Indulgences – who am I to say no?

Listen. Not the best advice. But today I had a croissant for breakfast and cashews for lunch.
So when the waitress comped the donut-wich – like a chipwich with cinnamon donuts instead of cookies – for dessert tonight, who was I to say no?!?
Amazing. Wrong. And delicious at Umami burger. Where, bee-tee-dubs it’s #truffleseason.

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Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler: 3 Days in The Big Easy

emeril's new orleans chicken restaurants

Chili Glazed Farm Chicken: Emeril’s New Orleans

I spent this past weekend in New Orleans. Yeah, that’s right – in the Big Easy. I learned a lot over the course of just three days. And, thought maybe a photo essay of the journey (I use ‘journey’ a lot now because of ABC’s The Bachelor) would be the best way to share.

Where it all began: A rough start

nyc snow delta to new orleans

I woke to this view from my apartment..Not promising for travel…

And the snow was only getting worse. Still, those nice people at the delta.com flight status board assured me that my 11am flight would be ‘on time’. And, I headed to the airport. Only to find that my flight had been canceled. And, I was rescheduled on a much later flight. Much much later….

lga delta direct to msy flying new orleans

My original flight posting

lga to msy direct delta airport dining

Posting the delay…upon delay…upon delay

But I made some friends which helped to pass the time….I mean we were all in the same situation….

dining at LaGuardia

Bob the Brit, NBFF at LGA

chef lga to msy flight delay delta

Young chef and all day LGA pal

And, we ate some food, and maybe drank a little – which helped:

delta to msy from lga dining

Cool way to keep busy and order food at LGA – Order on iPad…

And, we met all kinds of people during our long long wait…

bachelorette party new orleans lga to msy direct delta

Yes, the ‘bride’ is wearing a penis head band.

After about 12 hours at LGA (with a detour to JFK and back), my flight finally took off and I was on my way…

Upon arrival just shy of midnight, a friend and I took a stroll – read elbow to elbow walk through very happy (read drunk) people on Bourbon St. We stopped just once to have a quick drink at a piano bar…nothing notable – then back to the hotel and to bed.

Saturday Brunch with Friends at Brennan’s in the French Quarter

mimosa's brennan's new orleans brunch

Began as it should – Mimosas in the Garden at Brennan’s

There are a few things one must try in New Orleans…many of these are alcohol based:

milk punch New Orleans brennan's brunch

Milk Punch – Like a Grown Up Milkshake

brunch brennan's new orleans dining

Mel not loving her first Bloody Mary

For brunch, I had Eggs Sardou: an amazing plate of poached eggs on artichoke hearts and a bed of creamed spinach…Hollandaise sauce on the side:

poached eggs at Brennan's new orleans

Paprika on One, Chives on the Other

And….Of course, we ordered cheese grits for the table. YUM.

cheese grits brunch brennan's new orleans

Cheesy Cheese Grits

For dessert…The Bananas Foster Flambe is a MUST:

brennan's new orleans bananas foster

The Bananas Foster is a MUST order: This is the Before shot

brennan's bananas foster new orleans

Drama! Flambe-ing of Bananas Foster – During the Flambe Process

bananas foster flambe brennan's new orleans

And…Plated

That night, we all attended a wedding at The Foundry in the Warehouse District. A couple of things I didn’t know about New Orleans weddings.

1. After the ceremony, all guests join the bride and groom in what’s called ‘Second Line;’ – a brass band lead parade around the block. Really fun and a great way to get the party started.

