Thursday, March 31, 2011

are you kidding me, april?

I cannot, cannot, (I repeat) can not believe tomorrow is April 1st. 

But, I will admit that I've been looking forward to the esteemed April Fool's Day all week. Why? Because (please judge me for this, I give you permission) I've been planning to post the "Jar of Hearts" music video on one of my best friend's Facebook walls. If you've never heard the song before, I suggest look it up because it is so entirely depressing and dramatic. So then, what's so funny about it? This best friend and I heard it about twice a day, every single day during her last visit. The lyrics were so very ironic to be heard as we celebrated the best New Year ever, and thus, it became our hysterical theme song for 2011. It's hard to believe that that took place a whole three months ago.
Oh so much has happened since then... so many crazy sexy miracles, if you will: I backpacked through Costa Rica and Panama, came home again, landed a dream of a job, revisited my alma mater to celebrate, fell in love with green juice , took a weekend getaway to Colorado and journeyed to even greater self-awarement.
Plus, I met (my idol) Kris Carr, because of the dream job mentioned above, and was beyond inspired all over again. A few quotes from the lecture featuring the lovely force of spiritual wealth and hot prevention (pictured above with myself and Shayne) and the amazing lady of ~ing, Gabrielle Bernstein:
  • "A miracle is when we choose love over fear."
  • "Don't judge your ego with your ego."
  • "Get out of your own way. Intentions become our reality."
  • "There's no glass ceiling when you're working with a miracle mindset."
  • "When we are taking impeccable care of ourselves we create a daisy chain of goodness."
  • "Change your mind about your power. Live like you mean it."
  • "It's only without happiness that you have nothing."
  • "You change people when they're in diapers, the rest of their life you just have to lead by example."
  • "Always have your own back. Many people might leave you, don't leave yourself."
I walked out of there on cloud nine, literally. I felt not only like I could have every single thing I desired in life, but that I deserved it. And you know what? It's as true for me as it is for you. The weather absolutely sucked today--it was rainy and cold and may have very well snowed at some point--but my day was fantastic. I ate well, took a yoga class that rocked my world and enjoyed drinks with a new friend. I chose to be happy and grateful, and I was. 
Then, on my train ride home, I read more of Women Food and God. I may only be five chapters in but I'm finding that it's a book that's living up to it's self-proclaimed potential: "An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything." An excerpt...
It's like washing the dishes. If you focus on getting the dishes done so that your kitchen will be clean, you miss everything that happens between dirty and clean. The warmth of the water, the pop of the bubbles, the movements of your hand. You miss the life that happens in the middle zone--between now and what you think your life should be like. And when you miss those moments because you'd rather be doing something else, you are missing your own life. Those moments are gone. You will never get them back.
You already have everything you need to be content. Your real work, despite the corporate latter you are climbing, is to do whatever it takes to realize that. And then it won't matter if you're Someone Special or No One in Particular because you'll be fully alive in every moment--which is, I imagine, all you ever wanted from Going Places to be Someone.
Is all that a bit too much for you right now? Okay. Try this instead: pour yourself a glass of wine, smile sweetly, and look forward to the day of jokes and pranks ahead. No matter how great, or not-so-great, these past 3 months have been, we still have real spring and summer and fall ahead of us. The fun is just beginning.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

green with envy

Tomorrow I'm going to meet Kris Carr. Well, hopefully. Shayne and I will be attending the Crazy, Sexy Miracles lecture as press and I am crazy excited. She is such a super cool and inspiring woman, ah, it's just beyond me! Anyway, I say this not because I want to tell you all about the shrine I made in her honor (there is no such thing, promise) but because I wanted to share one of the most unexpected takeaways from my brief 21-day crazy, sexy cleanse:
A love of an obsession with green juice. I liked green juice before, really I did, but I swear that two days can no longer pass without a ridiculous craving for an energizing blend of chlorophyll. Last Wednesday, I actually splurged on a Thai Green from One Lucky Duck. And I must thank Gena for her recommendation many moons ago because this juice is such a phenomenal blend of kale, chard, pineapple, cilantro and lime. It quenched and revived my post-yoga self.
But, alas, such treats are rare for the recently employed me. So, on the majority of those days, I usually just get my green fix with an ensalada. This past Friday I made myself a simple spinach and romaine salad with celery and carrots. It hit the spot, I guess. I cannot tell you how jealous I am of those of you with juicers, and even more so of those ladies and gents who can frequent juiceries daily :).
In the mean time, the health nut and cultural foodie within me meet halfway with meals like this one. My friend and I ventured to Sofia's Wine Bar last Thursday night for fabulous wine and margherita-arugula pizza. The small pie was light, flavorful and crisp but it was the spicy spring green that stole the show. I actually bought a bunch of arugula at the farmer's market because of it. Good, healthy stuff... just enough to balance out the weekend fun.

