Friday, November 26, 2010

The First Thanksgiving

Chocolate Pecan Pie
They say to always put your best foot forward, so I'm leading with this picture of the chocolate pecan pie I made the other day. I find it hard to juggle a camera and every dish/spatula/pot/pan in my kitchen at the same time, so I don't have very many good photos of the big feast. Ultimately, for my first time hosting, I think it all went off ok. (*whew!*)
Fried Womach Turkey
There are a few things I might do differently next time, but I have NO regrets about frying two of our three turkeys (or cooking three turkeys, for that matter.) They came out fantastic - especially the Womach Ranch bird, above. The skin was crisp, the meat was moist, it was quick, you can easily do more than one - I think we have a new family tradition. (I did the other one in an electric roaster, and it came out great too.)
The rest of the meal was traditional as well. I made our family dressing with sage, buttermilk biscuits and cornbread, sweet potato casserole, brussel sprouts, cranberries and gravy. I made homemade dinner rolls, but the first batch of dough didn't rise, and the second didn't rise in time to be baked with the meal, so we had to run out to get some. Next time I'll make those earlier. I'll also start the gravy earlier, so it can develop more flavor, hash the brussel sprouts, so they'll cook faster, and make the sweet potatoes a little lighter and fluffier. I'd also like to try a different dressing recipe - maybe sourdough with oysters or sausage - something a little more savory.
Thanksgiving Pies
I wouldn't change a thing though, about the last part of the meal. The pies. I made two this year, a chocolate pecan and a lemon meringue, and Connie made four - two pumpkin and two apple cranberry - one of each with walnuts & one without. (I guess there is one thing I'd change, I'd have her make them all with nuts!) There was also a spice cake - made by Eleanor and Elizabeth - which meant we had seven desserts for eleven guests. I ate all I could last night and more for breakfast this morning, with fresh whipped cream and coffee. I'm giving away most of the rest. That kind of goodness must be shared - both for my benefit and theirs!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and hope you enjoy a peaceful and bright long weekend!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eataly! - NYC

Salumi Counter at Eataly
Much has been said about Eataly, the new Italian food emporium located near Madison Square Park in New York City, and as a result, I had some definite expectations about the place. I expected it to be expensive and feel rarified. I expected it to be "fancy" - for lack of a better word. I also expected it to be very, very crowded. Ultimately, I found some of those things to be true, and others, not so much. Before I get to those details though, I must tell you the story of how I came to visit Eataly on this fine November morning...
Meat and Cheese platter and sliced Caprese at Eataly
A few years ago (about four) as some of you may remember, a local girl named Rorie wrote a blog called Milk and Honey. Rorie's blog was chock full of lovely photos, recipes and travel adventures, and it was clear we had a lot in common. Before we could manage to meet in person though, Rorie moved to the East Coast to go to law school. (I warned her, but it did no good.) We stayed in touch through the intervening years, and I think we we both assumed that one day, we would meet up either here or in San Francisco - where we both spend a lot of time. For whatever reason though, it just never seemed to work out. When Eataly opened, we finally just decided to go for it. We made plans to meet up in New York City, sight unseen, for the weekend. I stayed at the Ace Hotel for four nights in a room with bunk beds, and Rorie joined me for two of them. It might have seemed a little wacky to some, but we were pretty sure it would work out, and luckily we were right. We had a grand time eating and shopping our way through the City, most of those meals have yet to be written about here... Ma Peche, Momofuku Milk Bar (those pork buns!) Locanda Verde and the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory tour for starters. We even ran across the New York Marathon together! It was quite a rush.
Salumi at Eataly - NYC
Getting back to the discussion at hand - with respect to the prices at Eataly, I really did not see the problem. The meal pictured above - a meat and cheese platter for two and sliced caprese salad made with their house-made fresh mozzarella, was only $33.00. I've spent more than that at Whole Foods for just the groceries, and they weren't nearly as good. The packaged (mostly) house-cured prosciutto in the packaged salumi section ranged from around $5.00 to $7.00 per four ounce package, and their prices on packaged cheeses and dairy, and other non-perishable goods like candy, pasta sauce, pasta and rice were truly no more than they would be anywhere else.
Fresh Pasta at Eataly - NYC
It also wasn't terribly fancy. It is, after all, primarily a grocery store. That's not to say that the food isn't fabulous. The bakery brims with crusty loaves of very good bread, and the fresh pasta case offers a wide selection of fresh cut plain noodles, tortellini and ravioli...
Meat at Eataly - NYC
The meat and seafood cases are also fully stocked with abundant, gleaming specimens. The prices here (particularly for the meat) were expensive, but it appeared at least as if the quality was commensurate. (I did notice the fish selection was quite a bit better on Saturday than it was when I returned on Monday - the picture below was taken Saturday.)
Seafood counter at Eataly - NYC
I also didn't find the space it to be nearly as confusing or difficult as it's been described. There are several distinct sections, so it's not one giant room, but the layout disperses the crowd a bit, and allows you to focus on what happens to be in front of you at the time, which isn't entirely a bad thing in my mind.
Produce at Eataly - NYC
The store is divided into four areas, roughly - if you walk through the main entrance you are in the produce section - with the wares displayed in kitschy market carts. The atrium area with the salumi and cheese bar is just beyond that, and to the left is the large hall housing the Verdure Bar, Pesce, meat and fresh pasta counters, the dry goods such as pasta, rice and sauces, and the Pizza and Pasta bar. If you go through the atrium and turn right, you're in the section with the packaged meats and cheeses, pastries, panini, gelato, chocolate and espresso. To the left is the Manzo restaurant and seafood counter, and an area that looked like it might still be under construction. It all looked good, but if I'd had time for another meal, I think I would have liked to try the pizza.
Spying on Pizza at Eataly - NYC
Before we visited, I'd also read quite a few complaints about confusing and slow service at the food stations and dining areas. They close between lunch and dinner - so between 3 and 5 PM probably isn't a good time to come to eat (but it might cut down on some of the crowds if you want to shop.) Early seemed to work just fine. We arrived at about 10:30 on Saturday morning, and sat down at the Salumi e Formaggi bar in the center atrium at around 11:00. We had pleasant, prompt service - as did everyone around us. By 11:30 or 12, the atrium had filled up, and the other dining area was getting pretty crowded, but there were definitely seats available. It was more crowded on Monday at lunchtime (a 45 minute wait for two at the Pizza bar), but it's fairly easy to grab a quick bite if lunch is your aim. They have roasted meat sandwiches, traditional panini, gelato and espresso in the section of the store adjacent to Broadway (go in through the Broadway entrance) and the bread counter sells slices of focaccia style pizza made with fresh mozzarella. There are stand up tables in the dairy section of the store where you can eat takeout food, or you can take it across the street to the park.
Dining area at Eataly - NYC
Ultimately Eataly is definitely worth a visit. Is it worth a special trip across the country? Well, I had some great company and many other other fantastic meals (and adventures) to go along with it - so for me, it definitely was. More on those coming soon!

