Monday, August 09, 2010

Dinner tonight

We had such a large haul from last week's CSA share (tomatoes, green beans, swiss chard, boston lettuce, red leaf lettuce, corn, beets, pattypan squash, kale, and basil) that I was starting to stress about how I was going to use it all, especially since we will only be home for dinner a couple of nights this week.

Yesterday I made some fresh chicken stock. So tonight's dinner was lettuce soup courtesy of Serious Eats (I had made it before, and it was good, but this time it was even more delicious). Then I made some sesame green beans sauteed with a little crushed red pepper. And the "main" course was baked pattypan squash stuffed with onion, swiss chard, panko bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Jeeves was worried it wouldn't be enough food. That's before he realized how much fiber is in all these veggies! I am stuffed, and pleased that in one meal I managed to use so much of my CSA share.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This is LA

Jeeves and I haven't taken a vacation that was longer than a few days in awhile. Well, I shouldn't say he hasn't - he did go to India for 6 weeks, after all. But I personally have not been away for more than a few days since we went to New Orleans over New Year's 2008-2009. Sure, sure, last October I got to go to Chicago, but that was from a Tuesday night through Saturday morning. Not a long trip. I wish I could tell you that this all changed in June with a blockbuster trip to Los Angeles. But it didn't. Since I'm new to my job, I didn't feel comfortable taking a full week off of work. So, I took three days, and flew out to LA on a Wednesday morning, returning Sunday night. Jeeves, who had plenty of vacation days and needed to use them up lest he lose them, headed out on the previous Friday and went to San Francisco first to visit some old friends.

Jeeves and I have a good friend who moved to LA a couple of years ago. Jase missed his family who live in the Southwest and was tired of NYC. He loved the weather in LA and thought he would give it a try out there. A few months ago, he moved from Marina del Rey (site of the Banana Stand for all you Arrested Development fans) to northern Venice, near the border with Santa Monica. He kindly offered to let us stay at his studio which is one block from the beach. He went to stay at his girlfriend's place, which is just a mile away in Santa Monica.

I had never been to LA before, and based on what I had heard about it, I wasn't necessarily dying to see it. But lately I've had a lot of friends who have made it out there, and raved about it. Plus, we hadn't seen Jase in awhile, and missed him. Now that I have seen it, I can say that I walked away with an appreciation for the sprawling town, but I'm glad I live on the east coast.

My trip started out well - I flew out very early in the morning from JFK and on my flight, we had direct TV, so I was able to watch the US play Algeria. Apparently everyone else on the plane was watching too because when the US scored the only goal of the game, the flight erupted into cheers and applause.

I rented a car when I arrived, since LA is such a car town, and made the very short drive out to Venice. Jase's place was unbelievable - just what I imagined it would be, and you could actually see the ocean as you walked up the block to his place. I was starving, so Jeeves and I went to Lula's, a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica, where we had some super yummy and fresh enchiladas. Jeeves and I then went for a very long walk from the the restaurant to the fishing pier down by the canals.

And this brings me to one of my first negative comments about LA - the smog. You can't tell from this picture, but there are very beautiful mountains in the distance... almost completely obscured by the famous smog. It's a shame, and it was true of almost every vista we saw, except for Malibu. It's just another issue I have with LA's car dependence.

That evening, Jase picked us up and the three of us went to Father's Office, a well-known bar and restaurant.
The tap list was great, and the burgers were exceptional. Nom nom nom.

Speaking of burgers, the next day Jeeves and I went to In-N-Out for lunch. It was my first time there, and I have to say that while it was pretty damn great for a fast food burger - far, far superior to McDonald's, Wendy's or Burger King, it wasn't better than say, Shake Shack. I guess I was expecting a thicker burger, but it was skinny just like the other chains' burgers. Still very tasty. And though I did not get the burger animal style, we did get the fries animal style. Yummy.
Next up, we drove to Burbank for the Warner Bros. studio tour. I had read in my guide book that this was the best and least cheesy of the studio tours. I am a huge movie and TV fan and it seemed silly to come all the way out to LA and not see a studio. The tour was completely fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Super informative, and you just get to see a ton of cool stuff, like Heath Ledger's Joker costume from The Dark Knight, a Harry Potter museum, and the last standing set from Casablanca. There was a lot of Gilmore Girls stuff too, since that was filmed on the studio lot. That evening we had a big fancy dinner planned to thank Jase for having us, but I'll save that for another post, along with our visit to Griffiths Observatory, Mulholland Drive, Malibu, and my celebrity sighting of the trip.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The days are just packed

I realize that I am describing last weekend... hopefully next week I'll get around to describing this weekend a little sooner.

