Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kung Fu Panda - 5 stars

Just watched Kung Fu Panda. So funny Rick and I not only laughed out loud but also had tears in our eyes. Rent it! Way worth it!

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

Back in the ski house in North Conway, NH, my friends and I talked about and watched our favorite Christmas shows. Mine are those animated ones from childhood like the Grinch. Some people like "It's a Wonderful Life" and my friend Joel introduced me to White Christmas. It was a singing and dancing extravaganza with a very happy ending. When I saw it was going to be on Broadway this year, I HAD TO HAVE TICKETS!

The Marquis Theater is in the Marriott Marquis Hotel, and it is a very nice theater. The seats are not designed for 12 year olds so we were very comfortable.

When I looked at the playbill, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lead was Kerry O'Malley. She is Mike O'Malley's sister. I went to college with Mike and was in Godspell with him. I consider him one of my token successful friends - his long running TV show was "Yes, Dear" and he currently does Time Warner Cable ads. A very funny, talented and kind guy. Anyway, Kerry did a wonderful job in the Rosemary Clooney role :)

The show was great - the dancing was amazing (when do you get to see really good ensemble tap dancing??), the sets were incredible - a wonderful job of making you believe you are there, the costumes were rich and colorful, the actors and emsemble were very talented and well rehearsed, and of course the story was heart warming.

It was a great Christmas show and we very much enjoyed it!

Capital Grille - NYC

Last night we went to the Capital Grille near 42nd and Lex. Rick wanted to go to a steak house, and I do want to try Strip at some point, but tonight we are heading to a show as well, and Strip is on the other side of town. I had been to the Capital Grille in Boston (it was fabulous), and I really wanted to hit a place that was not a chain, but wasn't able to find one in mid town or in the Theater district.

At any rate, there is a reason why the Capital Grille has successful restaurants all over the country. They are very good at what they do.

We got to our table and it was in a nook where it was like our own private dining room - very nice. We ordered cocktails, and I asked for a Cosmo - not too sweet. This was the only disappointing part of the meal - it was still to sweet.

We started with the French Onion Soup - still on our quest for the best bowl :)

Out of 5 stars:

Presentation = An extra large white soup crock matching the dishes used throughout the meal, browned cheese melted over the top, a paper doily caught spills. 5 *****

Broth Flavor = I thought the broth fresh, not salty, but not as rich and complex as others. I missed the complexity, but not the salt. 3 ***

Bread/Crouton = The bread was toasted, and cripsy still in the soup. It could have been toasted just a little more, but very good. 3 ***

Onion Content = Lots of onions and most were spoon sized, though a few were unweildy. 3***

Cost = $10 - Average price for the locale 3***

Total = 3.4 Stars

Now of course you don't head to the Capital Grille for the onion soup - though you could stop at the bar for a soup snack. We were here for the MEAT.

Rick elected to have the Sliced Filet Mignon with cippolini onions and sauteed mushrooms. I chose the simple Delmonico steak. It's my favorite cut - I have no problem leaving all the fat behind :) The meat was cooked perfectly - something we appreciate all the more now as we don't have a grill anymore! We selected a lovely Sonoma Valley Cabernet Souvignon. We had Au Gratin potatoes and steamed asparagus with hollandaise. The potatoes I think were the best au gratin potatoes I've ever had - the creamy sauce was rich and garlicy, the potatoes were thinly sliced and cooked perfectly - just a tiny bit of bite to them so they held together. And there were crunchy onion bits on top. My gosh - they were amazing! The asparagus was very fresh and sweet, cooked just right, and the hollandaise was marvelously thick and worked wonderfully with the veggie.

I think overall this meal was the best one we have had in Manhattan so far. I felt it was a sin to leave our left overs behind, but we were headed to the Theater, so there was no place to safely keep them. Next time only dinner :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kang Suh Korean Restaurant

The Friday after Thanksgiving I trudged into work - no freebie day after Thanksgiving off in the financial sector - both the market and the banks are open, so we are too.

