Archive for December, 2008

New York, The Wet Feet Edition

December 23, 2008
The Manhattan Bridge
Let me start this post by saying that this trip was fabulous. It was fabulous and deserves multiple posts, even though I will only be giving it one. I want to blog about every single thing that I got to do, every little adventure that came my way, but alas, time is against me. I’ll try to hit the highlights.

To start with, we took the Chinatown bus, which is always an adventure in and of itself. As I stood on a stoop next to the alley (yes, alley) where the bus would pick us up, I watched a guy get arrested. He cussed out the cops arresting him, then wished them all a Merry Christmas as he was handcuffed and put into a waiting police van. I couldn’t help but laugh. Which, as it turns out, was basically the theme of my weekend.

The bus ride up was pretty uneventful, if a little long. We made it to our very cute hotel on the upper West side, which was right across the street from the hostel we stayed at last year. I really loved our new hotel, The Marrakech, which was Moroccan themed and adorable. The staff was awesome, I can’t say enough nice things about them. Stay there! It’s right next to the 1-2-3 subway line! Yay.

The tree. I was more impressed this year 🙂

The funny thing about this trip was that my friend Katie and I went without a plan. I love trips like this, where you can sleep in without feeling guilty about messing up a pre-planned schedule. I like waking up and saying “So, what shall we do today?” I was impressed that, without a plan, we managed to make it to both MOMA and the Met. We also made it to a few restaurants with gluten-free menus! I’ll review them for you:

S’MAC: The.mac.was.amazing.

I loved this place. It’s on a random side street around Union Square, in a cute neighborhood. Suffice it to say, if i lived anywhere NEAR this restaurant, I would weigh 5,000 pounds in no time. The macaroni and cheese was delicious! Not gummy, nice and creamy, and they have gluten-free bread crumbs for cripe’s sake. Amazing. I will say that having to pay $3 extra for the gluten-free version stung a little, but overall I have to say this is probably my favorite gluten-free dining experience yet.

Holy moly…so good!

Sarabeth’s Kitchen: Service a little lacking

I got all excited about this restaurant because I’d read some great reviews of it. I was positively assured that they had a gluten free menu. They do not.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sarabeth’s is in a premium location, right on Central Park South down the street from the Plaza. If you sit in the front of the restaurant, you can look out a big window at Central Park, complete with horse-drawn carriages and snow on trees. I definitely looked like a tourist, sitting there gaping at the view. Real smooth, Rosemary.

Once we got past the 40 minute wait time, we ordered cappuccinos at our table and looked over the menu. I asked the waiter what someone with a gluten intolerance could eat, and he brusquely said “Eggs.” Oh good, besides macaroni and cheese, that’s all I’ve been able to eat. Eggs and salad. Snore. I ended up with a ham, leek, and Gruyere omelet with a side salad. It was a good omelet, but it would have been nice to know that this was basically the only gluten-free option before I walked in the door. I also felt that the waiter was rude and pretty unaccommodating, even to my friends who were not requesting special dietary needs food.

I did pretty well sticking to my gluten-free diet while there. It was challenging at times, like the night that I cried because I couldn’t have pizza while Katie and Lisa were eating it in the hotel. I didn’t realize how sensitive I was about people eating that sort of thing in front of me nowadays. Also I was drunk. That could have had something to do with the general weeping I experienced.

Gotta love street shopping!

The rest of our trip was spent shopping, going to a CBS party in Murray Hill, trying to avoid puddles (unsuccessfully) and oh yes…navigating the subway. I love the New York subway system SO much more than the DC Metro. It’s way more efficient and I’m willing to trade efficiency for cleanliness any day. Give me a train that doesn’t sit in a tunnel for an hour inexplicably!

I love New York. Period.

The Plaza. I’m staying here next time.

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New York, The Wet Feet Edition

December 23, 2008
The Manhattan Bridge
Let me start this post by saying that this trip was fabulous. It was fabulous and deserves multiple posts, even though I will only be giving it one. I want to blog about every single thing that I got to do, every little adventure that came my way, but alas, time is against me. I’ll try to hit the highlights.

To start with, we took the Chinatown bus, which is always an adventure in and of itself. As I stood on a stoop next to the alley (yes, alley) where the bus would pick us up, I watched a guy get arrested. He cussed out the cops arresting him, then wished them all a Merry Christmas as he was handcuffed and put into a waiting police van. I couldn’t help but laugh. Which, as it turns out, was basically the theme of my weekend.