No matter how tough work is, there's always the weekend. Last week was exhausting for me as far as work was concerned. I worked late every day, and got in early. When my assignment that had to be done by Friday was finally finished at 4:45 that afternoon, I knew I would be getting out of there promptly at 5:30, and I would *not* be thinking about it again for the next two days.

Saturday Jeeves and I hopped the train out to New Jersey to visit my pops. I worry about how my dad eats, so as I usually do on my visits to Jers, I planned to cook several large batches of food for him. To that end, Jeeves and I hit the Fairway in Paramus. Fairway, you are the grocery store love-of-my-life. Sadly, the experience was a little less fun than usual because they were remodeling. It was very difficult to find just about everything and there were so many people there, I felt about ready to throw elbows. So we got out of there as quick as we could.

I then got to enjoy cooking in my dad's very nice kitchen - wiener schnitzel and meatloaf. Hey, don't look at me - that's what he asked for! He likes to take the wiener schnitzel and put some anchovies and an egg on it, thus turning it into schnitzel a la Holstein. I then cooked dinner for the three of us, left a big mess for Dad to clean, and then Jeeves and I took the train back to the city.

When we got home, we couldn't figure out what to do for the evening. Eventually we settled on Smith and Mills, a very small bar and restaurant on N. Moore Street. The place occupies a former carriage house and it is tiny. There are only about 8 seats at the bar and about 8 tables in the room. In order to sit at a table, you have to be eating, which we were too stuffed to do. But we ordered our drinks and stood about. Now, when I am in a crowded bar, restaurant, whatever, I get very competitive about snatching seats. I eye everyone with a seat and try to figure out who will be leaving first. Then I position myself right near them, and as soon as they start to move, I pounce! Frankly, it's a little stressful, especially when I get into a staring contest with someone else who is doing the same thing I am. But in the end, it worked out and we got a great seat at the bar. My Old Fashioned was not traditional - there was actually a lot of seltzer in it, and some fruit that isn't traditionally in an Old Fashioned. But it was delicious and refreshing on such a hot night. And that's the thing. I'm not so sure that Smith and Mills is air-conditioned. It got pretty sticky and uncomfortable, especially as more people poured into the tiny space. So Jeeves and I decided to move on to The Brandy Library for another libation.

But when we got to the Brandy Library, there was actually a sign on the door that said "We are at capacity." I kid you not. The host couldn't be bothered to turn people away in person? Weird. Jeeves was tempted to go in anyway, but I figured why bother with a place that doesn't want us? Especially when Ward III is so close by.

Ward III has definitely become my favorite nice cocktail bar lately. I love the set up - a few small sitting areas in the front, the long bar that runs along the wall, and then a back area filled with more proper tables. They have some funky cocktails that are their own concoction, but in my opinion, they really shine when making classic cocktails. Their Manhattan may be the best in Manhattan that I have tried, and that's saying something. But what I really love about it is the staff. The bartenders are friendly but not snobby. And the waitresses (not trying to be sexist here, but I've only ever been waited on by women at Ward III) always go out of their way to find me a table. It's not that I'm special, or a regular - it's just how they are. While the decor can sometimes make this place seem a little too cool for school, and the hipster doing the tunes selection looked like he just got off the L train, I have never felt anything but 100% welcomed when I walked in the door. And that's even when I have walked in wearing sneakers and jeans - most of the clientele is wearing decidedly nicer duds than I usually am. But it's no matter.

Anyway, we finished off our Saturday night at Ward III and that was the end to a very fun and full day.

On Sunday, it was World Cup time. We had stupidly decided to host a little get-together at the last minute. I always like having people over, but not necessarily when I haven't had time to properly clean my apartment. And what about snacks? We needed snacks! It all worked out in the end thanks to the very speedy tidying skills of Jeeves and we had a lot of fun watching with some of Jeeves' law school friends. Well, at least it was fun to have the company... the game itself was pretty dullsville until Spain finally scored a goal in extra time.

