Saturday, February 4, 2012

I miss you too!

A grown-up glass of booze

I dearly miss adding stories and musing to your finely designed pages. I now use my spare time to think about such things as wedding insurance and how to make a great product launch outshine the Facebook IPO news at work. Soon enough, I'll work you back into my schedule and the world will be a better place - for both you and I. In the meantime have some bourbon - I'm sipping some Basil Hayden's currently - and take a deep breath. When your eyes refocus come up with some kind words for the next person next to you and share your thoughts liberally. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My First Book

Friday night, I will have the opportunity to coin my first novel during a night at the New York Public Library.  It's already the highlight of my year and it hasn't even happened yet.  Wish me luck (mostly for staying awake all night) and check it out if you have a minute.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nashville Music: Cumberland Caverns to The Station Inn

Robert's Western World
Music reins supreme in Nashville, from the live music stages at the airport's arrival terminal to the towering country music hall of fame building downtown. It seems to run through the veins of the city, and its people as naturally as sunshine runs through Southern California. So, I wasn't surprised that Melissa planned some musical events planned for my trip. But, I was surprised that Nashville had such unique and generally awesome music venues.

The first weekend day of my trip we headed out to Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN, which was about an hour and a half away from Melissa's place in Nashville. Each time I visit Nashville I force Melissa to take long drives, I particularly encourage her car to veer off the freeway onto what I call "long country roads," because the word "highway" simply can not summarize how romantic these roads are. The rolling hills of green grass, long rows of corn and old barn houses, surrounded by antique farming equipment and half broken fences make me feel like I'm stepping into a romantic southern novel. So, the drive to McMinnville was a treat itself.

The national park surrounding the Caves is heavily wooded and rugged. We walked down to the cave opening and headed into the darkness towards the Volcano Room concert venue, more commonly known as Bluegrass Underground. The half-mile walk on a wide dirt path snaked past turquoise pools, thousands of stalactites and stalagmites and emerald colored walls. The path finally opened up into a massive, beautiful cavern. The space it's self is 333 feet below ground and could easily fit 1,000 people for a concert, although I think they sell out events at 400 people. As the path dropped down into a level stage area, the limestone ceiling jutted up to a perfect concave semi circle. The space is well known for supplying one of the only naturally acoustically pure sounds available. Something to do with the jagged rocks overhead and size of the space.

Anyway we decided to take in the view from the top of the path, which included a 3/4-ton crystal chandelier, folding chair seating, broad wooden stage, and simple food, drink area. We found seats on the rocks and perched through the opening musician who had one of the sweetest voices I've ever heard. Sadly, I can't recall her name but her dad played in her band and she wore an adorable dress so I loved her. Of course, her musical talents far outweighed her fashion skills and we got clapping along 10 minutes into the show.

The main act, Ralph Stanley is a legend in County music (check out a video of the performance). His voice was smooth and comforting, like something out of an old country western movie. His southern accent, which includes just a hint of a twang, stayed with him throughout every song. And his Clinch Mountain Boys band seemed to be the best in the business. My personal favorites of the afternoon were, "I'll Fly Away," and, "How Mountain Girls Can Love."  And, from what I heard and read there is no one else in the world like Ralph Stanley, including the hundreds of imitators he's spawned.  All the had to do was pick up a mic and his banjo to prove that.  He also seemed to be pretty amazed to be performing in a cave, which made it all the more fun. 
The following Monday night Melissa and her friend Glenn took me to The Station Inn, which doesn't look like more than a one level brick building from the outside. The neighborhood surrounding the Station Inn is a mix of new developments, trendy stores and restaurants and classic buildings. It makes the Station Inn and it's surrounding lot stick out in a way that only a historic venue can stick out.
Once inside, it's easy to tell why the venue is so well know: there's not a bad seat in the house. To ensure we had the best seats we scooted right up front and sat to the right of the bad. We were treated Country Swing Music by Vince Gill and his band. We could feel the vibrations of the instruments and hear the clarity in the singer’s voices before they entered the mic. Each instrument rang out clear during their solos and played together so well it sounded like they'd all attended music school together. I could not stop clapping, laughing or smiling throughout the entire hour and a half set we watched. It's been a long time since I was that close to such amazing musicians.
Mel and me with one damn good banjo player
at The Station Inn

Of course my favorite downtown bar, Robert's Western World played a big role in my musical trip to TN.  Everything from the cowboy boots lining the walls, eclectic crowd, long bar with cheap drinks, stage and dance floor that never seems to settle down and the regular Brazilbilly band that plays there makes me smile.  

