Posts Tagged ‘food’

New York City

At the beginning of September I went to New York City for a conference. I was there for about 5 days, and had plenty of time outside of conference sessions for sightseeing. It’s crazy seeing all the stuff on tv about the hurricane damage up there, when I was just there so recently. Even though I feel like an old pro at hurricanes, it’s always surreal seeing other places going through what we’ve gone through a couple times in the past few years.


Going back through my pictures, I realized I didn’t take as many as I normally do. But don’t worry I’ve still got plenty to share. Hope you like pictures of food and drinks.

What to See

Times Square
The conference hotel was right in the middle of Times Square, so it was an awesome location for sightseeing.

It was also excellent for looking down on while drinking (savoring slowly!) the most expensive glass of wine ever( $18!!)

Times Square is also great for people watching. This was Naked Cowboy 2 that we saw. The other one is younger and more attractive, in my opinion.

Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway
This place is awesome with its 18 Miles of Books. They have tons of t-shirts, gifts and tote bags, so it’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs.

9/11 Memorial
Right now since the memorial isn’t finished, you have to reserve a free ticket and go through security to see it, but it’s totally worth the effort. Reserve and print your ticket at home, since I had trouble doing it from the road.

Brooklyn Bridge
I didn’t get many photos this time, since a lot of the walkway was under some kind of construction. This trip was the second time I walked the entire length of the bridge.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour
This tour was really great. Reserve your ticket online in advance. We went to the very first tour of the morning, and the lines were short and there weren’t too many people to battle. I think the ticket price was around $17 and included audio tours of both islands. It is well worth the price.

The Chelsea High Line
A friend of the colleague I was traveling with told us about the High Line and we were so¬† happy to have heard about it. It’s an old rail road line that’s been preserved as a park. The views of the city are beautiful and the high line would be a great place to go on a date or just to hang out for a few hours.

Where to eat

Grimaldi’s Pizza NYC
1 Front Street
We walked all the way from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to this pizza place. We’d probably have eaten cardboard after the hours we walked, but this pizza was AWESOME! It’s in Brooklyn, just at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Room Service Thai
690 9th Avenue
This wasn’t far from our hotel in Times Square and was delicious. The menus featured room numbers and the feature of the room was a huge crystal chandelier. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Max Brenner
841 Broadway
Max Brenner’s fame is chocolate, but you’ve got to eat food too, so why not bacon macaroni and cheese?! The best part of traveling with someone else is that you can split and share entrees and dessert.

Banana Split Waffles.

And a White Russian with white chocolate instead of milk.

Junior’s Cheesecake
89 E. 42nd Street
We had breakfast here, no cheesecake. ūüė¶

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street
This place was really cool. We couldn’t make a reservation, so by the time we got there, the wait was over an hour, but the food was worth it. I had the burger because I’m not always terribly an adventurous eater (although I did try a tiny crunch of my colleague friend’s fried pig ear). The gazpacho made with tomato, purple basil and black mint was¬† incredible and their truffle deviled eggs, while a bit expensive, were so delicious I’m trying to figure out how to make them at home.

400 W. 14th Street
We stopped here before we walked the High Line. Their pizza and caprese salad, combined with patio dining reminded us of Italy.

See, there was even a statue of David near the restaurant.

Ed’s Chowder House
44 W. 63rd Street (At Empire Hotel)
We stopped here for drinks after my colleague friend finished a super secret photo shoot. It was kind of fun, because fashion week was going on, and a lot of people thought she was a fashion week model! I had the Upper West Apertif – with grey goose vodka, muddled orange, mint leaves and ginger ale.

Takahachi Bakery
25 Murray Street (between Broadway and Church)
This Japanese bakery isn’t far from Battery Park, but it’s not exactly on the way either. Their pastries were delicious.

Celebrity Sightings

One night we met up with one of my friends from college and walked right into Snoop Dogg and his entourage.

One morning instead of getting breakfast in the hotel, I wandered out and saw the Bachelorette.

We also saw Gwen Stefani and No Doubt practicing in Rockefeller Center, but couldn’t get any good pictures. And John Quiniones was a guest speaker at our conference. So the celebrity count was pretty good!

