Showing posts from November, 2011

Cool Girl's Christmas Gift Guide

 This is mostly for my mom. I thought maybe it would help out other people to type it here. Mrs. Anderson's Baking Ceramic Pie Weights - fabulous for making tarts and quiches and way less messy than trying to make your own with rice and beans and foil. Also, clean up very easily. I would love to take a bread making class at King Arthur's Flour in Vermont, but the classes are kind of expensive. Wine cork kits from Wine Enthusiast - we have the oval trivet one and we love it. It is fun to preserve your memories of drinking wine, and they look cool I think. Also, you can always use another trivet (would love another oval one). When I was 21 I got a Pier one papasan chair for my birthday. Then I moved to NYC, and never got to bring my chair with me. Finally, this labor day I drove home and was able to bring it back. Problem was the pets had lived all over the cushion, and my husband is allergic to dogs, so now I need a new cushion .  I'd like this label saver an

Homemade English Muffins

The other day I was making some of Mark Bittman's whole wheat sandwich bread from How to Make Everything , and I realized that the same recipe of dough makes English muffins. We were undecided about what to have for dinner, so I thought maybe a sort of homemade egg McMuffin would be fun. I let the dough rise for hours, deflated the dough, and cut it into 12 pieces. I flattened them into little discs. Then I spread some cornmeal on a skillet set on low heat and cooked them in batches. I made sure they were lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Then we cooked up some bacon and eggs and served it with spinach. I have long fantasized about homemade breakfast sandwiches that are not greasy, but just as delicious as fast food versions, and this really lived up to expectations- especially with some hot sauce and sea salt sprinkled on the eggs. Then we had quite a bit of English muffins leftover. I wasn't sure we'd be able to finish them in time for them to still

Capital City Gastropub, Finally

We finally made it to the Capital City Gastropub this past week. I think maybe my expectations were too high. I guess first I might say a word about the Wine Bar on Lark. I've previously written a really positive review of it , but I think my feelings have kind of changed since then. And it is not that they have done anything wrong, it is that I have realized maybe this whole "small plates" trend is not my favorite thing. I had friends over a few weeks ago, and they were saying how they thought it was meant for "people who eat like birds", which is fine since these people probably do exist. It reminds me when we lived in NYC, and frequently had drinks at a place called the Clover Club .  Of course the cocktails were fabulous, we felt very, very cool for going there, but if you wanted to eat it was sort of a rip off. They had amazing potato chips fried in duck fat with crème frâiche and chives for much more money than you would imagine, which is fine, and they w

Food Section at Target

This weekend I was around the Colonie Northway Mall area and instead of making a separate trip to a grocery store, I decided to see if the Target food section could fulfill my modest shopping list. My list consisted of: brown sugar, molasses, tomato paste, Colavita olive oil (I know I couldn't realistically expect this), and a snack for myself to hold me over until dinner time. As I was hunting down these items I seemed to hear a lot of different people they couldn't find certain items, perhaps indicating that the section is hard to navigate. There are a lot of items where only the Target brand exists, which for me made items harder to immediately notice, but I'm hoping they will taste ok. While there is a small meat and produce section where I've found some good things in the past, I feel that the food section in general is mostly geared towards mixes and already-prepared types of foods. I did find star anise though (I've read some Indian recipes that include it re

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons"

I love coffee. I've always loved it. My parents drink it black with no sugar all day, and I pretty much adapted that too. I feel about coffee the way I feel about baked goods in that the freshness of it is very important. There should not be very much time elapsed at all between the time it was roasted and delivered to you, and definitely not much time elapsed between when it was ground and brewed. That is why Uncommon Grounds is so good - they have a roaster right in the store. I really love Caribou Coffee, whose stores I basically lived in as an undergraduate (with comfy leather chairs and thick, heavy duty wooden tables that are great for studying). I still make sure to pick up their beans when I am in MI or at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport on a layover. Their coffee is never, ever burnt, and always bright tasting and delicious. Zoka Coffee from WA is amazing . Scott bought the Ethiopian brand when he was in Seattle at a conference, and it is complex, fresh, and ha

