New Year, New York

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Hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve. Whether you welcomed the year with friends, family, or with some tipsy strangers-- I hope your 2014 proves to be the best yet! By that I mean, I hope this year is full of inspiration and innovation. Trust yourself to take that adventure, push your boundaries, love the person you've grown into. Much better than starting that no-carb diet, right?

Throw out your ridiculous resolutions. It'll be ok, I promise. This first post of the year is dedicated to the most iconic New Year's Eve city... New York, NEW YORK. I wanted to showcase this magical time of year as well as pair that with a dessert that I feel best represents N.Y.C.! I'm so incredibly grateful for all of you and for the constant challenge and growth this blog continues brings to me. Cheers to 2014 and here's to another year!

{pretzel at Tiffany's}

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If you haven't seen the documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, check it out immediately on Netflix! This year's theme was a dedication to all holidays-- each window was a separate day such as Fourth of July, Arbor Day, Valentine's Day, etc. Always a creative surprise from Bergdorf's and never a shortage of spectacular!

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And now onto the dessert! This cheesecake is simplicity at its best. I don't add any caramel sauce or fruit, not a single strawberry or cherry! It would be delicious with those additions of course, but I just like it as is. I do add a hint of lemon zest to the cheesecake batter as well as a sour cream topping. Sounds more complicated than it really is. In all honesty, this recipe is so straightforward-- everyone will be so impressed with your new year baking feats. Make it for that cheesecake lover in your life which in my case, is myself.

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If you're like me, the most tedious part will be the graham cracker crust. Not because of the ingredients, but because it takes forever to make the edges perfectly level!

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I think this took me a solid 15 minutes. But so worth it! The rest of the cheesecake is very easy. Even the lemon zest/juice is optional but I think it adds a hint of brightness to this rich dessert.

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New York cheesecake makes about 10-12 servings

Crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 whole crackers)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 (8 ounce blocks) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

Topping:

  • 1 pint (2 cups) sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

(1) Preheat oven to 350°F. (2) In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar together until well combined. (3) Press into a 9″ spring form pan, pressing crumbs into bottom of pan.    (4) In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the 1 cup sugar and softened cream cheese; beat together until smooth about 3-4 minutes. (5) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. (6) Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and beat just until smooth and creamy. You don’t want to whip too much air into it (this causes cracks on the top, but you shouldn’t have lumps of cream cheese). Pour into crust. (7) Bake for 35-45 minutes. (8) While cheesecake is baking, make the topping by mixing together the sour cream, ½ cup sugar, vanilla, and salt. (9) After baking, remove cheesecake from oven and turn oven temperature down to 325°F degrees. Pour sour cream topping over hot cheesecake, gently spreading to edges. (10)      Return cheesecake to oven and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes. (11)      Remove cheesecake from oven and leave sides on pan while allowing cheesecake to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate several hours (or overnight) (12)      Remove edges of spring form pan before serving. A knife dipped in hot water makes for easier slicing.

Oktoberfest

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As a celebration of the last day of Oktoberfest, I thought I would conclude with this recipe. Don't worry, it's not as complicated as that candy bar pie monstrosity I created last week. This recipe is very easy to make and a crowd pleaser-- German hot potato salad.

To be honest I'm not sure how 'German' this potato salad really is. Perhaps it was inspired by a traditional German dish or perhaps a group of Southern church ladies just decided serving it next to some hotdogs was enough to verify it as German. Regardless, it's delicious and a good alternative to a mayonnaise potato salad (which I also adore).

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If you know me at all, you also know that I LOVE potatoes. It verges on complete obsession. My motto is : I never met a potato I didn't like. And this German potato salad is one of my favorite side dishes/meals. As I made this many, many times in middle school, this recipe has a lot of fond memories to me. In this version, I decided to jazz it up with a medley of different potatoes. You can use all red new potatoes (as is usually used) but the mix of colors from these red, Yukon gold, and purple potatoes just makes the dish so much more appealing.

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I love the saltiness from the bacon, the sweetness from the onions, and the tanginess of the apple cider vinegar. You can serve it next to some sausage or bratwursts but I am perfectly content having a big bowl of just this for dinner. A pint of beer on the side is your choice.

