Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 5 ~ New Haven

Oatmeal for breakfast; all that pork belly was starting to catch up with me! A crazy early morning taxi ride uptown to Grand Central Station and I was on the train to New Haven. The ride was an agonizing two hours trapped next to couple alternating between irrational fights and makeout sessions, compounded by the fact that I had coffee, juice and a grande latte before I boarded the train. And had no idea that there were bathrooms onboard. I was so happy to arrive at New Haven and see Kathryn and her gorgeous son Henry. We dropped Henry at home and then headed to a local farmers market. I scored a necklace from a local artisan and we picked up some veggies from one of the stalls for dinner.

From there, we went in search of lunch ~ a lobster roll

This was my first time eating one of these and I take back what I have said about not liking lobster in the past. So decadent and sweet. THis particular roll was just lobster meat drizzled with hot butter...
After lunch, we lounged for awhile before heading out for a little tour of Yale. I am a sucker for old buildings, so I really enjoyed wandering around the campus. Especially when Kathryn pointed out all the filming locations for Indiana Jones....

I took so many pictures of Yale ~ they are all up on flickr.

After Yale, we headed back to Kathryn's and made a wonderful dinner of grilled salmon and farmers market veggies, enjoyed al fresco. It was such a wonderful, relaxing day and such a nice contrast to the craziness of the city....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Blog

Just a quick post to flog a new blog that I enjoy very much (disclaimer; the blog is from my favourite local cookbook store)

Cooks with Books

I heard a rumour that there may be some deals to be had as well.....

Day 4 !

I slept in for the first time. After my trip to Blue Hill and all the walking in the 3 previous days, there was no way I was dragging myself out of bed at 6 am... It was also my last night in Chelsea, so once I had showered dressed I slipped out for a breakfast at a local cafe called Dish. The breakfast was just what it should be and the service was good. The best part was the price ~ cheapest breakfast since arriving in New York. I checked out of my room and started the walk to my next hotel, the Millennium Hilton ~ found on Priceline for 120$ a few weeks ago because my plans had suddenly changed.
I have no idea what possessed me to walk there ~ I should have been conserving my energy for later! My suitcase did a wonderful job, bouncing off of a curbs and out of potholes. I was particularly cranky as I reached the neighbourhood of Canal Street ~ hot and bothered and people keep shoving pictures in my face trying to sell me handbags, watches and sunglasses!
I finally reached the Hilton at 11 am and decided to check on the off chance that my room was ready early. It was and I was so happy to be in a full size room on the 17th floor. After my last place, it was luxurious. It had a bath! A huge flat screen tv! And earplugs to block out the 24 hour construction noise. My view was quite chilling.

I admit, I had a bath, then crawled into bed for an hour. I just needed to refuel. Slightly refreshed, I headed out to explore Downtown Manhattan. My first stop was the beautiful church next to my hotel. THe gravestones were for the most part completely worn away over the years, but one jumped out at me, probably because of our close proximity to ground zero.

I stepped into the church itself, a shrine to the workers and others of Ground Zero. After a minute or two, it just became too much and I fled, with a painful lump in my throat. I headed out into the maze of Downtown streets, the beautiful mix of old buildings and gleaming new ones. I was halfheartedly looking for lunch, but nothing was grabbing me. Without knowing how I got there, I arrived at the Staten Island Ferry. What the heck, its free, so I boarded and enjoyed the views of the statue of Liberty on my way over.

