Sunday, August 30, 2009


I'm currently in the middle section of my two week vacation - the "staycation" part - where I am in New York but not going into work.  Let me tell you, it is really fun to not have to go into the office! 

Thursday morning we arrived at 5am after taking the redeye, so I ended up getting back in bed and sleeping (much to Bowen and Mom's dismay - they had to stay awake to attend sports practice and meetings, respectively).  Anyway, I woke up around 11am, glad to get a night in a bed instead of an airplane chair, and met Wright for lunch at 'wichcraft, Tom Colicchio's gourmet sandwich chain.  I'd never been before, but boy is Wright lucky to have one right in his building.  The sandwiches were delicious, and not as expensive as they were rumored to be! The "$11 grilled cheese" is actually $6, and it consists of grilled gruyere, pears, and caramelized onions on a whole grain/cranberry oat bread.  Delectable! 

I have to admit, it was pretty neat to be surrounded by corporate types and in my casual daywear.  Again, staycations rule.  I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the park by my apartment, until it was time to go pick up my CSA.  Again, pretty awesome to be able to get there right when it opens at 3:30 and get the good veggies! Watermelon, tomatoes, (more) eggplant, squash, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce this week.

Friday was raining outside so I did "home errands," as Hallie called them.  You know, laundry, tidying up, paying bills, etc.  Didn't leave the apartment until it was time to head to the Yankees game that night.  They won, don't worry! 

It was wonderful to go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.  Believe it or not, I haven't been in about a month because of various weekend trips and the overload of so many CSA vegetables.  But, since I had to throw out my entire herb garden last week due to the neverending bug issue, a trip was in order.  Despite rainy forecasts, it was a great day at the market with a ton of beautiful fruits and vegetables. 

I got a brand new collection of herbs, and this time was very careful to check each one for any sort of infestation.  All looked clear and I got basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, chives, and (new!) tarragon.  Again, I've kept them in separate containers and if I do say so myself, the garden looks fantastic.  Sort of the same as before, but without the bugs.  Oh and I also couldn't resist the sunflowers at the market.  Cheeseball. 

Anyway, it's been a great weekend topped off with family golf today and BLT Steak for Mom's birthday.  I've got two more days of staycation-ing and then will be off to Maine. 

One more thing about the California trip...

We flew on Virgin America and I would totally recommend it.  Not only was I fully absorbed into the cartoon safety video, but check out the disco party lighting!  

Yep, it stayed this way the whoooole flight. 

Friday, August 28, 2009


The central purpose of my recent trip to California was to join my brother on his college-searching tour.  While his three older siblings, myself included, attend(ed) college in the south, he has his sights elsewhere.  So we saw five schools in the LA and San Francisco areas and, well, it made me want to go back to college.  

Anyway, since I was along for the ride, we did squeeze in time for a trip to the Getty Center, which was stunning.  I guess I always just thought about it as a normal old museum, so I was really blown away when we got up there.  It was not a normal old museum!

To be honest, we barely looked at the art, skimming through the galleries in search of another balcony or outdoor area to get another look at the gardens and the building and the view.  The view! It was a perfect trip for the first day in LA, since the geography of the area is extremely confusing to us East Coasters, and this view kind of pulls it all together.  Evan was the ideal tour guide, of course!

While in San Francisco, I demanded a trip to SF MOMA, a really high quality modern art museum that we worked with a lot when I was at the Guggenheim.  I knew they had a fantastic collection, and after practically ignoring the art at the Getty, felt that a good dose of modern art would be appropriate.  I was not disappointed - the museum was beautiful and the collection rivaled some of the best, particularly their contemporary collection.  

