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Sunday, November 21, 2010


The sign said, "Year Round Farmers Market" and though we were going to the Dia Beacon, a quick detour was not only in order, we had some time before the museum opened anyway...

A table was being set up for hot apple cider and a few other small tables were outside and I worried they were the only vendors, until Kelli brilliantly walked over to the building which serves as the cold weather shelter for the marketers. A low buzz of the shoppers could be heard as they hoovered around the various baskets and barrels of both fresh and prepared foods, dips, salsa and pottery, talking it over amongst themselves and with the individual shopkeepers. We looked over the small sample of wines being offered for sale and returned to the traditional vegetables.

I bought the squash pictured above with the initial sole intention of decorating my Thanksgiving table, but as soon as I started to fish my cash out of my wallet, I realized this was highly impractical, illogical and not like me to simply use food as table art. I asked if I could roast the squash and would they make a good soup. My question was answered with an enthusiastic nod and though I'd like to think she wasn't trying to simply make a sale, follow up about the soup at a later date.

We've made our purchases and are off to the museum!
No photography in the museum, flash or no flash. We walk and talk and wonder about the definition of art. How do you define art? Is a photo or drawing of art, also art? If it evokes emotion, is it art? If it leaves you flat, is it art? I wonder now, what is the equal definition of literary - why can't a comic book be literature? Or is it?
All of our wondering, leaves me hungry. But first, a quick walk...

A garden for all seasons. Colors and shapes, angles and vistas. Rather than sketching a picture, a quick outline for a story may begin to form - who is going to walk around the corner? Were they waiting for someone or walking away from something?

Off to the cafe...and the sausage and kale soup with a slice of pumpkin sage bread and a meyer lemon "Grown Up Soda" (the brand is GUS) and a table next to the window, in the sun.

The soup has a gentle heat from using hot sausage, not too much that you cannot enjoy the soup, but enough you are aware of it. The toasted bread rounds offer a nice toasty texture yet yield and can be broken by the spoon in the broth. The pumpkin sage bread has a crisp and sweet crust, but it is the fragrance of the sage that commands the diners undivided attention. The meyer lemon soda is a bit more carbonated than the popular brands of pop, but has a crisper more mature flavor without the overbearing sweetness of lemonade.

Kelli orders a grilled roasted butternut squash sandwich with goat cheese and arugula with a small side salad. It looked lovely but really did not photograph well, but the Maple Seltzer below seemed to be a bigger flavor hit for her. Feeling it needed a little more zip, she suggests perhaps a bit of pesto would have added that missing something.

Back outside to the sunny warmth of a crisp Autumn Sunday right before Thanksgiving.

The adventure continued after the meal with a trip to a library book sale, but for now the story stops here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Artist Date

In the book, "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron, the author recommends those who are in "creative recovery" find time once a week to explore something that interests you on your own. Having read the book at the recommendation of a friend, we have bent the rules to include each other in an annual Artist Date. This time, I broke the rules a bit more by bringing my sons and one of their girlfriends along to New York. Combining a love of art, food, friendship and family, a trip to the Museum of Modern Art has become a cherished memory.

We begin in the Museum at Cafe 2 for lunch. Who can appreciate art on an empty stomach? Guests wait on line and review menus or simply read the large print version on the wall. After placing your order, you find a place to sit with your party and are given a numbered place card - the food will find you. Our orders range from baked salmon, rigatoni, 3 cheese pannini and my selection of mushroom tart. I also ordered a Bellini as a celebratory treat. I simply love the way things are done in New York - we are brought our drinks by an aproned man holding a round tray and it somehow just feels special. Lunch arrives and though I am normally not a fast eater to begin with, today is a day for appreciation and enjoyment and so food is to be savored and truly tasted.

The mushroom tart is served warm, not hot next to a small salad of mixed greens and cheery cherry tomatoes. The tart crust is light enough that it almost disappears on the tongue and though the tart is rich and creamy, somehow, it is not heavy or too dense. I have made my friend Michelle's fabulous tomato tart recipe and am now wondering if I will add mushroom tart to my repertoire - could be a wonderful appetizer or brunch offering.

At the end of the meal we begin our separate journeys. My friend and I are off to the woman's photography exhibit, then photography of 2010 and the Abstract Exhibition. My older son and his girlfriend can be seen breezing through the photography then they are off and on to their own adventure. My younger son makes no attempt to disguise that for him, this trip means he can immerse himself in his love for custom sneakers by visiting Flight Club and the Nike Town stores. To him, these sneakers are more than footwear, they are art.

