Thursday, November 15, 2018

Packing Up and Moving to New Digs

I feel so grown up.  I finally got my own domain.  It only took me nine years of blogging to make the big move. 

Blogger, you have been a faithful friend and confidant for almost a decade.  I am sorry that we won't be rooming together any more.  Please don't take it personally.  It's not you, it's me.

My new address is .  Please stop by soon, but apoligies in advance, it is a work in progress.  I am still waiting for the delivery of some content, but I think you'll like the space as it is open and modern.

Thanks again blogger. I'll leave the keys right here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Restorative Powers of Girl Time

It seems to me that almost everyone has a happy place; the place where the stress of life instantly melts away and is supplanted by a feeling of well being, of calm.  I have many happy places.  Places that are an antidote to the office and to the daily grind.  Some of my happy places are very far away and infrequently visited. The top place on that list for me is Rome.  But, since its hard to visit a place like Rome very often, I also have happy places that are more local and convenient.  I visited one of them this weekend.

Each year, a group of my best girlies and I go on a long weekend away.  We don't go far and we don't go fancy.  Usually it is somewhere within the NY tri-state area and ever since one of my friends inherited a log cabin in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, it has been one of our go-tos.  The goal of our girl's weekend is to do as little as possible, eat and drink as much as possible and to laugh.  Our most recent weekend delivered on all of those things.

We have a few traditions that we tend to stick to, like making a midnight run to Walmart (just because we can) and hitting up the American Ribbon Factory.  And while I get how a side trip to a place where ribbon is made and sold has a "Griswald-esque", world's largest ball of twine ring to it, we wouldn't trade it for anything.

One of the greatest surprises of the trip was a meal that we had at a restaurant called "Garlic" in Stroudsburg, PA.  It was literally around the block from the Ribbon Factory and had some of the best food that we have had on our many trips to PA.  The restaurant is primarily a steakhouse, but offers many seafood dishes. I am disinclined to order seafood in a landlocked state, so we all went with the steak side of the menu and it did not disappoint. We had an array of Filet Mignon, NY Strip and Ribeye steaks and while I hate the term "bread program" this restaurant had a strong one.  Thinly sliced, chewey sour-dough type bread was delivered to our table warm and studded with roasted garlic cloves.  Along side the slices were a few ciabatta rolls, that revealed Italian herbs and sundried tomatoes when opened up for buttering.  Any surprise we all filled up on bread?

When we got back to the cabin, it was prosecco and birthday cake in celebration of one of our friend's birthday.  I made one of those cakes that spills out sprinkles when you cut it open, which actually worked out and did not collapse before offering its yield of colorful spillage.

As lovely and relaxing as the weekend was, it is the time spent with friends that makes the trip restorative and satisfying.  Everyone works very hard and has minimal time to get together.  This gathering of women is an opportunity to kvetch, to bounce things off like-minded individuals and to laugh.  Mostly to laugh.  And as I reflect back, I know that I got so much more out of the weekend than six, ten yard spools of Christmas ribbon.  I came back to center and got my head right. And while we did not solve any of the great problems of society, we made each other feel better and we figured out who tracked the deer poop up the stairs.  You know who you are and we all still love you.

The true sign of love for a friend is making them a cake that vomits sprinkles

What, no snacks?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Local, Surprising, Crazy

I am one of those non-New Yorker New Yorkers that feels  a connection to NYC, as it is the closest major metropolitain area to where I live;  the hinterlands of Long Island.  It is not the actual place that I live, but I spend a lot of time in New York and the boroughs.  I have a deep appreciation for its vitality, energy and exceptional food and drink. However, this does not make me a New Yorker.  And there are those that might remind me of this with taunts and names, such as "Bridge and Tunnel".  I get it, I get it.   To you, I am an invader. A poser.  A carpetbagger in the place where you actually lay your head at night, every night and where you wage war each day with all of the ridiculous and sublime that NYC has to offer.

