Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Butter Lane Cupcake Class

Had a wonderful time baking and cupcaking last night, at Butter Lane’s class. 
A favorite cupcake spot (right up there with Chicalicious), Butter Lane is a small shop nestled on one of the best foodie streets in the city (East 7th).  They frequently offer classes and, as we booked this one more than eight months ago, I was very eager to learn the secrets of their deliciousness. 
The “secret” is relatively simple and as the instructor Joe explained, the easiest thing to bake is a cake. Furthermore, it’s not even a secret and I learned that their recipe is public information, located on Scribd and Facebook.  
Joe walked us through their process and provided some great tips for baking (some which I knew and some that were new to me) including:
-          Always scrape the bowl before adding new ingredients
-          Allow the butter and sugar to thoroughly cream
-          Add eggs, one at a time
-          Use room temperature eggs
-          Use cake flour, as opposed to All Purpose
-          When scooping the cupcakes, use an ice cream scoop with the round bottom facing you and use the side of the bowl to level the contents off
-          Also, when filling the cupcakes, stir after every 6 scoops
-          Using cream cheese in butter cream allows you to use less sugar (and crank it on a high setting to really fluff up the frosting)
We all went home with about a dozen cupcakes and they were quite delicious. Since Rob is out of town, half of them went in the freezer, as don’t want or need the temptation! 
Not the students handiwork, rather the shop's gorgeous creations.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable class. Always nice to hang with the girls, bake (while sipping wine) and learn new things. It was nice to see how simple it is to make both the cupcakes and icing, and I suspect that I’ll be baking some of my own in the very near future.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend and Worries