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In addition to this German recipe, I wanted to share some Oktoberfest photos from last weekend at The Cloisters. Spectrum, a group run through The Metropolitan Museum organized this event. It was a great program with beer, pretzels, tours of the garden, and more beer. If you've never been up to The Cloisters in Manhattan, I would HIGHLY recommend you make a visit-- it truly is an oasis within the city and the perfect setting for this occasion.

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{hops in the Cloisters garden}

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German Hot Potato Salad adapted from Better Homes and Gardens makes 6 servings

  • 2 pounds new potatoes
  • 6-8 slices bacon
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon chives or scallions, chopped

(1) In a large covered pot, cook the potatoes in boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes or just until tender. Drain well. Cool slightly then slice into ¼-inch disks. Place in a large bowl. (2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon under medium heat until completely crisp. Drain on a plate with a paper towel. (3) Reserve ¼ cup of bacon drippings in the skillet. Use the bacon fat to cook onions until browned. (4) Then add sugar, vinegar, ½ cup water, salt and pepper to the browned onions. (5) In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in the remaining ½ cup water. Add to the onion mixture and cook until the mixture is clear, thickened, and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. (6) Pour the hot mixture over the sliced, cooked potatoes. Add the crumbled bacon and if desired add additional salt and pepper to taste.  

butterfly conservatory

butterfly Here's a baking break for y'all :) Last week, I went with some coworkers to explore the American Museum of Natural History. One of their current exhibitions is the beautiful butterfly conservatory. It was absolutely incredible. So many jewel-toned butterflies fluttering around me... I was giddy. Here are a few snapshots.

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If you have a chance, go see them for yourself and also watch the film Flight of the Butterflies, an amazing story about the migration of the monarch butterflies also at the museum. Then say hi to the dinosaurs and blue whale!

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American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192

Momofuku Ssäm Birthday!

I don't need much for my birthday... a sweet card, a bottle of wine, and apparently lots of pork? Well not just any pork but delicious pork belly, spicy pork sausage, thinly shaved Virginia ham... all from Momofuku Ssäm Bar! What more could a (reformed vegetarian) girl want.

While I love Momofuku Milk Bar, I'd never been to any of David Chang's restaurants so I decided my 25th birthday (dubbed by my coworkers Katherine and Maxine as my 'Silver' birthday) was the perfect opportunity to indulge. And ohhhh don't let my dainty friends fool you, these girls can pack it down.

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Besides pork, Momofuku Ssäm Bar does pretty delicious seafood too. The grilled dogfish was actually one of my two favorite dishes and the charred octopus was delicious... the Santa Barbara uni, not so much. Of all the dishes we ordered, it was the only letdown. I love seafood but the uni was just not very appetizing to me, maybe it was the soft textures or the icy granita on top. Next time I'll have to try the oysters.

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Of course, it was my birthday dinner so we had to order dessert. There are only two options available so I chose the corn ice cream pie. So gooood! But if you're looking for more variety just roll on over across the street to Momofuku Milk Bar. Do you think they will hire me as their new spokesmodel? Or spokesperson as all this pork will do nothing for my model figure.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every person who made me feel so special on my birthday week!

I couldn't have asked for a better 25th birthday.

 

Momofuku Ssäm reservation tip:

  • This is the most complicated part as Momofuku Ssäm Bar is a very trendy yet small spot. We went on a Thursday evening at 8.30p and the place was pretty hopping. Reservations are only taken if you decide to order the bo ssäm pork or the rotisserie duck meals, both of which require online reservations. Otherwise, people are seated first come, first serve. The catch is that your whole party must be present before you can even be placed on the waiting list (lame but understandable). So if you are pretty sure your fellow diners will arrive on time... get there a little early, 'lie' a bit, and say that your whole party is already there. They will put your name and number down then text you when your table is ready. For us it was a 45 minute wait. Luckily there are several bars in the vicinity of the restaurant where you can wait and start the night right with a few drinks (I recommend Nightingale Lounge).
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave (at 13th St), New York, NY 10003

Soho night

So last night I spent my evening exploring Soho, stopping by the last day of The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition in New York, and spotting Ami from Miami Ink. The usual.

Seriously, how is every person in Soho so cool and chic? This exhibition, put together by Carine Roitfeld (former editor of French Vogue) and Karl Lagerfeld, centered around Chanel's classic black tweed jacket. Dozens and dozens of photographs were taken of various celebrities rockin' the iconic garment in their own unique way.

