Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fro Yo Wars

The New York Times discusses the competition in the frozen yogurt space, with stores like Pinkberry and Red Mango popping up within blocks of each other in Manhattan. The story also highlights Brooklyn's \eks\ (which I have never been to, but now have to go).

After several trips to Pinkberry (come to DUMBO!) I have figured out my favorite combination. It's blueberries or mango, chocolate chips and mochi balls. Yes, it's super expensive but it's totally worth it in my opinion.

I remember when I used to think Tasti-D was the best thing ever, but now I know better. I still love me some Tasti-D, but Pinkberry is my favorite.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Greenpoint Concert Venue in the Works

NYMag and Gothamist report that a new live music concert venue could pop-up in Williamsburg by next Summer to help balance the loss of McCarren Park pool.

As Gothamist aptly points out, "Wonder if the residents of the new luxury condos sprouting up in that area would prefer loud concerts or a power plant?"

More on the story here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why is Good Pet Care Hard to Find?

For many of us, our pets are like children -- members of the family. That's Oscar, one of our cats. So when we go away, we want to be sure they are taken care of properly.

Since we moved to New York 4 years ago (Brooklyn 2 years ago), we have had a hard time finding a reliable cat sitter. You can't bring them to the kennel cause it makes them crazy (who wants to sit in a cage!!!). So we end up paying anywhere from $25-30 for a cat sitter to come, feed the cats at our apartment, scoop the litter box and hopefully pet the cats. Yes, that's $25-30 for EACH visit.

I have often thought about doing cat sitting myself. The idea of getting that much cash for something so simple is just golden. I mean are the cats really going to tell me whether someone played with them or just threw the toys around the apartment?

But what I find appalling, especially since this is technically a very simple job, is the fact that so many of these cat sitters -- many of which come highly recommended -- are completely irresponsible. I've had experiences where they have come several hours late or not come at all. You may be thinking that cats probably don't need the attention that dogs do because they go in a litter box inside the house, but some cats, including mine, get very anxious when their routine is messed up. As a result, they can get sick

To their credit (and I won't name names), I have received gracious apologies for these types of mistakes, even refunds. But does that mean I should use them again? Sometimes, I just don't have a choice unfortunately.

So, my question to you is whether or not you have had similar situations? Do you have a pet sitter you love? If so, tell me!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Give Chalky Hearts When You Can Give Chocolate?

I was searching the Web for Valentine's Day stories and found myself laughing at this point-of-view on Conversation Hearts because it's SO TRUE!

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Conversation hearts taste like crap: Much like the Marshmallow Peep at Easter, these little heart-shaped candies have developed a kitschy following -- mostly because of the little sayings stenciled on the front. (Too Cute! Love ya!) And also like the Peep, nobody actually wants to eat them. The yellow one has the faint taste of banana, but the orange, blue and white ones all taste exactly the same -- like little hunks of sugary chalk, with a hint of pineapple.

I picked up some chocolate treats from Jacques Torres last night and they were so beautiful. Some nice boxed truffles for my husband and these red colored, white chocolate pops in the shape of lips and the word Love for my girlfriends at work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Impress Your Valentine With Red Velvet Cupcakes

Recipe from Magnolia bakery (courtesy of Epicurious):

Cupcake Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Frosting Ingredients:
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.

Cupcake Directions:
In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting.

Frosting Directions:
In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.

Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). Use immediately.

Epicurious Test-Kitchen Tip:
This recipe also makes 2 dozen cupcakes. Use 2 muffin pans, each with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups, and line each cup with a paper liner. (There's no need to grease the cups.) Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Paul Simon @ BAM

I just got an e-mail from The Public Theater about upcoming performances at BAM. One of my all-time favorite artists, Paul Simon, will be performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this April.
Latin beats and 50s doo-wop fill New York City's nights with Songs from The Capeman. In Under African Skies, Simon rekindles a love affair with the sounds of South Africa and Brazil which began with his masterpieces Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints. Finally, Simon revisits the quiet railway stations, urban rhythms, and immigrant dreams of his greatest American Tunes.

For tickets, click here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cutest Dishes from Fishs Eddy

There used to be a store on Montague, but unfortunately it closed last year. But they are having a sale on their Elephant patterned plates, bowls and mugs -- all 50% off.

If you're a DUMBO resident, you're probably into the Elephant theme too, so thought I'd pass this along!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Chinese New Year

For a more traditional experience than General Tso's, amNewYork offers its top picks for restaurants to celebrate Chinese New Year in the city. I heart dim sum and this place in Park Slope looks great. I have to check it out. My friend also loves the Vietnamese place listed below, which is across the river in Chinatown proper.