Ahhhh, Nashville, how you love your country music and how I love you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Next Generation

How many friends do you know with a job that can invite you in for a day to watch them in action and actually lend a hand?  I only know a couple, and they are all teachers. 

I had the chance to see Melissa command a classroom in her Nashville "office" during my trip and wouldn't be writing about it if I wasn't truly inspired.  She is one of the few people I know who doesn't loose a bit of herself during her work day.  Perhaps she swears a lot less, but she utilizes her humor, kindness and intelligence to gain the students' trust instead of becoming a different person at work.  Her relationship with her students was simply amazing.  And, the fact that she manages to actually teach them something daily, despite their fondness for stretching, passing notes and harassing each other, is amazing.  It's no surprise that she was recently awarded with a teacher of the year award.  Many congrats for my talented friend.

She asked me to speak about working in PR, explain how I got my start, and tell the kids what it's like to work in an office environment, live in NYC and balance everything out.  I've spoken to corporate boards with stronger ADD than these kids, but I've never had to lure them in with Jay Z sightings and break down the reality of a 10-hour work day.  We had fun.  And, although I think they'll remember me as the white girl that lives in Harlem I hope they actually learned something from my presentation.

Here's some things I spotted in her high school classroom, which I assume are in classrooms all across America:

  • Bedazzled cell phones
  • Pink converse sneakers paired with hot pink nails
  • Fake wedding rings
  • Hand painted water bottles
  • Heart shaped purses
  • Oversized backpacks and bags
  • Colored hair
  • Strick dress code (no blue jeans, and limited colored shirts), which is actually enforced and followed by the students
  • Star shaped post-its
  • Birthday stickers (which were received with great fan fare)
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Hand wringing

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Favorite Photos...

You know that feeling that you get when you look at a photo of a good memory or event in your life and you can't hold in a smile.  Sometimes it's a photo from 20 years ago, other times it's a photo from a few hours ago but it's almost always a photo including you or someone you adore.  I found one of those photos tonight while I was uploading my photos from my Nashville trip.  It's a photo of Jerome and I at the Cliff House in San Francisco enjoying a quick drink and a chat before dashing off to the airport.  I can't remember what we were discussing but I do remember laughing so much my stomach hurt and catching the amazing view of Seal Rock and Kellie's Cove on the way out. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nashville, TN Favorites: Franklin's Cajun Steamer Review

"Let me out of here...."

I just returned from Nashville, TN and enjoyed a full 5-days of music, laughter, drinks, divine food, and lovely new experiences.

My absolute favorite part of visiting Nashville is always catching up with my friend Melissa.  I've described our friendship in the past as invincible.  Now, I'd like to add that we are also confident and hilarious together.  She's kind, giving, hilarious, and beautiful - which is perhaps why we're able to have a good time anywhere we go.  We'll talk more about her later.

I would love to discuss all my favorite parts of Nashville in a single post, but then I'd never catch up on life back at home.  So, I'll take some of my favorite picks from the long weekend and share them with you individually.

I heart seafood and have been wanting to attend a Crawfish boil ever since I missed my friend Alyson's wedding in Louisiana a couple of years ago.  So, when Melissa and her wonderful friend Ashley took me to Cajun Steamer in Franklin, TN, just outside of Nashville, I couldn't resist.  The Crawfish were meaty and flavorful and the portions were extravagant and robust.  And, if you're feeling a little out of sorts, there's even directions for peeling and eating Crawfish at each table.  I'm having a bit to much fun with my descriptors here but, I think you get the point.