I really love this capture of three generations between Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. I swoon for mother-daughter moments.

 

I really enjoyed the exhibition. It was very simple but fun, almost effortless looking. Typical Soho. Speaking of, as we left the gallery, my friend Anne Larimer spotted this incredibly chic chick. We both said we wanted to be her, or mostly we wanted her Vespa.

I may not have been created from the Soho laboratory of models, but I love the neighborhood. Although I think I'm an uptown girl at heart (don't have the legs or wallet for Soho).

For dinner, AL and I went to Blue Ribbon Sushi (yum) and ended the meal with green tea crème brûlée (double yum!). Soho success!

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The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition
 traveling all over the world
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 Blue Ribbon Sushi
 119 Sullivan Street, New York, NY
 (212) 343.0404

Restaurant Review: Souen

I've never really written a 'restaurant review' but I felt this restaurant was especially noteworthy. I first heard about Souen, a restaurant that specializes in vegan, macrobiotic food, in an article featuring Alicia Silverstone. Now, say what you will about her eating habits when it comes to feeding her child, but I've been a big fan of her overall vegan, healthy lifestyle. I even have her cookbook, The Kind Diet.

The beauty about Souen is that it accommodates so many different diets: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, raw... you name it. And these days, we all know somebody (or are that somebody) who has one of these limitations when it comes to eating out. Souen sounds like a scary concept. Vegan? Macrobiotic? My sister Christine always makes fun of me by saying it reminds her of the scene in Baby Mama when Tina Fey orders that terrible yeast ball at a raw foods vegan restaurant in order to impress her date. In fact, when I asked my friend Sonia if she wanted to meet me at Souen for dinner, this is how our conversation went:

S: What place do you suggest?

M: There's a vegan macrobiotic restaurant Souen that's super healthy but really good, I promise!

S: Uuhhhhh lol

But honestly, everyone I've taken there has really enjoyed it! I first went for lunch with my friend Anne Larimer (who is gluten-intolerant) and the second time with Sonia and our friend Mythili (all of us are on-off vegetarians/vegans). The first time, I ordered the Macro Plate (shown above) which I would recommend getting with the carrot dressing. The second time, the three of us had quite the feast! Started with Seitan 'Meat'balls... probably the best thing I've had here and definitely a good transition for those who are typical meat-eaters.

Mythili and I also got fresh-pressed juices to drink (a current obsession of mine). Mine was beet, kale, apple which as I told Sonia would 'put hair on your chest' (she was not a fan). The juice was good and definitely fresh but I like my juices to be ice cold, and this was room temperature (echh!).

For entrees, we all ordered something different. I got the Broccoli Tofu, Sonia ordered the Tofu Teriyaki, and Mythili had the Mushroom Risotto. I tried a bite of everyone else's dish, as I'm prone to do, and they were all incredibly hearty and flavorful. My favorites so far would be the Macro Plate (I loved the variety) and the Mushroom Risotto.

Note: Souen also serves several fish dishes for pescetarians, which I have yet to try.

I've known both Sonia and Mythili since high school. In fact, Sonia and I go way back. We were actually neighbors who took all the same classes/did all the same activities together in high school. Both our siblings are now in the same year, at the same college together as well. She's pretty much the spacier, smarter, Indian version of me. Both Sonia and Mythili also know all about this blog of mine and my food-phototaking obsession, which can become a bit of an inconvenience at times (mostly for my fellow diners). But every time a new dish would arrive they'd say encouragingly, 'Take a picture, take a picture!' before we'd all dig in. It was so sweet.

To end our meal, we got dessert. I was probably most intrigued/skeptical about the dessert. Vegan desserts always have the right intentions, but rarely follow through in execution aka lack flavor/texture/buttery goodness. The Cocoa Creamy Parfait we ordered though was SO good, I could eat it everyday! The crumblings of (gluten-free) granola were perfect with the cocoa and soy vanilla layers. It was not too sweet which was something we all noted. This made the flavors of the cocoa really stand out, like eating a square of really good dark chocolate after living off Hershey's. Some people may not like that intensity, but when it comes to desserts, I'm an equal opportunist.

From what I gather about the macrobiotic diet (and honestly, I still don't fully understand what it is) is that your meal should be composed of a nice balance of nutrients. Not too much protein or too much salt or too spicy. No extremes in general but instead a combination of whole grains (mostly brown rice) along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Pretty much how all of us should be eating anyways, right?

