Friday, January 28, 2011

Past and Present Unite

I'm super late with this post but better late than never! Right, Johnny Hume? ;)

I had one of the greatest nights in years last weekend. I swear, sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the best of ways when I think of what awesome people I know and have in my life. For the times when I'm down or I'm having a hard time keeping proper perspective, I think of certain people and I smile. Immediately I'll feel better and I'm just really lucky to know people that have the ability to help me do that.

Johnny Hume, or Jonathan as he demands to be called now (which I will never ever do), is a dear friend of mine from high school and one of those people that makes me smile. He and I have kept in touch over the years but very closely over this past year particularly. A few months ago, we got a date on the calendar for him to come visit and I was looking so forward to it! We'd joked so many times, as I do with my other close friends, about how he just needs to move to New York and be done with it. Well, guess what? He decided to say screw it and see what interviews he could set up here just for the hell of it. I kid you not that, in a time frame from early December to mid-January, the guy got an awesome job, found an apartment, is dating a lovely gem of a lady, and has officially moved to the city. I'm telling you right now that I'm still in total shock and words can't even describe how happy I am that he's here! The funniest part of this is that the dinner reservations we'd booked forever ago for last Saturday turned into a "welcome to the Big Apple" dinner instead of just him visiting! How freaking awesome is that. Johnny decided to reach out to Nat, another mutual friend of ours from high school that lives in DC, to see if he could join us and he totally came in town for our little reunion.

We all decided to meet for wine before dinner at a great new spot on Bleecker called Bar'rique. They'd just opened two weeks prior and what a fantastic little place it is! It was just so awesome to see Nat and to finally meet Johnny's lady, Cameron. She and I dove right into terrific conversation and I honestly felt like we'd been friends for years. That's always a wonderful sign when you meet someone new. :) She is a tremendous lady and there's an automatic kinship there simply due to how in love we are with food, ha! (Check out her and her sister's food blog here if you get a chance!) We drank delicious wine at Bar'rique for a bit and finally ventured over to Po which we all know I'm obsessed with.

Everything about our evening was amazing. The conversation, the wine, the food (of course), the genuine, true laughter and stories we shared; it was just terrific. It's so fantastic to bring my past and present together in such a meaningful way and to look ahead at all the fun yet to be had with Johnny officially in the Big Apple. Welcome "home", my friend:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No More Snooooooow!

This is hands down the snowiest winter I've seen in New York in five years. I even missed the really huge storm over Christmas, too! It's snowed almost everyday this week and last night we got yet another explosion. I'm very very tired of the snow and this is why.

I left my house at 6:00am this morning to go to the gym. The news said trains were running in the city so I took their word for it and headed out. I walked out my door to see this:
Uh oh. I had no idea how bad it was. I decided to trudge on to the subway where I ended up waiting for 35 minutes before they said trains were not running for another 25 minutes. Balls! Buses weren't running and no cabs were around so I ended up walking to work only it was stomping because the snow was up to my knees since nothing had been plowed. Oh, the glorious life in a walking city. The only upside is that there is something so peaceful and calming about being in the snow before the city really wakes and turns it to grime. Though I'm tired today, I actually enjoyed what I could of my walk this morning. I took my frustration out on my workout when I finally got to the gym. :P

Let's just say that I am more than ready for spring...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Patrick Heads East!

This post is quite delayed considering it's been a week since my dear friend, Patrick, was here buuuut better late than never. I was so very excited a couple of months ago when he and I discussed a possible New York visit for him. He lives outside San Diego in Redlands and, while he constantly tortures me with how awesome the weather is, he decided to head east for MLK weekend since neither of us had anything going on. I personally find it kind of funny that the weather was so frigid while he was here so he can somewhat appreciate the brutality we face. At any rate, it was so awesome to finally have him back on the east coast for a few days.