2. Apparently….you can include a drag queen performance. This was our late night wedding entertainment:

wedding drag queen new orleans

You could see her giant panties through the dress

After the wedding we not so wisely braved the crowds of people on Bourbon St. I mean, we just had to get giant drinks in collectible cups. A couple of notes about life on Bourbon Street:

1. There is no ban on open containers of alcohol…except that booze must be in a ‘go-cup’ which any bar will gladly give you as you walk out the door. In New Orleans, creating the most sugary, insanely boozed up cocktail and then crafting a desireable keep sake container, is a sport

grenade drinks Bourbon St new orleans

The Grenade: Fruity Boozy and in a Keepsake Container

2. While the drinking age is 21, New Orleans differentiates between the age of purchase and the age of consumption. SO….if you are 18, your mommy or daddy or guardian or creepy older boyfriend can buy you a drink and you are then allowed to drink it. This came in handy as we had an 18 year old with us.

boozy cocktails on bourbon street new orleans

And… We also had these…Shark Attack!

We were back to the hotel after a quick dance at Oz – which made our gay friends happy as it’s a gay bar – and tucked in bed by the crack of 4am.

Sunday…We classed it up and went to one of the most historic and notable restaurants in town.

Galatoire’s Brunch (note the big meal at Galatoire’s is Friday lunch…but since we didn’t make it to New Orleans in time for that, Sunday brunch would have to do)

Galatoire's New Orleans restaurant

Galatoire’s Lovely Logo’d Glass

A few tips to fitting in at Galatoire’s:

1. Everyone has his/her own waiter…I mean like the regulars go back and request a specific waiter. Some of the waiters have been there for years…like 35 years. As we didn’t have such history, we were assigned a great waiter named Murphy – I highly recommend him!

2. Don’t ask to see a menu – no one who is anyone does that! Your waiter will guide you to the most amazing dishes – trust him.

3. Get the Oysters En Brochette. It’s oysters and bacon deep fried and delicious

galatoire's brunch sunday menu

Fried, Salty, Briny and Amazing Oysters En Brochette

4. Try the turtle soup. You can’t do that at Brennan’s because Brennan’s back yard has a pond with turtles basking in the sun…It would just be rude to order turtle soup there. Our waiter at Galatoire’s, Murphy, brought us a sample as he knows it’s a New Orleans must have

turtle soup new orleans galatoire's

Yes, there are real turtles in there

5. Go with someone who is willing to share. My dining date and I split the lamb chops with mushroom sauce and the redfish…Well, Murphy split it for us….And, a side of the creamiest most amazing potatoes au gratin:

galatoire's lamb chops and redfish

So So good…And, love the sauce soaked white toast

amazing potatoes au gratin galatoire's new orleans

Potatoes Au Gratin, Not So Rotten

6. And….Have a martini. It’s the right thing to do in such a cool, old school venue.

After brunch, we took a walk – read: tried to walk it off. We popped into Carousel Bar to visit with the newly married couple and have a vodka soda. Then took a food coma nap before preparing for dinner.

Emeril’s New Orleans: Sunday Dinner

Emerils logo

This is Emeril’s original restaurant. It’s located in the warehouse district, so if you’re staying in the French Quarter…It’s a bit of a walk. Though, really, after all you’ve eaten, you should walk. We took a cab.

Because we were hungry – go with it, you’re in New Orleans – we ate:

Emeril's New orleans appetizer

Angel Hair with Mushrooms in a Taso Cream Sauce

And we also had….

Emeril's new orleans menu dinner

Roasted Filet Mignon…And, more potatoes

emeril's new orleans chicken restaurants

Chili Glazed Farm Chicken

Emeril's new orleans souffle

Oozing Chocolate Goodness Inside

Luckily, we also saved room for dessert. After all, we didn’t have dessert at Galatoire’s. At Emeril’s they have an amazing chocolate souffle…but, order it when you order your meal as it takes :30mins to prepare. Well worth the calories!

We paired it with a lovely Schramsberg rose.

Amazing dinner…and a great farewell meal. Definitely better than the eggs and grits I had at the airport Monday morning.

After our three day dining, drinking and wedding dancing extravaganza, I’m in love with New Orleans. And, while the good times certainly rolled this past weekend, the only thing rolling now is the fat on my satisfied stomach.

But the temporary weight gain is totally worth it. And, all I can say is: Get to New Orleans and laissez les bons temps rouler!

