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Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Survive a NYC Hurricane

 As the world knows by now, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City last week and we are still reeling from it's impact.  The result for me was hitchhiking from friends' couches to random hotel rollaways for a week waiting for the East Village (and my apartment) to revive - no heat, no water, no cell service, no electricity.  Luckily my grandma got me a handy dandy backpack for Croatia so I packed up a week's worth of stuff and pretended like I was on vacation in my own home (worst vacation ever).  It did give me the opportunity to explore areas of Midtown that I would probably never have made it to though.  Here they are!

We sat bundled up in our apartment waiting for the imminent storm to hit.  About two hours into the day we got board and decided to go explore the FDR/East River.  The bridges over to the river were completely cordoned off with police cars every block or so on loud speakers cautioning people to return home... aka us.  This photo was taken around 3pm and already the wind was so strong it was hard to get a picture (sorry Mom if you are reading this).

The walk did us a lot of good and helped us last another 3-4 hours cooped up in the apartment.  But around 8pm the storm still hadn't really hit so we ventured a block down the street to 7th and B, a bar on said cross streets.  The bar was hopping with other bored individuals eager for the storm to come and go so that we could get back to our regularly scheduled lives.  Halfway through a pitcher of beer we lost power and ran past howling, angry trees back to the safety of our apartment.

The rest of the night involved wine, board games and a wind vortex that had come to live in my bedroom.  Literally my door kept banging open and shut (my AC unit in my window was letting in all the wind).  It was crazy!  Sleep came easily thanks to a set of earplugs and I passed out in anticipation of the aftermath I'd be investigating in the morning.

We awoke to the sound of our names being yelled up from the front window.  I looked down to see my friend covered head-to-toe in fleece stamping her feet eager to be let in.  The four of us recounted our tales from the night before and decided to go see the damage.  Below is a photo near Orchard and Stanton.

We were all running low on cell juice and service so we decided to trek to Midtown where we'd heard there was power.  Right around the time we hit 39th Street a stream of text messages came in eager for news of the hurricane from a local.  Oh yeah 13 of them were from my mother freaking out.  I used the last of my battery replying that I was okay and then replied to my friend, Gup, who kindly offered up his warm, dry apartment for us to "plug in."

A couple hours later, post movie, cheese plate and a couple bottles of great wine, we more or less forced Gup to let us stay the night.  And then we forced him to watch Magic Mike.  We are such assholes haha.  The movie was terrible and couldn't even be saved by Channing's sexy dance moves.

Around midnight I was getting restless again... I never spend this much time inside!!!  So we went on an adventure for a Hell's Kitchen Mexican restaurant because I had a jonesing for enchiladas.  We ended up at Arriba Arriba where I ordered the enchiladas with red sauce.  They satisified the craving but weren't terribly good.  The tortilla tasted a little stale and the chicken was hard but I was desperate.

Photo Credit: Arriba Arriba Website

Today I walked over 80 blocks to survey my broken city.  Everywhere were cars soaked in water, trees ripped apart, and apartment complexes whose walls had crumbled so you could see everything from the artwork on their walls to what color their bedsheets were.  Downtown was eerily quiet, leaves and refuse scurrying down the street as if they had legs.  It was like a post-apocalyptic movie set. I've never seen Union Square empty!

Tonight I'd moved a couple blocks up the street to my new couch residence.  I was finally feeling so stir crazy and out of place that I insisted we all get dolled up and have a real night out.  One that didn't involve pajama pants.  We ended up at The Pony Bar which had a great list of beers (most of which they were out of) and they allowed you to bring in your own food (they weren't serving any) so we plopped down for some beers and Thai food.  It felt nice to be doing something "normal."

Photo Credit: Pony Bar Website

Work still closed and the East Village still ruined, I was searching for something to do today and realized MOMA!  I've been trying to go to MOMA forever but they close at 5pm on weekdays and I always managed to get into other things on the weekends.  So today was the day!  I met up with my friend, Suga, who also wasn't working and perused the museum for a couple of hours.  Some of the highlights are below.

You know you are in a REAL museum when you come around the corner and are staring at The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

The same thing goes for Munch's The Scream.

But then we made our way to the Picasso section which is always one of my favorites in any museum.  I just love the color he brings to his paintings.

There were only a couple Monet's but this one especially struck me because it was a bit bolder then his usual paintings.  I wish I could walk in this garden.

I rounded out the "famous" section with a Pollack.  He is one of my favorites because of the texture he brings to his paintings.  It's like they are reaching out to grab you.

And then we wandered into the "I'm somewhat obscure" artist section which was my favorite.  The below piece was created using magazines and other media.  The blue area in the middle is from a poster for a theater opening.  So cool.