The setting is festive and colorful, with long basic tables and sweet, kind-hearted waitresses.  The long bar and tall metal staircase at the entrance set the scene as a more popular and cramped space than most local restaurants.  The excessive amount of televisions around the restaurants tuned into whatever college basketball, baseball, or football game is on is suggestive of a sports bar, but leans towards the Cajun theme.  The food is what really makes this place memorable.  Tall glasses or bourbon drinks or sweet tea, appetizer options like alligator (which tastes like chicken) and big platters of steamed seafood or southern chicken are all pretty amazing.  I'd personally suggest a half order of the Crawfish, which Melissa and I shared, the Melvin's Blackened Chicken (which Ashley ordered) and any of the numerous Po-Boys which all looked delish and juicy enough to handle their thick bread wrappings.

So, my favorite restaurant award in Franklin, TN goes to Cajun Steamer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What to Do with Happiness

Most people who know me, and I repeat most, know that I'm a pretty happy person.  I love so many things about my life and feel proud that I've built the type of relationships and environment that keeps me on the sunny side of life.  My relationship with Jerome makes me smile inside out, my friends couldn't be stronger and my family couldn't offer any more emotional support and confidence than they do.  Some days I feel like I have a full team of cheerleaders on my side.  Of course, everyone who knows me well also knows that I have my complaints and problems but I'm going to ignore those for today since I'm feeling particularly chipper this afternoon.

But, what do you do with excessive happiness?  Smiling like a drug addict on the street seems like a bad idea.  My kindergarten teacher, Betty, would say to spread it around, making sure you share it with others.  My brother, Brian, would probably say to keep it going and hold onto it till you pass out.  So, I looked into it in the only place anyone seems to research anything these days: online.

Quote yourself:  

Charlie Sheen, who says he's HAPPY not CRAZY (as I believe), he spouts his "knowledge" and "life lessons" through quotes and videos to the world.  For some reason everyone is listening.  I'd like to say I'm above it all and don't participate in the media frieze that is Crazy Sheen but it's just too funny to let go.  There are a ton of websites compiling quotes from his latest rants but this one is by far the best.  You even get to click on a graphic of his head to keep him talking.

Then, there's people who compile quotes about happiness from the likes of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. 

Get a Tattoo:

Perhaps you'd prefer to express your happiness with body art.  A quick search on Google Images for "Happy Tattoos" came up with a Hello Kitty tattoo of the famous cat ridding a bike and two different colored horses having sex.  Hilarious.

Make others see the world through your eyes: 

This group says, "damn I'm happy, what the hell is wrong with you?"  This group includes anyone who is egotistical about their happiness and has the balls to hold seminars about how happy they are.  They claim to be teaching others how to achieve happiness, but appear to be nonsense about how people don't look at their "inner self" enough.  Crap.

And, my personal favorite, break it down and teach teach others how they can tailor happiness to their lifestyle:

"THE HAPPINESS PROJECT is the memoir of the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier – happily, it was a #1 New York Times bestseller. As one of the hundreds of experiments I've conducted, I started this blog. Here, I recount my daily adventures in pursuit of happiness."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Soak it Up: An Online Version of a Southern Front Porch

Meeting fellow bloggers is always an eye-opening

Claudia and husband, Mike, on her grandfather's
farm in college
and fun experience. I particularly love it when a
writer is willing to open up a bit about their blog practices and inspirations. I met Claudia D'Avanzo last year at a PR gathering and started reading her blog shortly after. Similar to my blogging practices, she aims to keep friends and family updated on her life and projects. She also aims to give readers a place to stop by, read a little, smile, laugh a little and go on about their day. As she so eloquently stated, "it’s the online equivalent of southern front porch, where friends stop by, have a chat, swap stories, and then head on into town. Even if no one reads it, it’s just so relaxing to post ideas, experiences and materials, and it takes me away from the harried life of a being a 'mom-preneur' for little awhile."  