Park Asia
On Brooklyn's 8th Avenue lies New York's second Chinatown, though you won't find hawkers selling baby turtles and Gucci knock-offs. The neighborhood has an old-world flavor, as well as some of the city's best dim sum. Check out the modestly decorated Park Asia. As the cart touting goodies goes by, be sure to snag some crispy seafood rolls, taro dumplings and barbecue beef pastry. Bring an adventurous palate, because if you don't have a solid grasp of the Chinese language you're likely to bite into a crispy frog. 6521 8th Ave., Brooklyn; 718-833-1688; $7/person on average.

Nha Trang
While the Lunar New Year is most often referred to as Chinese New Year, few people are aware that the holiday is also celebrated by the Mongolian, Korean and Vietnamese cultures. For some killer Vietnamese food, head to Baxter Street's Nha Trang, where the portions are large, the tab is minimal and the service is lightning quick. The cornerstone of Vietnamese cuisine is Pho, a type of rice noodle in broth. The Pho Tai ($4.75) gets you a huge bowl with beef cooked just right. Locals go for the barbecue pork chop over rice ($5) and the squid, chili sauce and lemongrass ($8.75) is to die for. 87 Baxter St; 212-233-5948; $4.75-$8.75.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

10 Romantic Restaurants for Valentine's Day

Restaurant Girl offers her top picks for a romantic Valentine's Day meal:

RAOUL'S 180 Prince St., between Sullivan & Thompson Sts., (212) 966-3518. This quintessential SoHo bistro and its classic French fare make for an effortlessly romantic evening. The three-course meal ($75) features chestnut and foie gras ravioli as well as sea bass with Maine mussel fondue. Request the cozy enclosed garden, then retreat to the upstairs loft for an after-dinner reading from the resident fortune teller.

ELEVEN MADISON PARK 11 Madison Ave., at 24th St., (212) 889-0905. Serious food lovers can feast on acclaimed chef Daniel Humm's outstanding French fare and partake in a sumptuous, seven-course tasting menu ($225), including diver scallops with black truffles. Dine under exquisite vaulted ceilings or settle into one of the more intimate dining suites at Danny Meyer's lavish Flatiron destination.

DRESSLER 149 Broadway, near Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, (718) 384-6343. With its stunning chandeliers and mosaic tile floor, this polished New American is an enchanting Williamsburg oasis. The three-course tasting menu ($70) is scattered with a flurry of aphrodisiacs: oysters, foie gras, scallops and artichoke hearts.

PUBLIC 210 Elizabeth St., between Prince and Spring Sts., (212) 343-7011. If a dining room lit with one thousand flickering candles doesn't sound romantic enough, there's also the exotic allure of an Australasian menu with a five-course tasting menu ($90), featuring a New Zealand venison chop with truffle parsnip mash.

DESSERT STUDIO (at Chocolat Michel Cluizel), 888 Broadway, at 19th St., (212) 477-7355. You may want to skip dinner and indulge in a his-and-hers dessert tasting ($85 per couple), designed by whimsical pastry chef Will Goldfarb. Desserts at this sweets laboratory include a white chocolate spuma with rose Champagne gelee and a sampling of luxe Michel Cluizel chocolates.

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA 17 Barrow St., near Seventh Ave., (212) 255-8649. Tucked into a West Village carriage house, this timelessly romantic backdrop boasts two fireplaces and a grand piano. Newly installed chef Craig Hopson will not only be preparing a four-course tasting menu ($150) on Feb. 14, but also a belated Valentine's Day tasting ($95) throughout the week. Dinner begins with American sturgeon caviar, a decadent rite of passage for a romantic meal.

CAVO 42-18 31st Ave., near 42nd St., Queens, (718) 721-1001. With rose petal-covered floor and long stem roses for the ladies, this chic Astoria lounge does all the romantic legwork for you. The modern Greek kitchen serves a tasting menu ($65) with chickpea-coated oysters, filo-crusted shrimp glazed in Cretan honey and a "Lover's Tasting of Desserts."

L'IMPERO 45 Tudor City Place, near 42nd St., (212) 599-5045. Spend the evening at this elegant Tudor City landmark, where you can sample chef Michael White's refined Southern Italian cooking and a stellar wine list. The four-course tasting menu ($110) includes lobster-filled ravioli and grilled lamb chops with escarole.

SILVERLEAF TAVERN 43 E. 38th St., at Park Ave., (212) 973-2550. If you're not the romantic type, this swanky lounge in Murray Hill celebrates the occasion with an Anti-Valentine's Day menu ($35) where couples can share small plates labeled "Unrequited Ribs" and "Angry Lobster," to name a few.

BACARO 136 Division St., near Ludlow St., (212) 941-5060. This bi-level, candlelit wine bar is intimately furnished with wood-beam ceilings, exposed bricks and cozy cafe tables to enjoy an extensive wine menu and Italian small plates like marinated sardines and gnocchi with mushrooms. With a no-reservations policy, this downtown Italian is a perfectly charming and low-key last-minute option.