200 5th Avenue (at 5th and Broadway, adjacent to Madison Square Park)
New York, New York 10010
Notes: going early for lunch seemed like a good way to beat the crowds. The dining bars close between lunch and dinner, so check their hours before you go in the afternoon. The Ace Hotel is also a great place to stay if you plan on spending some time here - it's about four blocks away, at Broadway and 29th Street.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Winter Market

front window
So if I hadn't been in NYC last weekend, I know where I would have wanted to be - at the Ace Hotel in Portland for the Little Winter Market, hosted by Abby from Abby Try Again and Chelsea of Frolic. Doesn't it look fun?
jordan ferney
Several amazing craftspersons and artists were there, including Jordan and Paul Ferney, above (how about that hello?) and Herriott Grace. The jewelry below is by Sulu Designs. The full vendor list with links can be found on their webpage. The good news is most of them also sell online.
This means even if you weren't at the event, you can still buy the work of these artisans online...
little winter
For example, you can get these adorable little houses from My House Party here...

and the sweet, dreamy goods of Fieldguided here...
Nature inspired papergoods and jewelry from Mossiere can be found here, (brought to you by the folks behind Unruly Things)
and these cool decals and ceramics from Shanna Murray are here and here. She also did the window decals for the event - which looked just perfect.
shanna murray
Shanna also does a sweet monthly desktop background, with a calendar, a quote and a lovely photograph. This month's with a Thanksgiving theme is available here.
View of Little Winter from Outside
Maybe this makes your holiday shopping a little easier? I know it did for me! Cheers!

Photos by myhouseparty and kristienkahn from the Little Winter Market Flickr Pool.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The High Line and the Standard Grill - NYC