It rained a couple days while we were there, so we didn’t make it to Central Park and a couple other things we planned. I guess that means an excuse for another trip!


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The second stop on our Italian adventure was Florence.

We somehow got on the slow train that took 3 hours, rather than the fast train that would have gotten us there in 1.5 hours. But it wasn’t too bad. We were able to nap, and look at travel books before we got there.

Once we found our hotel and settled in, we made out way to the Piazza Michelangelo to see Florence from outside the city. Despite the clouds and a few sprinkles, the view was amazing. I also visited Florence the first time I was in Italy but didn’t get to see the city like this.

We walked back through the gardens, down the hill and back¬†into the city. As we were walking along the¬†Ponte¬†Vecchio, we saw some kind of party set up on the opposite river bank.¬†Everyone was dressed in white, and¬†suddenly some ballerinas came out to do a show.¬†But they were all men, dressed in tutus and tights.¬†They had the audience dying with laughter and even had an encore presentation prepared.¬†¬†I wish I had the video, but my camera’s video quality wasn’t very good.

We walked through the city where we listened in on a concert in the Piazza della Republica (later found out it was the band Simple Minds and the concert was for the opening of the Florence Hard Rock cafe). We enjoyed the evening as it turned dark with a cup of gelato and beer, sitting on the steps of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The next day we woke up early to go to the San Lorenzo Market and the Mercato Centrale.

I bought a wallets for me and Taylor at the Market, and spent the rest of the time just amazed at all the beautiful goods. Inside the Mercato Centrale, we explored, bought some goodies to bring home, and bought the fixings for a picnic lunch.

For our picnic lunch we stalked out a picnic bench just outside the Duomo and enjoyed a spread of 2 kinds of bread, 3 kinds of cheeses, figs, olives, tomatoes, and wine.

After lunch we weren’t too stuffed to climb the 414 steps of Giotto’s Bell Tower at Santa Maria Del Fiore. I climbed the tower before, but there were several reasons to do it again. First, the line to climb to the top of the Duomo¬†was wrapped around the building, and would have meant¬†hours of standing around waiting to enter. And second, you get beautiful views of the Duomo while you’re climbing the bell tower. So we paid our money and¬†headed¬†right up, since there was no line.

Climbing the bell tower isn’t for the faint of heart though. The stairway is narrow, and often you have to stop to catch your breath let others pass.

The view is beautiful half way up.

And at the top.

Gotta take a picture for proof that you made it.

The countryside is just beautiful and I just can’t help but wonder what kind of place had a fire going (see the smoke?)

We even saw them cleaning up from the previous night’s concert from way up there.

I can’t describe it, but I really like Florence. Probably better than Rome. Both trips I didn’t spend more than two nights, but I still a real connection to Florence. It’s not nearly as touristy or busy as Rome, and also not quite as spread out. So it’s sort of easy to feel at home.

Here we all are, catching our breath before we start our descent. We all felt incredibly out of shape, so we were relieved to see almost everyone at the top huffing and puffing.

After we climbed down (which is much easier than going up!) we busied around the market a little more and visited¬†the Santa Maria Novella Perfumery and¬†hunted down a place to have dinner before calling it a night since the following day, we’d have a 6¬†hour train ride.

So, here’s a gratuitous shot of my quattro¬†stazione¬†pizza…artichoke, prosciutto, mushrooms and olives.

Next stop is hands down my favorite, so I can’t wait to tell you about it.

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Mushroom risotto

When we were in Italy, my friend Cherrye’s¬†husband, Peppe, made us salmon risotto one night. It was so heavenly, and I made sure to pay careful attention to his cooking methods so I could make my own risotto at home.

Of course, several weeks have passed, and admittedly that night we drank copious amounts of cheap italian wine and home-made limoncello, so I found a recipe that seemed similar to use as a guide. You can check it out here.

You can make almost any kind of risotto using this general recipe. Just use a different broth and substitute vegetables or meat for the mushrooms.  It would be easy.

First, prepare the broth. I made 6 cups of vegetable broth. But you could use chicken, beef or mushroom. Taste the broth to make sure it has good flavor. The first rule Peppe taught us is that each part of the risotto must taste good on its own. Put the broth aside, keeping it on low heat.

