared to any other steakhouse.  The plate of meat arrives looking like a dinosaur and we attacked it like the carnivorous beasts we are.  We also tried a couple of apps with our meal; while the scallops were meh, the crab cake stood out.  Pretty much zero filler.

We ate our food with some nice live jazz accompaniment.  The whole thing was very 1960s.  That's one of the great things about New York.  In a city that has seen so many generations, if you look for it, it's not that hard to step into another time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guac with Plantain Chips

I went to a restaurant once that served their guacamole with plantain chips instead of tortilla chips. I loved the starchiness of the chip and because they are less salty than tortilla chips, the guacamole really stands out. Leave it to Trader Joe's to stock plantain chips on the cheap. I grabbed a bag and waited for the long weekend to make some guacamole.

I didn't want to just buy guacamole. It's so much better when you make it yourself because you can keep the avocado a little chunkier and spice to your liking. It's really simple to make so there's no excuse if you can get your hands on a ripe avocado. I made the simplest guac possible: two avocados, one small tomato, half a small onion, half a small jalapeño, and some salt. Mash. 

For your next party, put out some plantain chips with the guac. Your guests won't know what hit em. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

3 on Thursday

I don't know about y'all, but I felt completely rejuvenated after my long Presidents Day weekend.  I came back to work ready to tackle the week, excited that I was already one day closer to the weekend.
Tulips are an under-appreciated flower.  Here they are displayed in front of my latest apartment addition: blinds.  It's so nice to be shielded from the sun and Peeping Toms.

  1. I'm not big on Valentine's Day, but that doesn't mean I'll turn down sweets from a co-worker when they come from one of my favorite bakeries.
  2. Good rain boots are essential for the New York streets during inclement weather.  So far, this is the 7th snowiest winter in NYC history (with more to come if the weather report is to be believed) so proper footwear is necessary for navigating the streets once the snow turns to slush.  I had no such boots, but after arriving to work in a snow storm with my feet soaked to the bone, I took to the massive department store that is the internet to better equip myself.  I knew for a long time that I wanted Hunter rain boots - they are widely considered the best - but could not bring myself to pull the trigger on the $150 rubber shoes.  That all changed when I was sitting at my desk with sopping wet socks.  Out came the credit card and I clicked away til I knew a pair of boots in my favorite color, green, were on their way to my apartment.  I recognize it seems like a frivolous expense, but these shoes are made from one piece of rubber (vs. the soles being attached to the rest of the boot) so they really keep the water and snow out.  After going through more than one pair of cheap boots in the past, I determined this was a good investment.
  3. I did something crazy on Saturday.  On Friday night I found out a bar would be showing the USA/Russia Olympics hockey game with a $25 open 7:30 AM when the game was airing live.  Word spread and the bar was packed with stars and stripes.  People were excited from the beginning but really got into it when the game got exciting in overtime.  Team USA beat Russia in their politically strained home country and it felt like we were witnessing history. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I was feeling a little homesick so recently I opened up my copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  I'm not sure if it cured my homesickness or just made me yearn for my beautiful and unique hometown more than ever.  Either way, it's a great read.

John Berendt's work of non-fiction put my town of Savannah on the map.  Seriously.  Nothing has done more for the tourism industry (our main economic driver) than this book.  Before "The Book" - as Savannahians refer to it - when my family would travel and tell people where we were from, we received blank stares.  After The Book, however, it seemed everyone knew a little something about the Hostess City of The South.

It's amazing how perfectly Berendt, a Yankee, captures Savannah's spirit (aka: our resistance to change) and its crazy characters.  He introduces the world to Lady Chablis, a black drag queen with pounds of sass, Sonny Seiler, the man who graces the UGA community with our mascot, Uga, and finally to Jim Williams, the man who made headlines.  Williams lived in the Mercer House, one of the most beautiful homes in all of Savannah.  It was there that Jim Williams shot and killed his assistant, Danny Hansford.  Williams was an upstanding citizen and host of the most exclusive Christmas party in Savannah so the murder shocked the city.  Even more shocking, however, was the news of Williams' homosexuality and Hansford's role as a hustler, which came out during the trial.

