Friday, July 29, 2011

lunch break

If your office is anything like mine, the term "lunch break" has little meaning. I've never been told not to take 45 minutes to leave the building, take a walk, get fresh air, and eat elsewhere, but I often don't. Neither does Shayne. And so we usually dine at our desks, in front of our computers, and chew as we continue to work.
It's not so bad. I usually bring a soup or sandwich anyway (gotta save somehow), and there's almost always fresh fruit available, so there's really no "reason" to leave. Plus, stepping away from my desk while I'm in the middle of an assignment/project just feels a bit irresponsible.
For the most part, I even manage to pack lunch on mornings when I'm especially in a rush. This means an Amy's Burrito (I'm not the only one that loves 'em, am I?) and whatever sliced vegetables I have on hand.
But, I must admit I've become less and less responsible lately (once again: oh, summer and your fun) leading to... lunch breaks. Real ones. One afternoon I took an outing to Birdbath Bakery for a kale and pecorino salad and snack pizza.
On another, I ventured to Peace & Love Café for a simple yet delicious Maldives sandwich (goat cheese, avocado, tomato field greens, and aioli on a French baguette).
Oftentimes though, I just cross the street and brave the lines of men in suits for a very affordable mixed salad from Jin Market. This one contained mesclun greens, onions, cucumbers, garbanzos, avocado, brussels sprouts and celery.
Still, there are special occasions in which a stroll down to Whole Food's Market is called for. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh offerings at their salad and hot bar.
Oh, and, being that it's summer, we've had a few Fridays in which we've spent our entire workday outside of the office. My favorite of those sort was spent at Peacefood Cafe. A single coffee kept me company most of the day.
Once the clock struck two, however, I couldn't hold off my appetite any longer (it was an attempt to eat at home a.k.a. save money). I ordered a roasted japanese pumpkin sandwich (mashed and seasoned with a little sea salt, ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil topped with caramelized onions, ground walnuts, vegan goat cheese and seasonal greens on toasted whole spelt rye bread) alongside jicama "fries." Why yes, it was as fabulous as it sounds.
Lunches likes those may be few and far between, and lunch breaks may be rare, but, at least I can count on the fact that my work day promptly ends at five. This means that I finish working before 99% of my friends, leaving just enough time to practice yoga before dinner plans or travel across town for a discounted happy hour. I like to take each evening at a time ;).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

the epitome of comfort food

There are few things that are more comforting than...
meeting a friend for good beer (or a flight featuring a Kolsch, Belgian Strong Pale Ale, American IPA, and Quadrupel), 
splitting grilled cheeses (manchego and ricotta with minted eggplant and capers on multigrain & fontina with marinated mushroom and basil pesto on focaccia),
having salads on the side (or mesclun greens with picked golden raisins), 
and watching an hour fly by with great conversation at The Queens Kickshaw, followed by another hour spent with two Miller's Martinis, and a thirty minute quest for custard-style ice cream. Thank you, Katie, for a fabulous first date and first-time-in-Astoria experience.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

just keep swimming

I practiced yoga in Times Square nearly one month ago. By 8:30 a.m, in the midst of one of the most chaotic areas of Manhattan, I was lying in savasana with over one thousand other New Yorkers. The juxtaposition dazzled me. I strongly dislike Times Square, I do, and yet being there that morning with Leslie alongside me, and Sofia and Shayne close by, made my day. 'Twas quite the experience.
And it made me realize something: We're all going somewhere, not just to the gym or the office or back home, but in life. There's no such thing as "stuck." Even if we're physically standing (or lying) still, we're moving forward. It's happening to every one, all around us. The trouble and beauty is... we never quite know where we're going. No matter how much we think we do or wish we would have taken a map with us. I guess that's what they meant when they told us to enjoy the ride.

P.S. Life is good and I'm in a fine mood - just feeling extra thoughtful :).