He got to my apartment around 7pm on the 14th and we got to catch up a bit before heading to meet friends. I met Patrick in my first class when I started University of Phoenix in 2004 and we ended up taking several of the same courses over time. We've stayed very good friends over the years and I was really excited to introduce him to so many people here! We spent the entire weekend out and about. I got to show him Eataly and around several different neighborhoods. We also tried a new dumpling place in my neighborhood called Mahjong which was fantastic! We drank wine, talked about everything under the sun, listened to some new music that he introduced me to. Speaking of, I got to introduce him to the infamous Robbie Gil too as we met a group of friends for the show on Saturday night. Two side notes: A) My friend, Lori, and her fiance just moved back to the city as well and it was a total treat to have them out with us for the show and 2) Robbie Gil was sporting the most incredible mustache I've ever seen. Please behold:
As if we didn't love him enough.

Sunday was an epic football day since none of us had to work on Monday. We had quite the crew show up for that and it was so incredibly fun. Sometimes, you just have those days where you don't stop laughing. My face literally hurt after a while. All in all, it was such a good weekend spent with the greatest people. I love having pictures to always hold on to when such great memories are made:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Evening with Batali

Can anyone really ever get tired of Mario Batali? If so, then they are not my kind of person. The other night, I got to hear him speak at the Jewish Community Center in a far more intimate setting than I ever have before. He and food columnist, Amanda Hesser, did a Q&A type session that was really terrific.

Amanda's journey is pretty cool and one that I relate to in terms of truly just being fascinated by what goes on in a kitchen. She's had some very cool experiences and hearing her speak was really neat. The discussion flowed nicely between her and Batali and I learned a great deal more about what kinda fuels Batali as a chef. He's so witty and articulate which really appealed to me. He's the kind of guy with vision and talent that's just inherent. That's the kind of chef I hope to be one day.

I get a lot of inspiration from Batali in terms of his "less is more" approach. Both he and Cesare Casella are chefs I look up to in this regard because they have a love of raw, natural ingredients in their pure form that I respect totally. Some of the greatest dishes I've had in Batali's restaurants are as bare bones as you can get in terms of ingredients but have flavors that knock your socks off. Case in point, using fantastic olive oil DOES make a difference. ;) I particularly liked one of the things he said about having confidence in making solid decisions without getting every opinion under the sun. He said making a really good idea a collective decision never works and I completely agree with that. Of course you need solid people to bounce things off of at times but, in the end, when you're passionate about building something important to you, somewhere along the line you just need faith and confidence in who you are and what you're doing. I really did enjoy getting to hear more about his journey as a chef, though. Quite an informative and enjoyable evening:
By the way, as a fun side note, Batali and partners plan to open a beer garden on the roof of Eataly soon which I think is just so cool. I truly love living in New York sometimes where there is so much opportunity and such unique experiences.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Awareness

Happy Wednesday from snowy NYC! This is the first time I can say that we got hit with the winter storm that Georgia already went through! My Atlanta friends are all on day three of being snowed in and I'm every shade of envious possible. Grace told me she's been working from home fire-side and I'm just so jealous. At any rate, they're calling this storm a "winter bomb" because it's been exploding up the east coast. Ohhh weather people, what entertainment I get from your dramatic reports. The snow surely was pretty this morning though as I made my way to work. It's always so beautiful when it just falls and then it sadly turns to black, dirty, grimy sludge. Boo!

How has everyone's new year started off so far? Hard to believe it's mid-January already. My return back from the holidays carried with it the usual heavy hearted sadness that comes from leaving my parents, friends, many things actually...and I definitely needed a few days to adjust. This recent visit home was one of the best I've had in a long time simply because a) it was lengthy and b) I had really treasured visits with people. Sweet Gia and James are growing up so fast and being able to see them a couple of times was priceless. Gia is talking like crazy and she's now saying my full name instead of the heart-melting "Varoberie" that I had gotten used to. There's really nothing like seeing kids get bigger to make you realize just how quickly time flies. Erica got Gia a play kitchen and apron with her name on it for Christmas because she loves to help Erica cook. Of course I was in heaven playing with her while she "cooked" for me. I want her to grow up and be a chef like Aunt Valerie. :) Please indulge me for a moment and enjoy Gia in the snow from yesterday:
I love that child. Anyway, I already wrote about Medieval Times and Dave's house party so I think I've properly explained how great my time at home was.