Another great and productive weekend on the books, and while 90% of life is going wonderfully, I’m troubled by a few things these days.
To start, our kitchen still isn’t done and the contractor shows up at will (which I’m told is par for the course, but still not okay), doesn’t want to finish the job (he’s saying that the remaining items are out of the scope of work) and the place is still a project in progress (to state it optimistically). They did come on Friday and said they would try to finish the job that night, again yesterday to “finish,” and there is still more to do (installing the microwave, for starters, the drawer handles, etc.). 
The old kitchen, pre-gutting.
I can’t even begin to say how frustrating this is, especially for someone who may have a touch of OCD and needs living spaces to be tidy and orderly. I try not to complain or show that it bothers me (especially since it’s been made clear that my frustrations are frustrating), but I’m starting to feel helpless and depressed over this. I know it will eventually get finished, but right now it seems that there’s no end in sight. What was supposed to be a five day job is now more than a month in the works and it’s really starting to piss me off/upset me/etc. Fortunately, the contractor came yesterday to pick up some of his equipment (which is in the dining room), but I just want it to end. Had we anticipated this, we would have put the move off until much later. Arg!
I also have the dentist on my mind, as I go back tomorrow. As discussed earlier, I am absolutely petrified of the dentist and not only do I get my crown on, but I have a cleaning as well. While I’m not a pill popper, thank goodness that he gave me anti-anxiety pills, because without them, I don’t think I’d even be able to get myself there. It’ll be nice to get this done (hopefully) and off of my mind.
Enough complaining and let’s now focusing on the good, a great weekend that was not only fun and social, but productive too.
Friday, Rob and I were beat from the work week (and me getting over being sick), so we kept it low key with a dinner date at our favorite local Italian place, Harry’s Italian, and called it a night. Rob, also not feeling well, was out for the count very early, but I stayed up for a bit watching The Other Guys, starring Will Farrell and was surprised at how good it was (I’m a huge Will fan, but didn’t think I’d like that one). 
After an early to bed, Saturday, we were up at 6:30 a.m. and working within the hour. We went to the old apartment to clean out some of the remaining things (thanks to help from a good friend), got the butcher block for the counter cut (again) and unpacked some stuff where we could. After the work was through, we went to visit another friend who was staying at the Trump SoHo and had a lovely time lounging by the pool, with drink in hand. 
We then proceeded to brunch at the Cupping Room Cafe and enjoyed a very nice meal.  Known for their eggs benedict, I had to be the judge of that and eagerly ordered it. I’m happy to report it lived up to my hopes and expectations. Smothered in hollandaise sauce (usually restaurants go too light on it), the eggs were perfectly poached, the muffin lightly toasted and the Canadian bacon salty and delicious. 
A full belly called for a nap and after resting at home for a while, we headed back out to the James Hotel’s Treehouse Bar, where we met up with my old roommates for many drinks. One still lives in the city, but one has gone back home to Kansas, so it was really nice to see her, as she was in town for work. We chatted, ate some good David Burke food (and a gorgeous dessert or chocolate cake and goat cheese ice cream) and enjoyed the time together. It’s always a pleasure to see old friends, and a special thing to be able to pick up, right where you left off. 
We finished the night with a stop at Mary Queen of Scots, then a chess game (well, I didn’t play, but Rob did) at a friend’s apartment on the Lower East Side and enjoyed peeking at his new digs, as well. 
Sunday we slept in (past 10 a.m., which is very late in my book), walked all around SoHo, had brunch at Public and did some shopping for a coffee table (to no avail). I hadn’t been to Public and was impressed with not only the food, but the novelties they had. A huge fan of restaurant matches, not only did they have boxed ones, but pencils AND mini bars of soap bearing their logo. I love little chotskie-type things like that and that was an added bonus for brunch. 
For food, I had their fry-up which consisted of scrambled eggs on top of sourdough toast, with buttered mushroom and roasted tomatoes on the side. I’m not a fan of roasted tomatoes, but the mushrooms were out of this world. Lightly cooked in butter, they retained a bit of firmness and their earthy, woody taste.
After brunch, we returned to the apartment to do some laundry (as Rob needed clean clothes for his trip to San Diego today) and it always feels good when I accomplish that. It was the first time doing laundry in the new apartment and this laundry room (which is on the 2nd floor as opposed to the basement) is much nicer and brighter.
We finished the day with dinner at The Smith, where I had their delicious spaghetti and meatballs. The nest of al dente pasta atop three tasty, moist and large meatballs was a great way to dine on a Sunday. 
We then went to see Archers of Loaf, a band I really liked growing up, but had never had the chance to see. They just so happened to be playing a reunion tour and I jumped at the change to see them. Unfortunately, we were both feeling a bit under the weather and didn’t stay for their whole set. I was very happy to just see some and they did play a few favorite songs. I was surprised at what a crowd they gathered, considering it’s been more than a decade since they put out their last album. I think it’s fair to say that true fans remain for life. 
It’s back to the grind again today, and while I’m feeling better, I’m still not 100%. I think the stress of the apartment, kitchen, dentist tomorrow and some other things just have my body beaten down and while I’m certainly trying to keep positive, it’s not coming easily.
I’ll be relieved tomorrow when the dentist is over, I’ll be relieved when the kitchen is done, I’ll be relieved when we’re all unpacked and I’ll just be relieved to be relieved.

More Street Art

Shepard Fairey made a visit to this wall, which we spotted over the weekend.

Didn’t realize there was another piece on the right-hand side until we passed it by, later that night.

Also spotted this stencil (artist unknown) while strolling around SoHo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Moving Weekend