Claudia's blog, Our Green Acres, includes stories and adventures of renovating a family farm in Alabama alongside tid-bits and information about life in Atlanta as a PR practitioner, mom and overall happy Southerner. I've been compelled by the similarities in our blogs, despite the differences in our geographic locations and daily lives. Here's a bit more about Claudia, her travels and her blog - I encourage you to check it out when you have a moment:

Claudia's Green Acre

Our Green Acres, written by Claudia Brooks D'Avanzo, chronicles the D'Avanzo family's weekend adventures in rural Alabama, where they bought and are renovating their very first farm. Our Green Acres is a "feel-good life blog," where Claudia not only talks about her experiences and the contrasts between city and country living, but she also tries to share positive aspects of simpler living. Claudia and her husband spent over 20 years traveling the U.S. and the world for work at an incredibly, and sometimes unhealthy fast pace--not unlike many others. Now, they try to live more slowly and soak up each day's beautiful moments.

Claudia's boys at their family farm

Claudia and her husband Mike have traveled to almost every state in the union, and have loved almost every place they've been to. In her own words, "I adore being in a new place and immersing myself (even if just for a little while) in local places and culture. Also I've traveled to 17 European countries, Thailand, Canada, the Caribbean but there are sooooo many more places we hope to get to, still.

And, of course, my traveler questionnaire -

Top International Travel Destination?:
Bangkok has been the most exciting and exotic

Favorite U.S. spots?
Montana, NYC, SanFran, Seattle, New Orleans and the Florida Keys.  And Georgia and Alabama. We love big cities and small towns. And we love the country. High-brow to honky-tonk is perfectly fine by me.

Family Travel Memory?
Mike (my husband) worked for a Japanese company for 9 years and often traveled to Japan for work, where he would spend 2-3 weeks there at a time. He fell in love with the country and two years ago, he took our son, Adrian, to Japan for a “boys trip” that they still talk about. It was a fantastic adventure for them, hop-scotching through Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka and the countryside.

Some of the beauty of the countryside

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bri and Elena's Wedding: Top 5 List

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco, where I attended a good friend’s wedding. Brian Ringseis has been a surrogate older brother to me since….well since at least I was 4. Although I don’t hold him responsible for how I turned out, I will always think of him and now his awesome lady Elena, as family.

Top 5 list for Brian and Elena’s SF Wedding:

Drag Queen convention next door – I wish I had a photo of this, but somehow I missed all the potential photo opportunities while I was staring at the commotion. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the Drag Queens who strutted through the hotel lobby toward their convention next door to the wedding were stunning, amazing and awe-inspiring. It was a perfect mix off 200+ wedding guests and dames filtering into the ballrooms. I’m pretty sure no one mixed the events up, but that story could still be floating out there.

Mike and Marlis, getting ready
Reasonable rooms available for guests – Finding the right space for a wedding in a big city must be difficult enough on it’s own – but finding one in a hotel that can offer reasonable hotel rooms for guests must be near impossible. But, the Hotel Whitcomb, offered Bri and Elena’s guests rooms for under $100, a short elevator ride away from the wedding. It was nice to get ready and sip on pre-wedding cocktails at the hotel before walking down to the ceremony.

Grand ballroom/Grand Crowds – The massive ballroom played its role as ceremony space, reception hall, dance party venue, and restaurant awesomely. It’s hard for one room to play all these roles and pull it off for a party of more than 200 people, but this one did it perfectly – Jeff Bridges style.

Cake – I’m a sucker for wedding cakes with style. So, a wedding cake in the shape of a building blew me away. Check it out.
Photo booth – I’ve become a bit of a sucker for photo booths at weddings and this was no exception. Although I didn’t find the booth until shortly before it closed, I had a few moments of fun with Jerome, my brother and my mom in the tiny booth and have the photos to prove it.

Marlis and I, not in a photo booth

Music – The selection for the bride’s walk down the isle, It Had To Be You by Harry Connick Jr. was simply perfect. And later, when the dance floor needed some spice, the DJ knew how to build it up. While the music wasn’t the star of the event, it was a beautiful compliment to the other elements.
Jerome, Marlis and I, still not in a photo booth but acting like it

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cooper Hewitt: Set in Style

Jerome and I had the opportunity to attend the opening reception to the Cooper-Hewitt Van Cleef & Aprels jewelry exhibit which opened February 18.  Museum receptions offer members a sneak peak at the opening exhibit, while offering a themed evening to remember - a token of its appreciation for its members. 

