Friday, May 27, 2011

It’s another gorgeous day in the neighborhood, but I’m not feeling so sunny inside.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll depart for my hometown of Port Jervis, N.Y., to bid my aging grandmother a farewell, as she permanently leaves for Texas to live with my aunt and uncle.  
A quaint city, nestled along the Delaware River – exactly where NY, NJ and PA meet – it’s a geographically pretty, rural area, but not much beyond that. While one may assume that I’d be eager to visit my old stomping grounds, I’m anything but.  Since my dad died over three years ago (actually even before that happened), I’ve avoided the area as diligently as possible, and have been up there only a handful of times since 2008.
Not only does Port bring up memories of my dad, the question of whether or not I should visit his grave (I only have once), the guilt of rarely visiting once I moved away, and things of the like, but it also reminds me of my challenging and uncertain youth, the obstacles I almost didn’t overcome and the dark cloud that hung over me for much time when I resided there.
This is not to say that some parts of my life weren’t idyllic – riding bikes, running around the neighborhood with friends, and other small town fantasies (which do really exist) – but they came before my darker days and seem to be overshadowed by negative feelings.
While I know it’s best to focus on the positive, it’s much easier said than done and I’m dwelling on everything I dread about this trip.  Oh, and the fact that this is likely the last time I’ll ever be there is also a thought that draws mixed emotions.
The going away party for grandma’s departure is a whole other scoop of stress, as it was handled quite poorly. Although I got a head’s up about this weekend a month ago, I heard nothing further. Knowing that the event was impending, I reached out to my uncle for details and was informed of the where’s, when’s and who’s attending. While that’s all fine, I couldn’t help but wonder, “If I hadn’t reached out, would anyone have informed me?” The answer is likely no and it hurts me a bunch. And what’s funny, is that I shouldn’t expect anything different. This is par for the course, and no one (repeat, no one) has ever proactively reached out to me for anything (from a hello to a happy birthday). While I’m not close at all with my family (I haven’t seen anyone, with the exception of my grandmother, since my dad’s funeral), it still would have been lovely to get some details on information I needed to be privy to. More so, it would have been nice to feel like I am a desired guest at this party and actually wanted there (I know I am, in fact, wanted, though the actions would counter that thought). Obviously, someone reached out to all the other family members, and somehow I got overlooked. I’m trying not to, but can’t help but feel bitter and like an afterthought (which really sucks).
I’m also so not eager to see my family, whom I really don’t even know (we all live in disparate locations and nearly never get together). As mentioned, I’ve seen few since my dad’s funeral and know that this encounter will bring up a lot of memories, which I really don’t want to confront. And it doesn’t help that my dad and his brother bear a very striking resemblance. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
Tear up, I may, as this trip is not an option. I need to be there to say goodbye to my grandma as I don’t plan to make the trip to TX anytime soon.  And, sadly, have a sneaking suspicion that the next time I see everyone will be at my grandma’s funeral.
On a good note, I’m looking forward to getting away for the weekend with my husband and it’s always nice to take a trip out of the city. It will be nice to do some shopping in nearby “city” Middletown, which has a plethora of good stores like Home Goods, and a decent mall. We’re also planning to hit up the many antique stores in Port (and neighboring towns) and hope to procure a few good finds.
I’m confident that this won’t be nearly as painful as I expect, but can’t shoo this anxiety, dread and uncertainty.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

For Better

Not an avid reader, I’m making a conscious effort to consume* more literature and am in the middle of Tara Parker Pope’s book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.  Always fascinated by the dynamics of an intimate relationship, scientific research, psychology, and continually striving to a) progress toward the elusive self actualization and b) be a better partner, spouse, friend – this looked like a fit read for me.

The first few chapters of the book are quite interesting and focus on social trends, relationship myths, and the biochemistry of attraction. Throughout, Parker-Pope presents self assessment quizzes including “Measuring Passion” and the “Love Scale Quiz.” The latter, created by Dr. Hatkoff, consists of 50 True/False questions that can help you determine which "Love Styles" are dominant in your approach to relationships.

This is helpful to know, because according to Parker-Pope, typically, in a relationship, we judge our lover's* action based on our own preferred love styles; however, this can lead to misunderstandings and resentment if your lover's tendencies do not align with your own. Understanding the love style of your partner can be a crucial aspect of relational satisfaction because it can help you to properly evaluate the meaning and the intent of your lover's actions. And, it is only after you understand the intent of your lover that can you truly understand how they feel about you.

