Friday, August 25, 2006

I solemnly swear

Well, folks, two years after taking and passing the New York bar exam, I finally got sworn in. It's been a long and pokey road. It couldn't be helped - I was lazy and stupid.

I had to drive up to Albany for the character and fitness interview and the swearing in. I haven't been to Albany since I was very young, but my dad used to go there a lot for work. So when I told him I had to head up there for the swearing-in, he kindly offered to join me.

We headed up Wednesday afternoon and Dad had gotten us rooms at the Crowne Plaza, which is right down the street from the Empire Plaza Convention Center (where I needed to be). For dinner, we headed down the hill of State Street to Jack's Oyster House - one of the oldest restaurants in Albany. When we got to the restaurant, Dad said, "When you told me you had to come to Albany, I have to admit my ulterior motive that it would be nice to come eat here again." Dad retired six years ago and hasn't been back since.

It was a great meal - the oysters and clams we had from the raw bar were top notch, and my Steak Diane was nicely done. Dad had the duck, which was quite disappointing, but the chocolate mousse torte dessert made up for that. The chocolate mousse was as good as Luger's, though admittedly it came with less schlag.

We headed back up the hill where I holed up in my room and watched way too much Law & Order, something I almost never do anymore.

As for today's events, the interview and the swearing in went smoothly and Dad and I were headed back to Jers by 10:30.

It was a nice bonding experience for us, I think. This month hasn't been easy for me, between work, my lack of interesting vacation, and the double whammy of Mon & Dad's anniversary and Mom's birthday. It was nice for us to take a little sojourn together, and just talk, or sometimes, sit in amiable silence.

What do the five fingers say to the face?

S'mac! Not really, they actually say "smack" but I was pleased with myself on this one, so I had to go for it.

Bruni blogged about S'mac, which is a small eatery in the East Village which specializes in macaroni and cheese, a few weeks ago. As a mac & cheese lover, I was intrigued. Luckily for me, Jeeves had just returned from his European vacation and had time for some dinner in between being a law nerd and.... being a law nerd. We had narrowed down the contenders to a variety of selections from New York mag's 101 cheap eats issue, and S'mac. I chose the winner.

And a winner it is. As I find woolgathering about food to be a suitable way to make it through a day of blah work, I perused the menu and decided the best plan of attack was for each of us to order two nosh sizes and share all of them. This way we could try four different varieties of mac & cheese.

I arrived first, and Jeeves was, per usual, late, which gave me enough time to stand outside the orange and yellow restaurant and get antsy as it filled up and there were fewer and fewer tables available. But he arrived and we got on line while I told him my idea. Jeeves is almost always amenable to a plan that allows for more food, so he agreed. We selected the all-american, gruyere, cheeseburger and cajun, and we requested breadcrumbs on all of them.

After about a five minute wait, the waitress brought us our skillets of mac and cheese. We had made a mistake in our calculations - what we had assumed were the medium-sized servings were, in fact, the small. Four nosh-sized (the smallest) provided way too much food for two people. We dug in, regardless.

As Bruni has suggested, the gruyere, which includes chunks of slab bacon, was our favorite. It was lighter than the others and the gruyere went great with the bacon. But the all-american (just your traditional mac & cheese) was not to be discounted. Bruni complained that there were no burnt edges, but I personally feel that there are many ways of making mac and cheese, and while burnt edges are tasty and that is one way of making it, Sarita's (the owner) way is pretty great too.

The cheeseburger (which Jeeves likened to The Dude from Two Boots Pizza) was absurdly heavy and kind of like a really delicious serving of hamburger helper. As for the Cajun, well, in typical Megan fashion, I couldn't eat too much of it before the jalapenos got the best of me, but mac & cheese definitely benefits from being combined with pepper jack and andouille.

I kid you not, we had to take every single one home, which actually worked out well for the splitting - I took the gruyere and the cheeseburger, and let me say - the cheeseburger was fantastic reheated. But this meal was not without its casualty - Jeeves came down with a serious case of the cheese sweats. I didn't know it was possible to get the cheese sweats, but it is and he did.

On the whole, an inexpensive and delightful experience. I'll be headed back, but I'll just get one nosh sized next time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thanks, Amishah

This is Amishah (and her husband, but he's not important here). Amishah likes scrapbooking, travel, flowers, photography, chocolate and dislikes broken pipes.

I don't actually know Amishah. But she's got some great photography equipment, takes some nice pics, loves flowers (me too!!!), and most importantly, just went to the Bellagio in Vegas.

Kate and I were discussing the Bellagio vs. the MGM Grand today, when Kate remarked, "I wish I could see a picture of the bathrooms." I figured with the magic of Flickr, there must be a photo of the bathrooms in these hotels somewhere. Enter Amishah, who did indeed take photos of her room and the bathroom at the Bellagio (and a nice shot of the glass ceiling in the lobby). She took a lot of other pics in Vegas too - she has several cameras and one them takes very good night shots.