Discussions about art and life, walking and photographing some of the exhibits, my friend and I decide it is time for a sweet bite and head to Terrace 5. This cafe offers an exhilarating view of the garden and I am further intrigued by a tree which seems to be strung with papers. My friend first pointed it out when I was photographing the Warhol's and we made a list of the sights we still wanted to see after our break. What to order? Simple seasonal fruits, a warm apple tart? No, indulge and have the chocolate tart with sea salt and vanilla ice cream.

The tart shell is chocolate then a layer of creamy caramel topped with chocolate. The sea salt is sprinkled on top to add not only depth of flavor, but it quenches the desire for sweet and salty snacks much like a chocolate dipped pretzel with a more gourmet flare. The lush ice cream rests on a bed of chocolate crumbles reminding me of the crunchy bits that separate the layers in a Carvel ice cream cake. Bliss and decadence.

We weave through the crowds and our day is almost over when we make a wish on the Yoko Ono Wish Tree.

The wishes are simple and loving left by people who mostly want love and happiness. In this Artist Date, I found it long before I left my wish...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ken's Favorites

I remember grocery shopping as a little girl - it was quite a family affair. My mom loaded her full size blue station wagon with her 2 daughters, 2 sisters and mother and off to the only grocery store I knew for most of my childhood. We could pretty much plan on spending the morning as my grandmother would wander up and down every aisle and we would find her in the half of the store that sold toys and clothes. It was the 1970's version of a Super Wal-Mart, but locally owned and operated with locally grown produce because it was practical, not fashionable. The best part? The next day when you opened the pantry and refrigerator and could have almost anything you could imagine to eat. By week's end, our small family of four would of course need to repeat the entire process.

Today, I am surprised by how happy my family is when I bring home their favorites from the grocery store. This week seemed to be centered around Ken and at 22, you might think he wouldn't be that happy to see some fresh fruits and vegetables, but I sometimes wonder if his childhood dreams were filled with luscious produce...

A centerpiece of Clementines - and he grabs one almost every time he walks by...

If melons are whole in the fridge, he will push them out of the way to get other things, but if I take a few moments to cut up watermelon and use the melon baller on the cantelope, he could eat it in one sitting!

Today, he is meeting his new girlfriend to go apple picking and I guess it's a good thing since his favorite apples are Red Delicious, but Mom went for Gala.

So, while the cutting board and knife are out from cutting up fruit, it takes just a moment to put a tossed salad together. He comes in from an early morning at work and we talk for a minute. He samples the melons, tells me he has already had a Clementine and a banana then reaches for a slice of cucumber. Salad with dinner for him is almost a requirement. Ken heads to the couch for an episode of Top Gear on BBC.

A chicken salad sandwich for lunch is a top 3 choice and while I poached the chicken, I was cutting up those veggies for the salad and thought, "It would be pretty easy to simmer a pot of soup at the same time..."

Had a few extra chicken breasts I sliced into cutlets, breaded and sauteed that are now in the freezer. Ziti has been boiled and waits in an oven dish with sauce, ricotta and mozzerella so it may later bake into a delicious main course he loves and his new vegetarian friend may also enjoy.
One Saturday morning puttering in the kitchen...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Business in Maryland

A 2 1/2 day business trip to Maryland will of course mean finding a way to combine business with pleasure and cooperate with 2 other women. For the most part, flexibility is key. I knew I wanted Crab Cakes in Maryland and luckily, it was not a difficult task. Crab was featured at 95% of our lunch and dinner options and I wonder if I would have asked if I could have had it as an ingredient in an omelet at breakfast.

We drove down on a Sunday afternoon and by late evening were seated in a "world famous" restaurant that featured a claim in the menu, "We have the best crab cakes and we ship anywhere."

Starting with a calamari appetizer, I loved the gentle and crisp coating on the fresh rings. The marinara dipping sauce was a comforting hug around the squid but with a frisky pinch of heat in the background.

Though our salads were somehow forgotten until the waitress brought out our main course and we reminded her, but the service was friendly.

You can check them out online: and see what you think. The crab cake was succulent large lumps of crab meat with just enough breading to bind the meat. A forkful of the crab cakes tasted like crab, not stuffing or filler and one crab cake was more than enough as an entree. With a choice of sides, I tried the french fries and vegetable of the day which was a stewed zucchini in tomato sauce.

After a night's attempt at sleep which included a bit of tossing and turning, then a shower under the double shower heads, it was time for breakfast.

While it may seem odd to discuss double shower heads when we are discussing food, this feature would lead to discussion among my colleagues and reveal that one of them has a "car wash" assortment of shower heads and jets in her shower. I was fascinated.