P.S. I was also tempted to buy dandelion greens. The last time I had them was in Strasbourg,  they were fresh and sautéed and absolutely spectacular. And I'm afraid of ruining them myself. Help? Please? I'll send you this chocolate.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

depths of a sunday

I believe true happiness comes from within. I believe that vegetables and chocolate have the same benefit to our overall well being. I believe the best opportunities arise when we aren't looking for them. I believe we depend on technology too much. I believe our comfort zones were never meant to be a permanent residence. I believe there is no place in the whole wide world quite like New York City. I believe that trust, followed by understanding, can bring world peace. I believe we are meant to breathe fresh air. I believe real friends are worth the effort to stay in touch with.  I believe that it isn't necessary to exercise every single day. I believe each one of us deserves kindness. I believe hugs are one of the most powerful gestures. I believe family is the most valuable thing we have, whether it be the one you were born into or the one you've created. I believe freshly brushed teeth are one of life's greatest pleasures. I believe experiences are priceless. I believe that complaining is a waste of time. (And, oh my gosh, is it annoying...) I believe we must respect the environment. I believe wandering is, sadly, becoming a lost art. I believe we all have something to contribute to the world. I believe wine is a food group. I believe that it's okay to be scared, so as long as it doesn't keep us from living. I believe consideration need not be neglected. I believe finding the beauty in each and every day is worth it. I believe books are a form of nourishment. I believe that intuition often acts as a sixth sense. I believe fun (no matter what it means to you) is necessary. I believe that if your life isn't satisfying, then there's something you need to change... and soon. I believe people enter our lives for a reason; just as some are intended to eventually leave. I believe we should never forget: at the core of each one of us unique beings is humanity. I believe that you are important.
Words by D. Alvarez, Photo by K. Ottomanelli

Saturday, March 26, 2011

winemaking at brunnenburg castle

I love wine. You know this. I thoroughly enjoy it's flavor, texture, complexity, I enjoy the way it enhances a homemade or restaurant meal, and I enjoy the warm, happy buzz it brings if I drink more than I probably should. Today I'd like to introduce Maria Rainer who, now, also likes wine. She's a fellow traveler who has offered to share her uniquely amazing experience with wine as a contribution to the Plates from Around the World series.

One night in Venice, I procured a box of white wine for €1. Nik de Rachewiltz, the grandson of Ezra Pound and 20-something winemaking entrepreneur of Brunnenburg Castle, looked at me with furrowed brows and shook his head.  “We can no longer be friends,” he said in his mild German accent.

I probably shouldn’t have then told him that, until I’d begun studying abroad in Italy two months ago, I’d never even liked wine, cheese, or pizza.
In my defense, I’d never had good wine, cheese, or pizza until that autumn of 2007 when I and eleven other college students began living in a small town called Dorf Tirol in the foothills of the Italian Alps.  Nearly every day, we studied poetry, European mythology, and agro-archaeology within the frigid stone walls of Brunnenburg Castle under the tutelage of Mary de Rachewiltz and her son Sizzo, daughter and grandson (respectively) of one of modern poetry’s daddies, Ezra Pound.

Then, at least once a week, we had “work day,” which we spent following Nik the winemaker around their enormous property, getting dirt and splinters beneath our fingernails.
Let me get something straight: I’m not opposed to hard work.  I’ve mucked my fair share of stalls and I’ve trained hard to earn my black belts in Karate and Tae Kwon Do.  In fact, we girls often worked harder than the boys, who could often be found strumming guitars and singing gibberish in the vineyards below us.  Still, I’d never found physical labor more difficult than I did making wine at Brunnenburg.

Often, the work was tedious.  We spent more than one week tying and untangling “twisty-ties” around the netting that protected the grapes from birds and large insects.  Other weeks, we cleaned the trellising wires (which the vines use to grow upward) of old vines after Nik had pruned them earlier.  During the harvest season, we learned to differentiate between “gut” (good) grapes and “schlecht” (bad) grapes before picking them off the vines and placing them gently into buckets.  Our hands were unbearably sticky by high noon and gnats, bees, and all sorts of critters suddenly found us fascinating.

