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Friday, October 28, 2011

Fuerza Bruta

Today's Groupon reminded me of something else I forgot to post about last week, a show called Fuerza Bruta. It's been playing for a number of years; I found it to feel more like attending a rave than having a typical theater experience.

Here's how Groupon pitched it:

Set to a soundtrack that spans from thumping club tunes to calm new-world music, Fuerza Bruta: Look Up features eclectic dancing on a unique stage. Performers splish, splash, and trade financial advice on a clear mylar tarp covered in water that dangles inches above the standing audience members' heads. Colorful, flashing lights illuminate the waterlogged body movers, and other scenes feature twirling, harness-held acrobatics and a man bolting through a wall only to discover he should be in the next theater over.

The local Duke Club organized it as an outing because one of the producers is an alumna. I'm glad I got me out and about, and I met some new people. But honestly, it was a bit much for moi on a weeknight -- lots of noise, no clear narrative or point, and we were standing the whole time. I think that was a way of of making it feel interactive, but I just felt annoyed. Regular tickets are $80, and I think we paid $49.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I gave it a shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five Fun Things

I got a little behind on my blogging but this yummy dinner from Kurt tonight inspired me to catch up. So, that would be #1 on my list -- braised spare ribs (see recipe) with apples and cabbage and peas with buttered almonds.

#2 Spending last Thursday and Friday nights catching up with the delightful Adam Dyer. Adam is one of my favorite hometown friends that I've really connected with through Facebook. I got to see him when he was in the city, and I absolutely loved our visit!
Plus, his friends Keith and Brian made us a reservation at Fedora, which is just down the street from me and quite a hot spot. Adam and I both had the pork chop...I also had some gnocchi with chicken meatballs. (I'm trying to remember exactly what Adam ordered for his was some kind of goat meat. Tasty!) I would have easily swapped my plates for Keith's scallops and bacon over polenta. My dessert was a cocktail called the Honey Badger. I'm not usually a fan of "brown liquor," but this might be enough to convert me.
#3 Friday Fun -- one of my colleagues had the Today Show on last Friday. I walked over to ask if she would mind turning down the volume, and it turned out she was waiting for the Coldplay concert down on the plaza. When the music started, we could hear it, so we went into one of the offices overlooking the plaza to take a look...then headed down. So fun! I had a ton of work to do that day and was really stressed, but I am glad I took 15 minutes for an unforgetable experience.
#4 Tuesday Tapas with Christine at Tia Pol on 10th Ave in Chelsea (thanks to Kurt for the rec). Delicious food and excellent company. We just had pretty basic tapas, so nothing really photo-worthy. I am kind of sorry I didn't write down the ingredients of the special "pear salad" we had -- given that pear salad was the topic of a recent Facebook string with some hometown friends -- suffice to say this version lacked both mayonnaise and cheddar cheese but was nonetheless delicious.
#5 My darling roommate who made me laugh hard several times this week, once when he came out of the kitchen with this creation for dinner: ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the German burrito.
It was a true Popcorn and M&Ms creation -- an unexpected combination that Kurt swore was surprisingly delicious!

Kurt also cracked me up with his response to the meatball sub I brought home from Subway last night. A $4.50 bargain, it was topped with onions, bell pepper and banana peppers.

"Well, now!" Kurt exclaimed as I unwrapped it. "You didn't tell me it was date night!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

With the hint of fall in the air, I felt inspired to get in the kitchen this weekend. On my mind: a recipe for lamb tagine from the October issue of Bon Appetit.

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

The recipe called for a Middle Eastern spice mix called Ras-El-Hanout:
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Definitely a test to see if one has a well-stocked spice pantry! I bought coriander, since it was such a major ingredient, and I refreshed our stash of cumin, since that's something I use pretty often. I ground some cinnamon and cardamom with Kurt's handy spice mill and just left out the ginger and turmeric.
It was a pretty simple recipe, though it did require two trips to Western Beef in Chelsea. Kurt thought they would have the most inexpensive lamb. It was inexpensive indeed -- $14 for four pounds of cubed bone-in shoulder! -- but Ernie the butcher had to thaw some out for me overnight, hence the two trips.

I browned the lamb cubes in olive oil then sauteed an onion and added some chopped garlic and chopped ginger with the spice blend. After a few minutes of warming up the fragrant spices, I returned the lamb to the pot with two cans of chicken broth and a can of diced tomatoes. 

Then I put a lid on it and let it simmer. After an hour and a half, I added the chickpeas (soaked overnight and simmered with garlic and cinnamon), dried apricots and dried plums. (I thought 1/2 cup of dried apricots seemed a little skimpy for a stew that would serve 6-8, and Western Beef was a little limited in its dried fruit selection, so I went with the plums -- notice I am calling them by their "new branding," not that other grandmotherly word!)
Travis walked down from the Upper East Side to join us for dinner. I topped the stew with chopped cilantro and served it with a salad of grapefruit, pomegranate seeds and avocado.
I thought the flavor of the stew was quite fantastic (and enjoyed another serving of it on Monday night as well), but the bone-in meat is a bit indelicate to eat. As my mom would say, probably not something to serve when I'm trying to impress my future mother-in-law!
Dessert was pure yumminess! Travis stopped by the Milk Bar on his walk downtown and got us a three-flavor sampler pie: candy bar pie, grasshopper pie and the famous crack pie. HOLY COW!!!
Naturally we all needed to have a little sliver of each one -- just for taste testing purposes, you understand. Proof that good things come in threes!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brooklyn: The Remix

A few weeks ago when we walked Race for the Cure, Jen asked her friend Nora if she'd coordinate a little "day tour" of Brooklyn. They decided to do it this Saturday and invited me to join in. So, it was back to Smorgasburg, the outdoor market!