What a weekend, what a weekend. Although I had two days off (Friday and Monday), the time was anything but relaxing, as we moved apartments and I came down with a wicked 36 hour cold/flu (fever and all).
After a couple mini breakdowns on Thursday evening, we woke up Friday, packed and ready for our new home. Unfortunately, A-Z Movers’ truck broke and I was informed (15 minutes after they were supposed to arrive), that the truck was broken and movers wouldn’t be there until 3 p.m. That timing really messed up the day’s plan, and after putting my husband on the phone, they agreed to come around 1:30 p.m. They arrived promptly then and were quick (and a little reckless) with moving the furniture (so much so, they chipped the entertainment center and broke a ceiling light, which subsequently cut one of the movers).
The studio apartment- packed up and ready to go.
After a frantic two hours of moving, the unpacking could begin. The only problem was a) the kitchen was half done (at the most) and b) the contractor’s supplies were in a huge pile in the dining room. We made the best of it and settled the living room, while putting most of the kitchen stuff in the bedroom.
The new apartment in its messy glory.
It was many hours of work, and while I had a little sore throat, I was fine….until the fever hit.
Like a ton of bricks, the cold/flu enveloped me and I had a headache, the chills, a sore throat and ear and fatigue and lightheadedness. Full on sick sick. Sick like I hadn’t been in a long time. Sick like I couldn’t function. I did my best and would work for about an hour and then crash in any soft area – the swivel chair, the bed (unfortunately, not the sofa as the movers left that in the rain and it took about 15 hours to dry).
Saturday I woke up feeling just as poorly, but muscled through as best I could. We got a lot done and by Saturday evening, the place was starting to look like a home (to my great relief).
Today the granite was installed, as was the sink. Additionally, the contractor came today, so I’m hoping to come home to a much improved kitchen. Don’t think it will be done yet, but it should be in mere days and any progress will have me feeling better.
By this weekend, everything should be in place and that will please me to no end. I strongly dislike having things up in the air, disheveled and living out of boxes. I so look forward to having the place in order and toasting to our new home with a glass of Dom Perignon (which we’ve been saving for a special occasion, such as this).   

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dentist

Oh, how I strongly dislike the dentist. I have an irrational, overstated fear of it and – needless to say – am absolutely dreading my visit today.
Last time I was there, I had 2 root canals under general anesthesia because I was so terrified (and knew I couldn’t possibly be conscious for the procedure).  This time, though, I’m bucking up and choosing the heavy sedation route (gas + klonopin) and am hoping that does the trick. I’m due for two crowns and a cleaning, which shouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’m scared silly none-the-less.  
I had my first pill last night at bedtime, a half pill with lunch and will take another whole one about an hour before the procedure. Between the mellowness cursing though my body and the nitrous gas I’ll get, I pray that I can be a still, calm and together patient (just hoping I don’t have a freak out, as I did last night).
Fortunately, I’m usually able to pull myself together in public situations, though the dentist is kind of an expectation. The drama queen that I am, I say I’d rather have a leg amputated than get drilled in the teeth (but if it came down to it, I think I’d feel differently). But, as I’ve told myself repeatedly, this is not an option and I have to go. Hopefully I’m blowing everything out of proportion and it will be a walk in the park (wishful thinking, I know).
If I could only learn how to successful cope with the dentist, I’d be in a lot better shape. I remind myself that thousands of people go to dentist appointments every day, and not only survive but are fine. Why can’t I be like that too?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Misc. Happy Things

Just took a stroll over to Tiffany & Co. to pick up a gift and happened upon this guy…
From a quick Google search (“Giant teddy bear on Park Ave.”) I learned that it’s called Untitled (Lamp/Bear), and is the work of New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer.
The 23-foot high bright yellow teddy bear, slumped against a functioning oversized desk lamp, was unveiled on the plaza in front of the Seagram Building at 375 Park Ave. The huggable and hulking 35,000 pound sculpture will remain on display for the next few months.

Google Chrome Ad

If you have a minute and 32 seconds to watch a precious ad, then please check out the Google Chrome one, below.
In the video, the baby Sophie Lee parents start an email account, dear.sophie.lee@gmail.com, the day she was born, so they can send her all the milestones of her life – from giggling on her first birthday, to having a little brother (that she wanted to name Salt) and more.  They record all these memories via email (though notes, photos and video), and wait for the day when they can share this all with her.
I saw it for the first time a few nights ago, and in usual Rachel-form, I was balling my eyes out by spot’s end. I was taken by the sentimentality and love, and think it’s a precious gift that a parent could easily (and freely) give.
That said, upon doing some research on this I learned that this was another genius ploy from Google to get personal data from their youngest users (actually pre-users).

According to the  NY Magazine article, “the ad is actually a cleverly disguised ploy to manipulate your lack of cynicism…so that Google can nab all your personal data — and the data of your future children — to sell ads. The latest ad wants you to store personal details about your child’s life, from birth, on their servers. Google wants your data so they can sell it (aggregated and anonymized, of course) to others to make money.”

