an unforgettable night at la vara and clover club

I first went to La Vara not too long after it opened, and enjoyed it so much what we vowed to come back before too long. At the time, T lived close by, so in my mind, it was a no-brainer. As is often the case though, time continued to pass by and we didn’t return – not until January 14th, a day I’ll never forget.

Small plates are the focus at La Vara, which we enjoy since it means we really get the chance to try as many different menu options as we’re prepared to eat. They change them up often, which can be good (yay, more things to try!) or bad (wait, where’d my favorite go?), depending on your POV. We’d recently started to do one “fancy date night” a month, and January, our destination was La Vara.

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Even though we had it last time, we had to start with the Berenjena Con Miel, which is crispy eggplant with honey, melted cheese, and nigella seed. I love this dish. It’s just fried ever so slightly, and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen eggplant and honey paired up. It’s a winner.

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Since we so enjoyed duck hearts on our San Francisco trip, we decided to try their Pincho de Ceuta – which is Gibraltar style grilled chicken hearts served with a fresh herb salad and a lime-date vinaigrette. This was pretty good, though our duck heart king is still Alembic.

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One of the specials of the day was cauliflower fritters. These were super flavorful and much more substantial than we’d expected.

Gurullos

For one of the heavier plates, we had to order the Gurullos, which is a handmade Murcian pasta with goat butter and ground goat. The ground goat is optional, but oh my, it’s delicious. This was one of our favorites from our first visit and it didn’t disappoint. The noodles and the butter just melt in your mouth and the flavor of the goat is always on point. So so good.

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To end the meal, we ordered the Torta Santiago, which was a Galician almond cake topped with fruit. T seemed a bit iffy on the dessert, but I didn’t think anything of it (he’s never big into sweets, so I wasn’t entirely surprised by his lack of enthusiasm). This was essentially a thicker short bread. Next time, I think I’ll instead try their homemade olive oil ice cream.

After leaving La Vara, T thought we should make our way over to another fave of ours, Clover Club, for a quick night cap. I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we’ve been there a number of times. When we walked in, I was excited to see that Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra were playing. We’re huge fans of theirs, and we always seem to forget that they play Wednesday night every week over at Clover Club.

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When we walked in, we instantly saw Clay up by the bar. Again, I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we often run into Clay out and about in Brooklyn. T had to run out for a minute, so I sat for a bit chatting with Clay. I was talking so much with my back to the band that Clay finally interrupted me to ask something along the lines of, “You guys are fans of the band, right? It looks like they have a new lead singer.”

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Puzzled, I stopped and turned around to find Michael had let Topher take the mic as he sang Adele’s jazzy rendition of “Love Song”. I’m pretty sure I instantly froze, slowly processing what was happening and what this might could mean. The band continued to play in the background as he made his way over and got down on one knee. My mind was a blur as he reached into a box and pulled out the ring. In the moment, I was so excited that I seemingly grabbed the ring and put it onto my finger. (Ooops.) I gave him a huge hug, then a kiss. Later, he would tease me I never actually said “yes,” but I think he got the idea. It also turns out that running into Clay was not such a coincidence, as he was there to catch the entire thing on camera.

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The surprise continued when we walked to the back room, where I found so many of our closest friends waiting for us to join in the celebration.

Post Engagement

Some had taken planes, trains, or automobiles just to be there to celebrate along with us, which really did mean the world. Love really was all around. It was absolutely perfect.

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That night, we stayed until Clover Club closed. We were the last two sitting at the bar, chatting and grinning. We managed to grab a quick photo with the band, too, before they made their way out.

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So, that explains the hiatus here. It’s been a busy six months or so, but now that our wonderful wedding is done and we’ve returned from the honeymoon, I’m back behind the laptop, contemplating my last great meal. Good to be back, and to share the fun story of the reason for my brief “hiatus” with you all. Xo.