Emily, the Grinch

For some reason I am all of a sudden feeling very down on the holidays, and Jezebel informs me that it is ok for me to complain about it. Where to start? Every year I read the InStyle Magazine gift guide , and every year I wonder who it is meant for. Are there women in the world who spend $2,000 on a Louis Vuitton fur scarf for their friends? Is the gift guide meant for me to hand the magazine to my husband? Does he also want to read about Amy Adams's parenting philosophy and how to perfect the cat eye makeup look? If you want to give me a gift guide, InStyle magazine, here is what I am in the market for: something along the lines of tins of cookies, ornaments, or small, cheap fashion accessories for my coworkers, books or cds for our dads, maybe a reasonably priced piece of jewelry or lotion for our mothers, and something for my husband that hopefully will make the house cleaner like a wine rack or bookshelf. In fact, I can't remember in my life a girl friend of mine bu

Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread

This is amazing. I had heard about it for a few years and never tried it myself. But I read it in the Essential New York Times Cookbook , and decided to give it a try. There it is served with Veal Saltimbocca from the same cookbook. This recipe is revolutionary. Dead easy. The least amount of work I have ever put forth in regards to a baked good, and also better than any bread I have ever made before. The elasticity and texture is amazing. The crust is fabulous. It is like bread from an expensive restaurant, fresh as can be. And it was so easy – all I did was mix the ingredients together, leave the dough in the bowl for 18 hours, shape it into a ball and leave for two hours, put it in a dutch oven in then oven for half an hour, take the lid off and cook for about 20 minutes more – and viola – fabulous, rustic style bread with barely any effort. No mess either – you don’t even have to use the food processor. Amazing. I think I'll be making this all the time now.

Club Sandwich: The Original Recipe

Ms. Garlic noticed this recipe today in Amanda Hesser's essential Essential New York Times Cookbook . I couldn't find the original Times story from 1907, but another blogger transcribed it: Club Sandwich Original recipe Go to the club. Drink six toasts. Eat a slice of meat. Drink six more toasts. Can't argue with that one...

Grandma's Pies and Restaurant

So I talked to my sister on the phone for a long time this weekend, and it turns out the people who live in my late grandparents' house think it is haunted. Of course I don't believe this really, and it isn't supposedly haunted by my grandparents, but instead my great grandparents who also lived there. I never met them, but I did research them quite a bit when I worked at Ellis Island (apparently they visited France a lot). Anyways, apparently the people who live there now smell smoke and hear big band music at random times when no one else is home (whatever). It caused my sister and I to start talking about all our grandparents' funerals we have been to. The first one, my dad's dad was when I was in college, when we were all barely starting to feel like grown-ups at all (I realize there are plenty of people who never get to know any of their grandparents for any significant amount of time, and I feel fortunate to have known the four of them during the years I was

Candy Cane Cocktail

A couple of years ago I tried a candy cane cocktail at Bellini's . It was so good, and I kept going back trying to figure out how to make it. This is what I came up with: 2 ounces vodka (I like this Prairie vodka . It is from Minnesota, and apparently not available everywhere. It was also reasonably priced). 1 1/2 ounces white cream de menthe Smash up candy canes and wet rim of frosted glass. Dip rim in pile of candy canes on a plate. Shake with ice in cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Enjoy that taste of the holidays! While I know there are plenty of drinks that can serve to warm you up from the cold weather like red wine or wassail, this drink is the taste of cold weather. Crisp, freezing, exhilarating - the taste of winter - feels like your breath fogging up a glass window on a bright 30 degree morning or stepping onto an icy patch on a parking lot with shiny black, high heel  boots and feeling the ice crack below.

Tea from the Whistling Kettle

I've previously discussed how fun it is to go to the Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa for lunch. But I was appreciating again the other day really how good their teas are . When we first moved here, we used to shop at Teavana at Crossgates, which was fine. We got some really great brewing accessories from there, and I still can't walk by through the mall without admiring their cast iron tea pots . But once you discover the local place, it seems much better to support them. Once we bought tea from Little Buddha on Lark Street , which was fine except they didn't label any of them and we bought like 8 kinds. It takes a little of the fun out of it to not know what you are having, and then if you like it you won't know which one to purchase next time. We haven't finished them because we can't be sure they'll be something we'd be in the mood for. So my friend was over, and I was looking through the tea from the Whistling Kettle that we have, and here a