Sure, the health benefits are great. I mean, I definitely felt my inner-Gwyneth and even after our huge meal, wasn't weighed down but in the end the food has to taste great. Souen fits my expectations in all the right criteria: it's healthy, it's delicious, it's affordable. It's also super popular. Lunchtime is not too busy, but a Friday dinner will probably require a 30-45 minute wait. Unfortunately, the service seems to vary according to how busy the restaurant is as well. But I've had much much worse. Overall, Souen is a restaurant I will go to again and again whether I'm vegan, macrobiotic, or just plain hungry.

Souen Union Square (2 other locations in Manhattan as well) 28 E 13th Street NY, NY (212) 627-7150

Broadway on a budget

If my life were a musical, I would obviously be the star. Although that would be difficult as I like singing but not necessarily in front of people. Public performances tend to make me a bit shy.

My dad always tells of my first 'role' in my preschool's Thanksgiving play. I was a pilgrim complete with a white paper plate bonnet and black construction paper collar. Everyone had one line which was: 'I brought ________!' filled in by whatever picture of food they had cut out and glued onto their paper plate. My line was 'I brought turkey!' Very clutch. But when it came time to present my line, I got so bashful I barely whispered it in the mousiest tone. Apparently all the parents thought it was adorable because they began laughing and applauding. I couldn't have been more embarrassed but deep down I'm sure I thought Nailed It.

When it comes to performances, I like to leave it to the professionals. BROADWAY baby! This is the perfect city to see all the big Broadway shows, if you have hundreds of dollars to spare, which I don't. But no worries, because there are plenty of ways to find Broadway tickets without being a slave to the TKTS sign.

(1) Hit the theatres early in the morning

Even the biggest shows will have leftover tickets. So make a list of the ones you want to see and go directly to the theater's box office the day of the performance (~$30/ticket). They open at 10am but anyone who shows up after 9am is a fool. Call the box office ahead of time and ask what time they would suggest getting there. Make sure to keep your options open as your first pick may only have a handful of tickets available.

Also, if you have a student ID bring it. It can come in handy.

Shows I've seen with this method: Mamma Mia, Anything Goes

(2) Sign up for email lists

In many ways, NYC caters to the young. I'm signed up for LincTix which offers discounted $30 tickets to shows at Lincoln Center for those 21-35 years old. And if you have young friends, they can sign up too so that you can all sit together! Oh to be young and poor... yet incredibly cultured.

Shows I've seen with this method: War Horse

(3) Find a rich benefactor or... parents

When my family came to visit last summer, my mom, sister and I knew we wanted to go see Wicked. But everyone and their mom wants to see this show (look at previous statement) and I knew the methods above probably wouldn't cut it. So Mama Choo swept in and took care of it all for us. And you know what, I think she'll tell you it was TOTALLY worth it! We planned WAY ahead of time (about 2 months beforehand) in order to get the best seats. This is the old fashioned, most expensive way but if one person plans and another person pays, it seems less painful?

Shows I've seen with this method: Wicked

(4) Make Broadway friends

Don't have any? Hang out by the Tisch School for an hour and you're set. Or find anyone who's somewhat connected to Broadway. You never know, it could be your cousin's landlord's dog walker or your coworker. This week one of the producers for Peter and the Starcatcher gave us some free tickets at work. That's right, FREE tickets! The best kind.

Shows I've seen with this method: Peter and the Starcatcher

In other news, I'll be spending Easter weekend in DC! I'm open to any and all recommendations!

my New York Diet

I love nymag.com and their weekly The New York Diet section is one of my favorites. Basically, celebrities (mostly foodies/chefs) dish on their culinary consumptions of the past week. It's like a food diary for the famous, which I find utterly fascinating. Mostly because I like the way it's presented. It's very sparse (no pictures) with the entries candidly dictated in each person's own voice. Also, you can tell a lot about a person by what they eat, and I'm just nosy enough to care. When someone like Mario Batali or Anthony Bourdain writes, it's a foodie's paradise (hotdogs at Papaya Grey, mozzarella tastings, 14 course menus) but when the occasional actress/model writes something like 'I had a salad and a handful of dried fruit for lunch, then I got home and was so tired I didn't have dinner'... the commenters go crazy!! What's worse is when a model says 'For breakfast, I had McDonald's and then later a huge cheeseburger and chocolate shake for lunch.' Man, those comments are golden...

