Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Julia makes me cry.

OK, confession time.

I just watched the preview for Julie and Julia, and I cried. Not a lot, but enough.

The movie is based on two books. One is a book that inspired, moved and still drives me (Julia Child's My Life in France), and one is a book that made me go, eh (Julie Powell's Julie and Julia).

Nora Ephron has taken both books and adapted them into one movie. It stars two of my favorite actors (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams), and it'a story about two women (one in her 40s and one in her 30s) finding themselves in the kitchen.

And so, despite my dislike of Powell's memoir, that's still a movie I can get behind, sight unseen. Though you probably won't want to come with me, since it appears I'll be blubbering away half the time.


Kitchen Lust: If these don't motivate you to bring your own bags, I don't know what will.

I consider myself a realistic idealist, if that makes any sense. I have a few - but not too many (that's the realist part) - core principles to which I adhere with all my might, and I try to live them every single day.

One of those is living in a reasonably eco-friendly way. Being a New Yorker makes this a lot easier - haven't owned a car in eight years, don't buy bottled water (NYC's being the best tap water ever), live in a small space, use mass transit, donate old belongings to Housing Works, buy as much food locally as I possibly can, and so on.

One more thing I've started doing in the last 18 months or so is carrying re-usable shopping bags everywhere I go. I carry a combination of canvas tote bags (which fold up nice and small) and sturdy nylon shopping bags. The canvas bags are great for books, clothes, and greenmarketing (keeping your purchases slung over your shoulder makes it a lot easier to check out the next stand), and the nylon ones are perfect for toting your lunch or an all-in-one grocery run.

My favorite nylon bags are the ones by Baggu - there's just something stylin' about their shape, and they come in every color under the sun. When it comes to canvas, my favorite sources are the Etsy sellers The Craft Pantry (who made the bird tote and French produce sacks above) and Jose Pulido. (You can also find re-usable produce bags made of netting on Etsy.)

So go on, take the plunge - you'll look cool, and feel cooler. Seriously.

Photos courtesy of The Craft Pantry and The Monterey Garden Club.

Up close and personal, part one.

On Saturday, the last day of my staycation not devoted to laundry and checking work emails, Cristin and I piled into the car and headed up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a working farm (and restaurant, and cafe, and educational center) located on the old Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills.

The last time I visited, back in October, the chickens were out to pasture, and the leaves were turning. Life on the farm was quiet, everyone hunkering down for a long winter of root vegetables. On this visit, on the first warm day of spring, the farm was abuzz with energy and excitement, lettuces were blooming in the greenhouses, and...

...the lambs were arriving! Just that morning, three lambs were born on the farm, joining many of their cousins, who arrived earlier in the week. The two and three day old lambs were hanging out with the rest of the sheep, testing their limits with Stella, the giant Italian sheepdog, and generally enjoying themselves. The newborns (by which I mean, born just that morning) were asleep in the birthing pens, exhausted from the morning's efforts, while their mothers hovered protectively.

But happiest of all was this guy (furthest on the right), a full-grown sheep. The sheep snack on hay stored in a wire pen. The pen has a few head-shaped holes in it, and the sheep stick their faces through to get to the good stuff. Somehow, this one managed to get his whole self into the middle of the haystack. He stood there, no doubt warm and cozy, eyes shut, and chomping away. The hay pushed itself into his mouth - he didn't even have to reach out to grab a bite. He looked even happier than the pigs did in their shit.

Visiting the lambs was fun, and they are completely huggable. They're soft and cuddly and goofy and funny. None of which makes them any less delicious. Now, I know - I'm ruining a perfectly adorable post by bringing up the fact that the majority of these lambs are being raised for one reason: food.

But it's visits like this - where I get to see the process from the start, where I see how well cared-for these animals are - that reinforce my decision to eat ethically-raised meat. The idea mass-produced chicken makes me squirm with nausea, but the idea of a meal raised at Stone Barns? That I can do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Queenie's Take: Drinking your way through Napa.

Welcome to second edition of Queenie's Take! This week, we're talking travel!

