Heard It Through the Grapevine

I’m happy to report (hic!) that Fab has launched its first Winery Shop! Ever mindful of my violent nature if separated from “happy juice,” my editors suggested I write up the sale AND a wine tasting for the Fab blog. Then they backed away slowly and left me alone to do whatever it is I do (hic!).

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The Power of Language

We’re all currently experiencing the world in an utterly unique way. No one else knows exactly what we are thinking, but language provides a bridge for us to find points of commonality. It can give us the wonderful feeling of recognition that blooms during a good conversation. That feeling is what we mean when we say that something has touched us. For a brief moment, we are known. Someone else understands us, and it feels good.

I believe in the power of language to connect us to each other and cultivate our knowledge of the world. At the end of the day, brand identity is really about getting to the heart of who you are and what you want to achieve. Let’s have a conversation about that.

Berlin

Germans! I salute you.

Every time I travel, there is one defining moment that drives the point home for me: I am somewhere I’ve never been before, somewhere that is unlike any other place in time. In some cases, it’s immediate, like landing in Iceland and seeing the alien moonscape of the land beneath an eerie neon deep blue sky. At other times, it takes a few days, like when I stepped out of a Tube station in London and looked straight up at Big Ben (which was renamed the Elizabeth Tower during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, btw… but good luck getting us Americans to call it that!).

Earlier this month, I flew to Berlin and then Edinburgh. Although I had a short list of must-haves for each city, my true goals would have appalled a type-A traveler. I was really there to relax, take enough pictures to make cool albums on Facebook, try new foods, and soak up precious face-time with good friends who are usually far, far away.

Doorway between Berlins.

My defining moment for Berlin came about 36 hours after I arrived at my friend M’s apartment. I’d spent most of my first full day there sleeping off an incredible wine-filled dinner at Katz Orange, followed by countless smoky scotches at a bar with an entire wall of seating that looked like high school bleachers. Sometime between scotch numbers 3 and 4, I was happily climbing all over those bleachers, hanging upside down on them, and squealing in pure delight.

When I woke up at about 4pm the next day, I crawled from M’s bedroom (I had weaseled my way in by saying I had to tell her pillow something important when M got up at a normal human hour in the morning) into the living room where she and E (my travel buddy for the Berlin portion of the trip) were curled up in blankets on the couch watching an entire season’s worth of Awkward and munching from three platters and one paper sack filled with croissants, rolls, German cold cuts, cheeses, sliced fruits, and bottles of wine and juice.

Breakfast in Bed.

“It’s the Breakfast in Bed,” M said.

“She ordered it while you were sleeping,” E added.

Good god, I loved them both so much! I’ll spare you full details of how I ate (“very much” and “with my hands and face” are probably descriptive enough). My defining moment for Berlin was seeing that spread, so European, and knowing it was delivered to M’s door. It felt familiar and yet foreign because of little touches like the neat packets of Nutella included with the condiments, as a staple instead of a special request, or the slices of headcheese, wonderfully translucent and studded with multi-colored specks of meat like some savory version of fruitcake, arranged on a platter with the other cold cuts like it was no big deal. And it wasn’t a big deal. Because I was in Berlin!

Warrior pose.

Lest you think I’m a depraved individual who spent the whole trip either drunk or hungover (not that I can disprove that statement), E and I did kick into tourist mode with trips to the Bauhaus Museum (incredible), an underground tunnel (where I fell in love with an interactive light installation) to see the Victory Column up close, Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Panoramapunkt, the East Side Gallery, Museum Island (where we chased off whiny gypsies with our New Yorker ‘tude), Berliner Dom, and the interactive DDR Museum (insane shit show, but fun enough that it was worth it).

We learned how to speak German, or rather, the Germans learned how to speak us. E and I would tack “platz” onto the end of most words and repeat what we were saying aggressively until the locals gave in. Success-platz!! Along the way, we ate currywurst, kebabs from Mustafa’s (worth the wait, especially after I realized I could openly drink a bottle of Malbec while on line), proper English fry-ups at East London, and really great sausage pizza at the Fab Berlin office.

