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!

Advertisements

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.

imag0698

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.

A Day of Overindulgence

Oh dear. When I said I’d go out less, I guess I meant less days but somehow the same amount of actual out-ness. I managed to pack 15 hours of partying into Saturday this weekend. I swear I didn’t mean to.

It began with brunch and unlimited mimosas at 121 Fulton. Look at this gorgeous plate! I ordered the brunch sampler, which included a mini steak & egg (with the most adorable fried quail egg on top), bacon & hash, and baked eggs with tomatoes, spinach & bacon. Obviously, I had to toast my genius designer friend repeatedly over our delicious meal. Down the hatch, mon petit mimosa. Oh and there was a second reason for us to gulp down cocktails. We needed help to ignore the strange couple sitting next to us and making out noisily. At one point, I said loudly, “We are trying. To. Eat.” However, this statement seemed to turn them on because the kissing became even slurpier. Eeeeeeeww.

I took a break from the retoxing to meet another friend visiting from Londontown. We strolled along the Highline in the oddly springlike weather, sipped cappuccinos at a place so French that the service took forever (that’s how you know it’s authentic), and then played dress-up in the Anthropologie shop in Chelsea Market. Feeling virtuous (and super girly), we headed over to Basta Pasta for dinner.

It’s going to take me a while to wrap my brain around the amazing meal we had. When I do, I fully intend to do a complete write-up. For now, just feast your eyes on how gorgeous the plates are. Basta Pasta is an Italian restaurant with a strong Japanese influence. The food is comforting in that deep soul-satisfying way that pasta is, while the service and decor are so calm and clean that it felt like the world had come to a stop. In a good way. Dinner was a pocket of quiet enjoyment with some very good friends.

Well. Until we’d had a couple bottles of wine, that is. Then I think the staff gave up hope of maintaining a calm ambience in our presence. At the very end, they figured out how to quiet us down. This is a delightful slice of ricotta cheesecake getting sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. We watched in awe as the waitress covered the plate in what looked like fluffy snow. It may sound odd, but it was an utterly delicious combination. The saltiness of the cheese offset the light crumbly sweetness of the cake perfectly.

Glowing from that amazing meal (and eagerly making plans for our next visit back), we traipsed across Union Square and ended up at Pierre Loti for a nightcap. Or five. One by one, the ladies made their escape. Laura, draped in shiny Marc Jacobs accessories galore, was off to a party in the exclusive Soho House. We fawned over her until she told us firmly that she could not bring us with her (pout). Then Rits said something about not wanting to be hungover while skiing the next day. Wimp!

It was up to me, Little Miss Hussy, and the Brit to keep the night going. Luckily, our friendly waiter was headed off duty and brought us along on his afterhours party crawl. At this point, the Brit threw in the towel. (To be fair, I think it was 5am in London-time at that point, so she was a trooper.) Not sure why this always happens when I go out with the Hussy, but we found ourselves dancing in the secret back room of a bar for a private party where bartenders were winning trips to Disney World (??). I know how surreal that last sentence sounds, but for once I am not hyperbolating (real word) for humor’s sake. We really were in a secret bartender party. I hope they don’t kill me for telling.

I’m realizing that it’s not realistic for me to stop going out. I mean, it’s just too damn fun and there’s always something amazing to be discovered in this great city. However, this week is most certainly devoted to eating veggies and cooking some homemade soup to recover. Cheers!

My Year of Weddings

It’s been over a year since I last posted. I miss writing with no agenda! One major reason was the plethora of weddings keeping me busy. Little Miss Hussy, Rits and Ctina all got married, and they all made me their Maid of Honor. It really was an amazing honor. Each wedding was different and added something new to my life, just like these ladies. Below, a small taste of those celebrations.

Little Miss Hussy kicked things off last December with a dinner at Frankies in Brooklyn and a cupcake reception dance party at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. The food at Frankies was scrumptious. Platters of puffy pillowy gnocchi, meatballs in sauce so good that it made you drool while eating it, and many other dishes covered the tables. Afterwards, we headed to the reception to dance the dinner off. Most of our friends are in publishing, so it was fitting that we were surrounded by laden bookshelves and tomes of literatures. The middle of the room had been cleared to make space for dancing, a cocktail bar, a table full of gorgeous cupcakes, and a classic photobooth. Once all the guests had arrived, the couple took the floor for their first dance to Kat Edmonson’s version of Just Like Heaven. I choreographed and taught them the dance, so I felt like a majorly proud mama watching them!

