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Friday, May 30, 2014

Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, & Roasted Asparagus Salad

This recipe for chicken bacon avocado salad jumped out at me as a great salad-as-a-meal option.  The addition of asparagus makes it feel even heartier so you essentially feel like you're eating a full meal in one bowl rather than spread out in different sections on a plate.  I mean, separating your meal's components is just so predictable, am I right?

I made a couple of tweaks: I used lemon/zest + pepper instead of lemon pepper on the asparagus.  I also roasted the asparagus instead of sauteing because I think it gives it a deeper flavor.  I also used rotisserie chicken instead of sliced deli chicken because I prefer the texture.

This guy is actually not too bad for you.  The spinach base is just about the healthiest lettuce you can use (antioxidents, baby!) and, sure, there's bacon (and only about 2 slices - it won't kill ya), but that's a fair trade since you're eliminating the dressing you'd usually pair with a salad like this.  And a little bacon goes a long way.  You could use turkey bacon to make it even better for you...but I just don't do turkey bacon.  There are only so many sacrifices I'm willing to make.  You won't need ranch dressing when you have all the flavors of creamy avocado, zingy lemon, and fresh basil.  If I didn't know the basil was in there, I probably wouldn't have been able to pick it out, but it definitely added something.  It was like a sneaky, undercover flavor agent.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

3 on Thursday

My Memorial Day weekend felt particularly long and relaxing.  On Saturday, I stayed in pajamas until 5:40 PM, getting changed only to go on a quick run after which I showered and immediately got back into pajamas.  I don't even feel slightly bad about it.
Background: mural in the East Village.  Holding up the sky.

  1. Last week I attended a work breakfast at the newly re-opened Tavern on the Green.  Tavern on the Green is an iconic Old New York venue and the re-model just made it a bit more modern but retained its romance.  Since we were the first corporate event in the re-done space, you probably haven't had the frittata, but let me tell you that it is gooood.  
  2. It's not quite a mural, but I liked this fence installation (if that's what you would call it) in the East Village.
  3. Memorial Day Essentials: sunscreen, patriotic sunnies, and beads.  'merica.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

ABC Cocina

My meal at ABC Kitchen did not disappoint, so I had high hopes for ABC Cocina, the latest and greatest restaurant from the group.  I am happy to report that Jean-Georges has done it again.  And I should know because I ate half the menu.

We started with two of the waiter's recommendations, the spring pea guacamole and the cured salmon with yogurt and crispy potato strips.  He has been at the restaurant since it opened a year ago so he has tried everything they have to offer and was able to point us in the right direction.  One bite of the guac and we knew he would not lead us astray.  He became our ABC Cocina spirit guide.

The guac was still primarily avocado, but small touches like pea shoots and sunflower seeds made it better without alienating guacamole purists.  The salmon was also wonderful.  Not too salty and the extra yogurt was a great dip for the leftover tortilla chips.  Our spirit guide next told us to order the shrimp in "agua diablo".  It was a spicy ceviche style dish with the most interesting addition of banana.  It's just such a crazy pairing that it works (I think because it was just a touch of banana).  For our next dish we went with something our waiter did not directly point out - how dare we!  Thankfully, the calamari with ancho chili glaze (not pictured) was still a winner for our table.  That's definitely because the glaze had something like blackberries in it.  It didn't drench the squid and was enough to make a believer out of me, a gal who prefers not to order calamari as often since it's served just about everywhere.  Back on track with our waiter's recos we ordered the arroz con pollo, served family style like paella.  It takes 40 minutes to prepare so I suggest you put your order in when you sit down because it is the perfect dish to break up all the other tapas items.  The next round of dishes consisted of tacos (crispy fish and short rib - not pictured) and asparagus.  All were delicious though the asparagus felt a bit small.  I also thought the short rib tacos had some extra unnecessary spice.  For dessert the waiter told us not to order the "impossible" flan, as intrigued as I was.  He said it was the worst one on the menu and instead suggested the vanilla fritters and rice pudding.  He had been right throughout the whole meal so we stuck with him for dessert.  I didn't think the fritters were anything special (like a more liquid profiterole), but the rice pudding with raspberry preserves and (I think) candied orange peel was great.  I was pretty shocked by how much I liked it since I'm not really a rice pudding person.  I think I said the same thing about ABC Kitchen's sundae so I continue to be surprised by the ABC desserts.  Surprise is almost always a good thing when it comes to dining.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tequila Park

Apparently I am the only person who works in Midtown West that didn't know about the rooftop at Hudson Hotel.  Not only does such a place exist, but it's a gorgeous space.  The roof looks alive with all the ivy growing through it and the furniture is substantial enough to be indoors so it doesn't feel like the afterthought flimsy patio furniture often is.

