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Thursday, July 31, 2014

3 on Thursday

The Konters are on cloud 9 right now because last week on July 22nd my nephew, Brooks Lawrence Konter, made his grand entrance into this world.  I am home right now enjoying every moment with him and already beginning the process of spoiling him rotten.  That's why Godmothers exist.

  1. My precious little Brooksy, only a few hours old.  He's perfect.
  2. After Brooks came into our lives, I got all sorts of excited and wound up, so I decided to walk to work to expend some of that energy.  I stumbled upon an art installation in Times Square called Nearness by Cuban artist Arlés del Rio that is basically human silhouettes made out of chain link fencing.  I like when artists encourage interaction with their work as this one does.
  3. If you're like me and find the best form of running motivation to be a good playlist, then you need to check out  Basically, you can enter the pace at which you intend to run and the site provides a list of songs set to the appropriate beats per minute.  I made a playlist with a bunch of the songs on the 8:35 pace list, but I think my next move will be to download the app which works as a sort of radio station based on your pace.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: China Dolls

Three Chinese girls meet on the streets of San Francisco and immediately link themselves together for the next ten years.  They have little in common other than their desire to escape their current lives and the hole that is missing from never having real friends.  Grace, a wide-eyed innocent, has left her small, Midwestern town to escape an abusive father and to pursue her love of dance.  Helen does not know what she wants other than to experience life outside her "proper" Chinese family and their restrictive compound in the bubble of Chinatown.  Ruby wants fame, plain and simple.  They spend the next decade performing at "Oriental" clubs in San Francisco and around the Chop Suey Circuit, where their bond is often tested.

Always a fan of Lisa See's work, I was captivated by her portrayal of Chinese performers in America during World War II.  At the heart of it, however, is a study of female friendship and how it bends around jealousies, secrets, and prejudice.  

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


When we made plans with friends for a Monday night supper, they suggested their neighborhood since we rarely go there and restaurant week as a way to up the ante without throwing out too much money...and then we all ordered off the regular menu instead of the restaurant week one.  Best laid plans, right?

Isabella's labels itself a Mediterranean restaurant, and I can kind of see it with the artichokes and calamari starters, but I would really classify this as Continental with enough items like crab and meat hash, a cheeseburger, and cod on the menu.  I, myself, went the more Continental route by ordering a wedge salad (thankfully not drenched in dressing) and the sweet pea ravioli.  There wasn't much sauce so I felt the plate didn't quite match the menu's description, but I was still very pleased with what was in front of me.  I prefer my ravioli to have very little sauce because I actually want to taste the filling.  And don't even try to give me ravioli that's not packed with filling.  They are supposed to be like plump pillows - the kind that make you sleep like a baby, not the kind that give you a crick in the neck.  I was pleased with the amount of filling here so all was good.

The restaurant felt very Uptown.  And by that I mean we were easily the rowdiest Monday night crowd they've seen.  Most of the clientele looked established: sport coats, shift dresses, and scarves around the shoulders.  Still, it had a neighborhood vibe so we didn't feel out of place.  Also, I was wearing Lily Pulitzer so I blended right in.

Tip: don't feel like you have to do the restaurant week menu.  Sure, it sounds like a great deal: $38 for 3 courses - wow!  (nevermind that it used to be $34...) But if you're not a dessert person or if the smaller special menu doesn't really call to you, just order off the regular menu.  Two really good courses is always going to leave you more satisfied than three meh courses.  We were way happier with our selections this way and my whole meal came to $27 instead of $38.  This is a noteable difference when you're also tacking on alcohol as my group is wont to do.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. A Comcast agent spent 20 minutes trying to dissuade customers from cancelling service.  Listening to the recording is actually painful.  I cringe.  Comcast is embarrassed but also stand by their aggressive retention tactics.
  2. I get how a visit to a concentration camp could be a powerful experience - so moving you would want to document the moment.  Unfortunately, I do not think Instagramming a smiling selfie at Auschwitz is not the proper way to do so.  In an age where we are never without our cell phones - which are our cameras - we need to develop a more polite way to record serious events.
  3. At first, it seems as though impulsiveness (the desire to act right now) and procrastination (the desire to act later) are opposites, but those traits may actually share genetic material.  One guy has compared behaviors of identical twins to those of fraternal twins to prove it.
  4. 100+ scientists worked together to map the genetics of schizophrenia.  That's some serious teamwork.  They have been able to identify 108 spots in our DNA that link to the disease - 83 of which were previously unknown.  This is a big step towards treating the disorder.