Then start the base for the risotto. Heat your pan up to medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter to a big pan. Then add about half an onion, diced. Cook the onion until it is soft but not quite caramelized (but I bet if you did caramelize it, it would taste good too).

In a separate pan, add one tablespoon of butter, and a tablespoon of minced garlic. Then add your chopped mushrooms. I used¬†a whole pound, but honestly¬†half a pound would¬†have been good too. I¬†did half a pound of sliced white mushrooms and half a pound of chopped Portobello mushrooms. ¬†After the mushrooms start cooking down, taste them¬†you can add another tablespoon of butter if you want. Don’t forget, the mushrooms should be delicious enough to eat on their own. Here’s a blurry shot of the onions and mushrooms starting to cook.¬†


Then when the onions are cooked how you like them, add in your arborio rice. I used 1 and 1/2 cups. Stir around until the rice starts to get a little translucent. Then add in half a cup of white wine and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.


Meanwhile don’t forget to keep an eye on the mushrooms. You can even add in half a cup of white wine to them too.


Don’t go to far away from the risotto. Now is the labor intensive part. Add a ladle full of the broth into the rice and start stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It’ll look kind of like this. You can see a little bit of liquid still, but it’s not runny.


Then add another ladle full of broth to the rice. Same story, keep stirring until mostly absorbed. Then add another ladle. You’ll keep doing this using most of the broth.


When the risotto has more than doubled in size, and seems like it’s almost done, taste it to see if it’s ready. When it’s done, it should be al dente and have a little texture to it, but it shouldn’t be crunchy. If it’s just a little under cooked you’ll start getting ready to add the mushrooms in.


I drained the liquid off the mushrooms but you could add it all in to the risotto if you wanted. (It was all black and gross looking if you ask me.)

Dump the mushrooms in and add another ladle of broth. This will probably be your last ladle (there may be a little broth still left, that’s ok as long as your risotto isn’t crunchy). Stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Taste everything and see if you need to add salt or anything.


You can turn the heat down and step away for just a minute now. Grate up about 1/3 cup of pecorino romano cheese, toss it in the pan and stir well. Last, add one tablespoon of butter and stir it in and taste. The butter adds richness, so if you think it could be a little more rich, add one more tablespoon. If you aren’t sure, just go ahead and add it. You won’t regret it.

And now you’re ready to enjoy.


Yes, it was a somewhat labor intensive process, but honestly, the cooking part wasn’t too bad. I probably took more time cleaning and cutting the mushrooms than I did getting the onions, mushrooms and rice¬†started cooking. If I had to guess,¬†I think I got everything done in just over an hour. Not too bad if you ask me. Even¬†Taylor (who isn’t a¬†major mushroom fan)¬†thought it was delicious. And ate leftovers for lunch the next day.

That’s success!

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So I saw this breakfast recipe a couple of weeks ago, and have been dying to make it. Finally this morning I did.

Honestly, I took it as less “actual recipe” and more of¬†“suggestions” of what to do with some eggs, butter and seasoning. Here’s the recipe I followed. http://aiminglow.com/2011/09/brilliant-breakfast-for-less-than-brilliant-mind/

But of course, I changed it a little bit.¬†What I did was,¬†melt a tablespoon of butter under the broiler in my toaster oven, then add two eggs, a little milk, chopped red onion, some fresh chives, fresh cracked pepper, and romano cheese. I cooked it for¬†the suggested 3-5 minutes but wasn’t sure it was¬†done enough. Being all nervous about raw eggs, I cooked it for almost 10 minutes total, poking it with a fork several times¬†after about 5 minutes.

Here’s the halfway mark of cooking. I forgot to¬†take a picture at the end and anyway¬†it looked kinda messy in the¬†end after all my¬†fork poking. But more or less, in the end¬†the egg will be solid¬†and the top¬†and edges of the eggs will be browned.


End result, delicious! You may want to add some salt or try different herbs. But¬†I really liked it. It probably will be easier to do several of these in your big oven, but if you’re doing just one or two, a toaster oven works just fine.