After everyone left, we headed to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. Shockingly, it wasn't for anything lawyerly, but for a concert of the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Poly-Rythmo is an afro-beat (and funk, and vodun, and soukous) band from Benin - they've been making music since the 1960s, and they have played all over Africa and in Europe, but last Sunday was the first time they played North America. They. were. amazing. Seriously, so full of joy, and I just don't know how you can hear their music and not want to dance. It was a great show.

When we finally straggled back down to Tribeca, we were both a little hungry, but still kind of bloated from all the snacks we had during the World Cup final. So we were in the mood for something light, but it being past 10, we were limited in our options. I suggested that we try The Odeon, which is super close to our apartment. We had never been there before. We both ordered BLTs, and I learned that Jeeves had never had a proper BLT before! Four and a half years together, and I still learn interesting things about my fella on a regular basis. The BLT was super - crisp bacon, thick tomatoes, fresh lettuce, served on a warm baguette. Yummy. But the best part was the awesome fingerling potato salad with grainy mustard. I want that recipe. We finished our meal by splitting a root beer float with Odeon's homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was a great weekend, and packed full of fun things. This weekend has been much quieter, and other than a few good recipes, will not warrant such a long post. I enjoy both types of weekends, the busy and the quiet. As long as they are filled with people I love and things I like to do, it's all good and it makes getting through the work week a little bit easier.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

In which I am reminded that work is for suckers...

Late last year, I decided that I really, really could no longer stand to be a lawyer. I had thought about trying to get a sweet government law job, but every time I sent out my resume, there was a deafening silence. I mean, I didn't even get rejection letters. So I decided that I would get my social work license and apply to Americorps for one year of indentured servitude. While I was in the midst of that process, a good friend whom I had worked with before (who shall remain nameless in an attempt to keep us both anonymous) told me about an opening in the government agency that he worked for in New York City.

I had been planning to move in with Jeeves in January, so this seemed like something I should consider. After all, it wasn't that I was totally opposed to being a lawyer, right? It's just that I didn't want to bill my life away, wanted to leave work at 5:30 every day, wanted a significant reduction in my stress levels, right? Right? That's all true. What I had forgotten to take into account was that I actually really hate the whole ridiculous fighting over stupid stuff that comes with being a litigator. I enjoy the intellectual pursuit of an argument with friends or family. And I love research and writing. But so little of what I find enjoyable actually happens in litigation. To me, so much of litigation is bickering over dates and documents.

Anyway, I submitted my resume for the position. I got an interview, and I nailed it. I knew I was super qualified for this job, and the idea of working with/for an old friend seemed like it would be great fun. I got the job offer a few days later, and didn't hesitate to accept it. I started in the winter, and at first, things started off pretty great. I have an amazing office-mate, it was fun to work for my old friend, the work was maybe not rocket science, but interesting enough. There were things I didn't like about it, but it seemed like such a huge improvement over firm life.

In early May, The Powers That Be (as I will call my bosses from now on, or TPTB for short) instituted mandatory overtime for attorneys. We now had to work 5-10 extra hours per week. Sure, sure we got *paid* for it, but I had already left a job where I was paid generously - I don't care about the money. I want my evenings to myself. At first they said this would just be till the end of June. But now we're in July and mandatory overtime continues. Then, about six weeks ago, my old friend announced that he was transitioning from his position as our supervisor to a regular old attorney position, just like the rest of us. TPTB decided they wanted someone with more managerial experience in his position, and in any event, my poor friend was so stressed and fried from the supervisor position that he was actually relieved to be a straight up attorney again.

For the rest of us in the department, things got tough. No longer having my friend as our buffer, we had to answer (or attempt to get answers/clearance) to TPTB. Dear Reader, to say that this has been an unpleasant experience would be like saying the LOL Cats are just a little funny. On top of having to endure regular painful meetings, I have gotten the sense that The Powers That Be want to change the way this governmental unit works. In other words, instead of my sweet 9-5 gig where I have no problem running out for lunch with a friend, they'd like us to work late every night, weekends, and scarf down lunch in 5 minutes at our desk. At least, that's the only thing I can figure based on this continued mandatory overtime and the absurd, absurd amount of work that has been dumped on me and my office mate.

