13 March 2012


I love field trips, always have.  So when the opportunity to chaperone a trip up to Boston with the school's jazz ensembles and jazz choir for the Berklee Jazz Festival, I said heck yeah!  True that I'm not a huge fan of Boston (it's cold and I've had a crummy time every visit I've made,) but there are a few things native to the New England area that I am a huge fan of.  Plus, by chaperoning an overnight trip, I got to stay in my very own hotel room and I lovelovelove hotels!  It was so cosy and New England-y with all the down pillows and comforters and a stunning view of the Boston skyline - well as stunning as it can be when all I can do is compare it to the NYC skyline that I can see from my rooftop in Brooklyn.  Even despite the lacking skyline, the hotel room was the perfect place to crash after a long, noisy bus ride with forty high school musicians.  But not without a nice bite with the grownups before bedchecks.  So off we headed to the hotel restaurant where I indulged in a bowl of New England clam chowder that was so chock full of buttery little shellfish and cream that completely beats out my Manhattan variety.  Let's face it, nothing beats a creamy soup, even if it does have a NYC namesake.  I was the perfect beginning to my plateful of baked, crispy cod with roasted vegetables.  Mmmm Boston knows how to do seafood, that's for sure!

After wandering around the convention center the next day, attempting to keep track of my 35 kids, getting them dressed and to rehearsals and performances on time, and enjoying some out of this world jazz music from young geniuses I got to wander around on my own.  But I stuck around to hear a few more great performances because despite the fact that I don't know my ass from my elbow when it comes to music (I still blame this on my mom not letting my take up the drums in fourth grade,) I do know that I love jazz.  A lot.  After my fill of music, I decided to wander around the Berklee area of Boston, beautiful, clean, snowy, kind of fancy pants posh.  It reminded me a bit of Princeton or certain areas of Baltimore with the boutique shops and historic architecture.  Unfortunately, Boston is not Princeton or Baltimore so I still wasn't able to fall in love with the city.  I think the next time I head up there, I'll definitely need to go with someone who knows their way around and can show me all the worthwhile stuff to do and see.  The lobster rolls and clam chowder bread bowls I devoured at some dive bar for supper after a long day of chaperoning and exploring came pretty close to converting me into a lover of Boston, but not quite.  So who's up for the challenge?  Who wants to take me on a grand tour of Beantown?  You just have to promise that we get a few more of these -

09 March 2012

putting the bean in beantown

This weekend I'm going to escape the city and head North for the Berklee Jazz Festival in Boston.  But before I hop on the bus, I wanted to whip up a batch of chowder the Manhattan way.  I'll have some of their style when I make it to New England and decide who's is actually better... but let's face it, it will probably be mine.

08 March 2012

nurse's orders

A few months back I was afforded the opportunity to do some temp work at the school with our new nurse, Nurse Betsy.  My grandma was a school nurse so I jumped at the chance because I've always had an affinity for caregivers.  The new nurse and I got the infirmary in order during her early months at the school and chatted about a few of our favorite things... well, mostly we talked about our mutual love of food.  I shared my blog with her and she shared some vegetarian and healthful options with me.  We had a great time working together but the project ended and now we only see each other every once in a blue moon when I have to bring one of the kiddies by for a bandaid or an ice pack.  But we try to intentionally bump into each other to chat about recipes, dishes and restaurants we want to try.  Recently, Betsy brought in the newest addition to her cookbook collection - Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi.  This collection of simple and elegant vegetarian recipes is fresh and seasonal.  And the photos paired with each recipe are straight up food porn.  The crispest, clearest, most mouth watering images of vegetables I've ever seen in my life.  When Betsy broke out this cookbook, I started to drool.  I wanted to try everything, especially after we discussed the need to stop by Kalustyan's for spices and ingredients.  Needless to say, I was a little envious of this work of literary foodieness.  Then today came along and when I brought a second grader by with a bloody nose, Nurse Betsy surprised me with my very own copy of Plenty!  Thanks to Nurse Betsy I will be able to follow through with my plan to cut back on my meat consumption (oh, did I forget to mention that I wanted to do that?  More on my plan later.)  We should all thank Betsy for what is sure to be some added vegetarian excitement to the delirious kitchen!  thankyouthankyouthankyou!

marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato
lettuce salad

stark raving mad

I love counting down to things.  Whether it's a holiday, an occasion, or the release of something awesome, the anticipation and excitement that goes along with counting down to it makes the actual event even better.  There are a few things that I'm pretty pumped for right now but one far more than the rest - the season five premier of Mad Men!  And I'm not the only one who's getting super pumped for the big day (March 25th.)  Banana Republic is already displaying and advertising their line of 60s inspired clothes and Estee Lauder has released a Mad Men makeup collection.  And though I do look great in a wiggle dress and bright red lipstick, these "inspired by" collections aren't really what gets me going.  Instead, it's the themed viewing parties that are thrown by fans and for fans.  Parties where we can dress up and surround ourselves with all things 60s and drink classic cocktails, munch on favorite appetizers, dance to swinging sounds and watch as our favorite characters wrap themselves up in beautiful, stylized drama.  C'mon, we all know I love a good theme party!