Appropriately Sized and Served on the Side: Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones

ina garten cheddar dill scones

Savory Smaller Cheddar Dill Scones

One of the things that drives me most crazy is the size of portions at restaurants. And, I’m not just talking about at The Cheesecake Factory. I’m not averse to the giant drinks at the bar there – but, that’s a different story.

The other night I was out to dinner at one of my fave Mexican restaurants in the West Village. I ordered the Baja (read ‘fried’) fish tacos. In a totally wrong way in my head, ordering the fish tacos vs the chicken chimichangas, would be ‘better’ for me. I realize that’s wrong.

mole fish taco

Giant Portion

When the tacos arrived, the plate – probably 10 inches in diameter – was completely covered. It was literally a portion that could serve a family of four if Melissa D’Arabian had anything to say about it. Seriously, there were no fewer than 8 big pieces of Baja fried fish smothered in tomatoes, onions, cilantro, topped with avocado slices and sitting atop 7, yes 7, soft tacos. Ridiculous. Delicious, but ridiculous.

It’s just too much. I mean, does the restaurant think that food for four should be served to just one? And, are they promoting eating that much just by serving it? Does the restaurant have a responsibility for controlling the portions they serve? I think so. And….Don’t get me started on giant sodas, because, sorry, I agree with the mayor here.

In a city where space is at a premium – and our kitchens are tiny – the giant restaurant portions amaze me.

sur la table nyc

It’s like crack for a cook

My niece and nephew sent me a gift certificate to Sur La Table for Christmas. Whenever I shop for kitchen stuff, I have to take into account my tiny kitchen. I have to make choices – I want, but don’t need, another 6qt Le Creuset pot, another All-Clad grill pan, 7 more spatulas, the pasta attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, more wine glasses etc etc etc, ….And, I sort of do want a Scone cutter….But, where would I put any of these things?

Bottom line, is there isn’t room. And, a scone cutter, cuts out big scones. As the boss of my test kitchen, I have a responsibility to serve reasonably sized portions. So instead of a scone cutter, I bought a set of biscuit cutters. Better choice for a few reasons:

  1. They nest like Russian Dolls – one inside the other
  2. You get 5 sizes, not just one – more versatile
  3. They’re a lot smaller than a single scone cutter – controlling your portions and saving you space
  4. They come with a ring that connects them to one another – don’t throw out the ring as it will help you keep them organized in your tiny kitchen

I’m a savory, not a sweet eater. I heart savory scones – rarely a breakfast entree like their sugary cousins, but rather a side dish, an accoutrement to the main course. So, why should we make giant ones?

Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones (makes 24 baby scones)

Ingredients

  • scones recipe ina garten

    Scone Mise En Place

    2 Cups + 1TBSP Gold Medal all purpose flour

  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 TBSP) unsalted COLD butter, diced – dice the butter, then put it in the freezer for :10mins
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream chilled – measure out the cream and then put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to add it
  • 1/4lb extra-sharp Irish Cheddar cheese – small dice
  • 1/2 Cup minced fresh Dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

1. In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer, combine 2 Cups of flour, the baking powder and salt

kitchenAid mixer scones

Use the Paddle Attachment – and just mix :05

2. Add the cold butter dices and mix on low until the butter is in pea sized pieces

3. In a separate bowl (or, I used a water glass, whatever works) mix together the eggs and heavy cream

4. Add the creamy-egg mix to the buttery flour mix and combine until just blended and a dough forms

cheddar dill scones

Don’t Over Mix!

