Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Feast Menus

  (via Life)

The school year is fast approaching. It's time for our annual end of summer celebration dinner! These are the menus I put together for Peter to chose from. I thought I'd share just in case you need a few late summer dinners in your back pocket!

Option 1: 
Option 2: 
Option 3:
Which would you chose?! I think I might just have to make them all in the next few weeks. Who wants to come over for dinner?

      Tuesday, August 30, 2011

      NYC: Park Slope favorites

      We lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan for our first year as New Yorkers, but Park Slope was our home for the following years. This final list in the NYC series is a collection of favorite spots close to our former home.

      Al Di La: This place presented a major obstacle when facing off against our NYC to-do list. Instead of going to new places, we kept going back to Al Di La. Every time, I'd think, "It can't possibly be as good as I remember." And it was always way better.

      Bergen Bagel: This was our go-to spot to grab a bag of bagels to bring to hosts when we headed out of town.

      Boat House in Prospect Park: The Boat House was a bit of a hike from our old apartment, but it was through those very wild sections of the park that make you feel like you're really in the woods. And then, you emerge at the darling boat house! With ducks and a patio and a weird museum exhibit upstairs! 

      Brooklyn Larder: They are always so generous with cheese samples, so be indecisive! You'll just have to trust me on the cured meats, prepared salads, fancy candy, and awesome hot sauce.

      Convivium: The meat and cheese platter here is crazy good, and large enough to be meal in itself (throw in a salad and some huge green olives and you'll be a happy camper!).

      Flatbush Farm: This was a favorite Friday night spot when we were both sort of puddles after the week came to a close. I loved their version of a dark and stormy, and the burger and fries are super. 

      Park Slope Farmer's Market: Open on Sundays on Fifth Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. This market is much smaller than the Grand Army Plaza market on Saturdays, but that's part of the appeal. The baked goods stall is fantastic -- they even sell delicious gluten-free scones and muffins!

      Taro Sushi: This is a really great neighborhood sushi place to have. I'm not saying it's necessarily worth the trip from another part of the city, but we absolutely loved having it just around the corner. It's really fresh and fast and reasonable.

      Thanks so much for letting me babble about NYC favorites these last few weeks! I had so much fun thinking about all the wonderful things we ate there :)

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Sewing project: Cheap, easy drapes

       My living room windows have been naked since we moved in more than a month ago, so when I saw an article in Fresh Home Ideas that featured drapes made out of sheets, the wheels in my brain started turning.

      I picked up a set of Queen sized sheets at Macys for the project.  The article said low thread-count sheets worked best, so I bought 200s (added bonus that low thread count sheets are always cheaper!). The flat sheets were 90 inches long and 102 inches wide. The 90 inches side was just long enough to touch my floor. I was able to get four panels from the flat sheet since each one was 50 inches wide (I wanted to make each panel as wide as my window so I would end up with drapes twice as wide when both panels are up).

      The fitted sheet was a little trickier to work with since I had to take out the elastic first. Once that was done, though, I just cut them down to size (50 inches by 90 inches) and hemmed all sides. For the top part that goes through the curtain rod, I just eye balled it and made a pocket about 1 1/2 inches down since my rods were pretty thin. (I'm a far cry from a perfectionist - this is just one of many examples!).

      Even after making six drape panels, I still had two pillow cases and a lot of fitted sheet material left over. I followed Elizabeth's amazing tutorial detailing how to make a bow pillow cover, and also a valance for my entry way (right off of the living room). Isn't that pillow adorable? I want to make one for every room in my house!  

      I have to brag just because I'm so proud of the thrift: the sheets were $45, and I got three sets of drapes, a valance and a cute pillow. Pretty good, right?

      P.S. Pictures upgraded thanks to my sister's fancy camera!

      Friday, August 26, 2011

      The Summer Book

      I heard a piece on Scandinavian books earlier this week and promptly headed to library to borrow a copy of The Summer Book. It hadn't been stamped out since 1983!