Breads Bakery

I was very strategic with my run recently.  I planned it so that I would finish at Breads Bakery just in time for breakfast/brunch.  After running the 1.7 miles there, I felt confident I had earned my meal.  In fact, I felt confident I had earned three meals because I purchased a leek quiche (seemed breakfast-y), a tuna sandwich, and a bureka (how could I not?!  They're hard to find in NYC!).  

Everything was great and nothing was too dense.  Like perfect French pastry...except it's made by an Israeli.  I would NEVER normally order a tuna sandwich.  I'm scared of them unless I make it myself.  This time, however, the cashier recommended it highly and I was in the mood to go wherever the wind took me.  I'm glad I listened.  The tuna was less of a salad, more just tuna on bread (that's a good thing in my book) with tomato, sliced hard boiled egg, lettuce, and cucumber.  Not only do I now trust their tuna sandwich, I think it's better than mine.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Snickity Snack: Avocado White Bean Dip

This might be the healthiest snack you can make and still be satisfied.  It tastes so good but it's one of those things where you're practically burning more calories by chewing than you're ingesting.

Just combine avocado and drained white beans in a food processor with olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes to taste.  The whole burning more calories than you're taking in is a slight stretch, but this is still super duper healthy.  Everyone says avocado "is good fat!  good fat!" and white beans have plenty of protein so you're chillin in a pretty healthy place, especially if you just dip veggies like I did.  (When I told my Mom about this recipe she said pita chips would be great but less healthy - I leave the choice up to you.  You are your own boss.)

The avocado provides a rich, velvety flavor while the white beans get the texture up to snuff for a good dip.  The red pepper flakes are necessary for dimension - this is what keeps it from tasting like mush.

Tip: prep your veggies in advance.  If you're already shaving two carrots for snack number one, might as well shave the whole bunch so you have a fridge full of ready to eat veggies for the week.  You might eat all of this avocado white bean dip in one sitting (like I did), but then you can rip into a tub of hummus and you'll have the veggies already ready to go.  It'll keep you from reaching for the chips.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

3 on Thursday

To onlookers, my weekend probably looked pretty boring.  Following a low key dinner on Friday I spent all of Saturday on my own.  Sure, I took a quick subway ride to SoHo, but most of the day was spent watching tv on the couch and reading a book in bed.  Even when I did venture out on Sunday, I did little more than lay on a blanket in Central Park.  After four very busy weekends, boring was the most exciting thing that could have happened to me.

  1. One of my favorite things about summer is cherries.  I eat them the way other people eat popcorn and enjoy spitting out the pits, as un-ladylike as it may be.  Now that I finally picked up my first bowl, it really feels like summer has gotten underway.
  2. I received a bottle of nude nail polish in a gift bag and though I thought it would totally wash me out, I'm diggin the trend.
  3. I stopped by one of my favorite book stores, The Strand, on my to meet Matt and Karina for drinks on Friday.  So.  Many.  Books.  I love craning over the bargain priced books on the side walk.  It feels very New York to me.  I walked away with a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac for 52 cents (including tax). 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Black Seed Bagels

A lot of people love huge fluffy bagels.  I personally prefer a thinner bagel - it's easier for me to handle.  Some people also like lox and cream cheese.  Not me.  Blame it on my Southern upbringing, but I just am not a fan.  Lox is salty and slimy; too much cream cheese is overwhelming and kinda makes me gag.  Sorry.

But so many people were talking about Black Seed Bagels that I had to see what makes them the better bagel.  I'm pretty sure these bagels were made as a way to introduce the wary Southerner to yankee bagel tradition.  The bagels are wood fired so they come out flatter and almost crispy so it's kinda like they're toasted.  (This is something many New York bagel shops refuse to do - I like mine toasted.  Sue me.)  Black Seed has all the traditional toppings but then also gives each one of them a sexy twist as well.  So basically you've got cream cheese and cream cheese plus.  Regular cream cheese is self explanatory.  Cream cheese plus would be their tobiko spread or the horseradish cream cheese.