5. In a separate bowl, toss the dill and cheddar dices with 1 TBSP of flour just to coat

cheddar dill scones

Tossed with Flour

6. Add the coated cheddar and dill to the dough and mix to combine

cheddar dill scones recipe

Mix for just :05 seconds

7. Put the dough on a well-floured surface and knead for about a minute to get all of the cheddar dices and dill-iness well incorporated

8. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick – if you were making a traditional scone, you might want them thicker…but again, too much food!

cheddar dill scones

Don’t roll too thin…

9. Using the two inch biscuit cutter I just got from Sur La Table – cut into circles

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Nesting Biscuit Cutters

10. Place the savory scone circles onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper and brush them with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 TBSP water)

cheddar dill scones

Oven Ready Lil’ Scones

11. Into the oven for :16-:18 mins if you used the 2 inch biscuit cutter, :20 – :25 mins if you used a traditional scone cutter. Just watch the scones – when the outside is browned and crusty and the inside is fully baked, they’re done

scones ina garten recipe

Lil’ Cheddar Dill Scones

These scones are good. Like really good. And, my tiny apartment still smells a little like butter from the baking process. They are in no way low-cal….But, rather a more responsible way to give my guests a little savory delicious indulgence appropriately sized and served on the side.

The Sandy 15: Part 3 ‘After’

Air Mattress Bed Bath & Beyond

My ‘Bedroom’

This is Part 3 of how one can gain 15lbs during a weather disaster. [Click for Part 1 or Part 2.]

Wednesday, October 31

I think it might have been Halloween – but you’d never know it.

Wake up. Deflate bed. Reassemble living room. Plan the next meal.

This had quickly become the routine in the days that followed the storm. The displaced downtowners were now taking up what seemed to be permanent residence on the Upper West Side.

I’m not overly generous but had given my bedroom to the displaced downtowner as she was rapidly becoming a disgruntled resident. To be honest..surrendering my bedroom was an entirely selfish act: the sight of an aero bed on my living room floor drives me insane. I knew that if I slept out there, the room would be returned to a livable state before my houseguest even stirred.

But, it was day 3 and the routine was getting old. We were running out of things to do. The restaurants, shops, sidewalks and streets were insanely crowded with all of those who had migrated north. TV showed only storm coverage and press conferences. We were bombarded with horrific sights of destruction and ruin.

Moonrise Kingdom

We rented movies…

We rented a movie to escape the images…but that only lasted two hours. As an aside, it was Moonrise Kingdom and was very good.

And, once it was over, we were back to the storm coverage, horrifying images and endless press conferences.

We all knew how fortunate we were. We were all incredibly thankful as we watched the images on TV. Still, the power-free set was getting anxious and a bit angry.

During the days it had become common for me to receive a call from someone else without power who just needed a hot shower. If only I known that hot, young, male downtowners would be gracing my UWS shower…

refrigerator kitchenaid

The ‘Mini-Bar’

williams-sonoma star shaped ramekins

Lovely Snacks

I tried to make my home as welcoming and comfortable as I could for others to enjoy. I even called my refrigerator the ‘Mini-Bar’.

I put out lovely arrangements of wine and nuts in my Williams-Sonoma star-shaped ramekins each evening at cocktail hour.

But by Wednesday afternoon, nothing seemed to help…and the downtowner was mad.

The anger came in flashes…but then became a constant.

I had stocked up on Evian prior to the storm (it was not only on sale at Food Emporium, but I wanted to ride out Sandy in style).¬†After my guest asked for the fifth time which Evian was hers, I wrote my name on my bottle. I hoped this would help to avoid confusion. She looked at it in disgust and horror and said: ‘Really?’

Evian Water

That’s MY Water

I had secured guests passes to my gym and when we were getting ready to go over there that day she looked at the bobby pin I used to keep the hair out of my face and said: ‘Seriously? Couldn’t you get a smaller pin with like…a flower or something?’

Uhm, no, I couldn’t.

The sounds coming from my phone started to drive her insane. Any time the text ding dinged, she cringed. I silenced the phone.

There were bright times too. We broke into hysterics mimicking Boomberg’s announcements in Spanish and couldn’t contain our laughter as we watched the ASL interpreter sign his messages. We were getting exceedingly punchy.