La Vara – 268 Clinton Street (at Verandah Pl), Brooklyn – 718.422.0065
Reservations Suggested

Clover Club – 210 Smith Street (between Baltic and Butler), Brooklyn – 718.855.7939

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hasta la vista, 2013

I have to admit, I was tempted to skip my annual year in review blog post. Instagram, Facebook (via Statigram), even Google+ wrapped the year up in their video photo montages, so I thought about playing hooky. At the last minute though, I caved. There’s something fun about clicking back through the calendar and seeing just what it was that made this city seem so electric for the last 365 days. There were so many things I almost forgot about that it made all the time it took to pull this together more than worth it!

There were countless fabulous meals. There were restaurant week outings to LureSpice Market, and Benchmark. None were as out of the ordinary (and as least likely to be repeated) as trying live octopus at Sik Gaek in Queens. So. Chewy. And T and I celebrated 2 years with a fabulous dinner at Marea, a long-standing member of my “to try” restaurant list.

I attended a special McDonald’s Chef Event linked to their announcement of their new menu. The event featured an entire meal of upscale food created out of ingredients from the McDonald’s pantry. It was a fun opportunity to join an assortment of people from the New York City food scene for an evening unlikely to be repeated in the fabulous Three Sixty° event space. I had the chance to attend the closing day of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which was a fun chance to take a peek into a whole different industry.

As always, 2013 was a year full of music. The absence of Tori Amos shows didn’t mean fewer concerts, that’s for sure. There was Passion Pit at Madison Square Garden during Winter Storm Nemo. We managed to enjoy both a show and another restaurant week meal as everyone was scurrying home in the midst of the snowfall. Chilly, but fun! I hiked out to Nassau Coliseum to see Pink with JB and took L as well to see her when she recently came back through to Brooklyn. I went with T to see John Mayer on Live on Letterman and was totally surprised when we had the chance to meet him and sit to the side of the stage for the final show on his tour. T and I went up to Yankee Stadium in crazy high temps (just shy of 100 degrees) to see Justin Timberlake and JayZ. What a show. L and I went to see Fiona Apple at the Beacon Theatre, and she proved that even small people can have a large stage presence. Mesmerizing. We also went to see “Fair Play” at 54 Below, which featured members of the original cast of Once.

When it comes to the arts, there were a number of shows of all sorts. T and I went to see the one man show of Macbeth with Alan Cumming. It was amazing to see one person be able to carry an entire Shakespeare play in such a unique way. I thought he was an amazing performer before, but wow. This was so much more than I ever expected. We went out to Citi Field to see Totem, which turned out to be likely my most favorite thus far of the various Cirque shows I’ve seen. We saw the sold-out Ballets de Faile, a unique series by the NYC Ballet based on the works of the street artist Faile. Since we really loved the times we went to Sleep No More, T and I tried two other immersive experiences – Then She Fell and Speakeasy Dollhouse. I enjoyed Then She Fell, though it was a much slower and not as detailed of an experience as SNM. Speakeasy Dollhouse was a fabulous concept, though the space where it was performed (the usual Back Room speakesasy in the Lower East Side) made for a complicated space to follow the action during the performance. And T and I were lucky enough to get to attend the special Citi ThankYou Sleep No More event hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. No personal photos were permitted, but NPH was a great host. We had the opportunity to speak with him and he was as personable and chatty as you would think.

It was a year of trips ranging from day trips to international (too little, as always, of the latter).  There was the Poconos for Memorial Day weekend, with a group of friends. There were 2 culinary retreat weekends in Vermont, where I fell in love with the incomparable Good Commons. For the 4th of July, T and I took a super long weekend trip to Ireland, where I don’t think we met anything less than a smiling face and we tried tons of amazing local food. I escaped from the city for a bit in September for my birthday for a trip to Destin with my family, confirming it is in fact still my favorite beach. There were several trips to Long Island for fun weekends including wine tasting and apple picking.

