Monthly Archives: January 2009


Tomorrow, MM and I are going to a coed bachelorette party for a good friend of ours. She is a very successful set designer within the fashion industry. Her personality is a mix of hippy, funky, care-free, fun-loving, and charming all at the same time. She’s an artist, which usually means neurotic without being psychotic in NYC, but she’s actually very collected and fantastic. All of these characteristics and talents have also made her the perfect member of Norwood club – also the location of her bachelorette party.

Norwood is located in a five-story townhouse on 14th Street in the Meatpacking District. It serves as a multi-level haven for creative types who must be invited to be members. The members are primarily “artists” – including painters, musicians, writers, chefs, fashion designers, and collectors. The members are allowed to invite their esteemed guests with them, which resembles the point of the Soho House. Norwood, however, would like to be known as more exclusive and less “hip” or “chic.” Basically, its trying to outdo the Soho House, but in reality its just serving a different crowd. Most of the Soho House members probably wouldn’t enjoy Norwood as much as their own exclusive club. At Norwood, the atmosphere and the conversation are focused on the “art world” and the more authentic reality that apparently these artists exist in.

Members and their guests wander throughout the brownstone – in the high-ceilinged first floor lounge, the lantern-lit back garden, and the swankier third floor bar area. All of this provides plenty of creative space for aristocratic artists to play catch-up on their strange activities such as attending the odd artist festivals world-wide or even deer hunting in Scotland. The service is good, which it should be considering the thousands of dollars the members pay annually and the $20 drinks.

I’m sure MM and I will have a fantastic time – we have enjoyed our visits there before. But, in our eyes, it’s all about the company we keep. Whether it be at Norwood or the Soho House or even at our house…

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As we get closer to this Sunday, when the entire country should be wearing black & gold to cheer the Steelers on in Super Bowl XLIII (can you tell I’m from Pittsburgh?), I have been in search of the perfect NYC bar to get together with my friends to watch the game. There is no way I am going to be able to entertain all of our friends in my apartment with my perfectly-sized flat screen – its not huge, its perfect. 🙂

Priorities for the bar:

1. not too crowded – which can be nearly impossible in a sports bar on Super Bowl Sunday
2. good televisions
3. good drinks and grub
4. not in an inconvenient place to get home late on a Sunday evening
5. must have seating – we are not trying to stand for 4 hours

Being that MM and I are not typically at the sports bars, I’ve had to do some research. Here’s the list I put out for my friends:
2. Village Pourhouse
4. The Blue Seats
5. Bounce Deuce

Right now, we’re holding a table reservation at Arctica because it is very close to home. Problem is, the table will not seat everyone at the same time…I’ll continue to make some calls, but I’d rather have something than nothing. I just want to see my STEELERS win!!!

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the chef’s loft

Last night, MM and I were treated to a full course dinner in a loft prepared by a personal chef. I know, I know. That sounds faaaaancy…but we were actually invited to help the chef organize his idea of having a loft where he can make private dinners for groups of people, parties, etc. He is also Italian, and he would like to create a “restaurant” in his loft so that people can have that feeling of privacy and exclusivity while eating a fantastically homemade meal.
He is from Umbria, so the menu he prepared primarily consisted of dishes that are native to his hometown. It was more elaborate than I was expecting, but I wasn’t complaining. He served a salad with carpaccio, bruschetta, pureed garbanzo beans with pancetta, asparagus lasagna, filet of pork and tiramisu. The menu was more detailed than that, but I accidentally forgot his hand-written menu to share all of the delicious details…
Most everything was fantastic – homemade pasta in the lasagna, the filet cooked in red wine, roasted garbanzo beans on top of the puree, and many other finely planned details that made a big difference. The only comments I had were minor and usually related to salt, which I will admit – I like too much.

Just to be sure that I would like to try to help him in his endeavors, we planned another dinner for next week! This time he will be serving pesce (fish)…I think it is only necessary for me to try both land and sea dishes.

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"The Michelin Guide. How to find perfect."

I have heard the word “Michelin stars” thrown around a lot in the restaurant industry, but I never actually looked into the source. I thought, for sure it wasn’t actually related to the TIRES! Boy, was I wrong…Michelin stars are given by the Michelin Guide, which is a rating system sponsored by Michelin, the tire company. Once I learned this, I had to do some research.

At the turn of the 20th century Michelin created the Michelin Guide to encourage motorists to travel. It was done in an effort to market their most recently introduced automobile. Now, that’s a stretch of a marketing ploy if I’ve ever heard of one! But, it caught on! This guide is more respected that Zaggat and it’s world-wide, which spreads further than Frank Bruni’s NY Times reviews.

There are 5 criteria factored into the designation of stars:

-The quality of the products
-The mastery of flavor and cooking
-The “personality” of the cuisine
-The value for the money
-The consistency between visits

Michelin has a team of full-time professional restaurant/hotel inspectors who anonymously evaluate establishments. All evaluations involve anonymous meals or overnight stays to have an honest assessment of the quality and the reliability of the experience.