As something of a theater nerd, we see a lot of shows, both on and off Broadway.  This weekend, we were in the city to see an off-Broadway production at the Minetta Lane Theater.  It wasn't a play, but a reading of a screen play, by Billy Crystal, called "Have a Nice Day", which was was being recorded for Audible.  The Minetta Lane Theater is a small, intimate theater in a far corner of the East Village, just bordering on the West Village.  The performance was terrific.  It included many famous faces, such as Annette Benning, Kevin Klein (who was valiantly battling a head cold), Rachel Dratch, Justin Bartha (the fried groom from the Hangover) and a collection of talented comedy players.

We found parking on East 9th Street and planned to walk through Washington Square Park, something neither of us had done in about 25 years.  We had an early dinner reservation at Minetta Tavern and we shuffled through the park in a hurry, as neither of us had eaten since breakfast.  Still, in spite of our hurry, I could not help but appreciate the beauty of the arch, the central fountain and the dog park on the far end, filled with fluffy pups of every size and variety.  It was crowded, unseasonably warm and truly beautiful.

Central fountain. Washington Sq Park.

Looking toward the Freedom Tower from the West end of Washington Sq Park
We walked up to MacDougal Street and hooked a left toward Minetta Tavern, tummies rumbling and anticipation building.  As we headed down MacDougal, a tall, dirty and very agitated man came stomping up the pavement toward us.  He was yelling something that I could not make out at first and when we got close enough to him, I could see that he was shoving people out of his way.  Intentionally walking between couples and shoving them apart at the shoulders to clear a path for himself.  As he careened toward us, I tried to move to my left in order to separate from my husband and create a clear path for him, but his arms were long enough that once he got to us, he was able to shove us both on the shoulders and yell "Excuse me!".  I was in something of a state of shock.  A stranger had put his hands on me in an agressive way.  I looked down and caught a glimpse of my feet.  I was wearing pointy toed boots.  I was suddenly over come with a need to kick him squarely between the legs. I went from shock to anger in the blink of an eye, once I had composed myself long enought to play back the fact that a crazy, dirty old bastard put hands on me. I turned back to look for him and he had already gone a block and a half past us, making his way into the park.
Your garden variety crazy old bastard

I thought through the scenario in my head.  What if I had chased him down and kicked him?  What would have happened?  Would he have tried to kill me? Would it have worked out in any kind of positive outcome?  No. Definitely not.  Shaken up and still a bit stunned, we went in to Minetta Tavern and had a couple of cocktails at the bar, while we waited for our table.  By the time they seated us, I had settled enough to remember how hungry I was.  Food was flying by us, looking good and smelling good.

Confit Duck Leg on Parsnip Puree
We started with a confit leg of duck before our main dishes of steak frittes and pork chop.  My appetite was strong, so I didn't wait to take a picture of my steak.  I just dug in.  It was topped with a disc of garlic butter and it was insanely good.  We ended our meal with a three way Pot de Creme (chocloate, coffee, vanilla), that was so delicious, I wanted to lick the ramekins.  At this point, our encounter with Captain Crazy, was fading a little and I finally felt settled.

This was the first negative encounter that I have had with anyone in NYC in what may be a thousand visits.  There is no overstatement in that number as I worked in Manhattan for a few years and I have been back for personal  reasons once  or twice a month over the past 10 years.  I'm not saying that I have never had someone yell things at me or aggressively panhandle, but I have never been physically assaulted like that.  Will this encounter change my love for NYC or my willingness to go in and just hang around?  Not in the slightest. In my opinion, that could have happened in any gathering where there are a large number of people.  It did not have to happen in the city.  It could have been anywhere. I will not change a single thing about the way I live my life. I will defiantly continue to be an New York City interloper, carpetbagger and Long Island Railroad riding Bridge and Tunnel Bitch.  Except, I am probably going to invest in a pair of steel tipped boots.

Have a Nice Day Playbill

Cast of Have a Nice Day

Washington Square Arch

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Mashing Up My Cocktails

Italy is my favorite place on the entire planet, bar none.  Not a day goes by when I am not daydreaming about my next trip. When I think about travel, it is always Italy first, but every now and then, I let my mind wander to other European destinations that are on my bucket list.

Lately, I have been thinking about Spain.  Like Italy, it has a relaxed way of life, centered around a cafe/bar culture with iconic food and drink. We are considering a run to Madrid in the winter, if we have enough airline miles to do it for low/no cost.  The very possibility of this has gotten us doing research.  And when we do trip research, we dive in pretty deep.