The Van Cleef & Aprels exhibit, which is on display through June 5, showcases more than 300 timeless jewelry pieces that were worn by the likes of Grace Kelly and Liz Taylor.  The exhibit explores the historical significance of the firm's contribution to design in the 20th century - which is vast to say the least.  With that many individual pieces laid out in dome glass cases, I expected to see a pattern or repetition in the work.  Luckily I was wrong.  The design and craftsmanship behind each necklace, brooch, ring, compact, purse, and ring was stunning.  Of course the dime sized jewels, including blood red rubies and flawless diamonds, certainly made an impression it really was the settings, detail and unique personality of each piece that made an impact. My favorite piece was a heavy, emerald necklace that would make a stunning centerpiece on my neck.

But, enough about the exhibit. On to the party.

Many of Van Cleef & Aprels' pieces utilized nature as inspiration, particularly butterflies.  The event production team carried that theme into the reception space, creating an outdoor wonderland of trees, swirling butterflies and  fake grass.  The event space, which was a long white tent erected in patio space behind the museum, was lite in dark blues and blacks.  The ceiling of the tent featured a projection of dark, ominous sky.  All together it set the scene for the city's best people watching.  A DJ bumped beats from pop to jazz artists while New Yorker's between the ages of 90-20 swaggered into the room.  Women were primarily dressed to showcase their style, from an all-white 3-piece long skirt suit trimmed in white fur at the collar and sleeve cuffs to a tight black halter dress, 5 inch platform heels and a shaved head.  The sights outside in the reception tent were almost as eye-catching as the jewelry inside the museum. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harlem Photo of the Day

The Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church stands tall, proud and beautifully on the corner of 124 Street and Lenox Blvd.  It's just one of the many beautiful churches I walk by en route to the gym in the morning and inspired my photo of the day today.  One day, I may even go inside....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heart Day

Jerome and I don't technically "celebrate" Valentines Day but we do use it as an excuse to try out new foods. I've just never been into a holiday that celebrates love with pinks and reds.  Why not celebrate all kinds of love, everyday, in technicolor? 

So what do we do on national heart day?  We both love to cook, albeit in very different ways, so of course we cook a Hearts Day meal for ourselves and enjoy it together.  It's not a night all that different than a Sunday night or a random weeknight when we're both of early, but it is a lot of fun.  Last year we tried our hand at Indian food, the year before it was Filipino food, then there was pizza making and the one that started it all off....sushi.  This year we decided to try out some of our favorite Greek recipes.

Spanakopita in the front and Moussaka
in the rear....our perfect Greek meal
The menu included an appetizer of spanakopita, or feta and spinach pie, which utilized all of the spices in my pantry and most of the goodies in my cheese drawer but somehow came out tasting light and airy with just a touch of spice.  It must have been all that phyllo dough and butter.....alas, the recipe was phenomenal and made me look like a star (recipe from Cook's Illustrated here).  I can't say enough good things about Cook's Illustrated.  Their magazine content is straighforward, their product tests are honest and their recipies are all based on brining out the best flavors, without any of the commen flaws, in each dish.  I don't know any other recipie webstie or magazine that accomplishes these feats time and time again.  So, let's add this to my list of obsessions.

Our main course, also from a Cook's Illustrated recipe, was moussaka which is a thick Greek style lasagna layed with roasted eggplant, lamb sauce and topped with a bechamel sauce.  As it cooks the lamb sauce, which has a tomato base with sauteed onions and red wine combines with the smokiness of the roasted eggplant and the richness of the bechamel sauce.  It's Divine.

For desert, Jerome made baklava which also uses countless layers of phyllo dough and butter, but incorporates an almond nut mixture and is covered in a heavy syrup just before serving.  It gave me the biggest sugar rush I've had in weeks but it was absolutely phenomenal.  Big surprise....we used a Cook's Illustrated recipie for this one too.