They also had the Richard Avedon retrospective up, the same one I saw in Amsterdam in March.  This was a very welcome second visit - the exhibition is one of the best I've seen, probably the best in photography, and the disappointment that it never came to New York (this is its last stop) was, well, very disappointing. If you are in or near San Francisco, I would recommend running, not walking to this exhibition. I'd actually go ahead and recommend making a trip to San Francisco to see the exhibition, especially since the city itself is such a wonderful place to visit.  So is LA, but don't worry, the Getty isn't going anywhere, so just make sure you get there eventually! 

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Vacation

Hello readers!

I wanted to inform you that tomorrow I am officially on vacation for two weeks - thrilling, I know. Anyway, I'll throw in random pictures and bits and pieces here and there, but might not be up to my usual standard of thorough research, writing, cooking, and picture-taking.

To tell you a little bit about my exciting plans, I should preface that I was unaware that I would receive this vacation until recently, so plans are a little scattered, and I'm not going to be on some well-planned Asian adventure or 18 day cruise. Instead, to continue with my summer theme, I will be staying within the country but going bi-coastal. Tomorrow, I fly to Los Angeles for the weekend, and from there will spend a few days in San Francisco. I'll be back in New York next weekend but the following week will hit the road for a relaxing week in Maine. Needless to say, I am SO excited - especially to catch up with long lost friends in CA and to enjoy more lobster rolls in Maine!

Camera will be aboard so as I said, I'll try to continue blogging.


CSA Bounty

If last night's CSA share wasn't the best yet, it was at least the most colorful pick up I've made!

The tomatoes have come in like crazy! They are beautiful and juicy, in all shapes and sizes. I've got a cherry tomato caprese salad for lunch today: a handful of cherry tomatoes, small chunks of fresh mozzarella, some torn basil, thrown into tupperware with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper... mix up before eating for a fresh and delicious salad!

Since the larger tomatoes are right at their peak of freshness, and I'm going out to dinner tonight, I decided to just go ahead and freeze them. Tomatoes can be frozen whole - do nothing, just stick them in the freezer - and then used for sauces and soups when brought back to life. It's best to do it right when they are at their juiciest and tastiest moment, so that come January, you will have unbelievably flavorful tomato soup at your beck and call. (The texture once defrosted is a little odd, so you wouldn't want to freeze tomatoes and try to eat them on their own.)

Summer squash mix of patty pan, zucchini, and yellow. Not sure yet what these will be turned into. I spent hours last week making multiple eggplant and squash parmesans to freeze for the winter (I am in squirrel mode), so I know I will at least cross that off my list!

Can you believe the color of these peppers? I promise, it's not some weird photoshop action set that made them that beautiful, they really do look like that! I think a fresh salad will be a must for these - perhaps with the ears of corn I also got in the CSA! (Not pictured.)

I can't wait to try these fantastic beans - blanched and thrown together with a creamy lemon vinaigrette and some of those cherry tomatoes... yum!

One thing that came in last night's share that I did not photograph was a watermelon. (Don't ask about the walk home carrying all this; it was treacherous.) Since my watermelon lemonade supply was starting to run dry, I bypassed a photography session and immediately chopped it up and juiced it to make more (of course, it was so juicy and delicious that I ended up putting half right in my mouth instead of into the blender...). I also had a leftover cucumber from last week's share, so I peeled that and put it into the blender with the watermelon. Highly recommended to make the watermelon lemonade even more refreshing!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mari Vanna

Rachel and I live on almost the same street, but she leaves on the West side, and I on the East. Therefore, when we get together for drinks, we meet in the middle. Our go-to spot is Pipa, on 19th between Park and Broadway, but last week we shook things up a bit and tried the new restaurant on 20th street and Park avenue, Mari Vanna.

While the drinks were wonderful (a great Rose Sangria that was tart and tasty was at the top of our list), the decor of the restaurant was truly the highlight. You know when you catch yourself taking photos with your phone in the bathroom that this place is a winner!

We didn't end up getting anything to eat, so I can't vouch for the menu. But if you want to stop in and enjoy a creative cocktail in a beautiful setting, I'd highly recommend this place. Drinks run at a high price though, so don't plan on coming if you're aiming for multiple rounds (we made that mistake...).