So inspired by this, I thought I'd write my own NY Diet. Because I may not be famous but I do live in New York and I eat, which to me seems like enough criteria. Here is my completely candid New York Diet:

Tuesday, February 28

Every morning, I'd love to have a nicely prepared hot breakfast. But you know what I love even more? My bed. I am NOT a morning person so I tend to keep it super light in the early hours. Plus I walk 25 minutes everyday to work so I prefer waiting to have something more substantial once I get there. This morning I had to get up even earlier to stop by the post office and mail my brother Ben's birthday present and card (his birthday is this Friday). It's hard being his favorite sister.

When I got to work I had a bottle of 'green juice' (that I get at Trader Joe's) and an oatmeal applesauce blueberry muffin (I'd made a dozen the night before [recipe to come soon]). A little later I had a tiny square of a pecan bar that one of my coworkers had made. I try to only indulge in work treats when they're homemade and delicious. This was definitely both. Later for lunch, I had brought leftovers from the night before: teriyaki salmon with quinoa and asparagus. Also a blueberry soy yogurt. I was pretty hungry.

After work, I went to the gym and then ran some errands. Ok, not really errands. I went shopping at the new Anthropologie store that just opened three blocks from my apartment. I needed to check it out. Another lie. I had already gone to the store the day before... this is getting to be quite confessional. When I finally did get home (did I buy anything or not? oh, you'll never know), I prepared a tofu taco salad with some blue corn tortilla chips which I ate while watching The Biggest Loser (no new episodes of Glee or New Girl?). I also had a pink grapefruit and another oatmeal blueberry muffin before calling it a night.

Wednesday, February 29

Another morning, another green juice at work. Then later another mid-morning muffin (3 down, only 9 left to go). This week has been quite busy with different surveys and events going on in the museum. It's a bit more chaotic than usual but honestly I'll take being over-busy than underwhelmed any day. But I'm a nerd.

For lunch I had a veggie burger (Trader Joe's masala burger with edamame hummus-- a winning combo) and water of course, lots of water throughout the day. I try to pack my own lunch to work, not that our staff cafeteria is awful, just that my coworker found a bug in her escarole that one time. It's just safer this way.

Later in the afternoon I had a cup of Lady Grey tea by Twinings- basically Earl Grey but with a hint of citrus which I guess makes it for ladies. After work, a few coworkers and I went to City Bakery to celebrate the last day of their February Hot Chocolate Festival. The Hot Chocolate of the Day was Leap Day Chocolate aka "Black Strap Rum reduced with Cinnamon." Um yes please, I'll take a wee shot-sized cup of that. It was super rich and decadent but the homemade marshmallow is what made it!

After my hot chocolate shot, I headed to my friend Anne Larimer's to watch the Top Chef Finale. On my way there, I stopped by Whole Foods in Columbus Circle to get dinner from the salad bar (which is the best). I got what my sister Christine calls 'frou-frou' foods, you know, super healthy, hippie things like farro salad and kale with lemon zest and shredded beets with sprouts. While I was there I also stopped by Bouchon Bakery to pick up a few French macarons (which have become 'the new cupcakes') to share with Anne Larimer. Bouchon's macarons are my favorite cause they're so much larger than the usual dainty ones. Plus I love Thomas Keller. I got the pistachio, caramel, passion fruit, and coffee. General consensus: pistachio was the winner.

Thursday, March 1

You know the drill. Green juice and Mr. Muffin.

Lunch was what I call a 'vegetarian cobb salad': romaine lettuce, chickpeas, hard boiled egg, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, basically whatever else I had in my fridge with balsamic vinaigrette. The day was pretty hectic so I had a very quick lunch but it was just what I needed! Late afternoon I also had a Luna bar (Nutz over Chocolate).

In the evening, there was an event at the Met in celebration of the new Islamic Galleries that opened last November. My co-worker friend Katherine has been hard at work organizing the event and I was working part of it as well. Also, I just love attending any party at the Met whenever I can-- it's one perk I always take full advantage of! There was some food at the event but by the time I was done working, the vultures had already had at it. So I basically had a couple glasses of red wine for dinner, which is not as sad as it sounds (Yes it is). The event was fantastic though! Afterwards my friends and I got drinks at a nearby pub.