It's hard to believe I had never read the book in full before.  When it came out I was considered too young for some of the more mature themes.  Besides, I've lived it.  I grew up with the granddaughter of one of the book's more prominent characters and grew up listening to Emma Kelly.  Lady Chablis used to moderate my Mom's charity auctions.  It wasn't until after the book came out that I understood these characters are out of the ordinary.  For me, this book is nostalgic.  For you, it'll just be interesting.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valentine Shmalentine 2014

While I took a break last year because I was in Curaçao, I have developed a nice little single gal tradition of celebrating Valentine's Day by preparing a nice meal. Treat. Yo. Self. This year I wasn't single, but I didn't want to let my tradition go. I told Albert my plans would proceed as usual and he could join if he wanted. He said he would love to so I decided then and there that the meal would be spaghetti and meatballs. Why? Because that's what Lady and the Tramp ate and I  think they may be the most lovey dovey animal couple in history. Do we know of any other animal couples?

While past Valentine's dinners have been all about treating myself to an elaborate meal, this year was about treating myself in a different but just as satisfying way: by letting the store do the work. Sure, I boiled the pasta, but Whole Foods made the meatballs that I cooked with jarred pasta sauce and topped with fresh parm. For the vegetable I picked up Brussels sprout salad with bacon and blue cheese. But I can't forget that the whole meal started with a shrimp cocktail. Shrimp cocktail feels very 1960s to me. I'm not sure why, but I feel like it's a very Mad Men dish. Don Draper I considered quite the sex machine in that show so I now correlate shrimp cocktail with 1960s, which I correlate to Mad Men, which I correlate to sexiness. So that's how I thought shrimp cocktail would make a romantic Valentine's Day appetizer. Instead of cocktail sauce, I used remoulade sauce, also store-bought but a little different than the expected. 

No, we did not push the meatball across the plate with our noses like Lady and the Tramp. My single girl tradition may have been hijacked, but it was nice to be able to share a good meal with someone. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Otto's Tacos

The bright orange sign made me wonder if it was legit, but Albert really wanted to check out Otto's Tacos.  I want to say the reason I agreed was solely because he asked me to, but the real reason was twofold: I started reading a lot of good reviews about their LA style tacos on homemade masa tortillas and I heard about a secret menu.  The reviews offered validation and the secret menu made me feel special.  Like I was a gatekeeper.  Don't tell me you wouldn't want that honor.

The menu is small but it's really all you need.  My favorite of the regular menu tacos was the shrimp.  The shrimp has been marinated to be a little tangy and spicy and it comes with a serrano crema that really set the whole thing off.  Thankfully, that crema also made it's way onto the Gorgon.  The Gorgon is the secret menu item at Otto's, but I'm telling you about it now so I guess the secret's out.  It's a deep fried taco that's much larger than the regular menu tacos so you won't need to order as much as you think.  The tortilla is puffed up like a greasy peacock and filled with carne asada (good char on the meat), guac, that crema, onions, and cilantro.  It may not be on the menu, but it's the best thing on the menu. Wink wink.
Gorgon in the back

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Divergent

The Divergent series has taken the world by storm.  Well, it has taken the teen world by storm.  Once again, I gave in and read a Young Adult novel series.  I'm still proud that I resisted Twilight, but I can't make fun because I loved the Hunger Games.  Veronica Roth's series was the latest sensation that, like the Hunger Games, takes place in a dystopian society with a brave female heroine.  

The premise: in a futuristic Chicago, society is divided into 5 factions, each representing a different virtue.  The Abnegation value selflessness, Candor value truth, Erudite are scholars, Amity want peace, and Dauntless are brave to the point of recklessness.  At age 16, everyone takes a test to determine which faction they are best suited for and then decide at the choosing ceremony which faction to make their new home.  In her aptitude test, Beatrice Prior learns she is Divergent and could fit into several different factions.  She is warned that if anyone finds out about her Divergence she could be in danger so at the choosing ceremony she leaves her Abnegation family and pledges her allegiance to the Dauntless.  

The first book focuses on Tris trying to prove herself to her new daring faction and culminates with the strife between two factions coming to a head in a catastrophic way.  It's hard not to get sucked into the story as the "perfect" society begins to unravel.  I thought the romance aspect was a little too in-your-face, but at least it veered away from the love triangle formula used by other trilogies in this category.  I can't wait to see the movie version when it hits theaters next month!

