Thursday, October 28, 2010

3rd Annual Punkin Carving Extravaganza

I love love love the tradition that Allison and I started of carving punkins each year for Halloween. I cook a new pumpkin dish for dinner, we drink wine and laugh - it's just such a fun night. This year, we had Camille and Josh join as our special guests.

For some reason, I'm drawn toward cooking a pumpkin pasta dish each year so I chose to do pumpkin-ricotta cannelloni with sage brown butter, only I used stuffed shells instead. I read a recipe that sounded good but I really created my own filling that I just kinda tasted along the way:
It turned out delicious! While the shells were in the oven, we got down to business:
I look crazy here especially with the way I'm holding that knife, eeek:
Since I don't have an artistic bone in my body, I definitely used a stencil but Camille and Josh both just carved freestyle:
I wish I could do stuff like that! I think they all turned out great, though:
I'm discovering as I get older just how much I enjoy tradition. I had looked forward to the evening for a week and it was really nice sharing it with Camille and Josh, too. I guess I love the idea of having something that's important to you become something you observe the same way each year. It sort of stems from the hopeless romantic side of me, I think. ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Day

I had myself a very full weekend! I already wrote about going to the cheese/beer pairing and Eataly, but I must also mention what a fantastic Saturday night I had, too.

Joel came to visit for the weekend so I was excited to see him and to get a crew together to go out. I met Camille in the west village first before heading over to meet her buddy, Dave. He was in town from Austin and manages a bunch of bands performing at the CMJ Festival that was happening all last week. We already had plans to see Robbie Gil later on but we met Dave early to check out some other stuff. He was so awesome and got us into a show at Bowery Ballroom, only we all got caught up talking instead. He leads such an insane and fascinating life. I could have talked to him all night.

After that, we went to meet Joel for a quick beer at Marshall Stack and then it was off to Rockwood for Robbie Gil. Holy crap, what a show! I don't know whether it was because he was a part of CMJ this year or what but this was one of the best Robbie Gil shows I've seen in quite some time. The energy was vibrant and his soul was on that stage in each song, particularly 'How's Colorado'. I was really glad to introduce Joel and his friends to it. From there, we all hung out for the next four hours, no kidding. It was a GREAT night.

This post wasn't even supposed to be about Saturday night but ooops. I like to write a lot, sue me. Instead, I was going to tell you about our lovely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday afternoon! I'm embarrassed to say that I've lived here nearly five years and never done that. Ohhh well, there's a first time for everything. Joel's bus wasn't until 9:00pm so we took advantage of the whole day just leisurely walking across and into Brooklyn. The bridge is just so magnificent. I get really amazed by architecture like that. It seems impossible to build such a tremendous structure like the Brooklyn Bridge and it honestly blows my mind. I kick myself for taking so long to walk across. I really liked this shot of Camille and I:
We meandered around in Brooklyn for a while and stopped into Jacques Torres where I wanted to buy out the store. I mean, they even had chocolate covered cheerios! We walked some more after pausing near the waterfront and got some dinner at a tiny little mexican joint that had the most delicious tamales. I've actually been craving them since!

I really need to take more advantage of things like this before I leave New York. I never want to regret not doing so. It was just such a great day (and weekend!) all around. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've been talking with people about Italy a great deal recently and about going sometime in the near future. It's so exciting to think about it and imagine what life is really like there! In the meantime, I finally went to Eataly on Saturday afternoon and spent the day pretending I was already overseas. For those who don't know, Eataly is Mario Batali's newest venture in the city and it is awesome. Taken from their website:

Eataly is more than a supermarket with restaurants. It is an energetic marketplace, an opportunity to taste and take home the products of artisans who till, knead and press to bring you the highest quality products at fair price. We have assembled the absolute best Italian producers from every region under one roof and the absolute best chefs to cook their wares; Eataly is the heartbeat of Italy.

