Monthly Archives: September 2009

His: Home Is Where the Hunger Is.

According to the New York City Department of Health, there are over 20,000 dining establishments in the city.  Can you believe that?  Thats one restaurant for every 400 people in this city.  That means if you want Mexican take out, you can have it (albeit probably made by an Asian person).  If you want Ethiopian, Moroccan or Vietnamese; it’s YOURS.  For crying out loud, I’ve seen Mongolian take out.  How is that possible?  You can eat at an Irish pub, an Australian Bar or at a Nouveau American Gastro Pub. From Halal push carts to diners to the most exquisite fine dining in the world, there is literally something for everyone.  And it’s a wonderful thing.

My Kind of Town!

My Kind of Town!

But I have to say that there is definitely something to be said for small town eateries.  Hell, Food Network made a show about it; Diners, Drive Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri (is it just me or is he perpetually stuck in 1999 with that hair?).  However, I’m specifically referring to the restaurants in my or your home town.  Many of us were not raised in New York and didn’t have the access to the food that we have now.  What we did have were our favorite places in our respective childhood homes.  And as Ally and I just returned from a short trip back to Newark, Delaware (pronounced New-Ark), I’d like to touch on some of my favorite things that Newark has to offer.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

First and foremost, the place where I have spent the most money over my 16 years in Newark is Margherita’s Pizza.

I Could Buy A Car With What I've Spent Here.

I Could Buy A Car With What I've Spent Here.

I began eating regularly at this New York style pizza shop when I was just 14 years old.  I would ride my bike to Main Street, order one slice of pepperoni and a medium Dr. Pepper and watch the World Cup.  I performed this routine for the entirety of the tournament.  Needless to say, after this period had ended, I was a welcomed and valued regular to the owner, Enzo, who to this day still calls me “Junior” in his thick Naples accent each time I walk in.  When I started going there in 1998, there weren’t many choices.  The menu read like that of any other pizza shop around; toppings included pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, supreme, multiple meats and so on with the normal variety.  And that’s not to take away from the taste because he only uses the top ingredients, but when two new pizza joints opened up on Main St. (it is a college town), Enzo began doing the creative pies that made Margherita’s the choice for townie and college student alike.

The first pies that blue my mind, simple as they were at the time, were Barbecue Chicken and Buffalo Chicken.

Photos From NASA's Pizza Rover.

Photos From NASA's Pizza Rover.

All This For Less Than $5

All This For Less Than $5

These are my favorites and I’m willing to bet, his most popular.  But he also began making pies with fresh veggies and ricotta and mozz.  Cauliflower is a staple there.  Another great addition was the cheese steak pizza which is a sauceless pie and comes with chopped steak and is served best with regular ketchup.  All the originals are still there, but I don’t think Margherita’s would be what it is if Enzo hadn’t stayed ahead of the pack.  And Enzo doesn’t stop trying to create.  He isn’t always successful (i.e. hotdog and french fry pizza), but that’s why he’s the best around.  I would put Margherita’s against any pie in New York City.

My second favorite place to go when I’m home is ironically also something you can find in New York.  It’s Newark’s only food cart and it’s run by Chef Bennie Dollard.

A Big City Food Cart In A Little Town

A Big City Food Cart In A Little Town

In the same spot in front of the 5 and Dime since I was a kid, it was originally a regular hot dog-cart run by “The Hot Dog Lady.”  When she retired almost five years ago, Bennie took over.  He has a full service kitchen in the cart.  Grill top; check.  Fryer; check; Fridge; check.  Originally serving traditional kielbasa, hot dogs and sausages, Bennie’s menu has recently exploded with a plethora of sandwiches.

Cramp....Cramp....Cramp!!!!

Cramp....Cramp....Cramp!!!!

Along with the normal fare, Bennie’s most popular sandwich is the Hustler, which is a Philly cheese steak with two eggs, hash brown, peppers and onions.  On this trip, I got the Caribbean Sunrise;  jerk chicken patties on a roll with provolone, two eggs and onions.

Ere Me Now! Carribean Sunrise.

Eat Me Now! Caribbean Sunrise.