This also may not be the best place to go with boys, since the decorations are so, well, feminine, but if you and the girls are itching for an intimate, relaxed, and beautiful spot to grab delicious drinks and a bit to eat, this is the place for you.

Oh and also, this is a Russian restaurant, so they have multiple homemade infused vodkas that are quite delectable. Don't be surprised to see trays of shots being brought around to tables throughout your visit.

Word on the street is that the restaurant is open as of this week. Go!

Non-bathroom photos courtesy Urban Daddy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Le Creuset on the mind...

I really want a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Maybe three, so that I can have various sizes.

I mean, I also wouldn't say no to the whole line...

People often ask me why I don't own one of their stock pots or dutch ovens, especially since I make soups and stews so often. To tell you the truth, I don't really have an answer. I guess it's just that I've never gone out and bought one. Maybe I should just splurge. But it's the kind of thing that you get as a present, or that you register for, or that your Mom hands down to you. Not really a leisurely purchase or something you pick up on your way home from work. Le Creuset is more special than that.

And so, I will wait. I'll admit, I did enter Pioneer Woman's contest for one today. Although, maybe I shouldn't have told you about it, so I'd have a better chance.

But for now, I can just dream of beautiful, perfect Le Creuset...

Images courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

Attack of the Giant Zucchini!

Remember back in July when I posted this picture and thought that my mom's foot-long zucchini was impressive? And I even went to all that length to come up with a new way to make panzanella with it? Well, that was nothing.

My mom has officially entered State Fair Contest territory with her zucchinis.

These things are monstrous! Look at the comparison with the blender! And, as you can see, it isn't just one abnormally large, this-one-was-planted-in-the-sun zucchini. There are multiple. And they have taken over her kitchen!

My mom has since gone into a zucchini bread-baking frenzy. Each zucchini gives her 4 large loaves and 4 small loaves. EIGHT LOAVES OF BREAD PER ZUCCHINI! You can imagine what her freezer looks like. And if you know her, you should definitely be watching your back door carefully because there will be multiple loaves there soon. Maybe they are already there.

The good thing is, the bread is delicious. Delicious. No, I don't have her recipe, so, no, I can't share it. To confirm the quality of her bread though, I can tell the story of when my brother decided to bring zucchini bread muffins instead of cupcakes to his class for his 6th birthday. No normal 6 year old hears zucchini and comes running, so few muffins were touched and my brother got to eat almost all of them. Tricky guy.

Yes, I had three (okay four) slices of zucchini bread for lunch today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


As you may have guessed, I had my doubts about the whole camping thing this weekend. Though I am a little bit more outdoorsy than some friends of mine, I'm definitely not the fearless, wilderness, camping type. I like being outside, but I also tend to cry when I get scared. So anyway, there was some trepidation surrounding this weekend.

Fears were doubled when Wright and I met Kate and Nick, our fellow campers, at Grand Central on Saturday morning. Wright and I each had a small handbag - him, a gym bag filled with a pair of hiking shoes and a couple of tshirts and me, a small red weekender with (gulp) white flowers on it, filled with sneakers and workout clothes. Wright also brought his cast iron pan, but we couldn't find anything to carry it in, so we threw it into one of those black Barney's Co-op tote bags that they give you at the Westchester Mall store (unrelated note: why do you only get those at that store?).

Anyway, Kate and Nick each had on a real hiker's backpack, the kind that could fit me inside of it, and were carrying their fancy chairs and everything! I looked down at my flowered bag and the (really Calvine, why would you decide to do this to yourself) Barney's bag and just about died of nervous laughter. WHAT were we getting into?!?!

To make a long story short, things went up from there. Wright and I bought a tent at Modell's in Port Chester, and Mom helped me get together various things like flashlights and bug spray. We even found my old Crazy Creek from camp! We hit major traffic on the way up to the campsite, but upon arrival, I had finally relaxed 100%. The campsite was beautiful and the weather was ideal.