There are several of these locations throughout Italy and finally we get a taste of this in the US. It's so fantastic! We waited only 15 minutes or so to get in and, once inside, it's like a true lively and buzzing marketplace. I swear to you, I think I died and went to heaven. Everything I love about food and Italy and the Italian culture was right there in my face in the heart of New York City. The smells, the energy, the fresh homemade products, the rows and rows of olive oils...I was so completely in my element:
We walked around for a good while to browse all the products while forcing ourselves not to drain our bank accounts. I came across some black pepper olive oil and it was like crack - I had to have it. After roaming around, we managed to score a spot at one of the stand-up table areas. We were definitely ready for some wine and food after drooling over everything we saw. We ordered the most amazing meat board and cheese plate. They also brought us spicy glazed figs and candied lemon peel, both of which were unreal:
 MMM, lambrusco:
I tell you what, I am READY for some Italy. After that tiny glimpse into what the markets are like over there, I'm just about to get myelf on a plane immediately. It's so so so fun to think about! All in due time... ;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cheese and Beer? Yes, please!

This city is just so cool sometimes. Know what's making it better? The recent rise of all these daily coupon sites. Yep, I think I get about 15 of them in a day and I'm getting addicted. Uh ohhh...

A couple of months ago, I got one for this Oktoberfest cheese and beer pairing class put on by Artisanal. I was intrigued by it because Dennis Flynn, a brand specialist from Stone Brewery, would be there doing the beer "educating" and I'm a huge fan of Stone IPA. I thought it would be so cool to meet and talk with him. My girlfriends and I decided to buy tickets and let me just tell you...I'm so glad we did.

I had no idea what to expect with this thing. Being that it's NYC, I pictured us getting the tiniest bite of cheese and a half sip of beer. I was very pleasantly surprised when that wasn't the case! They started with a cocktail hour that was awesome. There was champagne, homemade pretzels with mustard, different sausages, cheese fondue...SO good. When they'd finished setting the other room up, we walked in to find this place setting:
That completely exceeded my expectations. I mean, we all know I have a huge appetite so I got pretty happy knowing this tasting might even be a bit gluttonous. Nice move, Artisanal!

We started with tasting all the beers first. Dennis went through each flavor profile and alcohol strength and we really did learn a great deal! Also, he was mighty generous with the pours if any of us ran out of a particular beer we liked. Yay, Dennis! My favorite was definitely the oaked arrogant bastard (3rd one in the center):
On to the cheese. Holy balls, some of the cheese on this plate is some of the best I've ever tried:
The one at one o'clock was crusted with espresso grounds and quite possibly the best cheese I've ever had. There was also a goat gouda that was delicious (I am not a fan of goat cheese) and one called 'sea hive' that was a cheddar-like cheese with a honey flavor. They were all so good.

The best part was the third round of pairing the cheese and beer together. You would never know just how amazing the two would go together. Stone's smoked porter beer went the best with everything but it really was awesome the way certain flavor profiles matched, just like you think wine should whilst eating cheese. We really had fun:
They're doing a mozzarella making class soon and I think we're all gonna sign up for it. It's so awesome to just do something different every now and then. We ended our evening with a couple of drinks at Bobo (of course) and talked about what other fun things like this we can do. What a good Friday! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moms Are The Best

What a beautiful weekend we had! I don't think I'll ever get used to how quickly they pass. October has been gorgeous here in the city. I love it so much! It might even be the best Fall I've seen since moving here.

On Friday, I was so thrilled to finally meet Camille's mom, Perry. I've now met Camille's whole family and it's so special to me. Before heading to dinner, I swung by a happy hour with some friends I hadn't seen in ages. After a quick beer, I made my way to the west village and met everyone at De Santos. I was excited to try it after a friend recently told me about his awesome evening there. What a cozy and welcoming space it is! The building itself has its own interesting story which I find so cool. You can read about it if you click the link above. Anyway, we had a fabulous time chatting with Perry and getting to know her. I see so much of Camille in her and I loved being able to spend that time together. I had a terrific homemade pasta dish with sausage and shallots, mmm.