      I'm cruising through it, and want to recommend it as a fantastic end of summer read. It's a novel about a grandmother and her grand daughter Sophia, tracking the summers they spend on a small island off the coast of Finland.

      It's a fairly quiet book, in that the drama involves cats and learning to dive, storms and dealing with difficult visitors. That's the wonderful thing about summer, though. Swimming and thunder and magical woods get to take center stage, and the big stuff is left for a cooler day in Autumn.

      Wednesday, August 24, 2011

      NYC: Cheap eats

      When eating out in New York, we focused most of our attention on occasional fancy places, but sometimes, you just want to go out and have someone else make you a meal. These were a few of our favorite inexpensive spots!

      Bark Hot Dogs: This was right around the corner from our old apartment. It's a nice combination of hip, eco-friendly and creative. Peter loved their crispy pork sandwich.

      Caracas Arepas: We had such a great time here, I'm still sad we only discovered it just before our move. The wait can be long, but it's totally worth it! Go get a frosting shot from Butter Lane afterward, okay?

      Chip Shop: Kitschy and festive and filled with authentic British treats. We had fancy British soda, fish and chips and fried candy bars, and loved every deep fried second of it.

      Eataly: This place can be a little overwhelming, but I think it's a great spot to take visitors for lunch. There are so many yummy choices, and browsing through all the lovely Italian food-stuff is such a treat.

      Family Store: Located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, I know this one is a bit off the beaten path for most. It's worth the trek, though, I promise! They make amazing hummus, stuffed grape leaves, homemade yogurt and baklava. We would get an assortment of all different salads and sides and have a couple bites of each.

      Pete's Waterfront Ale House: Peter offered to write up this little description, but I feared he would gush too long -- he really loves this place! It's a fantastic bar that serves free popcorn, lots of different kinds of beer, yummy pub food, and has a seriously amazing staff. We were both in love with Mary, the super sweet bartender who works on Friday nights.

      Red Hook Ball Fields: Dirt cheap tacos, pupusas, plantain chips, grilled corn and fresh juice.

      Tom's: We're not super into brunch, but I inherited a soft spot for diners from my Dad. They've got crazy decorations everywhere, a giant menu, and they'll bring you coffee while you're waiting in line for a table.

      I know I've probably missed some great ones -- where do you go for cheap, fun meals in NYC?

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      NYC: Fancy meals

      One of the difficult things about creating a restaurant list for a city like New York is that almost immediately, the list is out of date. It's not that you can no longer eat at those particular restaurants, but that, very quickly, there will be new, better places you'd like to try instead.

      Even though I know that's the case, I'd still like to present a little list of favorite spots in the city -- things we enjoyed during our time there that I would recommend (at least for the moment!) to friends. First up are celebration spots. Enjoy!

      Fancy meals: 

      Applewood: Serene setting, good cocktail list, and I know this will sound strange, but everything tastes fresh and buttery at the same time. Perfect combo, no?

      Chestnut: Two nights a week, they run a deal that's $25 for three courses, so this place can be super reasonable if you plan right. It's also home to my favorite dessert ever: chocolate budino.

      Colicchio and Sons: We ate in the tap room a couple of times, and were always so impressed with the service and food. The bone marrow is definitely worth trying, if you're into that sort of thing.

      Eleven Madison Park: At the end of this meal -- by far the most expensive dining experience of our entire lives -- we left feeling like it was not only worth it, but actually an amazing deal. This is the pinnacle of celebration spots.

      Gramercy Tavern: Eat in the bar room and you'll get to enjoy all those incredible, over-sized floral arrangements they've got scattered around. The food is spot on, and there's an amazing cheese selection. We actually tracked down a cheese we had there and served it at our wedding!