Marlene was also in the office, so we decided to actually step out of the office at eat at a restaurant. She said that there were some folks who had been to Kang Suh at 1250 Broadway and 32nd Street and they really liked it. We decided we'd just jump in and try it too :)
We took some time with the menus - there were some english descriptions, but really we just did the ennie meenie minie moe approach to choosing. Our waitress was very kind, and after seeing us struggle, she suggested dishes for us. We accepted her help gratefully!

Lunch started with miso soup - exactly like what you would see at any asian restaurant. While we were enjoying the soup, 7 little dishes of food appeared - the server placed them in the middle of the table. We noticed everyone had them. The waitress indicated that you mix them in with your entree.

Our entrees came in heated stone bowls - very very hot - along with a side of chili scallion sauce. The server showed us to pour the sauce on and mix everything (the rice and seafood and sauce) together very well. She did Marlene's and I did mine. I ended up using all my sauce - it was very nice. We tried all the little dishes. 2 used potatoes - one was like a potato salad with mayo, the other was like roasted potato in soy sauce. Then there was a sweet pickled cabbage - that was very tasty! And some fried tofu we thought - it tasted a little like chicken. Then there was bok choy cooked with a spicy chili sauce - I liked this one. Marlene didn't try it as her tummy can't take spicy stuff. Then there was a brown kind of gelatin. Marlene tried it and didn't like it so I passed on that. The last part were some kind of sauteed or steamed greens. Now all the condiments were maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons of food - it was like our own mini buffet :)

It was very interesting - unfortunately the take out menus are only in Korean, so I couldn't really tell you what we ate, but I think I will go back again sometime to try more :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

We took a cab to Brasserie44 for our reservation for Thanksgiving dinner. The cabbie was concerned about getting stuck in that part of town due to the parade, so we agreed to walk the last few blocks. We got to the restaurant at 1:00 - it was beautiful. When we spoke to the maitre'd, he told us they were serving brunch, not the traditional Thanksgiving dinner as advertised. As you can imagine, I was plenty pissed.

Rick stepped right up to the plate, used his blackberry to find the number for Parlor (across the street from the apt, and made us a reservation for 2:00. Parlor was serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in addition to their regular menu. Rick decided to have the 3 course special Thanksgiving meal and I decided to join him. We were not disappointed - it was absolutely amazing.

We started with the roasted sugar squash risotto - I love risotto and I've never made it. This had the squash, just a little firm, in a large dice mixed into the risotto, with roasted pumpkin seeds and freshly grated parmesean cheese on top. Wow. So good. We brought home about half of what was served.

The entree was dark and light turkey (boneless roasted turkey) with baby carrots, green beans, traditional stuffing (yum - no sausage - just like I like it!), whipped potato, sweet potato, cranberry sauce and gravy. Woo! And there was PLENTY of turkey - quite a few sandwiches will be made with mayo that will be feeding us this week!

With both the appetizer and the entree we had a wonderful Mendicino Pinot Noir. It has a big sunflower on the label and I probably wouldn't pick it out from a wine shop just for that reason, but it was amazing - especially with the turkey and stuffing!

For dessert there were 2 options. Rick had the Pumpkin Creme Brulee with almond nugatine ice cream. I had the cranberry pear cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Both were very tasty. Yes, they were not chocolate cream pie, but they were good!

So - if you are considering Thanksgiving dinner, go to Parlor - exactly what you'd expect :)

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

We got to the parade route at 8:00 am - a little later than the web sites suggest. Look at all the people on the sidewalks. There was no place for us to stand without being in the way of the one line of people walking by to find their own place. There were benches not too far from the street, and we figured we'd be able to wait in relative comfort yet still see the floats and the balloons.

Rick tried not to smile while he ate an apple fritter from Starbucks.

Woo hoo! It's finally 9:00 am - the parade is starting!

Now that it's all starting Rick's smiling :)

Wow - we need to make friends with these people - an apartment overlooking Central Park West with a balcony .... I bet they were warm and they had mimosas and bloody marys... and turkey and stuffing...