At the Staten Island end, we had to disembark and missed the return trip, so I grabbed a hotdog while I waited for the next ferry.
The return trip was all about the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and The Waterfalls, which I understood to be an art installation.
Back in Manhattan, I wandered some more, checking out Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and grabbing a photo of Les Halles for my friend Mel.
Back at my hotel, I had a shower and a nap, before putting my party shoes on and heading down to catch a cab. My dinner reservation for tonight was at Tailor, recommended by one of my coworkers. I decided to cab it and had a thrilling ride, stuck in traffic for 10 minutes at one point. I turned out I was mere 2 blocks from my destination, but not knowing exactly where I was going, I just waited it out in the cab.
Tailor was wonderful! The decor was a very country asthetic ~ rough wood beams, stuffed chickens, rawhide on the tables, bare bulbs wrapped in wire ~ the food was anything but. I ordered a Kaffir Collins while I perused the menu. Settling on Marinated Fluke and Pork Belly with Miso Butterscotch and a glass of rose. I sat back and watched the room. I couldn't take pictures because the light was way too low and they would never have turned out. I also refuse to use flash in restaurants.
An amuse was presented to me, but as soon as the word "apple" came out of the servers mouth I was disappointed. "was the apple raw?" "yes". Damn, I had to gently turn it down. Seconds later, the server returned to inform me that my pork belly dish contained copious amounts of raw apple. I said I would just push it to the side (I had been looking forward to this dish since I first read the menu 3 weeks earlier).
THe fluke was delicious ~ a creamy salty sweet combination with shards of pineapple paper. The portions were generous and I wished I could share this meal with friends ~ I knew we would enjoy ordering almost everything on the menu and sharing little tastes.
The couple next to me were debating their choices and somehow, I found myself chatting with them. The next thing I knew, The woman was giving me her phone number "for next time" if I ever needed restaurant reccs. "Do not hesitate to call me" she said. People have been so incredibly friendly and helpful on this trip!
Finally, My pork belly arrived. The apple had been removed for me, so it was simply the pork belly and the miso butterscotch. My notes are funny at this point;

Oh. My. God. This pork belly kicks all other pork belly ass. For the record, this is the 3rd time in 3 days that I have eaten pork belly. I may turn into a pig...

I really had no idea until that moment that I had been loading up on the pig ~ probably a good thing I was walking so much every day! Anyway, the pork really was the most tender piece of meat I have ever eaten ~ so many people don't quite hit pork belly, but this had it all, including the crisp of the skin and the creaminess of the meat. And the miso butterscotch? I could eat that on everything! A perfect balance of salty and sweet. I could also see where the raw apple would be a perfect foil to the richness of this dish.

Brave (foolhardy) woman that I am, also ordered dessert and a dessert wine. I selected a Banyuls Dessert wine and the "French Toast". A single stick of perfectly crispy brioche with a creamy interior. Raisin puree very thin on the plate with raisin paper draped over. Brown butter ice cream. Warm maple gelee. Caramelised bacon bits. I could feel my heart seizing at the richness, but it was so damn good!

A wee bit tipsy on food and drink, I set out to explore the neighbourhood a little (Tribeca/Soho). The woman next to me had recommended a place for an after dinner cocktail called Kittechai. I couldn't find it (probably a good thing) it turned out later that I had walked right past it within a minute of leaving the restaurant. After about half an hour of walking in my sexy shoes, I had enough and sat down to switch to the flip flops in my purse.


Then back to the hotel to call Kathryn and set up my trip for the next day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Omnivores 100

a post to break up the over the top New York action.... I got it from Wandering Coyote

Here’s what to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn or Head Cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Soudough Bowl
33. Salted Lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more (
46. Fugu (AKA pufferfish)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. kaolin just wanted to clarify. I don't think I have tried this, but I suspect we all have "A more recent, and more limited, use is as a specially formulated spray applied to fruits, vegetables, and other vegetation to repel or deter insect damage. A traditional use is to soothe an upset stomach, similar to the way parrots (and later, humans) in South America originally used it.[6] Until the early 1990s it was the active substance of anti-diarrhea medicine Kaopectate."
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose Harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Farm

If you ever have the opportunity to eat here, seize it. I am so glad that I decided to take the chance and book something that was a bit of a trek from the city.
I think I left you all at the table as I decided to have the Farmer's Feast. I also threw myself at the mercy of my wonderful server and asked him to bring me whatever wine he deemed appropriate. I polished off the Elderflower Royale and swapped it out for a glass of Riesling from the Finger Lakes area of New York State. (I just want to add as an aside that I carried a Moleskin City Diary with me on this trip and I used it at every opportunity. The notes from my Blue hill dinner are a little hard to read, but i can feel the xcitement just reading the little half phrases I scribbled on the page...)
The first item at the table was the signature Vegetables on the Fence. I swear they were dressed with a light vinaigrette. The baby carrot was smaller than my baby finger, just to give you an idea of size. They tasted like the earth, the way vegetables should., And it made me laugh...
I didn't get a photo of the face bacon, the next offering, but Ed Levine of Serious Eats has a great shot of it...