Same thing with this piece which was created by unspooling the magnetic tape in cassettes and arranging them on photo sensitive paper.  Again so imaginative and such an awesome looking result.  I much prefer modern art that actually shows some thought as opposed to painting random straight lines of color and calling it art.

 All that art made us hungry so we wandered around looking for somewhere interesting to eat.  Both being from the East Village we were at a bit of a loss but passed Alfies and were drawn in by promises of craft beer and fried food.  They kept their promise with menu items like mac n cheese, pork belly and fried chicken.  I opted for the fried chicken.  My overall opinion was that it was really fried large pieces of chicken but they didn't seem to have much meat on them!  Kind of underwhelming...The seasonal berry cobbler fell in the same boat!  No actual cobbler just a bunch of cooked blueberries in a skillet with grains sprinkled on top.  FAIL.

Photo Credit:

I returned to my friends to do some work since I didn't want my first day back at the office to be too horribly painful!  Finally everyone returned to the apartment from their various activities and we hit up Reunion Surf Bar for dinner.  The place is downstairs underground and has this awesome Hermosa Beach esk surf bar feel to it which I immediately liked.  The menu is ALL fried which I was not "on board" with.  But I was too tired to switch places and I really liked the atmosphere so we ordered the  tots, tacos, sliders, and double cheese cheese sticks.  Everything was fine but nothing exciting.  I'm starting to see a trend in Hell's Kitchen.  It's like I'm eating the food because I need to eat, not because I'm enjoying it.  East Village I miss you!!!!!

Hell's Kitchen had finally run its course and I was in desperate need of a change of scenery.  So I hopped in the seventh cab I hailed (the other bastards took flight as soon as I dropped the word "Brooklyn") and made my way to the Condor Hotel in South Williamsburg.  The Condor Hotel was in the middle of nowhere but was an adorable boutique hotel with excellent service.  I immediately felt more at home even if I was sleeping on a rollaway like when I was six staying in the same room as my parents on vacations.

 Photo Credit: Condor Hotel

I took a much needed shower and then my roomie, our friend and I dressed up and headed out for dinner at Traif.  FINALLY an amazing meal after a week of crackers and food from Satan's kitchen.  This restaurant was amazing.  We sat in the garden in the back - it's very romantic.  And the food was ALL delicious.  The menu has changed slightly since what is listed on their website so I only have descriptions of some of the things I ate but I can guarantee you they were all delicious.

 Photo Credit: Google+ Reviews

If it's even possible to say "the thing I least liked" I guess it would be the sauteed broccoli rabe, roasted portobella-truffle toast and a fried egg only because I hate mushrooms.  But the egg was good!

This was a salad with persimmons and pear and it was heavenly in addition to being inventive - I don't think I've ever had persimmon before!

Brussel sprouts these days are sort of a restaurant staple but these were still delicious.  These were roasted with grapes, tomatoes, puffed rice and chile-garlic vinaigrette.


The baked muenster cheese with smoked chorizo, golden apples and crostini was pretty good.  I just wish there was more chorizo!!


The three cheese plate with pierre robert, epoisses, and cabrie with bergamot and strawberry-lime jams, etc, was also very tasty although again pretty standard.

This was my favorite plate of the night and one of the best dishes I've ever had.  It was spiced crispy lamb tenderloin with toasted sesame hummus and pomegranate-walnut paste.
  It was crunchy and sweet and saucy all at the same time.  MMMM.

Stuffed from dinner we wandered down the street and popped into D.O.C Wine Bar for a bottle of Amarone.  It was a little dead (go figure there'd just been a hurricane) so we continued on to Kinfolk Studio.  Turns out I've been here before!!  The bar seems to have been built out of a garage and is quite interesting.  I feel like it's the late late night hangout because the dance floor didn't get crowded until about 2am!  I, of course, was on said dance floor.  This place rocks!


For my roommate and I at least, Saturday marked a return to normalcy.  We checked out of the Condor Hotel after learning that our electricity, heat and water had been restored.  The song, "I'm Coming Home" by Diddy came to mind.

After an amazing shower back in MY apartment we decided to seize the weekend by finding somewhere that was open for brunch.  I randomly looked up "good brunch spots" and TimeOut recommended Jack's Wife Freda.  It's a bustling little restaurant with a communal table running down the middle of it.  We had a delicious breakfast (I did eggs and grapefruit with ricotta and granola).  The mint lemonade is amazing too.  I will definitely be back here!

Photo Credit: Jack's Wife Freda Facebook

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NYC Food and Wine Festival Recap

Sorry this is coming so late (weeks after the festival) but since they often have the same events I figured this could still be relevant... oh and there was a hurricane which set me back a week or so seeing as how I didn't have water, heat, electricity or cell service.  Anyways...the line up of events were:

My Food & Wine Festival experience started with Meatball Madness with Giada DeLaurentiis. I made the rookie mistake at this one by trying to have a bite of every one of the meatballs.  Turns out 35 large bites of meatball is A LOT.  I was NOT feeling well by the end.