You can also get chicken parm, a “Nigerian” cheese steak and about 25 other sandwiches.  I guess you can tell that dieters are not getting their lunch here.  Even if the food doesn’t tickle your taste buds, there is another reason to stop by the Newark landmark and thats Chef Ben himself.  He talks to you like you’ve known each other for years, and you can tell that he is putting so much work into your sandwich because it’s his livelihood.   Ben’s food is great, but his story may be better.  Check it out here:

The Store of Newark’s Food Cart

Finally, Sunday morning before we left, we stopped by Ally’s favorite coffee shop.  Surprisingly enough, it’s not Starbucks (her favorite in the city).  It’s called Brew HaHa, and it has an inviting atmosphere and quality coffee.  It’s the strength of their house brew that draws many of the students here.

Need To Study? House Blend It Is.

Need To Study? House Blend It Is.

And once inside, patrons are invited to grab a cup of joe and a magazine and just chill.  It also has amazing outdoor deck (it’s located on the second floor of the Main St. Galleria).  Myself, I enjoyed an iced mocha latte.  I know its pretty fru fru, but I can’t help it.  If I’m going to a specialty coffee shop, I don’t want regular coffee.  I can get that at the Buck (I am so lame).

So that’s only three of my favorites.  The next time I go back, I will visit some other Newark traditions including Grotto Pizza (for the drinks), Cafe Gelato and Little Saigon.  Hopefully, you’ll still be reading then.  Thanks for stopping by San Diego.

P.S. The Vendy for Best Food Cart just recently went to a Mexican food cart in Brooklyn.  The Country Boys can be found at the Red Hook Ball Fields and at the Brooklyn Flea Market.  Rookie of the Year went to Schnitzel and Things, an Austrian food truck http://www.schnitzelandthings.com/.  The best dessert award went to Wafels and Dinges http://www.wafelsanddinges.com/ .  Click the links for locations.

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Hers: Let Them Eat Cake

Hunger is not a rational feeling.  It is not sensible and deliberate, like determination, nor is it calming and smooth, like patience .  Hunger races through you with a megaphone and steel-toed boots, relentless and frenzied, until it is eventually satiated and put to bed.  It does not bring out the best in us (hello?  Donner party?); hunger will not give in until it wins.  Simply put, hunger sucks.

And, in related stories, a girl will do desperate things for cake.

This past weekend, Greg and I traveled to western Maryland to celebrate the recent wedding of a close girlfriend.  With us was my college roommate (hi, Katie!) and her boyfriend (hi, Tim!), with whom we were sharing a hotel room and bar tab.  Despite the less-than-stellar weather and long drive, we spent the day in the company of good friends, cold beer, and BBQ chicken.  Not a terrible way to spend a Saturday, by most standards.

As many of the guests had arrived from out of town, a plan was hatched to continue the celebration at the hotel bar.  Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed, and after several hours at the bar and even more time passing since our early dinner, stomachs began rumbling and hunger pangs surfaced.

Hunger is enough to make anyone cranky.  Take 2 women who have already faced uncooperative hair and spent all day in mild discomfort from their so-f’ing-tight-but-damn-my-ass-looks-great jeans and highest heals, and the addition of an empty belly leads to a state of emergency.  Drastic measures needed to be taken, and another beer was not the answer.  We needed food, not of the cocktail garnish variety, and quickly.

Not food.

Not food.

Because I am generous and kind, I will share with you the appropriate course of action to take if you find yourself in a similar situation:

1. Take note of the large wedding being held in the hotel’s central courtyard.  Open bar!  Music!  Dancing!  CAKE!  Ignore the fact that you have not been invited.  This is just a formality.

2. Catch the eye of your equally mischevious and hungry girlfriend, who has also noticed the dessert buffet.  Game on.

3. Return to your room,  being careful to scope out all major exits and entrances to said courtyard.

4.Change into a party dress and freshen up.  At this point, it is appropriate to feel vindicated that you have won the argument with your significant other to pack half of your closet.  It is always good to be prepared, yes?

Wedding Crashers 007
Wedding Crashers 006

5.  With the utmost confidence, stroll into the courtyard and the other wedding. You are now officially wedding crashers.

4. Chat with the bartender.  Smile at other guests and look like you belong.  Stake out a corner of the dance floor and do a little two-step.  Help yourself to coffee and cake.

5. Wave at the guests from the wedding you were actually invited to, who are watching from the huge windows in the bar. Revel in their awe and appreciation.  You rock.

6. Be sure to sign the guestbook.  It is the polite thing to do.

As if the cake wasn't proof enough.

As if the cake wasn't proof enough.

7. Join your fellow guests back in the bar, where you will be greeted with applause and jealousy.  After all, you’ve got the cajones AND the cake now.