The corn that I saw the chef smoking earlier? It arrived at my table in the form of a beautiful chilled smoked corn soup. I will admit to a geeky thrill as I realised that I had actually seen this prepared earlier...

The next offering didn't wow me quite as much, probably due to the fact that I ate it all wrong and ended up with smoked kale shrapnel all over myself and the table....

The mini tomato burger was out of this world and a harbinger of what was to come... Pure tomato flavour, what I suspect was chevre and an almond flour based burger bun. I could have made a meal out of these alone.

The final amuse was a miniature summer squash wrapped in pancetta, coated with sesame seeds and fried. Like a little piece of meaty salty candy....

As I finished up my amuse, a couple was seated at the table next to me. The guy had obviously been here before and I started eavesdropping a little to see what he had to say about the restaurant. He told his wife they had to order the charcuterie and I silently kicked myself for not having thought of that..

My disappointment was quickly forgotten as the first dish arrived; marinated bluefish with pigs ear and caviar. The bluefish was at once creamy and salty and the pigs ear and caviar added a wonderful crunchy texture. I tried to savour each bite, but it was gone way too fast, along with my lovely riesling. Mindful of the fact that I had to navigate the train back to NY that night, I told my server that I would have a different wine, but I wanted to just have one more glass. He presented me with a wonderful Gewurztraminer.

THe next course was a warm tomato tart. The base was watermelon, topped with goast cheese, bacon and chunks of beautiful heirloom tomatoes (another server had brought a platter of tomatoes around moments earlier and given me a mini lesson on varieties... very cool). My first bite was delicious, but the second... welll, I hit the hidden nugget of tomato water sorbet. The tomato flavours exploded with the shock of the temperature change. I think I may have giggled to myself....

During this time, i had also struck up a conversation with the table next to me. Turns out they also loved food and he was a produce supplier for a lot of manhatten restaurants...

Another tomato dish arrived from the kitchen ~ a salad with water cress, tomato gelee, fresh tomatoes and creamy fresh burrata cheese. It was somewhere around here that I realised that the Gewurtz that I had switched to was made for tomatoes..

A soft boiled egg, panko'ed and deep fried, floating in a flavourful broth with the last of the season's peas.

Eggplant Parmiggiana with a rich tomato caper sauce ( I actually broke out the bread at this point to soak up the wonderful sauce).

The delicious looking Berkshire pigs from the field finally made an appearance on my plate., The quartet of pig (loin, sirloin, boudin and belly) were accompanied by tiny little nugget potatoes and fresh ratatouille. (scribbled in my book? WOW. Underlined three times...)
Dessert came in two parts. I had finished the Gewurtz, so asked my charmingly perfect server fro a dessert reccomendation. He presented me with a Tesauro Recioto Di Valpolocella 2004 (it was so good, made him write it down for me).

First dessert was a plum soup with apricot sorbet.

Second dessert was Roasted apricot with basil sorbet, yoghurt and blueberries....
I was so happy, so content and SO FULL. I happily signed my life away on my credit card and stumbled out to my waiting taxi. I can only hope that I will be able to eat their again one day....

As a bonus, my cab driver for the return trip was wonderfully gregarious and took me on the scenic route back to town and the train station. I got to see the beautiful Pocantico hills countryside and it cost me a dollar less than the trip out to the farm.Somehow, I made it back to my little room in Chelsea to collapse, on sensory overload and completely exhausted....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day Three


I started the morning with an early breakfast at Empire Diner (open 24 hours, great staff) in Chelsea, then I strolled up 10th Avenue to 59th and over to Central Park. I wandered throught the park for several hours, snapping shots of all the usual suspects.

