Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

While not a huge fan of chocolate, I do get an occasional craving for the sweet. And when that hits me, I know it’s time for a trip to Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Vosges is one of my favorite indulgences and every once in a while, I visit the beautiful shop for a few chocolaty delights. 

This week, I treated myself to the classic Naga truffle and the newer addition, Red Fire. My go-to, Naga, is a creamy and flavorful truffle boasting sweet Indian curry powder + coconut + milk chocolate. The Red Fire is a little more intense (though not too hot) and is made of Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + dark chocolate. I also picked up the Barcelona Exotic Candy Bar which is a combination of hickory smoked almonds + fleur de sel sea salt + deep milk chocolate. All are a flavor adventure and each bite has the ability to temporarily transport you to chocolate heaven. 

Not only do the chocolates amuse your taste buds, the packaging is pristine and gorgeous, adding to the overall chocolate experience. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Comic Con NYC

Comic Con NYC was exactly what I’d envisioned (and hoped) it would be. Tens of thousands of die-hard fans, many dressed in full costume, eagerly exploring the show floor, scoping out their favorite video game/comic/movie, and celebrating their passion. 

While I used to be an avid reader of macabre comics in my late teens-early 20s (check out Johnny the Homicidal Maniac), I haven’t been a big reader since. That said, when I heard Comic Con would be in town, I jumped at the chance to check this out. Thankfully, a sweet cousin scored us tickets and we were able to attend, despite the sold out status. 

We arrived a little before opening time at 10 a.m. and I was shocked at how many were already queued up to get in. After a short wait, the crowd herded into the Javits Center and was unleashed on the hundreds of vendors, numerous speakers and varied programs just waiting. Rob and I took a tour of the show floor and marveled at some of the booths and set-ups. A huge fan of Ugly Dolls, I spotted the sign for their booth and proceed in that direction. 

Once we arrived, I marveled at what a great job they did on the design and execution. I loved and appreciated how it fit so well with the overall look and feel of the brand. It was bright, enticing, carefree, silly and filled with good goods. We got a doll for our niece and I picked up two great shopping bags!

After a good walk, we proceeded to Roman Dirge’s spotlight discussion on his art, comics and process. If you’re not familiar, Roman is the author of the wonderful comic, Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl. These stories tell about the unlife of Lenore, the strange friends she encounters in her town of Nevermore and her adventures (or misadventures).  All of the stories have a childlike, fairy-tale feel with the twist of death and the macabre. 

Roman gave an interesting and casual explanation of what he does, his process, the character development and more. There were numerous fans in the audience and some were clearly more than thrilled to be in his presence. One such fan was in a full, handmade Lenore costume and he liked it so much, Roman asked the girl if he could take a picture with her. 

After the hour-long discussion we went back out on the floor, but were not thrilled to see how it had become even more packed. It felt as if it were at full capacity (despite the fact that more and more continued to flood in) and after shuffling around for a while longer, I was ready to call it a day. 

It was a great experience and something that I’d highly recommend. While I enjoy comics, I was most clearly awestruck at the passion of these fans. Anything that brings together enthusiastic people for a common theme gets me excited and inspired. Comic Con NYC wasn’t lacking in the least.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cooking with Apples

When a few dozen ripe apples on hand, we were challenged with what to make utilizing the ingredient.  While I began baking two batches of my grandmother’s apple cake, Rob quickly took to the kitchen and whipped up a lovely apple themed meal.
Clockwise from top: apple gratin, apple sauce, cider and bourbon marinated pork chop, fresh-mixed veggies
First he made an apple and onion gratin, comprised of julienned ingredients. It had a nice creamy texture and was baked to perfection. 
He also made some homemade applesauce to compliment the pork chops that was sweet, yet tart, chunky and the perfect texture (not too smooth, not too creamy). For the pork, he marinated the chops in an apple bourbon glaze, which came out deliciously. And finally, (because we had a lot of veggies on hand) he made a bright and sunny mixed veggie side (the only thing not apple related in this meal). 
All was delicious and while we’ve been eating and using the apples, we still have a lot left! 
Any good apple recipe suggestions?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apple Picking

Apple Picking is one of the many joys of fall and after a long ride from the city, we arrived at Lawrence Farms in upstate NY.  A working fruit and vegetable farm, it’s nestled on a hillside overlooking the gorgeous Hudson valley. And we luckily went on one of the nicest days of the season!
After our friends arrived, we ventured into the orchard and began picking the many varieties of apples they boast. 
Despite all of the pickers out, the trees were still chocked full with red treasures and we got a nice smattering of various types. 
With about 20 pounds of apples, we were challenged with using them in creative ways and stay tuned to see what we made…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken and Waffles

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I’ve blogged. Time has certainly flown by. Yes, I’ve been very busy, but disappointed that I’ve neglected to keep this updated on a regular basis.

There will be posts to come (hopefully this week), but for now, please enjoy a shot of Rob’s delicious oven-fried chicken with waffles and swiss chard. It was absolutely wonderful and I’m lucky to be married to such a great cook!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

High Tea at Lady Mendl's

Few things make me feel more sophisticated and lady-like than high tea.  As such, on a gorgeous late-summer day, mom and I visited Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon for a little indulgence. 
Located at the Inn at Irving Place – a landmark townhouse built in 1834 – the salon has an air of refinement, without the pretense.  As the site states (which couldn’t be more true), “the Victorian style architecture and furnishings recreate a time of sublime elegance. Guests can easily envision Edith Wharton or Elsie De Wolfe entertaining friends at the turn of the century.”
 We arrived promptly for our noon seating and were quickly escorted to our table – a lovely one for two, right next to a window, with a gorgeous fresh flower arrangement displayed there on.   
 We first ordered a mimosa and then were presented with our tea selections (of which there were many). I opted for the jasmine tea, which was light, fragrant and just lovely.  
Upon taking our tea order, we were offered the first of our five courses, which was a min-butternut squash tart. With a heart shaped dollop of crème fraiche.  