The Love Scale quiz measures your tendency towards the following six Love Styles:
·         Romantic - Marked by passion and sexual attraction.
·         Best Friends - Marked by feelings of deep affection and caring.
·         Logical - When practical issues like money, religion, and values influence feelings.
·         Playful - Marked by the excitement of flirtatious and challenging interactions.
·         Possessive - Marked by feelings of jealousy and obsession.
·         Unselfish - Marked by nurturing, kindness, and sacrifice.

You can take the quiz here.

According to the quiz, my 3 most dominant love styles are:
·         Possessive (6 True)
·         Unselfish (6 True)
·         Romantic (5 True)
o   Logical (4 True)
o   Playful (3 True)
o   Best Friends (2 True)

While I’m not entirely surprised (I do have a tendency to be possessive), I would have expected playful or best friends to be higher up.  And while I recognize that they can co-exist, I feel that possessive and unselfish are a little contradictory. If one is being possessive, isn’t that a form of selfishness in and of itself?

Did you take the quiz? And, if so, what are your most dominant love styles?

*You may note that I said “consume” not “read,” as this is an audio book from Audible.
*For the record, I strongly dislike the word lover. Ugh.

Eating Habits and Political Affiliation

Great infograph/“taste graph” I saw on Mashable, this morning.
According to the article, these insights come from "collective intelligence decision-making system", a site that’s gathering data from millions of web users about preferences.. In this analysis, Hunch breaks down eating habits and preferences by political attitudes.
The graphic is showing up very small, but it's definitely worth checking out, here!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Taste of Nolita

On the heels of Taste of Tribeca, was Taste of Nolita. A very food-filled weekend, indeed.
A similar, yet different experience, Taste of Nolita was a “self guided walking tour” of the neighborhood. Offering seven tastes from the participating restaurants, it was a good way to explore and get out for a walk, on an otherwise dreary Sunday.

We started our culinary adventure at Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita and enjoyed a taco in the cute and rustic establishment. We proceeded to Billy’s Baker, just across the street, and got our cupcakes to go (since we knew there was more food to come). From there, we went to Asia Dog, where I had the “mash” – a beef hot dog with spicy ketchup, jalapeno mustard, and crushed potato chips. I’d had it before and it was just as delicious as I recalled.  I’m such a fan of hot dogs and have a few favorites around the city, but Asia Dog may be the new frontrunner. They do have some competition though, as Ditch Plains has the indulgent Ditch Dog (two hot dogs, topped with ooey, gooey mac ‘n cheese), Bark has sustainable ingredients and a snappy Bark Dog (sweet pepper relish, mustard and onion) and Crif Dogs, the endearing hole-in-the-wall, offers deep-fried wieners. But I digress…
On another note of interesting food, I tried something new, which is always a joy for me. For the first time, I had a Vietnamese sandwich, which I’d been wanting to taste. Served in a baguette (and this bread was especially lovely), I got the Bahn Mi. According to Wikipedia, there are many global and regional variations of the sandwich, but the most common version features thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon (known as đ chua), cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pâté, mayonnaise and various meat fillings or tofu. I found it particularly interesting that the sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients.

By walk’s end, we had:
·         Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita - Pollo Locochon taco
·         Billy's Bakery - Chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream
·         Asia Dog - 1/2-Sized Asia Dog, Mash
·         L'Asso Gourmet Pizza - Classic Margherita thin-crust
·         Saigon Vietnamese  - Bahn Mi Tasting Roll, 'Classic Bao'
·         Eileen's Cheesecake - Classic mini-cheesecake
·         MacBar - Signature 4-Cheese Mac 'n Cheese
All in all, it was a “medium” event (I’m a frequent user of that word when I’m lukewarm on something). For only $18 per ticket, we really couldn’t complain. Sure, the pizza was cold, the mac and cheese, a bit sub-par. But when you’re spending the day with friends, snacking on some good foods and walking around NYC, it’s a good one in my book.

Taste of Tribeca

Nothing says summer like Taste of Tribeca and a Pimm’s Cup.  And happily, I enjoyed both on a lovely, sunny Saturday.

An annual event, which I anticipate all year, Taste of Tribeca “is a one-of-a-kind outdoor culinary festival featuring signature dishes from renowned Tribeca chefs, a comprehensive wine tour and live entertainment provided exclusively by City Winery.  With nearly all of downtown’s critically acclaimed restaurants participating, Taste of Tribeca brings together top talent and some of the most sought after destinations, including the Harrison, Bouley, Tribeca Grill, Blaue Gans, Landmarc, newcomer Plein Sud, the Odeon and Nobu, who has returned to the Festival after four years.  All proceeds from the event will ensure the continuation of arts and enrichment programs at local public schools PS 150 and PS 234.”

