Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Little Gardening of Our Own

In keeping with the Spring-theme, I thought I would share with you all my own gardening experience today. I went to Westchester to visit my sister to hang out, do a little wedding prep, and get some errands done. One of the errands including planting the seedlings my sister has been growing in her condo. She had planted tomatoes, parsley, baby's breath, and lettuce (random, I know).

Clearly, the seedlings on the very right were not doing so well...

I was in charge of planting the impatiens her fiance had bought.

Finished product...

Needless to say, we worked hard!

We had a bunch of lettuce seedlings left over, so we decided to plant them at the edge of yard so other people can enjoy them. I tried planting them in the middle of the lawn, but was told very sternly that that was NOT a good idea... But how funny would it have been for someone to discover lettuce in the middle of the yard?! Anybody? Anybody??

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Neighborhood

Since it was such a nice day today, I decided to forego the gym and instead take a walk around my neighborhood. Because I moved in mid-November, I didn't have time to really explore the neighborhood since it was so cold out. Tonight, I headed over to Sunnyside Gardens which is known as one of America's first planned communities and was constructed in 1924. It's a residential block that has brick row houses of two and a half stories, and has front and rear gardens. The landscaped central court is shared by all of the residents. It basically looks like a suburb - quiet, cute, and lots of vegetation. I took some pictures of flowers and such but it really doesn't capture the beauty of the area. I guess you'll just have to come visit me!

You can see one of the brick houses in the background...

And here is Laura's garden. I love the variety of colors! One day I will have a garden this cute.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Popover Cafe

I met one of my Explo friends for dinner on Friday at one of my favorite brunch places, Popover Cafe, on 86th and Amsterdam. I ate here frequently in college and it's always worth the trip back up there.

What's wonderful about this place is that the salads are ALWAYS fresh and they use organic, cage-free chicken, so you can feel good about what you're eating. Also, their brunch menu is vast and most come with a popover, which is a puffed up egg-y roll that is hollow inside. This is what it looks like:

It comes with a delicious strawberry butter and is always warm inside. Yum! So this is what I started with... Because I was running a race the next morning, I wanted to make sure I had some carbs but I was more in the mood for vegetables, so I ordered the "Kathleen's Vegetarian Avocado Melt" which had avocado, mushroom, tomato, watercress, melted gruyere and russian dressing on whole grain bread with a side of pasta salad (yay carbs!).

As you can see, it was a very colorful sandwich with the perfect combination of fresh veggies. It was DELICIOUS, but if I had just one complaint, it would be that I wished the mushrooms would have been cooked a bit because the texture didn't seem to jive with the rest of the ooey gooey sandwich. It also kept spilling out of my sandwich, which was not attractive. However, overall, it was definitely worth it!

17 Again

On Wednesday night, after Pink and I met at Pinkberry to have our favorite meal (yes, meal) and catch up on life, we decided to go see "17 Again."

We had gone to see "Confessions of a Shopaholic" a few weeks ago and had seen this preview that had us both laughing out loud. We are also both fans of Matthew Perry and of course, who doesn't love a little Zac Efron? I had had a rough work week so it was the perfect distraction from life.

The premise is that Matthew Perry's character who is thirty-something is disappointed with the way his life has progressed and blames his unhappiness on a key moment in his life where he left behind a college scholarship to be with his future wife. Seventeen years after that moment, he has a chance to do it all over...but in his 17 year old form. He returns to highschool to relive the glory days and also comes to terms with the reality of his current life.

There are several HILARIOUS moments and Zac Efron surprisingly embodies Matthew Perry really convincingly. I guess he studied up on Friends. All-in-all, it was a cute movie but I would wait until it came out on DVD. I also will say, I appreciated all of the Lord of the Rings references as well. And Zac Efron. Not gonna lie...

You can check out Readerbean's (Pink's) review to see what she has to say!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vespa & Smorgas

Tonight, Penn, Smiles and I decided to treat ourselves to a ladies night out on the Upper East Side after a trying week at work. Smiles recommended a cute little Italian restaurant called Vespa that served homemade pasta. What a better way to reward yourself than with carbs?

The restaurant itself, which is on 84th and Second, was very cute. It was a narrow space but with mood lighting and soft music, it didn't seem claustrophobic at all. The manager came around with a plate of different kinds of homemade pasta they were serving, all of which looked...homemade. We could identify what everything was, except I was wondering what made the black linguine black? hm....

We started with the artichoke special, which none of us really knew how to eat, but dug into with gusto.

The middle was filled with breadcrumbs, garlic, olives and drizzled with olive oil and possibly butter.

I ordered the gnocchi with basil and parsley pesto, gorgonzola and walnut.

The gnocchi itself was a little soft, but with the pesto and creamy gorgonzola, it tasted smooth and delicious. The walnut sprinkled on top were a lovely surprise. I wasn't sure how it would all taste together, but the extra crunch was really satisfying. I'm not one to mix textures of food, but I have to say, this was a winning combination.

And of course, all of this was complemented by a glass of red wine. :)

After thoroughly stuffing ourselves with lovely pasta, we walked about thirty blocks to Smorgas for dessert. Smiles and I had gone to the one on Stone Street near our work a couple months ago and had an absolutely delicious meal that came with waffles for dessert. Yum! We were definitely craving something sweet after our dinner tonight, so we walked off a few calories and set our sights on waffles once again. When we had the Scandanavian Soft Vanilla Waffles on Stone Street, it came with three different sauces but the midtown restaurant served it with whipped cream and fruit preserves.