The second course was tea sandwiches and our selection included: smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on pumpernickel; cucumber with mint crème fraiche on brioche; classic egg salad on rye (which was my absolute favorite, enough to take a second helping) and smoked turkey and cranberry on seven grain. 
 We were then offered our third course, consisting of scones (a plain and cranberry) with Devonshire clotted cream and house made preserves (raspberry). 
The dessert course was “Lady Mendl’s Signature Cake” which is a tissue paper thin, twenty-Layer Crepe Cake filled with French pastry cream. It was light, delicious and obvious why it’s their signature dish. While we were quite full at this point, we couldn’t say no to this amazing cake. 
 And finally, we were presented with the fifth course of assorted cookies and chocolate covered strawberries (which we merely picked at, as we were far from hungry). 
Overall, the service was excellent, white gloved and very attentive. It was clear that the servers understood the ritual of high tea and took pride in their job. The room was gorgeous with beautiful high ceilings (and wonderful crown molding) with a floral and feminine feel. 
While high tea at The Plaza is still my favorite experience, this was a close second and I would quickly recommend this to anyone looking for a nice, indulgent girl’s day out.
I’m always on the hunt for new tea places to try….any NYC suggestions?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yankees Game (and Museum)

I love baseball – on the radio, on T.V., but especially at the stadium. Over Labor Day weekend, Rob and I hopped the train to the Bronx for some good American fun!
We got there with time to spare, so waited in line to check out the Yankees Museum and were impressed with the history and relics they were able to fit into the relatively small space. 
All the memorabilia tells a great tale of the game – the history, its place in the country’s culture and the fan adoration, and beyond.  I was impressed with the quality of preservation and enjoyed seeing some very old pieces (like Babe Ruth’s uniform) intact.  
Of course, being a newer fan, I also enjoyed some recent items, like the jersey from Jeter’s 3,000 hit. 
And being a lady who enjoys some bling, I marveled at the vast collection of World Series rings, which varied in style as the years progressed.  The rings have certainly got more showy and ostentatious, but I think it’s safe to surmise that that’s just keeping pace with our society in general. 
I enjoyed the museum much more than expected, but my favorite was the model of the new stadium. As a doll-house collector, growing up, I am still drawn to miniatures and the detail and precision of this one was very impressive. 

Beyond the museum, we had a great day at the game and enjoyed walking around, having ball park treats (Nathan’s hot dog and fries- yum!) and being part of the excitement. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Corn Chowder

A big fan of soups, especially corn chowder, I decided to take advantage of the late-summer sweet corn and make a batch on a quiet evening. While it requires a good deal of veggies, it’s very simple to make (aren’t most soups?) and consistently treats my taste buds.
First, I started out with my veggies: corn (6 ears), 4 stalks of celery, 2 potatoes, a red bell pepper, an onion and 2 jalapenos. 
 I cut them all up into uniform little pieces and got them ready for the pot. 
 Meantime, I simmered the corn cobs in store-bought veggie stock to give it a deeper corn flavor and that did the trick. 
Next, I sautéed bacon in the soup pot and drained off the excess grease (yuck!). 
 Then, added the veggies – everything but the corn and potatoes – and let that soften for about 5-7 minutes. After they were simmering and soft, I added the corn and potatoes, in addition to a clove of garlic, a bay leaf, rosemary and thyme (and of course, salt & pepper).
After the flavors had a chance to marry, I poured in the broth (corn cob and all) and let that simmer for about a half hour (with the top on). I also added a pinch of cayenne, as a little bite is nice with this soup. 
 Once it was all simmered up, I removed the corn cobs and herbs. 
 Then, I went to work with the immersion blender and brought the soup to a nice, velvety texture. 
 The result was a sweet and spicy soup, as the corn lends a great, fresh, summery taste and the jalapeno (and cayenne) provides that fun and unexpected kick. 
 It’s been a much enjoyed lunch for work this week and I may have to make an extra batch before the summer comes to a close. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Parked! South Street Seaport

A few weeks back, I had perky ears upon hearing of an impending food truck festival, right in my ‘hood, at the South Street Seaport.  Parked! – a gathering of food trucks from around the city – boasted more than 25 food vendors all in one convenient location and boy, was I excited.
We arrived relatively early on a bright, sunny Saturday and I was immediately overwhelmed with the choices. There was a little something for everyone and options ranged from burgers to waffles to schnitzel and beyond. 
As I already checked out the participants prior to arriving, I had a plan in mind and headed right for Red Hook Lobster Pound. I had heard great things about their lobster roll and was eager to make a judgment.  It certainly didn’t disappoint and they large chunks of claw meat were lightly dressed in mayo, tender and delicious. Some chips and a root-beer were the perfect compliments. 

After a post-meal stroll, I was ready for more and enjoyed a simple scoop of strawberry ice cream from Van Leeuwens, while Rob got a slush from Kelvin. 

It was really nice to see all the trucks in one location and further illustrated how the food truck craze has taken hold. I particularly enjoyed the truck art and branding/marketing that went into each. It’s clear to see how some have fully embraced this venture and how some have merely jumped on the bandwagon, trying to make a quick buck from the trend.