Right now, this job is actually worse than working at the firms I was at before, where at least my opinion was somewhat respected, and managers didn't look at me suspiciously when I assured them I have a lot of work on my plate. I am thinking that now may be the time for me to respectfully bow out of the law, having given it my best shot. But until I figure out where to next, wish me luck.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Neighborhood

This is the view from my window in my new(ish) apartment. I've lived here over two months now, so I can't say that it's, *that* new, but whatever. Jeeves lived on the Upper East Side for 8 years (with a one year break in there when he lived in New Haven). I joined him there in January. We knew we weren't going to stay there when his lease expired in May. UES is really not nearly as cool as they make it seem on Gossip Girl. Case in point - whenever the Gossip Girl kids go out on the town, they leave the UES. And that is because the UES is boring. There's not much in the way of interesting food, the bars are pretty terrible and fratty, and there's only one subway line that runs through it. On a positive note, we were very close to the Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And by the by, we almost never went to either of those places. I don't mean to totally rag on the UES. When Jeeves and I first started dating, I kind of loved it there. And we had a great local bistro called Jacques. And on the rare occasion we could get someone to come visit us, we'd go to the Heidelberg, one of the last remnants of old Yorkville. And then there was the Two Little Red Hens Bakery. But when we wanted to go out with friends, we always left. And the other thing about the UES is how damn far it was from just about everything we wanted to do. We frequently took cabs because unless we left the apartment 45 minutes to an hour before we had to be somewhere, we'd be late.

When I moved in to the city in January, I started to notice things about the UES that I really didn't like. The grocery stores were terrible. In most areas in Manhattan you can find a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's, and if you're very lucky - a Fairway. But not so on the UES. A super crummy D'Agostino and an okayish Food Emporium were the best we could do. Blerg. And it seemed so crowded in the subway - I later learned that the 4/5/6 line is the second most crowded subway line in the city after the L train. And every block looked the same up there - walking was so boring, and there just was no cohesive neighborhood feel. And every single store was a big chain. Where were all these independent stores I had heard about? Why was there three Duane Reades and a CVS within 2 blocks of each other? These feelings about NYC only got worse when, less than a month after I had moved in, we discovered we had bed bugs thanks to an old man in our building who likes to bring things in off the street. If you thought I was feeling a little down on the city before, man you ain't seen nothing after that nightmare. I missed Jersey so very much. But that is a story for another time. Jeeves and I decided that while you cannot run away from bed bugs, we would do everything our pest control guy said to do, and we would also start looking for a new home a little faster. After all, even if we got rid of our bugs, we knew the old man downstairs wouldn't stop bringing stuff in off the street and it would only be a matter of time before we had them again.

But where to? One place that we both loved was Tribeca, and the real estate crash suddenly made it seem like we could maybe afford it. I personally find talking about my experience with brokers and what not rather dull. So I will just say that we looked a lot in Tribeca, but the stuff we could afford that was really in the heart of the neighborhood was.... meh. One apartment was as dark as a dungeon, and another had a sad little kitchen with an electric range. We also looked at a few spots in the Village (a 6th floor walk-up that was teeny tiny, another place over a restaurant), Union Square, Gramercy Park, and NoLIta. We bother really liked NoLIta, but nothing we saw there was right for us. When we did find the "right" spot in Tribeca, they told us right before signing the lease that they technically don't allow cats, but we could probably sneak one it. No thanks.

One day after that debacle when I was feeling especially hopeless and tired (having bed bugs pretty much ruins sleep for you), Jeeves found an ad on Craigslist. A couple who had recently bought a place in Brooklyn wanted to break their lease on a lovely apartment with lots of closet space in a doorman building near Tribeca. Their landlord said they could break the lease if they found new tenants. It was actually in a building that we had looked longingly at from the street, but we had been told there were no vacancies.
The apartment was everything we wanted.

Naturally because we had to complicate things, we looked at an apartment in the
Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn. I love Dumbo - I think it's one of the prettiest neighborhoods in the entire city. And the apartment.... well, it was enormous - 1000 sq ft with beautiful sliding windows, hardwood floors, basement storage, and the most ridiculous kitchen I have seen in a New York apartment. But after a lot of soul searching, we realized Dumbo wasn't right for us, at least not now. No major grocery stores, a long walk to a pharmacy, a ten minute walk to a subway line that frequently has problems. If our goal was to live in a place where we wouldn't be out of the way, then Dumbo was not the place for us.