We reserved a site at Mongaup Pond, a New York State Park up in the Catskills, normally about a 2 hour drive from the city, on Saturday, a 3 hour drive. As luck would have it, we snagged the last site on the water and it was stunning.

We settled in very quickly - the boys doing things like carrying and chopping wood and Kate and I doing things like chatting and relaxing. We set up the tents, opened up our preferred beverages (Beer for the boys, Mike's Hard Lemonade for Kate, Coronita for me) and breathed in the non-city air. It was beyond refreshing. Hard to believe we were only 2 hours away - it felt like a million miles!

I'll have more to tell later on this week about our adventures in cooking, bald-eagle spotting, canoeing, and bears - it was truly an eventful 24 hours!

Beat the Heat

I had a long Monday yesterday. I arrived at the office to a loud (constant) beeping coming from one of our servers. After arranging an emergency IT visit and (thankfully) getting the beeping turned off, our air conditioning broke. Really pleasant in this heat. Needless to say, I arrived home last night hot and exhausted.

Still feeling full of red meat and beer from the camping trip, I resisted the temptation to cool down with a Corona and instead mustered up the energy to make watermelon lemonade, inspired by Smitten Kitchen's recipe. It was refreshing, tasty, and oh so welcome after a long and hot day.

To make it, start with the simple syrup: one part water, one part sugar (I used 1/2 cup of each) into a saucepan and heated on the stove until the sugar dissolves. Set aside so it will cool by the time your fruit is ready.

Then, squeeze your lemons. This is a lovely activity to do in front of the TV with the air conditioner (one that works) blasting directly onto you. I used 9 lemons. Stick the lemon juice (just juice right into the pitcher) into the fridge to cool while you attack your watermelons. I used about 6 large slices of watermelons (I compared per pound prices at the store: while cheapest to purchase a whole watermelon, it wasn't that much more expensive to buy the pre-sliced, but it was even more expensive to buy the pre-cut chunks - I went with the middle ground). Just cut into chunks and throw into your blender or food processor. Put the juice through a mesh sieve/sifter as you pour it into the pitcher with the lemon juice (there will be a fair amount of pulp/seed residue).

Then, stir together the juices and add some ice cubes. Add as much simple syrup as you like, depending on how sweet you want the lemonade (I used about 1/2 the amount I made). Add cold water to thin it out a little bit and stick in the fridge. Or, if you're me, pour directly into a glass and drink as you collapse onto the floor from your exhausting Monday. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cleansing Cucumber Salad

Arriving home from camping late last night, Wright and I were exhausted. Full of smores and smelling of the woods, we needed a refreshing, easy snack almost as much as we needed a shower. Without much in the way of leftovers, and without the energy for any real cooking, I quickly pulled together a cucumber salad (with cukes leftover from the CSA) that was restorative and delicious. While not the most filling of meals, it was perfect for a quick cleansing after a weekend of cooking over an open fire.

For an individual salad, take one cucumber and slice it into bite-size pieces. Mine was rather skinny, but large ones may need to be cut in half. Toss in a small spoonful of plain yogurt, just to cover the slices. Chop up a few leaves of basil and a small amount of chives and stir in, along with the zest of 1/4 lemon. Add a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper and enjoy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On Being Outdoorsy

This weekend, I am going camping.

You heard that right, I'm going camping. I'm really more outdoorsy than you think. In fact, I'd love to vacation in any of these spots.

Though of course, they'd fall under the umbrella of "Glamping" or glamour camping. It's a new word I just learned.

And no, I'm not going glamping this weekend. I'm going camping. The last time I went camping I woke up covered in mosquito bites. We thought "sleeping under the stars" would be wonderful. We were wrong.

This time, we're taking a tent.