My third time enjoying this delicious festival, we arrived promptly at 11:30 a.m., as it’s been growing in attendance each year (and we knew what crowds to anticipate). Approaching the event, even from a few blocks away, we could see the mass of people filling Duane Street, mulling about and scoping the best dishes. We proceeded over (complimentary tickets in hand, thanks to a generous cousin) and I was already formulating a strategy.
Photos really don't do this justice...

Do I make a bee-line to my favorite always-first taste (Walker’s pulled pork sandwich) or forego that and opt for something lighter that will allow me to be less full, less fast? I decided on saving Walker’s for later, and headed to Scalini Fedeli for the porcine ravioli. As delicious as I recalled, I hungrily ate the pair of pasta and began thinking of my next move. Choosing to wait in the monstrous line and get the Bison from Marc Forgione, I was not disappointed with the decision. I also was not disappointed with the star sighting of the chef himself, who was slaving over a hot grill and barking orders at the elementary school volunteers, telling one, “you’ve got to hurry it up.” We proceeded to stroll around as our quite full bellies needed a break and enjoyed running into friends and family along the way. Fortunately, there are a few welcoming bars on the street, as well, so it provided a nice respite for breaks (and sips of beer).
Marc at work (in the black t, with mohawk)

By the time my card was filled, my belly was also, and I had the following items:
·         Scalini Fedeli
o   Porcine Ravioli with Porcine Black Truffle Cream Sauce
·         Walkers Restaurant and Bar
o   BBQ Pulled Pork, Cole Slaw and Watermelon
·         Marc Forgione
o   High Plains Bison Prime Rib, Ramp Chimichurri, Smoked salt
·         Mehtaphor
o   Spice Kabobs, Chipotle Mayonnaise
·         Whole Foods
o   Vegan Nacho Cups
·         Pepolino
o   Torta de Ricotta (Ricotta Cheese Cake)

Not only was there good food in ol’ Tribeca, but there was great star-sighting too. Caught a glimpse of Harvey Keitel and said hello to Liev Schreiber – which is always exciting to this star gazer.
Dessert filled eggs

Of course, Taste is a full day, and just because the festival is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to go home.  After our tastes were done, we made our way to local bar, Warren 77 (which is owned by another famous, Sean Avery) and awaited the Rapture and Preakness.  The Rapture never came, though our celebratory bottle of prosecco sure did, but it was fun while it lasted. Since I was alive to celebrate another summer (since the Rapture didn’t take or reject me), I partook in a Pimm’s Cup and cheered to life, warm days ahead and a wonderful life.

Spring Veg

I’m very fond of Fiddlehead ferns and, as they have such a short window, I try to take advantage of their springy, fresh taste, contrasting textures and general awesomeness, when available.

After enjoying some on Saturday evening at The Harrison with a simple aioli and sprinkling of bread crumb (while we sat next to Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo, I may add), I knew there would be more in my not so distant future. I might also add, that I had an amazing plate of chips and chicken liver and a nice ramekin of snails, as well – but we’re all about Fiddleheads now.  

As such, I present to you, my Fiddlehead Fiesta. The freshest of veggies, I sautéed cipollini onions, asparagus and fiddleheads in olive oil, garlic and with lemon zest and juice. After a very quick cook, I made a bed of veggies (below) and topped them with breadcrumbs, parm and a bit of butter. A couple of closely watched minutes under the broiler and it was ready to enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bridle Room

Last night’s meal at the Bridle Room provided the perfect backdrop for dinner with my “girls,” three former coworkers, whom I’ve been blessed to call friends. We all arrived promptly at 7 (which is an event unto itself as our busy lives often mean that at least one person will be running late) and were greeted by two lovely ladies who welcomed us, provided the menus and promptly offered us a drink.

I chose the sparkling sangria – a mix of bubbly, elder flower and fresh fruit. A light and refreshing choice (but I could easily see how the sweetness could get to you after more than one). Upon reviewing the menu, I was a bit disappointed, as the dish I was anticipating – Brandade (whipped potato and salt cod) was not available, but I was quickly sold on the night’s special, a burger. Comprised of prime aged "beef trimmings and deckle" from the steakhouse of the owner’s partner (Sebastian's in Morristown, New Jersey), caramelized onions and cheese, it was lightly charred patty atop a white, toasted roll. The natural cut fries were plentiful, sprinkled with sea salt and fried to pure loveliness. The girls enjoyed their dishes too and one had the same as I, one had braised kale and the radish salad and one, the seared salmon on a bed of kale (which they adjusted to make gluten free).

