Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Pickle Pot

In certain instances I am an intensely thrifty person.  Although I have no problem paying $12 per pound for really delicious italian sausage, I have been hesitating for at least a week about paying $6 to iTunes to watch the first two Mad Men episodes from this season that I neglected to DVR originally.

I like to think that it is this sort of counterbalance that keeps me in balance, emotionally, financially, spiritually.

After I cooked a decadent meal of braised short ribs with swiss chard and mashed potatoes for friends last Sunday to celebrate the premier of Boardwalk Empire, otherwise known as the return of good Sunday night HBO TV, I was left with two bunches of swiss chard stems.  To counteract the excesses of that evening, I simply had to do something useful with the trimmings that the meal had produced.

But what to do with a stem?  Luckily the folks at Gramercy Tavern are just as loathe to throw perfectly good veggie rejects away as I am.  And T Magazine was kind enough to report on it and provide the venerated establishment's new recipe for pickled chard stems.

Just as easy as can be to make, I am now popping these vinegary batons into my mouth on an hourly basis.  Far too delicious to resist.  But why try?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Lust

I am a bit the cliched New Yorker in that I have a minor obsession with real estate.  I am one of those irritating people that visits open houses with absolutely no intent of buying...I just like to see what's inside all of the buildings that surround me.  So you can imagine my interest in Meghan Daum's latest book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House.

I do not dream constantly of the perfect apartment...I like my place most days.  But I am occasionally vulnerable to the sentiment that the title expresses, and was intrigued that an entire book had been written on it.

If anything this book is a memoir seen through the lens of the author's quest for a home, which manifests itself in frequent moves as she seeks the house that will be her ultimate dwelling.

Now perhaps I was primed to like this book, as I had just slogged my way through too many self-indulgent, chick lit-esque memoirs and just about anything would have looked good in comparison.  But I found Daum's frankness and wit utterly endearing, and her quest for a place to call her own was courageous, the fervor with which she pursued it, from New York to Nebraska to L.A. and back again, inspiring.  Dysfunctional perhaps, but inspiring nonetheless.  I liked the girl.  A lot.  And having read her story, I'm rooting for her to find what she's looking for.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Late Night Noodles

Marissa and I were in unfamiliar territory the other night...far, far west 42nd Street.  I had dragged her over there for a play, which as it turned out was not a particularly great piece of theater.  Centered around a washed up gay screenwriter, it resembled a sit-com from the early 80s.  But thankfully it only lasted for 75 minutes and Marissa had an absolutely brilliant idea for dinner afterwards which soothed the sting that the tiny theater (and its rigid seats) inflicted.

Our resident hole in the wall restaurant experts (and dear friends), Tom and Peter, had been raving about Totto Ramen for as long as they've lived in the neighborhood.  In fact they said that it even rivals, if not surpasses, the great ramen den that is Ippudo.  These were serious allegations.  We had to investigate.

Once we saw the small crowd on 52nd Street it was clear we had arrived.

photo via here

We put our names down on the list and sat down on the bench by the door, gossiping and enjoying the cool night air.  Thirty minutes flew by and presently we were being seated in the tiny shop.

photo via here

We both opted for the miso ramen and were richly rewarded for our (semi) adventurous choice.  Hearty and toothsome and just salty enough, it did wonders to banish a nascent cold I had been nursing.  

photo via here

We both agreed that on the miso ramen front Totto beat out both Ippudo and, sadly, my beloved Rai Rai Ken.  We'll have to go back and order the clear broth version to see how it fares in competition.  And the ramen competition in this town is indeed stiff...but Totto appears to be a true contender.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting Out

There was a time in the early naughts when I kept a lengthy list of restaurants and bars that I wanted to try on my desk at work.  I organized nights out with groups of friends tirelessly in an attempt to work my way through my ever expanding collection of new and delicious establishments.  But as the years passed I became increasingly jaded.  Half of the new spots that were opening reminded me too much of a million other places that I had already been, and too many were just not worth the hassle and/or the price tag.