The bus ride up was pretty uneventful, if a little long. We made it to our very cute hotel on the upper West side, which was right across the street from the hostel we stayed at last year. I really loved our new hotel, The Marrakech, which was Moroccan themed and adorable. The staff was awesome, I can’t say enough nice things about them. Stay there! It’s right next to the 1-2-3 subway line! Yay.

The tree. I was more impressed this year 🙂

The funny thing about this trip was that my friend Katie and I went without a plan. I love trips like this, where you can sleep in without feeling guilty about messing up a pre-planned schedule. I like waking up and saying “So, what shall we do today?” I was impressed that, without a plan, we managed to make it to both MOMA and the Met. We also made it to a few restaurants with gluten-free menus! I’ll review them for you:

S’MAC: The.mac.was.amazing.

I loved this place. It’s on a random side street around Union Square, in a cute neighborhood. Suffice it to say, if i lived anywhere NEAR this restaurant, I would weigh 5,000 pounds in no time. The macaroni and cheese was delicious! Not gummy, nice and creamy, and they have gluten-free bread crumbs for cripe’s sake. Amazing. I will say that having to pay $3 extra for the gluten-free version stung a little, but overall I have to say this is probably my favorite gluten-free dining experience yet.

Holy moly…so good!

Sarabeth’s Kitchen: Service a little lacking

I got all excited about this restaurant because I’d read some great reviews of it. I was positively assured that they had a gluten free menu. They do not.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sarabeth’s is in a premium location, right on Central Park South down the street from the Plaza. If you sit in the front of the restaurant, you can look out a big window at Central Park, complete with horse-drawn carriages and snow on trees. I definitely looked like a tourist, sitting there gaping at the view. Real smooth, Rosemary.

Once we got past the 40 minute wait time, we ordered cappuccinos at our table and looked over the menu. I asked the waiter what someone with a gluten intolerance could eat, and he brusquely said “Eggs.” Oh good, besides macaroni and cheese, that’s all I’ve been able to eat. Eggs and salad. Snore. I ended up with a ham, leek, and Gruyere omelet with a side salad. It was a good omelet, but it would have been nice to know that this was basically the only gluten-free option before I walked in the door. I also felt that the waiter was rude and pretty unaccommodating, even to my friends who were not requesting special dietary needs food.

I did pretty well sticking to my gluten-free diet while there. It was challenging at times, like the night that I cried because I couldn’t have pizza while Katie and Lisa were eating it in the hotel. I didn’t realize how sensitive I was about people eating that sort of thing in front of me nowadays. Also I was drunk. That could have had something to do with the general weeping I experienced.

Gotta love street shopping!

The rest of our trip was spent shopping, going to a CBS party in Murray Hill, trying to avoid puddles (unsuccessfully) and oh yes…navigating the subway. I love the New York subway system SO much more than the DC Metro. It’s way more efficient and I’m willing to trade efficiency for cleanliness any day. Give me a train that doesn’t sit in a tunnel for an hour inexplicably!

I love New York. Period.

The Plaza. I’m staying here next time.

New York state of mind

December 18, 2008

Hey all! This afternoon I am leaving for New York City with my friend Katie. I am so excited! The last time I was in NYC, I was really really ill and freezing cold, but had a blast anyway. This time it’s Katie who is sick, but we’re still going to power through. We can do it!
I feel a little nervous about sticking to my gluten-free diet while in NYC, the capital city of my beloved Brooklyn Bagel, Gray’s Papaya, Pellegrino’s, the ultimate black and white cookies and Ray’s Pizza. This is truly going to be the first serious test for me. I hope I can resist my favorite New York treats without sinking into “the depths of despair,” as Anne of Green Gables calls it.
I have resolve for several reasons though. I can’t wait to go try out Risotteria and S’MAC. A friend of mine who will also be there this weekend has said that Tao is delectable and if I bring my gluten-free tamari sauce, I can participate! And last but not least on my (very long) list of places to eat, Babycakes has gluten-free cupcakes that I’ve heard mixed reviews about but will certainly sample for myself. Armed with my handy list of eateries, I feel like I might just make it through this weekend.
Wish me luck.
I leave you now with a few memories from Katie and I’s trip last year!

