Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Recap

February is one of those months that feels both short and long. Short because of the obvious reason but also that it always feels like it is jam-packed and goes by quickly. Long because it is so damn cold, windy (especially in the AM in Tribeca), and sometimes snowy, and it feels like a lifetime has gone by since I returned from Asia. Here are some highlights not yet seen on a hell LOVE a town.

Brunch at tablespoon:


A day I wanted to spend inside but was happy about when I finally ventured out:

View down the fire escape

My favorite color sky

The buckyball in Madison Square Park in front of the Flatiron

Gandhi trudging through the snow in Union Square

My reward for going outside. Three cupcakes from Baked by Melissa.

Lots of family time, celebrating housewarmings and birthdays:

Katie's Birthday!

Mom-Mom's 93rd!
One of the fam's gifts to Miss Mom Mom
Whatever this is, post Emily's housewarming

Reunions with some old friends, including one with a friend in town from Houston who is upset I never use his name on the blog (BERGY BERGY BERGY) and one celebrating a friend's engagement in Delaware.

Bergy loves Little Branch

And just last night, Caitlin, Kat, and I ventured into Chinatown for dinner, pork buns, and egg tarts, to remind me of my time in HK, but also to gossip, brainstorm about our futures, eat *a lot*, and dance Gangnam Style with the guy behind the counter at the pork bun bakery:


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Take Your Dad to the City Day

When I was in middle school, a friend of my dad's called the house and asked me to tell my dad that he had called. I forgot to tell my dad, probably because I was too busy working on my 'N Sync website, and it turned out his friend was going to ask him to go to The Late Show with David Letterman with him. Being from the sticks of Jersey and not being able to imagine at the time that I would ever even *go* to New York, I felt awful. My dad doesn't remember that this even happened.

Last year I got tickets through work but I didn't think that my dad would travel the three hours for the show, but later found out that he would definitely have come in. So when I got them again this year, he was the first person on my list. I took off work and we made quite a trip of it. Here's how to spend a fantastic 30 hours with your poppa dukes in the city.

1) Bagels/Put him to work

I picked up my dad at Penn Station and we had yummy bagel sandwiches for lunch. My favorite bagel sandwich is Turkey Club on an everything which stems from my days at UD and eating Newark Deli & Bagel four times a week. I then made him hang up nine things on my wall, including frames I've made of vintage NYC postcards, pictures of me and friends jumping in front of things around the world, and the two paintings I did in my BYOB classes (1 & 2). I've lived in my apartment since August and have basically only had one thing on my wall this whole time. This was essential.

2) Carnegie Deli

Pops and I picked up our tickets and were told to return to the Ed Sullivan Theater at 4:55. We went to Hello Deli to pick him up a t-shirt and to see the famous Rupert who Dave harrasses every once in a while on the show. We then walked around the block and into Carnegie Deli. The waitress was the most cliche deli/diner waitress of all time and plopped down some free pickles (sour and half-sour) but then took them away when we said we just wanted coffee and cherry cheesecake (one of their specialties). It was pretty delicious and probably would have tasted weird with the pickles.

3) The Late Show

Dad and I went back to the theater and had to wait inside for quite some time while everyone lined up. But we were close to the front of the line and were able to sit in the 4th row center section once we were allowed in. The show that night had the charming Luke Wilson, a hilarious and dry comedian Dan Mintz, and the fantastic band Imagine Dragons, who sang "Radioactive." Before the band played, they did the audience pan and we knew we'd be on the small screen the next night.

Can you spot us on the bottom left??

4) Irish Exit

We then met my frousins at Irish Exit where Emmy Poo had won a happy hour for that night. It was so nice of everyone to come out to see us, but they may have also just been coming out for the half-off drinks and sliders. This was definitely the first happy hour I'd been to with my dad and probably the first time he wore a hot pink wristband.

5) Upright Citizens Brigade

After happy hour, I took Dad to UCB for an improv show. Since going as part of my 28 Things list in the summer, I've been to tons of shows. I knew he'd love it and I personally think one of these days he should take a week off and enroll in UCB's Improv 101 class. Maybe I'll do it too.

6) Matisse Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

An ad for "Matisse: In Search of True Painting" has been on my fridge for a few months. I highly suggest you check it out if you have any interest in Matisse or in seeing an artist's work throughout his or her career. These are my favorite types of art exhibits. It's amazing to see an artist's progress or their experimenting with different mediums, techniques, and then to see what they eventually settle on as their style. The Matisse exhibit does not disappoint and even has the actual Large Blue Dress on display. My favorite painting in the exhibit was "Interior with Goldfish", probably because of all the blues. I looked at it for a really long time.

Met Museum

Every time I'm at the Met, I make a point to go to the Temple of Dendur. The room with the temple is one of my favorite places in the city as well as in one of the essential scenes in When Harry Met Sally. It is so beautiful and peaceful, especially on a Friday when most people are at work. It's also nice that Egypt gave this to us, rather than America just taking it, which describes a lot of what's in the Met. We also made an effort to check out the Native American artwork, some Greek and Roman shiz, and of course, Arms and Armor.