All the recipes were very easy and could be made in stages, so we made most of the sauces on Sunday night.  The phyllo dough layering process took about an half an hour and uses more butter than I'm usually comfortable consuming in a night but it was worth the taste and flavor.  And, we have enough leftovers to feed an army of miniature baseball players (a.k.a. little league).  So, I'll be enjoying our meal all week long.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Best Restaurants and Food Retailers in NYC's Union Square

Aerial Shot of NYC's Union Square

Union Square NYC has proved to be a difficult neighborhood for me over the years.  For starters, 6+ years ago when I migrated to NYC I couldn't hear "Union Square" without conjuring up visuals of San Francisco's Union Square and all it represented for my city and my childhood.  SF's Union Square is beautiful, iconic, historic, showcased as the center of the city, and well touristed.  And, over the last 5-6 years, the restored SF Union Square has inspired a face lift for the entire shopping and dining district in downtown.  Obviously, I love it.

NYC's Union Square carries its own great tales but all of them were initially lost on me when I saw it.  The square itself is more of a maze of dog runs, statures and fenced in grass areas than a park - but it does provide some much needed outdoor space in the area.  It also provides a venue, outside of it's maze of long, low fences for stalls and vendors which is also great for an area surrounded by primarily brand name stores.  Most famously, the Union Square Greenmarket which hosts 140 farmers, fishermen, and bakers each week calls this square home.  The best produce I've had in NYC has come from farmers at this market and it holds a very special place in my heart.  If you've never visited the market, which is best early in the morning and particularly good on Saturday and Wednesday mornings before all the top chefs in the area pick through the goods for their restaurant menus that night.

The Union Squre Greenmarket

Now I've grown to love NYC's Union Square for what IT represents and have spent many a warm evening sprawled out on it's steps watching the skateboarders and BMXers pull tricks on the plaza.
And, I utilize the area for a wider variety of things than I used SF's Union Square for.   It's conveniently located between Harlem and Williamsburg (where several of my friends live), and within spitting distance of most of my friends workplaces.  And, during the warmer months you can walk to the East Village, Lower East Side, West Village, SOHO, and Flatiron neighborhoods from here. 

But, the one thing I think the area lacks is winter meeting spots.  Finding a good bar close to the train that isn't overcrowded with students, sterile and uptight, a "scene" bar, or charging $15 for drinks is a tough task.  Also finding restaurants that fit this criteria has proven tough, but not impossible.  Which is why I'm excited to share a couple of my recent finds in the area that will help me on my quest to expand my resources in the area.  If you have a favorite spot in the hood, be it a bar, restaurant, or shop in the area I'd love to hear about it.  In the meantime:

Num Pang Sandwich shop (21 E. 12th Street) - I discovered this little gem through Blackboard Eats.  The entryway is easy to miss, right next to a parking garage and across the street from a large, sleek burger shop.  But, the search is well worth it.  You enter on the ground floor which offers a 4' counter, standing space for 5 and a spiral staircase.  Once you review the menu, or obtain a recommendation from the amazing staff you can take yourself up  the spiral staircase, one person at a time, to find a seat.  The upstairs loft space offers counter seating for about 10 people and 4 child sized stools next to the windowsill for smaller people.  I visited with my friend Bonnie who is quite comfortable in small seats, so we selected the mini seats by the window.
Upstiars Seating at Num Pang

The sandwich menu offers several top-notch choices, all priced between $7 and $9.  Since it's labeled as a Cambodian sandwich shop, Bonnie and I decided to try out two of the classic sandwiches including the pulled duroc pork with spiced hone sauce and grilled skirt steak with crushed coriander and peppercorn, alongside a plate of white pickles and a bottle of root beer.  Vegetarian options such as roasted cauliflower and yam sandwiches also looked alluring but didn't get out vote this time.  I'll surely be back to try them out.  The skirt steak sandwich offered fresh, beautifully seasoned and marinated cuts of rare steak.  The juices from the steak married together with the peppercorn sauce, carrots, cilantro and cucumbers.  It was the best steak I've had this year.  And, tied for first place in the taste test competition for the evening was the pork sandwich which featured succulent (yes, I actually used the word succulent in my review) pork mixed with a veggies, sauce and spices piled high of a crispy roll - also with chili mayo sauce, carrots, cucumbers and cilantro.  We couldn't decide which one we liked better but we instantly choose this as our new favorite spot in the area.  I even picked up a sandwich for Jerome on my way out since I couldn't imagine explaining how good it was without him tasting it.