I ordered the number 3 (tobiko spread, salmon, and butter lettuce) and added a radish.  The radish is watermelon radish, sliced thin, and almost wide enough around to cover the whole bagel.  Just two slices is enough.  If you're used to typical NYC bagel shops which pile half an inch of cream cheese onto a bagel sandwich, it looks like they skimp on the toppings.  But they understand exactly how much of each is needed for all the components to shine.  The tobiko in the cream cheese added the perfect amount of salt and a gorgeous pink color.   I know I said I hated lox (actually I just said before that it wasn't my thing but might as well put the truth out there - I'm reeeeeally not a fan) so I'm sure you're wondering why I even ordered this bagel to begin with.  It's not like I was in the mood to torture myself.  I just figured if the point of my mission to SoHo was to see what everyone was talking about, I needed to actually try the specific menu items that built up the buzz.  And the next thing you know I ate an entire bagel filled with smoked salmon.  It didn't taste like lox I've ever had.  It wasn't very salty, nor was it slick and slimy.  It was almost like sushi salmon.  It was shiny like a proud boy showing off all his Omega 3s but it wasn't an oily shine.

Not for nothing, but the bagels actually looked pretty, too.  Ingredients are nicely composed and arranged in proper proportions, not just slapped on there in a hurry to shout "next!"  When prepared like this, I not only eat but enjoy a lox and cream cheese bagel so I'm able to feel like a real New Yorker.  The prices are certainly higher than other bagel shops...but high prices also feel pretty New York, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Han Dynasty

New Yorkers rejoiced upon hearing Han Dynasty would be coming to NYC.  Everyone in Philly goes nuts for the Sichuan Chinese chainlet and New Yorkers just won't stand for Phily having something they don't.  However there's one thing that always comes with a much awaited restaurant opening and that's lines.  Even a year later the wait is still at least an hour.  That the food comes nice and cheap is certainly not a deterrent.

The wait was enough to keep me away for a while, but when Matt, Karina, and I wanted Chinese on a Friday night we decided we had waited long enough.  We weren't too hungry and in a relaxed "whatever" mood so the wait didn't seem like a big deal.  The hostess took our number and said she would text when our table was ready so it was no problem to go right across the street for a drink.

By the time we actually sat down we had built up an appetite so we attacked the menu.  We started with the dan dan noodles because they've popped up in enough blogs as a house specialty.  If you like cold peanut/sesame noodles, you'll love these.  They are served warm and have the same slightly sweet taste from the sesame paste, but they've also got a nice kick from the chiles oil that's been added to the dish.  All three of us were loudly slurping, exactly like our mothers told us we shouldn't.  Our next dish was easy to overlook.  The spicy crispy cucumbers look like the least exciting item on the menu, but they were by far my favorite item of the night.  There's garlic and sugar and other stuff that just make me pop them one after the other into my mouth slowed only by my lack of chopstick prowess.  Our third and final appetizer, the scallion pancake, was the only thing I forgot to photograph which is an indication that it was less thrilling than the other items we tried.  I liked that it was thin and used a phyllo type dough making it crispier than a typical pancake, but it was a little lacking in scallion flavor and a bit oily.

Onto the main courses.  I love the way the menu is divided.  I am used to seeing Chinese menus organized by protein (here's a list of all the chicken dishes, then the pork, beef, seafood, and veggie dishes).  It gets repetitive.  Here, the dishes are organized by sauce style, each with a number to indicate spice level.  We ordered the lo mein with Taiwanese sausage, the chicken crispy rice style (basically a sweet and sour sauce), and the beef hot sauce style.  Overall, Han Dynasty is very similar to the place where you likely order takeout.  Most of the dishes are similar, they're just prepared better here.  The vegetables are fresher and the beef is nice and tender (just one reason why the hot sauce style was my favorite of the entrees).  And they have those freakin cucumbers and dan dan noodles.  That alone makes this place better than your average take out spot even though the prices really aren't much different.

One note of warning: they seem to be liberal with the MSG.  My tummy was less than ecstatic at 2:30 in the morning...but it was worth it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. First Google Glass and now smart contact lenses.  Google and Novartis are joining forces to develop contacts that measure glucose levels and provide real-time updates to an app for people with diabetes.  Apparently there's data in your tears that can be transmitted to your smartphone.  It's like we're living with the Jetsons.     
  2. Music sets the mood.  A mellow song is great for a cry sesh and a real rump shaker gets me ready for a night out.  Music can also actually serve as medicine to aid dementia patients, combat low birth weight, or enhance the taste of wine.
  3. Chicago has seen some massive spikes in violence.  Over the weekend the city saw 40 shootings.  Where is this coming from?!
  4. According to a new PEW study, Americans like Jews, Catholics, and Evangelical Christians...Muslims and Atheists, not so much.  Read through to see how the data has been sliced and diced.

