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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hamptons, Take Two

It was my second time to enjoy Nate and Neil's lovely new home in the Hamptons. Once again, we headed out late Thursday evening (they wait until 8 when the traffic clears). We made great time and arrived in just under two hours.

On Friday, Nate and I both worked remotely while Neil continued to restore his computer. His hard drive crashed last week after a full day of grading his students' papers.

Neil and I went to a gourmet market, the regular grocery store and a farm stand to get provisions for dinner: grilled pork chops, grilled corn, grilled squash and zucchini, and tomato pie. I used this Tomato and Cheddar Pie recipe as my inspiration, but I nixed the homemade crust and just used a regular deep dish frozen crust. I went ahead and made two pies in case we wanted seconds...the pork chops were too big and delicious for that, but we did enjoy the second pie for brunch the next morning.
We probably should have checked the forecast before we decided on such a grill-heavy menu, but the showers mostly lifted for our grillmaster.
It was around 8:30 when Angelina and Caroline arrived from D.C. After a quick tour and a glass of wine, they pitched in to shuck corn...
After three weeks of grilling chicken, Nate was ready for a new challenge. He knocked it out of the park! I have blogged before about these pork chops...they remain one of my favorite things. Search for "pork chop willy's grilling rub" on epicurious.
It was a really tasty dinner! All of the flavors really paired together well, and we washed it all down with several bottles of rose from the nearby Wolffer Estate winery. 

We had a lazy Saturday morning, so the stash of bagels Nate had purchased on Friday was perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better pool day. When I went in around 2:30 to reapply sunblock, I decided we could use a mid-afternoon snack (plus we needed to make the most of the rest of the $16.50 worth of tomatoes we'd purchased at the farm stand...yowzers, pretty sure that price ($3/pound) would curl my tomato-farming father's hair!)

I threw together a panzanella salad -- chopped tomatoes, basil, corn and green onion, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and the rest of the parmesan, just for kicks.
I crushed a few garlic cloves and put them in a large bowl with olive oil, then tossed some bagel cubes in the garlic oil and toasted them.
So good!! Definitely best eaten want the bread to get a little bit soft, but not soggy. After a while, we showered and took the girls for a ride, with a stop at the beach around sunset.
Dinner was at an Italian spot in East Hampton, Citta Nuova. Nate and Neil love their spaghetti and meatballs; I had oricchete with sausage, broccoli rabe and a cream sauce. Once we got back to the house, I heated up the oven and made some broiled peaches with ice cream.
Lunch today was at LT Burger in Sag Harbor. I loved getting to see a bit of that town and cannot wait to return for more.
The girls needed to hit the road, but we stopped at Wolffer Estate so they could take a few bottles of rose back to D.C.
What a wonderful, wonderful weekend! Thanks again, boys.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mid-Week Treats

A few diversions from this week...

I have discovered the yummiest food truck on my way into work. This could be dangerous! I need to make note of the name next time I stop, but it's usually on 50th Street just before I cross over 6th Avenue at Radio City Music Hall. I stopped and treated myself to an iced coffee and a carrot cake muffin on Tuesday morning.
When I got to my desk and opened the bag, I realized it was WARM! Heaven!! I realize it is pretty dorky to take a photo of a muffin at your desk, but this was such a happy food moment, I wanted to preserve it.

That evening after work, I headed to the Union Square area to look for a book at the Strand on Broadway.   En route, I was stopped by a witty, high-energy salesman pedaling a package of salon services worth (supposedly) $400. It was a deal I'd seen on Groupon earlier in the week for $70, and I told him I wasn't interested. He wouldn't take no for an answer and asked what I'd be willing to pay. He took my offer of $35. Even if I just use the haircut, I figured it was worth the gamble. He threw in two "free" tickets to a comedy show (2 drink minimum). I'm curious to see what happens when I call the salon to schedule my appointment, but I found the whole thing amusing. When I polled my friends about hairdressers, $125 seemed to be the going rate, and I simply refuse to pay that much.

Next I stopped in at a fast food joint (Pita Joe's, I think?) advertising a $4.99 falafel pita and drink special. What a deal! It was delicious too.

