Friday, August 5, 2016

Buffalo in Bloom

I got to go home this past week, which was beautiful in many ways. But the most obvious way was to stroll the streets in high summer and take in all of these stately homes and gorgeous gardens.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Artichoke-Avocado Tabouleh

I went through a phase several years ago in which I was obsessed with tabouleh. This surprised me as I don't really like parsley. but something happens when you mix it with tart lemons, fruity olive oil and sweet, peak of the season tomatoes. I also like it because it's one of those recipes that is a method and a canvas for a variety of ingredients. It's traditionally made with tomatoes and cucumbers but this week, I made it sans cucumbers and added artichokes and avocados. I believe that the typical proportion of bulgur wheat to parsley is rather low, so that it's more of a parsley salad. I know it's blasphemy, but I prefer the ratio of bulgur to parsley to be a little more even. But you make it how you like it! It's versatility is part of its charm. This version is beautiful to look at, bursting with freshness, and makes you feel pretty good too.

Serves one hungry woman at lunch time

1/4 cup bulgur wheat
1 whole lemon, zested and juiced
1 T. olive oil
cinnamon (optional)
sumac (optional)
1/2 bunch of parsley
a few springs of mint, approximately 20 leaves
15-20 of the juiciest, ripest cherry tomatoes you can find, halved
1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and chopped
Sprinkling of pickled onions (alternatively, slice red or white onion very thinly)
1-2 cups romaine, chopped
1/3 of an avocado

I like my bulgur to have a bit of bite so I skip pre-cooking and pre-soaking. I just add it right into the dressing and let that soak into each grain, for maximum flavor. If you like things a little softer, feel free to cook it. So, soak the bulgur in the zest and juice of the lemon, the olive oil, S&P and, if you choose, a sprinkle of cinnamon and sumac. I'd let this sit at least 20 minutes but I usually prep this part at night for my lunch so it sits for some time.

Chop parsley and mint and stir into bulgur. Parsely can be done ahead of time but mint will get black from the contact with the knife so chop right before eating. Mix with the tomatoes, artichokes and onions. I always keep a jar of pickled onions in the refrigerator but you can use regular onions. I would just recommend soaking them in water for 20 minutes or so to take out some of the sting. Once this is all mixed up, I add it to a bed of lettuce (dressed with a little bit more olive oil) and top with avocado slices. Everyone at work will be jealous.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fig Season!

There's nothing like a beautiful bowl of figs. These are, ahem, foraged from some nearby trees. True, I'm pilfering, but no one seems to eat them and I hate waste!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ciao, Italia!

I arrived in Italy several hours before my mother. I'm still not sure how I found the apartment (left on Via San Franceso, left at Piazza di Santa Maria, right at Piazza di Sant'Egidio and one last turn I don't remember!) but a kindly waiter helped steer me there. Naturally, I had to explore the neighborhood a bit (Trastevere), but first order of business was lunch. I had read about this little spot that sounded incredible, but what was even more amazing was that it was located right next door to our apartment! Kismet for sure. I had a salad with smoked swordfish, almonds and strawberries, plus a piece of wildly spongy and flavorful focaccia. The salad was nice, but I wish I had ordered pasta or a panino.

After lunch, I did some requisite wandering. I don't remember exactly what I did or saw last time I was in Rome, but several of the piazzas looked very familiar. I even stumbled upon the crepe place that Nicole and I went to back in 2008! (Fonte della Salute) I saw someplace with cassata flavored ice cream. Mmm...

About mid-afternoon, I stopped for the perfect afternoon cocktail. Reminder to get a bottle of Campari for the home bar. I love it, but I haven't had any around for far too long.

Finally, Mamma arrived and we went to Popi Popi for dinner. A little touristy but I was pleasantly surprised. We ordered out first of many (over the course of the trip, not the night) mezzolitro of the house red, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies, and cacio e pepe. We ordered the roman-style artichoke too but were told that they were out of season. I guess we have to come back in the spring for our next trip. Pleasantly sated, but not overly full, we dove into a deep sleep to prepare for our one full day in Rome together.

