Friday, November 26, 2010

Food Porn Friday - Thanksgiving Dinner

Hello, all!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving to my readers in the U.S.! I would have sent out well wishes yesterday but hosting Thanksgiving dinner even for just the six of us took a lot out of me.

Just to let you know, Fred, our turkey, came out great. I didn't brine. I was freaked a little about even cooking the turkey (could you tell?), and there was just no way that I could even find space to brine Fred. Small NYC apartment kitchens just don't really have the size of refrigerator that allows for a turkey in a bucket. Do you want to see what my refrigerator looked like very late Wednesday night?

No bucket full of turkey and brine is fitting in there!

I was looking forward to the holiday for using our fancy dishes. My very cool mother-in-law passed down to us some of Husband J's grandmother's china. We didn't register for china, and I am glad that we didn't because we got the most fabulous Mid-century Modern pieces the following Christmas. My mother-in-law also gifted us with flatware she found from antique shop in her town last Christmas too.

Our table setting. I guess gold flatware may look a little blingy, but I like it.

Let's talk dinner! Here's the spread we had for Thanksgiving:

Turkey & Tofurky with stuffing (regular old instant stuffing was cooked in the bird)

I still have yet to taste the Tofurky (my Mom said it was good.) I prefer dark meat, and I thought it came out quite well. The stuffing on the right is one of the two I offered. I'll get to to the other one.

Fresh cranberry sauce. I've never had this before, but I enjoyed the taste and it's extremely easy to make. Plus, I finally got to use the sauce boat we got for a wedding present!

Shitake Mushroom Stuffing

My Mom's Mac + Cheese, a personal favorite.

My mother-in-law's quiche-like dish with spinach, ricotta, peppers, olives, etc.

I forgot to take pictures of the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows! :( That went pretty quickly. It wasn't like my godmother's, but I have to admit I think I might like mine better. :)

I didn't forget veggies.

Braised Greens (in this case collards) with Tomatoes. A lot of people seemed to like this.

Roasted vegetables with herbs.

By dessert I was pretty tired, and I didn't get to take pictures of everything. We had a pumpkin pie that I made, which I still have not eaten; my Mom's great sweet potato pie, and her newest creation, pumpkin cheesecake with pecan topping. AMAZING! This might be my new favorite dessert my Mom makes.

So that was our Thanksgiving dinner. I have to say after making my first one I feel this major sense of accomplishment. My Mom really enjoyed it, and I feel like "I arrived" in her eyes when it comes to cooking. She looked kinda proud. Mission accomplished! :)

Welcome to the holiday season, everyone and Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Proper Thanksgiving

Obviously I am in the throes of Project Thanksgiving right now. I don't feel behind, nor do I think I should be checking certain tasks off of a list right at this very moment, but Fred (I've named my turkey Fred), and I have a date this morning. I am still nervous about the turkey, but the sides will good, and we have my Mom's Tofurky (yes, my MOTHER is the vegetarian/borderline vegan). If anything happens, people can get their protein from that. :)

Anyway, there is a point to this post. I had a conversation with my BFF about how the fact that I think we sometimes forget that not everyone eats the same holiday food as we do in our homes with our families. As a matter of fact, even in a country as diverse as our own and even with iconic dishes like turkey and pumpkin pie, everyone's got their own idea of what a "Proper Thanksgiving Meal" should be. Isn't this true?

When I was younger, we went to my godmother's house a 10 minute drive away. I came to understand that Thanksgiving is turkey, but also ham and curry chicken (Caribbean style). There's got to be rice and peas there (Caribbean people sometimes have a hard time eating a dish without rice and beans or at least Antiguans do anyway). You had to lunge for the sweet potato pie, while the pumpkin pie usually just sat there. After awhile, my Mom, who supplied the sweets for the day, just stopped making pumpkin pie.

Yet while we had signature dishes that we all collectively love at our meal, someone across the street or even across the city could be sitting down and having the EXACT opposite meal minus maybe the turkey. Last year, the New York Times had an interactive map of what recipes were most searched by state. It seems that pumpkin pie is more popular in the Midwest but barely searched for in the Deep South. Pecan pie was popular in the middle of the country (both north and south), but coastal folks weren't planning on it. Mid-Atlantic folks and New Englanders like their apple pie for dessert. Fascinating, isn't it?