Gotham West Market

11th Avenue is a bit of a wasteland.  One of our partner agencies is over there and I've felt pretty bad for them when it came to their lunch options.  That is, until now when Gotham West Market opened.  Gotham West Market is an upscale food court on the ground floor of a luxury apartment building.  There are about 8 vendors there including Ivan Ramen, The Cannibal, and Blue Bottle Coffee.  There's also a Jeni's Splendid pop-up spot for your unique ice cream cravings.  Basically, you can hit up all the far-away restaurants the cool kids gush over in one fell swoop .  I, for one, am not going to travel to Brooklyn for coffee or Tokyo for ramen, but if their much praised brands are now a 17 minute walk from my office I am happy to check it out.

Some of the food is sold at above average lunch prices.  I don't know about you, but I'm not planning to spend $11 on a sandwich every day...but I'm not opposed to it every once in a while if it's a really good sandwich.  I gravitated toward Choza Taqueria because I was craving Mexican but also because I saw how much more convenient it would be to eat a burrito bowl with a fork in a meeting vs. slurping a bowl of soup or a getting my hands all messy with a sandwich.  Here, my bill came in at just over $9, making not much more expensive than Chipotle but with better ingredients (sorry to all the crazy Chipotle freakazoid sycophants out there).  I got the veggie version with zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and queso fresco.  All the ingredients were fresh and the plate wasn't super saucy so it didn't weigh me down.  I do recommend requesting a side of the sauce (like a chipotle aioli) that they put on their corn.  It kinda made the meal for me.

I had not really imagined a world where high end food courts were a thing.  But now that the concept is here, I don't hate it.


Friday, July 18, 2014

BBQ + Mac & Cheese

After a busy weekend running around at all the wedding festivities, I really just wanted to spend Sunday evening at home.  I could cook a real meal, watch True Blood, and go to sleep early.  Since Albert agreed to my request to stay in, I decided to make him something I knew he would enjoy for supper: BBQ.  For a yankee, that boy sure does love his BBQ.  I happen to love it as well (duh, I actually am Southern) so it really wasn't much of a compromise on my end.

When I want BBQ and I want it now I have one go-to tactic: throw it in the crockpot.  After four hours on high with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, pork tenderloin turns into beautiful pulled pork.  Make your own sauce if you are so inclined, but I keep it simple and just pour in a bottle of Johnny's.  Johnny Harris is an old Savannah restaurant that my family has been going to for generations.  My grandparents used to go there on dates.  No joke.  I could go on about their amazing food and my family's connection to the restaurant...but for now I'm just going to say how much I love their sauce.  At home you can buy it in all the grocery stores.  In such luck.  So I have several bottles shipped to me at a time.  Just as some people make sure to always have a bottle of champagne chilling for impromptu celebrations, I was raised to always have a bottle of BBQ sauce in my fridge.  I'm not going to let something as silly as distance keep me from keeping my fridge stocked.  This is the internet age - I really have no excuse.

Mac and cheese is a tried and true BBQ side dish.  I make mine just like my Mom: elbow macaroni layered with shredded sharp cheddar (must be off the block - none of that bagged nonsense), and an egg/milk mixture around the edges.  Into the oven it goes at 350 for about 40 minutes.  I tried to mix things up by creating a crust with panko bread crumbs and melted butter.  It was good but unnecessary.  If my Mom has been told over and over (and over) again that she makes the best mac [ever] and she doesn't use bread crumbs then I don't need them either.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

3 on Thursday

I spent my weekend partying it up at Rebekah's wedding and am still in awe of how perfect the entire event was.  I am so happy for Rebekah and Alex and know they have a beautiful future ahead.
Background: The most amazing chupah I have EVER seen.  It looked like an enchanted forest.  I watched as the florist's six person team built the entire thing from scratch.  It took them six hours to arrange every branch, orchid, moss patch, and tealight.  It was very labor intensive but worth it because it was breathtaking.