Fortunately, the L train was back in service this weekend, so getting there was a snap. The street around the subway stop was super cute and full of tons of hipster shops and restaurants. I wore my hipster hat so I'd fit in...
The good folks at Murrays had a cheese booth set up. I loved their little "plowman's lunch" packets, so I got one for $8. It had some scrumptious white cheddar, which they were sampling on site.
Next up: a little cupcake shopping at Kumquat!
 Pumpkin spice with lavender frosting (Jen said these were spicy indeed!).
 Chocolate with pistachio frosting...
And maple with bacon. Guess which one was my favorite?? We also got red velvet and carrot cake with a candied walnut on top.

It was a bit chilly and windy, so instead of eating at the market we went to a restaurant nearby, where I had an absolutely perfect grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and apple. It was on challah bread, so it was just the perfect brunch blend of sweet and savory flavors.
Anyway, next stop was Radegast Hall & Biergarten. I was so amused by the beer descriptions that I wrote down what we each had:

Lyns: Schneider Weisse Original
Fruity with a typical top-fermented smell, and aroma of clove and nutmeg apple tantalizes the nose. On the tongue it is full-bodied, harmonious and well-balanced.

Nora: Gaffel Kolsch
This Cologne beer is light yellow in color and has a neutral flavor with a full malty aroma and a dry undertone.

Jen: Radler of Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
Classic Bavarian wheat ale brewed with 50:50 malted wheat to malted barley. Special yeast provides unique phenolic aromas of banana and cloves with a dry, tart citrus edge.

Thanks to Jen, I now know that a radler is a mix of beer and lemon-lime soda. Oh, the things you learn in Brooklyn!

Odds and ends

Here are a few things I meant to post last week...

Sunday night I had dinner with my "little sis" Anna Kate. I worked with her mom in Dothan, and I've adopted her while she is here doing a fashion internship. We went to Meme Mediterranean on Hudson, where we enjoyed a bottle of sancerre and split a small plate of ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream. Divine -- as in plate-lick worthy!
We also had an heirloom tomato salad with warm halumi cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds over mesclun greens.  I love grilled halumi!

Forgot to get a photo of our Mediterranean sampler plate with hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, beets, carrots, roasted peppers and something called matbucha. (I looked it up on Wikipedia: a cooked dish of tomatoes and roasted bell peppers seasoned with garlic and chili pepper. The name of the dish originates from Arabic and means "cooked [salad]." Well, now I know! It is popular across the Maghreb, a five-country region of Africa west of Egypt. Look at everything we're learning today...)

Monday I was off work for Columbus Day. Neil and I met at Coffee Shop near Union Square. Funny enough, this place has a bit of a Brazilian theme going, so I'll have to return for caipirinhas and feijoado. But it was quite warm, so we both went for the Greek salad. (Not quite as good as Uncle Gussie's, but tasty enough for a Monday lunch.) 

During the afternoon, I wandered around the Union Square area for a bit and then read World Without End for a while in Madison Square Park, where I stopped to marvel at these interesting sculptures.
Friday was a treat! I got to see my sister! She popped into town on business after spending a few nights in Philadelphia. We went to lunch together and then snapped this random photo of ourselves in the elevator lobby of my floor.
 My camera was acting up, so we also took this attractive shot.
I stayed late at work on Friday night and wanted to get something yummy on my way home. When I'd been wandering around the Flatiron district on Monday, I spotted Rickshaw Dumpling. I'd heard about their popular roving truck, so I was curious and decided to visit the store.

The "Rickshaw Regular" combines six dumplings with your choice of a salad or noodles. I ordered a half-dozen classic pork dumplings with cabbage, ginger and scallion. 
Unfortunately, they forgot the soy sesame dip, so I spent most of my meal thinking how tasty the dumplings would have been with a little dipping sauce! There was no sauce anywhere to be found, so I just assumed they didn't have any...but apparently they keep it hidden behind the counter so they can charge you for extras. I had to check the menu ex post facto to realize I'd missed out.

Anyway, the dumplings were tasty enough, and I really enjoyed citrus ginger salad with crunchy jicama and crispy shallots.
To make sure I didn't go home hungry, I also ordered a braised pork slider -- pork belly with Chinese char sui sauce and Asian slaw.