Still other times, it was genuinely hard work.  I’d never held a pick-axe before—and dare I say it was an empowering experience?  We dug new holes on steep hillsides for new posts and fences for both the vineyard and to keep the various farm animals (including ducks, furry pigs, and goats) from wandering.  I also handled a pair of wire-cutters for the first time in my life in Italy, earning some nasty blisters along the way.

Other times, I thought I was going to die.  You think I’m kidding.  At the beginning of every autumn, Nik has the students unravel old netting that’s been in storage for months and gently adhere them to the vine posts.  Brunnenburg’s vineyard is large not only in terms of lateral but also in vertical distance, meaning one false step and you’re likely to get impaled by a vine post on the terrace below.  Tip-toeing around the edges of the terraces to get the netting on all sides of the grapes was quite literally a life-threatening experience.  So was the time I was cutting rogue roots from the edges of one such terrace and fell 10 ft backward and below onto gravel, spraining my wrist and bruising my ego.  I did, luckily, get one month free of dishwashing duty.
Whatever.  All those aches and pains were more than worth the wine we made in late November, near the end of our time at Brunnenburg.  All of the girls—even the ones who’d been too stubborn to shave their legs when the hot water had run out—hiked up our pants and stepped barefoot into a huge, wooden vat of the grapes we’d so painstakingly picked earlier in the season.  It was just after sundown, and we couldn’t tell but for the sweet smell coming up from beneath our feet and the squishy feeling between our toes what exactly we were accomplishing. 
After a few minutes of grape-stomping, we tracked feet-shaped pools of grape juice through the vineyard and watched the stars come out over the vast Merano Valley.  Some nights later, we gazed over the same landscape with a glass of wine made by our friends who had studied at Brunnenburg the previous year.  None of us wanted it to end.

Sometimes, years later and continents apart, I take a glass of wine and approach a window.  It can be on the first floor facing a highway or the third floor facing a forest—it doesn’t matter.  I smell the wine with closed eyes and open them, still expecting to see hill after hill of grapes down to a valley you swear goes on forever, in a place too sweet to exist.

Incredible, right?! Here's a bit more about Maria, a freelance writer and blog junkie: She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online universities, and what it takes to succeed as a student getting an online masters degree from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop. If you'd like to to participateplease email your favorite place, foodie memory and photos to Hope you're weekend is wonderful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

bloggie talkie

When I was in high school, I went into the city for three reasons: to visit my aunt, to see plays, on Broadway and off, and to go out for Indian food. I hadn't grown up with the spicy cuisine but upon first taste, I quickly fell in love with it. It was just so flavorful and filling and as healthy (or "unhealthy") as I'd wanted. My friends and I frequented the tiny yet authentic eateries the East Village for these meals, and as such, it became the first neighborhood that I was familiar with.
Fast forward a little less than ten years (that many?!) and my New Yorker-ness has improved quite a bit. Earlier this week, Shayne and I met Megan, Sofia, and Leslie for an Indian dinner at Bombay Talkie. A plan, I might add, that was made a month in advance via e-mail... as opposed to at the lunch table the day before. Oh how times have changed.
As soon as we'd gathered at the Chelsea find (made possible by the ever-wonderful ScoutMob), we ordered a French bottle of smokey Carmenere Reserve. Naan was quickly a must and we chose to have ours with cilantro and red chili flakes. Being as we were a table of five, we also ordered a second community carb plate with Puri, a whole-wheat flatbread that I'd never had. It was deep-fried and delicious.
For my main dish, I went the vegetable route and ordered Bhindi (masala sauteed okra) with lemon basmati rice. A few bites of Shayne's Chole Peswari (spicy garbanzo beans in a ginger-garlic paste, green chiles and coriander) and Leslie's Sukhi Harabara Beans (string beans, onions, tomatoes lightly spiced with cumin, coriander, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and mango powder served with mint and coriander chutney) made their way to into my belly as well. I needed fuel after The Yoga Playground at David Barton Gym.
The meal was fantastic, the atmosphere was sleek and fun (the tapestry behind Sofia's head was influenced by Bollywood) and the company was, as to expected, phenomenal. In the next few months I probably won't be able to travel as far as I'd like (for reasons of time and money) but I'm glad to be in such a cultural and ever-changing city while I await my next trip. Having foodie friends like these to explore it with is going to make for a very exciting time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a twentysomething tale

It's getting late... and I'm tired after a busy day at work, vigorous yoga class, Indian food coma and wine. Yes, I'm obviously also satisfied as can be. So why am I blogging? :) I wanted to pop in and send you over to Leslie's whole plate for a very special guest post by yours truly. In it, I share exactly how I haphazardly find in balance in one of the most exciting (and utterly confusing) decades to date... and that is all. Be back soon!