Images courtesy of Marie Claire Maison, Apartment Therapy, Paw's Up Resort, Go Glamour Camping, and The Panama Report

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Movie

I started thinking about the Julie and Julia movie when it was first announced, almost two years ago. I read the biography and autobiography of Julia Child. I bought the DVDs of The French Chef and giggled as I watched. I looked up Julie's blog online. I read Julie's book. I read Nora Ephron's book. The first picture I saw of Meryl Streep as Julia warmed my heart to no end. But then I saw another picture. And another. And I read few articles about this project. And some more. And some more. And some blog posts. And some more articles. And some reviews. And some blog reviews. And I was utterly overwhelmed and unenthused.

Maybe I read too many Dining Sections of newspapers, or too many food blogs, but the press for this movie has been really overwhelming hasn't it?! If I see one more blog post on it -- right. I'm writing one. I tried not to. I really did try. Because I know how annoying it is to read the same thing over and over again. But last night I went to see the movie. And I just had to.

Though many claim the movie was "half-baked" (oh you're so clever, I saw this title like 9 times) because "Meryl Streep eats young actresses for breakfast" (A.O. Scott, NYTimes, love it), I didn't think it was quite as extreme as that. Sure, Meryl Streep did kind of eat Amy Adams for breakfast. But it was okay, because I smiled just as much when Julie and her husband were on the screen as I did when Julia and her husband were. Sure, I laughed out loud a lot more in Meryl's scenes, but that's because she was playing Julia Child, who is hilarious. The movie was much funnier than I thought it would be.

At the end of the day, I felt that I could really relate to both characters. They convinced me. And the most touching (and surprising) part of the movie is that it is really about relationships. It's about Julia and Paul, Julie and Eric - couples facing the world together. They were supportive and loving, and I couldn't help but tear up every time Eric or Paul took a bite of something that Julie or Julia cooked for them - because they were so in love, and they so loved the food, and the food was so delicious because it was made with love. And no matter how frustrated Julie or Julia got while cooking, no matter how many dishes there were to do or how many potato pancakes fell on the floor, the food was delicious. They made it with love.

So that's what I have to say. Can you tell I'm a romantic sap? Enjoy the movie.

Images copyright Columbia Pictures.

A Mid-week Treat

I decided a few months ago that this summer I was going to focus on improving my (terrible) baking skills. I envisioned myself toiling away as I perfected a white cake recipe, mastered the use of yeast, and eventually would be able to throw together brownies from scratch. Well, it's August. My one feeble attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie was hardly what you'd call a success, and the dry, crumbly muffins I made in July were, well, bad.

So last night, I decided to pull it together and bake. To ensure complete success, I would use the lessons from my Summer Cakes Class and create something utterly divine. I would not substitute; I would measure properly; I would follow all directions precisely; I would bake. I would bake well!

Lofty aspirations, I know. Anyway, I decided to make David Leibovitz's Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes from his new book, A Sweet Life in Paris. They seemed easy enough. I had all of the ingredients. I was ready. I even got everything out before I started, and read through the recipe multiple times to make sure I had everything I needed.

Doesn't my station look professional? I thought so too, minus my bed in the background. Anyway, I got everything out and prepared it all, so that the baking process would be smooth, with no surprises. There's nothing worse than jumping right into a recipe and realizing that you only have half the amount of butter it asks for, and you've already made most of the batter. That sort of thing happens a lot to me.

The first thing to do was melt the chocolate. Easy enough, though I didn't have one of those clear, heat-proof bowls, so I just crossed my fingers that my bowl was heatproof. It was a little awkward sitting in the pot, but eventually, my chips turned to beautiful, thin, runny chocolate. (1/4 cup of vegetable oil is added to the chips to create that effect).

Then, the classic baking procedure: mix the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, sugar [why is sugar considered wet?!], vanilla extract, almond extract, and yogurt) in one bowl, and the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in another. I was doing really well at this point - I even whisked the dry ingredients and made a little well like I was supposed to! Slight hiccup that I forgot the salt, but I just threw it in there when I was mixing the batter all together. Oh well! Finally, stir in the melted chocolate.

