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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Not Hangover or Bridesmaids - reality at Torches on the Hudson

The tradition used to be for the future groom to gather up his male friends for a night of drinking before the wedding.  Over time, brides-to-be wised up and asked the gentlemen to move the bachelor party celebrations away from the wedding date to ensure fewer hangovers at the alter.  As evolution continued, women began to embrace this custom for themselves and movies like "The Hangover" and "Bridesmaids" pushed the envelope for creative outings with as much debauchery as possible.

Doesn't mean that is what everyone wants.

My sister, a few friends and our mother went out for a nice meal and a few drinks.  Simple.

The menu included a long selection of beverages and one of the specials of the evening was the Pear Cosmo.   Here is the menu description:

Torches Grey Goose Pear White Cosmo:
Goose Pear Vodka shaken with Cointreau, fresh lime and white cranberry juice
served with a pear slice.


Smooth and delicious.  Not too strong and alcohol tasting.

To start for 3 of us - the Seafood Chowder with crispy garlic croutons.

I never imagined it would be a giant, seemingly never ending bowl of luscious and creamy silkiness.  While I very much enjoyed the croutons, I may have preferred smaller cubes as they were difficult to halve with the spoon and a whole one felt like I was cramming too much food in my mouth.

I seem to order an appetizer as an entree more and more.  Since most restaurant portions sizes have grown, and Torches is no exception, more than enough food is offered and sometimes it can cut my expenses in half.

The Filet Mignon Quesadilla described on the menu as:  Filet Mignon tips, melted onion, shaved cremini mushroom, Swiss cheese and horseradish dip was perfect.

The beef was tender and soft, the blend of onion, mushroom and Swiss is classic and familiar as a take on a Philly Cheese Steak and the zippy sauce kept things interesting!  After about half my serving, I simply opened the tortilla, peeled it away and simply ate the filling.

The night continued further along the waterfront.  Stories were shared, the ladies wished the future bride well and no one lost a tooth, had their face tattooed, found a baby or a tiger, but memories were made just the same as the ladies were all Fed Well.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not Just Any Friday Night

I met my sister for one of her last wedding dress fittings and tried on my matron-of-honor dress as well.  We decided that although we will be getting together with a few others tomorrow for a "Girls Night Out," we went out for dinner, just the two of us.

What to have?  The menu is pleather bound and full of pages of choices and yet like a woman's overflowing closet, somehow seemed empty.  I had reviewed the white board of specials before we were seated and had decided on the crab cakes appetizer as my entree with a salad.

Though the crab cakes seem a bit small in the photo, they weren't a bad size for an appetizer.  Full of real lump crab meat which made the difference for me.

My sister's meal was a cajun pasta dish with chicken, mushrooms, scallops and shrimp.  The photo, well, either I need a new cell phone or it needs a tremendous cleaning.  I don't understand why some shots are just ok and some are simply horrid.  Sort of like life, some days are great, wonderful, fabulous and others well, not so much.  True, both are memorable and sometimes you get both in one day.  This week I have been hanging on a swinging pendulum riding from the lowest low through simply content and then all the way over to pretty angry.

Nice to unwind and share it all with an understanding sister who patiently listened.  Cheers to sisters, the first best friends...

It's a Whiskey Sour and though I can never finish it, it was the perfect cocktail.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spontaneous Lunch Date with the Mr.

For the first 20 years or so of our marriage, my husband rarely called in sick to work.  Though he does work for the U.S. Government, it is not the postal branch so I could never understand his devotion to making it in regardless of blizzards, illness, etc.  It has only been fairly recently that he has felt comfortable taking days off (and he has banked hundreds of hours of paid leave) and so on a recent day when I worked until noon we met for lunch at "that Italian chain restaurant."

The Mr. typically avoids chain restaurants.  We only went to one for a time when our younger son worked there but I will never see the inside of many unless I go with friends.  Luckily we have a wide array of privately and corporately owned eateries in the area and once in awhile I can coax him into the seafood chain because I can't help the way I feel about those amazing little biscuits!