Hall (no stranger to first-class travel experiences) is headed to Napa for a vacation in June, and is looking for some off-the-beaten-path spots to visit. He's been to Napa before, and he's done most of my favorites - Schramsberg, Far Niente, and so on. This time, he wants to try something new. And so I racked my brain, consulted my tweeps, and got down to business.

The question is where to go next? Any 'cult' vineyards that are worth seeing? Any over-the-top oenological experiences there that are hiding under my nose? Or, is there something else that is a must do? - Hall, Christchurch, New Zealand

After rigorous research and vetting (read: visiting a couple of these myself and asking some trusted friends), I think I have some ideas for you, Hall. First up, Frank Family Vineyards. I'm not really sure that Frank Family qualifies as a hidden treasure, since so many people mention them to me, but I love them all the same. Tucked away on a dusty side road just south of Calistoga, Frank Family produces delicious wines (I am particularly fond of their sparkling wines and their cabernet). They also have one of the livelier tasting rooms I've visited, with a casual, easy-going atmosphere.

Next, Reynolds Family. (Apparently, I have a thing for families.) I visited Reynolds Family with - appropriately enough - my mother, when we went to Napa in 2007. Our friends Rick and Aimee had alerted us to the awesomeness to be found at Reynolds, and they were right. The staff were some of the most knowledgable I've encountered in Napa, and the thirty-minute tasting was pure fun. They specialize in reds, and I actually have a bottle of their cabernet that needs drinkin'. Hmmm...

If you are hankering for a twisty drive, impressive views, and a gorgeous tasting room, head for Pride Mountain, which straddles the borders of Sonoma and Napa counties (and has the taxation headaches to prove it, it seems). Perched at the peak of the hill, the tasting room has expansive views of the valleys below, and the wines ain't bad, either. Just remember to designate a driver for the trek back down. (Safety first, kids!)

My friends Caroline and Brian are the ultimate Napa experts, so I trust their every word. They both (separately, so I REALLY trust it) recomment Vincent Arroyo, where the wine is so good that you really buy futures, as opposed to bottles. It sells out before it's out of the barrels. Seriously. And Brian says that August Brigg's Dijon Clones Pinot Noir is the best thing he tasted on his last trip.

So, Hall - I hope that'll do ya good for this trip. Don't forget to stop in at Bouchon Bakery for a caramel macaron, and you're golden.

As for the rest of you - please chime in with your favorite Napa and Sonoma destinations, and, also, with any questions you'd like to see me take on in a future edition of Queenie's Take!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Even better than hair of the dog.

Those who follow me on Twitter may recall that I had cocktails at Ouest on Thursday night, and that they were, well, HUGE. Now, I love a good cocktail, and, occasionally, I love a big cocktail - though it's probably best for me to avoid the latter when I've not had dinner.

I was surprised by how affected I was by the two Manhattans - so surprised that I stayed up till 1:30, amused by the fact that I was, to put it frankly, still tipsy. Needless to say, when I woke up on Friday, I was a bit out of sorts.

The solution? A homemade version of every lush's best friend: the fried egg sandwich.

I toasted a crumpet and spread it with a bit of Wednesday's homemade mayonnaise. Then, I fried up a couple of slices of slab bacon. I topped those off with a fried Knoll Crest egg (sunny side up, thanks), sprinkled some chives over the whole bit, and plopped down to enjoy it all with an ice cold Diet Coke.

It cured what ailed me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday in the park with Queenie.

No visit to (or staycation in) New York would be complete without a visit to Central Park! On Friday afternoon, after a lunch of steak tartare at the soon-to-close La Goulue (where the steak tartare isn't bad, but pales in comparison to the delectable version to be had at Camille), I wandered into Central Park just north of the zoo.

About halfway across the park, just past the Bandshell, I plopped down on an empty, sun-soaked bench, cracked open a book (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, my newborn book club's first selection), and passed the next three hours in a haze of contented happiness.

I ask you, though - is this Central Park, or an enchanted forest? The tangle of elm and oak trees had me mesmerized.

Once I'd been thoroughly lazy for long enough, I walked home up Madison Avenue, where I admired the ridiculously blue skies and piece of gorgeous couture in the Vera Wang window. All in all, a nice way to finish a lazy afternoon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fill 'er up!