I must say, that the more I think about it, my only complaint (and it wasn’t related to the dining experience) is their lackluster website. While restaurants aren’t required to have the best, most innovative, wow-worthy site, they should have an attractive one, which actually compliments the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Although there’s nothing wrong with it, Brindle Room’s site certainly doesn’t add anything, in fact, it may actually make the potential diner think that it’s less of an establishment than it is.  I feel the same way about Trinity Place’s site, as well.

Website aside, Brindle was a solid dining experience, a strong medium and I’d go back again. That said, with so many restaurants in NY, I don’t expect that to be anytime soon.

And speaking of food related things, I’m excited about many right now. Tonight, I’ll be dining at home, making “spring vegetable party,” a mix of fresh peas, fiddlehead ferns and asparagus (will most likely blanch and then sauté them with garlic infused olive oil and top it with lemon zest).  Saturday is the always anticipated, Taste of Tribeca and Sunday will be my first time visiting, Taste of Nolita.

Debating a few days of Master Cleanse, next week, after all these indulgences! 

Pet Peeves

I try not to be too anal – am certainly cognizant of the potential – and have been making conscious efforts to counter it (especially with the slow walkers on NYC streets). But there’s one thing I can’t budge on, and that’s punctuation and grammar. I’m not asking for anything unrealistic or even perfection, just some semblance of proper usage (or merely an attempt at it).

“Their” does not equal “they’re” does not equal “there.”
“Its” does not equal “it’s.”

And proper punctuation is always appreciated and helpful. I’m not perfect, or even close, but try to adhere to these things.

An avid user of Facebook, I am continually shocked with the poor command of our language. I’m certainly no ivy-league graduate and (embarrassingly) not well read, but do cringe when I see undecipherable sentences.  Sometimes one “sentence” on Facebook is comprised of numerous thoughts, grouped into one horrible stream of consciousness. With certain culprits, there’s no use of commas, periods or anything to provide structure and therefore the proper meaning.

This always makes me pause and wonder a couple of things.
Do people actually read what they’re writing before they post?
Are we victims of such a time strapped society that we don’t even have the time to check?
Are we just so lazy that we don’t give a crap about those things?

Maybe Eats, Shoots & Leaves should be a mandatory read for anyone embarking on social media…or even life.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gilt Taste

Extremely excited for Gilt Taste

According to Ms. Reichl, “Gilt Taste is a radical venture. On one hand it's a showcase for the artisanal products that talented bakers, butchers, candy and cheese-makers are now crafting all over the country. It's a place to meet a new generation of farmers, the men and women who are tilling the land in sustainable ways, saving seeds and raising happy animals. It is a celebration of food, mostly American...

What makes Gilt Taste unique is that it's a new kind of magazine, one that has no ads and is supported solely by sales. We don't just want to sell you great products—we want to tell you the stories of the people who create them and inspire you with delicious new ways to use them.”

As if I need more things to covet!

Luke's Lobster

My high expectations were duly met last night at the humble, unassuming Luke’s Lobster.  This quaint urban lobster shack presented one of the best lobster rolls I’ve ever had and the product certainly lived up to the hype.
Enveloped in a soft, light, buttery roll, the sweet and tender lobster chunks were a delight on my palate. Perfectly proportioned and manageable pieces provided a wonderful foundation for this roll and the light mayo dressing didn’t compete with the natural deliciousness of the lobster.  
The décor is nautical, rustic and certainly evoked a feeling of Maine, as did the friendly staffers. The counter boy was quite nice and patiently explained their various flavors of Maine Root soda to my friend who asked for a Dr. Pepper (she settled with Sarsaparilla).
I look forward to another Luke’s visit, but am now quite curious about its competitors (Ed’s, Red Hook, etc). That said, I’m feeling the need to “test” some other lobster rolls so that I can be a better informed consumer (and therefore provide you with more reviews).
Off to Brindle Room tonight and already excited for the whipped potato & salt cod. Mmm... Salt cod.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sleep No More

Upon purchasing tickets for Sleep No More, I was filled with excitement, apprehension and much curiosity. As I had little-to-no idea what I was getting myself onto, I perused reviews from the New York Times, TONY and NY Mag, only to be left with more uncertainty and questions.