Well, I don't have cable so my fellow Bettys and Joans and Peggys are going to have to find somewhere to go to watch the show, especially since the premier is an extra long, movie-like episode.  But that's just the viewing aspect.  The party can actually start at home with vintage cocktails and snacks.  And thanks to the smarty pants folks over at Nobody's Sweetheart, we've got Sally Draper's cocktail guides.  These are awesomely illustrated guides to all the classic cocktails seen on the show that you might stir up while slipping into your swing skirt or your skinny tie and suit.  Since the weather is warming up a bit, I suggest going with a nice, cool cocktail like a Manhattan or a Cuba Libre.  And if little Sally Draper can't seem to whip up something to your liking, head over to the official 1960s Cocktail Guide for Mad Men fans.  Quite a bit of crossover but the official guide introduces other libations like a tasty Negroni or the champagne classic and one of my fizzy faves, the French 75.  No matter what, make sure your liquor cabinet is fully stocked and that your freezer is packed with plenty of ice because when it comes to these, you might not be able to have just one.  And if your friends hear that you're whipping up a pitcher of Tom Collins', you might end up having an impromptu pre-viewing party party.  Also, to keep it accurate, make sure you've got the appropriate glasses.  I'm the kind of gal that drinks wine out of juice glasses and I have been known to take a shot of whiskey from an empty baby food jar, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a cabinet filled with proper tumblers and lowballs and flutes and other vintage barware.  If you want to make it truly authentic, get some tiny umbrellas and cute stirrers and colorful toothpicks while you're at it - getting drunk looks classier when you do it right!

But it's important to remember not to drink on an empty stomach.  So you'd better eat something before you start throwing back those Brandy Alexanders.  And what better to snack on than Trudy's Rib Eye in the Pan or Sal's Spaghetti and Meatballs or Betty's Around the World Gazpacho?  That's right, all your favorite Mad Men recipes have been compiled into a new cookbook for all of us fans of the show and theme parties.  It's got episode recaps, recipes from the show, and recipes from restaurants visited on the show.  And they've visited some really great restaurants on the show - Keen's, PJ Clarke's, and the Grand Central Oyster Bar to name a few.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, hint hint to any of you looking to get me a hostess gift or something.

All of these resources combine to give you the perfect tools to create a pretty amazing Mad Men viewing party in case you can't find one that someone else put together and you can just enjoy.  But what's the fun in that?  Planning a party is half the fun!  And if you need more tips, check out the show website for an official party planning pack... and be sure to send me an invite.  I've already got this year's premier outfit all laid out!

07 March 2012

revuesday part deux - a Harlem photo story

As I sit at home, falling deeper andeeper into a soul food induced coma, I am attempting to conjure up enough words to type up a review of a phenomenal evening spent in Harlem.  After our delicious lunch at B&H and a bit of shopping with the roomie earlier this afternoon, I had to run off to the library for a few hours to shhh kids and shelve books.  Tuesdays in the library are, for whatever reason, notoriously loud and crowded.  It's only gotten nuttier since the track and baseball/softball teams started their preseason practices so my day was spent running around like a librarian with her head cut off or something.  So when the roomie came by to pick me up so that we could potentially go to the movies with a darling friend of ours.  After some debate however, we decided that our movie passes would be better off saved for a must-see-on-the-big-screen kind of flick.  But that didn't mean we were going to waste a perfectly good Tuesday night, hell to the no.  And onto the C train we went, all the way up to Harlem for cheap booze and fried chicken.  

today was a foodtastic slam dunk!

A quick stop into Harlem BBQ for a couple of oversized pina coladas.  I had the wild berry while my little Georgia peach had, what else but one with a hint of peach.


We worked through our brain freeze and were able to finish the crossword puzzle... unlike yesterday when we could barely get through half of it.  Will Shortz can be such a jerk sometimes.  We actually finished four crossword puzzles today.  We must be some kind of crazy geniuses or something... well, maybe just crazy/

in pen, no less!