Thanksgiving Inspiration Part 2

I already talked about some ideas I've had for Thanksgiving . I've also already said I am not hosting this year. But that doesn't have to stop me from coming up with menu ideas for other people (after all, planning the menu is half the fun). And decorating too, of course . brie in phyllo dates with goat cheese and bacon festive fig cocktail Root Vegetable Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust (sounds like a good vegetarian option). Awesome looking fried apple things   desserts that look like turkeys pumpkin macarons And remember to take a moment to say what you are thankful for .  Last year I think I said I was thankful for my job, and the cheese we had, which came off as cold-hearted maybe because the 5 year old who followed right after me was thankful for a brother to play with. Of course I am thankful for all the fabulous people in my life. But after hearing day after day on the news about how difficult it has been for so many people in terms of economic conditi

Flea Market, Raynham, MA

I had to go to Boston's Logan airport to pick up my husband today, and my coworker was going to visit her son in RI so we both stopped in to check out The Raynham Flea Market together. It was a very smooth and easy drive out there. It looked pretty intense from the pictures on the website. I got an enormous amount of brooches for a bridal brooch bouquet I'm making for a friend of mine ( like these ). In fact, if I hadn't gone here I'd probably be chasing them down one by one and that would have taken forever. Instead, I found enough for the whole thing, at the budgeted price, all in one shot. I also found vintage Pan-Am cocktail stirrers. Yes, I'll be making drinks to use them later tonight . I also found a book from 1959 with tips on how to dress a wife with "a note to the husbands" at the beginning of each chapter. It actually had some good tips, like not to buy things you don't really need and how to pare down your closet. Here's more info a

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche

When I was a single girl I was hopeless in a culinary sense . I never seemed to have ever taken a picture of the kitchen I had when I lived in Astoria, Queens (probably because it was that terrible), but I did take some pictures of other parts of the apartment.To give a sense of what I was working with: There were lots of books. Is that a Planet of the Apes poster taped to the wall? Yes, I think it is. Martha Stewart would not approve. I had a crazy, crazy bookcase I made when I was 21. Is that me glued on next to Virginia Woolf and George Washington? Yes. (I don't have an explanation). I literally used scarves and blankets as curtains and wall decorations. Like this "curtain" that hung up there for 3 years: (For comparison sake - see also me wearing the "curtain" in Scotland just after we ate at the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter- proves it was so not a curtain:) And this "tapestry" (I'm really not trying to be

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Café and Cookbook

One good thing about living in Albany is the proximity to so many other great places to visit like NYC, the Berkshires, Cooperstown, Montreal, and Boston. About a year and a half ago some of my Study Abroad companions and I reunited for a weekend filled with cultural activities. I brought British themed snacks. We had a Mad Men inspired fashion show. We visited the Boston Public Library and a great vintage travel poster show. We went to a great Italian restaurant in the North End. And we visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Café . Unfortunately, it looks like the café is closed right at this moment for renovations, but when we were there it was open. I love that museum. It is so eclectic, so intimate, so personal. It is not formal or stuffy. Also there is the mystery of the stolen paintings , that I (as a person who works in museums) find completely fascinating. I find the subject so fascinating that I read books meant for teenagers about the su

Casual Pizza Dinner

I'm having a couple friends over for dinner on Friday. It is no big deal. In fact, Marguerita Pizza is one of the absolute cheapest foods you can make even if you buy really great fresh mozzarella. I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe, and it works great . Sometimes you want to push yourself and cook something really ambitious, but sometimes you just want to have a couple friends over to keep you company, and it should be very casual. I have though seen some very fun ways to enhance the adult pizza party experience. Martha Stewart a while ago had a tip about using store bought pies, and letting people add their own ingredients. This blog (Celebrations at Home) makes it look really cool. Here's some other tips: at 20Something Cupcakes blog , The HipHostess , and the kitchn . Sometimes parties aren't about the fuss. Especially if you get your friends to bring the salad. I'm thinking about making Dorie Greenspan's chocolate mousse. But if not, it is no