What is this performance/site specific experience/immersive adventure that I’ll be embarking on?
Why must we wear a bone colored, plague doctor mask and refrain from speaking the entire time?
Is this going to scare the crap out of me for the foreseeable future and impact my sleep/life/sanity?
Fortunately, by the end of the experience, my questions were answered and I fared remarkable well. 
For a little background, Sleep No More is a (very) loose adaptation of McBeth, staged by London-based theater company Punchdrunk. The “show” takes place in the fictional McKittrick Hotel, set in the 1930’s or 40’s, is non-narrative and expansive. You are encouraged to roam about the 90+ rooms that cover nearly 100,000 square feet in three abandoned warehouses on West 27th street.
Upon entering the space, you’re informed that the more inquisitive and bold you are, the more you will discover (and you quickly realize that this is like nothing you’ve ever experienced). My fellow guest (my husband) and I quickly got to exploring, though we didn’t know what we were looking for (and couldn’t discuss, since we were forbade to talk). There was much, indeed, to see and rummage through – all of the drawers were filled with papers and files, there was something in everything. 
“Rooms” varied from a sanitarium- fully equipped with soaking tubs, hospital beds, doctor’s offices and padded rooms. Various floors presented different, yet complimentary, experiences and the hotel was fully equipped with a lobby, restaurant, ballroom and more. The village was comprised of houses, a tailor’s shop, an apothecary and beyond. And there were, of course, “outdoor” rooms too, with a graveyard, and a hedge (or rather stick) maze. Plenty of different environments to explore. 
After about 30 minutes in, we happened upon our first actor, who was sleeping in a well decorated, beautiful bedroom (the attention to detail from floor to ceiling just blew my mind). We proceeded to watch her for a few, until she rose, primped and moved along. As this isn’t a typical hotel, she didn’t exit through the door, of course, but opened a closet and disappeared into the back of it. Knowing that we’re encouraged to explore and thinking, “when will I ever get a chance to trail someone through a secret closet-door?” we followed her. It was there that things began to unfold and we were enveloped into a deeper story rife with pantomiming, interpretative dance and yes, murder.  
There was another lovely option – if one needed a break, was too overwhelmed or was actually thirsty – and the bar proved a welcoming respite.  After enjoying champagne, we decided to explore some more, stayed until the clock struck 2 a.m. and were just spent.
Upon reflection, I’ve been trying to extract a deeper meaning to the whole experience. I’ve been striving to come up with some semblance of meaning, beyond the superficial allure of the set design, but am falling short. There’s no denying that the set is absolutely amazing, awe inspiring and intricately detailed, but beyond that, what did the show mean? What did I take from it?
While I wish I could provide some thought provoking critique or insightful analysis, I really can’t. On a personal level, this was yet another illustration of how my imagination can easily depart from logic and I can seriously freak myself out. I also learned how rule-bound, restrictive and cautious I am. Despite the fact that I knew we were welcome to explore any area, I found I stuck close to my husband and didn’t venture out on my own (for fear of I don't know what). 
Overall, it was an amazing and worthwhile experience. Akin to a dream, it was eerie, mysterious and beautiful. Certainly out of my comfort zone, the marvel and majesty was beyond compare and I implore anyone who’s interested to check out Sleep No More.

Inaugural Post

Much is happening. Much has happened. This frenzied, fast-paced, fabulous life is whizzing by, and I hope to take some moments to report and reflect on it (the good, the bad and in-between). 
This year’s been a whirlwind, to say the least, and it’s probably best to start at the beginning. The first blog post is a daunting and intimidating task, as I’m wondering where to begin, what to say, how to say it and the general uncertainties associated with embarking on a new thing.
In a nutshell – this year has been big.  Since last June, I left a miserable job and started anew- now helping to manage corporate communications at one of the largest PR firms in the world; I eloped in Las Vegas with my amazing man; planned and executed (without executing myself) a real “wedding” in NYC; and bought an apartment which we’re moving to in the coming weeks. If that’s not some major life changes, condensed into a short period of time, I don’t know what is. 
Beyond the big events, I’ve kept sufficiently busy with going to shows, trying new restaurants and bars, roaming the city, and crafting. You can bet your boots there will be updates on life, food, weird things I happen upon, sane (and not so much) thoughts and ideas, and the like.
Stay tuned.