Funny enough, I am not much of a fan of Asian food, but dumplings are probably my favorite thing. Flashback to 2009 and the photo below: when Leigh Ann and I went to China, these Shanghai dumplings were the best thing I ate during the entire trip. To do: find them in New York!  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sunday in the Park with Kurt

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, so Kurt and I rented bikes and headed north along the Hudson River Park greenway...
At 79th Street, we turned east and went toward Central Park. Riding in city traffic -- yowzers! Fortunately, it was Sunday, and I'd gotten a taste of it when we had to head up the West Side Highway a few weeks ago during the Governors Island outing gone wrong. So, I handled it like a big girl. At least we had helmets this time... 

Moment of celebration after I made it up the "Great Hill" at the north end of the park...

We rode home along 9th Avenue, which required even more big girl panties than riding to the park...but I am so proud of myself! Kurt almost collided with a pedestrian, and there were a few near-misses with delivery guys riding the wrong way, but we made it. Honestly, it made me as proud of myself as driving in a foreign country (most recently in a stick shift and in a big ol' van on the left side of the road in South Africa in 2006, thank you very much). There is much to be said for pushing yourself through your fears!

After our ride, we fueled up with some tacos from the "Eat Here Now...Now Eat Here" taco stand that appears in our neighborhood on weekends. We'd both been meaning to try it out...yummers! I will be back for one of their breakfast burritos sometime.

While we were waiting for our food, I asked the owner if the papparazzi are often camped out in front of Jennifer Aniston's apartment building next door. He said yes -- and the cheap bastards never buy any tacos!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Serendipitous Saturday

You have to love those days that just sort of unfold, without any real plan. Saturday was one of them. Travis and I met up in Chinatown and walked to the Hester Street Fair on the Lower East Side.
We ordered "just the balls" at Mighty Balls -- a trio of vegetarian, beef and pork meatballs with various sauces (jalapeno, cranberry and and a spicy onion) and a sprinkle of parmesan.
Travis got us a currywurst sausage, which ended up being our favorite. The meatballs were tasty, but the sausage -- and the tomato sauce on it -- was outstanding!
 For dessert, we split an ice cream sandwich: molasses cookie and pumpkin ice cream.
We realized we were close to the Williamsburg Bridge, which would lead us to Smorgasburg, another outdoor food market. That had been my original plan, but the L train wasn't running, so getting to Williamsburg seemed like too much of a headache. But it was a gorgeous day for a walk, so we set out to cross the bridge.

It's very pedestrian-friendly, but somehow we ended up doing a little median-hopping to start our journey. (This gave us flashbacks to the sketchy walk we made along Durham's downtown streets returning to our freshman dorm in 1994 after the Kappa Kappa Gamma "Safety Dance" at the Power Company...the experience that cemented our friendship.)

By the time we got on the bridge, our ice cream sandwich was soft enough to enjoy. It was an absolutely perfect day to be on the bridge...pleasant temperature and great views in both directions.

After exiting the bridge, we learned an unfortunate lesson about the way Williamsburg streets are numbered and the importance of the "north" and "south" designations. Oopsie...
 This was the less scenic part of our stroll, obviously...
 But then we arrived at the waterfront for postcard-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline.

Smorgasburg was even bigger than I'd expected, but we had worked up quite a thirst with our long walk and were ready for a frosty beverage. It appears the foodie fest is alcohol free. So, we walked a few blocks and stumbled into an absolutely darling restaurant called Sweetwater. We each had a beer, and the bartender's bloody mary mix looked so great, we decided to have one of those too!  

Sweetwater looked like a great spot for brunch or dinner...I would definitely go back.

Revived and refreshed, we strolled back to the market and went straight for the fried anchovy tent that I'd seen in Bon Appetit's photo spread on Smorgasburg.
Since it was the end of the day, they were sold out of the headless version, and we had to go for "Jersey Style" with the heads on. I didn't mind a bit and polished off my tails too. More crunch! We also got a $4 order of patatas bravas, which were crispy and perfectly spiced.

We washed those down with Arnold Palmers made with lemon verbena lemonade...perfect refreshment!
Then we decided we'd ride the East River Ferry back over to Manhattan -- a perfect solution to the subway outage.

The ferry was $4 each -- such a deal! When we exited the ferry, there was a cross-town bus waiting. I had actually not yet ridden the bus, even though it's included in my monthly transit card, so we rode the bus to the west side and walked to the Frying Pan, an outdoor bar on a barge. I'd been meaning to make it there all summer for happy hour but never got around to it.
We ordered a pitcher of beer, and thanks to Travis's friendly interaction with our neighbors, we eventually got a table and watched the sunset.
We weren't done yet! We ended up having dinner at Barbuto, the Jonathan Waxman restaurant on my street. I stroll by there every time I go jogging on the Hudson and always thought it looked like such a fun place.

We started with a selection of four cheeses  (two sheep, two cow -- one was pecorino and one was blue, and the others were unknown but delicious). Then we split shrimp risotto, roasted chicken and roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts. I took pictures, but I didn't use my flash, so they didn't really turn out.

What an awesome day! Travis went to meet friends for drinks, but I just headed home and collapsed into my bed. I can't imagine a better way to spend a lovely fall Saturday!