There were sporting events spread out through the year. There were Mets games – Mets/Dodgers, Mets/Nats, and finally Mets/Yankees! I was surprised to learn one of our agencies was taking us to the All Star Game, which more than lived up to the hype. I also went with a group to root for the home team and see the Nets. And after countless unsuccessful attempts, I caught my layout towards the end of the year.

Of course, the year had its challenges, many I would have never seen coming. But overall, it was a great year. Here’s to hoping for more wonderful adventures, smiles, and amazing people in the year ahead!

Happy 2014!

2012, you made me smile

I realized it’s time to pause again and think through all that 2012 was. The places been, faces met, and experiences had. There were so many, it’s hard to know where to start, but I love that writing this post forces me at least once a year to sit down and for a bit, thumb back through the calendar and such and reflect.

Not surprisingly, there were food experiences galore. I went to Cochon 555 (so… much…. pork). There was the US launch party for Pie Face, and the launch party for their second location. Zagat dinners of all sorts. I continued to try oysters, finding yep, I still just don’t love them. I celebrated a wonderful year with T with a wonderful dinner (minus our horrid server) at wd-50. I celebrated three years in NYC for 2 of my favorite Jenns on the rooftop of a stylish bar in Chelsea. I finally made it out to check out City Grit Culinary Salon – not just once, but twice – the second time being a benefit following Hurricane Sandy. I saw Anthony Bourdain speak at BAM, mostly regarding his contempt for Paula Deen, thanks to the gracious TC and Underground Eats.

It was a year of some amazing travels. In April, I went to South Africa for a week with my good friend JP, who was expecting. The trip was an amazing adventure filled with leopards, a beach-inhabiting colony of penguins, local foods (including some game JP ordered for dinner – name is eluding me – sprinbok I believe?) and tasting wine in the scenic countryside of Stellenboch. In July, I finally made it out to visit San Francisco with T. We biked across the San Francisco Bridge, toured wineries in Sonoma, and were surprised by amazing eats at an unassuming bar in The Haight.

There were fabulous shows and music. I was surprised by two last minute tickets to the only US performances this year by Tori Amos. Having missed the boat on both, I was lucky enough to have wonderful friends who offered me one of theirs to join in for the NPR Music Show at Le Poisson Rouge and the Infinity Hall Live taping in Norfolk, CT. I saw Joss Stone again – by myself, and didn’t even care I was alone. Amazing. I was treated to floor seats for Madonna at Yankee Stadium, spoiling me and confirming I cannot go to another Madonna show since it’ll never be like that again. I fell in love with the unique Sleep No More, requiring a return visit to experience it again. We later went to see Then She Fell, a fun take on Alice in Wonderland that made you feel like a part of the story – pausing a minute to yourself go down the rabbit hole. I went to see Porgy & Bess with my friend A and was treated with an unexpected chance to meet the fabulous Audra McDonald backstage. I was lucky enough to finally make it to a premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Check that one off of the life list!

There were weddings. Oh were there weddings. We went to Atlantic Beach, NC for a rainy beachfront wedding. We went to Albany. We went to DC. We went to Detroit, which turned out to be a wonderful weekend trip where I got to see my old roommies (one of which was the bride), a good friend from DC, and even had a chance to grab brunch with my foodie friend from Detroit. We went to New Cityjust shy of Poughkeepsie and about an hour outside of NYC. Beginnings were balanced with the opposite. In April, I had to say goodbye to my good friend Rachel without having the opportunity to say a word. I’d like to think that she’d be pleased to find herself in the midst of such a wonderful year. I’ll always remember her fondly and thank her for being my initial northward pull.

Of course, there was trapeze. What’s a year without a little time in the air? April brought the end of an era, with the Trapeze School of New York (TSNY) closing it’s indoor rig. Our IFW (intensive flying workshop) final performance happened just before it came to a close. We closed out our time there with a round of knee hangs – the way it all began for each of us. With this change, I found myself over at Circus Warehouse in Long Island City – a whole new set of instructors and a markedly different approach to teaching. I learned to trust myself enough to swing without safety lines – flying for the first time solely based on the merit of my own strength. It was amazingly terrifying. I ended the year feeling stronger, more comfortable, and determined with things in mind to tackle in classes in 2013.