And that's it! That's the batter! I couldn't believe how quick it was once I'd prepped by getting all the ingredients out first. Pour the batter into buttered muffin pans and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Want to know how exact I was following the recipe? I even paid attention to the oven thermometer to make sure it was really at 350 the whole time. (I bought the thermometer when I was planning on mastering baking this summer. Embarrassing.)

Anyway, take them out, let them cool, flip them upside down (that was my own special decision!) and dust with powdered sugar (look at me go!).

Of course, try not to think about the gigantic mess you've made. Ugh.

Instead, eat. These chocolate cakes were wonderful - rich in flavor but very light and delicate in texture. I can really see why they could be called "snack cakes" rather than real cakes - they don't really seem like a dessert, but instead, a simple treat after a long day.

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Leibovitz
Makes 12 individual cakes

7 ounces (200g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125ml) unflavored vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup (125ml) plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 cup (200g) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (180g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat the oven to 350f (180C). Lightly butter a muffin tin.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup (60ml) of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from heat.
3. In another bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup (65ml) of oil with the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and almond extracts.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple of times, then add the melted chocolate, and stir until just smooth.
5. Divide the batter into the muffin tins (about 3/4 of the way up) and bake for 25 minutes, or until they feel barely set in the middle.
6. Remove from oven and cool. Remove the cakes from the pan by turning them onto a plate or wax paper, so that they are upside-down. Dust with powdered sugar. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


If you happened to have seen a girl in an orange skirt frantically running errands and sweating profusely while eating an individual size one of theseon the Upper West Side this afternoon, that wasn't me. I was the girl frantically running errands, sweating profusely, eating one of those (and spilling it), who (much to her surprise upon returning to the gallery) had a large rip in the back of her orange skirt.


A Quiet Day

Do you ever have one of those quiet days? I'm feeling sort of mellow today, a little bit tired, a little bit warm, and moving a little bit slow. It might have to do with this heat. Summer finally came to New York yesterday. Is it okay if I say that I wasn't all that excited? The humidity was, well, humid. Invasive. Thick. Exhausting. I was getting kind of spoiled by the cool, perfectly sunny and breezy weather we've been having.

This weekend, I was down in Charleston, South Carolina. I grew up spending a lot of time down there with my family, and it is always special to be there with them, as well as with the wonderful, lifelong friends we have down there. We usually, however, go in the winter, when the warm Charleston weather is the perfect break from snowy New York.

It is August, if you didn't notice, so the heat and humidity down in Charleston this weekend was, well, twenty times worse than yesterday in New York. I felt like an Eskimo in the Amazon. Everyone around me seemed cool and collected while I struggled to breathe the humid air and settle my constant sweating. My mom was thrilled - "Oh, doesn't this feel great?!" - I stuck to the AC inside.

Beyond the humidity, however, I really had a wonderful weekend wishing Charlton well as he bravely and honorably heads into the Navy. Surrounded by wonderful friends and family, the humidity problem was easily forgotten as we celebrated.

The problem now, of course, is that maybe I celebrated too much! I am exhausted. Wonderfully, it's-August-and-it's-hot-out, exhausted.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Out West

Last weekend, I went to Idaho for a friend's wedding. We've known Becky, who is from Twin Falls, for many many years, but many of our friends (including me!) live on the east coast and hadn't been to visit her in Idaho before.

Needless to say, we were blown away.

The scenery was spectacular! Really, really stunning.

We couldn't believe Becky had never mentioned how gorgeous her hometown was! But, that's Becky - ever so modest and wonderful. Her wedding was beautiful, by the way.

Then I had to come home. It seemed so very far away.

I'm headed to Charleston, SC to continue my USA travels this evening. Have a great weekend!