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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Daniel

After dessert chocolates
What is your favorite restaurant?  While I have a hard time narrowing down a selection -- a top 20 is much easier to commit to -- if I had to pick a single favorite restaurant, I think that it would have to be Daniel in New York.  Business Insider notes that Daniel is considered one of six world class restaurants in the U.S. and number 11 of 50 in the world.  

What makes a great restaurant?  It is an artistic balance of excellent food, ambiance, and service.  And, any place that gives you a "pre-dessert" definitely gets bonus points. When they also top it off with an after-dessert ... the heart sings "world class."
Pussy-willows at the entrance
The dining room is eclectic ... part Venetian palazzo dotted with colorful modern collage art work and deco French sconces. Mr. Wonderful likes the chandeliers while I think they belong on the set of Battle Star Galactica (the remake). Whatever the design, the best part is that the tables are spaced for privacy and the service is flawless.
Daniel Dining Room, photo from Business Insider
And then there is the memorable meal ...
Three variations on beets

Three variations on wine

Abalone with a white asparagus "forest" clad in horseradish sauce:
Phenomenal

Halibut all dressed up

More dessert
One more note: when I told the captain that I blog, they were only too happy to accommodate my picture taking.





Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Eggs



Alexander III Equestrian Egg
photo from RIA Novosti
Christ is Risen!  Happy Easter!


One of the traditions we follow as a family is decorating and coloring eggs. My mother is the artistic one. She melts bees wax and "paints" designs on hard-cooked egg shells. Then we dye them. On Easter Sunday, we crack the eggs to symbolize the stone being rolled back and the tomb being miraculously opened -- the Resurrection. This year, unfortunately, mother accidentally broke her hand on Great Friday.  Her friend took her to the urgent care center.  All will be well, but healing takes time and is uncomfortable.  The Easter egg tradition will hold for another year.


Meanwhile, we are enjoying seeing photos of Fabergé Eggs here and reading about Natural Dyes for use in the future.
How to color Easter eggs with natural dyes


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Food Markets -- the Real Amusement Parks

At the entrance of Eataly
I once worked with a man, a southerner, who used an expression I never quite understood.  If you were really happy meant you must be in "hog heaven."    
May be being in hog heaven is like going to Disneyland. And, for me, an adult version of Disneyland is a beautiful market. Harrods Food Halls in London is a favorite stop. Every time I go there, I wish I had a nearby apartment with with a full kitchen. However, I do not have an apartment in London, and it is a bit far to travel just for groceries.


Then there is the open air market in Zagreb.  
Fresh water crabs


A fabulous selection of fresh food and flowers but inconveniently far.


Closer to home, though still far, is Eataly in Manhattan off of Madison Square Park [not to be confused with Madison Square Garden]. From the minute I walked into Eataly until the minute I left, I had a broad smile on my face. I was ready to buy everything but Mr. Wonderful pointed out that carrying fresh fish and fruit on the airplane to California would not work. I said, "wouldn't it be great to have an apartment with full kitchen here in New York?" [Hint, hint] He just raised his eye brows and said that if it is really successful, then there will soon be an Eataly in LA and the drive will be doable. [Hmmm.]


After a walk up and down each aisle, I narrowed by immediate wants and bought pasta, nougats and a few sauces.  But, oh how I wish I could have done more.


Fresh pasta before...
and after.
The butcher shop ...
and the fish monger.
Unlike Harrods, Eataly specializes in Italian imports and cuisine.  Even though Mr. Wonderful is not interested in a New York apartment, he is taking me to Italy soon. He let me know that I could eat up a storm and visit lots of markets when we get there ... provided that I make a commitment to the treadmill from now until we fly off.  So is he a meanie or a nice guy?   Hmmm?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Rewards of New York in the Rain

View from Madison Square Park 
Sometimes when you travel, it rains. Waiting for the rain to stop before going out may mean that you never do anything. My solution is to always have a raincoat and umbrella.  My favorite trench coat [about 20 years old and going strong] keeps the wind out; its lining plus a scarf and few thin layers of sweaters keep me warm; a collapsible umbrella and gloves take care of the rest.
The Empire State Building in the rain  
Outside tables immediately available
Spring Flowers in the rain

The other day, Mr. Wonderful and I stepped out from our hotel into a semi sunny morning. We decided to walk several miles to Madison Square Park to try a new restaurant for lunch:  A Voce. Half way to the park, the rain started, the temperature dropped, and the wind picked up.  We arrived at the restaurant a half hour before our reserved time. No problem, the staff greeted us like friends and quickly gave us a table in a warm spot.  