Because Google makes most of their money selling advertisitng (by selling you), it’s really a clever approach. The author of the article was creeped out by it, but being that this is par for the course in the virtual world, I find it absolutely fine (and enjoyed a good cry).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Internet Week

We’re in the midst of Internet Week and yesterday, my firm hosted an event, which I planned and managed.
For those that aren’t familiar, Internet Week is a festival celebrating NYC's thriving Internet industry & community. It’s been growing in notoriety and popularity since 2008, and takes place at locations around the city. The result is a critical mass of web-focused events that raise the profile of NYC's industry as a whole, as well as the partners who participate, according to their site. This year’s event was chock full of panels, parties and mucho networking (with more than 65 events on Wednesday alone).
My firm hosted a panel discussion and wine tasting at the chic Bar Basque and had some real social media luminaries on board. Our President of Digital Communications, Chris Perry, led a conversation on digital curation* and how to curate remarkable experiences online.  He was joined by Lot18 co-founder Philip James, Foodspotting’s Soraya Darabi (who has nearly a half million Twitter followers) and Mediagazer’s Editor-In-Chief, Megan McCarthy.
They debated the question, “In an age of information overload, how do you find the best of what’s out there?” Exploring how technology and human insight have enabled digital curation on a grand scale for brands and media makers, they discussed how to tap into community tastes in creative ways, and use these powerful new mechanisms to captivate consumers’ attention – and spend.
It was an interesting discussion and when all was said and done, it was a great event... but there were certainly a few snags leading up to it. For one, this was all planned and executed in less than three weeks and at times, it was a mad scramble. There is much that goes into a successful event and venue hunting, negotiating, invite copy & design, guest list, RSVPs, getting the word out are just a few of the obstacles we encountered. Once that was in place, everything went along smoothly (maybe too smoothly) until the day of the event.

We arrived at Bar Basque a bit early and went straight to our reserved area – a gorgeous roof deck encased in glass. I immediately knew something was off when I walked into a wall of heat upon crossing the threshold. We were informed that the AC was broken (on the hottest day of the year), but it “should be fine if all the windows are open.” We retorted and said that the breeze was hot and people would just melt in that space. After some fluttering around, the manager came back and said they would move us into the small-ish lounge area, where it was a bit (a tiny bit) cooler. The staff scrambled to get things moved and set-up went right until the event began at 4 p.m.
Right on time, the guests shuffled in and were quick to chat, eat and drink. It seemed that things were going as best as can be expected until it was time for the panel discussion. The introductions went well, but a few minutes in, audio technical problems began to emerge. The mics were going in and out, the sound was low and every once in a while, an ear piercing mic-squeal would penetrate the room. My colleague and I scrambled to find the manager, or anyone that could help, but no one of authority was in sight. And the servers were useless with no accountability or helpfulness or friendliness. We survived the panel, though, and the speakers didn’t seem too bothered by the issues (my colleague and I were much more disturbed).
The rest of the event went smoothly and the crowd of 100+ seemed to have a great time. Of course, being the event manager, I didn’t expect to have an easy, fun time, as that position has much responsibility, pressure and self imposed (and unrealistic) goals of perfection.
The lovely folks at Lot18 sent me home with a bottle of their nice Pinot Noir (as you can imagine, the reds did not move as quickly as the white and rose did) and I was very appreciative. I arrived home sore, sweaty and absolutely exhausted. While it was an earlier night (home by 7:30 p.m.), things like that are absolutely draining!
I got a good night’s sleep and am now ready for tonight’s event…the PRSA Silver Anvils. 
Should you be dying to learn more about digital curation, my firm published a primer, which can be found here.
*By definition, digital curation is the process of creating repositories of digital content for current and future reference. Curation is widely enabled through hashtags, lists and aggregation platforms like Storify, Magnify, Curation Station, News.me and many more. In each of these examples, curation is managed via tech-enabled service offerings, metadata or keywords to capture and present relevant content.*

Misc. Happy Things

Spotted yesterday, outside of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle…
According to the site, this is Pop Artist Romero Britto's “latest exhibit including The Best Buddies Friendship Bear (pictured), Blue Dog and Squeki. Britto is known for the use of virbrant colors and bold patterns as a visual language of hope and happiness.  He has been credited with the largest public art installation in Hyde Park history and exhibited at the Carrousel du Louvre at the Louvre Museum -- an art that appeals to all."