Friday, March 2

Green juice, banana, and... yep you guessed it. Muffin-town.

Lunch was the salad bar at work (no escarole that day). Mostly mixed greens with lentils, orzo and a yummy parmesan polenta square. And some fresh pineapple on the side. Then later in the afternoon I was feeling particularly ladylike so I had a cup of Lady Grey.

Friday evening was a bit hectic. I had plans to go see the play War Horse at 8p but I didn't leave work until about 7:15p. Luckily, Lincoln Center is not far from work so I just zipped in a cab and crossed Central Park. I ate a Luna bar (Chocolate Dipped Coconut) while waiting in the lobby for my friends to get there. Afterwards, we went across the street to P.J. Clarke's. I was starving so I ordered the moules frites. It was exactly what I was expecting, just classic.

Saturday, March 3

Sleeping in is a luxury I enjoy thoroughly on Saturdays. Woke up closer to lunchtime and had a banana and apple cinnamon oatmeal with a splash of soymilk. Ate this while rewatching the Season 4 finale of Mad Men (I'm highly anticipating the new season).

It's such a beautiful New York day today. Maybe I'll head down to the farmer's market in Union Square... or maybe I'll just watch some more Mad Men. Who knows, regardless muffins will probably be involved.

For a truly hilarious The New York Diet, read The Daily Show Wyatt Cenac's entry here.

Art-inspired Food

Things that have happened since last time I blogged:

Blue Ivy introduced herself to the world. Giants won (!!!). Whitney passed away.

Goodness, February. My life however has been much of the same. Mostly work and art and food (pretty much everything this blog is about). A couple posts ago, I wrote about the new American Paintings Galleries at the Met which I paired with a mac & cheese recipe. This post is along those same lines. It's another addition of 'Art-Inspired Food'.

The Frick Collection right now has a new exhibition "Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-length Paintings." I love the Frick. It's the former private residence of the wealthy Henry Clay Frick which has now been preserved into an art museum. Every time I walk in I imagine what it must have been like to live in a place like that... surrounded by Marie Antoinette's personal desk, oriental rugs, and Van Eyck portraits. So decadent.

         

The Renoir exhibition showcases the fashions found in his full-length painting style. His brushstroke is incredibly feathery and light. And the colors are so soft. All the airiness reminded me a big cloud of meringue or whipped cream. Inspired, I came home and decided to concoct a dessert to match. Et voilà! These mini lime cheesecakes are the result. Enjoy them and if you can, go see the exhibition which closes May 13.

Mini Lime Cheesecakes 

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (~10 sheets)
  • 3 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • ½ tablespoon lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lime, sliced for garnish

(1)       Preheat oven to 325° F. (2)       In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter with a fork until well combined. Divide evenly into 16 muffin tins and press evenly onto the bottom with a tall glass or spoon. (3)       Bake for 5-7 minutes, then let the crusts cool completely. (4)       Lower the oven temperature to 300° F. (5)       With an electric mixer (or in a blender), add the cream cheese, lime juice, zest, sugar and vanilla. Mix until smooth. (6)       Add the flour and salt and mix again, scraping down the side as needed, until incorporated. (7)       Add the eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated. (8)       Pour cream cheese mixture into the crusts, filling to the very top of the rim. (9)       Bake for 20-22 minutes until the edges are slightly golden but the center is still a bit wobbly. (10)    Cool completely and chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours (overnight is better). Run a thin knife around the edges of the cakes and remove from pan. (11)    In a clean bowl, whip the heavy cream and 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff peaks form. Dollop a spoonful onto each cheesecake and garnish with a slice of lime.

Makes about 16 mini cheesecakes

Hangin' at the Guggenheim

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is never one to shy away from controversy. His latest exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, Maurizio Cattaelan: All, which ends today is certainly a spectacle to see. Comprised of a lifetime of all but two of his works, it is a showcase of an artist's life-- all shown hanging.

The building of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum is a work of art in itself. When I saw this exhibition last weekend with one of my roommates Jess we mentioned how perfect the space was for this exhibition. The walkway of the museum, which spirals up four floors, allows for you to constantly discover different works as you ascend the building. It was like an elaborate game of I-Spy. I definitely felt like I understood a bit of the eccentric and intriguing, yet incredibly whimsical, personality of Maurizio Cattelan.

happy Sunday everyone!