NYC Sign Language Press Conference

Sign Language Lady

Wednesday night we met some of the other displaced at Kefi for Greek food. I think meeting others in the same temporarily homeless situation was a comfort for my downtown guest. It became an impromptu support group for the three of them as over hummus and Tzatziki sauce they compared stories of their experiences. They were kind about the refuge we had offered, but they truly felt we flaunted our electricity and they couldn’t help but complain about non-downtown things like the multitude of stollers crowding the streets.

Thursday, November 1

Still no improvement downtown.

Wake up. Deflate. Reassemble living room. Eat.

Anderson Live!

We hoped for a quick escape…

I tried to mix it up a bit. And, the day started with an early morning trip to see Anderson Live. I hoped that taking advantage of the many available seats to live tapings in NYC would break up the monotony and give us an escape from the horrifying images of destruction that were the only thing on television.

But, as the papers had warned on Sunday, there was no place to hide from Sandy.

The show on Thursday was an hour of commentary and images from Sandy. Anderson spoke live on the air with the Mayor of Seaside Heights, NJ. Mayor Akers took long breaths between sentences and then just broke down as he said to Anderson: ‘I think I’m just so tired.’ We cried.

Seaside Heights Roller Coaster

Thankfully, Anderson taped another segment after the Sandy show and we were finally given a moment away from the storm coverage. The segment featured two lovely southern women who have just landed a webcast. The webcast features the women as they go on ghost hunts – the schtick is that the women are afraid of ghosts and hope never to find one. Very funny. And a few moments without Sandy.

Cancun Restaurant NYC

Taking The Edge Off

For dinner, we broke out and went South…Well, 50th St…but the west 50’s was now the new downtown. Cancun mexican restaurant. V good and well priced. There were three downtowners and two uptowners there. The margaritas helped to take the edge off a bit. As did the guacamole, enchiladas and my favorite: the chicken chimichanga.

Cancun Restaurant

The 8,000 Calorie Chimichanga

We were rapidly approaching the Sandy 15.

Friday, November 2

Wake up. Deflate bed. Reassemble living room. Eat.

There were rumors that the lights were slowly coming on downtown. Con Ed promised to have all power restored with limited exceptions in Manhattan by 11pm on Saturday.

We decided to celebrate and bring the week full circle with one last lunch at Cafe Luxembourg. No surprise…I had the Country Salad. It has lardons. Lardons – what’s not to love?

Country Salad

Bringing the Week Full Circle

Later that day, though power was still out downtown, the disgruntled guest headed home. Hoping for the best and sporting the first genuine smile she had worn all week, she left.

I put my apartment back in order. I did laundry. I went to the gym. I sat in silence and thought about it all.

NOW

I spent the past five days off of the island – out of New York and away from the destruction. But, I have been having very vivid dreams of sheltering the displaced. Of howling winds. Of incredibly high tides. Of floods. Of storm surges. Of the darkness.

I know how lucky I am. For me, the worst is over. Taking in the power-free set was only part of what we, the fortunate, can do.

I urge all to donate to the Red Cross or to the Mayor’s Fund To Advance New York (call 311 or text ‘NYCFUND’ to 50555). Donate. Volunteer.

Sandy has taken enough from all of us. Now it’s time to forget about her and, start losing the Sandy 15.

The Sandy 15: Part 2 ‘During’

This is part two of how one can gain 15lbs during a weather disaster. [click here for Part 1]

Part 2

Monday, October 29, continued

Sandy15 hurricane NYC Trader Joe's

These are great…btw

The lights had flickered and though I do have a gas stove top, I thought it best to make a quick dinner before I ended up in the dark. As previously noted, I have a deep seeded fear of starving to death – though have never been out of food – or even in any remote danger of starvation. I decided on a Trader Joe’s frozen turkey burger – quick and easy and would, hopefully, be done before the lights went out.

power outages nyc sandy hurricane

The beginning.

Right around 8:30pm I had heard from my downtown friends that the power was out. Half of Manhattan was in the dark and though the wind was whipping up here, I realized for the first time how lucky I was.