The start of a new year is always emotional for me. It seems like I've either been at the highest high or lowest low back and forth over prior new years but one thing has always been very consistent - I am always hopeful. During my low points, I've been hopeful that things will change for the better and during my high points, I've been hopeful that I can continue living with humility and optimism. I have to admit too that getting older has been awesome for me instead of scary. I swear, I must have been told a million times by various people that "life begins at 30" and it has been so true for me. Getting older is always what's helped the start of each new year go a little more smoothly than the last, even if it's been tough at times.

I have a few resolutions this year that are quite personal but a few that I don't mind sharing openly. One of the biggest ones is simply that I will become a person with deeper awareness. That seems like it would be funny to say for this year since I spent all of 2010 hammering through walls I'd built in my life and becoming aware of who I really want to be. However, it's different becoming aware of who you want to be and aware of who you are. I hope I never stop striving to be better but I've realized it's pretty tough to look at yourself everyday and truly be aware of who you are. Thus, that is one of my bigger resolutions.

I've got a big year ahead and big change is going to come with it. If I don't work everyday to be aware of how fortunate I am, aware of what rich blessings I have, aware of who really is a true friend, aware of what ways I can live my life with purpose, aware of what gifts I have, aware of how good I really do have it even when I think I don't...aware of so very many details of my will I ever be able to appreciate and enjoy what is in store for my future? Most of all, I want to have a new awareness of how little I really understand how big this world and god is. If I can be honest with myself and become more aware of that, I think my life will become even more enriched by the daily beauty that passes me by far too often. Things like a sunset or someone who smiles at me on the street. Things that you know are nice but that you don't have a heightened awareness of just how nice.

So, as we press on into this new year, I will be praying for god to help open my life in these areas. Walking in the light of humility and awareness are two things that are very important to me. I hope that this resolution is one that I can not only stick to but one that I can be proud of when I look back.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

An Awesome New Years Eve Celebration

Welcome to 2011, friends!

What a glorious start to the new year it was with ringing it in at Dave's amongst some of the people most dear to me. Before I came home for Christmas, I'd sort of elected he and Tally to host a party since their house is lovely and it's most conveniently located for everyone. Thankfully, they were both gracious enough to indulge my request. I think all of us sort of share the same "superstition", if you will, that how you bring in the new year is an illustration of how that year will go for you. It's safe to say that I do believe we're all in for an amazing 2011 if we're basing it solely on how awesome the party was.

I've talked numerous times about how blessed I am in terms of the friendships I have. I'm definitely a 'relationship' person in both a dating and friendship way. I find meaning in building something with someone and I am very much a lover of tradition. It means something to me to see the same faces year after year at celebrations or to simply walk through the ever-changing seasons of life with the same tried and true people by your side. There is something to be said for reflecting on years past and being able to see how you grow and change alongside your friends. It excites me to know that, no matter what paths we all go down in the coming years, we'll all still be right there with/for each other. How fun will it be to grow old and share the stories of life together? With all of that said, I got to celebrate the start of a new year with some of my oldest friends including Grace who I've known for almost 29 solid years. What a tremendous joy!

Since the start of last year was full of nothing but confusion and stress for me, this year couldn't be more opposite with how fun, relaxed, simple and happy it was. I already know in my heart that tremendous things are in store for 2011 but what a nice way to welcome in the new year. We really had a good time:
Typical Gabe:
Yay, 2011:
Cheers to what promises to be a fantastic year full of adventure, excitement, wonder and true joy: