Monday, July 29, 2013

We Remember


Do you ever take the time to step back, look at your life, and acknowledge all of the blessings you've been given? And if so, how often?  I certainly do not focus enough on the aspects of my life that make me an enormously lucky person; family, friends, education...my life. 
The 9/11 Memorial acts as a velvet hammer in its manner of strongly making an impact on viewers, but in a quiet, personal way. I began to feel goosebumps on my arms as I approached the property. Seeing such an immense area of Manhattan so empty creates a sense of eeriness that is not often found in the city. Rain was lightly falling, and as I walked through the entrance, I saw viewers exiting in tight embrace as they walked, some with swollen eyes and tears falling down their cheeks. In those moments, my heart broke repeatedly. Who were these people, and how were they related to the victims? College roommates? Best friends?  Family members? Or simply, people without direct-relationship who had come to pay their respects to the thousands that perished on the day that has forever been cemented into the memories of Americans?   


I, for one, fell into a meditative state as soon as I entered the memorial. Everyone was quiet. The sound of the majestic waterfalls acted as white noise, allowing me to cope with my emotions and feelings in a private way. Visiting the memorial provides a beautiful and humbling opportunity to pay respects and re-discover what you have in your life that makes you thankful.

Oh! Also, if you are planning on visiting the memorial, and don't want to wait in line for 2 hours, pre-reserve tickets online here. Admission is free, but reserving a spot in a particular time slot costs $2.00. I definitely encourage you to go this route - worth it.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Want to Feel Like Grace Kelly




In honor of a week full to the brim with royal affairs, I have chosen the ever-classic Grace Kelly as my fashion muse. I'm still wrapping my mind around the jackpot that was her life. Can you imagine being an academy award winning actress as well as a princess? And who wouldn't want to look like her? Such a stone-cold fox.

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1. TOPSHOP Geo Lace Rolled Sleeve Blouse
2. J. Crew Collection Curator Pant
3. River Island Picket Wedge (currently on sale, so get 'em while they're hot!)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels

I wish I could take all of the credit for these delectable creations, but it's really Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman who came up with this Sunday brunch hit.
Honestly, when I first saw the photo of these, I thought, "too complicated," but these chewy, fluffy, perfectly sweet pretzels are actually fun to make, and not scary at all! They will definitely be included in many more holidays and brunches to come. Think about all of the different versions that could be concocted: dried cranberry and white chocolate; garlic and sun-dried tomato; cinnamon and blueberry. Mmmmm.


The smells coming from the kitchen while these babies were baking were absolutely insane! I had to give one a taste test as soon as they were finished - you know, to make sure they weren't poisoned.


If you make them on the bigger side, they will end up a little more chewy and bready. If you roll them into thinner strands before shaping them, they will be a little more crunchy on the outside. Both ways are phenomenal. Yes, I tried both methods.

Also, I didn't have a stand-alone mixer at my disposal, so i used my hands for all of the mixing and kneading. I felt like one of the characters in Little Women the whole time, but the dough turned out wonderfully.

I sprinkled a salt and sugar mixture on top after glazing them, and it added a little bit more of that traditional pretzel flavor we all know and love. 


Bake them. Eat them. Love them. 

The recipe can be found here. Give them a try, and then send me a picture of the results on twitter or Instagram (username: eilyfin). Would love to see what kinds of combinations you are able to create!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dos Amigos

It's nice having friends in a new city who are able to show me the ropes. My good friend Helene, a Manhattan original, has been helping me fit in to the big city life like a natural. "People will know you aren't from around here if you try talking to them on the subway, Eileen," she tells me in a matter of fact voice. "And locals never wait for the light that tells them it's safe to cross the street," she adds.

I met Helene at my college orientation and the rest was history. We would meet up on the corner on the way to class and walk together almost every morning, experience the same trivial college problems that seemed so monumental at the time, primp with each other before a big night out, and discuss our plans for the future.
Throughout those discussions, I never really thought the two of us being in New York together would become a part of my life's equation. But I'm happy it has!

For our first NYC jaunt together, we took a low-key tour of the city. 


The Empire State Building was looming over us almost everywhere we went. Such a beautiful building.

Helene showed me her fancy office building and from there we walked to lunch at one of her favorite spots: Dos Caminos. 


We opted to sit in the lovely seating area outside on a quiet side street. 



Strawberry Margarita for Helene.



Red Sangria for me.


I will never complain about a salsa trio. The salsa verde was amazing! It had cilantro and mint mixed in - my favorites!


Guacamole was also essential, naturally.

Without consulting Helene about what I should order, I decided to go with the Mexican Chopped Salad. "That's my favorite thing on the menu!" she exclaimed. Having basically licked my plate clean, I cant say I blame her. It was divine.


Green olives, apples, poblano chiles, grilled corn, pinto beans, tomato, aƱejo cheese, and crispy tortillas with a toasted cumin vinegarette. Yes, please!

Too stuffed to consider dessert at the time, we sadly pushed away the menu when it was left for us a second time. But those feelings quickly fled....

After hopping on a subway down to SoHo and stretching our legs a little, the adorable Sweets by Melissa beckoned us to try its tiny....well, sweets. 


Sweets by Melissa makes bite-sized cupcakes of assorted flavors. I am a horrible decision maker, so being able to experience tiny tastes of multiple desserts was perfect, and not overly indulgent. 



Mint chocolate chip was my favorite! 
The tiny walk-up window can be easy to miss, so keep an eye out for this flag:


...or the line of people that wraps around the street corner.

Why better way to burn some calories than a night on the dance floor? We rolled back to Helene's apartment to spend some time with her child, Trevor, before beautifying ourselves for a night out on the town like the good old days of college.


See you in the morning, Trev!


Nothing quite like riding in a New York City cab with your ladies.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sahadi's

I think I have found my favorite hidden gem in Brooklyn: Sahadi's.
This place sells everything that I would want served at my last meal. Like most hole-in-the-wall locals, Sahadi's does look a little grungy on the outside, but the inside holds everything I ever imagined about good New York delicacies. This doesn't mean, however, that the products sold in this store are true blue American products, but a hodge-podge of ethnic eats that celebrate the cultural diversity of this wonderful city.

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This is the queen bee of Sahadi's: Baba Ganoush. It has got to be laced with addictive substances. Nothin else would induce me to eat 20+ carrot sticks in one sitting. Creamy, savory, and good with just about anything you can dip (including fingers)....Whatever you do, make sure you pick some up when you make your visit.




This is my favorite section! Sahadi's has an enormous selection of nuts, dried fruit, candy, chocolate almond butter made on the spot...I can go on and on, really. BUT, apparently, I'm not the only person who finds the glass jar contents drool-worthy, as there is quite often a long line. Never fear! I'm hear to give you a very important newbie tip:


Grab a ticket to hold your place in line as soon as you walk into the store.  That way, you can get your other shopping done while you wait your turn for assistance from behind the counter. The tickets are dispensed freely from a littler red ticker near the jars of chocolate. By the time I'd caught on to the system, I had already been waiting for about 10 minutes, and then waited an additional 15 minutes until my number was called. Definitely worth doing first thing.
I recommend the chocolate covered peanuts, dried apricots, and roasted almonds with salt. They make an awesome trail mix when combined all together


So, as you're waiting your turn, you can peruse the shelves...


and the cheese section (try the feta!)...



and the deli, where the baba ganoush and hummus are kept behind bullet-proof glass, understandably...


I think what I love so much about this store is that it has a very "mom and pop" feel, which is hard to come by in New York City. A mom and pop with very good taste, clearly.


So"New York." Love it.
This gem can be found at 187-191 Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn, NY.
Phone: (718) 624-4550


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Talde

Brooklyn, as I'm quickly finding out, has no dearth of unique restaurants. My friend, Alisa, who lives in Manhattan said she had never been to Park Slope, and that she would love to pop over on the subway to meet up for dinner. Being relatively new to the area, I haven't eaten out too much, but fortunately, a few places have piqued my interest on my regular walks down 7th Avenue. One spot in particular consistently looks cozy and hoppin' - always good signs when you are tempted to try a restaurant for the first time.

The venue I had in mind for our dinner date is called Talde, named for the Top Chef contestant who runs the kitchen, Chef Dale Talde. The food possesses a wonderful balance of Asian and American cuisines and playfulness. I asked a local friend for suggestions for dinner, and Talde was the first place she thought of, without me mentioning it first!  I knew Alisa and I would be in good hands.


Upon entering Talde, you will immediately notice that the restaurant is small, probably about 25 tables or so. I was told that going to dinner on a Wednesday night in the summer probably would not warrant a wait, but even if that had been the case, there was a beautiful bar at our disposal with ornate Asian-inspired mahogany wood carvings that would have made the delay more than bearable. 

Also, the hostess will offer seating at the Chef's Counter, which allows diners to have a bird's eye view of the food being made.  We weren't given this option because the counter was already packed, but I definitely want to try it at some point.