Monday, July 4, 2016

New York City-Round Three

I've been back from vacation now for a week and I'm still not totally unpacked, I have loads of laundry to do and in general need to get my life back in order. So catching up on all the details of my beautiful trip are slow but this post will mark the end of the NYC portion, then I can move on to ITALY!

On Monday, Ben wanted to see the 9/11 site and I wanted to get on a boat. So we headed to the Financial District and ended up at Ambrose for lunch. I was worried that it wouldn';t be good becasue we were in a sort of touristy area, but the blood suagr was low and I needed to eat. I was actually pleasantly surpised. We shared a Connecticut lobster roll (with butter, not mayo, mmmm) and a lobster-avocado lettuce wrap. As we left, Ben peeked into a candy store next door and I would have just passed it by but we went in. It was full of candies from my youth and lots of funny gift-type things, with my favorite being the blow up rafts that look like a slice of pizza. I want to get a bunch so I can make a pizza in my non-existent pool! I'll have to remember this place when I'm stumped for gift ideas for Ben, he loves candy and is easily entertained by things meant for children. I say that lovingly!

We decided to get a free ride on a boat by jumping on the Staten Island Ferry. I've never taken it, never been to Staten Island and I can't say that this trip I did anything more than step off the boat, just to reboard a few minutes later. But it was great to see NY from the water and you can't beat free.

My next mission was oyster happy hour. I love my Louisiana oysters but they're a particular breed. I'm a big fan of New England oysters too so I wanted to take the opportunity while I could. Most happy hours did not start until 5. If I had done my research first, I would have found a few all-day happy hours on Sunday but alas, I did not. So we found one at Bait and Hook that started at 3. The oysters were ok and they had a crappy drink selection for happy hour. But just fine and they do have $5 Mussels on Mondays. That might be worth checking out. Next I went to meet my freind Katie at the Mermaid Inn, which had a killer happy hour (didn't start until 5 though) with amazing oysters and great drinks. Oh, and Katie brought Suki from DC to surprise me. Yay! I had the pink flamingo (gin, strawberry, lemon and basil) and it was one of my favorite drinks all weekend.

Ben had one request for our NYC weekend and it was to go to Momofuku. We went right as they opened and had nor problem getting a table for 4. If we had gotten there 20 minutes later, there would have been a wait. Luckily, I'm a senior citizen and I like to eat early. We ordered the soy sauce egg, kimchi sampler, ramen, brisket bun, shiitake bun, and asparagus with smoked trout. I really liked the pickled vegetables on the kimchi sample and the shiitake bun, although there was nothing I didn't like. All of the ingredients were not listed on the asparagus dish, it was set bed on a creamy base of garlic, ramps and ricotta, which was wonderful but very different from the flavors of all the other dishes. Too full for dessert, we stopped off at Hearth for an after-dinner drink. Very skippable but happy hour and dinner were both so satisfying, and the company was unrivaled, so no one really cared.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Product Review: Siggi's Yogurt

Wow. This yogurt is amazing. Why did I not know about Icelandic-style yogurt? It's made with skim milk, which would normally turn me off, but it's so rich and creamy that I don't care. I tried the pomegranate-passionfruit flavor, how could I resist that combination? It had the tartness of both fruits but no discernible fruit bits. This surprised me, but I actually quite liked it as there was nothing to interrupt savoring the luxurious texture. I will definintely buy this again. Or maybe I'll just start experimenting with making my own! Actually, probably not. This is pretty perfect.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Product Review: Maple Hills Creamery yogurt

What nice packaging! And it's from grass-fed cows! And reasonably priced at $1.25! Nope, a sorry letdown. First, there is the flavor. I should start by saying I've had goat yogurt, sheep yogurt, unpastuerized yogurt etc. but this had an unmistakable barnyard funkiness that just didn't taste good to me. Even if I got used to that, there was the awful texture. I like very smooth and rich yogurt, this tasted a little thin and gelatinous, which is NOT synonymous with creamy. They seem like a great company and I wish I could support them, but I won't be purchasing this again.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New York City-Round Two