I’m gearing up (and sequin-ing up!) to ring in the new year shortly. Still contemplating resolutions for the year, if any.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the very best ahead in 2013!

lemony chicken with artichoke hearts

One of my eternal New Year’s resolutions seems to involve the kitchen. Deciding we can be more than casual acquaintances. Daresay maybe even working towards being good friends? Last week, I was excited to see this recipe pop up in my inbox. Lemony chicken. Yum. Artichoke hearts? Upgrade. The one odd thing in this recipe to me was vermouth. I’ve never cooked with it, but I guess fringe benefit is I’m ready to roll if anyone stops by and wants a martini.

Getting started simmering

Getting started simmering

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
After adding the cornstarch. Thickening and almost ready.

After adding the cornstarch. Thickening and almost ready.

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly, with the exception of chicken breast halves. I instead used halved chicken breasts, which I liked. The artichokes ended up very tender and the liquid portion made the chicken moist. I paired this with couscous, which tasted even better topped by the excess juice from the dish. Very easy and flavorful.

2011, you were a winner

I really do think I end up thinking each year is better than the last when I look back, but I do think that 2011 took the cake, even more so than 2010. Many big changes and in the best possible ways. If 2012 even comes close to 2011, I’ll be super happy to be so blessed.

2011 was also a year of big changes in, well, just about every major possible category. After 10 years of corporate HR work, I switched over to working in Social Media in March – a wonderful change I thought I’d never see be a reality. I’ve spent the rest of the year learning a whole slew of marketing acronyms I’d all but forgotten along with a list of a bunch of new ones. And in February I went to celebratory drinks after I got the big job offer, a night which lead to a wonderful relationship – one of the biggest surprises in 2011, something which really shaped the remainder of the year for the better and made the time frame around Valentine’s Day seem less arbitrary of a reason to celebrate. I made one of the biggest switches a Manhattanite can make – equated by many as crossing to the dark side – and decided to move in October to Brooklyn. In June, I chopped off all my hair because I figured why not?

It was quite the musical year. I started the year with seeing the Dance Party and Charlotte Martin in January with my MeeGee friends (read: fellow Tori Amos lovers). I went with Ms JB to see her man, Bon Jovi, at Madison Square Garden. I was lucky enough to see Tori Amos three times in December during her recent Night of Hunters tour, getting to snag another photo and get in my first ever request, Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. Still glowing. I was also lucky enough to get to accompany my friend to the 300th Guinness Book of World Record breaking show of the 30 Seconds to Mars tour (“Mars 300”), where I learned that I am not a crowded rock concert kinda girl and where I ran out of the theater to come face to face with Jared Leto – literally. Why hello Jordan Catalano. I lucked into winning some tickets to see the taping of Florence + the Machine Unplugged. Amazing night.

It was also a year of so many fun events. I went to see the PeeWee Herman Show be filmed for an HBO special in January as a part of a Foursquare promotion. I finally saw Swan Lake in February at Lincoln Center. In March, I made my first trip to SxSW, and learned all about the beauty of the breakfast burrito, how much of a luxury sleep can be sometimes, and how to properly fit yourself in cowboy boots. In April, we went to the Bootlegger Vodka Launch party, held in Andy Warhol’s former townhouse, which was transformed into a prohibition era style jazz club for the evening. There were several fun events on Governors Island – the Polo Match put on by Veuve Clicquot and the Jazz Age Party – both in June. In June, we also got all dolled up for the Webutante Ball. I was so happy I got to see Zarkana just before it closed its run at Radio City, an evening paired with the amazing tasting menu at Respite.

And, as always, I spent one night a week flying through the air. It was the year of bigger tricks and seemingly smaller progress. This though was my attempt to get back to the fun stuff and de-stress for a bit – and it work. (Note, I’ve since caught this – just haven’t had the chance to upload video yet).

