Adventures in New York: Snow Day!

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Despite all of the warnings leading up to Saturday’s record-breaking snowstorm, I don’t think anyone quite believed this would really be the big one…until it hit. I went out that morning around 10am for yoga class, not realizing that a foot of snow had already fallen in Central Park and throughout New York. On my walk back home around 11:30, cars were starting to get covered in snow.

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The city buses didn’t stop running until noon and all outdoor subway lines were closed in the early afternoon, but you can see how treacherous traveling became pretty early on. I’m glad I didn’t have anywhere to be! In my neighborhood, bars and restaurants were open for brunch but quickly closed once the city was declared to be in a state of emergency and a travel ban was placed.

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Although my entrance wasn’t shoveled, a few brave souls cleared a bit of a path to get inside. It is bright and sunny the day after the storm, but Saturday was a total white-out of a storm.

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Luckily, my Blue Apron order came a day early to beat the winter weather. Instead of joining the crowds at the grocery store for bread and milk, I made this hearty, delicious white pizza. Covered with fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheese, I topped the pizza with red onion, greens, and egg. I had trouble getting the pizza dough as flat and spread out as I wanted, but overall, a very delicious and simple to make recipe. The perfect way to keep warm on a snow day!

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Adventures in New Orleans: Oysters and Cocktials

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Although the temperatures in New York were in the 60s over Christmas, I escaped to parts more tropical… New Orleans! I spent a week with my family exploring the city and over indulging in food and drinks.

Of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without seeing a second line parade. We saw a very Christmas themed one. In terms of dinning, my first request for our culinary adventures was oysters!

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Unsurprisingly, the line for Acme, the city’s most famous spot for oysters, was down the block despite the rainy weather. We opted for Félix’s across the street. Same awesome food, less of a wait! We all started out with a local IPA…

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…followed up with raw oysters! These oysters were huge compared to the ones that we get in New York. A little bit hard to eat, but totally delicious and briny.

In addition to consuming copious amounts of seafood, we also wanted to learn more about the city of New Orleans and its rich culture. So, we took one of the most lively tours I have ever been on, Doctor Gumbo’s Cocktail Tour of New Orleans (AKA the Cure for the Common Tour).

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We started the tour with a French 75 and a brief history of the cocktail. Did you know the cocktail is a truly American export? The centers of cocktail creation and innovation have continually been both New Orleans and New York. I’ve actually made these before, but with gin. It turns out, that is the more British version! The original French 75 was a combination of champagne and cognac. Either way, a delicious cocktail to start the evening.

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We wound our way though the streets of New Orleans, stopping at different bars along the way. Not just the most (in) famous, but also more modern award winners with innovative, younger bartenders. I think one of my favorites was the Brandy Crusta. One of the first cocktails, this delight is created by combining brandy, lemon juice, orange liqueur, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and a dash of bitters. It is topped with a lemon twist and sugar rim. Delicious! My second favorite was the Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan Brown Nut Ale. Not to heavy, but full of flavor, you can really taste the hint of the pecans that are included in the brewing process.

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We explored a variety of different New Olean’s bars and cocktails in addition to learning a lot about the city. We ended the evening at Tujague’s Restaurant and Bar. Over 150 years old, the original bar is still the kind without chairs. You truly do belly-up to the bar. In addition to excellent cocktails, you can also get a genuine absinthe, complete with sugar drip.

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We tried a grasshopper first. Made with Green & White Crème de Menthe, Crème de Cacao, Brandy, and light cream, it is like drinking thin mint ice cream. Super delicious! Although it wasn’t part of the tour, we also shared one of the absinthe drinks. The bartenders, wearing suspenders and black armbands, poured the absinthe. But the drink isn’t ready yet! They placed a metal contraption on top of the glass that drips water onto a sugar cube, changing the color of the drink from clear to cloudy. It was quite a sight!

The French Quarter in New Orleans is filled with bars, many with rich, long, and nefarious histories. I would highly recommend taking Doctor Gumbo’s tour to learn more about the history of both the cocktail and the city.

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Big Words Etc.: Stories from Abroad

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This Wednesday, August 19th, I will be reading as a part of the Big Words Etc. reading series. The theme is Stories from Abroad, and I will be débuting a new piece.

I’m excited to be reading with this group of really talented writers. Check out the Facebook invite for more info!

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Adventures in New York: Hakata Tonton Part II

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As promised, here is part two of my Japanese Hot Pot adventure. Since we were four hungry foodies, we ordered two different varieties of the hot pot to share. The first was a boiling broth with veggies.