Anyway, after looking at her Vegas pics, I perused her other photos and got to thinking about how interesting Flickr is and how strange it is that a stranger could look at your photos and get an idea of who you are.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your pics, Amishah. You made Kate's day. Oh, and lest you think I didn't find the MGM Grand's hotel room bathroom photo, I did - thanks to Dawn (she's Canadian).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vegas, baby, Vegas

After years of cajoling, talking and planning, Kate and I have finally agreed to a final date for our Great Vegas Adventure. I have wanted to go for about 7 years now. My sister and I had planned on going for spring break of my first year of law school. Instead she had a baby. So no Vegas. Thus started a six month "Kate, we should go to Vegas" campaign whereby I had to convince her that Vegas was more than gambling (pretty much, warm weather and nice pools, food, booze and spas sold her). Then it was years of not having the money or the time. Then it was the wedding.

But now it is here! In April, we're going to Vegas.

The questions now is where to stay. Camp Bellagio and Camp MGM Grand both make strong arguments. Any other contenders are welcome to throw in their two cents (I must say, though, if you are a fan of Steve Wynn or the Venetian, both are more expensive than Bellagio and MGM and therefore, out of contention).

I'll keep you posted.

Money's too tight for steak

Marge: Homer, I have to go out to pick up something for dinner.
Homer: Steak?
Marge: Money's too tight for steak.
Homer: Steak?
Marge: Eh, suuure... steak.

(This quote is really only used because any time Paul or I say the word "steak" the other persons launches into this quote. Because we're losers.)

Last Thursday was Jeeves's birthday, and to welcome him to his late 20s, I took him to The Strip House. Neither of us had been before, but we had both heard great things about it, and so, were quite excited.

While getting a reservation was no problem, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was nearly full when we arrived. Regardless, we were immediately seated. If you've been to or heard about The Strip House, you already know that the decor is noteworthy. The space is small with a bar area in the front of the restaurant, and tables that run along the walls and one row of tables down the middle. I was actually surprised by how small the space was. The bar area feels trendy - not remotely steak house-ish. But just past the bar, the restaurant mellows out and while you don't feel like you are in Luger's, you definitely feel like these people will know how to cook a steak.

The walls are covered with old bordello shots for the 1920s or earlier - shots that I am sure were risque for their time. The wallpaper, the seating - it's all red, but surprisingly not overwhelming.

There were service missteps early on. Jeeves wanted a rye Manhattan and asked the waiter if the bar carried rye. He wasn't sure, but felt comfortable giving a dissertation on the difference between a rye and bourbon Manhattan, and his personal recommendations for what type of bourbon Rajeev should choose if he went with the bourbon (they did have rye, and that's what he had). I asked for a menu of wines by the glass, and was delighted to see that they had Angus "the Bull" cabernet sauvignon from Australia (2003). Mike and Gena got me into this wine at one of their tastings and it's definitely a steak-worthy red. But the waiter took forever to take our drink orders. When the waiter did bring Jeeves's Manhattan, he attempted to pour it with a flourish, but really just wound up splashing it all over Jeeves's arm.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there, because the food came promptly and at a good pace. We started off with the foie gras appetizer, which was marked as a table share. Indeed. It was an enormous piece and we couldn't finish it. It was served cold, which I wasn't expecting, and I wish the menu had been explicit about that. As it turns out, the menu says it's "foie gras torchon" but until tonight, I never knew what that meant. In fact, it means the foie gras was wrapped tightly in a towel, briefly poached, then cooled in a liquid (frequently sweet wine) for several days. Regardless, it was delicious, but very large.

For the main course, we split the porterhouse for two, medium rare, along with creamed spinach and goose-fat potatoes. The creamed spinach is cooked in a truffle oil, which my boyfriend Bruni went on a rant about this week. Regardless of what he thinks, the creamed spinach was un.believable. Rajeev went so far as to call it the "best creamed spinach in the city." The crisp goosefat potatoes were also lovely, especially because of the crispy skin in which they are baked (think chunks of potato cooked in a crispy shell), though I must say I thought they were a little too salty. And the steak? Perfect. Sure, sure, the strip was yummy and flavorful. But the filet! Oh, the filet - tender and melt-in-your-mouth, but still piquant, largely because of the peppery rub on the steak. I will most certainly dream about that filet.

Of course, we had dessert, because one needs something sweet at the end of a meal like that, and also, I had asked them to stick a birthday candle in whatever we ordered. We had the profiteroles - large and rich, and in my opinion, disappointing. But it didn't really matter - I was completely stuffed and only needed a few bites for satisfaction.

Other than the initial missteps, our service was solid (and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the bread was also quite good). I have been asked how Strip House compares to Luger's and all I can say is that a comparison doesn't seem right. If you want steak and bacon, no frills, Luger's is where it's at. If you're up for more of a restaurant experience, with ambience, a nice wine list, and creamed spinach that simply cannot be beat, you'd have to go with Strip House. More aptly put - perhaps Luger's is where you would like to go for an outing with your poker buddies, but a gentleman friend's birthday calls for the Strip House. If you're companion happens to be both, then I suppose you can let him choose.