One star = a very good restaurant in its category, a good place to stop on your journey.
Two stars = excellent cuisine, worth a detour, with specialties and wines of first-class quality.
Three stars = exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey, where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. The wine list features generally outstanding vintages and the surroundings and service are part of this unique experience, which is priced accordingly.

In addition to the awarding of stars, the Michelin Guide includes a description of each establishment and a variety of other symbols to give readers a clearer idea of the establishment’s ambiance, type of cuisine and specialties, and wine list, etc. The guide also provides a comfort rating with one to five forks and spoons for restaurants and one to five pavilions for hotels. These symbols take into consideration the decor, service, cleanliness and upkeep of the surroundings.

You learn something new every day…

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Broccoli & Cauliflower Orecchiette

Last night, MM and I had the pumas over for dinner. It’s a good feeling to end the weekend or start the week with good friends around a dinner table. Plus, we never usually have the opportunity to extend our table to its full capacity!

To split up the responsibilities and the cost, we gave each person a dish and covered all of the following: salad, protein, pasta, bread, dessert and wine. Sometimes, dinner doesn’t need to be as grand, but last night was our first time trying one of the puma’s meatball and sauce recipe. That called for a full complimentary menu. MM and I were in charge of the pasta and salad.

To go with the main entree of the evening – meatballs and sauce – we decided to go with a more mild pasta with vegetables. Broccoli & Cauliflower Orecchiette was the perfect call:

1 head of cauliflower
3 bushels of broccoli
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon of anchovy paste
1 box of orecciette
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 leaves of basil (chopped)
salt to taste

-boil broccoli and cauliflower in water till cooked
-remove broccoli and cauliflower but do not pout out the boiling water to keep for pasta
-heat garlic in olive oil till fragrant
-add anchovy paste and stir to release flavors
-add cooked broccoli and cauliflower to pan and mix
-add salt to taste
-smash the broccoli and cauliflower into small pieces to coat the orecciette as opposed to dominate in size
-add chopped basil and turn down heat
-boil water in pot again and add handful of salt
-add orecciette and cook until al dente
-add orecciette to sauce and turn up heat
-mix well to coat the pasta with the flavors
-serve with parmigiana, if desired

I plan on learning how to make the meatballs and sauce from my friend – so stay tuned!

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202 – fashion/food/faux pas?

To me, fashion and food go hand in hand. I believe that both are an expression of art and a huge portion of a person’s lifestyle. 202 in Chelsea Markets is a good example of how these two worlds can collide.

202 is a restaurant inside of a high-end store for clothes, housewares, and antiques from Paris and the South of France. The idea was London designer, Nicole Farhi – she also has a store in Notting Hill with the same name. The menu leans British and Mediterranean, with dishes like warm goat cheese salad with salty prosciutto, sweet figs, and toasted pistachios to English favorites like fish and chips. Their signature cocktails include honey mojitos, which have conjured up quite the talk around town.

From what I can gather from others who have been there, they either love it or they hate it. I guess some people don’t want to browse the blouses while chowing down on a salad. To each is own!

I will be going to 202 this evening to meet up with my ‘pumas’ – I am sure I will enjoy one of those mojitos and maybe try a dish, but in this economy I’m likely not to buy a Nicole Farhi item. At least this restaurant/store concept gets you for one or the other!

75 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea Markets
@ 16th St.

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the better cup o’ joe

I have been a loyal Starbucks patron for many, many years. There were a few “breaks” in our relationship – one for the years I lived abroad, and the others for the times I was depressed when I added up how much I spent on Starbucks each year. I saw a show once on how much you could save by making your own coffee, and it was basically enough to pay a month’s rent. But, these times passed and I would always find myself returning to the familiar smells and feels of the ‘buck.

I have to say, however, that the corporate hounds in charge of Starbucks do have things to worry about these days…people aren’t going to feel the same luxury brand loyalty when their losing their jobs and strapped for cash. People are going to cling to what is comfortable and genuine. Starbucks’ comfort level has dwindled in recent years as the staff has grown more bitter, the drinks worse quality, and the environment like a carbon copy all over the world.

I have even found myself looking for a more genuine, honest, and economical reality. I have found a place in NYC that offers these exact qualities: Joe – the art of coffee.

There are a few locations in Manhattan, and all have a sense of independent identity and something warm and cozy to offer their patrons. I found it while walking around the West Village one morning on my way to find croissants for MM. I then was told amazing things about it by MM’s neighbor. Now, I am having a little love affair.

I’m not sure what Starbucks would think, but then again – who over there is listening to me???

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Puma Night @ Casa d’Alexis

Four of my girlfriends and I call ourselves “the pumas” – this generated one night when we were out on the town. One of the pumas is slightly older than the rest of us, but she looks younger than the rest of us. Younger men are always hitting on her and trying to get her attention. Thus, she is a successful puma. This term was created to describe a woman in her 30’s who dates younger men. My friend does not have a habit of dating younger men, but she certainly could if she wanted to. Since we’re such a close knit group of girls, we lovingly carry the term across all of us.

