Tuesday, September 30, 2008

morningside's test kitchens

This weekend Ian started brainstorming menu ideas for his to-be-named restaurant. He didn't have to work til 7 p.m. on Sunday, so he took advantage of this and made us an experimental early dinner (we usually eat around 8; if I'm on my own, I usually don't get around to it until 9!). He decided to make Thyme and White Wine-Seared Chicken Thighs. Here are a few highlights:

Browning the shallots and garlic

Adding the white wine

Taste testing


The final result

We were both happy with how the meal turned out, but Ian has already tweaked his recipe a little bit. I have a feeling I'm going to be a guinea pig for the foreseeable future. Tomorrow's menu: Filet Mignon with Spicy Sweet Potato Frites. My tummy is rumbling already!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I recently received a package from my parents, and in it my dad included some old photos. It's high time I taught a little history lesson.

A few points of note: When I was small, everyone said I looked like my dad, but without the beard. But little Jimmy looks just like little Andrew. Now I know where we got our propensity to squint. Also, notice the other weird resemblance of: Young Uncle Joe to Young Gez Samuel, Grandma Harriett to Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Grandpa Floyd to Jake Gyllenhal, and Grandpa Duane Nicol to Future Uncle Bob.

In about 1894, Duane was born. And so was Hattie.

And they grew up.

And got married.

They had three kids, Frank, Harriett, and Joe, and they all lived in southern Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, in 1923, Floyd was born in the great city of Chicago.

As fate would have it, Duane, a minister, was called to serve a Congregational church...in Chicago. The family moved to Watson Park and provided support and warmth to the needy during the Depression.

Then, when World War II started, Floyd joined the Air Force.

When he got back, he married Harriett.

They bought a white house with a blue roof in the cozy little suburb of Villa Park.

And had four little Baby Boomers: Lonnie, Bobby, Jimmy, and Les (a bit later).

They did all sorts of things together, like go to the beach,


Play jokes,

Commit unidentifiable naughty acts,

And pose for stock photographs to be used in advertisements.

Jim grew up to be a handsome pianist in a blue three-piece suit.

And he married Jenny (center), who, along with Harriett (upper left) and Floyd (right), enjoyed teaching young children vulgar hand gestures at parties.

And the rest, as they say, is history. The end.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

feasting at san gennaro

My office is right on the border of Chinatown, Little Italy, and SoHo, and the neighborhood is a profusion of commercialized cultures and a great location for shopping...and eating. Especially today! This week is Little Italy's San Gennaro Feast, in honor of Naples' patron saint. All of Little Italy's restaurants put out food tents on the sidewalks, and in the spaces between, vendors set up booths that sell everything from $2 Fuhgeddaboudit T-shirts to "decorative" Sponge Bob mosaic mirrors, blasting music ranging from Dean Martin to Usher. It is weird. And then there are the amusement rides and games. (Remember that episode of The Sopranos where Bobby and Paulie got into it because of that fair ride that almost killed one of the kids...yep, that's where they were.)

Well, today two friends, Jill and Tia, and I decided to take a walk around the festival during our lunch break. Here's what we saw:

I'm pretty sure this is Mott Street, and I know this faces north. (You're right -- that is the ESB in the distance. It's everywhere.) There are about half as many festive garland decorations up on a regular basis. Little Italy was all decked out in red, white, and green. And many, many American flags.

We thought about eating at this place, where they served Italian sausages the size of your arm. It smelled incredibly good. But we thought better of it.

Instead we got cheese pizza. Here I am with Tia, folding it like a man. (Do they have that commercial in your area? If not, look it up on YouTube; it's one of 2007's best ads.)

These beautiful bricks are something I'd never seen before: torrone. It's nougat with honey and nuts. Looks delicious. Maybe I'll have a bite tomorrow.

But today Tia and I opted for cannoli.

I did not see the Saint himself, but I did see a priest who was barreling toward the sausage stand. Maybe I'll seek out SG's booth during tomorrow's lunch break so I can staple a dollar to him like countless others have done before me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

a few of my favorite things

I'm enjoying some time to myself tonight. Our apartment is quiet; no TV, no music, no upstairs neighbors pacing on their hardwood floors wearing high-heeled shoes. So when I poured myself a root beer just now, I couldn't help but notice what a cool sound it makes.