Baba Louie's Pizza, Great Barrington, MA

This week my husband is going to Ireland for work, and I am going to pick him up from the Boston's Logan airport on Sunday. Last time he did this we stopped in Great Barrington for dinner on the way back. We found Baba Louie's Wood Fired Organic Sourdough Pizza in our guidebook and thought it sounded tasty. Scott  wanted soup, and I wanted to split a salad, and we agreed to split a salad. Scott: "Does that salad have nuts in it?" Waitress: "No, just greens, balsamic dressing, red onions." Scott: "Ok, we'll have that." Then we each ordered a pizza, and he ordered a beer. Then, the salad came and he had a few bites and all of a sudden his mouth became as big as a football and as red as fire engine. "I think there may have been a nut in there", he said, running to the bathroom. He was in the bathroom throwing up for about half an hour. The waitress asked what was wrong and said "He did not say he was allergic to nuts".

Thanksgiving Inspiration

When I was a kid I felt overwhelmed by Thanksgiving. It just always seemed like so much food that we'd end up feeling sick at the end of it. When I was in college and learning about people starving all over the world, a holiday just devoted to eating seemed a bit like flaunting our wealth in the faces of the less fortunate of the world. Like many things in life, sometimes it takes being able to do something out of free will instead of obligation for you to appreciate it. I did enjoy the green bean casserole:  (A Midwestern classic: can of green beans, can of cream of mushroom soup mixed together , french fried onions on top, put in the oven for a while.) This blog shows someone attempting the kind of holiday meal I remember as a kid here and here . This post has some great retro Thanksgiving photos (like the one I featured above).  In the past few years I've had different ideas about how to approach it. Our first Thanksgiving we did actually make an enormous amo

Blue Benn, Bennington, VT

So I am out in North Adams, MA dogsitting, and for the first time I didn't just lay around watching Bridezillas for twelve hours. For one thing, our wedding is in the past now, and secondly, I usually happen to be out here during a blizzard of some kind (that is when my coworker usually goes on vacation to Florida or something). I kinda like it out here. It is on the top of a mountain next to the Appalachian Trail so sometimes they get stray hikers. They have a hot tub. There's random wild animals. It is not boring, and it is different enough from where I live to feel like a bit of an adventure or a vacation. My coworker always apologizes about the clutter. By this she means bridal shower invitations, the hope chest her son is refinishing for his girlfriend for her birthday, the issue of Cosmo her other son's girlfriend was reading, a snapshot of my coworker and her husband of 30 years kissing in front of the Grand Canyon this past summer (then another shot of them giggl

The Point

We've been to The Point several times now, and my feeling is that it is better as a place to meet people for drinks and snacks than it is a good place to go for dinner. Pros:  Large amount of space is good for meeting a group of friends. Desserts - Cheesecake lollipops ("Sweet, decadent cream cheese spheres"), and cinnamon doughnuts ("Cinnamon Delights- Bite size, cinnamon and sugar doughnuts garnished with cinnamon glaze, Chantilly cream and berries") were ridiculously delicious. Cocktails - I had the "About Thyme 9, Aromatic. botanical. refreshing. Hendrick’s gin, Pimm’s #1, muddled cucumber, splash of lemonade, splash of club, fresh picked thyme." I loved it. It was very refreshing. Also a lot of other options looked interesting too. Appetizers - We had fried green beans with a wasabi sauce, and some kind of sampling of multiple appetizers, including the crab cake, that were all very good. Cons:  On several occasions the music was too

Cup Diner, Astoria

Scott and I were both customers at the Cup Diner in Astoria, Queens for a couple years before we even knew each other. I used to order the L.A. Salad which had strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, greens, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Eventually after being a customer there for such a long time, I decided it would be a good place to work. It was only a few minutes walk from my apartment, and the food was good. As you can guess from my lack of make-up or hair brushing, I worked the 6 am shift. The world is a different place that early. There aren't that many people out and about, and so people interact differently, with a little more conversational intimacy. I served coffee to people who worked at the Kaufman Astoria Studios across the street. Then there were the celebrities. I waited on Larry David, Steve Wiebe from The King of Kong movie (this actually turned out to be our first date movie - Wiebe was there for the premiere of his movie at the Museum of the Movin