Monday, July 25, 2011

made for mezze

I am, and always have been, a three square meals kind of gal. I do enjoy snacks and have even been known to ruin my appetite before dinner, but I would prefer to forever be hungry as I sat down to the table and satisfied as I stood up from it.
With that said, I have utmost appreciation for the kinds of meals that come in courses and/or parts. I like to excite my palate with distinct yet compatible flavors and textures. The last few weeks have been especially fantastic in this regard. 
We'll ignore the fact that it took all this time for me to share them with you :). (Oh, summer and your fun.) First recap: the Cupping Room Café
My friend, Steph and I met up here after work for a drink and dinner courtesy of ScoutMob. Despite having wandered in there once before with Sofia, I was still impressed with the quaint space. It's adorable and the service is fantastic. I ordered Rosemary's refreshing Lemonade (gin, housemade rosemary syrup, lemon juice) and a salad to start.
And for my entrée, a Middle Eastern platter of hummus, babaganoush, chopped marinated vegetables and homemade pita. Each bite hit the spot. It's also worth noting that we were in the pleasant company of a speed-dating event which brought people-watching to a whole new level. Although I can't promise this entertainment every evening, I do know that they often feature live music as well.
Second recap: Balade. It has been so long since I've dined at a Lebanese restaurant (let alone my favorite one in Strasbourg), and I've never been to a Lebanese Pitza & Grill, but I was most excited to meet Anna who was visiting us for the weekend.
Her, Leslie, Katie and I  split the fatayir with spinach and feta (2 photos above) and each ordered the Vegetarian Mazmeez so that we could "create our own dreamy vegetarian ensemble." After much deliberation, I chose the hummus (classic goodness), falafal (surprisingly unique), tabbouleh (high in parsley rather than bulghar) and warak einab (delicious homemade-style grape leaves, stuffed with chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley and rice).
Following our meal, we treated ourselves to vegan ice cream at Lulu's Sweet Apothecary and fabulous tequila cocktails at Ella Lounge. Both were necessary and very much enjoyed. I love that these ladies agreed.
Most recently, the third recap: St. Germain spritzers and tapas for a couple more New York foodie bloggers hosted by the lovely Rebecca.
Each of us contributed a dish or two resulting in a gorgeous spread of: swiss chard with dried apricots and pumpkin seeds, cheeses (including one made from Chimay), curried carrot dip, spiced nuts, hummus, carrots, black bean dip, crackers, a variety of breads, roasted peaches with goat cheese, (a la Jenna via Leslie), mixed berries and dark chocolate. Sure, I'll admit that I enjoy a sandwich every now and again, but I have yet to figure out the appeal of a day of snacks and stews.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

vacationland (maine, part 2)

After a few hours in Ogunquit, we continued north to Portland. I was excited but exhausted so we immediately checked into our bed and breakfast, napped, and showered before heading out to experience the port city.
First up, drinks. We were still full from our amazing lobster lunch so a single Garden Fresh Martini al fresco was perfect. Trouble is, we made the mistake of also getting carried away with menu and ordered an appetizer. Stop by The Farmer's Table for a drink, nothing else. Trust me on this one.
I wish I could say I just seamlessly moved on from the terrible amuse-bouche... but I didn't. I'd read that Portland was a foodie town. I knew of a few of the best restaurants. As ridiculous as I may have been being, I was disappointed with my spontaneous mistake. Then, I unsuccessfully brought us to a neighborhood favorite that was not only completely booked for the rest of the night, but closed the following day. Fore Street was my last hope.
And, oh my gosh, did it deliver, exceeding absolutely every expectation. We enjoyed three varieties of Maine oysters, local greens, fennel and turnips, crusty bread with butter, braised greens from a nearby farm (with bacon, no less), fresh mushrooms prepared in some delicious way, summer squash pasta with pecorino, and bass, all alongside glasses of fantastic wine for me and beer for him.
Everything was just so perfect. How it could it not have been? The culinary offering at Fore Street literally changes daily "to create menus from the freshest food available, regardless of the season." Why? As they explained. "the objective of all our skill is to reveal the exceptional quality of these Maine foods, and never to mask them with needless complexity of clashing tastes."
Then, dessert. I ordered fresh raspberries served with a créme fraîche, balsamic glaze, and brown sugar for dipping. He ordered the warm chocolate torte served with salted chocolate nib and buttercream ice cream. I nearly melted with pleasure upon taking a bite of one followed by a bite of the other.
Dinner was a three hour affair and I all but fell asleep on the ride back to the bed and breakfast. I've had few nights were I've slept better.
Six hours later, breakfast was served: coffee with cream, homemade yogurt topped with fresh fruit and granola, warm banana bread, an egg-vegetable soufflé and rye toast with local preserves. Paired with pleasant conversation with the other guests, it was a lovely way to start a Sunday.
Next up: a stroll along the waterfront while we waited for the Peaks Island ferry.
Soon after: the 20 minute ride to Peaks Island with a few beautiful views.
Followed by an early lunch on the Peaks Island waterfront featuring: fried shrimp, two local brews, and more than just a couple of generous bites of an incredible bread bowl of lobster bisque.
With an hour or so of wandering through the sandy streets for dessert.
Later on, being that it was about 90 degrees hot, we rehydrated with lemonade.
And before we knew it, we were on our way back to Portland again.

We then drove down to Cape Elizabeth to see the oldest lighthouse in Maine.

And that was it. The time had come to go home. Such is the nature of weekend getaways to faraway lands, I suppose. It was a long ride with traffic and a haddock sandwich from earlier that day, but it was very much worth it. I look forward to my next visit to the aptly named Vacationland.