It's no secret to anyone, least of all to my loyal readers, that I am a caffeine addict. Over the years, we've enjoyed many a caffeinated treat together, including coffee in Paris, hot chocolate in Prague, and Diet Coke on hungover New York mornings.

My latest caffeine-laced obsession is Joe The Art of Coffee. I'd visited Joe on Waverly a couple of times before, but obviously the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village trip is not always the most convenient trek for a cup of coffee. And so, I was pretty damn psyched when I heard that Joe was opening a new branch on Columbus Avenue, between 84th and 85th - just a crosstown bus ride away, and open in time for Staycation 2009.

On Wednesday afternoon, after my visit to Pearl Oyster Bar, I hopped on the C train from West 4th and headed uptown. The day, which had been hopelessly gray and dreary when I scrambled down the subway stairs, seemed noticeably brighter when I emerged at the corner of 86th and Central Park West.

It became brighter still when I spotted Joe - and, more importantly, a free table. I snagged the table, claiming it for my laptop, and walked up to the counter to order my first drink - a cappuccino, to stay. The barista punched a fresh frequent drinker card and got to work. Every single drink at Joe is made fresh, and every single one is a labor of love.

My cappuccino arrived complete with milk art (a heart, aw), and I retreated to my spot by the window to enjoy it properly. And what a cappuccino it was. The milk was silky and smooth, with a fine mousse (as opposed to the fluffier milk you get at, ahem, inferior coffee shops) and a nutty, toasty flavor. And the espresso - my god. Round and full in the mouth, smoky and sweet, almost like a good bourbon.

Next up, a cafe au lait, my breakfast beverage of choice. Made with Joe's house drip, this was less potent than the cappuccino, a bit gentler all around. That said, it went down just as easily and was just as delicious - just not quite as grand.

I ended up spending three hours at Joe that afternoon - and two hourse the next. The staff are happy to let you chill and hang as long as you like - though there isn't free WiFi provided by the house, which is pretty much the only even close to bad thing I can think of to say about it. So get your uptown bums over there now, ok? OK.

Oh, and - for you out-of-towners? Joe offers their beans for sale online!

Joe The Art of Coffee
514 Columbus Avenue
Between 84th and 85th Streets

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vote for me!

Well, dear readers, when it rains, it apparently pours!

I entered my apartment in Apartment Therapy's annual Small Cool contest, and it's been posted for voting! This is just the first round - if I get enough "Thumbs Up" votes this time around, I will then proceed to the final round.

So, pretty please - click through to my entry and click the "Thumbs Up" button as soon as possible. My entry is only eligible for voting till Sunday afternoon, so don't dilly-dally!

And many, many thanks in advance. You guys are the best!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Queenie's Take: In the beginning...

One of my absolute favorite things to read is the Dear Prudence column over at Slate. Every week, Prudie (really Emily Yoffe, a Slate staff writer) takes on questions of etiquette and interpersonal relationships, always with a healthy dose of humor - and horror, when appropriate.

It was while reading Prudie a couple of weeks ago that it hit me - ever since I started blogging as Queenie, I've gotten tons of emails (and phone calls - you know who you are) asking for advice about where to eat, how to entertain, and what to cook. I (try to) answer each question, but I don't share the advice terribly widely.

And, so, I'm very excited to announce "Queenie's Take," a new weekly feature here at Queenie Takes Manhattan! Each Thursday, I'll be taking on a question or three with wit and verve. Now, while I definitely have opinions about relationships, romantic and otherwise, I'll be keeping the official Queenie advice to questions about cooking & baking, entertaining, culinary history, travel, and dining out.

This week, in the spirit of things just starting, I'll be answering questions about jump-starting your kitchen and cookbook library.

And, if you have a question you'd like to see answered in a future "Queenie's Take," just leave it in the comments!

What are the first five cookbooks any beginning cook should buy, and why? - Louisa, Sandusky, OH

Obviously, there's an element of personal taste involved here. For instance, my great culinary loves are French and Italian foods, with a big emphasis on vegetables and pastry. But you might want to cook mainly Vietnamese food or have a thing for traditional English pub grub. So, what I'm going to do is recommend investing in three robust classics, and tell you about two of my favorite add-ons, books that speak directly to my own sensibilities.