My final stop was a gelato place called Amorino. When it opened in May, my friend Julia in Dallas read about it online and told me I had to go. She insisted it was the best gelato she had in Italy. Their trademark is that they make a sort of flower petal-shaped cone that lets you taste as many flavors as you'd like. I stuck to three: salted caramel, Nutella and pistachio. Nutella was definitely my fave. I found it humorous that my dessert cost approximately the same thing as my dinner.
The cute girl who waited on me let me take her picture with my cone.
After that, I strolled home along 10th street and realized I'd never walked that way before, so I took a photo to capture the moment.
Back at the ranch, Kurt was watching TV. I peeked out the kitchen window and noticed that our neighbor was using his rooftop shower. I thought you'd all find this amusing (nothing visible from the waist down), so I tried to snap a photo. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn off the flash, so the next thing I knew, he was out of the shower with his towel around his waist, peering toward at our window. Oops! Busted! I hid in the kitchen and giggled like I was a middle school girl who'd just gotten caught making prank calls.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Martha's Vineyard: Convention Crashers

Leigh Ann was a speaker at a housing conference on Martha's Vineyard, so sweet sister decided to let her relatives come along for the ride. She and Mom got there on Tuesday, and I arrived on Thursday. This was the view from the front porch of our lovely hotel, the Harbor View.

We walked around Oak Bluffs, and although we loved the gingerbread cottages, we thought the waterfront area was a bit reminiscent of, um, Carrabelle, Florida. Nevertheless, despite the men in tank tops, we had a tasty dinner and a nice view at Nancy's.
I was thrilled to see they had fattoush salad on the may remember my addiction to this in Lebanon. It was excellent!
Mom had the Greek salad with shrimp, and I had the stuffed seen before:
And after. Leigh Ann became exasperated with my inept cracking skills and took over for me. The grown-up equivalent of having your mom cut up your meat! Thanks, Sissie.
I can still taste now how delicious it was. Leigh Ann had a lobster roll, which she also really enjoyed.
Next up was dessert at Back Door Donuts, which Leigh Ann read about in the New York Times. It's a bakery that sells donuts starting at 7 p.m., but only out the back door. Literally -- you line up in the parking lot. For $1 each, these donuts were not only delicious, they were a bargain! I do believe this is the Yankee equivalent of a warm Krispy Kreme. (If you go, try the apple fritters...I read ex post facto they're the best. Then again, my buttermilk cake donut was pretty hard to beat.) Mom and LA both went for the Boston creme. I can't remember why Mom was holding Leigh Ann's, but I assure you she wasn't double-fisting!
Leigh Ann had some meetings to attend on Friday morning, so Mom and I walked to Among the Flowers in Edgartown. Mom and LA had actually eaten there the day before, and those of you who know my mom know that she never eats at the same place twice when she's out of town. So, the fact she was willing to return said a lot! It was reasonably priced, with a view of the harbor.
We split a salmon bagel; a bowl of fruit, granola and yogurt; and a toasted, grilled cranberry muffin. It was a perfect brunch for a warm day...I think there may be a lot more fruit and granola to accompany the rest of the summer.

Friday night was a real adventure. Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven has a Friday night lobster roll sale, and their rolls are considered among the best on the Vineyard. Lobster for Jesus? We were in!

Unfortunately, this trek involved a long bus ride, followed by a long stroll through Vineyard Haven (a dry town -- is this the Massachusetts Bible belt??) to the church. (Oh, and Leigh Ann got us off to a great start by insisting we speed walk in the 90 degree heat to catch the 5:15 bus. We were just in time to see it pull out!) We were all pretty sweaty and cranky by the time we got there. At the risk of TMI, I cannot stop myself from telling you my stick-on bra was coming off because I was so sweaty!  
I think that picture pretty well captures it.
I will give the church ladies SNAPS for the generous serving of lobster...for $15, I am pretty sure there was at least twice as much meat on that roll as there was on the one I had at Luke's in Manhattan a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, they lost points for not toasting the bun.

Upon returning to Edgartown, Leigh Ann and I needed a pit stop to return to good spirits! We all agreed we had enjoyed our last bus ride on the Vineyard.
Saturday we were determined to get Leigh Ann the lobster mac and cheese she'd been jonesing for all weekend. The Atlantic Grill didn't open until 12, so Mom and I had an iced coffee on the sidewalk while Leigh Ann shopped. (I'm just putting this photo in here so you can see my cute Madras skirt!)
LA and I both liked the mac and cheese. Mom was not a big fan of the truffle oil. I had a very tasty oyster po' boy.
Dinner on Saturday night was stellar. We went to Atria (via taxi, mind you!). I started with the watermelon and arugula salad with feta, crispy prosciutto, pine nuts, basil oil and vintage balsamic. I will definitely attempt to recreate this one!
Leigh Ann had the island greens with blueberries, gorgonzola and toasted hazelnuts, with shaved red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. For her entree, she had the grilled swordfish with dill whipped potatoes, crispy capers, watercress, shaved onions and preserved lemon.
Mom and I both ordered the "summer on a plate," which consisted of island striped bass, chilled heirloom tomatoes, basil whipped potatoes, lobster-tomato relish and olive oil. The waiter took pains to warn us it was a hot-cold-hot-cold dish -- apparently he'd had some complaints. We both LOVED it.
Seriously, this may be the best thing I've eaten all summer. I'd been craving fish and potatoes ever since Nate out-ordered me at Pierre's a few weeks ago, so this really hit the spot. Even better, it was a generous portion of fish. I couldn't finish it! Leigh Ann and I also split an incredibly good bottle of Chardonnay, so that certainly added to the experience.