Breakfast buffet at the hotel. I was worried until I saw the omelet station and then it was as if the clouds parted, the heaven's opened and the angels were singing, "Ahhhh." I looked among the toppings though I knew I wanted tomatoes, I added onions and peppers (I would have preferred spinach, but compromise, compromise) and a luscious bowl of fresh fruits and berries. For me, this is how breakfast should be!

On to the forward to lunch. An orzo salad with bits of ham and feta cheese, a tossed salad with more feta cheese and a lot of raw onion and tender chicken skewers with layers of onion and peppers. After this meal I realize I have met my quota of onion, peppers and feta cheese for the day. The lunch is full of flavor on its own, but after having a softly baked cookie with cranberries and chunks of white chocolate, I am ready to finish the day's work.

Anyone I spoke with before the trip asked where I was going in Baltimore and insisted I must see the Inner Harbor. At the end of the seminar, our speaker also advised everyone to take in the fairly local sights. We took a shuttle to a light rail and with a bit of hesitation, we were off. A mix of popular chain foods and sidewalk cafes, museums, shops and street vendors, we checked menus and decided on M and S Grill.

The only culinary request I had was for a cup of Maryland Crab Soup. I was served a hearty cup and for those who may be new to this crab-a-licious soup creation, it is similar in many ingredients to Minestrone (in vegetable content) and the broth appears to be tomato based, but add in some large shredded crab meat and a healthy kick of spicy heat.

Bring on the main course - a huge platter sized serving of cavatappi pasta with bay shrimps and scallops that has been generously bathed in a garlic cream sauce and sprinkled with parsley.

Yes, always room for dessert. A chocolate chip ice cream sandwich served with a swirl of whipped cream in a puddle of chocolate sauce. I never said I finished or cleaned my plates, but everything tasted divine.
Day 2 of the conference yielded a similar omelet and since the speaker was sitting with us for lunch, I felt about taking pictures of the meal. A Cesar salad, a side of grilled chicken and a ziti pasta in a creamy sauce with split cherry tomatoes and lumps of crab meat were our midday meal. Yes, I was able to have a second soft cookie with cranberry and white chocolate chunks. While I can tell you what the conference was about - it is the food that I choose to remember.
*Note about photos: without my camera, all photos were taken with my camera phone and I apologize for quality, but will not be stopped by lack of equipment. Additionally, the shot of the dessert could not be included due to low lighting, but it was still fabulous to eat!

Monday, September 6, 2010

How Girl's Night Evolves...

Once upon a time, female friends gathered in a bar, maybe for a designated ladies night with drink specials or maybe just because that was the easiest way for them to get together and socialize. One day, one of the friends realized she really couldn't stay out late anymore and go to work the next day. And, it really wasn't about having a drink, it was about the gathering, the getting together and talking so how much dirt could you dish in a bar?

The ladies planned field trips and though they are a lot of fun, less intimate conversation can happen on a mini-golf course and the search for another venue continued.

"Breakfast," one of the friends suggested. "Are you free this Sunday?"

Breakfast it is and though the core group is small a guest appearance is sometimes made by different friends in common. When a local fire department hosts a pancake breakfast fundraiser, the group can grow up to 10.

Though it really isn't about the food, the ladies have their favorites and have joked about reading the menu and ordering the same thing anyway. French toast. Eggs Benedict. Scrambled with bacon. Drinks are root beer with no ice, one coffee and one hot tea with or without orange juice. Something solid and dependable in knowing what to expect.

Locations change slightly depending on the mood. One chain hot spot offers the best or at least current favorite breakfast potatoes and a local diner has superior and generous omelets.

On this morning, it was the chain and an invited guest who was traveling and the ladies had not seen each other for a few years.

New breakfast platters with stylized photos in separate laminated menus scream out to customers. The marketing works. "Stuffed french toast, oh, that looks yummy."

Fruit seduces the ladies with a wink at health conscious eating though it is blatantly smothered in whipped cream.

2 order the strawberry and banana french toast with the exact same side of scrambled egg and bacon.

Another french toast order, with scrambled egg and bacon but one fruit has changed from banana to blueberry.
Of course a selection of flavored syrups are also offered and though I didn't pay attention, I'm almost positive this crowd reached for traditional maple flavor.

The typical Eggs Benedict or Omelet morphed and customized into an omelet with Hollandaise Sauce on the side. With a teaspoon dipped into the sauce, a drizzle was created and the diner is allowed to feel in control.
I recently watched Ina Garten on the Food Network create a lovely looking Hollandaise in a blender. Though I haven't tried it myself yet, here it is:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 extra large egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 pinches cayenne pepper (honestly, I know I would leave this out)
How to:
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Place all other ingredients in blender and blend for 15 seconds. With the blender on, slowly pour the hot butter in and blend for an additional 30 seconds until sauce is thick. Can be stored at room temperature for up to one hour. If sauce is too thick, add one tablespooon hot tap water before serving.