So slowly but surely my socializing has moved from the streets of New York to the confines of my apartment. I find Sunday dinners with friends followed by the latest HBO show to be preferable to doing battle with a reservationist, and many of my regular dining companions seem to have come to a similar conclusion.  Which means that although I'm enjoying all of my homebody socializing immensely, I have virtually no clue when it comes to the latest in eating and drinking.  I need to rely on outsiders to keep me abreast.

One of my favorite former colleagues suggested a drink or two to catch up the other day, so I rattled off my usual spots in my office district (Union Square) and in her office district (downtown).  She went out of the box and suggested her new go to on the Lower East Side, Ten Bells.  She mentioned the cheap oysters and the fact that it was under a staircase (a "good design solution" she thought).  Excited to try something new and well reviewed by a trusted judge, I enthusiastically agreed.

front door, photo here

A bit of research revealed that Ten Bells is owned by the guys behind Pere Pinard, a haunt of my early 20s when I still favored the Lower East Side as a nightlife destination.  My last night there is a vague memory of a bar tender with liberal pours, far too much red wine and a far too enthusiastic party girl as my companion (an old friend of Paul's who was staying with us for a few days).  The rest is best left unsaid.  Mostly because I don't recall it.  But that aside I always enjoyed the rustic bistro and bar, so had high hopes for their new venture.

And those hopes were absolutely warranted.  I walked into a pleasantly, but not oppressively, full bar with low lighting, pressed tin walls and ceiling and gorgeous marble bars.  Faced with an impressive list of wine and of beer and gentle prices, I was happy to be settling in for a friendly catch up.  But then I had one of the $1 happy hour oysters and found myself more than happy...I was in hog heaven.  With only two choices the variety was not huge, but the quality was outstanding.  Sweet, briny and fresh as an ocean breeze, it was everything an oyster should be and more.

photo here

Well priced booze, wallet-friendly, delicious oysters, pleasant barmen, a noise level conducive to animated conversation, but not so loud as to hasten deafness...I seriously had begun to question my homebody tendencies.  If this is the kind of place I've been missing out on then I need to get out more, much more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One of a Kind

After waxing on about how thrilled I am for autumn, it is a bit ridiculous to tell you all about the fabulous custom made sandals I've just come across, but there it is, I'm more fickle than I'd like to admit. Or perhaps I'm just dreaming of the theoretical beach vacations I'll take during the depths of winter.

Either way, here's what happened. I was wandering along Fifth Avenue the other day and decided to pop into Bendel's for a quick look around. This is rather rare for me...Bendel's is fun and colorful and all, but I always feel absolutely ancient wandering around with the Chapin girls underfoot. But it was the end of summer and I figured that the young ladies would all be out in the Hamptons instead of on the accessories floor.

As is wont to happen, all of the departments had changed location since I had last been in. So in an effort to locate the cashmere sweaters I happened upon a very chic cobbler shop of sorts. Tuccia di Capri.

photo via here

These are the shoes that graced the pieds of all the beautiful people who used to vacation in Capri...Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, the types for whom a custom pair of shoes was not altogether unusual.  Now Bendel's is quite a bit less luxurious that the island of Capri, and your lunch hour is quite a bit shorter than a week's vacation, but if nothing else you can now at least mimic the footwear choices of the rich and famous.

photo via here

Pick from three different heel heights, from a myriad of straps and buckles and stand for a ten minute fitting.  Then less than an hour later you're on your way with a new pair of custom kicks!    

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Day I Got Excited for Fall

Last Friday was a significant day...it was the first day that the weather was cold enough to warrant wearing my favorite leather jacket.  That jacket always gets me fired up for autumn.  As do cool evenings spent wandering around the city.  Wandering around the city on Friday evening checking out Fashion's Night Out in my leather jacket was just too much.  Bring on the apples and pumpkins, I'm ready for fall!