Ben and I were not deterred by the rain and faced the city with our umbrellas! Luckily, the rain lasted only about an hour, but the downside was that we carried umbrellas around all damn day. No matter! Lunch was at Harry and Ida's on the LES. Ben and I split their classic pastrami, the Ida, and also a sandwich with smoked chicken, fresh cheese, huitlacoche and sage. I don't know which one was better but I endorse them both enthusiastically. We wandered the LES and Ben gamely accompanied me to several stores so that I could find a jacket. I didn't anticipate being cold when I was packing! He finally threw in the towl and left me to drink a beer at the Sly Fox. I visited my second H&M in less than an hour and a Nordstrom Rack. Ugh. So many people. I fled to meet Ben for a drink, a Grey Garden, with lavender infused something or other. Forgettable. More wandering, a third H&M (score, I found the jacket in my size!), Little Italy and Chinatown. Finally, it was time for cocktails! We met my friend Monisha at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, which was equal parts scruffy dive and mid-century modern chic. I loved it. Afterwards, we had dinner at the impossibly tiny Graffiti. It was good, although I'm not sure it would make my list of not-to-miss spots. Get the paneer and the skate, skip the scallops (why do people cut scallops up in tiny pieces???) and the chicken with coconut rice. We ended the night with ice cream from somewhere nearby, a ginger ice cream that was a little too sweet on its own but a perfect foil to the sesame ice cream.

New York City-Round One

I always seem to be jetting off to far-flung locations and it's usually without my husband. I'd love it if he could join me, but his jobs is the worst and he barely gets any vacation time. Luckily, we were able to spend a gorgeous long weekend in NY together where we, naturally, ate and drank every thing in sight. We stayed with my friend Dominick, who had pizza and snacks ready for us when we arrived well past midnight. These are the kind of friends you want to keep around. He is always on the cutting edge of something food-wise and introduced us to Maangichi, a Korean cook living in NY who has tons of delightful and very detailed videos on Youtube on making all kinds of Korean specialties. Hungry for more, we headed to New Wonjo, where we had a Korean style miso soup (Ben's favorite), a seafood pancake (not memorable), a chicken soup with dates and ginseng (delicate and lovely) and the classic bibimbap (my favorite). Briefly sated, we walked to Washington Square Park to enjoy the gorgeous weather, listen to some music and do some excellent people watching. I had a hankering for a cocktail at this point so we went to the rooftop bar at Eataly. Unfortunately, 1 million other people had the same idea so it was very crowded and very hot. We continued our search for drinks in an outdoor venue when we stumbled upon Bobo, which had no outside seating but was so charming we had to stop. Now that we were properly aperitifed, we made out way to Mario Batali's flagship restaurant Babbo. I had made the reservation weeks before and we were all very excited! My thoughts overall were positive. I thought the food was of high quality, some of it very impressive (smoked scallops with fava-mascarpone mash and pasta with tomato, pecorino and mint) and some of it could be improved (the pastas weren't all that, although they were sauced spectacularly). For dessert we had the buttermilk budino, which was not at all what I expected. D and B. didn't like the apricot sauce on it (I did), but we all agreed that the sesame gelato was sublime. Service was a bit chilly but perfunctory. It was really expensive, as I anticipated, and we definitely enjoyed it, but it's crossed off of my bucket list now.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Product Review: Vega One Coconut-Almond

I don't normally go in for protein shakes but a friend of mine gave this to me. My rationale for not partaking is that I could (and probably should) be getting all of this fiber and protein and other super-filling, super-healthy and super-slimming ingredients from, yup, my actual diet! The ingredients didn't seem too egregious and I had just read a pretty good review of their products. The generous friend said she liked their other flavors, just not this one. Hmm, not a great start but let's experiment!

I mixed up a little taste with some coconut milk. Whoa. There doesn't seem to be artificial flavors in this based on the ingredients but something about the taste was overwhelmingly unnatural to me. I looked again at the ingredients and it has a little bit of Stevia in it, which seems to be a real turnoff for me. I've tasted it in other things and always really dislike it. Undaunted, I thought maybe I could mask that with chocolate (yay!) and some fruit. So after spin this morning, I used 1 scoop of powder, 1 cup of coconut milk, 2 T. cocoa powder and about 15 cherries. I still tasted that taste! So I added about 2 oz. of coffee, a few sprinkles of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of salt. This was fairly tolerable. It was on the low-carb-ish side and packed a good wallop of protein (23 grams) and fiber (12 grams). I drank this from about 7:30-8:00 am and while I could have waited until 12 for lunch, I had a little snack at 11:15. On a normal morning, I could drink this and not eat a morning snack but since I worked out, I thought it better to feed the belly.