On our way to grab a drink after dinner, we stopped into Jeffrey's to take a look. My friend, Will, is co-owner of the spot and it just opened on October 5th. It's a totally unique idea that crosses a market with a restaurant and I'm really looking forward to having dinner there, soon! For those of you in New York, please stop in too and support this venture for Will. I want it to do so well for him. :)

We brought Perry to Bobo which is a favorite spot of ours and had one last drink before heading home. I swear, I love that place so much. I really enjoyed the evening and being with Perry definitely made me miss my own sweet mom. Moms are just so special and I was glad we could share such a meaningful evening together.

The rest of the weekend was terrific with a friend's 30th birthday celebration, a coffee date with Colleen Sunday morning, and a super fun football afternoon. Life really is good. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fun with Guy Fieri

So, there are a plethora of chefs that I admire and adore for many different reasons. There's Mario Batali with his brilliance in simplicity, Bobby Flay with his flair for fresh and vibrant flavors, Scott Conant for his unmatched precision...I won't even continue talking about the chefs I love. The list could go for miles. My personal opinion is that, in the culinary world, you can't always take yourself too seriously. I think it's vital that you take the craft seriously but that you remain relatable and approachable. Nobody encompasses that more than the free-spirited and fun Guy Fieri.

I love Guy. I think he's hilarious and completely original. I think his entire "schtick" is 100% real and that he truly is insane in the best of ways. While he's not at the top of my list for chefs I look up to, he's definitely at the top for chefs who know who they are and stay true to that. So, when given a chance to see him live at the NYC Food and Wine Festival, I happily jumped on it.

I decided I wanted to do something special for Allison out of the blue. She's treated me to some wonderful things in the past few months and I wanted to return the favor. I looked up all the events at the festival this year and boy, would I have gone nuts if things weren't sold out. For example, Bobby Flay had this taco and tequila tasting event that I would have killed to attend. Also, Scott Conant did an intimate harvest lunch at Scarpetta where you meet with local farmers and watch him cook. Um, I'm in love with him and wouldn't have been able to speak if I attended that so maybe it's good it was sold out. Anyway, I kept scrolling through the options and there it was - a culinary demonstration with Guy Fieri. I thought, what could be more fun than that?! So, I got us tickets. I am so very glad I did.

It was held in a small auditorium at The New School down on 12th Street. Basically, it was an hour and a half of cracking up at Guy and feeling like you were totally a part of his family. He came out, guns blazing, and it was all about having fun, really. He did cook a couple of things but it mainly felt like you were just hanging out with him. He was totally interactive, bringing people up on stage, and he definitely made a delicious looking cocktail that he shared with a few lucky people stuck in the back row. At the end, he stood around signing so many autographs and talking to people. When Allison and I got up there to meet him, I was just so excited because of how nice he really is. As a bonus, he had his buddy, Gorilla, from one of his 'Diners' episodes come out and I definitely asked him to sign my ticket, too. I think I made his day and he surely did sign my ticket "pork ribs", hahaha:
Seriously, it was so much fun and I'm dying to go again next year! Mark my words...I WILL meet Scott Conant. Until then, enjoy these fun photos that Allison took: 
 We seriously loved Gorilla:
Guy's whole crew was just as much fun as he was:
 Allison's artistic shot of Gorilla in the mirror signing my ticket, hehehe:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Well well, it seems like this little pattern of "celebrating the ordinary" that I mentioned in my recent post is following me. There have been a number of different reminders for me lately that living life as big as you can in each moment is really important. I think it's so wild how ironies of life happen to reinforce certain things like this going on at certain times.

My devotion the other day was on this very topic and I thought I'd share it here. This is taken from 'My Utmost for His Highest' by good ol' (bee-hind kicking) Oswald Chambers:

Getting Into God's Stride

The test of a man's religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, when there is nothing tremendous or exciting going on. The worth of a man is revealed in his attitude to ordinary things when he is not before the footlights. It is a painful business to get through into the stride of god; it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with god, there is always the difficulty of getting into his stride; but when we have got into it, the only characteristic that manifests itself is the life of god. The individual man is lost sight of in his personal union with god, and the stride and the power of god alone are manifested.