By the time I got to the reservoir, the feet were starting to protest. Bear in mind this is day three of a LOT of walking. I walked a little farther, coming out at East 91st and walking back down Fifth Ave. I wasn't planning to check out the Met as I was on a deadline, but I saw that the featured artist was Turner and I caved. The gallery is overwhelming. Do not go here unless you (a)know exactly where and what you want to see and have incredible willpower, or (b)you have a day or two to kill. Unfortunately, I have no willpower or the requisite skill needed to navigate the museum and I spent 3 hours in there without seeing a stitch of Turner's work! I still enjoyed every minute.... But time was ticking. I needed to get back to Chelsea, eat lunch, shower and change and get back to Grand Central in the early afternoon. Every stop was agony. I am not exaggerationg. It was hot, I had switched to running shoes in an effort to ease the fatigue on my feet, but they were just shredding my poor toes. Somehow, I made it to Chelsea. Within a few blocks of home, I spotted brgr. Yes, another beefy lunch! The burger was better than the one from Better Burger, ironically. And the Blueberry Pomegranate milk shake was gone in 60 seconds. Refreshed, I made it the last few blocks and crashed in front of my air con for 15 minutes.
I was out the door again before long. I switched to flip flops to let my swollen feet breathe and packed the gold flats fro my dressy restaurant look. I was so excited.... Stone Barns Farm, here I come...
I successfully purchased a ticket to Tarrytown and found the right platform for the 2:54 train. The ride itself was pretty, coming up along the Hudson River, about 40 minutes or so. A 20 minute cab ride and I was there


It was a peaceful oasis in the country after my 3 days of nothing but New York. I ambled through the gardens, checking out the beautiful tomatoes and eggplant, flowers, chickens, pigs, cows... Well you get it, its a farm. I spotted a chef smoking corn in a back parking lot. I hoped the corn would make an appearance at my meal.
at 5 pm on the dot, I was ushered to my table. The room is beautiful, light with high, heavy beamed ceilings. The service was impeccable. I think there was a body for every table in the room. I ordered an elderflower royale (their take on kir royale) while I waited to hear about my meal. I was offered a menu which was simply two pages of food. Everything that is in season and available right now. THe server asked me if I had any allergies or dislikes. Was I adventurous or conservative? Did I want the 5 course or the Farmer's Feast. Considering I had been planning and anticipating this dinner for several weeks, I opted for the Feast.....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day two continued + Hearth


After doing some damaged to the credit card at Macy's and H&M, I headed back to my neighbourhood. I had promised Rob I would buy a pretzel, so I stopped outside Penn station and purchased on. It was ok, butI only ate a few bites because I wanted to have a real lunch. Once I was back in Chelsea, I made a beeline for a place I had spotted in the morning, Better burger. I figure that if I am going to eat burgers for lunch, I might as well go with the happy organic grass fed whatever ones! Fries were extra, so I took a pass and paired my deliciously beefy burger with a cranberry hibiscus iced tea.

After lunch, I decided to scope out how far away my dinner destination was ~ walkable or not? I headed South East, crossing Union Square which had a wonderful farmers market in full swing. Although I looked, I did not purchase anything ~ the whole pesky not living there issue.... At the far end of Union Square, I discovered heaven ~ DSW AND Shoe Mania AND Filene's Basement AND Whole Foods. I still had a ways to go, so I kept on walking, just soaking up the scenery. Right on the edge of the Lower East Side, I found my restaurant, Hearth, and deemed it walkable from my hotel. Heading back, just exploring streets, I found myself standing in a place called Balducci's ~ gourmet food everywhere. I caved and bought myself a few beverages to try to counteract the heat, before heading back to my room to change. Feeling entirely fromby in my walking shoes, I threw a pair of pointy toed gold flats in my purse and headed back the 30 or so blocks to the restaurant. Once I was in eyesight of the place, I did a quick change, chucking my walking shoes in my purse ~ i love having big purses!
I was a little early, so I sat at their bar for a few minutes, ordering a fascinating cocktail with Rum, sasparilla, ginger and other interesting ingredients. Dinner was good ~ nothing mindblowing, but very well executed. I terrorized the kitchen staff by sitting at the kitchen bar. The chef (I think her name was Liz) was super friendly and accommodating; when I couldn't make up my mind between two dishes, she suggested I go with the octopus and she would make me a sampler of the fava beans. The octopus was the better of the two for sure. So melting and delicious, perfectly seasoned....
For my main. I had Berkshire pork loin with pork pelly and yellow beans. Again, very well made, delicious, nicely seasoned.