  1. While we were primping on Friday after the rehearsal, my cell phone rang.  I answered it to realize it was Rebekah calling from the other side of the nail salon.  She realized they did not have menu signs for the signature cocktails and asked if I could help out.  I take my bridesmaid duties seriously so I sprung into action and and ran to a few stores to pick up picture frames and card stock.  I wrote out the signs on the day of the wedding while I was waiting for my hair to set.  If you've ever been a bridesmaid, you know there can be some awkward downtime day-of so I enjoyed having a little arts and crafts project to keep me busy.  It may have seemed like a last minute add, but having the signs on the bar to describe the signature cocktails (one to match each of their flavor preferences) and the official wedding hashtag was a nice personal touch.  This couple thought of everything.
  2. The decor for this wedding (at Guastavinos) was stunning.  It was full glamour.  Rebekah and Alex didn't really want to have a sweetheart table so instead they had one very long table at the end of the dancefloor for them, the wedding party, and their plus ones.  I've never seen a 32 person table but I liked it.  It was just another way to continue sharing the experience with the bride and groom and kept the mood light and fun.
  3. Rebekah arranged for all the girls to get their hair and makeup done by a legit glam squad.  I asked for big hair and major lashes.  Loved it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Sad days.  Whiskey River, the fratty cabin of a bar in my neighborhood is no more.  But wait!  As Albert and I walked past recently, we noticed the dark door was suddenly open...and there was life inside!  The atmosphere is totally different.  It's no longer made to feel like a lodge and a bar lines the length of the front area, making it feel narrow and more like a hideaway.  There is almost nothing to signal the name of the place except for a sign dangling high above the bar so we stood in the street looking around ourselves for a minute before figuring out it was called Albion.

The decor is seriously boring.  Cheesy medieval-esque sconses hang on the wall and there is nothing special about the tables or booths.  BUT there is a garden area in the back that makes up for the bar's lack of decorative flair with natural light.  There is also a huge list of craft brews - 30 on tap - that will entice any beer lover.  They all ring in at about $7 but are only $4 during happy hour, which lasts until 8 PM every day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Italian Turkey Burgers

I had some leftover pesto in the fridge and only about two days before it went bad.  It had to get used up but with an entire 9x13 casserole of mac and cheese in the fridge, I had no need for anything pasta based.  I also had some hamburger buns so an Italian themed burger began to take shape.

There are a couple ways to do this, you can mix the pesto right into the turkey meat or if your turkey burger was already pre-shaped at the butcher counter like mine was, you can do what I did and just use the pesto as a spread right on the bun.  You can do this plain or, again, follow my lead and mix it with mayo to give the spread a little extra creaminess.  I like the pesto/mayo ratio to tip in the pesto's favor, but that's just me.  For the final touch, top with smoked mozzarella.  For best results, put the mozz on top of the burger as it finishes cooking in the pan or on the grill.  Then cover it with the lid of a pan so the steam gets the cheese nice and melty.  That's how you get the gorgeous stringy cheese you see in the pic.

Summer is burger time, but that doesn't mean it always has to be as simple as beef and cheddar cheese with ketchup.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. I kinda love these drunk horoscopes.  How spot on is yours?
  2. I'm proud to say I got all five questions right on the test NYC private pre-Ks are now admitting.  But I had to think pretty hard.  And I'm 29.  Who are these baby geniuses?  
  3. Violence in Israel is out of hand.  Let me break it down: First, 3 Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered.  Then, a few rogue Israelis retaliated with the murder of a Palestinian teen (the Israeli nation does not condone this).  Then things got really bad.  While I was busy celebrating the 4th of July, Hamas terrorists launched over 200 rockets at Israeli civilians.  Then Palestinians tried to burn Joseph's tomb.  There is so much rocketfire that 1,500 IDF reservists had to be called into action (and the government authorized up to 40,000).  This is terrifying and needs to stop, but I hate to admit I don't know how that will happen.  I have now learned that 45% of the toddlers in the down of Sderot, my first [and potentially most meaningful] stop in Israel, have been diagnosed with PTSD.  
  4. Pitbulls are infamous in American culture.  Sure, some think of the lovable dog from The Little Rascals with the ring around his eye, but more often then not the breed conjures images of vicious fighting dogs. 

Book Review: The Goldfinch

"The Goldfinch" is intimidating.  It is a 771 page hardcover that really weighs down my tote bag on my commute to work.  I think that's the reason I put off reading it for so long.  But "long and heavy" is no longer a valid excuse when the novel is on every best list and then wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  All signs point to read.

Donna Tartt's novel is an epic with Dickensian tendencies.  Theo Decker can't seem to dig himself out of the hole that was created after he survives an explosion at an art museum.  His mother, unfortunately, does not make it out alive and Theo hops from home to home with little sense of permanence.  He first lands at the home of a friend, members of New York City's society who are happy to do the right thing but can't manage to show emotion.  He then lives for several years in Las Vegas where the one person who should care most about him practically forgets his existence.  By the time he returns to New York he is living in a fuzz of self medication.  The one constant is his obsession with a painting he saw in the museum.  As his last connection to his mother, the painting is the driving force behind every reckless decision Theo makes.

Theo, like almost all the characters in the book, is deeply flawed.  Also like all the characters in the book, he just can't seem to help himself.  He is his own worst enemy but seems to be content in knowing so.  His pursuit of The Goldfinch is his search for happiness which, like the painting itself, he may not be destined to have.