      Gennaro: This is a step down from some of the truly fancy spots on this list, but it is a great little Italian spot on the Upper West Side. It's one of the only things that could draw us back up to our old neighborhood. Cash only.

      Jack the Horse Tavern: We had a drink here the night we got engaged, so this place has a sentimental value. But the food is fantastic, and the restaurant itself is very charming. They serve one of my favorite salads with smoked trout, red grapes and a creme fraiche and horseradish dressing (!).

      Peter Lugar: Everyone who loves steak knows this place is worth visiting. It's casual, and the service can be a bit coarse, but the steak! Oh my. Cash only, unless you have Peter Lugar credit card :)

      Prune: Simple food, with excellent execution. A nearly perfect Friday night date spot.

      I know you all have excellent taste in food and restaurants. What are your favorite celebration spots, in NYC or elsewhere? I'd love to hear!

      Friday, August 19, 2011

      Lovely, lazy August

      (Crystal Lake in Newton)

      We're heading to Maine this weekend for one last summer hurrah. I'm hoping we'll be able to swing by Portland for some duck fat fries :)

      I had a hard time picking a book to take on this little trip, and finally settled on a Benjamin Black mystery. That kind of reading doesn't appeal to me so much during the rest of the year, but it feels so right in the summer.

      Hope you have a lovely, lazy August weekend!

      Thursday, August 18, 2011

      House tour: The backyard

      I'm going to start the house tour with one of my favorite places: the back yard! I can take no credit for the lovely state it's in; our landlord is an excellent gardener. But luckily we are invited to reap the benefits of her labor!

      Look at that basil! I pull giant handfuls off almost every day, and it still looks like a beast.

      Someday I'm sure we'll be in charge of our own lawn and garden. For now, it's absolutely amazing to not lift a finger and just enjoy the space!

      Tuesday, August 16, 2011

      Grilled peach salad with prosciutto and herbs

      I have never had access to a grill before (not counting visits home to my parent's houses), so since the move, I've been a bit grill-crazy. I spent so many years ignoring the summer grilling issue of food magazines that it feels completely novel to tune into them and actually try some of the recipes.

      That being said, please don't feel like this salad is reserved for the grill-owners among us! The peaches could be cooked quickly inside on a grill or cast iron pan, and I even think it would be pretty amazing if they were thinly sliced and served on top uncooked.

      Grilled peach salad with prosciutto and herbs
      Adapted from House Beautiful

      You will need:

      1/8 cup olive oil
      1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
      2 peaches, halved and pitted
      2 slices prosciutto,  cut into small pieces
      3 cups lettuce or arugula
      1/4 chopped mixed fresh mint, parsley and basil
      Juice of 1/2 lime
      1/4 cup crumbled soft goat cheese

      Heat grill (or grill pan) to medium. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil with balsamic vinegar and brush into cut side of peaches. Grill, cut side down, about three minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard peach skins.

      In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat and cook prosciutto until crispy, about 2 minutes.

      Combine lettuce, herbs, remaining olive oil, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste in a large salad bowl. Chop the peaches into large chunks and add to the salad. Scatter the crispy prosciutto and goat cheese crumbles on top.

      Monday, August 15, 2011

      State of awe

      After being gone for a few weeks, I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to begin. 

      Let's start with the most basic: we have moved to Boston! We've been here for about a month now, but were away on vacation for two weeks, so it still feels very new. I love our apartment and cute little neighborhood so much. It still feels like we're on an extended home-away stay, actually. There's just so much space! So many free places to park! All the cocktails seem very inexpensive! I'm sure this state of awe won't last forever, so I'm trying to savor this glowy feeling about our new area for as long as possible.

      I've missed being here very much, and can't wait to get back to chatting about cooking and decorating and travel adventures. I've got a few recipes, a little house tour, a Martha's Vineyard travel guide and a fun sewing project all coming up!

      How is your summer going?! Read anything amazing? Are you eating your maximum quota of August ice cream? Tell me!

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