I'm gonna spend my Sunday watching both the Patriots v. Ravens & 49ers v. Giants games. Hoping for a Patriots/Giants Super Bowl!!

and happy Chinese New Year tomorrow as well-- here's to the Year of the Dragon!

so American, so delicious

I rarely talk about my work on this blog which is a shame as I really do adore where I work and what I do. I suppose most of the time I think it would bore people which, to be honest, it probably would. At certain times, however, I can't help but contain my excitement about something new happening at the Met!

This past Thursday was the press preview for the new American Painting Galleries (which opens to the public, Monday January 16!). It's really such a classic space, with natural wood floors and open sky lights-- very American indeed. The paintings, however, are really what glow. Iconic ones like Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emauel Leutze (above) as well as works by other American artists such as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins and...

this absolutely beautiful painting by John Singer Sargent. Reminds me of my favorite show, Downton Abbey. In fact, the makeup artist of the show said that she was greatly influenced by Sargent paintings... I like to think this one in particular.

Madame X also by Sargent. Stunning.

The New York Times has even posted this interactive tour of the galleries which gives you an amazingly realistic sense of walking through the space. I'd really recommend you check it out... as your duty as an American.

Now, when I think of America one of the foods I think of is macaroni and cheese. And when I think of macaroni and cheese, I immediately think of Thomas Jefferson. Although the dish most likely existed centuries before in Italy, he can certainly be credited for popularizing the dish in America. In fact, "Thomas Jefferson is known to have had a pasta maker as early as 1793 and to have served a macaroni pie at the White House in 1802." Are you thinking what I'm thinking... what is a MACARONI PIE and where can I get some?

Below is a recipe for stovetop mac & cheese, you know, like the kind that comes in the blue box (only much better). I remember my mom used to slice hotdogs into our mac & cheese when we were younger... I thought she was a genius.

 

  

This version has been lightened up a bit and incorporates broccoli, but still remains very classic, very American, and of course very delicious.

Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese (lower fat) adapted from skinnytaste.com

  • 12 ounces high fiber elbow or shell noodles (I used Barilla)
  • 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese

(1)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente (or slightly under cook 2 minutes). In the last 1 minute of cooking the pasta, add the broccoli. Drain in a colander once done. (2)  While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Add onion and cook over low heat about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent.  (3)  Whisk in flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined.  (4)  Whisk in the milk, vegetable broth and Dijon mustard, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a bubble. (5)  Cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. (6)  Once the sauce is thick, turn heat to low, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. (7)  Add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. 

Makes 8 servings

The 'Experience'

Wondering why my dear friend Alyssa looks like an extra for the next Star Trek film? Read on...

Yesterday was Alyssa's birthday and lucky for me, she chose to spend it visiting New York City with her new fiancé Trevor and our friend Alex! It was one of the most fun, relaxing days I've spent in the city thus far.

First on the list was a delicious brunch at Freemans. Freemans is a bit difficult to explain. It's a tucked away-cozy-yet-eclectic-lodge-hipster-gastropub... see what I mean? What they do have is an excellent brunch menu with an equally good drink menu. I ordered the poached eggs on top of white cheddar grits with roasted tomato and sourdough toast along with a star anise-flavored lemonade. Both were pure yum-ness. I honestly have only great things to say about Freemans. Although the brunch crowd was there in full force, we were lucky enough to be seated in the private wine room with no wait at all! Our waitress Phoebe was also just amazingly sweet. I am absolutely going back there again.

side note: what's with this freakish weather?? 50 degrees in January is not what I imagined when I moved to New York. Back in the sweltering summer months, it seemed every New Yorker was warning me about the brutal city winter that lay ahead. 'Winters here are so bad. They'll make you want to hibernate indoors because every time you venture outside your eyeballs will freeze to death.' I remember thinking 'Oh dear... but I don't want frozen eyeballs!' ... And yet yesterday I walked around in a silk blouse and a trench coat with not an eyeball popsicle in sight. Not to complain but where's my snow?

Anyways, next on our list was the New Museum which currently has an exhibition called the 'Carsten Höller: Experience.' This is also hard to explain (or maybe I'm just really bad at explaining things). In general, it's an adult amusement park with every art piece in the exhibition having an interactive sensory experience linked to it. The main attraction is the giant slide that goes through three floors of the museum. The wait for it was about 40 minutes long but I would say worth it... I mean, when else can you scream at the top of your lungs going down a giant steel slide?