On display on the ground floor through October 31, 2011, if you want to stop by for a smile!

Rabbit Dressage

Facebook is always keeping me apprised of the latest “news” and I just saw one hard-hitting piece of journalism that totally made my day. The UK’s Daily Mail is reporting that Rabbit Dressage is “set to take the world by storm.”
The full article is below and you can check out a great video on YouTube about it, as well.
"That rabbits like to hop is hardly a secret. But now European rabbit enthusiasts have harnessed their bunnies' natural talents to create a new spectator sport... rabbit showjumping.
Invented in Sweden in the early Eighties, Kaninhop involves bunnies bouncing their way around courses consisting of several small jumps of varying height and length.
Snoopy, a black-and-white bunny from the German city of Jena, is the star of the local Kaninhop club - and he makes spends his days leaping over all manner of barricades, jumps and rails.
Over the past few decades to sport has spread far from its Scandinavian homeland and clubs have now sprung up in several other European countries, the U.S., Canada and even Japan.
Rules vary from country to country, but generally the more jumps a rabbit clears the higher its score. There is also sometimes a time element to competitions.
As well as the dressage-style courses, there are also long-jump and high-jump challenges. The world height record is 99.5cm while the best distance is fully three metres, according to Swedish fan site kaninhoppning.se.
Miss Fehlen discovered the sport on the internet about five years ago. She practiced with her pet rabbits in her back garden before starting the Jena club in 2009.
Now there are 13 members who gather once a week in the eastern German city to train their animals.
Animal rights activists are alarmed by the past-time. Sweetrabbits, a private animal rights initiative in Germany, has criticised the use of leashes in Kaninhop competitions.
The group has even accused trainers of using the tethers to pull uncooperative rabbits over the obstacles.
But Miss Fehlen points out important practical reasons for keeping competing rabbits leashed: 'We use them in tournaments for safety,' she said.
'Just think of what would happen if a male were to break free. We want to avoid uncontrolled reproduction. It has happened before.'”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Osteria Morini

A contrast to Michael White’s chic and fancy Alto (now shuttered), Osteria Morini is an unassuming, cozy, assessable restaurant with amazing food. The best brunch I’ve enjoyed in a long time, it’s a wonderful restaurant in SoHo and certainly did not disappoint for a Sunday afternoon meal.

According to NY Magazine, there was great authenticity and attention to detail and I was impressed to learn, “it’s a painstakingly reproduced homage—this time to the cooking of Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s great eating regions—replete with burnt-orange terra-cotta fa├žade and potted cypress trees outside the door. The name refers to the owner of the famous San Domenico restaurant in Imola, near Bologna, where White worked for seven years. The blocky, farm-style tables and chairs were built for the restaurant in Emilia-Romagna itself. Even the wooden rafters in the ceiling were imported from an actual Italian farmhouse.”
We arrived at 2 p.m. to a respectably full restaurant (especially for an off hour) and were greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable waiter. After discussing their mare (seafood salad) with a foodie friend the night before, I knew that that was a must, in addition to a pasta dish. I ended up going with their tortellini, stuffed with mortadella and other meaty goodness, topped with asparagus, peas, red peppers and a cream sauce.  The tortellini was a delight unto itself, but the mare was really the show stopper.
An Adriatic style seafood salad with assorted gems of the sea, this salad also came with slices of green olive, lemon and capers. Each bite was more magical than the previous and this salad rivaled (may have been even better than) the famous Rao’s. The fish was fresh, tender and very perfectly cooked. To further compliment, it was dressed lightly with only lemon and olive oil, and celery ribbons were incorporated for flavor and crunch. Days later, I’m still dreaming of the deliciousness that was the mare, and would make a trip, specifically for that.
My dining companions thoroughly enjoyed their food, as well, and it was a rare brunch that we were all raving about our dishes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer of Fun List

For the past few years, I’ve been making a “Summer of Fun List” with some great, outdoor things to do during the lovely months.