One of the things that came out of our research about Spain is a drink called the Tinto de Verano.  It is essentially a slightly sweetened red wine spritzer.  Similar to a sangria, but simpler and made by the glass, a la minute. This summer, I discovered that I LOVE a similar Italian drink called an Aperol Spritz.  The composition of an Aperol Spritz is equal parts Prosecco, Aperol and Seltzer.

This afternoon, my husband opened a bottle of red wine and started experimenting.  He threw a healthy glug of aperol into his glass of wine and topped it with a splash of seltzer.  It was unexpectedly delicious. I added a couple of slices of fruit and got the measurements down to a repeatable recipe and a cocktail was born.  It's kind of like the bad baby that resulted from a foolish night of passion between the Tinto and the Spritz.  We have named the love child "Bacio da Madrid" or Kiss from Madrid.  Give it a try before it's officially cider and whiskey weather.


5 oz Fruity Red Wine (Rioja, Shiraz, etc)
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons Aperol 
4 Oz Seltzer (orange flavored seltzer works really well here)
1 Slice Lemon
1 Slice Orange

Fill a large wine goblet or tall glass halfway with ice.  Pour over the wine and aperol and mix well with a spoon.  Drop in the lemon and orange slices and stir again.  Top off with Seltzer.



Bad Baby

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Screeching into Tuesday, Like...

Tuesday is not my good news day.

Why is Tuesday, even?  Let's examine.

Tuesday's only real value is to remind us that it is no longer Monday.  It does not posess the inherent virtue of Wednesday, whose claim to fame is marking the midpoint of the week, allowing you an opportunity to placate yourself with a reassuring "its halfway over" or have your coworkers wish you a happy "humpday", which I am pretty sure is an HR violation, but it keeps skating the law, somehow.  Wednesday is not a spectacular day, but it serves a purpose and therefore can remain on the payroll.

Tuesday is also not the villian of the week.  That job falls squarely on the shoulders of Monday.  Monday is the day that breaks up with your weekend, probably by text.  It pops up uninvited and all too soon, to spoil that split second at the end of the week when you caught up on laundry and allowed yourself to exhale.  Monday careens into that relaxing breath like an out of control bread truck. And yes, I chose a bread truck for that analogy because I love carbs and they clearly hate me.

Tuesday is also not Thursday.  Thursday is like a mini-Friday. Not because you go out for drinks at the end of it, but because Friday is so close, you can almost touch it.  Thursday pulls you through the quicksand and deposits you squarely into Friday's waiting arms.

Friday is a fickle mistress though.  She is seductive, with an unmatched allure.  But if you are ever going to get stuck at work on a heinous, unforgiving and thankless task, it's going to be on a Friday.  Friday giveth and she taketh away. She must be a Gemini.

Saturday and Sunday. What can I say about them that hasn't already been said in a thousand sonnets or at least a couple of teen rom-coms? They are superstars and I have no interest in further puffing up their inflated egos.  You don't tell the captain of the football team how handsome he is.  You don't need to help feed his already bloated sense of self. If you don't watch closely, Saturday and Sunday will cheat on you with a trip to the emergency room for appendecitis faster than you can say "the copay is how much?!?".

So, allow me to posit yet again...why is Tuesday, even?  I think Tuesday is only here to remind us of how bereft of value he is (yes, Tuesday is male because, duh). Tuesday is the day you need to live through, to endure, so that you can get to all the other days.

So I am crashing into Tuesday, reluctantly.  With my guard up and ready to fight, because Tuesday is no gentleman and he will hit a lady.  Luckily, I have a mean left hook and Tuesday doesn't stand a chance. I'm talking to you Tuesday, when I say (does best Clubber Lang imitation) "No, I don't hate Tuesday.  But I pity the fool".

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Like a Bad Penny

It has been a long time since I posted.  It has actually been close to two years since I made my last entry to this blog. It isn't because I have lost my interest in writing or cooking.   Quite the opposite, actually.   I have been writing like crazy, trying to catalogue all of our family's recipes for a family cookbook. Our family has been through some significant losses over the past few years and the need to chronicle and preserve the family legacy seems more pressing to me these days.