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Whenever I travel I always intend on chronicling my trip to share with you (and just for my own records too). But it kind of ends up being a little half assed, or I don’t end up doing it at all. So I thought I’d try this format to see how it works. Instead of a day by day account of places I visit, I’m going try sharing the things I saw and places I ate. We’ll see how¬†it¬†goes. If you want to know more about something I mention, please let me know.

A month ago, Taylor had a work conference in New Orleans and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along. Of course there is plenty to see and eat there. We were only in town 3 nights and I think we managed to see and do a lot.

Things to See

Plantation homes. About 45 minutes from New Orleans there are a whole bunch of plantation homes. We opted not to take a tour bus but you can find tours. We wish we had more time to see more than just two of these beautiful pieces of history on our trip but the two we did make it to were totally worth it. Including the drive out and back, it probably took us 6 hours to see two homes. That just leaves more for next time.

Laura. ¬†Laura was our favorite. The tour was very thorough and the guide did a good job of bringing you back in time through his story telling. It wasn’t cheesy as some tours can potentially be. We got to go inside the whole house and in every room and got to walk the grounds.¬†

They took us inside one of the slave cabins, which was very humbling, to say the least.

Oak Alley. Oak Alley was the other home we visited, naturally named for it’s¬†300+ year old oak trees. The tour wasn’t as good as Laura and we couldn’t go inside most of the rooms. They allowed you to peek into the roped off areas. Most of the attraction I think is to the grounds, and naturally most spectacularly, the oaks. We ate a delicious lunch in the restaurant on the property and they serve mint juleps on the patio.

Jackson Square. There is so much in Jackson Square, and you could probably wander for a couple hours. The St. Louis Cathedral is beautiful (and open to visitors). There are street artists, carriage rides, and plenty of photo ops.  

Wandering. New Orleans is very good for just wandering around. You’re likely to find something new each time you head out. A car isn’t needed if you want to just stay near the French Quarter and almost anything you’d want to see is less than 10-15 minutes walking.

Things to Eat

We always eat a lot on trips and New Orleans makes it easy to only eat things you can’t eat at home.

Deanie’s Seafood (841 Iberville). I had the Bucktown Boil Pizza, a delicious combination of shrimp, crawfish, and crab topped with mozzarella. Potatoes boiled in crab boil were served¬†as a complimentary appetizer.

Mena’s Palace (200 Chartres Street). Hole in the wall breakfast place. Reasonable prices compared to a lot of other places.

Market Cafe (1000 Decatur). Decent caesar salad for lunch, but way over priced. Huge patio and live music if you want to sit outside.

Margaritaville (1104 Decatur). Stopped in for drinks only, margaritas of course. Reasonably priced drinks, good atmosphere for sitting and chatting with friends while taking a break from walking around.

MRB РMississippi River Bottom Bar (525 St. Philip). Their bloody marys were recommended by a friend, and they did not disappoint.

Crescent City Brewhouse (527 Decatur). Very good food and delicious beer. I had the crabmeat augratin and a 5 beer sampler. Everything was reasonably priced, but we did run the bill up pretty quickly with appetizers, drinks and dessert. It was worth it though.

Cafe Beignet (334 Royal). We knew the line at the original beignet place (Cafe DuMonde) would be long by the time we got around to eating breakfast, so we tried this place. I had a cheese omelet and a cafe mocha. The beignets were also delicious.

Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal). This was an incredible dinner. The place is beautiful and the service is impeccable. We started out with garlic truffle fries that I wish I could make at home. I had the filet mignon for my meal. I also tasted a bit of the bbq shrimp which was so delicious. (They have the shrimp recipe on their website).¬†I’d recommend you save up your money and eat here if you want to eat at one fancy place. Everything was delicious.

Cafe Amelie (912 Royal). This place is also very highly recommended. The  courtyard is so beautiful and very peaceful. I ate the nut bread with goat cheese and fig preserves for an appetizer and the BLT. I just wish I could have tried more things from the menu.

Cafe Du Monde (1039 Decatur). World famous for beignets (sort of like a donut, but more delicious) and cafe au lait. Get them to go if the place is too busy to get a table.