The second happiest couple that night.

The second happiest couple that night.

8. Remind yourself, yet again, how important it is to surround yourself with girlfriends just as naughty as you are.

Perhaps an equally appropriate plan would be to keep a granola bar in your purse for hunger emergencies, but honestly, where’s the fun in that?

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His: One Step At A Time

Now, you might think I have this fit and healthy thing down to a science, but I have to be honest…I wasn’t always this way.  In college, I enjoyed all life had to offer (beer, wings, and beer), which resulted in a 25 lb. weight gain by the time I graduated.  I was unhappy with how I looked and felt, but didn’t do anything about it.

Al calls this my "curvy" phase.

Al calls this my "curvy" phase.

After graduation, I moved to Wheeling, West Virginia to take a job doing PR for a minor league hockey team (Go Nailers!)  If you’ve never been to Wheeling, you’re not missing much: it’s an old steel town with very little to see and even less to do.  Lucky for me, it provided the motivation I needed to get up and do something with myself…..boredom.

For the first few weeks in Wheeling, I would come home to my old-ass apartment and bat-crazy neighbors and just think to myself, “What the hell am I going to do?”  I did nothing, and I was bored out of my mind.  I had quit exercising in college, and it just didn’t occur to me that getting up and moving might be just what I needed.

Eventually,  I got fed up.  I hate the boredom and feeling depressed, my job wasn’t so great, and the town I lived in was so old that it was literally falling to pieces.  I needed to do something, so one day, I went for a bike ride to clear my head.  It was about 8 miles on flat terrain, but exercise it was (say that to yourself in a Yoda voice).  At the time, it wasn’t too difficult, but just getting my blood pumping that day was enough to go from feeling pretty hopeless to pretty good.

After a couple of rides, I decided it was time to step up my game and move on to running.  I played soccer for years, but hadn’t run consistently since high school.  I started over again with about 1.5 miles on a tread mill.  I stuck with that for almost 2 weeks, and moved up in half a mile increments every two weeks.  It was slow and steady, but I eventually built up my endurance and, most importantly, myself.  I found something to do that I really enjoyed and the weight came off easily.  Running gave me something to look forward to.  My motivation was no longer boredom, but pushing myself to see just how far I could go.

Long Island Marathon, April 2008

Long Island Marathon, April 2008

Several years, 25 fewer lbs, and many miles later, I’m still going.  I’ve since moved back from West Virginia and have a job (and a life) that I really enjoy.   Still, Wheeling taught me some important lessons.  Exercise, no matter why you do it, is just as important for your inner self as it is for your outer self.  I was neither happy nor healthy when I got to West Virginia, and it wasn’t making for a good life.  Once I started taking care of myself, I started feeling and looking better.  Ultimately, Wheeling wasn’t the best place for me, but it made me get off my ass and take charge of my life.

The thing is, you don’t start out running a marathon.  You’ve got to take it one step at a a time. Take control of your life and your health, and don’t expect to change overnight.  Be patient, but push yourself, and you’ll end up exactly where you want to be.

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Hers: Creature of Habit, or How To Cook a Spaghetti Squash

For as long as I can remember, my father has woken up by 6:30am every morning and sat down to one of two breakfasts: 2 pieces of rye toast with butter or a bowl of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal, accompanied by a strong cup of coffee, black.  Sometimes, if he’s feeling saucy, he’ll have half a grapefruit.  Now, there may have been mornings where a bialy with cheese appeared, or maybe even a donut, and there was that affair with the South Beach Diet breakfast frittata,  but for the most part, my father is a toast and oatmeal kind of guy.

In this sense, I am very much my father’s daughter.  That’s not to say that I won’t try new things; in fact, I enjoy new flavors and dishes very much.  However, if I find something I like, there’s a good chance it will stick around for a while.  I am a creature of habit.

In the summer, I wake up every morning to a bowl of Greek yogurt, lightly sweetened and flavored with cinnamon.  Sometimes, there will be some cereal or fruit mixed in, but the yogurt is always the same.  When the weather cools down, yogurt gives way to warm oatmeal, still sweetened and cinnamon-y delicious, now with the addition of vanilla bean and a splash of milk.

Whole Grain Goodness

Whole Grain Goodness

I drink my coffee the same way every day.  I prefer to drink it out of the same mug, the one with the A on it from Fishs Eddy on Park Avenue. (Have you been here?  It is the greatest store in the world.)  The coffee must be hot, and I will only use skim milk.  Anything else makes my coffee taste like butter.  Butter is good on toast or a baked potato, not in coffee.