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

3 on Thursday

I kicked off my week with a huge client presentation.  There is still much work to be done, but I am looking forward to a more regulated work flow now that the craziness of presentation prep has calmed down.
Background: gorgeous flowers for a special occasion
  1. We took Friday happy hour in a new direction last week: we went bowling.  It was a nice change of pace and a great way to interact with friends beyond sitting around a table with beers.
  2. A shot from inside one of my neighborhood subway stops.  
  3. I couldn't resist taking a picture of Albert in front of the Albert Building in Flatiron.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


And now for my third brunch post in a row I'll tell you all about Rayuela.  This one is another bottomless brunch spot.  For just $15 you can have sangria added to your entree (which will only set you back about $13 in itself).  You can switch off between sangria flavors, but I started with the passionfruit and liked it so much I never made it to the guava or regular red.

The nuevo latino menu was also enjoyed by all.  I did my job of checking, and all twelve plates at our long table were clean.  I thought my plate of huevos partidos looked small, but I was full for hours.  At first it looks like your basic eggs, potatoes, and sausage.  But then you realize those aren't potatoes, they're pieces of fried yuca.  And it's not regular sausage, it's chorizo, which is just chor-ific.

Bottomless brunch deals like this usually come in smaller, more...rustic restaurants.  But Rayuela is two stories of breezy space.  It really puts the oasis in Sangria Oasis, which, incidentally, is what they call their weekend brunch.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Ichabod's is small, but size doesn't always matter.  Not when a bottomless brunch is offered, at least.  Just $15 gets you two hours of mimosas or bloodies, which go great with the country breakfast (two eggs, potatoes, and bacon or sausage).  The food was solid, the vibe intimate, and the location just off Union Square is convenient for anyone living in NYC.  That light streaming into the photo just makes the brunch experience so much nicer.

Monday, February 10, 2014


I think of Delicatessen as one of those beautiful people restaurants.  Maybe it's because there are lots of fancy stores in SoHo.  Maybe it's because the restaurant is so crisp and white.  At 28 years old I should not be so easily intimidated.  There was nothing scary about the restaurant and I was pretty enough to fit in there.  Well, at least they didn't turn me away like in Pretty Woman.

They call the menu "international comfort food" and that's just a prissy way of saying basic continental.  Basic is exactly what I want when it comes to brunch.  Give me some properly cooked eggs and I'm a happy gal.  If I'm calling it brunch instead of lunch it usually means I'm tired from the night before and my head is probably a little cloudy.  That's no time to mess with complicated items.  What I'm looking for in that moment is something that has "scrambled," "poached," or "over easy" in the title.  This time, it happened to be an omelette with burrata and roasted tomatoes.  The tomatoes made it.  I added some avocado because I just knew it would make it better.  As usual, I was right.  The potatoes were nice and crispy, which was good because mushy potatoes really kill my brunch vibe.

Friday, February 7, 2014


It's always nice to try a new restaurant, but it's downright exciting when that restaurant is one you didn't even know existed.  Last week, Lindsay introduced me to Bakehouse.  Even though I've strolled the West Village streets often, this restaurant had never come onto my radar thanks to it's location all the way over by the river.  

The interior is a combo of farmhouse style with the wooden tables and industrial with the exposed pipes.  It made it feel almost communal even though tables were spaced far apart.  While I liked looking around the restaurant, the view through the windows was even better.  The river and skyline scene was nice and relaxing - a perfect thing to look at while trying to relax on a Friday after a long work week.

The bistro style menu is very reasonably priced.  My bethune pizza was incredibly rich - the gruyere was more of a bechemel sauce on the pizza so this would definitely be a good sharing item.  I also tried the Brussels sprouts.  They were a little heavy handed with the pepper, but roasted Brussels sprouts are always good.  Lindsay said her steak tartare was very good and filling since the large portion came with a side of fries.  I wouldn't say the food was "standout", but for the moderate price and wonderful view, I was very happy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

3 on Thursday

As you'll see from this week's background (a screenshot of my instagram), the Konter fam released some pretty major news last week.  My brother and sister-in-law are expecting a visit from the stork in August!  I am so very happy for them and know they will make the best parents.  I also plan to be the best aunt.  Ever.