Pop that Berliner Dom Perignon.

Pop that Berliner Dom Perignon.

Our last night together, the three of us indulged in an eight-course tasting menu at Horvath with the requisite too-many bottles of wine. I’d love to describe the two restaurant meals more fully, but for now, I’m still digesting everything we experienced. It’s safe to say that I enjoyed Berlin very much, and may just be persuaded by M to return in the summer when there’s hillside karaoke and a city full of strangers to embarrass myself in front of.

For now, I’ll say auf wiedersehen (platz!) and save the tale of Edinburgh (with two more amazing friends) for another day.

Band of Cheeseballs

cheese

You guys! Last night was epic, and not because I went out and got crazy. It actually started out pretty classy with a selection of fine cheeses and nibblies like quicos (fried corn kernels covered in dark chocolate and cocoa… my new favorite thing!) and Sangiovese salame. And yes, enough wine to make it a non-classy night, cuz what else would I do with some of my closest friends in the whole wide world?

What is it about people who get you? Like, really really get you? They allow you to relax and be yourself. Your weird ass wonderful self! I hope you know that feeling. If you don’t… I’ll have you over for cheese and wine someday to help you find it. You may end up wandering the streets with no pants and only one shoe, but hey! That’s life, baby.

Some things that still have me laughing today (through the hangover haze and cleaning jag):

When I brought out the heart-shaped napkins we’d gotten on a girl trip to Iceland (best bachelorette party ever!) and we all unfolded them and put them on our heads as pretty flower petal hats. And then bullied the one who didn’t until she gave in. And then pointed at her and laughed that she gave in. (Oh. Maybe we’re mean girls. Oops.)

Calling the wedge of Tomme Krayuse (a delightful raw cow’s milk cheese with soft, chewy texture and lovely full, yet mild flavor), Tom Cruise all night. And laughing that it was short.

Remembering the set of tiny forks and spoons that Mama Channypants gave me, and getting to eat while pretending we were giants.

Getting slapped away when I try to put my awesome massage vest on people.

The impromptu intervention about my Fab shopping habit when I show off my collection of gourmet salts (rosemary, lavender, and truffle, you guys!!). The abrupt ending to the intervention when I serve up a trio of popcorn made with the different flavored salts.

The ill-advised showing of my Tinder dating app, which leads to their drunken gleeful rejection of many, many guys who probably deserved better. Many. Umm. Seriously, ladies, do I get to date any of them??

I have to admit: it was scary when all three of the other girls (women? gals?) got married. In. The. Same. Year. (Maid of honor for all. Only in charge of bachelorette parties and first dance choreography. They know me so well.) Through most of our 20s, I was the one in a long-term relationship. That was MY thing. Yet, there I was: single, drinking champagne like a champ, and wondering if I’d be left out of “married people only” things.

Yeah, turns out there aren’t any married people only things. Just really amazing friends who didn’t change personalities (or drinking habits) just because they had super fun amazing weddings. (Oh, you didn’t get the invite? …this is awkward.) They’re still the ones who can turn a busy, stressful week into something wonderful, just by being there. I’m not religious, but I can recognize when I’m blessed beyond belief to have friends like these. And hey, maybe someday they’ll help me find that man who’ll wait patiently for me to come home at 3am after a night out with them!

Storm-Surfaced Thoughts

It’s funny how little New York changes in the midst of a major event. As I walked through the storm tonight, restaurants were open and full of calm diners, golden dining room light spilling out onto rain-darkened concrete through windowpanes and open doors.

True, the sidewalks were emptier than usual. The few pedestrians there were either made their way to the nearest subway (as I did), or stood tucked within the alcove of an unused doorway or underneath an overhang.