We looked over our menus and I skimmed it at least three times before realizing nothing was screaming out, "Pick me!  Pick me!"  I go with an old classic - the soup and salad.  For the Mr., the chicken parmesan with spaghetti.

Pasta e fagioli.  Pasta and beans.  The waitress is trained to describe it back when ordered, "That soup is like chili with pasta."  I assume this is to help clarify for diners who are shocked when they receive their soup?  I just love soup and this style is clearly in my top 12 favorites regardless of the season or that it is a beautiful pre-summer day.

Ah, the never ending salad bowl.  Some love the dressing and I'm not saying I don't like it, but as readers may remember, I prefer a dry salad.  The crisp, fresh vegetables are what defines a perfect salad so I try to take my serving from the top and leave the wet bits behind for the Mr. who prefers his a bit on the drippy side of the scale.

Breadsticks.  Warm.  Sinful carbs.  Bits with the soup, pieces with the salad and though I am full, I still eyeball the basket.

After lunch a quick trip to his second least favorite place on earth, the mall.  I need pretty shoes for my sister's wedding.  Mission accomplished.

Though this lunch date may seem a bit every day, the special part was being able to call him at a moment's notice and simply meet for a meal.  And by the way, we used a gift certificate thoughtfully given to us by our nephew and his fiancee.  Thank you both.

With the mall errands behind us, we arrived home and pulled two chairs and an ottoman from the patio set down into the shady part of the back yard and talked a bit while the clouds rolled by.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Family Sunday Dinner in Almost Summer

Sometimes the hardest part of preparing a meal is deciding what to make.

Actually, many times the hardest part of getting out of a food rut is also choosing a new food to help get out of the hole.

This weekend when I was going grocery shopping my older son gave me several dinner requests.  Two involved chicken, but that's fine - one was for grilled chicken and the other for version of chicken and mushrooms.  Sunday was a perfect time for the grilled chicken.

With bruschetta.

It's really just chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, splash of olive oil, pinch of garlic powder, sprinkle of oregano.  The family prefers it on toasted bread (which I actually grilled) and I mixed the tomatoes in everything  I piled it on the grilled eggplant planks.

The chicken was grilled two ways, some with a dry rub and a few with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce.

Macaroni salad - the photo version includes the chopped and seasoned tomatoes.

A crispy and fresh tossed salad.  I always eat mine without dressing and though I am sometimes teased or given strange looks, I like and enjoy the taste of the vegetables.

A quick flick of the wrist and a mini-watermelon is scooped into a bowl.  It's one thing to say we need to include more fruit and veggies in our diet, but the quickest and best way to ensure it happens is by actually putting it on the table in easy to eat servings.

The other side dish, the conversation, well, it was mostly about the week ahead and our schedules.  Work, play, and when the family will gather again. 

The memorable chat was before the meal when my older son asks how things are prepared, how much of what goes in the tomatoes or on the chicken and how long does it cook...  Someday it will be his turn to provide, prepare and independently be fed well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Friday Co-Worker Lunch - Topics include the Celebrity Divorce Pool & Drew Barrymore's Wedding

Being fed well is often thought of as having had a good meal, and while this remains true, the primary thought does not have to center around the food but instead the company and the overall atmosphere.

Every other Friday I leave my job at noon.  On the weeks I work a full Friday I often have lunch at either the local Chinese or Mexican restaurant with coworkers I enjoy chatting with voluntarily.  This week we thought we would venture out of the routine and head to Smash Burger but instead we went Chinese.

My day job is for a global cosmetics and personal care product company and while I have seen lashes sold for car headlights on the web, I find it funny that two cars in our employee lot feature these after market add ons.  Here's a close up view. 

My role in the company would be to determine if panelists find these lashes to make their eyes look bigger, feel soft and last all day.