So, last night was “puma night” at my apartment! I cooked, the girls brought vino, and we chatted and chatted as good friends should. One week had passed since our last “puma night” which left plenty of catching up to do.

Being that we were four ladies, I tried to come up with a healthier menu. My previous recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp was perfect, but I changed it a bit by added more vegetables than just broccoli. I added asparagus, red bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. They all roasted beautifully.

For a side dish, I thought brown rice would be perfect. It would add something more filling, but still in a healthy way. The recipe is simple:


3 1/2 cups – vegetable stock
1 1/2 cup – brown rice
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 cup water chestnuts (chopped)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen carrots
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/3 cup peanuts

2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons minced ginger

boil stock, ginger and rice in a small pot until boil
add frozen peas and carrots
lower heat and let simmer until stock is absorbed – approximately 25 minutes
fluff with fork and let stand for about 5 minutes
add sesame oil, sesame seeds, peppers, water chestnuts, soy sauce and peanuts
mix and serve

How easy is that?! When you serve, put the rice on everyone’s plate, then top with the roasted vegetables and shrimp. Yum-my.

For dessert, I prepared a fruit salad with mangos, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi and blackberries. In the end, everyone was looking for chocolate or cookies. I guess I shouldn’t have pushed it over the health edge with the fruit. I think the wine made up for anyone’s cookie-craving. Always does.

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Loyal patrons of Dell’Anima, are likely to venture over to L’Artusi and expect more of the same from Gabriel Thompson’s newest restaurant: seasonal Italian, focused around whatever’s fresh at the moment, anchored with a few standby classics. The menu is divided into Pesce, Pasta, Crudo, Carne, Verdura…

First impressions of L’Artusi were very good – comfortable, clean, simple, well-designed, good service. Seeing the kitchen with the pots hanging in the back, the cushioned bar stools, and the striped ceiling all made me very excited to sit down for a nice dinner on a rare Sunday night out before a Monday off from work. The waitress was delightful and very attentative to our questions for recommendations – although many of the her suggestions are what led MM and I to a sub-par review of the restaurant.

A few rare Italian offerings got MM and I excited for our dinners, but also nervous at the stakes of them not pulling them off correctly. Pizzoccheri, for instance, is one dish MM and I love very much in the Northern region of Italy, in Bormio, to be exact. We even went so far as to ask the floor manager to be sure it was authentic, when he responded with the incorrect pronounciation, our worries were varified. Even still, MM ordered the pizzoccheri and the wild boar dish. The pizzoccheri resembled more of a lasagna – there was no whole wheat pasta in a shape similar to tagliatelle and it was definitely baked with a strong emphasis on what “baked” can look and taste like. The real pizzoccheri in Italy is actually a pasta dish and not confused confused with lasagna by any stretch of the imagination. The wild boar arrived with a huge, and unannounced, dollop of sour cream. MM hates sour cream and neither of us enjoyed its presence in the dish. I ordered the yellowtail crudo, which wasn’t even comparable to Scarpetta’s mind-blowing version, and the octopus entree. The octopus was more like a couple of shavings of spicy octopus with the main focus of the dish being the little bread cakes underneath.

I don’t mean to put such a negative slant on my feedback about our experience at L’Artusi, but I feel it is necessary to explain that the dishes they are attempting to pull off have little to no resemblence of the actual dishes. Putting a different spin on Italian classics is expected with talented chefs, but not when presenting very rarely done dishes such a pizzoccheri. Also, when ordering “octopus,” I’d expect it to be the primary ingredient on the plate. Hasn’t Gabrielle Thompson seen “Iron Chef” where the judges tear the chefs apart if the secret ingredient isn’t the main flavor on the plate???

L’Artusi – double check your menu, please. I’d like to come back to enjoy your ambiance, but only if I can eat and be equally impressed.

228 West 10th Street near Bleeker Street

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Figgy Veal Chops

I’m always cooking pastas with MM, so I am on the hunt for some good protein recipes. MM and I love veal, but we usually cook with veal cutlets, so this veal chop recipe caught my attention. I also love figs, so this was a keeper. It won’t break your back in the kitchen and you don’t have to watch the veal as much as a pork chop for dryness.

Figgy Veal Chops

4 veal chops, each 3/4 inch thick (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Merlot or other bold red wine
2 cups water
2 to 3 tablespoons demi-glace concentrate (see note below)
2 tablespoons fig preserves

-Season chops with salt and pepper.
-Heat oil in a large skillet and brown the chops on both sides.
-Add the wine, bring to a boil and lower the heat so the liquid simmers.
-Simmer for a few minutes, until the wine is reduced to a glaze.
-Add the water and heat until boiling.
-Stir in the demi-glace until smooth.
-Cover and simmer until the chops are not quite firm – about 5 minutes.

-Transfer the chops to a serving plate.
-Stir the fig preserves into the sauce in the pan and boil until the desired consistency is reached. The sauce should be shiny and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

-Season to taste with salt and pepper, and spoon over the chops

Demi-glace concentrate is available at kitchen and gourmet shops – Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. A 1 1/2-ounce container yields about 2 tablespoons.

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