I met up with Zenia right after work and our first stop was the Ace Hotel to check out the ever exciting and cutting edge Opening Ceremony's version of a french flea market.  As we approached 29th Street, Broadway became increasingly congested with the hippest of the hipsters.  We wondered if perhaps the mayhem on the street was a line to get inside or the flea market itself.

Despite the t-shirts with french sayings splayed across the front being sold from booths on the street and the abundance of gourmet food trucks, it soon became clear that the crowd was vaguely formed into a massive line to get into the store inside the hotel.  Neither of us have much patience for lines, so Zenia and I took advantage of some of the excellent food on offer.  Frog leg sandwiches in hand, we sat perched on a low windowsill taking in the scene.

Presently we started to wander south (but I will definitely be returning for one of those Deyrolle scarves), encountering massive lines everywhere we went.  Soho was particularly congested as it seemed that every new freshman at NYU had put on their Friday best and converged on the neighborhood, with the Victoria's Secret store as ground zero.

But I had a destination in mind...The Rug Company.  I've been obsessed with this establishment ever since I found out that they carry pillows and rugs emblazoned with that iconic Vivienne Westwood union jack image.  The day that I have $500 to spend on a pillow I'm heading directly to The Rug Company to pick one up.   But I was headed there not to ogle expensive pillows but rather because I'd heard that Hamish Bowles, the legendary Vogue editor, would be making an appearance.

I beat my way through the crowds, passed the newly renovated Chanel store, turned onto blessedly quiet Wooster Street and came across the party I'd been hoping for all night.

Entertainment outside,

bubbly refreshments inside,

and new items to fall in love with.

Who knew Paul Smith had such a sense of whimsy with wall hangings?  I want one.

Mr. Bowles was in fact there.  Very dapper and very gracious.

Next year I'll have to give the uptown spots a try...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

La Rentree

I have spent the entire summer complaining about the oppressive heat but now that the heat is giving way to chillier air I'm mourning the passing of the season.  I'm going to miss those warm nights, evenings hanging out on the roof and that odd day at the beach.  But I can take comfort in the fact that my last weekend of the summer was well spent.

Paul and I flew out to the land of my birth

to visit with my family and to meet my new niece.

Cute isn't she?

There were some foggy mornings

(view from my parents' front window)

(Grand Lake farmers' market, source for incredible nectarines)

but they almost always gave way to bright, sunny afternoons which were best spent outside.

There was Mexican food in the Mission,

(I highly recommend the pozole)

and the odd late night drink.

 (the new parents in the local tiki bar)

And lots and lots of time spent in my parents' back garden, lounging among the begonias and hummingbirds.  It was just as idyllic as it sounds.

And now I'm back in New York which has suddenly become intensely autumnal.  Which I love.  Or will love, rather, once I get over the shock that the change in seasons brings about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Dark Horse

I always say that I love chocolate but can't be bothered with chocolate desserts.  Chocolate on its own is so fabulous that I find that few chocolatey confections can top the deep pleasure that is an 85% Valrhona bar.  I do make a notable exception for excellent chocolate truffles, which heretofore essentially meant anything from La Maison du Chocolat and virtually nothing else.

But a few months back I discovered a La Maison competitor mere blocks from my office.  In the old Fleur de Sel space on West 20th Street, the exquisite L.A. Burdick has taken up residence.

The shop itself is charming, as are the shop girls who man the chocolate laden counter.  But most importantly, the product is stunningly good.

Their little chocolate mice and chocolate penguins are adorable, the coffee is quite good (although it still doesn't hold a candle to my beloved Stumptown, but then nobody does) and the orange hazelnut cake is tender as can be, but I have to admit that once I discovered the pave glace I pretty much abandoned all other L.A. Burdick related pursuits.

These smooth cubes of hazelnut and dark chocolate dusted with bitter cocoa are perfection.  Well, not quite.  I'm afraid I do end up with a light dusting of brown down the front of an otherwise pure white button down shirt more often than I'd like.  But it is a small price to pay.  
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