After dinner, I ambled slowly home, stopping in used bookstores and thrift shops. I discovered The Strand (book heaven) and spent an hour in there. As I wandered home, I fell in love with the city "I could live here." I thought to myself "Except for the fact that I would be broke, crippled from all the walking and seriously sleep deprived!"

The night finished with a stop at Pinkberry for a refreshing dessert before I crawled into bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New York City - First Days

There just isn't room to fit all the pictures in... I took over 450, narrowed it down to just under 300 and posted them to flickr, if you want to check them out.
I arrived at LGA 4:30 pm August 5th. Walking out of arrivals, I was hit by a wall of heat, sound and activity. Cab drivers shouted offers of taxis, people packed the sidewalks, waiting for their rides. Horns blared as a minor fender bender blocked two lanes of traffics. Amidst all this chaos, I was so happy to see a car cruising by with a sign in the window with my name on it ~ my car service. I am so glad I booked this, it made my trip so easy!
I arrived at my "hotel" in Chelsea. A simple brownstone, with no outward indication that this was a hotel. My room was on the second floor, thankfully- not so sure I could have handled many more flights of stairs with my suitcase! The room was tiny - a teeny twin bed, a shower, a dresser and a TV. And air conditioning. It was perfect though, everything I needed, clean and comfortable. I unpacked and hurried out to see what his city was all about, hoping to find dinner along the way. I walked around CHelsea for a good two hours before I settled, wobbly from hunger and exhaustion, on a little place called La Grainne.
A glass of white wine and a fortifying sandwich only served to remind me just how tired I was, so I paid the bill, stopped at Billy's Bakery for some cupcakes and made my way back to my room.

Day two dawned rainy and warm ~ The rain was warmer than the closet sized shower in my room! I decided I wanted to try out Bouchon for breakfast, so set off from Chelsea, through Midtown to Columbus Circle. I passed beautiful churches along the way, Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library, Bergdorfs and the Plaza Hotel. When I arrived at Bouchon, I was extremely disappointed to discover that the bakery adn Per Se were closed for two weeks... no wonder I couldn't get reservations.
Now very hungry, I wandered around for a few minutes, looking for breakfast. The Brooklyn Diner appeared to fit the bill and I was rewarded with a delicious and yet very expensive meal. I liked the polenta instead of hashbrowns option!

After breakfast, I moved on to Grand Central Station (huge!) and then to Macys.... oh, the shoes. I spent two hours in the shoe section at Macys ~ thankfully I came away with only one pair of shoes!

After I am done posting my round up, I will have a post with ALL of the New York City information (Business names and addresses.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Anniversary....

to us.
On August 15th, Rob and I celebrated 8 years together.
Well, we did the actual celebrating yesterday, as I had to work a double shift on the 15th.
I know people thought we were crazy when we first got together, age difference and all, but here we are, still together and still happy. I am very lucky to have met someone like Rob...

We celebrated with a dinner prepared by me ~
Oysters With Gewurtztraminer Granita
Heirloom Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella
paired with a Calona Vineyards Gewurtztraminer
Beef Tenderloin with Port Jus, New Potatoes and Provencale Yellow Beans
paired with Chateauneuf Du Pape Domaine Charvin
Individual Pavlova with Blackberries, Blueberries and Almond Chantilly Cream
Paired with Clos des Capucin Muscat Domaine Weinbach