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Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. Home ownership used to be the American Dream, but now people are really into renting.  Unfortunately, the market can't quite keep up with the demand.  This is a whole new kind of housing crisis.
  2. Forget the toilet seat liners; looks like nature has made your own skin a good enough barrier to germs.
  3. Some people just want to wallow and maybe we should let them.
  4. Now in its fourth installment, the Transformers franchise may be so successful because it glorifies the All-American manliness we want to uphold.

Union Square Pavilion

When my Mom visits we like to just...walk.  We don't usually make a strict plan ahead of time and we stop whenever we see something interesting, whether that's a restaurant or boutique.  On the first day of her vistit we made "village" our general destination.  We didn't even specify East or West so we started by walking from my apartment to Union Square, which is right in between the two.  It's also a great place to start because it is a bustle of activity with the market vendors proudly displaying everything from flowers to maple candy.  We thought we would stroll around the green market and then forge our way further downtown for lunch, but then we realized the best option was to make the green market, itself, our lunch.

It took years, but the renovation of the eponymous square was finally completed and the central restaurant, Union Square Pavilion opened in May.  The menu is constructed around the best the green market has to offer, so you can expect lots of fresh veggies.  That's exactly what we were in the mood for so we made sure our orders were farm fresh.  My mom went with the goat cheese and tomato tart (with lavendar - so fragrant and lovely...reminds me to buy a new sachet for my underwear drawer - is that TMI?) and I ordered the kale salad with salmon.  I also think everything tasted better because of the pavilion's open walls.  Your salad is bound to taste delicious when you can see the market stall that provided the lettuce.  You're somehow both inside the safe walls of the square while also being out in the open.  My Mom commented that it looked just like the places featured in rom coms where the two friends meet for lunch to talk about how frustrating boys can be.  That means we felt like celebs while we were dining.

Friday, June 27, 2014


When it comes to the UWS, I'm usually out of my depth.  I'm not in the area often enough to know which spots are good and which, more importantly, offer a great brunch deal.  That's why when we met Shawn in his neighborhood for brunch last weekend, we had to follow his lead.  He introduced us to Cotta, which serves rustic Italian food that on weekends is paired with bottomless drinks for only $24.  I ordered the Brussels sprout pizza with pancetta, and parmesan.  It was amazing and I ate the whole thing.  That's right; unlike Albert who generously shared his meatball pizza or Shawn who offered a bite of his smoked salmon eggs benny to everyone at the table, I ate my entire pizza by myself.  And you know what?  I don't feel bad about it because it was delicious.
Terrible pic due to flash use and the fact that I had already devoured almost the entire pizza.  Sorry.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

3 on Thursday

I'm in a stupendous mood today!  Why, you ask?  Because my Mom is coming tonight, that's why!  When she found a super cheap flight a year ago, she booked a solo trip on a whim (much to my Daddy's chagrin who was feeling very left out).  We had so much fun last time that she decided to do it again this summer.  I can't wait for two full days around the city with her!
Background: sunset view from Anthony's Ocean View, the venue for a wedding I attended over the weekend.

  1. Everyone's got World Cup fever!  One reason Albert and I were so drawn to Pinches Tacos last week was the tv they set up outside so nobody had to miss soccer for something as silly as eating.
  2. I'm a fan of micheladas (basically a bloody mary with beer) so I liked finding the canned version.  Albert made a face after tasting it, but I liked it...even if it was just a wee bit trashy.
  3. I'm hesitant to share this next tip with you, but I don't think it would be fair to keep this information to myself.  Thanks to the EW Must List, I recently discovered a new app called Today Tix.  Basically, it's like the TKTS line for day-of or week-of Broadway tickets...except way cheaper.  The best part is that you don't have to go anywhere to pick them up.  The concierge will meet you in front of the theater with your tickets before the show.  Now there's no reason to relegate Broadway to the group of activities reserved for parental visits, special occasions, or tourists.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Souvlaki GR

Food trucks love the area by my office.  There are tons of hardworking folks who never bring lunch from home and usually just want to run out and grab something quickly.  I don't usually take advantage to my proximity to all this great food because 1) I try to be good and pack my lunch at home; 2) it's probably not as healthy; and 3) I don't always have cash on me.  Friday is meant to be a "cheat day" so I stuck a $10 bill in my pocket and headed to the Souvlaki GR truck.