Anticipating a serious dinner later in the day, we sampled vegetables like Verza piccola (lemony roasted brussels sprouts with chiles) and Cavolfiore (caulifower with dried organge and 
pecorino followed by Orato (dorade with almonds). The fish was good and the vegetables were sublime --though I would have cooked them for another minute. For more insights into hearty vegetables see the recent article in The Wall Street Journal on Meat the Meaty Veggies.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts
We shared a dessert of fresh doughnut balls -- bomboloni alla toscana -- with bittersweet chocolate sauce.  Yum.
Bomboloni with Chocolate Sauce
The limoncello marshmallows were a surprise and a half. Fabulous.
Limoncello Marshmallows
A Voce, which means word of mouth, gets my vote -- rain or shine.  Pass it on.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New York Flowers

Metropolitan Museum of Art
It isn't just in Paris that one finds interesting flowers on the sidewalks or in hotels. The same can be said for Manhattan. Walking around the city on a cold day in April, I saw lovely examples of the nascent spring.
5th Avenue near 70th Street


Park Avenue and 65th Street




Lowell Hotel
Pussy willows at the entrance to Daniel, Park Ave. and 65th Street
At the Pierre Hotel
Madison and 69th Street 
A Voce at Madison Square Park

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maine Memories

Kennebunk Beach
To escape the cold and rain of the Boston area, we drove north.  Yes, north; bear with me here. The forecast for Maine promised sunshine.  It was also a chance for Mr. Wonderful to see Wells Beach and Kennebunk Beach, where he'd spent boyhood summers and remembered digging for clams and swimming in the Atlantic.  Fortunately, the weatherman was right and the day was exquisitely sunny if not altogether warm.
First stop:  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where President Teddy Roosevelt prevailed upon the empires of Russia and Japan to sign the Treaty of Portsmouth formally ending the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. [Actually, most of the negotiations took place in Kittery, Maine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, but never mind.] All that history and walking around the red bricked old town required sustenance. A merchant we talked to recommended the River House, where we had simply excellent seafood chowder and lobster rolls in brioche. Mr. Wonderful enjoyed the fact that the lobster was from New Hampshire instead of Maine but he skipped the oyster crackers from Vermont ... local rivalries still simmer.
The beignets with jam were terrific too.
Second stop:  Kennebunkport and Beach.  We noticed that the trees were still bare, the grass was a dormant brown, and snow banks were not entirely melted.  The sun, sky and ocean were brilliant, and we braved the wind to walk on the beach at low tide.  It was a bit confusing to be walking along the beach in the afternoon with the sun in our eyes. I kept thinking that the beach ran north-south [instead of east-west] and had the illusion that the sun was setting in the wrong place .... Of course, we did the ultimate tourist stop and photo at Walker's Point:
Finally, after walking on the town's main street called "Maine" not "Main," we retired to Kennebunk's lovely White Barn Inn & Spa for a rest 

and a fine dinner.
White Barn Inn dining room

Beet dumpling and roulade
Roast cod and a seafood ravioli with fancy foam

Grand Marnier souffle with chocolate
All in all, the quick trip to Maine was a pleasant surprise for me and a happy trip down memory lane for Mr. Wonderful.  How good does it get?





Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alumni Events

April 1 in Cambridge, MA
Mr. Wonderful decided to attend a series of alumni events at Harvard. We have spent the better part of the last two days listening to panel discussions about the financial crisis and other economics topics as well as lectures about the end of empire (British) and about reading the classics in an age of secularism.  
The mind is full, the body is cold [it snowed yesterday], and the stomach is empty. Time for a quick tour of restaurants in a college town.

I suggest warm up drinks at Up Stairs on the Square.  
This is an eclectic combination of sports bar, artsy hang-out, and fine restaurant want-to-be.  The walls are pink, the carpet (under the dirt) is zerba-striped, the food is bad, the drinks are good. A very short walk from our hotel it was worth trying once if not necessarily worth a return visit.

The Rialto at the Charles Hotel is popular and has a clean moderne look. The menu is unusual in that it offers a variety of items including venison, rabbit, and the delicious India-themed eggplant in saor [eggplant with chick peas, garlic yogurt, wilted greens,baby bell pepper, and raisins].
Eggplant in saor
The food and wine allowed us to accept the uneven service with a good deal of equanimity. And, since the restaurant was in the hotel, we did not have to brave the April snow.

And then there is Sandrine's Bistro ... small, warm, well-done.  The glass and ironwork of the entry are reminiscent of the belle époque Paris Metro.  The wine bottle tree in the foyer is pure fun.
Moules Marinières from Prince Edward Island were a perfect starter
and the stuffed roasted butternut squash with tempeh and vegetables was a uniquely American combination.  Dessert consisted of a drink I remember my mother ordering many years ago -- a Brandy Alexander
Finally, we have enjoyed the Charles Hotel. We've been here many times over the years and think it has gotten better as it has toned down its outdated Scandinavian Modern style. American quilts are now a leitmotif in both the public spaces and in the private rooms.

And, important for me, Wi-Fi is "free" and of good quality ... as is some of the artwork.  

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