Honestly, it would never occur to my godmother, my Mom and the rest of my family to take green beans, add some cream of mushroom soup and crumbled fried onions on top, and put it in the oven and bake it.....

Yet green bean casserole is a big time American Thanksgiving dish. I still haven't had it. Should I be thankful? ;)

I know that the issue of taste differences has definitely come to the fore in my life since getting married. Last year, I think was especially hard for me because it was my first Thanksgiving at my in-laws, who are absolutely lovely people. My mother-in-law spearheads the cooking duties there. I did very much like the meal, BUT they just eat totally differently from my family. The most fascinating dish for me was the pearl onions.

I tried a few of the onions, but they were far from life-changing for me. Sorry, MIL. You are a great cook, but these pearl onion thingies just didn't take to my palate. ;(

It's always fun for me hearing about friends' Thanksgiving meals, whether they are multiple generation Americans or their kids will be the first generations of their family born here like mine. I like the fact there are quintessential traditional Thanksgiving dishes we can count on, but we take each of these dishes and make them our own, kinda like our American experience. Everyone with their cultures and experiences has added a little something here and a little something there to change what is customary about the proper Thanksgiving meal, but it's still all uniquely American.

That being said, there will always be mac and cheese and sweet potato pie at my dinner, and I'll even start to include rice (not on the menu for this year). :)

What do you consider to be the "proper" Thanksgiving meal? What dishes can you NOT live without on Thanksgiving Day?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back Trackin', Rhode Island Edition - Rain Day Fun in Newport

Hey, all! Project Thanksgiving is under way, so posting will be light this week. Since I'm being lazy on the blog front :), I thought I would share with you a post that was originally published on but modified a bit for this blog. Enjoy!

You can't always have great weather, and that was the case in the Northeast in the summer of 2009. We got so much rain that summer, we didn't know what to do with it all. That was most definitely the case during our final days of our trip to Newport.

So what's there to do in Newport on a rainy day? Tennis, anyone?

Husband J and I stopped in to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I can pretty much appreciate most sports and love live tennis. Husband J and I have even had one of our most fun outings ever together at the U.S. Open. I think that it had a lot to do with the martinis they were serving, but the tennis was good too!

Here's Husband J at the street entrance. You have no idea that you're about to walk into this.....

There were quite a few exhibits and items that you definitely can't find anywhere else.

The outfit Roger Federer wore when he won his 15th Grand Slam title. He's got some really huge feet!!

Some great memorabilia from the Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.

A painting of the amazing player and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe

A visit to Newport isn't complete without venturing out to its many historic mansions, the most famous being The Breakers. All I can say is, "WOW!" I didn't realize that this kind of opulence existed in the U.S. I'm talking Louis XIV Versailles-style, peeps.

Here's the outside..not bad for a summer "cottage"

We couldn't take pictures inside, but here's a taste of what you can see:

The Great Hall

Mr. Vanderbilt's room (His wife slept in a different one....)

That's me in the backyard :)

There are several lovely mansions besides The Breakers including Marble House. Marble House was built as a present from William Vanderbilt (brother of Cornelius, the one who built The Breakers) to his wife, Alva, who would divorce him a couple of years (or so) later after it was built. Oh well.

Here's Husband J in the Marble House driveway.

This structure in the backyard is a replica Japanese tea house. Alva Vanderbilt used to hold women's suffrage meetings here.

Now it's a cafe for guests to enjoy.

In all, we had a great time in Newport, rain or shine. There's quite a bit to keep you busy if you can't get out to go to the beach or sail. I didn't even talk about the food we ate!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Food Porn Friday - A (Lamb) Burger Lunch at The Breslin

You know I just realized that I haven't done a Food Porn Friday in quite some time. I'm just trying to keep you guys on your toes. :)

Since I am thinking about having this very meal again today, I thought I would tell you about my burger lunch at The Breslin, one of the restaurants at the "possibly too hip for me" Ace Hotel New York. The Breslin is the brain child of April Bloomfield who established The Spotted Pig restaurant and put quality, meat-focused gastropub fare with an English twist on the New York City culinary map. In a world where many of the most heralded chefs and food thought leaders are men, I appreciate April Bloomfield (and many other female chefs) holding it down for the ladies, know what I mean?