Subtracting a point because the last few pages literally spell out the book's themes for the reader.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zoodles with Pesto and Meatballs

Have you heard about zoodles?  They're alllll the rage on Pinterest; right up there with paleo this and DIY that.  Zoodles = zucchini noodles.  There is no actual noodles in zoodles, making this innately carb-free and healthy.  They are super easy to make: just use the julienne setting on your mandolin.  If you haven't bought a mandolin by now, get on it!  I've told you time and again how great it is for making potato chips and slicing radishes.  Mine cost me a whopping $13 at Bed Bath and Beyond so there's no excuse not to own one.

When the zucchini is sliced like that it doesn't take long to cook, especially if you like your zoodles al dente.  That means this whole dish will only take as long to prepare as it takes the meatballs to cook.  I made my meatballs by getting one pre-formed burger from the meat counter and rolling it into 8 small balls.  If you like big balls (and who doesn't wink wink), you can split the burger into quarters, but the small ones will cook quicker.  Because the burger was already prepped, you have built-in portion control.  Once the meatballs are almost done cooking, throw your zoodles in the pan and cook with some pesto sauce.  Takes no time to cook, tastes delicious, and healthily satisfies your pasta craving...are you convinced you need to try zoodles yet?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

3 on Thursday

This past weekend included 4th of July in the city, a rager of a birthday party in Connecticut, and then margaritas back in the city on Sunday night.  It certainly felt like summer with lots of good time vibes.  This weekend should be just as packed with fun since it's Rebekah's wedding weekend, which is shaping up to be quite the classy Manhattan affair.

  1. I love movies in general, but I also really like that living in a community like New York City affords me the ability to see small independent films I wouldn't get to see if I lived elsewhere.  Lately, Albert and I have been enjoying these indies at small, intimate theaters like the Angelika.  We recently saw "Supermensch," a documentary about legendary manager Shep Gordon (his life - wow) and this week saw "Snowpiercer," in which the US has frozen over and the only survivors are those who boarded a train that serves as a 20 car microcosm of all society.  Both are worth a watch.
  2. On Sunday Albert and I went to Captain's Cove, a marina in his hometown.  There is a large, two story restaurant on the premises and all of Bridgeport seems to go there on Sunday in the summer to dance to live music, play cornhole, and eat baskets of fried seafood.  It reminded me of my favorite place in Savannah, which is something I very rarely get to say up here.
  3. I thought my 4th of July party would attract 15-20 guests but wound up with about 40.  I felt so popular!  The best part was that I had some special guests.  I get to see my cousin Amy often since she lives here in the city, but her sister Natalie was up for a visit so I got double trouble.  My cousin Aaron was also in town so our fam was in full force.  We are a super close and tight-knit bunch so I was over the moon to have them there.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hill and Bay

I was so excited when I saw the Hill and Bay construction in my neighborhood.  I was so not excited when it looked like it would be a little overpriced.  It looked cute but not cute enough to warrant what looked to be a very limited and slightly overpriced menu.  I mean, as much as we want to be cool, us Murray Hillians are never going to be East or West Villagers.  We crave unique, independent restaurants, but we know our place.  We don't need anything fancy before heading across the street to see the latest X-Men movie at that giant theater.  What we do need is something with good food that's a step or two up from a dive bar.

Hill and Bay got the message because when I walked past recently it looked like they added some items to the menu, thereby expanding the price range.  The large plates still average $23, but I would just stick to the starters.  They may still seem expensive, but when you realize they're actually large enough to fill you up, the price is justified.  I would have been happy to pick one off the apps and eaten it as my entree, but we were hot (rosé to cool off was necessary) and very hungry, so our group of three shared several of the starters.  We got the buttermilk fried boneless chicken (good, but just call a spade a spade - it's chicken fingers, just like my brother loved to eat when he was 6), meatballs (a good amount of fresh shaved parm), some creamy mac and cheese, fish tacos, and the kale caesar (a good salad but the dressing was a vinaigrette that took it away from caesar-land).  They may have fancified the names, but most of these dishes are just good plain comfort food and that's exactly what I want to eat when I leave the movie theater.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lonestar Empire