Monday, March 21, 2011

tastes of the LES

Earlier today I was whining tweeting about much I want to go to this. Grand Street Settlement is putting on their annual glutinous event on April 28th: unlimited tastings from nearly fifty restaurants and an open bar of cocktails, wine and beer. It's conveniently located in lower Manhattan with outstanding dining, shops and the city's best nightlife. 
Ironically enough, it also happens to be located about a dozen or so blocks down and east from Union Square and a fabulously crowded Whole Foods Market. 
I've spent some quality time in this neighborhood at night, and a few hours in the morning for brunch, but never mid-day. Not really anyhow, until recently.
With all of my eclectic work responsibilities, I've also been spending a few hours visiting featured juice bars, bakeries, cafés, ice cream shops and yoga studios.
It's really quite fascinating how so many healthful (often overpriced) eateries are located here amongst the night owl attractions...
(My advice to you: get vegan ice cream here,)
(also, wherever it is that you get juice, choose wisely.)
Maybe one day I'll be able to afford frequenting all of them, and often, but until then, I think I'll stick with my free samples, coupon deals and prix-fixed/unlimited mimosa brunches (the best part of every weekend of fun.)
And then imagine just how wonderful it will be to get more than a Taste of the Lower East Side, you know, more like $150s worth of big bites. Yum. Don't mind if I (someday) do. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

right by bubby's

Before I started working at The Well Daily, I never really had a reason to explore that Triangle Below Canal Street. (Did you know that's what TriBeCa stands for? Yep. Just one of many fun facts I learned playing New York: the Game.)
But since I have, I've started to grown to appreciate this little cobblestoned neighborhood that's become one of the most expensive on Manhattan island. And not just for the tastings at VinoVino and signature cocktails from Ward III.
There's Birdbath Bakery, for instance, an eco-friendly place of chocolate-chip cookies (for St. Patrick's Day) and other baked goods to inspire Taided's Quinoa Banana-Nut Muffins. What would a morning fruit snack be without such treats?
Well, perhaps a lot less headachy. I've been noticing that too much sugar has been eliciting quite the achey head since the 21 day extremities of the Crazy, Sexy Diet. I'm going to need to be more conscious of that.
There's also a plethora of yoga studios for all budgets; Even if Shayne and I don't have to worry our pretty little heads about the costs for a while. With the 2011 New York Yoga Passbookwe're sampling class offerings available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Westchester County in the name of research. You can follow our journey and reviews here
I like yoga-ing (obviously) but I also seem to depend on the balance it provides. With the transitional challenges that a new job and post-cleanse continue to pose, I need to surrender to the mat and literally work it out.
And as I am doing so, I'm grateful for the social support. I didn't have a chance to pack lunch last Friday. I felt like I've just been going and going since Colorado and wanted to sleep in a bit. Buying lunch was a financial sacrifice I was willing to make... until my boss brought down kale salad with ricotta, vegetarian samosas, black olive pesto, homemade pita chips, and kale pesto.
Dare I say that I'm looking forward to tomorrow, another Monday in Tribeca. I am. Each time I turn the corner, past one of many Film Festival venues, I become more content, satsifed and grateful for the opportunity before me. Being a "real person" isn't as different as I thought it'd be. It's just another chance to learn and grow and flourish.
And as I work, I'm coming to find what now works for me: a sufficient amount of sleep, lots of greens, fish on each protein-rich occasion, mindful movement, moments of meditation, and evenings spent with friends and family.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the black forest

Good morning, beauties. Happy weekend! Hope you did something fun last night. I know I did: I ran home after work, got completely dolled up in 35-minutes, and drove too fast to a venue too far (in my opinion) to celebrate my little sister's Sweet Sixteen. I forgot my camera in my rush but my grandmother gave me a few and hopefully we'll see the professional photographs soon. 
Anyway, family excitement aside, this is actually going to be quite the relaxing weekend. I'm making time for a friend, yoga class and apartment tour, but besides that... nothing, nothing at all. I can hardly wait to get started. So without further adieu, I'd like introduce Jenn, a fellow Syracuse grad, friend and pseudo little sister, and her Plate from Around the World...