So, we went with the apartment on the edge of Tribeca. It's really on the edge of Tribeca, Chinatown, Civic Center, and Soho. At first I thought not being squarely in Tribeca might suck. On the contrary, it's been so great to just walk out the door and stroll to the Uniqlo in Soho, or grab a cheap dinner at Joe's in Chinatown. And we're so close to every subway!
But what I am really loving about my new neighborhood (and really, I do feel like my neighborhood is Tribeca, since that is where I spend the majority of my time) is that it feels like a neighborhood. I don't know if it's the fact that the architecture is all low rise so I can still see the sky, or that I can't wait until Tribeca Citizen posts the happenings at the Community Board meeting, or that there are so many little independent stores, but also a nice big Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods. Maybe it's that the people in the pet food store where I shop all know me. But I do know that I am enjoying my new home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More veggies than you can shake a stick at

I moved into the city in January. It's been a bit of a transition for me. But one of the things I was most excited about when I moved in was joining a CSA. "CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, a group of people get together and decide they will pay an area farmer up front for produce that the farmer will then provide through the season. Every week, you pick up your share, and the farmer provides whatever is fresh and in season that week.

When my dad got sick last year, I started to get really serious about eating more vegetables. I decided to take the Bittman challenge and not eat meat during the day at all. Unlike Bittman, who is a "Vegan before 6," the best I can do is be a "Vegetarian before 6." That part is easy. The part that is tough for me is the no dairy. I really, really like a yogurt or a yogurt smoothie in the morning. And I really, really want cheese at lunch.

Anyway, I digress. I have a friend who signed up for the Paisley Farms CSA for a winter share last year. It sounded amazing. So when they announced they would have a pick up site right near me for their summer share, I wrote out my check and eagerly waited for June 9th to role around. The first week went fine - we got radishes, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, rapini, mizzuna, turnips, and maybe something else that I can't remember now. I met my site coordinator, and he told me he was going to be away on vacation for a couple of weeks, but someone would fill in for him.

This week, I dragged myself up the stairs (elevator is broken at the pick-up site, otherwise there would be no Megs slogging up 5 flights of stairs), walked over to the veggie bins, only to discover.... a single head of lettuce and one bag of dried black beans. What? Yeah. A gentleman who got there a few minutes before me was in the same boat. All the other beautiful veg were gone! No kale for me! No cucumbers!!!! The ditz who was running the show couldn't understand what had happened. But as she explained it, the list she had was for 11 people, and they had only gotten 7 of each thing. So me and my new tall friend were SOL.

I wrote a somewhat snotty e-mail to the farm, wanting to know how they intended to rectify the situation. The next day I got a phone call from the farmer, Mike. Mike assured me that there are only 7 people on the list for the site, that they had provided enough for us, PLUS two extra servings in an attempt to encourage other people at the office to sign up. His best guess was that the girl covering for our coordinator just let her office mates go nuts or something. He then offered to drop my share off at my apartment building the next day.

Today when I got home, I found three boxes waiting for me. They had sent me a double share with stuff that was different (and in my opinion, way cooler) than what I had missed at the site - fresh garlic! And two beautiful potted basil plants. And kale, radishes, romaine, red leaf lettuce, MORE dried black beans, cooking greens (I think it's tatsoi, but I'm not sure), beets(!), turnips, zucchini, and cucumbers. Amazing!

I'm going on vacation to LA next week, and Jeeves has already left on our vacation, so there's no way I can eat all this stuff myself. But I suspect that some friends and family will be very excited when I roll in with all this produce. Hooray for my CSA!

The Return

I'm trying out this writing thing again. It's been one of those weeks.

Dear friend G, who regular readers from this blog many years ago will remember, started her own blog about food. And things got tough at the new job, where I work with another old friend. And that friend said to me, "well, as someone once said, 'work is for sucker.'" I missed my blog.

I won't be able to blog at work, sadly - it's just too chaotic there. But I hope that now that I have good internet connectivity at home, I'll be able to make this a habit again.