The tree. Honestly…I was thoroughly unimpressed.

At Max Brenner’s. Thoroughly IMPRESSED!


In the back of a cab. Scared.

I love these! Also I was freezing my tush off!

Gramma Soup

December 17, 2008

It seems that every time I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner for the past few weeks, I keep arriving at soup. With cold rain lashing against my face on my walk to the Metro, my fingers numb and clutching my umbrella, all I can think of is nourishing soup, a hot mug of creamy Irish Breakfast tea with sugar, and a nice warm chocolate souffle for dessert.

Soup is always my go to meal in the winter. It’s minimum effort with maximum results. It’s uncomplicated, humble and basic, while still being utterly satisfying. You can put it together and then watch Christmas movies on the couch in your jammies while it bubbles away on the stove. So cozy. I always burn my tongue in my eagerness to sample!

The holidays bring up a lot of emotions for me about my family. I actually have a wonderful relationship with them, including my extended family (mostly). The one regret that I truly have in my life so far is how little time I was able to have with my paternal Italian grandmother. Gramma Lee was an amazing woman. My dad has told me that we are eerily similar, down to our bouts of depression and mutual obsessions with shoes and jewelry. Most importantly, we both have a love of houses full of people who love to eat. Almost all of my favorite recipes today are ones that were hers, passed down to my mother once she married my dad. So I guess in a way, I still get to spend time with her every time I make one of her recipes.

Clearly, with all this holiday reminiscing about my Gramma Lee, it was time to make what we’ve always called “Gramma Soup” in my family. It’s a version of Italian Wedding soup that is used to cure colds, homesickness, bad break ups, and the general winter “blahs.” We don’t eat chicken noodle in our big fat Italian family. Ever.

Gramma Soup

2 boxes chicken broth
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion, chopped
1 head of fresh escarole, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 egg
parmesan cheese (trust me on this, the kraft stuff actually works better than the good fresh stuff. don’t waste your money for a good chunk of parm for this recipe)

For the mini-meatballs:
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. gluten free Italian breadcrumbs ( I buzzed up some gluten free croutons from Whole Foods in the food processor with some Italian spices from Penzey’s. MMMMMM!)
1 egg
1 clove minced garlic
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1) Saute carrots, onions, garlic, celery with olive oil in a stock pot. When soft, add stock, bay leaf, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer while you do the next few steps.

2) Cook down the escarole with a little bit of olive oil. The escarole will become brighter green as it cooks down. As soon as it’s changed color, stir it into the soup.

3) Mix all ingredients for meatballs with your hands in a large bowl. After the mixture is well blended, form small meatballs (about the same size around as a nickel) and place them in a shallow frying pan with a little olive oil. Cook through, turning occasionally until browned. Once cooked, drain grease off on a paper towel and then add to the soup.

4) Beat together one egg and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Stir the mixture into the soup briskly. Once it looks lovely and cloudy, the soup is ready. Serve with a glass of red wine and a piece of toasted gluten free sourdough bread.

***A quick note: Before I stopped eating gluten, the other thing that we added to this soup if we didn’t make the meatballs were pastines. These are just little tiny pastas; think the stars in Chicken and Stars soup!

***Another quick note: My now ex-roommate cut off our internet/cable right before she moved out. The pictures will come later when I’m not using Keith’s computer! 🙂

Home

December 5, 2008
Heaven (Co. Donegal)

I’ve been considering going back to Ireland lately. It’s tempting. Aer Lingus is having their winter holidays sale. This is always the time of year that I tend to feel nostalgic, since I was there over Christmas and New Year’s three years ago. There’s nothing quite like Christmas in a country that makes you feel as warm and snuggly as Ireland.
I’m dying for the opportunity to smell peat fires drying my damp jeans and socks over a fire screen while drinking tea. Oh yes…these things really do happen there. I know it sounds cliche, but cliche’s are cliche for a reason. I want Maggie to wash my hair in her kitchen sink, to boo and throw things at the telly during the Queen’s Christmas address, to revel in the sense that this place is familiar but yet wholly foreign all at once. Ireland is home and it is amazing. And I can’t believe I’ve been gone for this long.
I can’t just buy my ticket at the moment. I’m dying to throw responsibility to the winds, to get a new credit card, buy my ticket, put the whole trip on it and to worry about it later. I want to do this, really. But the irritating practical Capricorn side of my personality keeps rearing it’s ugly little head and saying “no.” All I want to do is bitch slap that voice and wing my way to the greenest place I’ve ever seen in real life. But no. Maybe next year.
Instead, I’m planning on making some of my favorite treats that I came to love while I was there. Scones and tea and a traditional Irish fry up (minus the blood sausage…BLECK!). I’m also going to go to World Market to invest in some of my favorite british chocolate treats (Flake bars? Yorkie’s? we’ll see what looks gluten free). I’m a sucker for Devonshire cream and lemon curd. Drool.
No recipe today, but I’ll leave you with some pictures of my last trip. If you’re considering visiting Ireland any time soon, I highly reccommend Belfast!