1. The Gourmet Cookbook, Ruth Reichl
Setting my Ruth Reichl fascination aside for a moment, this is still a remarkably wonderful cookbook. It's huge (1,056 pages, 1,000+ recipes), but well-indexed and easy to use. The recipes are detailed but straightforward, and the dishes range in difficulty from very, very simple to fairly complex. It's decidedly American in its eclecticism - there are recipes for French classics like bouillabaisse, Spanish ones like paella, and even one for pad thai. More importantly, the book seeks to educate you about the origins of its recipes and techniques. Following in the steps of the great Julia Child, Ruth Reichl knows that cooking is not just about blindly following a recipe, but about understanding why you're doing what you're doing. Which brings us to...

2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child
It's hard to overestimate the impact Julia Child and her fellow authors had on the American palate. Though she's certainly not solely responsible (Alice Waters comes to mind here), Julia is a huge part of the reason why we eat so many fresh vegetables with delicious, light vinaigrettes; why we make apple pies with fresh apples and homemade crusts; why we once again have chicken that tastes like chicken. Her cooking show and cookbooks exploded the mid-century obsession with factory-based cooking, and are as relevant today as they were forty years ago. Julia will teach you how to roast a chicken, how to make a salad, how to turn a vegetable - and then how to gradually build on top of those basic skills. Along with her husband Paul's impeccable line drawings, her words will teach you more than I can possibly explain. And, lest you be one of those people out there who still believe that French food = fussy, Julia will set you straight, once and for all.

3. The Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer
The veritable Bible of American cooking. Where Gourmet is a decidedly modern take on the American canon, Rombauer's book retains the flavor of pre-Julia America, with fantastic, easy recipes for classics like brownies, pancakes, and casseroles. The merits of the latest edition, re-worked for a more contemporary cook in celebration of the original's 75th anniversary, have been hotly debated. For my money, the original is still the best, in all its 1930s frugal practicality.

4. Barefoot in Paris, Ina Garten -and- 5. Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, Lidia Bastianich
Ina's French cookbook simply can't be beat for foolproof, delicious bistro classics. Her gougeres? Simple as can be to make, incredibly impressive when served. The brownie tart makes grown men swoon, and there's little that makes me happier than her creme brulee. She takes the straightest, easiest route to delicious, entertaining-friendly French food, which is pretty miuch my favorite thing to cook, ever. And Lidia! If she isn't the Nonna we all wish we had teaching us to cook, I don't know who is. Like Ina, her food is simple to prepare, but tastes anything but, and is meant to serve a crowd.

What cookbooks would you guys recommend?

What do you consider essential food items/ingredients (spices, etc.) to keep in your kitchen such that you don't have to buy every single ingredient when preparing a particular recipe? - Richard, New York, NY

Like the cookbook question, this depends largely on the kinds of food you like to prepare. I recently unearthed a bottle of chili powder that's survived eight years and three moves without being opened, but you might be someone who'd use it all the time. However, here's a list of things I try to never be without:

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper: Kosher salt is easier to handle with your hands, and is the salt most often used by cookbook authors and recipe testers. So use it, wouldja? As for pepper - those blends of red, green and black peppercorns are pretty, but the clear, true flavor of black pepper is what you want for cooking.

Butter & canola oil: Unsalted butter, please - you can always add salt to taste, but you can't take it out. Canola oil is more versatile than olive oil - neutral in flavor and with a high smoking point, it can be used for cooking or for salad dressings.

Flour & sugar: Even if you're not a big baker, you'll want to have at least a small box of flour on hand for thickening sauces and soups. Sugar, well, duh!

Tomato paste & Dijon mustard: Both are great secret weapons for creating deep flavor with very little effort, and the mustard is essential for vinaigrettes, too.

Eggs: An absolute must for bakers, these are also great for creating quick, easy dinners (omelets, fritattas, and so on).

Garlic & shallots: Garlic is God's gift to mankind; shallots are more versatile and less acidic than onions.

Sherry & champagne vinegars: Between these two, you can make a huge variety of salad dressings, mayonnaises, and so on - and also add a teaspoon or two to sauces for a bit of contrast.

Baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla extract: These are really for those who plan to bake. Vanilla pops up in pretty much every baked good known to man, so invest in some good stuff. Baking soda and baking powder ARE different, so buy both. They cost about a buck apiece, so you can splurge here.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out that you consider essential?

By the way, a HUGE thank you to all the friends who sent me questions for the first edition of "Queenie's Take." If I didn't answer you this week, have no fear - your question will be included in a future edition!

Sooooooo worth it.

Yesterday started off gloomy, with spitting, noncommittal rain and low, gray clouds. Suitably depressed, I spent the morning catching up on emails, checking in with my tweeps, and charging up my laptop. I trudged out the door at about noon and took the (oddly crowded with children) bus across town, and then the C train down to the West Village.

My destination? Pearl Oyster Bar, the legendary (and legendarily tiny - at least before its recent expansion into space next door) seafood restaurant on Cornelia Street. I'd been hearing tell of Pearl's obscenely delicious lobster roll for years now, but the accompanying descriptions of ridiculously long lines pretty much killed my curiosity.

I figured, though, that a weekday afternoon was probably a pretty good time to avoid the crowds and decided to give it a shot. I was right! When I walked into the restaurant, it was about half-full, and since I was alone, the bartender invited me to sit at any of the open bar stools. I hopped up to a spot right in the middle, pulled out my book, and ordered a glass of Pinot Blanc and a lobster roll.

The lobster roll arrived about five minutes later, accompanied by piping hot shoestring fries. Huge chunks of lobster tossed with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice graced a freshly-toasted (and buttered) brioche hot dog bun. Topped with a shower of chives, it was pretty much one of the best things I've ever tasted. I can't explain it - I think it must be either something in the lobsters' cooking liquid or some kind of alchemy, but this salad was just...insane.

I doused the fries with malt vinegar and dug in. I thought the ridiculous deliciousness would wear off as I made my way through the roll, but I was wrong - the very last bite was just as good as the very first. Possibly more so, since it involved the buttered bun.

Now, I'm a New Englander. I have my loyalties, and I am of course of the mind that seafood - particularly lobster and, say, fried clams - are best enjoyed as close to the ocean as possible, preferably at a picnic table within spraying distance of the waves. However. I am not exaggerating when I say this was, without a doubt, the best lobster roll of my life.

I finished the meal off with two mugs of coffee and a few more pages of my book, reluctant to leave the calming rythms of the semi-open kitchen and gentle hum of conversation at the bar. Eventually, though, I packed up my things and headed back out into the gray New York afternoon - which, I have to admit, seemed a whole lot brighter.

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
Between Bleecker and West 4th
212-621-8211 (No Reservations)

What do ramps taste like?

Morwena asked this question today, and it's a fair one - chances are, if you don't live in the northeastern U.S. or eastern Canada, you've never tasted a ramp.

So, here's my answer: to me, ramps taste like spring onions crossed with garlic, with a slightly meaty flavor thrown in for good measure.

Do you guys agree?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cucumbers + chicken = heaven.

On Monday morning, I had a work call at 9:30 (that's right, I'm very dedicated). After that, though, it was staycation all the way.

Since my mom was staying with me, and had meetings of her own all morning (over the phone, natch), I decided to vacate the premises as best I could. I took the opportunity to hit the market for some chicken, cucumbers and bacon (the better to fuel up for my staycation, of course).

On Tuesday morning, I seasoned said chicken with salt, pepper, and thyme (from my windowsill - it's so nice to have access to fresh herbs at a moment's notice again) and roasted it. It's well-documented on this blog how much I like to have cold chicken lying around at all times. In this case, though, I will admit I had a plan in mind for at least some of the meat.

While the chicken cooled, I set out some vinegar, oil, mustard and an egg yolk on the counter. Once they'd reached room temperature, I whisked the yolk, mustard and vinegar together, adding a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. As I whisked, I drizzled in the oil - drop by drop at first, then in a thin stream, until the egg yolk had taken on all the oil and had become...mayonnaise.