East Village Cheese Shop (40 3rd Ave) - My friend Stephanie took me here for the first time, which is certainly saying something since Steph seems to uncover some of the best, most interesting spots in NYC.  The street facing windows of the small shop are covered with butcher paper signs shouting out the specials of the day (or week, or year....I'm not sure how long the signs had been up).  You enter the small shop at the front of two lines, one for the register and one for the cheese counter.  Once you guide your way through the lines and take your place in the back of the cheese counter line you realize just how NY this store is.  The mix and match items on the shelves leading up the the counters feature a selection of items you'd find in your local bodega as well as several items you'd pair with your cheeses, like honey and delicate jams. 

As you approach the cheese counter you are faced with the rules of ordering your cheese.  Several cheeses can only be selected in 1 pound or 1/2 pound qualities while others are available for sample and can be purchased in slivers.  The counter, separated from the customers by a glass wall is piled high with more cheeses than you can count, from Miso Cheddar to Soy Swiss.  The prices are all very reasonable, particularly for my regular purchases like ricotta and Parmesan.  But, the ordering process is rapid fire and direct.

So, I choose some Greek Feta, grated Parmesan, and low-fat Ricotta and moved along to the counter.  The price of the 3 cheeses shocked me, coming in under $10, and I realized that it had been way to long since something shocked me with it's cheapness. 

And a few of my staples include:
  • Ippodo - The house made ramen noodles are incurable, and the decor is intriguing but the appetizers steal the show everytime.  Sit down restaurant with a fancy feel.
  • Momofuku Ssam Bar -Another David Chang creation with a refined space and some of the city's best pork.
  • Repulic - A relaxed restaurant with an Asian flare that has wonderful appetizers and healthy, relatively cheap entrees.  It can get pretty loud, but is usually worth the noise.
  • Chat 'n' Chew - Comfort food, chilled out wait staff and cake....seriously, if you're in the mood for it, it's a perfect fit.
  • Dos Toro Taqueria- The only San Francisco Mexican food that qualifies as "good" in my book.  Authentic, tasty tacos and burritos wrapped in freshly made flour and corn tortillas.  Worth the wait. 
  • Irving Plaza - A divey venue that brings some of the best punk, rock and ska bands to NYC. 
  • Trader Joe's and Whole Foods - A perfect combination for a healthy dinner and some cheap wine.

What am I missing?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What to do with 36" of Snow

Sheep Meadow
 New York City received 36 inches of snow last month. It's the most on record for any January, beating out the 30 inches we received in 1925. Not that I was around to enjoy that January, but I'd imagine it was even tougher to get around then. Now, with snow plows, subways and snow eroding salt there's no reason to stay at home and stare at the fluffy white stuff falling past your window. Of course, it's only fluffy and white for a few hours, before it turns into a black and white iced over milkshake snow piled up on the side of the roads. But, Central Park is another story. I went for a stroll through our beautiful city park following the blizzard last week and discovered a winter wonderland. Of course, I started my stroll at the Harlem Meer, my favorite spot in the Park. Here's some photos of my walk.
Adam Clayton Powell Blvd and 120 Street

Central Park near Harlem Meer



Sledding and snowball fights

The Reservoir

The Reservoir

Sking Around the Reservoir

Snowmen on The Great Lawn
The Reservoir

The Foutain and The Lake

Central Park's Lake (it's under there, I swear)

Sheep Meadow

By Far...The Stragest Snowman I've ever seen
Top Sledding Hill: Central Park West and 64 St.