Thursday, August 23, 2012

Change of Heart

Hello world!  Boy, has time just flown by.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've been gone for SO long that navigating the new blogger dashboard took a good five minutes.  I've missed writing.  That seems to be the thing that always brings me back.  Jotting down my thoughts and sharing my experiences is such a great getaway.  No matter how crazy the world around me gets, I will always find serenity in simply sitting down and writing.

All the way back in April, a girl friend and I visited New York--her first trip and my third.  She has this fascination with the Big Apple; a fascination that I did not share.  Ever since my very first trip in middle school, I've always said that I could not see myself living there.  I got to stand in Times Square, navigate my way through the TRL crowd  (wow, TRL, do you remember that?) and I still wasn't impressed.  Even after my second trip shopping in Soho, visiting the very first Dean & Deluca (a VERY big deal to me at the time), eating at Michelin star rated restaurants, and hitting all the New York classic food spots; I was not convinced that the chichi uptown life was for me.  The people were not as friendly as those in San Francisco, the streets were crowded, and it was just one huge, stuffy concrete jungle--where was the allure in that?

First Breakfast in NYC

I know you see where I'm headed.  This past April, I fell in love.  You got me, New York.  You got me pretty damn good.  I loved taking the subway.  I loved walking everywhere until my feet were sore and my legs were tired.  I loved the food, the people, the culture, the lack of sleep, the shopping, the Mets vs. Giants game, the pastrami fries at the game, the speakeasys...OH THE SPEAKEASYS.  Even as it poured rain for 8 hours straight while I was in a sleeveless shirt without an umbrella, I loved New York.  I feel like such a sucker, but I miss New York everyday.  Perhaps it's because Sarah and I lived like locals instead of tourists.  No plans other than to eat and shop.  No sightseeing.  No schedule.  Just two young women armed with a cell phone subway app and a desire to explore every burrow of New York.  By the way, if you're planning on visiting New York and have no clue of what the subway system is like, download NYC Mate.  It became my best friend on this trip.  

We stayed in Queens with Sarah's cousin and took the subway to the City every morning and navigated our way around the subway with our poor sense of direction. And when I say "poor" it's a complete and total understatement. Although, I have to admit, in hindsight half the fun was getting lost.  I can't tell you how many times we waited for a subway going in the wrong direction and then turned around to find that across the way was the platform for the correct subway.  We must have looked like such idiots sprinting/staggering our way back up the stairs, across the street and back down to the correct platform.  Like I said, hilarious in hindsight.

Central Park

On my first trip to New York with my family, we came during summer vacation.  Huge mistake.  It was humid and all I wanted to do was tuck away in a cafe or restaurant to avoid the heat.  The second time I was in New York, was for my birthday in early March.  It was cold, but nice.  The idea of strolling around Central Park in a huge peacoat, scarf, and boots while the snow melted was great...that is until the wind blew and I could no longer feel my face.  But this time was perfect!  It was warm (when it didn't rain), the trees were lush and every sign of Spring was present.  

Katz Deli

Sometimes I have dreams about their pastrami and pickles.  Thick cuts of juicy, perfectly seasoned pastrami, on soft rye bread with mustard...lots of mustard! I have yet to find a Jewish Delicatessen on the west coast that does it as well as Katz.

A Random Cupcake Find

Strolling the Upper East Side

I could live in one of these brownstones.  How many times have you heard a young woman say that? If I had the money, of course.  


A suggestion by Paul Ferrari.  He said that the pizza here is extremely close in style to the ones in Naples.  So, naturally, I dragged Sarah with me to see for ourselves.  Paul told me that they used to make a certain amount of dough per day from a special, imported Type 00 flour from Italy which gave the cracker thin crust a nutty and sweet flavor and when they ran out of dough, they closed for the rest of the day. People used to line up for hours in the snow to have a taste of the pie.  I don't think they operate the same way anymore but the pizza was still delightful. 


I was reminded by a friend of mine, a west coast transplant, that it's one word...not two. Good looking out, Ryan!  The Meatpacking district is probably one of my favorite parts of town.  I absolutely love the stone paths and as I wander the streets, I like to imagine what it must have been like back in the day when it was heavily industrial and rugged.  

The High

What a great idea!  The High is an old subway line turned outdoor park overlooking the streets of the Meatpacking District.  Gorgeous!  I can see myself bringing a book up there just to lounge and read all day.  If only I lived in New York...

Amazing Aussie Style Pies in St. Mark's Square

After dinner at Kenka with our friend Jason, we put ourselves on the waitlist for Please Don't Tell and sat down on an outdoor bench at the little shop next door.  We were reading the a-frame chalkboard which highlighted the homemade sodas of the day and I was intrigued but way too full to try one.  Then out comes a half drunk guy with an Australian accent raving about the pies, "The pies in here are so good!  Every time I visit from Australia I have to come.  AND I order some to ship home."  Wait. What? You're from Australia and you ship Australian-American pies from New York back to Australia?  Ok, I'm sold. 

Fresh Guinness Steak pie & elderberry soda

Shh...Please Don't Tell.  

My first New York Speakeasy.  I think this is really what made me fall in love--the whole "drinking during the Prohibition" illusion was so much fun.

Pardon the blurry picture.  It was dark and this was probably two (or four) slammin' drinks in...