7) Numero 28 Pizza

For the grand finale of our visit, I took my dad to my new favorite pizza place. I haven't written about this yet as an item on my 28 Things, but my dear friend Janna from home who is pretty much an expert on all things Italian, suggested Numero 28 for my list. 

#17 Eat at Numero 28 Pizza

I thought this belonged on the list simply because of it having 28 in the name as it seemed to be a sign, but it's also quite possibly the best pizza in the city. It has certainly become the official pizza of my 28 Things. I've gotten it at least five times since the summer and when I went with my dad it was actually the second time I'd been that week. If you haven't been there, either to the Soho, West Village, or East Village locations, you need to go stat. Especially before you turn 28. 

I sent my dad home with the last few slices of pizza, but I doubt they made it all the way home before he dove into them. They sure wouldn't have lasted long in my fridge. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

Four Star and Seven Years Ago

I'm pretty low-maintenance in my food choices. I'm perfectly fine eating cereal or a bagel or an entire bag of Pizza Goldfish for dinner. When I eat out, I'm more than content with burgers, pizza, or a quesadilla, as long as I'm having a good conversation that includes some juicy gossip. But once in a while, you need to treat yo'self, and that's why I was really excited for one of Caitlin's suggestion for my 28 Things.

#16 Eat at a four-star restaurant

There are six four-star restaurants in NYC as rated by the New York Times. I wanted to pick somewhere Caitlin had not been to yet either so that narrowed it down to two - she is quite the foodie. Le Bernardin was chosen over Daniel because it is a seafood place and I've actually had trouble finding good seafood here (suggestions are welcome). We decided to go on Presidents' Day for lunch because there is a three-course prix fixe for a lot less than a dinner would be. Caitlin kindly made the reservation while I was in Asia playing with elephants because it was recommended to make it a month beforehand.

After our coats were checked, we were greeted by about thirty happy waitstaff on the way to our table. We both felt like we were a little out of place but we had dressed up nicely so maybe we fooled everyone else. The plate setting looked like it cost more than my rent and the silverware looked as if it had been polished for hours. Somehow the tap water tasted better than normal tap water. We ordered cocktails and were brought bread with a delicious salmon spread and then selected additional assorted breads from a basket - sun-dried tomato, turmeric, sesame basil, pretzel, you name it. The butter was replaced after we used a quarter of it. Then, the real food started coming out.

Course 1 - Warm Scallop “Carpaccio”; Snowpeas and Shiitake, Lime-Shiso Broth - I selected the scallops because they are my favorite and since I got something I hadn't tried before for my main course, I thought it would be okay to have something tried and true as an appetizer. Plus, Caitlin reminded me that they would be the best scallops I would ever have. And they were - sliced thin and arranged in such a way that you could have seven bites that would taste exactly the same. Each had the same proportion of mushroom, snowpeas, and herbs. The broth was buttery and smooth and had not been poured on the dish until it was placed in front of me.

Course 2 - Poached Skate and Warm Oysters, Brussels Sprouts-Bacon Mignonette, Dijon Mustard Sherry Emulsion - I wanted to try the skate because I'd never seen it on a menu before and was curious. I think I thought it might come out on the plate actually looking like a skate/sting ray but I suppose you don't actually eat the skin. It was more like an actual fish than I would have imagined, I for some reason was thinking it would be more like a shellfish, even though I'm aware there is no shell. It was white and thicker than other fish I've had, maybe half as flaky. I had to leave a few pieces of this on the plate because I just could not fit anything else in my stomach, aside from the obligatory space I saved for dessert.

Course 3 - Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Candied Peanuts, Popcorn Ice Cream - While every bite of the first two courses was identical, each bite of the dessert tasted different from the next. So much so that Caitlin and I didn't even try each others dish; I think we each wanted ours all to ourselves. The ganache melted in my mouth and the salt from the peanuts and popcorn mixed with the sweetness of everything else perfectly. If I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I would be able to give up all my other dreams because I would be happy.

The service we got at Le Bernardin was out of control and so much better than the service anyone ever received at the seafood restaurant back home where all my friends and I worked in the summers during college. The food was plated beautifully and every bite was as good as the last. Four-star dining is definitely something everyone should try at least once. A weekday when you're off work for a holiday is a good time to do it too - it sure made us feel Presidential.

The only bad thing about this experience is that nothing I eat now will ever taste as good as my meal at Le Bernardin. Sorry, future suitors, cheese fries at the diner will do no longer.


Read Caitlin's cooking blog amour fou(d) here!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wat's Love Got to Do, Got to Do with it?

One of the things I was looking forward to about Thailand was visiting lots and lots of wats, also known as temples. Buddhist temples are not something you get to see everyday, and that's what this trip was about, seeing and experiencing new things. Now, some of the people we met while in Asia said "once you see one wat, you've seen them all," but I have to disagree. Sure, there are of course similarities between them all, the intricate decorations, the gold EVERYWHERE, the Buddhas, but each of the following wats was definitely worth their own visit, and here's why:

Chiang Mai

Wat Bupparam

Yes, that's Donald Duck...