Back to our meal... the crispy breakfast potatoes are always the correct texture and no one cares if they are hand or machine cut or how they are cooked. The point here is for them to be consistent and they are gloriously successful.
Ah, and the fruit - melons, pineapple and a grape or two.

The ladies talk of love, friendship, children, a wedding, work and school - just as any other group of women might then they pose for a picture taken by the waitress. A crowd is starting to gather waiting for tables as they leave and go their separate ways, off into the day with full bellies and warm hugs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spontaneous Tourist Date - Little Italy, NY

After a week filled with a number of pitfalls including flat tires, a busted boiler, a broken toe, I'd been hoping for something fun. Maybe even a cocktail? Saturday brought the need to do list, but seeing I'd had enough, my hubby said, "Want to go to the city in the morning and you can take pictures? Want to go tonight, dinner?"


1. We do not live around the corner from the city.

2. Clearly, this would be a real date - do we still do that after 23 years of marriage?

3. As semi-empty-nesters, it is our obligation to learn to be spontaneous.

"Give me 5 minutes. Let's go to dinner," I answer.

Jacket, camera, extra charged battery, wallet, cell phone, "Ready!"

We are dressed very casually and have no destination in mind. Who does this? Not us. I begin typing things in the browser on my cell phone and realize, "I've never been to Little Italy. Can we just go there?"

Ah, tourists. And, why not? We are tourists. I want to take pictures. We are not dressed to blend in with the natives, just call a spade a spade and be done with it. Down the highway, over a bridge, into the innerworkings of the city and poof, we find our destination AND street parking. No hydrant? No restrictions? Is this a trick? A high five for our luck and we are off.

We want to walk around and see the sights, the neighborhood, everything. It is already beginning to get a little too dark for me to shoot, but I don't care. Tourist photos it is! And then we stumble upon it, a kitchen store (to you, maybe not very exciting, for me a must see)!

Is this designed for the natives or the tourists? Does it really matter?

Doesn't everyone take pictures of the front door?

So much to see and wonder about - to dream of fresh foods and exotic tastes.

To me, they are like jewels, shiny and sparkly...

Is security watching me take pictures? Do they care or are they merely amused? Hubby points out the chicken and rooster themed dishes and we smile. A story, a thousand years old, that we share from his youth. Christmas Eve shopping for his Mom and a glass chicken candy dish - the details are ours, part of the threads that have woven our story.

We exit the store and bid the security guard in his suit a good night.

We walk along and see the world famous Lombardi's. And the line that wraps around the building. Tourists?

Street side entertainment for those who wait. I am sure he loves having his picture taken, feeling like a goldfish, stared at and photographed for the amusement of others.

More eye candy for the tourists and I fall for it...

And so we head to the restaurant we had passed earlier. The sidewalk specials had caught my eye and I knew they would have something we would each enjoy. Hubby is frightfully predictable and traditional and typically orders chicken marsala.

No chicken marsala?

Well, they do have "chicken and mushrooms in wine sauce." Whew.

I start with a French Martini. I know, I know, I am in an Italian restuarant, but that is my latest favorite. Then the Escarole and Bean in Brodo soup and the Seafood Risotto special.

Escarole & Bean in Brodo (broth)

You will need:

Garlic (my bowl alone had about 3 cloves) to taste
Cannelini Beans
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Restaurant used Vegetable Broth - you may substitute chicken if you like...

* Grated parmesan for at table

Saute garlic in olive oil in medium pan. Add escarole and wilt with a pinch of salt. Next add broth and beans, simmer until beans are heated through and tender. Once soup is ladled into bowl, sprinkle (or grate or pile on) parmesan.

It is the simple things that are sometimes the best!

I could not properly photograph the soup, the restaurant is fairly dark and trying without flash leaves the images blurry as the shutter is held open long enough for me to shake and with flash, the image becomes washed out and unrecognizable. The same problem happened with my meal. But, his chicken dish, was amazing! To smell, to photograph, to taste. Served with a side order of gentle ribbons of linguini in a light tomato sauce. A soft kiss on the cheek of flavors.

Our meal ends and we decide not to try to eat another bite. We may have dessert while walking around a bit more. Goodbye Rocky's and thank you for the food memories.

And then we enter it, the real Little Italy. Cameras flash. Cigarette and cigar smoke fills your nose. Crowds. Vendors. Souvenier t-shirts and post cards. Does this mean we had eaten where the natives may eat?

What makes me look down? I have no idea. Handwritten on the sidewalk, "Here Lies Jimmy Hoffa." We laugh and walk among the tourists.