Pat O’Brien’s. We went for the piano bar and hurricanes after dinner. Very fun for groups.

And¬†an honorable mention shout out goes to the Marriott New Orleans (555 Canal¬†Street) lobby bar/restaurant.¬†¬†Their banana’s foster cheesecake and white chocolate bread pudding were both¬†amazing.


Normally I hate bread pudding, with all its gooey, raisiny-ness. But this one raised the standards.

¬†There’s so much more we wanted to see, and eat, but in 3 days we managed to do a fair amount of damage!

Do you have New Orleans recommendations for the next time we make it over there?

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To get to our Valentine’s dinner I need to take you back a little bit.
So, a few weeks ago we decided we were going to try eating more fish, and saw some steelhead trout in the fish section (seafood department?? whatever it’s called??) so we bought some.
Anyhow, I’m not a fan of salmon (too oily/fishy) though Taylor likes it. The steelhead trout is an orange color similar to salmon, but not anywhere near as oily. And it’s got a great flavor when cooked. I can’t remember how I found the inspiration recipe, but I tweaked it a little bit and came up with a winner. I think you’ll like it too.
But, before you get started, you’ll need a secret weapon ingredient.
Sunny Paris.
This spice mix from Penzey’s Spices¬† is a wee bit expensive ($10 for a half cup), but trust me, you won’t regret the purchase. And if you do, just send me the leftovers. And if you’re not a big fan of any of the individual ingredients, just try it. Trust me. Seriously.
So where was I before I started waxing poetic about the virtues of Sunny Paris….oh yes, the trout recipe.
1 large piece of trout (1 pound; ours came with the skin on)
3 slices of yellow onion (roughly half of a medium-sized onion)
3 tbsp. soft butter (not melted)
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp Sunny Paris Seasoning
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Spray a baking sheet with a little olive oil. Or better yet, to reduce the amount of dishes you need to clean, make a tiny pan out of foil to fit the fish and spray that with olive oil.
3. Place slices of onion in the pan.
4. Put the trout (skin side down) on top of the onion slices. Salt and pepper fish.
5. Mix softened butter with flour and Sunny Paris. Spread on fish.
6. Sprinkle butter mixture with crumbs.
7. Bake 45 minutes or until the crumb mixture is golden and fish is done.

Makes about 4 servings (or 2 servings for hungry adults).  Other light tasting kinds of fish could be used.

Here’s the final product.


Served up with some asparagus and a salad, it was a perfect low-key, but fancy enough dinner for our Valentine’s Day.

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Chicago, Chicago

I’m back in Chicago for some work related training. The last two times¬†I was here, I had a similar experience traveling , only this time I did have to catch a bus and a terminal train, then run to catch my plane with only minutes to spare. Last time, I got to see the Magnificent Mile Tulips. This time the tulips are blooming but are almost all gone. Last time, I had a wicked good time, and I am happy to report I am enjoying myself during my 4th trip to this wonderful city.¬†

With a colleague, I’m¬†having a great time, have eaten at some great new places, and had some good adventures in the 2.5 days I’ve been here. It’s been cloudy and rainy-ish most of the time since I got here on Monday. Ate at crab cakes at¬†Hugo’s Frog Bar¬†on N. Rush; black bean cakes, eggs, and potatoes for breakfast at M. Henry; and¬†pot stickers, pad thai,¬†and chicken pad ped¬†at Dao Thai restaurant. I¬†shopped at Lush and Trader Joe’s. I’m still here for 4.5 more days. ¬†I can’t promise I’ll be timely with photos, but I do promise to tell you about the rest of my trip, even though it means I’ll have to¬†find a free wifi spot, or pay for internet again. I think I’m developing a mild depression due to not having instant access to free internet here at the hotel (not even in the lobby…boo!)

Anyhow, I’ll leave Chicago several pounds heavier (and happier) and also with a bottle (maybe two) of some two buck chuck¬†(p.s. yes it is probably sad how excited I am about getting my very own bottle of two buck chuck, but $2.99 wine can’t be beat…and you certainly can’t even get a glass of wine anywhere for that price.)

Any recs on restaurants I should try while I’m here?

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