And, of course, there were many food events. I enjoyed more homemade elk sausage from Montana thanks to my friend Andrea. I attended another one of Artisinal’s excellent wine and cheese classes. I went to Village Voice Choice Eats in March, learning the best way to enjoy the ‘feast” was to map out your game plan in advance. I went to this year’s Hudson Valley Food and Wine Festival in September, finally making it to sample many of the prominent Hudson Valley wineries. Eventually I’ll make it out to try them in person.

There were lots of fabulous food events affiliated with GooglePlaces – such as the Nacho bus in August, Miracle Fruit tasting party in October (where I learned my taste buds are super stubborn) and the pizza bus in December (post to follow shortly). I won tickets to Zagat Presents: Chef Akira Back’s Meal of Memories – an amazing eight course paired meal. A bit later and just before Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to also win tickets to Zagat Presents: A Taste of Long Island on the East River, at the Water Club. It was a really gross night, but the food more than made up for the sideways wind and rain.

I entered a food competition for the first time ever for this year’s Seventh Annual Brooklyn Casserole Party in October. I baked cupcakes again for this year’s 140Sweets, benefiting the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Program. This time, I did peanut butter cookie cupcakes.

As always, 2011 was a year of visits and a but of travel, mostly with friends. My friend JP came up to visit in July. My Bama girls came to visit in November, cheering on a heartbreaking Alabama/LSU game. My friend A came up to go to the Tori Amos shows with me in December and embraced exploring my new hood in Brooklyn over going back into Manhattan the whole weekend. Nice. For the first time, I went on a trip over my birthday week with my family and my boyfriend. We rented a lovely house (belonged to the captain back in the day) in Woods Hole, MA and relaxed in Cape Cod. I’d never been to Cape Cod and it was a welcomed change of pace from the bustle of the city. Perfect.

I also am proud to have conquered some fears this year. During the month of November, I accomplished one of my biggest goals for the year – participating and finish NaNoWriMo while doing fiction. To keep myself honest, I opted in to be interviewed by the Huffington Post throughout the process, one of the things which I credit with helping me cross that finish line. I also took a day long fiction writing class to prepare me for round next in 2012 – tackling my next idea for a writing project. In October, I had the tremendous honor of photographing a friend’s wedding – simultaneously terrifying and exciting. In June, I also survived live band karaoke. So much fun, though a whole new level in comparison to traditional, that’s for sure! (Especially when it’s rock/punk karaoke…)

Only 365 little days, but what a year. Can’t wait to see what adventures 2012 holds.

Happy New Year!

2010: a charmed year in review

You know, it’s funny how easy it is to look at a year and think “eh, not too much happened”. Until you think about it real hard and realize that’s anything but the case.

Big Bird on the Flying Trapeze

Big Bird on the Flying Trapeze

I picked up a new unusual hobby back in February, when I thought I was just going to try one trapeze class to see what I thought. Just one. In the span of a year, I’ve gone from knee hang to halftime pennyroll to backend straddle to backend split and currently working on a turnaround, even managing to finally eek out some actual returns. And in September, my 10 week class did a final show in bird costume. Keeping it interesting.

#140 Sweets

#140 Sweets

And, of course, there were the food festivals and events. In April, I learned there’s a day that can be full of more food than Thanksgiving, and it’s called the Village Voice Choice Eats. Unreal. Not even rain could keep me away. In May, we had the #140Sweets event to raise money for Autism Speaks, and I made some super yummy PB&J cupcakes. I went to the Fourth Annual Food Film Festival, including their Edible Adventure #001: Smokes, Ears, & Ice Cream (admission: pig ears could be the low point of 2010), World’s First Food Truck Drive-in Movie, and the Grits Takedown, where I met stylish Esther, a fellow Southern foodie and spent a day devoted to this blog’s namesake. Heaven. I also met the fabulous Catty (@catty) due to her being stranded a few days. Darn London snow had an upside. Can’t wait til she shows me the best London has to offer for dinner!