I had a good feeling about this truck because I knew it had been so successful they actually opened a brick and mortar restaurant (usually the truck grows from the success of the actual storefront, not the other way around).  I ordered a chicken souvlaki pita ($5) and, because it was cheat day, I also got the Greek fries ($5), which are topped with oregano and feta.  The pita was on the smaller side, which actually means it was an appropriate size.  I can't say the same about the fries, which were totally indulgent.  Indulgence is allowed on cheat day, but I would probably share the fries with a friend next time.  The tzatziki was great, the chicken nice and seasoned, and lots of extra points for them including a couple fries in the pita, just like they really do in the middle east/Mediterranean.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Avocado and Egg Breakfast Pizza

This avocado and egg pita is one of my earlier Pinterest pins.  Somehow, however, I never got around to making it which is crazy because it's easy enough to throw together in the middle of the harried getting-ready-for-work dance.  I like to toast or warm my pita a bit first.  Then, while the egg fries, it's just a matter of mashing the pita on top with a fork (leave some chunks), perhaps with a bit of crushed red pepper if that's your jam.

So.  Freakin.  Satisfying.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. I obsessed over the Fiske Guide to Colleges when I was in high school.  I'm not sure this scorecard can fully replace it (particularly without an input for test scores or GPA), but I like to see the White House taking the steps to encourage all students to go to college and to find the one that best suits them.
  2. It's summertime so I am constantly craving lobster rolls.  While you're snacking on the delicious sandwich, you can think about these lobstah factoids.
  3. After seeing an Indian wedding on a "Say Yes to the Dress" special, I was intrigued.  There are so many interesting customs that are so different from my own.  
  4. There must be absolutely nothing to do in Alaska but drink...even if you're preggers (such a no-no).  Apparently the state has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome so there a lot of women who are boozing while carrying a bun in the oven.  Hoping to combat this, the state is putting free pregnancy tests in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants starting this December. 

Pinches Tacos

Date nights don't have to be on weekends.  On Wednesday Albert asked if I wanted to hang out and even had the idea to grab a quick bite and go to a fun indie flick downtown.  It was so different from a typical Wednesday and embodied everything I love about this city.  We saw the kind of movie you wouldn't be able to catch in my small hometown in a theater where my oversized glasses were applauded.  We also made no firm plans on where to eat, knowing we were sure to find something amazing once we were in the neighborhood of the theater.

We ended up at Pinches Tacos, a small Mexican joint so close to the edge of the sidewalk that it's practically in the street.  I tried three different tacos: the braised pork, the split pork, and the chorizo.  Every one of them was delicious.  They're small so three was the perfect amount.  It's a good thing I filled up on the tacos because the one thing that didn't impress me was the order of yuca fries we got to share.  They tasted like frozen cafeteria french fries with no actual starch in the middle.  Just the fry shell - and not the good kind of fry.  Since the restaurant is called Pinches Tacos, I only have high hopes for their namesake product.  Unfortunate that the yuca wasn't my thing, but my primary expectation was met.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Snickity Snack: Pita with Yogurt and Radishes

If I'm just snacking, I like to use pita bread (instead of flatbread because this is healthier, especially if you use whole wheat pita) to make a little open faced sandwich.  When you split the pita in half (basically, just take the hole and open it further til you have two rounds) it's just filling enough to keep you from gnawing your arm off but not so filling that it'll ruin your supper.

Once I halve my thin pita, I drizzle it with olive oil.  Side note: do you notice how I'm talking like I've made this snack oh so many times?  Well I haven't.  I just made it up.  I thought I could pull a fast one on you but then I felt guilty.  Anyway, after it has the oil drizzle, I put it in the oven for a couple minutes to crisp it up a bit.  Once it's out of the oven, I top it with Greek yogurt, sliced radishes, and sea salt.  It's kind of a new take on the whole radishes with butter and salt thing just far more satisfying thanks to a wee bit of carbs.  It's just way healthier.  Like 40 total calories or something crazy like that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

3 on Thursday

I made the difficult decision to lay low on Saturday and Sunday.  I knew that if I didn't, it would mean seven straight weeks with no time to myself.  While that means I may have missed out on a party, I got to rest up and recharge my batteries.  After spending my weekend taking a long walk, reading, and laying out on my roof, I feel like a real person again.
Background: Vegas club entrance