The first wat that Katie and I went to our first day in Chiang Mai, we encountered a monk inside who spoke Thai to us, held out strands of cotton, and motioned toward our wrists so he could tie them around like bracelets. He went for me first and as I knelt in front of him, he started to chant and rub the strand of cotton on the back of my wrist. Without even thinking, I awkwardly took my wrist back and quickly took my hair tie off, as if that would make some sort of difference in the blessing, and put my arm back. He started over and took a minute to finish his blessing of happiness and long life, as we found out later. Of course, he really could have been saying anything, including talking about how annoying we were as Americans, but I'd like to think he was doing the right thing.

Wat Mahawan

This temple in Chiang Mai was where I finally got to experience the celebrity life that I dream of every day. When we approached, there was a group of adorable schoolchildren and they freaked out when they saw us. They appeared to be asking their teacher something and she nodded, so they came up to me and started asking me questions. "Do you speak English?" one asked. "I do," I answered. They became really excited and said "Can we ask you some questions?" and I of course said they could. Six of them lined up in a row and took turns asking me questions like "What is your name?" "Where are you from?" "Do you like Thailand?" "What is your favorite Thai food?" Each time it was a student's turn to ask a question, he or she would step out of line, smile, and bow his or her head to me. Then when they were finished, they asked me to write down the answers to their questions and to provide a comment on their English. The teacher took a picture of us with the students and all of them said "Thank you! Bye!" repeatedly as they walked away. It was awesome.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man was where Katie and I released caged birds, like we were bosses. This is supposed to be a way to "make merit," freeing something that has been captured. I had read about this in my guidebook and starred it about thirty times for some reason. Maybe it's because I was obsessed with animals while in Asia. For about $3 US, you get a little hinged basket of three or four birds to free. The birds were so excited to be released and flew out without even waiting for you to open the basket completely. I felt bad of course, that the birds were in the baskets, and maybe it wasn't right that we were contributing money for these women to continue capturing birds, but if they are all released eventually, then it's okay, right? I needed to make merit somehow and I couldn't just become a monk right then and there, so this was my best shot.

It was also at Chiang Man where I became obsessed with all the stray dogs hanging out. I wanted to play with them badly, but I figured that probably wasn't a good idea. There was also a huge building on the wat "campus" if you will, with tons of huge elephant statues. Katie and I spent a lot of time checking these out since we were less than 24 hours from our day-long elephant excursion.

Wat Chedi Luang

This is the most sacred wat in Chiang Mai and when Katie and I got there, prayer was in session. We had to don long cotton robes in order to enter this one, but they were pretty great, so no complaints here fashion-wise. It was pretty sweltering after a while though in the temple, so we didn't stay inside too long.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Katie and I spent half a day on an excursion to Doi Suthep, because this temple is on top of the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai. The story goes that an elephant was sent up the mountain carrying relics that would go in this temple, and whereever the elephant stopped, that was where the temple was to be built. According to legend though, instead of just stopping, the elephant stopped and died, and a temple was built on that spot. We took a van there and drove up for thirty minutes rather than try the trek ourselves. If the elephant couldn't do it, we sure couldn't. 

At the base of the temple, there is a 304-step stairway which wasn't really an issue for me, since I'm on a 5th-floor walkup and it feels like there are that many stairs to get up to my apartment every night. It was here where we also walked around the temple three times while chanting something in Thai, rang bells for good luck, rang gongs, and got a foggy view of Chiang Mai from the sky. We were also blessed with bracelets by yet another monk for double the happiness and longevity.


Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which happens to be Thailand's most revered idol. This temple is in The Grand Palace and surrounded by what seems like hundreds of other beautiful decorated buildings. It is more conservative than other wats we encountered, probably all because of the Emerald Buddha. We were told ahead of time that we had to wear closed toed shoes on temple grounds (but of course would have to be barefoot in the actual temple). I wore a scarf around my shoulders most of the days in Thailand, but so many people kept running up to me on this particular day making sure I was also wearing a shirt and not just a scarf.

Wat Po

The reclining Buddha at Wat Po is quite famous for its size, but I was taken aback when I actually saw *how* large it was. I can't even begin to imagine how much gold is on this puppy. It's actually impossible to get the entire thing in a photo. It is also almost impossible to take a photo without someone creeping in on you.


Sorry lady, I'm sure you're really nice, but this is hilarious.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun was a good last wat to visit because it turned into an adventure when we decided to climb it. It was ridiculously steep and after climbing up, people were generally nervous to climb back down. This was the second out of three times on the trip where I realized I am actually a little scared of heights, or at least of falling to my death. But the trek up, as all treks up, or all things that are a little nervewracking, was worth it. We got to see the detail on the temple up close and got a pretty sweet view of Bangkok.

At this point, the bracelets I got from the monks are really dirty, probably just from being on my wrists for three weeks, but also since I fell in the river with the elephants and because I've been working out a lot. They look pretty bad. But I'm not ready to take them off, because I'm not ready to not be in Thailand yet. I'm also not looking forward to losing my blessing for happiness - because I've been pretty darn happy lately.

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