A-mazing.

A-mazing.

In the winter, Sunday dinners are for roast chicken.  Sometimes, I think it might be nice to make a pork loin, or maybe even a steak, but in the end, it’s always chicken.  Greg and I will sit down to a great Sunday feast, and the leftovers will make excellent sandwiches and salads for weekday lunches.  I make my chicken the same way every week: nestled on a thick bed of onions and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.  Remind me to give you my recipe for roast chicken one day.  It is fantastic.  Roast chicken is the best thing about Sundays.

chicken

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

I ate the exact same dinner 4 nights last week.  Spaghetti squash, topped with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, with some tofu or white beans thrown in for protein.  It was a busy work week, Greg wasn’t home one night, I was lazy, and it was just good. It was healthy, it was what I wanted, and that was fine.

So I leave you with something I wish I would have learned before the 4th night of this dinner: how to microwave a spaghetti squash.  Prior to this useful bit of knowledge, I roasted the suckers, and it took forever.  Now, I have been enlightened, and I’m happy to share my squash-nuking techniques with the rest of you.  After all, I’ll probably eat this again very soon.

Take your clean spaghettie squash (approx. 3 lbs.) and pierce the skin in several places with a sharp paring knife.  This allows the steam to escape while it is becoming delicious.

Poke Poke.

Poke Poke.

Microwave on High for 10-12 minutes, or until the skin gives slightly when touched.

Squash, Meet Your Doom.

Squash, Meet Your Doom.

If you haven’t poked it sufficiently with the knife, this will happen.  You don’t want to clean this up, so be generous with your poking.

Insufficient Poke-age.

Insufficient Poke-age.

Let the squash stand about 5 minutes, or until it is cool enough to touch.

Slice in half, remove the seeds, and then begin the business of removing the flesh from the shell.

Stick a fork in it.

Stick a fork in it.

And there you have it…Spaghetti Squash for Dummies.  Don’t feel bad about eating it (or anything else)  several nights in a row.  I don’t.

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His: Fine Dining…There’s Something To It.

So Thursday night, I was the beneficiary of a corporate gathering that happened to include an incredible dinner.  Normally, I try to avoid such functions as not to appear as a “Corporate Tool,” however, this occurrence was rendered mandatory by my boss.  For said dinner, myself and eight colleagues gathered on the Upper East Side to dine at David Burke Townhouse, and I must say if this is what “Business” dinners consist of then I am completely willing to be the biggest “Corporate Tool” around.

There Was A Bentley Parked Out Front

There Was A Bentley Parked Out Front

Obviously, we began dinner with drinks which, for me, included Duvel (pronounced Doovil not Du Vel….trust me) and Green Flash IPA, a West Coast IPA that any Hop Head would be happy with.  Other drinks included Allagash White (a truly amazing White Ale from Maine), 18 year Scotch (the brand eludes me….you can guess why) and an assortment of red and whites.  A plethora of appetizers soon followed.  There was something for every palate. 

What A Great Menu!

What A Great Menu!

Angry Lobster....I'd Be Pissed Too If I was On A Bed Of Nails

Angry Lobster....I'd Be Pissed Too If I was On A Bed Of Nails

First, there was my personal favorite; a Parfait of Big Eye Tuna and Salmon Tartares with apples, pine nuts, hijiki and a beautiful creme fraiche.  I am in no way a food critic, but I will say that the dish was insanely good. 

Shrimp Canneloni and Roast Prawn

Shrimp cannelloni and Roast Prawn

Also served as appetizers were Shrimp cannelloni with Roast Prawn, Market Salad that included goat cheese, walnuts, apple, crisp potato, bacon and fresh herbs, Crisp and Angry Lobster served, literally, on a bed of nails, and Scallops Benedict topped with a Quail Egg.

Tuna And Salmon Parfait

Tuna And Salmon Parfait

Needless to say I would have been more than satisfied if our evening had ended there, but fortunately, my main course was on its way.  I ordered the Bronx Style Filet Mignon of Veal with Veal Cheek with a Fig Ravioli.  I was feeling a bit adventurous and went with this because I had heard that cheek from any animal can be some of the most tender and best tasting meat on the animal.  I was not disappointed.  The filet, cooked medium rare , was great. The Cheek was PHENOMENAL.  Seriously, if you get the chance to try it, go for it.  Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that it’s part of the cow’s face.