One of the group needs to stop off at the local Post Office and so we wait and admire the landscaping.  Whenever I see daisies, I always think of my sister and so my mind is momentarily derailed as I escape the conversation and retreat into my own thoughts for a moment or two (when will my dress come in, how will it fit, what will I say for my toast - have I changed my mind) and then I snap back into the discussion about the weather.

While waiting for a food, we almost always start by talking about our celebrity divorce pool.  Some may have death pools, but we thought that may be a little strong so instead we each picked ten celebrities we think are likely to get divorced this year and so far, none of us has had a score.  Around March we thought it may be bad karma to only be betting on bad news so we added the celebrity we think would be most likely to get married in 2012 and one of us picked Drew Barrymore.  Ok, yes, I did, I had the first point on the board!

We also discuss things like; the Beckham's - is the way they are presented in the media in any way close to their true personalities, Jennifer Aniston crying about having her man stolen only to show up in Justin Theroux's life and possibly hurt his long term lady friend in the same way, and what motivates straight men to dress up as women.

I am almost ashamed to post this sad picture of my amazing shrimp with rice noodles.  Sometimes my camera phone simply does not cooperate and when looking at the tiny screen I have a hard time judging if the image will be acceptable or not.  Here is my lame representation:

So yes, we indulge in more than our share of celebrity gossip, rating movies, actors and actresses.  I confess.  I look forward to these breaks from reality and having a great meal as well truly makes me feel Fed Well.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Calamari for Kids and Celebrating Mommy's Birthday

Crispy calamari rings are the perfect starter for any birthday celebration, aren't they?
I remember the first time I snuck the tasty rings by my nephews without really defining what they were eating.  Deep fried, dipping sauce, finger food - what else does one really need to know?

Now, they are at least a close to second to mozzarella sticks for them though they are a current first place winner for me.  The two different sauces are both marinara, one with hot red pepper flakes for a bit of extra zip.

Out for pizza for my Mommy's birthday - three New York pizzas to satisfy the 10 of us and our varied tastes.



and the veggie!

We talk about our days, about making the Little League playoffs, traveling and airports, weddings, the generous servings on plates that pass by for other diners in the restaurant and staying in touch with childhood friends.   Conversations are also shared about going fishing, portion control and the end of the school year countdown.

The pizzas are mostly eaten, only a few slices to wrap, since we all want to save a little room for something sweet then join in for a round of Happy Birthday singing.

I have the blondie sundae special, the blondie was warm with bits of melting chocolate and nuts.

One nephew orders the chocolate and peanut butter pie,

the Birthday Gal orders the raspberry brulee,
(cheesecake with raspberry sauce and a flame shot over the sugar on top),

and other desserts not pictured included the brownie sundae and a slice of Snicker's Pie.

No arguing, no fussing, no fighting, smiles all around - what more could my Mommy ask for in a Birthday dinner?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

For Your Audio Pleasure - served with a side of Neil Diamond

Taking a closer look at childhood memories reveals we learn so much more than we appreciate at the time.  Perhaps that is the real reason we hold on to those experiences from long ago.  If I look closely enough, I can tie food to almost all of my past experiences as far back as 4 years old.  Eating dinner at a friend's house revealed a planned and seated dessert course as if we were in a restaurant.  We were rewarded with chocolate pudding in fancy glasses on plates.  My mother would have skipped this step out of practicality, "Why wash another dish that no one is going to even use?"  Agreed.

One of the first school friends of mine who joined us for dinner had never before eaten or seen french fries.  We were all amazed and talked about it for years.  What child in the 1970's has never had french fries?  The modern answer, "a healthy one."

I remember the smell of fresh lobster in a boiling pot of water drove me outside as a young girl.  I had never experienced the overwhelming strength in the aroma of seafood before and though I grew to love most fish with or without shells, I was put off for a while by this first experience.

Parents may complain of children being finicky or picky eaters, well, I had my preferences.  Pasta was to be coated in butter, never sauce and a bowl of white rice with a butter was also a favorite.  My passionate relationship with carbs has hardly diminished, but now I have moved to include multi-grain or wheat pasta with a variety of sauces.  Rice is brown and served with vegetables.