I went for the Queensberry preserves which is a mix of blueberries and raspberries.

You can also get it with Cloudberry which is a lighter colored berry that resembles a raspberry but is a little sweeter. Needless to say, it was DElicious and satisfying. It was wonderfully chewy but because it's pretty thin, it didn't feel too heavy. I had enough dairy for one night so I nixed the whipped cream, but it was still delightful. You can tell it came straight from the waffle maker because it was still warm and a little mis-shapen. We paired our dessert with a peach apricot tea that came in this cute little teapot...

With the company of wonderful friends, I can say that it was a most enjoyable and delicious night. I definitely recommend both restaurants!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yo In Yo Out

Last Sunday, I ran a 4-mile race in Central Park with my lovely friends, Fanta and Star. While I can't say my run was particularly enjoyable, thinking about my next meal certainly kept me motivated to cross the finish line.

My best friend, Doctor, lives in Yorkville so her and her boyfriend met the three of us for brunch at one of their favorite restaurants in East Harlem. It's a little French cafe/restaurant called Yo In Yo Out and it's located on 1569 Lexington Ave. between 100th and 101st Street.

Let me just say, not only was the food delicious, the service fabulous, but it was SO affordable! It's a mid-sized restaurant with some couches by the windows and seating on the other side. There's also a counter with a register and a view of the delicious-looking pastries they serve.

I ordered a crepe with prociutto and mozzarella and it came with a side salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The crepe was pretty substantial and not as light as I have had them in the past, but as it was breakfast/brunch, I thoroughly appreciated the extra protein and eggy texture. The coffee was also delicious and only ONE DOLLAR with free refills, of course. Heaven!!! They have what looks like homemade sugar cubes on the table as well, which I had to indulge in. I can fully respect cafes that don't have fake sugar on their tables. Nobody needs those chemicals...

Doctor got her favorite crepe with mushrooms, goat cheese, and something else, and it was DIVINE! I think I liked it better than my entree, actually. Other dishes my friends got were: crepe with Nutella and bananas (smelled delish!), chocolate croissant, chocolate muffin, and bagel with a whole lotta lox. I didn't taste all of them but they all got good reviews! My crepes were $8 and with a $1 coffee, you really can't go wrong. I will definitely be going back very soon! :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tenement Museum

On Friday, my friend Smiles and I went to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. They didn't have a walking tour, which we were really interested in, but instead, we went on a new tour called "The Moores: An Irish Family in America".

We started our tour across the street at 108 Orchard at the gift shop and were lead to to the building across the street (on the left). Our tour guide, unfortunately, was less than informative and a bit on the condescending side, but we were able to get little nuggets of information from him.

Once we were inside the building, we were told that the building was originally closed because the staircase wasn't up to firecode - hence making it into a museum. There was also severe water damage, so the museum restored most of it for tours. We went up a steel staircase in the back of the building and went to the fourth floor, where the Moores had lived.

We were immediately led into an unrestored room with a couple of benches and a screen where we listened to old Irish songs about the lifestyle of the Irish in New York City in the late 1880s. The songs probably would have been more meaningful had our tour guide been educated on the subject, but alas, he wasn't. Regardless, there was a song called "The Irish Need Not Apply" and told the story of how there was such a huge influx of Irish at the time (and a stigma) that it wasn't uncommon to see job postings with those words on it.

Then we went into a restored three-room apartment building and were told that although the Moores were Irish, they lived in a heavily German neighborhood, which is surprising since the rent in the German area is much higher than, Five Points, where most Irish resided at the time. Our tour guide speculated that it was because he was a waiter and made a lot of money, but really, who knows... The guide attempted to paint a picture of this family of five who had a young baby who died at five months. He then speculated that it was because they fed her a lot of milk that was contaminated and didn't have access to doctors because they were so poor. Blah blah. I mean, is this guy a historian or a tour guide?! Instead of rehashing his spiel that I don't even believe unless he shows me some concrete proof, I will tell you the "nuggets of information" that I do believe and were interesting....

-The milk that the poorer families received made many children sick because the milk from the outer boroughs took at least two days to get to Manhattan, and were distributed on the upper part of the island first and then after another day, came to the poorer neighborhoods. By then, the milkman would water down the milk and then, because it didn't really look like milk, would put chalk into the milk and then chemicals like ammonia were mixed in to hide the smell. the death rate of children in the area were astronomical due in large part, to this fact.
-Very often, Boss Tweed would come to funerals in the families' homes and pay for part of the expensive funeral in exchange for, of course, votes.
-There was a health code in the early 1900s that said that every room an apartment had to have a window so most often, landlords would put a window between the rooms instead of leading to the outside since they would just be looking at either a brick wall or someone else's apartment, since the tenement buildings were built right next to each other. These windows between rooms still were beneficial because it would bring light and air through the apartment.

I would definitely recommend visiting the museum because it's a very integral part of New York City history. I just hope you don't get the tour guide we did. Hopefully I'll be able to go on a walking tour and see all different kinds of tenement buildings and learn more about the history of the area in general and not just specifically about a hypothetical Irish family that lived like no other Irish family lived...

And of course, it's always interesting (for me anyway) to learn how poorer people lived and made do. It's like walking into a huge dollhouse, which is cool in it's own right.