Meeting My Boyfriend, Bourdain

Meeting My Boyfriend, Bourdain

I forgot just how many of my favorite authors I met in 2010. I went again to Jen Lancaster’s reading – always a treat. I went with my mom to see Anthony Bourdain (only after she read Kitchen Confidential to ensure she was read for non-censored-for-TV Tony) and confirmed I need to go back to Spain courtesy of his food recommendations. Noted. I also finally met Allison Winn Scotch, an author who I’ve followed a while online with her wonderfully informative blog geared towards writers. I met her when she fascilitated an evening with Jonathan Tropper, a wonderful author whose works I was not familiar with but of which I’ve become a fan.

Rio Celeste - Volcan Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica

Rio Celeste - Volcan Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica

It was also a year for travel. In April, my friend Meg and I opted for a more adventurous trip to Costa Rica. I think I’m still recovering. It will be a while before I will ever drive again (let alone in a foreign country) and I learned that speaking Spanish can be helpful when local government officials try to intimidate you into bribery. Oh yes. Over the summer, I went through New England with my family, stopping in CT, VT, and RI en route to Freeport, Maine. My friend Jenn and I went on a “day trip” to Montauk with our pups (where Dixie survived an attack by the Atlantic Ocean), which once we became stranded quickly became an impromptu weekend trip. I went to my favorite beaches, Destin, FL and Gulf Shores, AL with my family in October, the perfect time to escape the declining temperatures in NYC. And as always, I traveled back to AL for the holidays in time to see the area’s most significant White Christmas ever.

Celebrating My Sis's B'day in Dec

Celebrating My Sis

In February, I cut off all my hair (cause why not). I learned that Hoboken St. Paddy’s doesn’t have to mean a drowned iPhone, and that sometimes, a concert is best enjoyed via the rear view. My sister and I went to see Martha Stewart, reminding me I need to take advantage of all the filmings here in the city more often. I said goodbye to an old friend, and finally upgraded my apartment to look, ehem, a tad more grown up. I danced in a mob of zombies in NYC’s Halloween parade in 80’s garb with a Pat Benatar wig. I tried to do NaNoWriMo for the third time, and had to wave the white flag when I was too sick to really give it my all. December was very much not quiet, as usual, and included the massive Blip.tv holiday party, Peter Shankman’s holiday party, as well as the Digital Somethings holiday party. Phew. And, in general, I spent countless hours throughout the year surrounded by the company of some of the most wonderful people I could ask for in my life.

Three cheers to 2010 and can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store.

Happy 2011!

the good, the bad, & the funny

Time for a little catch up. It’s been a busy November which, to be honest, is usually the case. I’m slowly catching up on restaurant reviews. I still have so many photos that haven’t been worked into a posted review here, and I’ll continue putting those up. I’m on a bit of a roll that I hope continues.

 

The good

Painting Sunflowers with Mom

Painting Sunflowers with Mom

My family was just here for the whole week of Thanksgiving, which was great. When they’re here, I’m able to experience the city in a different way. It’s more relaxing. My hurried pace to dart from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible slacks and I’m able to enjoy NYC from a different angle. We brunched at Jane and Cafe Lalo. We did Thanksgiving dinner out as I mentioned below at Pylos, giving my mom a stress-free Thanksgiving Day for once. No Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade though – maybe next year I’ll mark that off of my list. My parents helped me with Dixie’s annual Christmas Card photo shoot (she doesn’t mind much – especially when bacon and cheese flavored treats are involved). My mom and I, along with my friend Jenn, went and even did a painting class at Paint Along. I just love sunflowers. It’s always hard when my parents eventually leave since I only get to see them a few times out of the year and they are so far away (especially this round since they take Dixie back between holidays), but I’ll be heading down South myself soon enough. Continue reading