Then it was off to 152nd Street for the ultimate fried chicken dinner.  Now, I know I claim to make some bangin' ass fried chicken, and trust me, it's good.  And the reason my chicken is so delicious is because I fry it up in my cast iron skillet.  Nothing beats fried chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet - nothing!  Imagine how much cracklin' good fried chicken you could make if your cast iron skillet was ginormous and your recipe perfected.  Well, Charles Gabriel of Charles' Southern Style Kitchen does just that.  But it isn't just chicken; no siree, Mr. Gabriel doesn't stop there.  He whips up fried chicken, barbecue chicken, smothered chicken in gravy, super saucy ribs that fall off the bone, collared green, mac & cheese, black eyed peas, limas, green beans, buttery sweet yams, brunswick stew, honey biscuits, corn bread, okra and potato salad.  Wash it all down with sweet tea, lemonade or a perfect combination of the two and then top it off with a heaping scoop of banana pudding layered with love and nilla wafers.  Now, normally I would be struggling to decide what two or three delicious sides I would want to pair up with my thigh and leg or order of ribs, but not at Charles'.  Nope, here you can stay til four in the morning and pay just 13.99 for an all-you-can-eat soul food buffet!  Yup, today was all about the most delicious cheap eats in the city.  But good luck trying to get through more than three plates of these savory treats - I can barely get through my third plate and y'all know this girl can eat.  Tonight I had to tap out a two plates in order to finish up with dessert.  But the amount they heap on your plate each time you head up to the counter will not leave you unsatisfied; no, it leaves you knowing that your money has been well spent and that you may need to be rolled home because you've been so gluttonous.  But I'm sure the nice folks at the Southern Style Kitchen would be kind enough to help you out the door because, seriously, they are some of the nicest people in the world!  But again, same as with B&H - I share this information with you, dear readers, because you are all food lovers like myself andeserve to know about the best of the best.  Just don't go crowding into my fave chicken spot on a random Tuesday night when the roomie and I might be headed up there!

round one: fried chicken, mac&cheese, collards, black eyed peas, green beans,
brunswick stew, sweet tea & an arnold palmer

round two: bbq chicken, ribs, more fried chicken, yams, honey biscuits

top it all off with gooey banana pudding loaded with nilla wafers. mmmm

Thank you Charles for an amazing supper and for what is sure to be a great night's sleep since I'm near comatose right now.  We'll be back soon, but not too soon.  Gotta digest and burn off this indulgent feast first.  But you're our new best friend... seriously!

we love Charles' Southern Style Kitchen! we love Charles!

06 March 2012

revuesday - B&H

One of the many things that I love about my schedule is that it occasionally permits me to sleep in, lazy around for a couple of hours, (window) shop around the city, and be a lady who lunches with any one of my equally schedule-fortunate gal pals.  Today, the roomie happened to have an early day in the city and suggested that I head in early as well so that we could indulge in a tasty lunch with each other.  Of course I said yes.  Especially when she suggested that lunch would be had at B&H... no one can say no to that!

B&H is an itty bitty restaurant that has probably been tucked into it's little nook at St. Marks and 2nd Avenue for about a thousand years.  Consisting of five tables and a deli counter, the place has the look and feel of a pop-in kind of lunch spot from the forties and fifties that hasn't changed and never will because it just works.  The kosher daily menu probably hasn't ever changed either - soups, sandwiches, knishes, pierogi and endless loaves of thick, eggy chalah.  The food here is simple, delicious, comforting and, at prices that barely break the bank, the plentiful servings are super satisfying.  Seriously, the portions are gigantic!  And the place is open all day so you can dine on your way home from the bar or on your way out (7AM - 11PM, hours that work with everyone's hectic schedule.)  It's tough to change your order and branch out enough to try some of the other menu items when you've found something as brilliant as the whitefish salad sandwich on thick, crusty challah bread with a side of borscht for on $10.  Maybe one of these days I'll try something else since it always looks so good. 

I'm not going to lie and say that I was thrilled to write up this review for all my lovely readers, especially the ones that reside in and around the five boroughs, but I had to.  Despite the fact that I'm terrified of not getting a seat at the counter on one of my visits to this gem of an eatery, I believe that everyone should know about one of the best cheap eat spots in the city.  And since it's been around forever so I trust that it isn't going anywhere.  Stop by, indulge, enjoy and savor in the classic New York-iness of it all!