I’m determined to get some activities in, but if the year, thus far, is any indication, the next few months are going to fly by, and we’ll be lucky to do half of these! Couple accelerated time with our impending move, and we may not even get to half. I’m optimistic, though, and am confident we can scratch off at least a few.
1.       5Pointz
2.       Yankees Game
3.       Storm King
4.       Shake Shack at Battery Park City (still haven't tried their burger)
5.       Picnic in the Park
6.       Calvary Cemetery
7.       Beer Garden in Astoria
8.       Brooklyn Brewery Tour
9.       Manhattanhenge (July 11th)
10.   Belmont Watching at a bar, perhaps Horse Box (June 11th)
11.   Coney Island (possibly for the Mermaid Parade on June 18th)
12.   Highline (section two opens in late June)
13.   Walk Summer Streets (August 6, 13, 20)
14.   Walk across the bridge to BK Bridge Park
15.   Beach Day
16.   Governors Island
17.   Chelsea Piers Driving Range
Any summer activities you refuse to let pass by?

I Love Street Art

Happened upon in Meatpacking, last Friday.

Memorial Day Weekend

It’s been a while since the last post, as work’s been absolutely nuts. But now that things have slowed down a bit, I’m back to blogging! As I left off on a low note, I wanted to provide an update and am more than happy to report that last weekend was lovely and absolutely exceeded my expectations.
As planned, we arrived in Port Jervis just in time to get a hot dog at the locally famous, Texas Lunch. Rob, a Texas Lunch virgin, got to try the uniqueness that can only be their hotdogs and he enjoyed it (not as much as I, though). Using a generic dog, they cover it in mustard, raw onion and their secret sauce. What comprises this sauce is beyond me, but it’s a brown gravy with some ground meat, garlic (which we learned when Rob pulled a hefty chunk out of it) and spices. It’s a unique flavor and totally nostalgic for me, as I’ve eaten then for as long as I can remember.  I limited myself to only one dog, as I knew we would be eating the other Port Jervis delicacy soon, Len & Jo’s Pizza (no site). Another unique eat, this pizza is made in an ancient rectangular pan, has a crispy yet doughy crust and is yeasty, with a sourdough or beer note to it. 

But before we headed there (where the family reunion was being held) we took a stroll down Front Street and hit up some antique shops (with no luck). While I know that Port is a small town, with very little foot traffic, I was taken aback with the lack of people around. Front Street was a ghost town and we were the only people on the street at most times (with the exception of a few who were going in and out of the one coffee shop). It made me pause, as I often do, and acknowledge how lucky I am to live where I do.
As we were on a schedule, apprehensively, we headed to the restaurant, where I was to see a lot of family I hadn’t in a while. My stomach was in knots and I had a lump in my throat; I had no idea what to expect. Well, as soon as we walked into the place, I was greeted with smiles, bear hugs and a great, positive vibe. I was immediately relieved and thought that the weekend wasn’t going to be as bad as anticipated. And I was right. It was great to see the cousins, aunts, uncles and friends and nice to catch-up.  

We spent the rest of the weekend hanging with the family, reminiscing about old times and chillin’ at grandma’s house. We grandkids were sad to say good bye to the house, but most of all, the shag carpet, which we’ve always loved for its kitsch and datedness. I also had the opportunity to go through some old things I’ve been storing in the attic, including the 30 year old Fischer-Price house that received many years of play and love.  

Overall, this weekend taught me that I needn’t dread things and expect the worst. While I do it often (it’s a defense mechanism), 99% of the time I am happily proven wrong, but I just can’t seem to break the habit. I’m working on it, though, so by the time the next family reunion rolls around, I should be eager and excited for it.