As the name would imply, Tequila Park specializes in tequila cocktails but they have a full bar so you can feel free to branch out beyond what is listed on the menu.  The only downside is that there is no waitress service even if you'd reserved a table.  You have to actually walk to the bar to order the [pricey] cocktails.  Not a huge inconvenience, but a little more difficult if you want to order food which can only be done at a separate bar.  The food, however, was good and worth sharing with your group.  We tried some tacos that were good, but what I would recommend is the guac and the nachos.  The guac itself is good but what makes it standout are the homemade tortilla chips.  The nachos then take those chips to the next level with a shrimp kimchi topping.  Sounds strange but it worked as some sort of Asian salsa.

If you happen to get rained out (as we almost did) the indoor area is just as nice though with a totally different library vibe with tall ceilings and a pool table.  The whole place manages to not feel like a typical hotel bar.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

3 on Thursday

After a quick trip home to Savannah I feel nice and rejuvenated.  Sure, I desperately need to go grocery shopping and dove right into a crazy week, but I'm on such a high from the weekend that I don't care.  Plus, there's no work tomorrow thanks to Memorial Day weekend - let the relaxation begin!
Background: Lady Gaga concert last week at MSG.  She puts on an amazing show.
  1. Isn't my hometown beautiful?  The fountain at Forsyth Park will always be beautiful.
  2. I love the express cocktail lane at John Dory Oyster Bar.
  3. Last week I went to Bauble Bar.  Though it's an e-commerce site, they have a showroom that they will open for events.  We went with a group from work and I picked out some very fun bling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Seasonal Tastes: May 2014 - Asparagus with Bell Pepper and Manchego

Finally!  The weather has changed and that means there is new produce in season.  Asparagus is a great veggie to use right now.  You'll probably see it everywhere this month from soups to pastas.  I find that when something is in season, it requires very little fuss to turn it into a great dish.  In this recipe for asparagus with bell pepper and manchego, you'll just use four ingredients with almost no prep but you'll turn out a side dish with a Spanish touch.  Try to use smoked paprika if you can.  I used the regular stuff and it just wasn't the same.  It was still delicious because, manchego.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


A new restaurant recently opened in Savannah which means I had to check it out on my first night back at home.  I had no doubt it would be good because Ampersand is the latest venture from Brian Torres, the man behind Form and Form II Table (check those out on your next Savannah trip and thank me later).  Brian makes the best cheesecake you will ever eat.  The best.  I leave zero room for debate here.  On this trip, I tried a maple bourbon bacon variety and wooo baby.  I don't even like cheesecake.  Or, at least, I thought I didn't.  I know I haven't yet told you about the appetizers and entrees, but like it says on many an embroidered pillow, "Life's uncertain; eat dessert first."

How does Brian make such wonderful cheesecake?  Because he's Brooklyn born and bred.  Aha!  Now it all makes sense.  Naturally, I would love any restaurant that combines the flavors and vibe of the Lowcountry and NYC.  My entire adult life has been spent straddling those two areas so of course I would love seeing them combine in one place.  The menu pulls inspiration from both areas, whether it's the pernil to reflect Brian's Puerto Rican heritage or the pulled pork over gruyere cheese grits to pay homage to the South.  Mark and Allison insisted we start with the yuca and chorizo since they had tried [and loved] it before.  I, too, was a fan and found the yuca to be sufficiently fried but still light enough to pop pop pop in my mouth.  My preferred starter, however, was the Spanish rice eggrolls.  It was so simple: just an eggroll stuffed with red rice and served with an aioli but there was plenty of flavor and I loved the crunch of the eggroll skin giving way to thick, fluffy rice.  I had been snacking all day so for my main course I just had the stuffed avoacado.  The avocado was filled with a mound of chopped onions and tomatoes that spent a full day marinating in a citrus dressing, ceviche style.  It was nothing fancy but perfectly done and refreshing a midst the Savannah humidity.  That pulled pork and grits I mentioned earlier?  I tried a bite and loved it.  The grits were so rich and creamy it was like eating mac and cheese.  I also tasted a scallop special that was served with a pineapple curry potato (or yuca?) mash.  I don't know how to explain that flavor.  I'm sure it's not for everyone (curry never is), but if you like island flavors like I do it's a very good dish.