Each time I've stopped in the Ace, it's always busy. I decided to slip into the bar area for a late lunch. I think I may have mentioned that I have eating meat more lately. There is a post out there somewhere lurking in my brain that will explain my odd relationship to meat. Lately, if I have been eating meat, I've been trying to do so at places where I know the sourcing of the meat is really important to the restaurant. Anyhoo, let's just talk food.

My burger lunch (from left to right): thrice cooked chips (the menu's words not mine, i.e, some big 'ol French fries); cumin mayo; a glass of Spotted Pig cask beer; and the lamb burger with feta.

Some Close-ups

The Lamb Burger with Feta
This is a BURGER. Maybe I've forgotten how good burgers can be because of my self-imposed hiatus from red meat, but WHOA NELLY! This burger was super juicy (TMI: There was juice dribbling down my chin, HELLO!), well seasoned and cooked to the perfect consistency. What really hit it out of the park for me was actually the bun. No typical burger buns here. Instead it was a roll with a crispy crust and chewy innards. I enjoyed the bun almost as much as the burger (I think I can live on bread alone. Seriously!).

French Fries (I'm not calling them thrice cooked chips)

Yes. They are as good as they looked. There was the right amount of salt and crispiness. I had to make sure that I did not fill up on them. I had to save room for the burger!!

Spotted Pig Cask Beer
Yeah, I got beer (sheepish grin). Cask beer is actually different from draft beer in that it is stored in large barrels and then pumped out into a glass instead of the usual pulling a lever from the draught. Make sense? Cask beer is also served at slightly higher temperatures than draft or bottled beer. You're not getting ice cold Coors Light here. The Breslin has two cask beers with one made especially for them called the Spotted Pig. Over the years, I've come to slowly appreciate beer, and I loved the smo0th flavor of this dark beer. Sometimes I find that dark beers are too bitter, yet there was a hint of sweet cherries and chocolate that I relished.

I'm thinking that when I go back for this lunch that maybe I'll swap some veggies for the beer? Or maybe not... ;)

Happy Weekend!

The Breslin
16 West 29th Street
New York, NY

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You, Jive Turkey!

For those of you in the U.S., you know that Thanksgiving is a week away. This Thanksgiving will be the first time that I have the duties of cooking dinner. I made last year's Christmas dinner, and I think it went over well except this time things are different. Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving is all about the food and not just one type of food...TURKEY! Granted, I'm also trying some other dishes out that I've never done before, but nothing gives me the willies like knowing that I have to provide the quintessential Thanksgiving culinary showpiece.

Yes, I have already expressed my latent anxiety about cooking a really large bird. Plus, I'm not just cooking for Husband J. I am also cooking for my mother and mother-in-law, two formidable cooks. I'm sure that my mother will be watching how I handle myself with keen interest. Ha!

The only problem with cooking a turkey is that EVERYONE has got their own way of doing it. Here are some of the techniques that I've heard so far:

Cook in a bag!
Put bacon all over it!
Rub butter on the skin!
Grill it!
Brine it!

It's like turkey information overload!

I've asked my mother-in-law and my Mom to write out how they make turkey, so I can see which technique I'm going to use. This weekend is about strategizing and getting over myself. I mean, it's just turkey, right? :)

So are any of you taking on major holiday cooking responsibilities this year? What's your approach? Also just to confuse myself, how do YOU cook your turkey?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back Trackin', Brazil Edition - A Game at Rio De Janeiro's Maracana Stadium

Brazil loves it futbol. They call it o jogo bonito (the beautiful game). It's not just a sport but rather an art form, a means of self-expression. When I was still in Rio, I got the opportunity to see a soccer game between Rio's extremely popular Flamengo and Atletico Miniero of the state of Minas Gerais. A game at the famous Maracana Stadium? Being the sports fan that I am, I couldn't pass it up.

You would have thought that this was the World Cup or a championship game. Nope! It was the end of the regular season right before the playoffs! The crowds were GINORMOUS, already loud, and we hadn't made it in to see the game yet. I doubt that even half of these people had tickets. They were just hanging out, singing and drinking in the street.