It is difficult to get into the stride of god because, when we start walking with him, we find he has outstripped us before we have taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things and we have to be trained and disciplined into his ways. It was said of Jesus "he shall not fail nor be discouraged" because he never worked from his own individual standpoint but always from the standpoint of his father, and we have to learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned by atmosphere, not by intellectual reasoning. God's spirit alters the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and things begin to be possible which were never possible before. Getting into the stride of god means nothing less than union with himself. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it.

Don't give in because the pain is bad just now, get on with it. Before long, you will find you have a new vision and a new purpose.

Well said, brother Oswald, well said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Big Apple Skillet

After faaaaaaaaar too long, I finally had my skillet (aka best friend), Amanda, come visit this past weekend. We'd made the plans earlier in the summer and I was busting at the seams excited for her to get here. After a very delayed bus ride (of course), she finally made it into the city on Friday evening. For a couple of years straight while we both lived in Atlanta, Amanda and I set aside every Friday as our "date night" if you will, heehee. While we weren't always sure what our plans would be, we just knew they would involve each other in some respect. Thus, "ritual" was created. We were both so excited to celebrate ritual Friday together like the old days.

After catching up for a bit, we went to a super fun potluck/game night at my friend, Colleen's, apartment. I got to introduce Amanda to a bunch of people, we ate yummy food, and played games together. It was such a nice evening in and a great way to relax before our adventurous Alphabet City pub crawl the next day.

Let me just tell you...we had so much fun on Saturday. We had a GREAT group of people come out and spend the day with us which was clearly a bonus to already being there with Amanda. :) I had planned a pub crawl throughout Alphabet City to check out some new bars and it proved to be a giant success. We started off at Sunburnt Cow where Amanda and I very wisely ate a big lunch and a big glass of water before starting in on any cocktails. They've got a great brunch special there so we decided to try a burger with "the lot" thinking it was a bunch of cheese or bacon or whatever. Yep, we definitely got a burger with lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, beets, pineapple, bacon and a fried egg:
It was a mighty fine burger, beets and all. Sunburnt Cow is so much fun and the bartenders are just awesome. I cannot wait to go back there! We ended up staying there for three hours before realizing that's not much of a pub crawl.

Our second stop was Porch which was such an awesome space. I can imagine it gets totally insane late night though, which I'd hate, so we were happily enjoying the casual 4pm crowd. Side note, they definitely have a DJ spinning at 4pm which was both odd and tremendous. Yes, I made a map for the day and yes, I got laughed at:
Not sure why those photos look all slanted. Anyway, my map proved to be valuable later so I pat myself on the back for that one.

We continued on from there to Manitoba's (which was no fun so we left), 7B, and finally Lucy's which is hands down my new favorite bar. Lucy actually bartends and she's in her late 60's. She's Polish with a very heavy accent and absolutely as cute as can be. We talked to her forever as we drank Polish beers and heard stories about her younger years. Our whole group just loved her. Also, our tab consisted of her basically saying "just give me 20 bucks" which, for 10 or so people, works very nicely. :) Honestly, I have no idea how she does it but Lucy is a spitfire and I love her. So much fun:
Ok, my camera officially sucks. I've been trying to figure out what the heck went wrong with these photos but I don't know, booo! At any rate, we really had a terrific weekend. I miss Amanda so much and I'm just thrilled she was able to come visit. Until next ritual:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Celebrate The Ordinary

How many of us out there equate success or happiness to big things or events that happen in life? I think more people than not operate in this way of thinking which is very natural in our tunnel-visioned "go go go" culture. Most of us probably feel insignificant or small unless something giant happens where our name is 'in lights'. I think this is especially the case for those of us living in New York City. I've felt like the smallest fish in the biggest pond at times here but that is ironically also what keeps me sharpened and challenged.