Note to self - when we do come and get here at o-dark-thirty to claim a space on the street, be sure to pick a part of the wall that doesn't have vegetation - people will climb ANYTHING to get a better view.

Oooohhh - it's starting!!!

New Smurf balloon!

Snoopy as the Red Baron!

Hey! That's Dora the Explorer! At the parade she had her own special cheering section :) She brought Map and Backpack too!


This is Abbey Kidabra - no idea who she is actually... but the kids seemed to like her :)

Hello kitty!

Ronald McDonald

The very special music balloon


Buzz Lightyear!

Things I want to be sure to remember the next time I attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:


2. Get there early. You can see the floats and balloons while not right on the street, but the handlers and band members are part of the show, and you will miss that if you aren't on the street. Better than nothing if you get there late is to find a high spot on the west side of the park.

3. Do not accept a spot with vegetation above it unless you have to. People will climb EVERYTHING in order to get a better view.

4. Bring breakfast snacks and a coffee thermos. Don't drink too much - if you leave to go to the bathroom you will lose your spot.

5. Bring a wool blanket - if you are lucky enough to get a spot on the park wall, it will add cushion under your butt. If not, it will make you warm when you are freezing.

6. Be sure your camera has fully charged batteries and an empty memory card - you will want to take lots of pictures!

7. Expect and acknowledge that there will be a 2 or 3 or 4 year old experiencing the biggest most horrible temper tantrum you have ever seen. If you are not able to actually see the child, you will wonder whether s/he is being stabbed to death or having their fingernails pulled out one by one.

8. Bring advil for the point where your feet are killing you and prior to when your feet are numb from the cold and standing still.

9. Make friends with those people near you so when you dance to the drum cores and marching bands they don't mind as much when you bump them.

10. Be sure to participate in the traditional Thanksgiving Hot Dog brunch. I like to add ketchup.

For all the things to remember, the biggest one is that the parade it like NOTHING you have seen anywhere else, and it is exciting and joyous! And yes, I am geeky enought that I TiVo the show on TV and then watch it later in the day. That way you get to see the Broadway selections and performers - it is a whole nother perspective which is part of the experience :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Preview of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloons!

Tonight I got out of work early, and even after stopping for fun holiday snacks I got home at 5:20. We left soon after and took a cab to the Museum of Natural History and were very surprised by the mobs of people. We had the cab continue driving to get to the end of the line.
One of the first balloons was the new Buzz Lightyear!

I liked this picture because you can see the tiny tiny lawn tractor in Shrek's had - see it?

Rick agrees to be a good boy if he isn't required to actually attend the parade

Ronald is having a good time hanging out behind Hello Kitty -

yeah, Rick. I really do want you to come with me for the parade...

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Uptown in the UES

We were quick to evaluate the next entry in the Blue Ribbon of Onion Soup contest. On the way out of the train today, I stopped to buy a subway pass for tomorrow, and my sweet love Rick came out of his train at just about the same time. Since the barber shop had a line, I was able to talk him into a cocktail and a bowl of soup :)

Since we were here to have a quick nibble, the French Onion Soup on the regular menu seemed appropriate. I will say that the bartender said these were the last 2 servings for the night (???) so maybe they weren't as good as usual. We waited a looooonnnnnggggg time for our soup, so that may have affected our ratings as well. I'll rate the Uptown again when things go as we expect so you can take an average of the 2 :)

Out of 5 stars:

Presentation = Traditional onion soup crock, stringy provalone cheese melted over the top (stringy), a paper napkin caught spills which was kinda yucky. 3 ***
Broth Flavor = I thought the broth was onion-y sweet. 3 ***
Bread/Crouton = Usually the croutons are cripsy still in the soup. I think because this was the last serving, maybe they subbed something else? 3 ***
Onion Content = Not many onions at all - again maybe because it was the end of the pot? 3***
Cost = $6 - not bad! 4****

Total = 3.2 Stars

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Suzee's Beef Braciole

I looked on line to see how it is that you cook Beef Braciole - there are a lot of recipes! I used these as inspiration, and this is what I did.