  1. NYC hosted the Super Bowl this year and turned all of Broadway from 34th to 47th Street into Super Bowl Boulevard.  It was a great way to get the city excited, and how can you not be excited when there's a giant toboggan run? 
  2. After wearing contacts since I was about 11 years old, my eyes are pretty tired.  My peepers dry out easily and could use a break.  I figured if I bought a second pair of glasses, I would be inclined to wear them more often.  Having two pairs makes them feel more like an accessory rather than a nerdy obligation.  For my new pair I went straight to Warby Parker.  Just look at their annual report and you'll see what makes them such a fun company.  Also great is the price - all glasses are just $95.  And they're socially conscious: for every pair you buy, they give a pair to someone in need.  Don't think you're getting the ugly glasses, either.  They're so stylish they have lots of celeb fans.  So for just $95 you get to look good and do good.  Did I mention they set up their flagship store as a library?  Swoon.
  3. This was not the best Super Bowl ever.  I was hoping for a Broncos win since my former Dawgs Knowshon and Champ are on the team, but they were brutally massacred.  It was a pretty boring game to watch, other than the halftime show (I heart Bruno Mars).  I did, however, have fun at the Super Bowl party I went to.  I've only ever watched the Super Bowl on friends' couches, with lots of unhealthy dip and pizza on the coffee table in front of me.  This year I went to a party at a club hosted by a magazine.  There were go go dancers, open bar, a dj, and a performance by DMC.  It was aggressive for a Sunday night, but nice to have so many distractions when the game was kind of a snoozefest.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chicken with Dijon Tarragon Cream Sauce

Don't you love it when things are so easy and also sooo good?  I certainly do because it's nice not to always have to work hard to cook enjoyable food.  This recipe for dijon tarragon cream chicken took 20 minutes to pull together and tastes like you spent all day cooking it (I find cream sauces usually have that effect).  I recommend using the chicken breast that have been pounded thin - then it will really take no time.

Tarragon is a relatively mild herb, but it does something to the flavor of the sauce.  I know you're probably reading this blog so I can describe in detail just what that "something" is...but I can't.  Perhaps that mystery will entice you to make this dish.  If an air of mystery doesn't do the trick, I'll come right out and say it: cook this!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

B Flat

B Flat calls itself an "authentic bar".  If a bar serves alcohol, I would consider it authentic...but that's just semantics.  I suppose they consider themselves legitimate because they have a whiskey on the menu that is $28 for 2 oz.  I am not the kind of person that would order that but still found the rest of the drinks "authentic" enough for my liking.

It didn't take long to figure out this was a Japanese bar.  All the bartenders and patrons were Asian and the menu had strong Japanese influences, like green tea and in the case of my cocktail, yuzu and shiso leaf.  If they meant this was an authentic Japanese bar, they have probably earned the title.

It is very easy to walk right past the bar as it is basement level in TriBeCa, but if you're in the mood for a sophisticated evening (and by that I mean low voices and Jazz music playing) this is a great spot.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. From temperature to sleep, see this infographic to understand what contributes to your happiness.
  2. Esquire used a focus group of 1,000 to determine what makes men normal.  How do you stack up?
  3. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg is donating $53 million to restock the fish populations in Brazil, Chile, and the Philippines.  An effort like this will go a long way in helping to feed the growing population. 
  4. It's cold and flu season and I want to make sure I avoid getting sick.  Check out these cold remedies from around the world.  I particularly like the hot toddies.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Here in the North, shrimp is never the main meal.  I pretty much only ever see it as a shrimp cocktail appetizer or as the protein in a pasta dish.  But as a Lowcountry girl I'm used to shrimp being the main event.  When you can catch the main course for free off your dock, I'm not sure why you would rather go to the grocery store.  I'm making it my mission to show New Yorkers how great shrimp can be as the main course.  The best way to do that is by appealing to their trendy, healthy side.

I followed this recipe for cilantro lime shrimp and highly recommend it.  I served it over rice with a couple slices of avocado and a fresh salad on the side.  For people who don't think of shrimp as the main course, this meal will probably change their mind.  Follow it up by reminding them how healthy it is and they'll probably request the recipe.  Finally, tell them how unbelievably quick and easy the whole thing was and they'll probably stop at the grocery store for the ingredients on the way home.


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