Last week I went to my first ever SummerStage concert.  SummerStage is a concert series in Central Park that provides both free and not free music throughout the summer.  Concerts are always a good time but my mind was blown when I saw they had food and beer stalls.  Lo and behold!  Food and beer makes the music sound even better!  If anything, I thought it would be simple burgers and hot dogs, but they actually had about three fancy food vendors from the Brooklyn Flea set up.  We got all of our food from Lonestar Empire, who put their Texas-style smoked meats (brisket and pork) in both sandwich and taco form.  The tacos had great slaw; the sandwiches had perfect pickles - good toppings all around.  They don't have a brick and mortar store so make sure you head to Smorgasburg to taste their meat (that's what she said).  And if you haven't been to a SummerStage show, definitely put that on your bucket list.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. European Court has upheld France's ban of the niqab, the type of veil worn by many Muslim women that only leaves a slit for the eyes.  I'm not sure I like the veil itself...but I'm also not sure how I feel about a government telling someone they can't wear something that is a part of their religious practice.  Not sure how to keep all the different head-coverings straight?  This article also includes a handy guide.
  2. Creative genius and mental illness often go hand in hand.
  3. Knowing my neighbors makes me feel more at home which then makes me happier.  Not so for Euros, apparently.
  4. It doesn't yet affect US domestic flights, but some travelers will soon not be able to board planes with an uncharged cell phone for security reasons so make sure your iPhone's got some juice before you fly.

4th of July

After about five years on the less convenient river [for me, the only one that matters] the fireworks came back to the east side (thanks, Mayor de Blasio!) so I decided to throw a party on my rooftop.  It was a great idea until I woke up to rainy skies.  The weather cleared up just in time for the sun to start setting so I cancelled the laying out portion of the party (like people really needed to be subjected to me in a bathing suit anyway) and people started coming over at 4:30 instead of noon.  Thankfully, that gave everyone plenty of time to get boozed up before the fireworks started at around 9:00 so no one really cared that they couldn't see them as planned since they moved all the barges alllll the way downtown.  I hardly cared, myself.  In fact, I didn't have a care in the world because this was the easiest party in party history.  I made the decision to pick up a couple buckets from KFC (or rather, I sent Albert on this chore) and then I made a few sides to round out the spread.

I wanted the menu to have an all-American feel, which to me means classic picnic food.  Fried chicken is a good centerpiece because it's just as good at room temp/cold as it is hot.  That means you can leave it out all afternoon and not have to worry about it.  It's a low maintenance food (if only I could describe more of my friends that way).  For sides we had:

  • Corn and black bean salsa.  It's one of my go-to items because it's just canned corn, canned black beans, chopped tomato, chopped onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.  Serve with the Scoops type of Tostitos because they're the best.  This is actually rather healthy when you think about it, something I like to point out since we were eating extra crispy fried chicken.
  • Spinach dip...from a jar.  Because why not have one more food item on the table?  I poured it into a real bowl and told everyone I slaved over it, naturally.
  • Pimento cheese sandwiches.  I make my own pimento cheese since it's expensive and hard to find in NYC.  And because I think my version is bangin.  I always like to serve mine on mushy white bread because that's how I had it growing up.  That fancy whole wheat oat bread didn't exist in the Konter household til after I left for college.
  • Potato salad.  The dressing for mine is 2 parts Greek yogurt with 1 part mayo.  I use the little red potatoes and mix in dill and scallions.  Since I use 0% Greek yogurt this joins the salsa on the healthy side of the table.  If the salsa canceled out the fried chicken, this should help counterbalance the pimento cheese.  
  • Cake pops.  Albert gave me a cake pop maker as part of my Xmas/Chanukah present and this party was its innauguration.  I used blue cake mix (when you bite into the cake pop the inside is more of an electric blue than you would think from the pic) and covered with white chocolate and red sprinkles.  I had to get something patriotic in there.
I cooked off the cake the night before, but I managed to decorate them, prepare all the sides, do all the dishes, clean the whole apartment, and shower in about 2 hours.  Since pretty much the whole party took place on the roof, my apartment was nice and clean when I went back inside at the end of the evening.  It is such a good feeling knowing there is absolutely zero mess to clean up.  Cleaning up just doesn't feel American enough.

Friday, July 4, 2014

OddFellows Ice Cream

Happy 4th of July!  This holiday is all about being outside in the heat of summer.  Rather than sit in the air conditioning, I like to cool down with some frozen treats.  If you're the same, you should check out my new favorite scoop shop, OddFellows.  Their first shop opened a year ago in Williamsburg and was written up in the city's best dining blogs even during New York's coldest months for their amazing flavors that often incorporate unexpected ingredients like miso or pink peppercorn.