My goal for the cookbook is to have it ready to distribute to family and friends by Christmas of this year.  I don't know if I will look to distribute it beyond the immediate family, but if not, I think that a good deal of the content will end up here.  And for that reason, I think it's time to come back to this forum and catch up.

When I put up my last post "Channeling my Inner Nonna", in December 2016, I was fresh off a trip to Sicily, Italy and London.  We have since gone back to all three, as the pull of Sicily is strong, due to our family heritage and we can't be in the region and not go to Rome. London, a relatively new discovery for us is just great fun.  I have to say, it is the most spectacularly drunk town that I have ever been to and it has THE WORST traffic.  I would say that the traffic problem in London is far worse than New York City, which is pretty rotten in its own right.

Our most recent trip to Sicily centered around Palermo, a city that was surprising to me on many levels.  I think I was expecting it to be gritty and dirty and tough, like Naples, but moreso.  I could not have been more incorrect.  Palermo is beautiful and elegant and full of history.  With side trips to Erice, Trapani and Mondello, the beauty of north eastern Sicily unfolded like a flower, revealing layer after beautiful layer.

So without much fanfare, I return to the place where I began the journey of chronicling my adventures in cooking and travel. I have new things to share and many reflections on the past that are currently bubbling under the surface. I never considered myself a writer, more of a kibitzer. Someone who makes snarky comments from the sidelines, but is never really in the game.  My goal is to change that and to jump in with both feet. Let's see where this goes...

Alcamo Beach Sicily

Teatro Massimo

Theater Horse

Dramatic Theater Horse

Horses that are probably jealous of the Theater Horse

Palermo Marina


The breakfast of champions

Monday, December 19, 2016

Channeling my Inner Nonna

You ever have one of those days where everything aches for no reason and you walk slow, deliberate and a little like you have a poop in your pants?  Think Fred Sanford, but less elegant.  No? Just me?

OK, whatever.

When I have those kind of days, I think of it as coming down with a case of "The Grandmas".  When you get a case of The Grandmas, everything aches, it takes forever to walk from one side of the house to the other and you forget how to use all your electronic devices.

But sometimes, instead of a case of The Grandmas, you get a case of "The Nonnas".  When you get a case of The Nonnas, you become an elderly superwoman.  You put on your housecoat, cook all day and all night, wash and fold 40 loads of laundry and pick vegetables from your beautiful backyard garden (even if you have neither a back yard or a vegetable garden, when you get The Nonna's they magically appear).

Last weekend, I got a wicked case of The Christmas Nonnas.  I was posessed by the impulse to make Struffoli.  For those of you that don't know what Struffoli are, they are little round balls of fried dough, soaked in a honey syrup and covered with non-pareils.  If you grew up with at least one Italian grandmother, you know what they are and you have warm memories of being shooed away from pots of hot oil, being covered in honey from head to toe and not being able to put anything down after you pick it up because everything sticks to your fingers.

My Nonna did not leave me a recipe for these delightful treats and honestly, I have not ever wanted to make them before because I hate frying.  I hate the smell it leaves in the house, I hate the mess and I hate spatter burns.  But, when the spirit of Christmas mixes with the spirit of Nonna, the compulsion for struffoli can outrun my more neurotic, Felix Unger-type tendencies. Being that I did not have a recipe from my own Nonna, I did what any red blooded Italian Grandmother would do...I used the Internet.

What I found is that there are no shortage of recipes for Struffoli.  Everyone who calls themself an Italian cook has a version - Giada DeLarentiis, Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali.  They all look pretty good and the recipes are similar...flour, eggs, a splash of alcohol, honey, etc.  But since I was overcome with the spirit of Nonna, I went to the source, Cooking with Nonna.

If you have not seen this adorable series, a young Italian American woman, Rossella Rago, cooks traditional Italian and Italian American recipes with grandmothers.  Yours, hers, any Italian nonna that will sit still long enough to teach her a recipe.  It's quite charming and sweet and it spreads the joy of having an Italian grandmother to everyone.  The recipe that I used, along with a "how to" video can be found here.  Enjoy and Buon Natale!