It only took an instant for me to recognize that there is something inherently unique about The Black Forest of Germany.

As a study abroad student in Strasbourg, France, a day trip to the region just across the Rhine River was the perfect opportunity to explore the distinct culture and traditions that allow the local population to flourish. 
To an American accustomed to big box stores and year round produce, the traditional lifestyle appeared as a novel concept. Yet, by allowing myself to embrace all that was different, I was able to relish in all the new (or really really old, depending on how you look at it) things around me.
(That's me! In front of Lake Titisee.)

The day, despite the rain and fog, was perfect. I accepted the grayish hue of the sky as it made entering a notably dark part of Germany all the more enticing. After all, it was named "The Black Forest" for the large concentration of pine trees that made it appear dark from a distance. Fun fact, no?

I digress...I really just want to talk about the food and the region's fun hats. :)

Have you ever tasted Black Forest Cake? In German, it is called Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte and the name is as intense as the flavor profile.
The traditional dessert is composed of multiple sheets of fluffy chocolate cake with sugary whipped cream and liquor soaked cherries between each layer. It is then covered in whipped topping and decorated with more cherries and dark chocolate shavings.
The portion was generous, to be sure. But when split among friends, it was just enough to savor each of the distinct flavors. It is not a very dense cake, which took me by surprise at first. The alcohol used to soak the cherries is noticeable and gives the whole thing a certain je ne sais quoi.

There is a certain connection between my two favorite things in the Black Forest. The cherries that sit atop the scrumptious cake also miraculously appear in the traditional ladies hat of the region, the Bollenhut. Okay, so technically they are not cherries, per se, but can't you see the resemblance!?
Technically, only unmarried women wear the hats with red pompoms as the ones topped with black pompoms are reserved for married women. Regardless, they are a traditional part of Black Forest culture that are still worn today on special occasions.
(A German VW car topped with a Bollenhut!)

I would love to see one of these worn in the U.S.. Talk about a conversation starter!

I hope this gives you just a little taste (pardon my pun) of all there is to see, do, and eat in the Black Forest. If you ever make it to the area, pick me up a hat and make sure to eat some cake!


Ha, I need that hat. Who wants to go with me? If you haven't been reminded already, Plates from Around the World is a Saturday series that describe a contributor's incredible travel experiences with food. To participateplease email your favorite place, foodie memory and photos to Have a fabulous weekend, everyone.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

3 vices, 2 valentines, 1 lucky me

For as healthy as I may be, I do have a three "vices": wine, ice cream and artisan bread (whole-grain and not). Yum.
But I don't really consider them vices at all because beyond just being textbook "healthy," mental satisfaction, emotional well being, and social interaction are also, if not more, important.
So, when you have oatmeal for breakfast, fresh fruit for a late morning snack and a massive salad with avocado for lunch, 
I highly encourage you to have (vegan) ice cream for an afternoon amuse-bouche. Especially if the rain's turned to sun, you're able to swing by the Lower East Side's Lulu's Sweet Apothecary, and the Espresso Chip flavor is available.
Then, of course, return to your whole foods for dinner if it pleases you. If not, enjoy whatever it is that you do eat for your evening meal. No pressure, my friends.
Earlier this week I met Leslie for dinner at the Doma Café in the West Village. We had fresh bread, salads with eggs and avocado, and wine, obviously. It was an extra special- first because it's been over a month since we've dined together (the last time was February 14th at an evening celebration of love for which she was one half of the best Valentine's Day date ever), second because I had my first two glasses of vino since the Crazy, Sexy diet cleanseand third because: dessert.
I hardly ever eat real sweets (or desire them) but I hadn't had anything this extraordinary in 21 days and then some. I love me some apple crisp.
And when it comes down to it, it really is all about me... and you, and you, and even him and her. Gillian has officially declared March "me" month, encouraging all to put their body, mind and soul first. Would you like to join? Keep in mind that if you do, that means that you're going to have to treat yourself incredibly well, whether it be with a green juice, a dark beer, a rest day from your exercise routine, or all three. No matter what you decide, I do wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Please enjoy it in the best way(s) you can.