The Standard Hotel & High Line
When I did finally manage to peel myself away from the Ace Hotel, I headed straight to the first stop on my itinerary - the High Line and Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking district on the west side of town. I had hoped and planned to get there earlier - then go to Pearl Oyster Bar for a lobster roll - but by the time I arrived it was already 2 PM.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
Happily, my taxi dropped me off right in front of the Standard Grill, so I just decided to duck in there for a solo lunch. There is quite a contrast between the modern architecture of the Standard (the top photo was my view, looking up, when I stepped out of the cab) and the London-pub like appearance of the grill - but it works. The Standard Biergarten is just next door.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The dining area is divided into two sections, a large main room with clubby booths and a floor tiled entirely with pennies, and a bright, sunny bistro-style bar - with copper-topped cafe tables and black bentwood chairs.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The one-page menu offers salumi (some carved from a leg of prosciutto prominently displayed on the bar), oysters and several upscale bistro standards - including a burger, moules frites, pastrami on rye, a chopped salad and a turkey club sandwich "served on Balthazar white." This made me wonder if I was in Keith McNally territory, but the restaurant is run by Andre Balazs, owner of the Standard hotel chain. I was happy to see a lobster roll on the menu, since that was what I'd planned to eat all along. The service from the bartender was a bit surly - she asked for a credit card to open a tab, as if I might dine and dash - and my wine had been open a bit too long and was served too cold in a strange short, round glass, but those problems seemed less important when my lunch arrived.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
It looks a little small in the photo, but it was really just right. It was also absolutely delicious. The warm bun had been split and grilled, and the sweet, tender lobster meat tossed with a rich, lemony mayonnaise dressing. A few sprigs of micro-arugula provided a little zing. The accompanying frites were crisp and hot, and I was a little amused by the fact that it was the second time in twenty-four hours I'd been served fries in exactly that same copper cup (they use them at the Breslin too.)
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The Standard Grill serves all day - breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and late night. Based on my experience I'd go back - but of course, I can really only speak to lunch, and only one dish at that. If you're looking for a more in-depth analysis, check out Adam Platt's review. The communal chocolate mousse dessert sounds a little gross to me, but the cocktail menu looked interesting - and I am not surprised to hear the kitchen knows its way around a steak and some duck fat-fried potatoes.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
After lunch I popped over to the lobby of the hotel, which was decorated in a retro-modern style. It was tres chic, but there wasn't much to see beyond the tiny lobby and a cocktail bar, so I walked out the door and headed south about half a block, to the starting point of the High Line Park.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The High Line is a lovely promenade-like park, constructed on old elevated railway track running up the west side of Manhattan. It starts right next to the hotel and runs through the Chelsea/Meatpacking district area - for now at least. It's only about 1/3 finished at this point - the yellow portion on the sign is open, the rest is still under construction.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The rooms of the Standard Hotel are housed in a building that sits over the High Line - you walk right under it.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The boardwalk-like walkways are lined with modern and naturalistic plantings - lots of grasses, and other hardy greenery and shrubs.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
With the Standard hotel looming above, the innovative architecture of the gardens and paths, and several interactive and engaging sculptures and art projects along the way, the park has sort of a living museum feel. It's hugely popular with both residents and tourists. At least two bus tour groups were visiting while I was there, and the stream of visitors and strollers on the paths was constant. There was even a short line to view the art piece below.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
It was cold and windy enough that I was ecstatic to happen on this little stand set up by Tom Colicchio's "Colicchio & Sons" restaurant (just west of the park) selling hot chocolate, coffee and some steam table soups and stews. I was frankly shocked there was no line. Maybe New Yorkers are just used to that kind of chill.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
The hot chocolate was $4.50 and worth every penny. It was a simple formula of cream, milk, sugar and chocolate, but it was perfectly balanced and hit the spot. The gentleman behind the counter told me the pastry chef at the restaurant makes it fresh from scratch every morning.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
After strolling up a ways, I turned back, and then took the middle staircase down to the shopping area below. The area surrounding the Standard is chock-a-block with boutiques like Scoop, Stella McCartney, Hugo Boss and Diane Von Furstenberg. I snapped this photo looking up 14th street as I was crossing the street, and I think it's one of my favorites from the trip.
The Standard Hotel & High Line
That night, a friend of mine came into town for the weekend and we went to the Minetta Tavern for dinner. I mention this in an off-hand way, because I won't be writing a full post about it. It was quite a scene and the room was fabulous (though packed wall to wall on a Friday night ) but our food was underwhelming. The Black Label Burger did not live up to the hype, I'm afraid. Ordered medium rare, it came out nearly raw with ordinary accompaniments - bun, fries, etc. There was just nothing special about it, and it paled by comparison to my lamb burger at the Breslin the night before. Our favorite dish was a salad of roasted pumpkin wedges with curly endive, a sharp vinaigrette and toasted pumpkin seeds - but that's something you could easily make at home. Going was a fun experience if only for the clubby vibe and vintage room. I'm not sorry we tried it, but I won't be rushing back. There are just too many great places to eat in NYC, and always too little time.

The Standard Grill
848 Washington Street
New York, NY 10014-1308
(212) 645-4100

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Opening Ceremony at the Ace Hotel - NYC

Opening Ceremony at the Ace Hotel
So I'm back from New York - doing battle with re-entry to real life. It all went by so fast and was so intense it feels like a fever dream. It is going to take me some time to edit and process the 400 plus photos I took for sure. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my earliest and still favorite experiences of the weekend - the supremely cool and interesting Opening Ceremony shop at the Ace Hotel.