For dessert, we shared a peach and blueberry cobbler and a coconut cream cookie stack. (I forgot to save the dessert menu, so I am winging it. But I think the cookie thing could be made with those Nabisco's Famous Wafers, so maybe I'll give that one a whirl too sometime.)
It takes forever to upload photos on Blogger, so if you'd like to see the non-food pics and are not my Facebook friend, you should be able to click here for the album.

We strolled home at sunset. Big thanks to my generous sister for treating us to a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shakespeare in the Park: Measure for Measure

It was an absolutely perfect evening to be outside on Saturday when my colleague Noelle and I went to see Measure for Measure at Shakespeare in the Park.
Unfortunately, they are a little rabid about not letting you take photos, even of yourselves and the empty stage. (Leigh Ann and I learned this at "Love, Loss and What I Wore," when the usher stood over us and made us delete the photos we'd taken of our our Playbill as we waited for the show to begin. We were on the front row, and our knees were touching the stage, so we thought the moment deserved to be preserved! I understand not taking photos during a performance, but bah humbug!)

So, the photo above is from the internet. Noelle and I had way better seats up front. Plus, we didn't have to brave the line. (They start giving out free tickets at 1 p.m., so people line up early in the morning. My mom did it when Leigh Ann was interning here in 2002.) The bank is the major sponsor, and Noelle knew who to ask for tickets. Score!
Here's the Playbill synopsis:
Justice, mercy and political corruptness are at the center of Shakespeare's dark comedy Measure for Measure. A corrupt governor offers the beautiful young nun, Isabella, a choice: her virtue or her brother's life.

The story quickly pulled me in. There was, however, much suspension of belief required to believe the handsome duke could "disguise himself" by pulling a friar's hood over his head and donning a pair of glasses. However, given the whole Superman/Clark Kent thing he had going on, (admittedly more of the latter in the photo above), I was game to play along.

Isabella, played by Danai Guria, was sensational. (My friend Page will remember her from the film "The Visitor," not sure if anyone besides us saw/loved it.) I almost got chills when she spoke this line, as she is being set up for a sort of Elizabethan-era sexual harassment:

O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
The most amusing performance came from Carson Elrod as Pompey. I couldn't quite figure out if he was a gigolo or a pimp, but he played his role with a sarcastic, flamboyant flair. This production would have gotten the attention of even the most disinterested ninth-grade boys when Pompey was arrested for having a dildo in his possession.
Perhaps my favorite line came from a long speech about the way we allow fear to hold us back:  Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

And I loved this one too: Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
I wish I could rewind to the "Shakespeare After 1600" class I took in college and study this play again. (Traumatic flashback: I actually made a D on that midterm because I was taking Faulkner the same semester and couldn't keep up with the reading.) Anyway, I find it fascinating and delightful to see how certain themes are truly timeless, and I loved the way this play made me think about power, mercy, temptation, desire, corruption, virtue, order and restraint.

I left wanting more...and fortunately I'll get it, because I have tickets for "All's Well that Ends Well" on Monday!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

NYC Restaurant Week

Sorry for the absence of new posts, dear readers, but I was busy taking advantage of Restaurant Week! I've also had a busy few days at work. Nevertheless, it was quite a week for food.

For the uninitiated, Restaurant Week is a summer promotion in several cities where restaurants offer three course prix fixe menus. In NYC, the price is $35 for dinner and $24.07 for lunch. (There must be a story on the bizarro lunch price, but I couldn't tell you what it is.) I'd been through this a few times in Charlotte, so I knew the importance of checking out the menus online to see who's offering what, as there's quite a bit of variation.

On Wednesday night, my friend Chris was in town on business, so I made us a reservation at Fig & Olive in Midtown. He is getting married next spring, so it was fun to hear about those plans.

The special Restaurant Week menu had a choice of six appetizers. I had the Mediterranean Chicken Samosa with cilantro, Greek yogurt, bell peppers, scallion and Harissa olive oil. Chris had the tuna tartare with sesame oil and cucumber.