A spontaneous jam session at Bonner’s Bar

in Mullach Dobh.

The cutest thatch roofed cottage
i
n all of Anagry.

Belfast’s city hall in the City Centre.

Me in County Donegal. Cold and loving it.

Chai it out

December 3, 2008

Hey friends! Have missed you all. I decided to take a short break from blogging about food because frankly, I had a lot to learn about my new diet. This was akin to finals week (or “Hell Week,” as we fondly refer to it) at Baldwin. I was cramming info about gluten free diets!

For instance, did you know that there are twice as many flours that go into a gluten free cake as there are in a regular cake? And they all do different things and taste different? My pantry is now stocked with: Potato starch, brown rice flour, white rice flour, soy flour, chestnut flour, pumpkin seed flour, buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot starch, corn starch…the list could go on. Seriously. There are flours out there you’ve never dreamed of. This wheat free thing is intense. I have no idea how to structure recipes or what leavening agents to use and how much. The last few weeks have been an exercise in mental yoga.

Anyway, I’ve started out slowly, experimenting with some small things like buttermilk biscuits and brownie mixes. So far, so good. But one of my favorite homemade treats this month has nothing to do with flour or starch or anything to do with baking. I’m in love with, completely addicted to in fact, freshly brewed chai tea. Never had it? Listen up, this is important.

Chai originated in India. It’s a milky, spice infused tea drink that pretty much tastes like a holiday in a cup. MMM. I usually drink Oregon Chai, which is a pre-prepared concentrate and fabulous for those mornings when you’re rushed or those evenings you’re pooped. I take it camping, on trips and keep some in my office. I’m addicted. But truth be told, I read the story of how the owners of Oregon Chai started their business and thought “How hard could this stuff really be to make?”

My now-ex-but-still-fabulous college roommate Jenn Wilde was the Commanding Officer of our VWIL Program in college. Being the big cheese gives you lots of opportunities to attend campus events VIP style, and one of these involved an Indian chap named Srinivas Krishnan. He is the founder of Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble, as well as a family friend of our college president. During Srini’s stay at Mary Baldwin, Jenn was invited to our president’s house for dinner, where Srini made traditional Indian chai. Not being involved in the VWIL program, I was not in attendance but I did get rave reviews about the chai. This fall, I emailed Dr. Fox’s husband Mr. Layman to get the recipe and try it out!

Listed below is an adaptation of Srini’s recipe. I really encourage you to try this out in all it’s glory. You can play with the proportions of spices if you like too! There is really nothing else quite like it. The process does look a little labor intensive, but the ceremonial aspect of it can be fun.

Srini’s Chai

1 c. of water per person

per 1 c. of water:
5-8 whole cardamom pods
1/4 cinnamon stick
4-5 whole black peppercorns
1/8 tsp. whole fennel seeds
5-7 whole cloves
1 whole star anise
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp. black tea, loose
1/8 c. milk
1 tbsp. brown sugar

1. Bash up all your spices (minus the ginger) in a mortar and pestal. You don’t want to reduce this to a powder, but make sure that it’s well crushed. You can also use a coffee grinder, but be careful not to over-process the spices. The pieces have to stay large enough to be caught in a strainer.

2. Bring water to a boil, then add spices, ginger, and tea. Boil for 5 minutes, covered.

3. While water is boiling, heat milk and brown sugar in a saucepan until hot and whisk together. Do not boil.*

4. Remove spice mixture from heat and strain liquid into cups. Add even amount of milk mixture to each cup and whisk.

*Do NOT try to add the hot tea mixture to the cold milk mixture. It can potentially cause the milk to curdle, based both on the heat and the acidity of the ginger.