Friends who live outside but near the evacuation zone (Zone A) were now living in the dark as their streets flooded with rushing water.

NYC hurricane Sandy

Washington at 12th St – photo by T Schultz

I clutched a flashlight in one hand and as my windows continued to bow with the pressure, I prayed the winds to stop. And thanked goodness for every watt of electricity that powered my apartment.

By about 12:40am on Tuesday morning the winds had died down a bit and I felt OK about going to bed.

Tuesday, October 30

In the morning, I ventured out for a quick walk. There were passing showers and some wind – but nothing like the day before. Save a few downed trees and some debris in the streets, the upper west side was in really good shape. We were so very lucky.

Downtowners are brave. As noted in several blogs over the past week, they seem cooler, they are more fierce and younger than the typical upper west sider. That said, it was cold and dark downtown. There were no stores open. No traffic lights. No heat. And, we had everything they needed just a walk away.

The migration north was on.

While waiting for our friends to make it uptwown…at about 11:30am something happened. Something good. For just a brief moment, a small hole in the sky cleared and the light bounced off of the clouds that still loomed overhead. And, there was a rainbow – a beacon calling the power-free to the well electrified upper west side.

hurricane sandy rainbow uws

A beacon of hope – the view from my 14th floor apt

As uptowners, we prepared for our guests. I cleaned and made sure I had sheets, towels, water and, of course, wine. [I had gone to 67 St Wines the afternoon before. The line was long, but people were patient.]

Still, I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood was prepared for the influx of people coming to the lucky land of electricity.

Crowded Streets nyc uws abc7

The migration

Once they arrived, the eating frenzy went on…The downtowners were here in full force. We tried to go to Cafe Lux – they had tables available, but not enough staff to serve. We gave PJ Clarke’s a try – but it too was jam packed with people and they told us it could be up to an hour wait for our party of five. Ultimately, we ended up at Shun Lee West and were fortunate to arrive just as they opened the doors at 1:30pm.

Inside, the iconic NYC Chinese restaurant looked like it did on a Lincoln Center Saturday night. Packed with people, waiters bustling to get everyone what they needed.

Shun Lee West nyc

A nighttime crowd at 1:30 on Tuesday

After a lunch of tres fattening grand marnier prawns, crispy beef, some veggies and …wine, we took our guests home and let them settle in.

We passed the afternoon watching the reports. It was so bad and we hadn’t even heard the worst of it yet. The mayor, all three governors (NY, NJ and CT) were holding constant press conferences updating the media on deaths, power outages, floods, rescues etc.

Sandy coverage dominated the airwaves and…we watched. And watched. And watched. All afternoon.

With not much to do, we started strategizing our dinner plans. A lot of the neighborhood restaurants were closed – because although we had electricity, there was still no public transportation and the staff couldn’t get to work. The tunnels and bridges were closed with few exceptions…it was a mess.

Most of the crew of six decided to stay in. We were an equal mix of the UWS residents and the displaced. Two of us though went to my fave Italian spot, Bello Giardino on West 71st. Nick, the owner, had personally driven to pick up each member of his staff and was going to drive them home after the dinner rush.

I love Bello Giardino – it’s a longtime neighborhood spot with a very personal feel. I think Nick knew how important being open would be to his regulars.

Bello Giardino uws

Nicky’s Famous Meatballs

bello giardino uws

Della Nonna Della-Licious

And, we ate. More fat food…I had spaghetti and ‘Nicky’s famous meatballs’ and my downtown guest enjoyed the ravioli della nonna.

No dieting going on. At. All.

We had survived Day 2. The Manhattan displaced were happily entrenched in the warm, electrified safety of uptown.

The downtowners were settling in. There was no news as to when power might be back on.

We watched more coverage…until we just couldn’t watch any more. And, went to bed.

Hurricane Sandy dangling crane

After

By the way, that crane collapsed in the winds early on in the storm…

……………………………………………….More tomorrow