I took the prepared Beef Braciole from the Grand Central Terminal Marketplace, and let it get to room temperature. I sauteed what onion I had in my La Cruset dutch oven. Once they had some browning, I browned the braciole (leaving the onions in there in a pile on the side). Once all sides of the braciole were browned, I added a can of Hunts Low Sugar tomato sauce. Once it stopped splashing me (crap that was a new sweater too), I put the cover on and popped it in a 325 degree oven.

The butcher in the Grand Central Terminal Marketplace indicated the braciole had garlic, ramano cheese and parsley rolled inside it. Sounded good to me as that meets the low carb requirements for Rick.

I let the meat simmer in the oven for an hour and a half. At the 60 minute point I put a cookie sheet of trimmed and halved brussell sprouts and mini peeled carrots all rolled in olive oil in the oven. I made sure the cut side of the sprouts were down.

We enjoyed the braciole and the veggies, but I think next time I'll treat the braciole more like a pot roast and braise it in wine and onions rather than tomato sauce. I'll bet both will be good, but it's nice to have variety :)

Grand Central Holiday Market

Next on the Ann Tour of NYC was the Holiday Market at Grand Central Station. It's a good place to warm up after being outside, and they actually have a committee to decide which vendors will be allowed to have space here to ensure variety of goods and a rotation of vendors from year to year. Vendors average 100K in sales from the 6 week period according to one of those free papers they give out on the way into the Subway.
The TV tree is new this year - Sharp created the display. Rick noted that they were way brighter and clearer than our TV. I reminded him that was what he was supposed to think when he walked by.
I thought the goods at the Holiday Market were very nice, but I think I prefer those at Union Square (which is ironic since I almost skipped that one). We picked out our annual Christmas ornament - I love the blown glass ornaments and have been collecting for many years. I mentioned to Rick that I will miss opening all the ornaments I have collected over the years, remembering when I purchased them or when they were given to me as a gift. They are all in storage in NH and won't be coming out this year at all. We will probably get a small tree or some kind of arrangement. We'll see. We plan to hang this ornament from the dining room light :)
Rick suggested that we take a tour of the Grand Central Market, the gourmet food store right in the terminal. They still sell the beautiful cake we bought for my birthday :) This time we decided to try some blue cheese stuffed artichokes and from the meat counter, some braciole (pronounced bruh-CSHOL with a long O). I'm cooking the meat now. I'll write about that recipe later :)

Brasserie Ruhlmann

We had brunch today at Brasserie Ruhlmann on a whim. We were in Rockafeller Center, and were ready for some warm food and a place to sit. Thankfully this place had both!
After we checked our coats, we were shown to a very nice table. It was probably around 1:00 and on Sunday they serve Brunch all day. The restaurant was about half full. I'd imagine after Thanksgiving it will be tough to get a seat.

We chose tap water over bottled, and I splurged on a mimosa. It was very tasty :) Warm crusty french rolls appeared with room temperature butter. Rick is eating low carb these days, so he left his roll there. It was tasty, and Rick took a bite of mine for the experience. He's lucky that he can have just a taste. He thought they were pretty amazing too.

We elected to have soup. I had a cream of mushroom soup garnished with chicken salad and cheese fondue. I had to have this special of the day just to see how they would do the "garnish". Plus I love mushrooms :) My soup came, and the rimmed soup bowl had a dollop of chicken salad covered in cheese in the middle of the bowl. Initially I was a little confused as I didn't see the pitcher that the server brought with her. The server poured the creamy mushroom goodness all around the chicken salad and cheese. mmmm mmmm good. Wow it was seriously delicious.

Rick chose the French Onion Soup. It came in a traditional crock with well browned cheese over the top. I like it when the cheese is actually browned and not just melted - it adds to the rich flavor. The soup was rich and sweet and very complex. It did have a lot of bread, which Rick would prefer not to have - he left it behind. But the flavor was exquisite, and inspired me to ask Rick if he would be up for tasting French Onion Soup all over the city looking for the Blue Ribbon of Onion Soup. He agreed. So far we've tried this one and the Uptown.