Tonight, New Yorkers were content to pause and look up at the alien sky, twitching with electricity and rolling grey clouds or, equally mesmerizing given the night, the sudden pockets of calm when stray raindrops would fall gently, innocently, as if to deny the sky’s previous bout of rage.

Despite all that, however, very little changed. The streets were full of blinking lights and rushing cars which seemed to rush even more because of the sound they made as their tires sliced through sheets of water on the road.

I could hear laughter and the satisfying clink of good, heavy silverware against plates of food, fading up as I neared each restaurant, crescendoing in a warm, loud rush, and then fading away again. Much like, now that I think about it, the patterns of the storm itself.

Good night. Be safe. Be snuggly.

The Road to Mulberry Project

Before living in New York, I imagined that everyone who lived there (here) automatically knew What To Do and Where To Go. Shows like Sex & the City made glittery promises of a nightlife filled with men and martinis. The first year I lived here, I actually lived in Hoboken. So I blamed the derth of glamorous invites on New Jersey (our nation’s favorite domestic scapegoat). By the second year, however, I had moved to a cozy five-floor walkup in Hell’s Kitchen and impatiently waited for my transformation into some sort of celebutante It Girl society fixture. I watched a lot of television while I waited.

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Many years later (last week), I finally got a taste of being hip and with it (phrases which those who are would never utter of course) when a benevolent friend invited me to sup at a speakeasy restaurant where she “knew the chef”. This was all imparted in a very cool, very nonchalant way. As expected, I ruined it by yelling, “Holy shit yeah, that’s so cool!!” and then trailing off into senseless gurgling. Luckily, said friend did not rescind her offer. And so it was, I got to dine (devour) a chef’s tasting menu at the underground Mulberry Project.

We were seated in the secret garden, next to a giant sneering anime girl painted on the picket fence. Our friendly waiter explained their bespoke cocktail experience: describe the flavors you like, let the experts behind the bar create a unique drink for you, have final approval. I was game. With the parameters “martini with a twist but not as alcoholey,” I ended up with a clean gin cocktail with hints of citrus, bitters and basil. Well met, sir bartender. My bubbly companions were equally well matched with champagne/St. Germain concoctions.

Soon, gorgeous plates started arriving at our table. Hot, crispy wonton sticks filled with mild Swiss cheese and paired with creamy guacamole. Lobster roll sliders made of fresh briny seameat and subtly sweet mayo stuffed into pillowy bite-sized brioche buns.

Just as we cleared those dishes, the second round appeared. Luscious tuna tartare with the taste of ceviche, served with tortilla chips. Perfectly al dente quinoa in a salad with crunchy croutons, feta squares and pleasantly bitter arugula.

Contemplating the soon-empty platters, we heaved satisfied sighs. On cue, the third course arrived. Double helpings of golden pan seared scallops, large and tender, with slightly caramelized crisp edges. Herbed miniature potatoes masqueraded as scallops, surprising us as our teeth sank into an unexpected texture. Bold green asparagus topped with a garlicky aioli provided a bright counterpoint, both in color and taste.

We leaned back in our chairs, our ravenous eating noticeably slower. That didn’t stop our friend, the chef, from sending out one last showstopper. Tender slices of salty pork tenderloin served with a fresh juicy salsa, a smooth creamy sauce and a pile of petal soft lettuce leaves.

After a puzzled moment, we realized this plate was interactive and busily assembled our warm lettuce wraps. The first bite released warm savory jus into my mouth, chased quickly by the tangy sauce and acidic salsa. We chewed in silence, eyes almost closed, enjoying the varying tastes and textures.

We made our way out quietly, lost in individual reverie. Between the garden and darkly gleaming bar, we stopped to thank the chef and study the framed pictures which lined the walls, depicting a high-class prostitute in various stages of committing murder. After years of waiting, my fabulous New York experience, as promised by film and tv, lived up to the hype.