  1. The one thing I did do this weekend was go to Yacht Rock (my fave!) on Friday night.  It may have been rainy, but it was worth it to head to Williamsburg to partake in their brand of smooth rock.  The concert was at Brooklyn Bowl, which - once the 6-year old birthday party cleared out - was a great venue.  I was pretty adamament on not doing anything for my birthday this year.  I'd be at a bachelorette in Vegas on the actual day, I'm saving up for the big 3-0 next year, and I've been fortunate enough to feel loved constantly and have had a whole bunch of stellar weekends in a row.  Instead, I got to hang out with some of my closest friends at brunch after my race the weekend before my bday and go to Yacht Rock with Albert and Beth the weekend after.  As my final bday gift, Albert got me the captain's hat you see pictured after he caught me staring at it for a couple hours.  It may not have been a big bash and my bday may never have been explicitly mentioned, but it happened to be the best birthday I've had in years.
  2. On Saturday I took a nice 3 mile stroll around the city while running errands.  On my way back, after gawking at the homes surrounding Gramercy Park, I stopped into Bedford Cheese Shop to treat myself to some fancy cheese.  The store is super cute, the staff knowledgeable, and all the imported goods give it a European feel.  
  3. Matt and Karina gave me this gorgeous set of stackable rings for my birthday.  With my current love of dainty jewelry and my always love of all things monogrammed, this is pretty much a perfect gift.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: Reconstructing Amelia

When Amelia commits suicide by jumping off the roof of her elite New York City prep school, things don't quite add up for her mother.  Amelia was happy and never showed any of the signs, but Kate doesn't start asking questions until she gets a mysterious text from a blocked number telling her Amelia didn't jump.  On a mission, Kate begins to sift through all of Amelia's texts and emails to see if she can figure out what exactly went wrong.  As she digs deeper, she uncovers a secret society and a world of gossip lying deep inside the prep school's walls.  With chapters thrown in from Amelia's perspective to fill in the blanks, we learn how secrets can tear people apart before they even know what's happening.

Though I'm proud to say I figured out most of the shocking twists in the story, I was not deterred from reading until I learned if I was right.  The only downside is that part of the climax felt a little melodramatic - very "and I woulda gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids."  I also felt some of the storylines fizzled, making me think the author took on a bit too much trying to develop them without letting them fully play out.  I suppose they ended as they would have in real life though so I can't be too upset about it.  

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Red Hook Lobster Pound - Shrimp Roll

Some say Red Hook Lobster Pound is the best in the biz.  I'm sure they crank out a great lobster roll, but I wouldn't know because I ordered a shrimp roll instead.  Lobster rolls are great, but they are dang expensive.  For only $10 (instead of $16) you can get a shrimp roll instead.  To me, it satisfies the same craving.  Maybe it's because I grew up in the Lowcountry where shrimp is far more prevalent than lobster, but in my mind it covers off the category of summer seafood sandwich.

At Red Hook, they use a garlic tarragon mayo to dress their skrimps.  I don't really care what herbs and spices they put in there.  What I like is that it's not too heavy.  Too much mayo takes away from the whole point of a shrimp/lobster roll.  Though my sandwich fell apart a bit, I'm not complaining because that means the shrimp to bun ratio tips in my favor.  It might not feel as cool ordering the shrimp roll instead of the lobster roll, but once you're eating it you'll forget that lobster is a bit more trendy.  You'll only remember when you look back at your wallet and realize, happily, that you can almost order two shrimp rolls for the price of one lobster roll.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. In Mexico City there is a shelter for elderly sex workers.  A photographer has documented their lifestyle and it is rather facinating.
  2. It's strange to think about trading people and the value we thereby place on lives, but that's exactly what just happened as President Obama offered up five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in return for for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan and held as a prisoner of war.
  3. The Beverly Hills Hotel is iconic and forever set in my mind as the site of Troop Beverly Hills' epic campout.  It's currently being boycotted because it's owned by the Sultan of Brunei who recently enacted Sharia Law in his country.  I don't agree with such policies and I certainly wouldn't pay $25 for a salad with a side of implicit support - good for them for taking a stand.
  4. Since everyone is currently binge watching "Orange is the New Black" you should better understand the difference between jail and prison.  Yes, there is a difference, but if you're confused you can just call it The Big House.