I've asked Rick to comment on aspects of this soup, and then we can average them all together for a score.

Out of 5 stars:

Presentation = Rick loved the presentation with the browned cheese wrapping the soup, and the service. Cheese was not stringy and you didn't have to fight with it. Traditional onion soup crock 4 ****
Broth Flavor = I thought the broth was onion-y sweet and yet complex. 5 *****
Bread/Crouton = There was a lot of bread in the soup, and it didn't seem to be toasted, which I prefer. 2 **
Onion Content = Onions were very small, and the bread interfered with the onion pieces. There were no long stringy pieces of onion (bonus). 4 ****
Cost = $11 - kinda pricy. 2**

Total = 3.4 Stars

If you find yourself here, definitely order the soup :)

Pre View of Rockefeller Center

Rick and I continued the tour that was going to be for Ann today. It was bright, sunny, clear and cold out today, and I felt like it contributed to the anticipation of the holidays :) I will say that if Thanksgiving is as cold as today, I feel very badly for the baton twirlers in their skimpy costumes :) The tree is up in Rockefeller Center, and you can see it behind us covered in staging. There is a huge banner in front of it advertising the Swarovski crystal star. I imagine that will come down when the tree is lit in a couple of weeks.
The Angels are up, heralding the coming of the holiday, and toy solders surround the ice skating rink.
We'll come back again to see everything lit up. I'll be sure to take some photos then, too.
We realized after perusing Rockefeller Center that we were hungry. It was time for Brunch. We saw Brasserie Ruhlmann right there. We have reservations for Brasserie44 for Thanksgiving, and I thought Hmmm... here is a chance to check it out before the holiday, and if we need to change our reservation, we can. Win win!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Market at Union Square

This morning I woke up and it was bright and sunny :) Ann had planned to visit the city today on a bus tour, and we were going to catch up, take in some sights and have some fun. Unfortunately, Halle, Ann's favorite puppy got cut on her cornea, so Ann is putting lots of medicine in Halle's eye many times today, tomorrow and the next day. Hopefully Halle will feel better soon.

I decided today to go out and do what we had planned even if Ann couldn't make it. First stop was at the Holiday Market at Union Square. I got to the train, and there was a problem they were trying to work out with the 4/5/6 line. I wondered if I should take a taxi, but remembered what a pain it is to get south of that darn Met Life building, so I decided to wait. It didn't end up being too long thankfully :)

The first picture above is in the Holiday Market - full of wonderfully unique items. Once I got here, I remembered how Rick and I had visited the weekend of Thanksgiving last year, and we had stopped here. This year the goods seem even better if that is possible.

I ended up buying a few items (which was not my intent at all). The amazing cocktail rings here were so sparkley and gorgeous. I thought of buying one for my mom for Christmas, but I haven't had too much luck picking out rings for her. I remembered her fingers are smaller than mine, and when they didn't have a size smaller than a 7, I figured it was kismet and she would enjoy something else this year (though Mom, if you do like these rings I can always go back - tell me asap :)

I also bought one of the herb wreaths - it is made of rosemary and thyme and it smells just heavenly. Plus you can beat it up and it doesn't care :) I put it on the table in a dish as Rick suggested and after adding a tall fat unscented candle, it will be perfect for the apartment :)
And I got some fresh brussel sprouts too (don't forget the Farmers Market is here year round). I thought about trying some Pear Cider, but I wasn't up for juggling a hot cup without a top. There were lots of daikon radishes, but alas, no watermelon radishes. There were some Cheese Pumpkins - they were too big to buy and cook to see if they really taste cheezy :)

I got on the train to head to the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Market, and since the trains were so flakey today I decided to save it for another NYC Saturday, of which there will be many.

Ann says the bus tour she planned to be on today happens every year at this time, and next year she will try again. Though I don't think she will wait that long for a visit where she can stay on the barcalounger :)