Other installations include a mirrored carousel (beautiful to look at but not very fun to ride... too slow), a Psycho tank (sensory deprivation tank in which you float weightlessly in water, meant to mimick the Dead Sea), a fish tank in which you can stick your head underneath and watch all the fishies swim around you (my favorite!) and other works meant to stimulate/disorient your senses.

Another fun element in the exhibition were these upside-down goggles. A prism inside the goggles turns everything you see completely upside down. Quite disorienting to say the least (in fact, you have to sign a waiver before you enter the galleries) but SO MUCH FUN! We all got such a kick out of the simplest tasks, such as watching someone drop a quarter into their hands or trying to walk in a straight line, all done UPSIDE DOWN. Plus the goggles just made us look plain silly.

We ended up spending close to 4 hours in the museum... granted most of it was spent waiting in line for each of the activities. As you would expect, this has been a very popular exhibition and everything you do (slide, carousel, goggles, etc.) requires you to stand in a separate line. All in all though, if you know what to expect before you go there, it's definitely a worthwhile experience. All four of us had a blast!

After the museum, we were dizzy with hunger, and just plain dizzy. So we headed uptown to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Café Sabarsky. Attached to the Neue Galleries, Café Sabarsky is an Austrian-German café with a rich decor of dark wood-paneling and a beautiful marble fireplace. The food is fantastic but the Viennese coffee and desserts are to-die-for! I first was introduced to this place by my boss who adores the restaurant. Last night was my third time there in the past month (second time with Alyssa who requested it especially for her birthday) so you could say I kinda love this place as well.

I won't go too much in detail over what I ate because, holy cow! this post is long... and pretty much anything you get here is guaranteed to be delicious. As long as I am there with you when you get it.

I honestly could not have wished for a better day.

Happy, Happy Birthday to Elvis!... oh yes, and to Alyssa as well. xo

Freemans 8 Rivington Street (down Freemans Alley), New York, NY 10002 (212) 420.0012

New Museum Carsten Holler: Experience (closes January 22, 2012) 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002 (212) 219.1222

Café Sabarsky 1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028-0111 (212) 288.0665

 

have a holly, jolly (Lincoln) Christmas!

2011 has been the year of my first grown-up Christmas. The first year I got my own Christmas tree in my own apartment with my very own golden pinecone star! Sexy Sallie (the name we bestowed on our tree) is the first real pine tree I've ever had and I have to say, the smell of a real pine tree is unmatched. Look at Sallie in all her glory...

Another first for me this Christmas was my first holiday work party. And lucky for me, I had not just one holiday party but two! The first was a lovely lunch last Friday hosted for the entire staff and volunteers of the museum. It was a wonderful affair held at the Temple of Dendur with entertainment provided by staff members (!!!).  Now, the second party was a smaller, less formal affair for our department planned by the PPC (Party Planning Committee) of which yours truly is a member. Here is the invitation we sent out for our holiday party:

Now I know what you're probably thinking... 'Umm, are they having a Lincoln-themed holiday party?' I can feel your jealousy burning and let me explain.

(1) It's actually a Civil War-themed holiday party, thank you very much (2) Our Vice President of External Affairs is a pre-eminent Abraham Lincoln scholar and we were all hoping the theme would inspire a certain holiday bonus (still waiting on that btw) (3) think Little Women. The soundtrack alone sold me.

Most of the staff outside of the PPC were still skeptical about the theme but once party time arrived, everyone got into the 1864 holiday spirit!

As a representative of the South, I thought it would be fitting to bring something with true southern roots. So I made these delicious red velvet bars. Exactly the same as red velvet cake but more portable and party-friendly sized. So yummy, just like anything slathered in cream cheese frosting.

Red Velvet Bars

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 ounce red food coloring (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan. (2)  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside. (3)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (4)  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. (5)  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. (Be careful not to get 'red-handed'!) (6)  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored red batter. (7)  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(1)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy. (2)  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next ½ cup. (3)  Once all of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. (4) Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

Oh how I love the holidays! And tomorrow evening I will be heading to the best place to spent one's holiday season... HOME!!! I am just so excited. Because as much as I love my grown-up Christmas, there's nothing like being a kid on Christmas morning!

xo Margaret