Recently, I've had some significant reminders of how powerful the 'ordinary' can be. Normally, we walk along, day after day, doing our same routines without much thought. We get up, we go to work, we pay bills. Some of us exercise, some of us don't. Some of us have families, some of us are single. We all have our daily schedule that we abide by and, for the most part, it probably seems mundane. There's no denying that most of our life will probably be boring. (I actually listened to a terrific sermon on this the other day from my old pastor in Atlanta. It's the one from 9/19 that you can find here if interested.) I say that meaning most of us won't have our name in lights and instead we will simply live day after day in an 'ordinary' fashion. Now, I find nothing wrong with that. What I do take issue with, however, is the lack of focus on just how incredible so many ordinary things can be. I think the entire measure of a person's life comes down to how they live out those ordinary moments. Do you find joy in something daily? Are you able to live humbly in gratitude for the ability to walk or talk? Do you recognize the treasure it is to have a true friend? Do you find happiness in giving selflessly? Do you appreciate the roof over your head or the car that you drive or the clothes that you wear? Do you understand the value of life? Do you make every effort to never use people and to give of yourself without taking? Do these seemingly ordinary things impact you in the giant way that they should? These are the questions that I ask myself all the time. Know what the best part is? We can actually control these things everyday in order to make the ordinary become extraordinary.

I've reached a breaking point with a couple of people recently who consistently choose to see every possible thing wrong with their lives rather than appreciate these small, seemingly insignificant blessings. It's not easy to shift your focus or perspective but I've really had it with people being so ungrateful. I mean, there are plenty of things I really wish for that I don't have but you know what? I can't do a darn thing about it so I might as well shift my focus to being thankful for what I DO have. I want to live my life in a way where each of the ordinary things counts. It's a choice that we can each make, bottom line. It's not always easy but the most we can do is try. I am. Are you?     

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Love Po

This past Saturday was Allison's birthday and we all know how much I looooove birthdays. This year has been particularly difficult in a few areas for Allison so I decided to figure out something that would surprise her, big time. What better way to do that than to have mom fly up to celebrate?! I knew it would be such a special gift for Allison. Also, the fact that mom could join us for our annual birthday dinner tradition was just so fun.

My original plan was to have Allison over for some wine and cheese on the evening mom arrived but silly me never checked to see if Allison was free! She actually had a work dinner the night mom got in, ooops. So, I had to keep mom a secret until I could do a proper "reveal" the next day. Camille and I schemed and came up with a plan to take Allison for drinks somewhere very unusual where she'd find mom sitting there.

We decided on Raines Law Room which couldn't have been a more perfectly confusing spot for Allison. :) It's this great speakeasy that had the most amazing drink concoctions, even though one of Camille's did taste like beef jerky. When you sit down, there's actually a chain that you pull on the wall which is how you call your server over. It really was so unique and different. How fun are these drinks:
I love that antique champagne glass in front! I picture ladies from the 40's wearing long satin gloves drinking out of that. I swear, we could have stayed there all night! Allison was totally and completely surprised by mom and I was just so happy I could make that happen. :)

The real treat was Allison's birthday dinner. Holy crapola, in all my time living in New York, I've never had a dinner so good. Um, I've eaten at a LOT of places so I don't say that lightly. I took a friend's suggestion and booked a reservation at Po on Cornelia Street. I love Mario Batali and will take any chance to eat at one of his restaurants so I was probably more excited than Allison! When we got there, I loved every single thing about it - the simple decor, the small, intimate space, the music (Batali is serious about the music in his restaurants) - I loved it all before even sitting down. Though I could go into detail for days about each thing we ate, I will simply say that my white bean ravioli with balsamic brown butter blew my mind. I took a bite of it and actually had to stop chewing for a second because I was taken aback. It was so delicious, it would honestly be hard to describe. Mom had the linguine with clams and Allison had the spinach tagliatelle with ragu bolognese, both of which were amazing as well. It's been nearly a week and we are still talking about that meal. I actually made a reservation there yesterday for when Brant comes back to visit at the end of the month. Can I really wait that long?!

Overall, it was a wonderful birthday weekend for Allison. I was so happy to celebrate her and to do what I could to make her feel special. She deserved it and I can only hope she'll remember how great the weekend was for a long time. :)