Honestly, if there's a pleasure more basic or delicious than homemade mayonnaise folded with warm chicken, cucumber, chopped shallots, and finished with some chervil and chives, I don't know it. I truly don't.

Queenie's Chicken Salad

Breast of one roasted chicken, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 Kirby cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tbs. chervil, finely chopped
1 tbs. chives, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbs. homemade mayonnaise
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the chicken, shallot, cucumber, chervil and half the chives in a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise a bit at a time, folding the ingredients into the sauce, until your salad has the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the remaining chives, and eat as soon as humanly possible.

Serves one, generously.

If you can't find chervil, substitute a teaspoon of flat-leaf parsley.
If you don't want to make homemade mayo, substitute two tablespoons of commercial mayonnaise mixed with one teaspoon of sherry vinegar.


Saturday was the first day of my staycation, and I decided to get things off to a fitting and proper start with a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket. It was absolutely pouring - and before 9 AM - so the market was fairly empty.

This is a good thing for two reasons: first, for someone who absolutely loves living in Manhattan, I get a little ticked off in large crowds (particularly when I'm trying to get my grocery shopping done and the other people are just oohing and aahing at the wares). Second, it boded well for me getting my paws on some ramps.

Sure enough, I succeeded! I heard whispers running through the crowd from the second I crossed 14th Street - people asking the various vendors if they had any ramps, and the farmers shaking their heads and pointing toward the west side of the park.

And there, just north of the subway entrance on Union Square West, were ramps. Piles and piles of them. A bit small and short, but ramps nonetheless. I reached in, grabbed five bunches, forked over $12.50, and sped off to get some fresh Knoll Crest pasta.

When I got home, I put away the day's purchases (spring onions, chives, the ramps, duck legs, tulips) and sped off to do the rest of my errands. When my friend Ellie called to let me know she wouldn't be coming into the city to meet up, I knew what I had to do.

I cleaned a few of the ramps, in all their stinky goodness, and made my favorite (well, one of the top two) "welcome, spring!" recipes - ramps with bacon, fettucine, and an egg.

And even though it was a rainy, cold day, I knew spring was on its way. Proof? It's supposed to be 65 and sunny tomorrow. Finally!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Branching out.

I'm not really terribly gifted when it comes to gardening - but I don't kill everything I touch, either. Over the last couple of years, I've become braver and bolder when it comes to choosing and growing my herbs, and this year will, I think, be the best year yet!

Last week, I visited the Greenmarket with my friend Cristin to pick out my herbs for the year, and this morning I re-potted them - now all that's left to do is water and spritz them regularly, and make sure that they get plenty of that New York sunlight.

I branched a little out of my usual thyme-basil-sage trinity this year, adding some lemon basil, lemon thyme (which smells absolutely insane) and chervil (which I can never, ever find at the grocery store) to the mix.

Wish me luck!
From left to right, we have sage, sweet basil, lemon basil, chervil, thyme, lemon thyme.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why - thank you, sir.

A woman who drinks Manhattans, especially a younger woman, is someone to be reckoned with.

Should you see a cocktail glass of clear amber before a lady, it is a good indication that her sense of self is centered on her humanity, not her femininity...

A woman who drinks so bold a drink as a Manhattan is not a chick. Like the Manhattan itself, she is true to herself, not the whims of her surroundings.

- Doug Winship, The Pegu Blog

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Renewing my vows.

I looked at the calendar today and realized something pretty damn exciting: I have all of next week off from work! I carried over four weeks of vacation from 2008, which means I have a total of nine weeks for 2009. I'll never be able to get through all of it (and, yes, I know, I am wicked spoiled by the vacation policy of my current employer), but I have to use those four weeks or I'll lose them forever!

And, so, back in January, I decided to kick things off with a week-long staycation here in New York. I have some travel planned for later this year (Ohio, Napa and possibly France), but this week will be totally and completely about spending time with my city.

One of the craziest things about New Yorkers is that we tend to spend so much time working our butts off (we have to, if we want to afford the rents) that we rarely take time to pause and explore our city. I can't remember the last time I just wandered around the Village, browsing through shops, or struck out on an exploration of a new neighborhood in Brooklyn, or spent hours wandering the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Next week, I will spend my time doing the kinds of things I moved here to do - and I'd love to hear if you have any ideas for me to try! Here's a few things that are already on the list...