All in all, the nutritional profile is good and the flavor is not my favorite, but ok. I'll probably use the rest of the container, but I can't see drinking this more than 1 or 2 times a week. I wouldn't purchase this with my own money though.


Today I tried this with a few strawberries, a small piece of pineapple and a scoop of Trader Joe's Supergreen. Blech. I added a little matcha powder, i still don't really like it. I find that both versions tasted better after they sat for a while, it seemed to tone down some of that unnatural taste I can't get past.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Saturday in the French Quarter

At least once a year, I like to spend a Saturday tooling around the Quarter. I usually start out by myself and meet up with friends along the way, stopping in for a bite here, a drink there. Although the FQ is relatively small, I always stumble upon something I've never seen before. This past weekend I decided I needed one of those days. I actually started the day with brunch at Compere Lapin, not really in the Quarter but pretty close. Nina Compton's new restaurant is hot, hot, hot and I have been there for dinner, but never brunch. I met three friends and we were graciously attended to by Claire. If you go to CL, ask for her! She is delightful and very knowledgeable about the menu.

Although they have mimosas and bloody Marys, typical for brunch, I wanted the Andromeda cocktail that I've had there before. It's their take on a Pisco sour, which I have a well-documented love for, plus they add green chile vodka. It never fails to please. We started with zucchini fritter and a green bean remoulade, which I thought were just fine but nothing remarkable. I wasn't super hungry so I ordered an appetizer for my entree, curried shrimp with picked mango and avocados and fried plantains. I wasn't too wow-ed by this either but I did really like the curry flavor in the shrimp. I know not all curry powders are created equal and this one was special! We had a chia pudding for dessert with toasted coconut and berries, simple but delicious. I'll have to put this in my repertoire.

Next, to the Quarter we go! We went to Sobou for happy hour. One of my friends had told me about a Barbar punch special with rhubarb bitters that sounded incredible. Sadly, I think they made the punch differently that day, it tasted like a Sweet Tart? Meh. I got a shrimp and tasso pincho, $3 for one shrimp. Double meh.

Speaking of happy hour, Tableau has a great one, so we went there next. I get the same thing every time I go; a French 75 to drink and the burrata with pesto and honey for nibbles. I could eat those all day. In colder months, I usually get the turtle soup too. My companions ordered some other things (a pork quesadilla, some yellowtail crudo), but we ended up ordering several more burrata appetizers because they are just that good.

We saw some street performers, bopped into some boutiques and caught a performance of one Ms. Valerie Sassyfras. All I can say about her is that she is one of New Orleans' most delightful delusionals, and there are many! All in all, a very good day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

New Direction

So many thoughts on the past 8 or so years of documenting my life. I'd like this space to be a forum for myself and others on a similar path. My interests are many; healthy eating and fitness sure, but also whole body wellness, reducing stress in my life, appreciating the simple things, finding the "sweet spot" between work and home, family and friends, responsibility and freedom, joy and pleasure. So this space will probably feature mostly my experiences in the kitchen, in the grocery store and pounding the pavement in my tennis shoes. I also will share my travels and talk about financial freedom. Maybe I'll even get inspired and start pursuing more creative outlets besides cooking and writing! Since it's been a while, I'll practice my chops here before I do a whole new design and launch. But all in good time...

I'm getting really excited for my upcoming trip to Italy! I will be gone for two weeks, spending some time in Rome, Positano, Naples and topping it off with cooking school in Sicily. I get to travel with my beautiful mother, with whom I've never had the to opportunity to travel solo before. Our plan is pretty loose; in Rome, I think we'll do a lot of walking, cafe sitting, gelato eating and pizza consuming. I've been to Rome before and I wasn't really into the tourist sites. Renaissance art is not my thing and I've seen enough churches to last a lifetime. I've done a lot of traveling in my time and I've found that I like to do some research ahead of time, but mostly I just like to wander and people watch while eating and drinking like a champ. In Positano, I would like to do lots of staring at the sea, I mean, look at this place!

I can't wait! Have a great weekend.