I never made it to Williamsburg last summer and deeply regretted it.  Thankfully, in the year I wasted they opened a second location in my home borough of Manhattan - and on the east side, no less!  My Mom and I had spent all morning walking and were working up a sweat so we stopped in before heading to a movie on Saturday.  It's a small place that brackets the new school flavors with an old time soda pop shop feel.

My Mom was going to order the s'mores but one taste test of the buttermilk blueberry honey and her mind was set.  I had a taste and even though the blueberries were mixed into the ice cream, they still tasted fresh picked - even popped in your mouth like blueberries are should.  I went with the Thai ice cream, which infuses Thai tea into the base.  Though it had a deep burnt orange color, it was very light, probably why I gravitated towards even though I am [typically] a sorbet lover.  I added a drizzle of salted caramel sauce to mine because whenever salted caramel is on a menu I MUST have it.

Now that I've had my first ice cream cone of the season, it finally feels like summer.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

3 on Thursday

Everyone around here is anxious to kick off their 4th of July weekends a bit early, and I am no exception.  I can't wait to leave work and finish up a few last minute errands before a little date night.  Then tomorrow it's party time!  Now that the fireworks are back on the East River, I've planned a little shindig on my rooftop where relaxation is the name of the game.
Background: entrance to the newly opened Union Square Pavilion
  1. I dug into my treats from Myers of Keswick on Tuesday night and now realize they won't last long.  Both cookies - I'm sorry, "biscuits" - were very different from what we have here.  The Hobnobs (great name for the "nobbly oaty biscuit") weren't too crunchy (phew: I like my cookies like I like my boyfriend's heart, soft) and I like that they have a dark chocolate variety since everything in the US seems to be milk choc focused.  The caramel wafer cookies may have looked like a Kit Kat but the texture was softer, like a Belgian waffle.  Plus, I'm a sucker for such great packaging.
  2. One of the best ways to beat a case of the Mondays is to do something extra fun on what is typically the lamest night of the week.  I headed to Central Park to see Counting Crows at Summer Stage and it was a total throwback to middle/high school.  They're still great.
  3. The Empire State Building was lit up in all the colors of the rainbow for Pride this past weekend.  While I didn't get to take my Mom to the West Village for the parade on Sunday because of her flight time, she could tell that there was some craziness brewing in the city and loved being surrounded by that energy. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I guess Friday was just all about the UK because after Meyers of Keswick we went to dinner at Whitehall.  It doesn't feel overly British, but you will see a good deal of gin on the cocktail menu.  They also feature not one but four of my favorite gastropub touches: subway tile on one wall, exposed brick on the others, wood planks for the ceiling, and filiment lightbulbs galore.  It's my favorite vibe.  Dark with enough pizazz that it doesn't feel run of the mill, but not so fancy that you have to dress up if you don't feel like it.

We all went the app route since we had been snacking all day.  My Mom had the crab pasta and loved how light it was.  Though she would have loved anything on Friday night (because that was the day I introduced her to rosé and she just looooved it - new meaning to rose colored glasses), I think this dish was, indeed, quite good.  Albert got some oysters (very good - it may not be a cooked dish, but at least they know how to pick em) and the chicken and pork terrine, a major departure for him but one he enjoyed.  I actually thought it was a very well balanced terrine that was just rich enough.  I ordered two apps thinking we would all share one of them.  The sharing didn't happen so I was very full but it's hard to complain.  I had the asparagus salad with fried egg and caerphilly (a favorite cheese I once picked up at Murray's).  I also got the pea fritters with mint yogurt.  I wish they put on just a bit more yogurt because it really made the dish.  The fritters were bigger than I expected and the inside was nice and creamy, not dry as I worried it would be upon seeing the size.

Whitehall is British, but not in a Ginger Spice, Union-Jack-flag-as-a-dress sort of way.  It's the kind of British I can really appreciate, like a marriage proposal from Prince Harry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Myers of Keswick

I keep a little list on my phone of things I want to do.  I'm not sure exactly when Myers of Keswick made it onto the list but it's been sitting there for a while.  When my Mom and I were planning our next move on Friday evening, I consulted the list, hoping I could find a unique experience for us to share.

It was like I used some of Harry Potter's flue powder and was transported to a quaint English corner grocery store.  There is NOTHING American in this store.  Not one thing.  Even the Heinz baked beans are imported with their fancier British labels.  Americans are not big on meat pies (huge mistake, Americans) so they are in short supply in the U-S-of A.  Thankfully, Myers of Keswick has tons of fresh meat pies to choose from alongside British chips ("crisps," I think they call them), candy, cookies, even oatmeal.  I highly recommend heading to the West Village for your Brit fix.


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