This is some New York level food but at Savannah prices.  None of the entrees go above $18 and the cocktails (which incorporate ingredients like mezcal, ginger, and agave nectar) are around $8 or $9.  I had a very similar drink in New York the day before I left the city and it set me back $14.  When I can get virtually the same thing in Savannah for $9 it means I can order two.  And we all know a tipsy Tess is a happy Tess.

I guess Brian and I did a little foreign exchange student switcharoo when I moved to NYC and he went to Savannah.  Now that they have these restaurants, I'm pretty sure the people of Savannah will tell you they got the better end of the trade.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. All you need to know about India's elections are best learned through conversations around street food.
  2. In recent years, I have had many acquaintances be diagnosed with MS.  If you're noticing the same, I recommend learning what the disease is all about.
  3. Including a middle initial in your name will make others perceive you as more intelligent.  This is good news for my manfriend who signs his name Albert O. Neudeck IV.  Wonder what a roman numeral gets ya?
  4. You know how all these people suddenly became gluten free?  Though the epidemic seemed to come out of nowhere, I was willing to support my gluten-free friends when they swore it made them sick and endured annoying, complicated trips to restaurants (and their attention craving attitudes).  Looks like [with the exception of Celiac Disease] there's no such thing as a gluten intolerance.  So glad someone finally called these people out on their nonsense.  In the meantime, a multi billion dollar industry has been built around gluten-free products, seemingly unnecessarily.   

Book Review: Go Ask Alice

"Go Ask Alice" has been used for years as a teaching tool for middle and high school students.  It is a supposedly real account written by "Anonymous" (to maintain authenticity) that is gritty enough to caution young people against using drugs.  Enough people told me how moved they were by the story that I decided to read it even though I am 28 and have very successfully avoided all drug temptation.

I know it is supposed to be an incredibly realistic portrayal of the descent into addiction, but reading it as an adult, I found it inferior to other memoirs.  The story is told as a series of journal entries over several years [in the 1970s] and shows how easy it can be for a goody-goody teenage girl to fall into serious drugs.  It lost plausibility for me when the narrator is so deep into drug use that she is homeless.  She can't find a place to sleep but she can keep track of a diary?  Seems fishy to me.  If, however, I was reading this as a young girl, I could see how it would scare me straight.  Maybe not great for a 28 year old, but definitely something I would want my kids to read as pre-teens.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

3 on Thursday

I'm off to Savannah today!  The main even is a friend's wedding, but I intend to schedule plenty of time to relax by the pool/river.
Background: Albert's subway stop is Astoria Blvd.  I mistakenly thought it was Queens Blvd and spoke like I was a character in Entourage all weekend (where Queens Blvd plays an important role).  Felt like an idiot when I discovered my error.

  1. On my walk home from work last week I spotted batman and catwoman...on a date, maybe?  Times Square is crazy.
  2. A bottle of wine and a meat/cheese plate at Eataly is heaven to me.
  3. Rebekah's bridal shower was a great way to kick off her wedding festivities.  So much ooh-ing and ahh-ing over kitchenware.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

I'm working very hard to start eating breakfast in the morning.  Usually that means a croissant or an english muffin with cheese...maybe some sort of egg dish on the weekend.  But last week I set my sights on a quinoa breakfast bowl; and on a weekday, no less.  I know, it seems aggressive.  I, too, thought it was a bit much to tackle before work until I realized the quinoa could be cooked the night before.  Once you factor in that the main ingredient is cooked, this breakfast of champions seems far more doable.