It was getting a little chaotic outside the stadium, and no one had even taken the field yet!

The Brazilian Portuguese name for the upper deck seats.

Mind you, I STILL haven't gotten to my seat yet, but I already realized that Flamengo's fans are pretty passionate.


I snuck a quick picture with Flamengo's mascot.

What was most striking for me as a non-Brazilian was how much energy everyone had BEFORE the game even started. There was so much singing, jumping and flag waving. I don't think we even get this excited here in the U.S. for just a regular season game (at least not for the ones I've been to). That being said, all of the excitement made the atmosphere pretty electric. It also made me forget that the seats we were sitting in were pretty gross. :)


This guy was a few rows above me and was providing much of the cheering for our tourist-filled section.

Finally the game was about to start! The usual photography session with kids occurred. Can someone explain why there are always kids who accompany the team at the beginning of soccer games?

Many of the spectators kept getting up and wiggling their arms and fingers while the game was going on. Sadly, I had no one to explain to me what it all meant.

After all of the screaming, singing and flag waving, Flamengo, the hometown team lost to what was considered a much less talented team. I think the score was 4-2, if I remember correctly. People started to leave in droves well before the end of the game.

Regardless of the outcome, I had a great time. Flamengo's fans are hard core, and it definitely made me think about how we consume sports in our country. Are Americans less passionate and reserved sports fans? Since we are inundated with sports every day, do we just take it for granted? I wonder about these questions and still do. Part of me thinks that since we actually live in a country where we can consume sports on a regular basis that perhaps we forget how much fun and special going to a sporting event can be.

When the 2016 Olympics in Rio roll around in a few years, I'm going to see if I can spot my seat. Just kidding (Maracana fits about 90,000 people!)!

Have you been to a sporting event in another country besides your own? What was it like?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back Trackin', Rhode Island Edition - On the Water in Newport

For this post, I'm going to backtrack a little and talk about a short trip that I took with Husband J to Newport, Rhode Island right after we got married. In the wedding blogging world, a short trip like this is called a mini-moon. Bali, which I've covered extensively here on this blog (don't worry, no more Bali posts!), was our official honeymoon ten months AFTER our wedding (but who's counting? I'm not!).*

I was not completely sold on the idea of Newport when Husband J suggested it, but as I researched all that the area had to offer, I was pretty excited to get there. We packed a lot into about five days, and yet it didn't seem rushed at all.

During our first two full days in Newport, we spent quite a bit of time on the water. Husband J grew up sailing a lot with his family as well as coming to Newport, so it was like reminiscing for him. Our first few days included a trip to the Newport area's second beach, which is technically in Middletown, Rhode Island.

A few hours later we took in a sunset cruise on the Amazing Grace tour boat and admired Newport's world famous harbor and learned a little bit about its history.

By the way, I have no clue what is on my shirt! LOL!

Well, what did we see on our tour?

Fabulous boats

Anybody wanna buy a boat? This is the Athena, apparently one of the largest sailboats in the world, and it will only cost you well over $100 million dollars. That's all! :)

This one is probably a little more affordable, huh?

There are many options for touring around Newport and its harbor via sailboat. More on that below.

Interesting Sites

A private family home out there all by itself in the middle of Newport Harbor

Hammersmith Farm
Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis' childhood summer home

This is a historic house that's now condos. I'll live there!

Fort Adams, which is now used as a state park and as Navy housing.

Husband J and I also got a chance to tackle sailing on a former America's Cup 12 meter racing ship called the Heritage courtesy of SLJ and BLT, my brother-in-law and his wife.

The great thing about the ship was that we even got help out sailing the boat.

Here I am having just finished helping to hoist the sail.

If you have a chance, go on the Heritage's sunset cruise. I love being out on the water at sunset.

I found out from a friend this weekend that the reason Newport has been known for its sailing is because the location affords great wind movement that helps sailboats and provides a cool breeze in the summer. I definitely found that to be true because at one point the wind suddenly picked up, and our sailboat was gunning at full speed. I can only imagine what it was like to be a racer on that boat during an America's Cup race!

If you are thinking about a New England seaside location for an upcoming trip or vacation, then maybe Newport should be at the top of your list!

*Please note that parts of this post were previously published on my wedding blog and

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