I personally thought the Hearth Restaurant & Terroir Wine Bars meatball was the best - It was a meatball parm sandwich which literally melted in my mouth and wasn't too bready.  And it was different from the countless pork meatballs everyone seemed to be serving.

The other huge hit was Lugo Caffe's foie gras cappuccinos - extra points for creativity AND taste!

The only other thing of note was downstairs at Meatball Madness, the Borgate Casino had built this whole experience with card tables and music and drinks and things.  It was really really lame except one section where they had built this "brick wall" that you could spray paint with....wait for it.... CHOCOLATE!  That's right.  They had chocolate spray paint, chocolate paint paint, etc, that you could use to draw all over the wall... or just spray in your mouth...yeah I tried it...


Next up was the Chopped event all the way up at the Landmarc restaurant in Time Center where each of the Chopped judges were serving a signature dish.  My favorite were the mini ice creams sandwiches but to be honest I couldn't really eat much because I was so full from Meatball Madness - IDIOT!  I thought it was a very nice event although WAY too small of a space for the number of people.  It felt pretty claustrophobic and I later heard a lot of people with tickets couldn't get in!


Burger Bash with Rachael Ray was the first event of a very full Friday.  It also turned out to be my favorite event of the week.  I only wish I'd known it was OUTSIDE!  I was somewhat freezing because I did not come prepared for the outdoors but I soon lost track of the cold in the magic of the Burger Bash tent with it's twinkly lights and live cover band.  This time I knew better than to stuff my face at the first burger joint and instead strategically reviewed the "menu" they give you at the door to determine my top picks to eat first.
The Park Avenue Autumn EASILY walked away with my vote.  Their chuck, brisket and short rib patty on a potato roll with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and sauteed onions with a side of provolone and sweet potato tots was orgasmic.  Pretty sure half of it ended up on my face instead of in my stomach but hey that's why they call it "saving some for later" right?
Some other honorable mentions were Bobby Flay's Napa Valley Burger with fresh goat cheese, watercress and Meyer lemon honey mustard and Ai Fiori's White Label Burger with Nueske's bacon, white American cheese, McClure's pickles and mustard.

Last but not least I had my "starstruck" moment when I met THE Jacques Torres.  I spent a solid 30 minutes telling him about how much I love his chocolate chip cookies and then ended up giving him my "token" for best burger even though he wasn't serving one because I love him so much!

Next up was the Godiva Sweet event with Sandra Dee which I think was probably the low point of the weekend.  I wasn't particularly impressed with the food at all and I'm a HUGE dessert person.  Nothing stood out to me at all but I did enjoy the Godiva lady in the giant manufactured dress and the giant cake made by Duff.

We rounded the night out with Rock and Roll with Morimoto which always features Morimoto and crew drunkenly karaoking to classics like "Don't Break My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys.  There was also a special feature with multiple Food Network talent dancing it out to Gangnam Style.  Once again I was soooo full so I didn't eat much but I did get a chance to meet a ton of Food Network talent.  Robert Irvine was the most down to earth guy and Jeff Mauro's sister had me in stitches.  Last but not least the event took place at the Harvard Club which is one of the most beautiful buildings I've been in that I will probably never get to go to again.  I think I took more pictures of the building than the celebrities!

Today it was up and at 'em early for the Grand Tasting event at Chelsea Piers.  This one was another of my least favorite due to the sheer crush of people.  It was unnerving and I was so uncomfortable that we left after one circuit.  We did however hit up Anne Burrell's demo as well as Justin and Jeff who as a duo were absolutely HILARIOUS.  They should have a cooking show together - the straight man and the funny man.  I would watch in a heartbeat.

I was actually starving by the time we made it to Tacos and Tequila with Bobby Flay.  This is apparently the most popular event of the festival and I can see why!  So many tacos, so little time!!  And the place was crawling with famous food people.  I had about nine million great tacos but the standout here was one of the first I had - Lee Ann Wong's taco which was a miso braised Mangalista pork neck taco with jicama-ginger slaw and yuzu guacamole.  I think I was still sucking the juices off my finger hours later.

My final event of the weekend was the Next Iron Chef event with Alton Brown and the NIC chefs.  Again some incredible food including a crazy take on grilled cheese and sweetmeats which I've never had and finally decided to try.  The highlight of my night was meeting Michael Symon who might be the sweetest man on Earth.... well after Jacques that is! :-)

Overall the festival was a TON of fun and I can't wait to return next year.  Pretty sure my mom was so jealous that she has already booked her flight to attend as my plus one!  Keep eating and see ya next year!