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Once the broth was ready to go, you dip your own pork pieces into it. In addition to being deliciously flavored, it was so much fun to cook your own meat at the table. You could also pick which sauces to dip it in.

 

The second hot pot that we got was one with pigs’ feet. I will admit to being a tiny bit squeamish about the actual feet, but they did make a the soup incredibly rich and flavorful.

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Here is the finished product! This one the waitress cooked and served for us.  After dinner, we skipped their dessert and went for gelato on Eric Berelovich’s recommendation. Overall, even though it is difficult to get reservations, I would highly recommend Hakata Tonton if you are a fan of Japanese food, pork, or just looking for a great food adventure- they even have the crazy fancy Japanese toilets with tons of buttons.

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Adventures in New York: Hakata Tonton (Part I)

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When a good friend texted me last week, “Are you an adventurous eater? Are you free Wednesday,” my answer was yes and yes.  That is how I got to try my first Japanese hot pot. Hakata Tonton is a little spot in the West Village, pretty hard to get reservations, so we were going out at 9:30pm on a Wednesday.

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Of course, we had to start out the meal with a sake tasting flight at the suggestion of my friend Eric Berelovich. From left to right, we tried a Kansansui, Kasumizake, and Kitaya. The driest of the three, the Kitaya was my favorite. The Nigori (cloudy) texture of the second sake is not a taste that I love.

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We went a little crazy with the appetizers, but there is nothing wrong with that! First we had the Tuna Carpaccio with scallions, tomatoes, fried garlic chips, and a healthy slab of spicy mayo. It was delicious, not too spicy, plenty of crisp.

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The next dish up was Monkfish Liver. I don’t think I have ever had monkfish on its own, but the liver was incredibly rich and tender.

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At my request, we got the special, grilled squid! It’s always a gamble, often squid is served too tough. I thought this one was exceptionally well prepared. Even before we got to the main event, we got to sample a plethora of delicious Japanese dishes. Check back here later this week for the Hakata Tonton hot pots!

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Rockaway Brewing Company Introduces Its First Canned Beer

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A few weekends ago, I attended the Rockaway Brewing Company’s launch of their first canned beer. Although the brewery originated in the Far Rockaway, it has recently moved to a far bigger facility in Long Island City, Queens. Their beers are New York City craft beers at its finest, using fresh ingredients and delicious tasting.

For their first foray into canned beers, they are seeking the Rockaway ESB. At 6.4% ABV, this is their flagship brew. Light, malty, and sweet, it is a delicious any-time drinking beer. The brewery itself is absolutely worth the visit to Long Island City. Fun and funky, the space embodies the spirit of the Rockaway. With several beers on tap and growlers available for sale, I highly recommend a visit to the Rockaway Brewing Company. And while you are in the area, be sure to stop by Big Alice Brewery, just a few blocks away. They are always offering incredibly unique brews (right now they are serving a Cranberry Imperial Stout and a Vanilla Prune Dark Caramel Stout), and the brew masters are happy to make recommendations

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Happy Hour Adventures: The Lobster Joint

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Although the hot weather is showing no sign of stopping in NYC, summer always seems to be over with the end of summer Fridays, marked by the last Friday before Labor Day. For this occasion, we all went to check out happy hour at the Lobster Joint in Greenpoint. I hadn’t been there since they first opened about 2-3 years ago, but I can say that they’ve still got it! A recent addition is a very lovely backyard covered in wooden picnic tables and umbrellas. They even provide bug spray for those more prone to getting eaten alive. Although their brunch, lunch, and dinner menu is a bit on the pricey side (reasonable for seafood), the Lobster Joint has a great happy hour with draft beers at $4 and cocktails $6. Even more exciting than the drink and pitcher specials are their $1 oysters and $4 seafood sliders. In nautical spirit, I tried the Lobster Ale and the Mermaid Pilsner. I preferred the Mermaid if only because it was lighter.

 

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And there is the lobster slider! It honestly wasn’t much for $4, but if you are looking to just get a taste of lobster without committing to an entire role, it is a great deal. The sample of lobster hit the spot as there wasn’t too much mayonnaise nor was it too filling. Everyone ate their oysters before I could get a picture, but I really loved how accommodating the kitchen was by it letting us order 1 or 2 at a time. They had a very laid-back but efficient system set up for ordering at the bar. Although it might not be the most economical choice for happy hour, I highly recommend the Lobster Joint happy hour for the ambiance, great food, and delicious drafts.

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