Who Knew Cow Face Tasted So Good?

Who Knew Cow Face Tasted So Good?

Out of nine of us, only three entrees were ordered.  I should clarify by saying that we all got an entree but there were several copy cat orders.  The Veal, Braised Short ribs (not pictured) and Australian Rack of Lamb with Roast Octopus, which I would have ordered if it were domestic lamb.  Imported vs. Domestic lamb is a debate for another post.  However, the presentation of the lamb was incredible.  The frenched bones were standing upright but were wrapped in the octopus tentacles.  I apologize for not getting a good shot of this, but you can see the tentacle which one of the guests graciously let me try.  I will say that it was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever tried.  Not based on taste because it wasn’t bad, but more on texture.  It wasn’t rubbery and overcooked as so often is the case with octopus, but it wasn’t like a piece of beef either.  It was honestly indescribable.  Perhaps you guys agree or maybe you think I’m an idiot.  That’s ok.  I’m just describing what I thought.

MMMMM. TENTACLE.

MMMMM. TENTACLE.

We ordered after dinner drinks with our dessert and by that time, I was starting to feel silly taking so many pictures (the owner of my company was there), so I didn’t take any photos of them.  I did order Calvados as my drink.  It’s an apple brandy specifically from the Normandy region of France.  Thank you study abroad; I did learn something.  Dessert consisted of cheesecake lollipops, beignets with dipping sauce, an indulgent chocolate cake with Guinness ice cream and an apple tart.

Now obviously, I had nothing to do with the bill, but if you are looking to celebrate a very special occasion, Townhouse is doable.  It’s certainly not cheap, but I recommend it if you ever get the chance.  If you guys have any dining experiences you want to share, please let me know.  We’re always looking for new and interesting places and dishes.

http://www.davidburketownhouse.com/

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Hers: A Real Runner

Look at this:

Blog 296

I ran so far today that my toe started bleeding.  I am a real runner!

Now, this isn’t to say I am a FAST runner, or a GOOD runner, or even a slightly-above-average runner.  But I ran 2 miles tonight, without stopping, without pain, and I felt like I could keep going.  I am doing it!

I won’t be winning races any time soon, but I am starting to think I might actually complete one.

Who knew?

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Hers: My Thing

Everyone has their “thing.”  Maybe you’re a runner.  Or you like to knit.  Or maybe you’re one of those people that scrapbooks the life out of every picture they own.  (I’ll never have that much time…ever.)  Either way, everyone has something that soothes them, saves them, and lets them escape and relax.  Even if you don’t think you have it, you do.

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it is this:  I cook.  That is my thing.  I am at home in the kitchen, even if that kitchen is not in my actual home.  I love the feeling of a good knife in my hands, the smell of a roast chicken on a rainy Sunday, and the sound of onions sizzling in my favorite pan.  I cook when I am happy or sad.  I am somebody’s plush Jewish grandma, stuffed into a scrawny lapsed-Catholic body.

When I’ve had a long day at work, I will stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up ingredients for fresh ravioli, stuffed with pork, spicy greens, and ginger, in a soy-ginger brown butter.  If I wake up early on a weekend morning, a blueberry quick bread might find its way into the oven.  When I am so tired that I can’t move, it will be eggs, scrambled with whatever bits I find in the fridge.  If I have the flu, I will drag myself off the couch long enough to make chicken soup, fragrant with dill, and filled with kluski, just like my Polish Babci makes.

Ravioli waiting for the hot tub.

Ravioli waiting for the hot tub.

Even on a day like today, when my car got towed (pardon me, City of New York, for not being able to read the Private Parking Lot sign IN SPANISH…I am giving you my favorite finger, which is not language-specific), a cabbie drove me to the wrong impound lot, I walked 2 miles in the rain to the correct lot, got goosed by the largest dog (horse?) I have ever seen, and paid $108 to someone who may or may not have been a member of Al Quaeda.  Once I was back in my car and the hysterics stopped, my first thought was….soup.  I am going to make soup. Soup will fix this day.  Maryland Crab Soup, lightly flavored with Old Bay and Worchestire, home to sweet chunks of crab and vegetable.  Yes, I am going to make soup.

Maryland Crab Soup

Maryland Crab Soup

So that is what I did.  And everything was a little better.

What’s your thing?

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