For the main course, we ordered halibut with broccollini and seafood paella. We traded plates halfway through. We both agreed the paella was better, though I thought the portions were a bit skimpy -- but then again, for $35, sometimes you get smaller plates. I wish I could tell you more about what was served with the halibut (I think that's orecchiette?), but I forgot to keep the menu, and it's not included in the sample menu online.) 
I am not sure why I thought it would be funny to make this goofy face, other than I thought you might be getting a little tired of my mug shot on this blog.

Forgot to take pics of dessert. Oopsie. Too bad, as the "crostini" consisting of strawberry, mascarpone and pistachio on shortbread with basil was a buttery, scrumptious bite of fruity heaven. The chocolate pot de creme was also nice.

On Thursday, I asked Neil if he wanted to come and meet me for lunch at Uncle Gussie's Food Truck in front of St. Bart's in Midtown. I'd read about it in a lunch edition of Time Out, and I went there with some colleagues last week. We loved it, so I was once again craving their Greek salad with chicken breast.
 You know a place is good when it has a long line, but we didn't have to wait more than 15 minutes or so.
 Neil agreed the salad is addictive, so I think we may make this a regular outing.
That evening, I headed to Tribeca to meet my friend Ginger at David Burke Kitchen for another Restaurant Week meal. Unfortunately, I had to stay later at work than I'd hoped, so we didn't have much time for a pre-dinner drink. The place has a really fantastic open-air bar above the restaurant, and I think there's another "treehouse" bar on the roof. It was a perfect evening to be outside, so it was too bad we didn't have more time to enjoy the scene before our 8 p.m. reservation at the restaurant downstairs. Nevertheless, we had an outstanding meal!

It reminded me of a similarly fabulous RW meal I enjoyed at Aria in Charlotte last summer. They handed us the regular dinner menu, and the Restaurant Week options were identified with an icon. (A very odd icon, I'd like to mention...I think it was a rabbit standing up behind a kitchen chair. We actually asked the waiter about it because we were so puzzled.) Anyhoo, the choices were outstanding, especially when it came to the main courses; five of the eight mains (or anything under $30) were available.

The starters were a little more restricted, so we couldn't partake of the intriguing Ants On a Log (bone marrow, snails, parsley and garlic) or the Bison Tartare (egg salad, smoked tomato, fingerling crisps) or the Pretzel Crab Cake (tomato orange and green peppercorn). A return visit may be required!

We both had the asparagus and burrata starter, which came with prosciutto, honeydew and basil. (I didn't want to use the flash, so these pics are a little dark, but hopefully you can still get the idea.)
I had the scallops and pork belly with baby cauliflower and aromatic herb broth. (In case you're wondering how I remember all this, I kept the menu this time.)
Ginger had the short ribs and cavatelli with wild mushrooms and truffle cream. Oh. My. God. Both of our dishes were great (and rich!), but hers was really fantastic. No wonder the waiter said it was one of David Burke's signature dishes. I would absolutely order this again, though it would be more suitable for colder weather when you're craving true comfort food.
Neither one of us managed to finish our entrees, which says a lot about the ample portions -- not gluttonous TGI Fridays or Cheesecake Factory portions, mind you, just a nice size. I think I was still a little bit full from all of the feta cheese I'd had at lunch with Uncle Gussie.

My dessert was one of the coolest things I've had in a while. Ginger thought it was a bit too much, so it might not appeal to everyone. It was cassis panna cotta with macerated berries and lemon anglaise. The panna cotta and berries were presented in a small Mason jar, with the lemon anglaise on the side. The waiter poured the sauce into the jar and then sprinkled the top with a skewer of chocolate-covered Cheerios. (I swear! They were not on the menu, but I conferred with my neighbor, who also had the same thing, and she agreed that's what they were.) I should have taken a photo of the deconstructed version, but here's what it looked like assembled.
Again, maybe not for everyone, and I didn't really think the Cheerios were a great addition, but the berries and panna cotta were exactly the cool, citrusy ending that I was craving. Ginger had the chocolate caramel fudge cake with salted caramel and goat's milk cajeta ice cream. (Please do not ask me what cajeta is...I am just transcribing the menu.)
Truly fabulous! David Burke Kitchen, I will be back. For those of you who've been sending me notes about the places you want to try on your next NYC visit (this means you, Mitchell!), I'd say this one is definitely worth adding to the list, especially if the weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoor bar. I think you can actually eat at the upstairs bar, but we found the hostess there to be a bit cranky.

Ginger and I both felt like we'd walked away with a steal! (And walk away we did...we headed home on foot up Sixth Avenue, which was a great way to end the night.) I just did the math and figured we each got about $53 worth of food for $35. Not bad!

Now I'm off to the gym to work off my phattastic week. Toodles!