- Tickets to 9 to 5 for Tuesday night - Allison Janney FTW!
- Banh Mi sandwich
- Dinner or lunch at Marlow & Sons
- Shopping for furniture/house stuff in Williamsburg
- Lots and lots of Greenmarket-based cooking
- Lunch and shopping in Chinatown
- An outing to Stone Barns
- Lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar

What am I missing, people? What do you want to see? Let me know!

Cocktails for a rainy Wednesday.

When Pegu Club opened on Houston Street in 2005, New York's cocktail renaissance was in its prime. Milk & Honey and Flatiron Lounge had been slinging classic, perfectly crafted concoctions for a few years already, Little Branch opened that same year, and hot on Pegu's heels came Death & Company, followed by PDT.

Almost four years into its young life, Pegu has two personalities - sedate, sophisticated cocktail lounge, and obnxiously loud SoHo hotspot. The former is in effect on weeknights and early on the weekends, while the latter is on impenetrable display on Friday and Saturday evenings.

If you go on a weeknight, though, the emphasis is still on the cocktails, which are as good as ever.

Last Wednesday, after battling the rain and in the delightfully, intellectually bawdy company of Louisa and Deidre, I enjoyed a few of Pegu's creations - one was an old favorite, and two were new (to me, at least). First up, a Fleur de Paradis: gin, Champagne, St. Germain (an elderflower liquer) and lemon juice. To. Die. For. The gin and champagne nicely balanced out the sweet, floral St. Germain, and the lemon juice kept things nice and tart. Plus, it was garnished with pansies!

Next up was a delicious take on my go-to, the Manhattan. This version is called the Little Italy, and features the traditional rye and sweet vermouth, but adds a dash of Cynar, an artichoke-flavored liqueur (which lends some savory complexity). Served up with two delightfully boozy cherries, it's a Manhattan for people who find Manhattans a bit too sweet.

Finally, to finish things off, I went for a Zelda, named for Zelda Fitzgerald, and appropriately tart and tangy. Gin, muddled cherries (which lent an opaque, pink color) and lemon - heaven on earth, and a nice contrast to the rich bitterness of the Little Italy. Don't let the girly color fool you - this drink is all woman.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Small space love.

So, it's been kind of an exciting few days for me. My apartment has been featured on a couple of design blogs, and since I'm a bit of an interior design nerd, that makes me very, very happy.

The lovely and amazing Ana has posted a full-on house tour on her blog, Rearranged Design. Given some of the ridiculously beautiful interiors she's featured in the past (click here for a full set of her house tours), I am very flattered that she asked me to share my home with her readers.

Additionally, as part of their small space month, Apartment Therapy posted about my use of a large bookshelf as a room divider in my teeny tiny (350 square feet, people!) studio.

Finally, if you haven't gotten enough, you can go check out my entire apartment (including the family photo-bedecked bathroom and tons of kitchen shots) on Flickr.

Hopefully, these photos will convince all the doubters, once and for all, that you really can entertain in any space. I have dinner parties for up to six people in this apartment - and if I can do it, so can you. Seriously!

By the way, most of these photos were taken by the incredibly talented Miya Hirabayashi, my friend and fellow design nerd. Miya is a great artist in her own right - check out her blog to see some of her amazing graphic design work. She rocks, doesn't she?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Desperately seeking spring.

This morning, looking through my files for the photos of the ramps stand, I found a whole bunch of meals I made last spring, when the Greenmarket was in full swing and onions, eggs and herbs were spilling out of my shopping bags.

It's been a while since I felt seized by the urge to cook (as opposed to cooking for a purpose or reason, such as - you know - feeding myself), but I can feel it coming back now. I can't wait to make some of these recipes, and try out some new ones, too.

Ramps are here. Related: all is right with the world.

It's official - spring is here! The first ramps of the season (well, the first ones that didn't head right for the restaurants) are here! Chances are they're already sold out, but if I have any luck when I visit the market this afternoon, I'll let you know!

Via Lucy's Greenmarket Report.
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