So suddenly, after hearing the familiar pop-crack-splash-fizzzzz sound, I was standing barefoot on the linoleum floor of our kitchen in Sheboygan Falls, pouring a White Grape Diet Rite into one of our Mason jar glasses. Me being barefoot meant it was summertime, so I didn't have a care in the world. What a wonderful feeling!

Any of us would immediately recognize that sound -- but when was the last time you actually listened to it? Lately I've been trying harder to be present; in the moment. It's amazing how much less stress I've been feeling and how much more I'm enjoying everyday moments (the way the ice cubes sort of jingle in the glass each time I take a sip!).

Try it. You don't have to stop doing anything. Just be there for whatever it is that you are doing. Stuff will get done. I promise! Worrying about what else is on your to-do list while you're making dinner, for example, is accomplishing nothing except hindering your progress on dinner, plus perhaps decreasing the quality of the food, as well as building up unneeded (and unwanted!) stress and wasting energy that could be spent doing fun stuff later. On the other hand, if you're present and really taking in the experience, you'll probably do the job quicker and more efficiently. (I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do here, I just wanted to share this new insight I've had that's really been helpful to me.)

But back to sounds. The whole root beer experience got me to thinking about what sounds I love. Here are some:
  • Well, soda being poured over ice, of course
  • Thunder (and lightning if I'm so lucky as to hear it)
  • A car driving through a fairly deep puddle
  • Chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, cranes, and woodpeckers
  • Coffee brewing
  • Tap dancing
  • Waves
  • Leaves or snow crunching underfoot
  • Marbles
  • Shoes or horses walking on stone (especially if it's echoing)
  • Rain sticks
  • Crickets and tree frogs
  • Lawnmowers (that may wane when we move somewhere with grass)
  • Fires (especially if there are pine needles burning)
  • Oscillating fans on the medium setting
  • The city
  • Thunderous applause
  • Hedgehogs
  • The last fizzle of a firework
  • Grandma's turn signal
What sounds do you love?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

stormy weather

We're being hit by a tropical storm! How cool is that? Not exactly something I could ever claim when I lived in Wisconsin. I love a good storm, so when I heard that Tropical Storm Hanna was making its way up the East Coast I was pretty excited (assuming, of course, that everybody involved would remain safe).

Last night, on my walk home, I could actually sense the storm approaching. The wind was different. It felt heavy, like it was bearing down from above. The clouds, lower than usual, were churning -- and moving in from the east. Storms here almost always come from the west -- we love standing on the 125th Street subway platform-slash-bridge to watch the black thunderheads and columns of rain come in across the Hudson.

Luckily, Tropical Storm Hanna doesn't seem hazardous (except to shoes and pant-legs), but this is the longest rain we've had in many months (so far more than six hours). Strangely, and unfortunately, it isn't producing any thunder and lightning. Maybe we'll get some during the remainder of the storm (as we can see, there's more coming, thanks to our friends at The Weather Channel).

This afternoon I rode down to 34th Street with Ian, who was on his way to work, to check out Macy's Lowest Prices of the Season sale, and happened to notice that the clouds continue to be particularly low. The skinny building in the center of the photo is the Empire State Building. I'd say about 1/3 of it is immersed in clouds, which is why you probably didn't recognize it (and why I had to google images for "Macy's Empire State Building" to make sure it really was the ESB).

I love cool weather phenomena! Maybe autumnal temperatures will follow Hanna. (By the way, don't forget to vote for your favorite season in this week's poll located in the right column!)

Lastly, I'm sure you're all wondering: Ian is really enjoying his job. The restaurant is doing a slow open, so the staff is able to practice on a smaller number of patrons before their grand opening. The only thing neither of us likes about Ian's job is that he's been working exclusively evening shifts, so we rarely get to see each other (he comes home well after midnight). I trust things will seem better once the restaurant starts to publish the schedule on a regular basis. Until now it's been a day-by-day thing, so we can never make plans and I'm still getting used to that. Thankfully we have text messaging!

What ways do you deal when you and a loved one have to spend a lot of time apart? Leave a comment!