After reheating the quinoa in the microwave, I topped it with some avocado and smoked salmon.  Finally, I got the egg ready.  You can do a fried egg here, but I personally prefer poached because it's quick, easier to clean up, and I discovered the most amazing trick.  Eggs can be poached in the microwave.  I KNOW.  I found this nearly impossible to believe, but Bon AppĂ©tit said it works, and they're pretty legit.  Just fill a 1-cup glass/pyrex measuring cup with 1/2 cup water (you can improvise with the type of cup you use - I found this the easiest because of the handy dandy measuring lines).  Carefully crack an egg into the water, making sure it’s totally covered by the water, and then cover the cup with a plate and microwave on high for about 1 minute.  You may need more/less time to ensure firm whites and runny yolks. Then just use a slotted spoon to place your perfectly poached egg atop your quinoa bowl.  All you need is a little salt and pepper and you're good to go.  Don't even try to tell me that a breakfast like this won't kick your day into high gear.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. With this app you could pay $45 per month for unlimited java.  This will make caffeine addicted New Yorkers very very happy.
  2. Nearly 300 Nigerian girls have been kidnapped by an extreme Islamic sector that plans to sell them into slave marriages.  It's awful that it took two weeks for this story to gain traction, but I am glad to see world leaders announcing their commitment to rescuing the girls.
  3. If a bottle of lotion can make me feel better about myself, I'm all for it.
  4. It looks like it could pay to be cool with this new hotel booking service.

Desi Galli

When I saw the low prices at Desi Galli I decided to order. it. up.  I felt like a baller ordering item after item.  I figured the portions would be small based on the prices, but even my $5.99 chicken tikka kathi roll (basically an Indian wrap sandwich) was enough to satisfy me.  It came with a mint cilantro chutney that I quite enjoyed.  But satiated just won't do when stuffed is attainable for cheap.  What can I say; I'm a child of America - gluttony's our thing.  To my order I added a samosa chaat (chaats are always messes, and this was a good mess) and a lamb biryani.  I was disappointed when I first saw the raita that came with the biryani because it looked a little thin, but the flavor was all there and it certainly did the trick of cooling down your tongue.  The food was definitely on the spicy side so I recommend ordering some extra raita, especially if you like dipping your kathi roll in it like I do.  

Desi Galli shows off another side of Indian cuisine - the street food.  I had previously only dabbled in this area before, usually focusing on hearty curry meals.  This snack food, however, packs all the flavors of a big meal into a tiny, portable package and is a great way to mix it up.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Grey Bar and Restaurant

Flatiron has always been an area worth visiting.  You can do some shopping at places like Anthropologie, chill in Madison Square Park, or enjoy the wonder that is Eataly.  But when it comes to bars, there are only a few to choose from.  Most of the bars in that 'hood are really just restaurants that happen to serve drinks, but that's not always what I'm looking for.  26th Street has always had a few good spots, but in the last year or so, the street has really blown up.  Now it is what I would call a "strip" - restaurants and bars, one right after the other.  You've got Hog's Pit for the rowdy set, Flatiron Hall for a more reserved crowd, and now Grey Bar somewhere in between.  Nothing truly stood out, except the walls and chandeliers.  Big fan of those.  They also made a great mint julep for the Derby that could only have been better if it had been served in a julep cup.  The prices are middle of the road and there are plenty of tvs for game watching so it works as a good go-to in the neighborhood.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

3 on Thursday

And the busy weeks just keep coming.  My crazy work schedule has seriously cut into my gym sessions, but as of today, busy work life should be transitioning to busy social life - far more preferable.
Background: An ad campaign I worked on was up for an award last week and this is a shot from the banquet.  We didn't take home the grand prize, but ain't nothin wrong with silver!

  1. Though it seems everyone uses Uber (the app that stores your credit card info, connects you to drivers, and tracks how far away they are), I have relied on my own taxi-hailing skills to get places.  I downloaded it on a whim a week and a half ago simply to be cool but never even opened the app on my phone.  I made a point to change when I received an email from Uber alerting me of an upcoming promotion.  This past Saturday, Uber teamed up with Goodwill to do some amazing charity work.  If you opened up your app on Saturday morning a button labeled "Spring" appeared.  All you had to do was click it and order a car like you normally would except this time when the car arrived you just loaded it up with bags of clothes for Goodwill.  Within minutes an SUV was in front of my building, my old clothes were carted away, I didn't pay a dime, and I got to feel good about doing something for others without even getting out of my pajamas.  Considering I have had a pile of clothes for Goodwill sitting at the bottom of my closet for about a year that I only remember at inopportune moments, this is a service I would have gladly paid for.  The fact that Uber did this out of the goodness of their hearts will make me a loyal customer.
  2. This past Saturday was Derby Day!  I loved getting dolled up to watch the race and drink mint juleps.
  3. Obsessed with my adorable new notebooks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Flatiron Beer Hall