A cute breakfast place the next morning 

This place had the most amazing complementary carrot cake, pineapple chutney, and pumpkin seed butter.  I can't remember the name of this cafe for the life of me so I have to apologize for that. But it was well worth the hour wait and when I do find out what it's called, I will surely update this post!


What a ridiculously long wait.  We put our names down at 11am and one candy shop, 8 blocks of shopping,  2 art gallery browsings, a dozen and a half Crate & Barrel living room furniture testings later we returned back to Serendipity for a 15 minute wait.  Originally, we had decided to share the frozen hot chocolate, but after all that, we agreed that we earned our own.  The verdict: Was the massive glass goblet of frozen hot chocolate worth the wait?  Yep. 


I hadn't heard a thing about this place until Sarah told me her sister recommended it.  Really, ramen in New York?  I can eat ramen anywhere...
Just smack me now.  Ippudo was probably one of the best meals we had in New York--for the food and the company.  The most memorable were the pork buns which were served on fluffy Peking duck style steamed buns and are to die for.  Savory and fatty pork belly with a nice bite from the green onions; I could have devoured an order of these on my own!  


If heaven were a place on earth, it would be Eataly.  Thank you wealthy, foodie, fancy Italians for helping make America a little bit better.  Imported torrone, honey, jams, chocolates, coffee, every cut of pasta known to name it they've got it!  If A.G. Ferrari Foods were half the size of Eataly, I would be there everyday simply because I would not be able to take in all the products and experiences in one day.  

Rubin Museum of Art

Sarah and I stumbled upon this while thrift shopping in the pouring rain (again, sans umbrella).  Talk about a gem!  This was probably one of the greatest highlights of the trip. 


On my second trip to New York, I tried a sausage and mushroom pizza at Lombardi's.  Looking back I think we should have tried the Magherita since that is the holy grail, right?  
Grimaldi's has moved to a larger building on the street corner of the same block.  I don't know if it's affected the quality of the pizza and truth be told, I don't care.  It was SO damn good.  Sweet tomato sauce, perfectly melted fresh mozzarella, crisp, thin, nutty-sweet crust. Mind-blown.  Thank you Grimaldi's for rocking my world. 

The Diner

I loved Booklyn.  The artisan cheese shops, the little clothing stores with tons of clothing pieces which I could not afford, and of course what topped off the 2nd subway ride in one day to Brooklyn was The Diner.  Sarah's cousin, David said there was a great restaurant in Brooklyn that Anthony Bourdain...AH! say no more, David.  We're going. 
This was the fanciest meal we had in New York and it was surprisingly affordable. Like I said, we lived more like the locals.  The restaurant is extremely discreet and looks, well, like an old school diner.  The menu changes everyday based on what's available at the market.  No menus.  After ordering a round of incredibly stiff drinks, the waitress scooted in the booth right next to David and began scribbling the night's menu on the butcher paper tablecloth.  How cool is that? I highly suggest you go if you find yourself in Brooklyn.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

I haven't found much time for cooking lately, let alone blogging, which is why I've been away for so long.  But I have something that's very news worthy! Well, two things, one of which I will share immediately (because it just can't wait!) and the other...possibly tomorrow? 

Here it is. I did it.  I finally did it.  I made jam!  Now this may not be a big deal for those of you who 1) Are avid jam makers and really don't see the big deal about boiling down fruit and sugar & 2) Are not as obsessed with fruit preserves and jam as I am.  I know I've been yammering on and on for almost a year  about how much I wanted to try canning but was holding out until summer when there is an abundance of fruit.  So here it is: Summer.  I still had my reservations, the fear of jam not setting and the jar sterilization process was almost enough to make me run sprint the other way.  But the moment I walked into the grocery store and saw a sale on ruby red strawberries, I really didn't have a choice but to buck up and just do it.   

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about jam and I confessed something that I had never really realized about myself.  I am a fruit preserve, conserve, jam, jelly, you-name-it hoarder.  I am.  Whenever I'm at the farmer's market or at a specialty food store and I find jars of what is essentially fruit spread I MUST have it.  Now that's not really where the problem is.  It's that when I bring the jars home, I don't have the heart to open them and this is especially true if it's an uncommon or interesting flavor of jam.  Meyer lemon?  Two, please.  Lavender Peach? Absolutely.  Nectarine Plum? YES. 
See the problem? 

Though, I can't possibly be the only one with this addiction. 

Anyways, I won't know for sure if my rookie jam excursion was a success or not until morning when it has fully cooled and (hopefully) set, but my fingers are crossed.  

I've had my sights set on making jam every since I came across Food In Jars--it's a really good read if you're interested in canning and preserving.  I followed one of her recipes for an "Urban Preserving" portion of strawberry and vanilla jam.  I didn't have the heart to use vanilla bean on my first go around so I decided to make the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb while still following the general guidelines for her recipe. 

Here it is:

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Wash, hull, and chop the strawberries.  Toss them in 1 cup of sugar and allow them to macerate for at least 3 hours.  

While you prepare/ sterilize the jars, pour the macerated strawberries into a pot and add the remaining cup of sugar and bring to boil (about 5 minutes).  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the jam reaches 220 degrees (this is if you're at sea level).  During the last five minutes of cooking, add the lemon zest and the juice.

Once the jars have been prepared, remove from heat and pour the jam into your jars.  Wipe the rim, top with the rings and the lid and place in your canner for 10 minutes.

Let them cool on a towel lined counter top. Once cooled, remove the rings and check the seal.
Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

Makes about two cups of jam.