Next up was Rits’ wedding. We traveled to Iceland for her bachelorette party because we wanted an adventure! There, we had an amazing, multi-course, wine-paired meal at Fiskfelagid, got addicted to lamb hot dogs, partied all over Reykjavik, rode Icelandic ponies (my pony started a minor stampede but I managed to stay on!), and relaxed in the geothermal spa at Blue Lagoon. Un. Real. Her wedding day was just as special, at a cozy penthouse in the heart of SoHo. The ceremony was held on the rooftop beneath perfect blue skies, and then the party spread out into 2 floors for a dinner and dance party. Rits is lucky enough to have a talented chef as a brother, and he orchestrated a meal that transitioned seamlessly from a salmon tartare amuse to fish and meat courses that melted in our mouths. After we reluctantly stopped eating (because it was that or burst), we waddled upstairs to the dance floor to watch the couple’s first dance and then jumped right in to boogie down all night long.

Not to be outdone, Ctina decided to have two receptions, in New York and Ohio so that no friends or family members would be left out. The New York party was way outside the box. They took over a nightclub with a stage so that the groom could perform with his jazz-punk-rock band and filled long tables with 30 different kinds of empanadas and a cool deconstructed cake from Milk Bar. As we stuffed our faces, the groom played saxo-ma-phone and serenaded the bride. Hello, romance! The party danced the night away. A few weeks later, I flew to Ohio for part deux of Ctina’s celebrations. The ceremony was held in this lovely white church with polished dark wood beams and pews. After lots of tearing up and picture taking, we went on to the reception where we had to force the way-too-polite couple to sit and eat, instead of greeting guests. Needless to say, we all danced up a storm after dinner. Whee!

Deja Whoo!

Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought a birthday only came once, maybe twice, a year. Yet somehow I’ve been celebrating mine for a month straight and it shows no sign of abating. Last weekend, Lage and the Hussy took me out to dinner at my favorite Brooklyn French bistro for wine, steak and live music. When I tried to reach for the check, they beat me up. Dunno which was the gift, dinner or the abuse (ba-dum-choom!). It was a long weekend because Quirky was closed for Labor Day (I tried to tell people that we had the day off for my birthday but nobody believed me). I spent the day at my friends’ awesome potluck BBQ/picnic in Prospect Park and ran around blowing bubbles with their toddlers while the scents of grilled veggies, jerk turkey burgers, late summer grass and softball dirt swirled in the air around us. The Scientist was at the picnic and presented me with a beautiful hand-woven scarf that she’d brought back from Thailand. Beauty!

The next day, I returned to work thinking that the prolonged celebratory madness had come to an end, but people kept wishing me happy birthday as soon as I entered the office. Even the new interns, which was weird. How the heck did they even know my name yet?! Once I logged into work email, I found out there was an announcement that lunch was being brought in to celebrate my alleged birthday. By the end of the day, I just started wishing everybody else happy birthday, just to share the wealth. I think at this point, the phrase is just another way of saying howdy at Quirky HQ!

The next day after that, I was convinced it was over. I would return to a normal non-birthday routine, and no one, absolutely no one would celebrate, fête or proposition me in any way. Then the mailman delivered a package from one of my very bestest friends in the whole wide world! She had written me a lovely card in scrolly purply ink and sent a sparkly, silver charm to add to our BFF bracelets (we’re very grownup, you see). After work, I wandered into Sephora to dab makeup samples all over my face and they gave me a free birthday kit with eye shadow, eyeliner pencil and mascara. At least I think that was for my birthday. Maybe they just wanted me to stop scaring away all the paying customers.

I think my crazy birthday month is coming to an end. I still have a couple dinners and an intriguing nutella croissant offer to cash in, but I’m trying to pace myself. At this rate, I’ll still be recovering from this year’s birthday when it’s time to celebrate the next one. Whoo!

One Perfect Day (and then some)

It’s a bit late, but last Monday was so perfect that I wanted to share. Work had been so intense that day, that I almost decided to skip the Flaming Lips at Summerstage but my co-Quirkers kicked me and told me not to be retarded. Ya know, in a good way. I had been chained to my desk all day so it was a nice surprise when I stepped outside and found that the heat wave had broken. A pleasant little springtime breeze ruffled my hair and the air smelled sweet. Which is something, considering it usually smells like hot dogs and taxi exhaust on that particular stretch of Broadway. Once inside Central Park, I met up with Little Miss Hussy and the Silent Brit, and the three of us just sat there mostly not talking and taking it all in. The crowd was friendly and (this might sound strange) straightforward. Not sure if that makes sense, but everybody seemed so comfortable in their own skin that night that it felt good to be immersed in it. The concert took that feeling to the next level. It was like I was calm but really happy and excited, all at the same time. It was almost a musically induced out-of-body experience. Well ok, the mysterious clouds of smoke which wafted over my head from some neighboring groups helped too, but only a little!

Relaxed to the max, I subway’d down to the best pizza on earth and strolled back to the office to keep on keepin’ on for a few more hours. I know, it doesn’t sound like it should be a component of a perfect day, but it felt good to just storm through a pile of work that needed to get done. My concert-pizza-strolling high carried me so far that I found a 24 hour gym to visit before finally heading home. I definitely couldn’t do that too often, but for that one day, I got everything I wanted and needed out of life.