A few years older, I had dinner at my friend Michelle's.  Well, an entirely new experience had evolved.  Wine for the adults with the meal.  My family never drank any alcohol.  And, dinner music.  Purposely selected music to accompany you for your dining pleasure.  We all just sat around and talked about our day.  Crass?  Were we poor?  Of a lower social class?  Nah, just different.  The music was just the background, the family still spoke, but I couldn't take my attention off of the stereo.  I knew other television families sometimes gathered around the tv during dinner (we never did that either), but this certainly made an impression.  Years later I worked with a woman who also deliberately paired music with the evening meal and her range was from classical to modern to suit her mood.

With a family of my own, we would only choose music once or twice a year during dinner and the television is either turned off or muted.  We do enjoy a soundtrack at parties, but I tend to let the music take all of my attention if it plays during dinner.

So for the memory of my first dinner at Michelle's house, enjoy a snippet of Neil...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Personalize It: Dessert

Mother's Day brunch at our house is a tradition but the menu is always evolving.  Either pancakes or french toast, an egg dish, sausage, maybe some baked goods, perhaps some lunch items.  The day always consists of gifts of flowers, an intense game of whiffle ball and of course, dessert.

A fruit salad with varying ingredients from year to year can almost always be found.  Everyone has their favorites and we try to accommodate the wish for "just green grapes please," or, "Can I have more cantaloupe, please?"  It is easier and less wasteful to allow individuals to select what they want rather than the old school of thought that children (and adults) had to eat what was placed in front of them and finish their plate. 

Our theory is more, "If you take it, you eat it," as far as waste and "Just try a bite," is the motto for new dishes.

A separate bowl of strawberries is on hand to serve with Angel Food cake or if anyone only wants some strawberries and cream or strawberries and chocolate sauce.

The chocolate sauce is a new creation this year.  I have a chocolate fountain, but for this smaller gathering of under 12 people, it is a bit fussy to use and worse to clean.  Instead, I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and added a bit of heavy cream then poured melted, silky, chocolaty goodness into a squeezy bottle designed to be used at the grill and let everyone help themselves.  (*Melting chocolate may also benefit from a bit of vegetable oil to help thin it out a bit - guests may be squeemish but I learned this trick from my chocolate fountain instruction book.)

Also on hand, a bit of confectionery sugar was left over from dusting the french toast.  A bit of white fairy dust for the Angel Food cake.  The small squares are mini-cheesecakes my sister brought to brunch.

Sometimes, you just want a classic combination - cake, strawberries and chocolate.

Or you may need to add a generous spoonful of homemade whipped cream.

However you build your dessert or your Mother's Day celebrations - may they be sweet and shared with loved ones so you always feel Fed Well!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Personalize It: Burgers

A burger bar or burger buffet - one of my favorite family dinners.

The way we turn simple grilled hamburgers into a bit more fun is by having as many different toppings as the personal tastes in this house demand.

I love a bit of crunch and so fresh lettuce, tomatoes and raw onion are a requirement.

I also prefer a simple grilled hamburger, no cheese.  A snappy dill pickle slice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on a lightly grill toasted bun and my meal is complete.  

For my older son, cheese is necessary and on this day a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce.  
He typically enjoys a well stacked, multi-layered, sky-high, piled with toppings burger so this was a rare sight and photo worthy indeed.

The combinations are endless and vary according to mood.  The men in the house may often have a second burger (usually with cheese) and prepared differently from the first.  

What do we talk about over a burger buffet?  The same subjects we may cover on any other weeknight - how was your day at work, what did you have for lunch, what's goign on this weekend, is Top Gear (the BBC version) on tonight?

The sweet snap and crunch of corn on the cob is always the perfect pairing with grilled meats.  Welcome back warm weather and dinner on the deck.  We've missed you both!