I loved everything about the Ace so much that on my first day, I didn't leave the building until about 2 PM. (Of course, that was only 11 AM my time, but still.) I went downstairs after waking up at 10, and had a buttered, toasted hot cross bun in the lobby with my Stumptown cappuccino. Then, I walked across the lobby and entered this store, and didn't leave for almost an hour. They have the most carefully and wonderfully curated selection of clothes, tchochkes, jewelry, toys and small goods I've seen.

Opening Ceremony
I wound up buying the very last pair of their special pebbled leather Dr. Martens Darcie boots, and a few gifts. I smelled every cologne, pawed through every piece of stationery and ogled the clothes - including their special collaboration line with Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland. It was all far too expensive for my pocketbook, but just absolutely killer. So much so that I found myself starting to rationalize the purchase of a $1200. charcoal wool coat straight off the Mad Men set, until I remembered that I live in SAN DIEGO. Also, James would KILL me. I enjoyed chatting with the friendly sales staff, one of whom looked just like Joseph Gordon Leavitt (speaking of whom, we just watched a bizarre little movie the other night named Brick. Worth a rent.)

The hotel itself was a non-stop scene, in a good way. When I rolled up in the cab late Thursday night there was a velvet rope outside, and morning, noon and night - until Sunday at least - it was like a party in there. It's clearly attracting a lot of locals in addition to guests - some people might find that annoying, but I liked it. The Breslin, Stumptown Coffee and No. 7 Sub Shop are also putting out some great eats and drinks - the John Dory isn't open yet, it's coming any day now.

I've got a lot more for you - Eataly, Momofuku Milk Bar, Ma Peche, Russ & Daughters, the Standard Grill, Locanda Verde, etc. - so stay tuned!

Opening Ceremony at the Ace
20 W. 29th Street (that's the hotel address, the shop is around the corner on Broadway)
Click the link above for the web store, it offers quite a few of their smaller items, but doesn't really give you a good feel for the great curated selection of clothing.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Still in New York...

I'm still in New York, coming home tomorrow - and I have loved every minute of it! Here's a little sneak peak at some of the reasons why. I'll be back this week with loads of posts. Right now I'm off to Russ & Daughters for some appetizing! xxoo - hope you had a great weekend too!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

826 Valencia - San Francisco

San Francisco 10.10
Are you in need of pirate supplies? If so, I have just the place. The store in front of the writing center at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. It's a curiosity that exists because it has to. After being turned down for regular use of church basements and school facilities, the founders discovered an empty store for sale on Valencia Street. City ordinances required that any businesses in that particular area of the city be either retail or catering, so the Pirate Supply Store was set up as the retail front for the writing center.
the Pirate Store at 826 Valencia
There are now seven chapters that make up 826 National: 826NYC in Brooklyn, New York, which features a super hero-themed supply store, and another at 826 Michigan in Ann Arbor, home to a robot store. The 826 Seattle writing center in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood is host to the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company and the Boston writing center is home of the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute. Additional 826 chapters are located in Los Angeles, 826LA and Chicago, 826CHI. (But apparently they're no fun.)
Lard at 826 Valencia.  Really.
Some of the unusual offerings you'll find at the Pirate Supply Store include bulk lard, a substance with a surprising number of practical uses...

San Francisco 10.10
If that doesn't strike your fancy, how about some Dolphin Tears? I'm not sure what they're good for either. All of these novelties are for sale, with proceeds benefitting the center. (Should you have questions about the shop there is a supremely un-helpful but quite entertaining FAQ here.)
San Francisco 10.10

They also offer a wide assortment of the books and magazines published by McSweeney's - the fabulous, humorous publishing company helmed by Dave Eggers and crew.
San Francisco 10.10

The real "raison d'etre" of the place though, is the writing center and lab. The mission of the center is to encourage and support kids 6-18 in developing writing skills and a love of literature. They accomplish this with tutoring, workshops and field trips - such as the bookmaking and story telling workshop taking place today, November 4, 2010.
San Francisco 10.10
They also offer weekend writing work shops and programs for adults and the public, such as the food writing work shop described on the flier below. If only I weren't already going to be in NYC, I'd have gotten on a plane and gone back to SF for this in a heartbeat. Well, maybe not, but still.
if ONLY.
If you find yourself in the neighborhood, don't hesitate to stop in next door at Paxton Gate. The assortment of taxidermied animals and garden goods is really quite complimentary to the oddities of the Pirate Store. On my next trip to the block, I plan to check out the Curiosity Shop across the street as well. If it's anything like it's neighbors, it's sure to be an interesting spot.

826 Valencia
826 Valencia Street (duh.)
San Francisco, CA 94110-1737
(415) 642-5905