Goat Cheese Toast with Peas and Eggs

Sometimes having a power breakfast on a weekday makes you feel, well, powerful.  I was in the mood to let out my inner Superman so I adapted this goat cheese and egg toast with peas last week.  I used a scrambled egg instead of a fried one because I didn't want to have to deal with a knife and fork.  Though the recipe says to use two if you're scrambling, I found one to be sufficient.  My other change was to use chives instead of dill.  Fresh herbs of any kind would be good here, but I happened to already have chives in the fridge.  Plus, I always liked my Grandma's onion egg dish (basically egg salad with fine onion) and the chives lent a similar flavor to the dish.

This whole breakfast only took about 7 minutes [max] to put together so power up in the mornings, my friends.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Corn Salad with Cheddar and Tomato

I keep seeing recipes for corn on the cob that's been grilled and topped with fun ingredients like seasoned butter, mayo, and cotija cheese.  Such a fun summer treat, right?  Well here's the problem with that: I live in NYC so it is significantly more difficult to find a grill to make a recipe like this.  Also, as much as it's a common street fair item, I don't really want to pick corn kernals out of my teeth in front of a bunch of people, nor do I find a giant corn on the cob conducive to eating while walking.

This salad is the perfect solution, especially when made with extra sharp white cheddar as I chose to do.  When the corn is paired with other bright flavors like fresh tomato, lemon, and chives it feels very summer-y.  And since it's served room temp (instead of hot like those street fair cobs) I think it almost feels more like a summer dish.  When it's blazing hot outside I don't need hot veggies, I want cool cool cool.  This is also a great dish to prep in advance so it was perfect to bring to my book club.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

3 on Thursday

It's safe to say I am fully recovered from my Vegas trip.  We went crazy as is necessary at a bachelorette party and I'm not quite sure how I survived on an average of 4 hours of sleep per night for 3 nights.  I'm looking forward to a slightly more relaxing weekend this weekend but I can't shut down entirely - not when Yacht Rock is playing tomorrow night!
Background: Vegas from my hotel balcony.  Wanna guess if this was what I saw when I woke up or when I got back at the end of the night?

  1. I've always said Coke tastes so much better in the glass bottle so I was so excited to see it offered at a movie screening last week.
  2. My team at work surprised me with a little bday celebration before I left for Vegas.  They know I don't like cupcakes so they made me a meat and cheesecake instead.  They know me so well!
  3. Download the soundtrack from The Fault in our Stars.  It's wonderful.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Me Before You

Louisa never ventured out of her small English town and was content working at a small cafĂ© and spending time at home, doing nothing particularly exciting.  Will, on the other hand, was constantly venturing out.  He lived a fast life in London, making tons of money and spending his free time bungee jumping.  Then he gets hit by a car and becomes a paraplegic.  Two years later, he is living back home and his family has determined he needs a daytime caretaker to keep him company.  Louisa, having just lost her job, accepts the job as caretaker despite Will's irritable behavior.  

Soon enough, the two find common ground as outcasts in their own right and a lovely friendship begins to grow.  It's basically "Beauty and the Beast."  Over six months they try to prove to each other that life is worth living.

In Me Before You, Jojo Moyes shows off other sides of love, whether it be a strong familial bond or how sometimes the greatest loves are those that are simply deep friendships.  As a man stuck in a wheelchair with almost no range of motion whatsoever, life for Will is not bound to be "fun".  And that's sad.  But he and Louisa are able to give each other something intangible and watching that happen is satisfying.  Still sad, but satisfying.

It's a quick read so it's a good one for the summer.  Though I'm deducting points because I found the general theme overly predictable.  

2.5out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I previously wrote how I liked Dig Inn because it is one of the few places you can get takeout for a full, well-balanced meal - protein + sides.  Well call me a fickle lover because I've found something I like WAY better.  Here's the thing: Dig Inn is healthy, which is great.  But sometimes it tastes healthy, know what I'm sayin?  For example, the chicken may be a little dry because sauce would mean more calories.  Part of me likes that you know it's healthy because it's like getting a little pat on the back every time you chew a bite.  The other part of me just wants something with more flavor.

Even though Kale's menu looks smaller and [gasp] healthier, the food tastes more like what I would prepare in my own kitchen.  Or at least what I would want to prepare.  Albert is a huge Dig Inn fan and when I told him Kale was better his response was "ew".  When I asked why, he said he'd never been but he doesn't like kale.  Ohhh that makes sense.  If you're not a fan of the antioxident-rich green veggie this place would seem like it would have nothing for you.  Don't make Albert's mistake.  The name is very misleading.  I actually didn't have any kale on my plate.