There are a few standards when it comes to beer halls.  You'll usually see communal picnic tables and giant pretzels.  You'll find both of those at Flatiron Hall, but you'll also find them in a more refined space with medieval looking chandeliers.  There's no sawdust on the floor but the tables are still communal and inviting for groups.  The prices are also a bit higher so I wouldn't consider this an all-day spot like I would other beer halls.
Left: Love the taps on marble
Right: a nod to the flatiron location

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Brooklyn Oyster Party

I like any vendor who has the word "party" in their name.  Just saying the word party (or more accurately "partaaay") makes me want to start dancing.  Brooklyn Oyster Party was a new vendor at Madison Square Eats and the one that received the majority of Albert's attention.  

Getting a half dozen oysters on ice is the kind of thing you order at nice restaurants...not exactly street fair food.  But we were all decked out for the Derby and it was a beautiful day so it just felt right to glam it up a bit.  Because it was so out of the norm to see an oyster stall, it felt all the more classy.  There we were, sitting underneath a Marimekko umbrella, with a spiked lemonade in one hand and a freshly shucked oyster in the other.  

I liked that we were still able to choose our oysters upon ordering (two options for east coast, two for west).  It made it feel like they weren't sacrificing quality just because it was a stall at a pop-up food festival.  I was also a big fan of their cucumber ginger mignonette sauce.  Oysters are usually all about being traditional, but I liked this twist on the classic.  Then again, once you start shucking at a street fair, you've veered away from traditional already.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I had some great ideas about how I would spend the Derby on Saturday.  I planned to gather all my fabulous friends, we'd wear fabulously dapper outfits, and we would have a fabulous party at a bar.  Unfortunately, pretty much all my friends were busy and/or out of town so the fabulous-ness was put on hold.  But then Albert came to the rescue with all sorts of great ideas, the first being lunch at Madison Square Eats, which just reopened this weekend.  

Now that Madison Square Eats has returned [for their 6th year], I feel like it's officially Spring.  The pop up food market has grown and added even more vendors this year, but my first stop had to be one of their original stalls.  Though Calexico was one of the first to join Madison Square Eats, I had never gone because the line was always so long.  Now that there are more options to choose from, the Calexico station stays packed but the wait is very manageable.    

I ordered the chipotle pork taco that looked small (especially for $5) but it was actually very filling.  I particularly liked the pickled onions on top but would have liked for the meat to be a bit spicier.  What it lacked in spice, however, it made up for in tenderness.  The meat was super juicy - you could tell it had spent a long time cooking.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3 on Thursday

It happened: my first real weekend work day.  I was stuck in the office on Sunday longer than some people spend at work on a weekday.  It was a shame to have a 1-day weekend, but at least the work I was doing was interesting.  There's also been some other fun stuff going on:

  1. Throughout the month of April, FabergĂ© sponsored a massive Easter egg hunt.  The Big Egg Hunt stuck hundreds of huge eggs around the city, each one designed by a different artist.  On the website you could actually play the game, but I was happy just to see them.  Last week I found them all displayed in Rock Center (close up here, zoomed out in the background).  Each one is unique and gorgeous.  I'm really hoping they do this again next year.
  2. I spent Saturday at the Yankees game.  We were in the nosebleed section but that doesn't diminish the fun of the game.  Even from afar it was fun watching the Yankees win and eat my beloved Carl's cheesesteak.
  3. Large popcorn, diet Coke, and a VIP pass to the TriBeCa Film Festival meant my weekend got off to a great start.  Danielle and I saw "Famous Nathan", a documentary about Nathan Handwerker and the hot dog empire he built, written and directed by his grandson Lloyd.  I highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for nostalgia.


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