My $10.99 build-a-dish came with a protein, base, and two additional sides.  I went with the wild brown rice base which included some veggies and tasted more like fried rice or pilaf (made with good stock) than basic brown rice.  For my protein I picked the turkey meatballs and for the side veggies I got cabbage slaw with apples and chili hoisin brussels sprouts.  See, no kale in sight.  (Don't worry, if you happen to be a kale fan they have that, too.  Otherwise it's just stupid to name your restaurant that.)

The food is healthy but they're not going crazy with it.  Everything in moderation including moderation, right?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

3 on Thursday

It's a good think I spent most of last weekend doing nothing because this weekend will be the exact opposite.  I'm off to Vegas today to say adieu to Rebekah's single life!
Background: Serious tabby and painted brick walls at ABC Cocina
  1. On Sunday I ran my longest distance to date: 4 miles.  That might not be much for a lot of people, but it extended my previous record by a full mile so I'm feeling pretty accomplished.  It was also the first time I participated in a real race - one that's officially timed and everything.  This particular race was the Celebrate Israel Run and symbolized a journey through Israel from Eilat to Tel Aviv and was a kick off event to the 50th annual Celebrate Israel parade.  Though the 5,530 runners were of all different races and religions, the pre-race ceremonies included both the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikva.  Singing both national anthems made me feel like I was back at camp.  All I needed was some bug juice.  My time was not as good as I had hoped, unfortunately.  After my practice runs got me to an 8:34 pace, I slowed down by almost a full minute during the race itself.  That's the power of the incline.  You see, while I had practiced in my neighborhood, I now know there are, ironically, no hills in Murray Hill.  I was totally unprepared for the hills in Central Park - those suckers dropped my total time to 37:48 (9:27 pace).  But ya know what?  I'm STILL proud of myself.  I trained and pushed myself further than I had ever previously gone.  I'm already looking for my next race.  The energy surrounding a race is something to experience.  The exuberance at the starting line where everyone knows they're about to crush a goal is matched only by the buoyancy at the finish line.  You did it and now you're walking on air; and once you catch your breath you feel alive.
  2. Chillin on a boat with a beer makes for a great sunday.
  3. After some champagne and a lot of sun, this chick passed out in Central Park on Memorial Day so her loving friends decided to cover her with grass and turn her into the amazing disappearing woman.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

North River Lobster Company

A good chunk of our Sunday was spent aboard the North River Lobster Company's vessel or, as I like to call it, "Lobstah Boat".  The downside is that there are no crazy food or drink specials so you can't plan this as an all you can drink booze cruise unless you plan to shell out the bucks.  The upside is that it's no-strings-attached easy.  The boat sets sail four times per day for a 45 minute ride around the Hudson.  You don't need to buy tickets to be able to leave the dock, you just have to be on the boat (which is free to enter).  The doors remain open while the boat is docked so you are free to chill for as long as you want.  In our case, we boarded at around 4:30 and hung around the deck, soaking up the sun and drinking beers (a bucket of 6 for $24 - a dollar off per beer) until the boat set sail at 6 PM.  At some point in there, we ordered some food.  I thought the shrimp po boy was definitely lacking, but I enjoyed the lobster roll.

Basically, this is like The Frying Pan, except it actually moves.  Since the company just launched, it's not crazy packed yet.  It's a great way to enjoy the views the city has to offer but with no sort of forced payment.  Some of the best things in life really are free.  I wish the lobster roll was one of them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. If e-cigarettes are meant to help adults curb smoking, it seems like flavored nicotine may, indeed, be a marketing ploy for kids.  Otherwise, wouldn't we have seen cinnamon toast crunch cigarettes before now if it was something adults craved?
  2. Dowries are not legal in India, but that has not kept people from paying them or put a stop to the "dowry deaths" that occur when the sum is not high enough.
  3. I grew up with Reading Rainbow and love that its legacy can continue thanks to Lavar Burton resurrecting the program.  Update: the kickstarter project surpassed the $1 million goal and hit $2 million.  Literacy for all!
  4. In case you missed Edward Snowden's interview with Brian Williams, this quick article captures the highlights.


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