We were seated at a small table lining the window.  Because the venue is so small, everyone dines in very close proximity to one another, but it adds character to the environment, and I thought it was fun.  We had fellow diners asking us what we had ordered, and we did the same.  However, if it really bothers you to have other people's conversations as white noise, this may not be the best dinner venue for you.

I started with a glass of white wine, naturally.


The server suggested the Ermita de Nieve, Verdejo, which was great. It was both dry and aromatic, and very refreshing.

All dishes are served "family style," which means that the dishes come out as soon as they are prepared, rather than waiting for everything to be presented at once, and everybody shares, both of which are concepts that I love.

We began our little feast with an appetizer that came highly recommended: Pretzel Pork & Chive Dumplings.


 I am drooling just looking at them again.  They came wrapped as the title suggests in a pretzel casing with a spicy mustard dipping sauce on the side.  Divine. The mixture inside was perfectly seasoned.  The sage paired really nicely with the spiciness of the mustard.


Next, our order of Crispy Oyster & Bacon Pad Thai. Arrived at our table. Mind blowingly delicious. I commend whoever produced this epiphany. Salty, sweet, and packed with my favorite herbs, this was a winner that I would definitely order again.


Heaven, thy name is Korean Fried Chicken with spicy kimchi sauce, peaches, and mint. The clouds parted, and this bad bird was brought to our table. The kimchi sauce had just the right level of spice, and the tenderness of the peaches were a nice contrast with the crispiness of the chicken. Finger-licking good...


..as is personified by Alisa's expression of bliss.

Last, but certainly not least, by any stretch of the imagination: Halo Halo


Perhaps one of the most fun dishes I've ever had the pleasure of eating, Halo Halo, meaning "mix mix" in the Philippines, is a shaved ice dessert containing mango, litchi, assorted berries, coconut, banana, and Cap'n Crunch. Yes, you read right. With a surprise in every bite, we ate this until we were literally scraping our spoons on the bottom of the bowl.


We left extremely satisfied, perfectly (if not overly) full, and raving about our experience. I would certainly recommend making a stop if you're in the neighborhood, or even if you are not. My friend that I consulted before I had chosen a dinner location said that if she moved into Manhattan, Talde is one of the few restaurants in Brooklyn for which she would make the 30 minute subway ride for dinner.

Talde is located at 369 7th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.  They do not take reservations, but if you have any questions, their phone number is: 347.916.0031.  If you have any further inquiries, their website can be found here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blast from the Past: Gene Tierney

I haven't posted a 'Blast from the Past' outfit for quite some time, so I thought I'd start them up again.  We'll ease into it with one of my favorite go-to actresses of yore, Gene Tierney.

Being in New York City in the summertime has definitely made me more in-tune with the sartorial needs of professional women in the city who need to stay cool and refined. After a little digging, some beautiful current pieces jumped out at me. Take a look!

The Inspiration: Gene Tierney




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I. Segmented Labyrinth Dress
II. Lillian Suede Low Wedges in 'Fresh Strawberry'
III. Provence 12 Crochet Hat

I would say some red lipstick and a low, messy bun, such as the Anthropologie model is wearing, would tie it all together.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Asada and Potato Tacos with Green Sriracha Sauce

In my family, one of the ways we express love is through making food for each other. Growing up, my mom was insistent that we had a homemade dinner every night, and that we all had to sit at the table and talk about what we had done that day.  I never really thought much about the effort that went into this ritual, but I see now that dinner time is an underrated opportunity for re-connection and  familial support. I always liked our daily tradition, but I didn't realize until I was older, because there were so many of us, how essential it was to keep us all on the same page. That being said, I really enjoy dinners, and making them for people is my way of showing appreciation and love.



To show my sister how much I appreciated her hosting me in DC, I wanted to make her and Victor a delicious "thank you" dinner.  The inspiration for the meal came from a Grilled Skirt Steak with Green Sriracha recipe in Food & Wine magazine.  "How amazing would that sauce be on steak and potato tacos?", we both thought, wheels in our minds rapidly turning. Anybody who knows me knows I love me some sriracha.

So, we got a little creative with the ingredients, and came up with a a few recipes ourselves. In an effort to avoid getting bogged down by both the rain and procrastination, we immediately ran out to the amazing Asian market around the corner from Katie's house, and then proceeded to pop over to the amazing Mexican market around the other corner to collect our ingredients.

The recipe for the sauce can be found here, and I'll post the steak marinade and potato recipes in the post below.

First, you'll want to pack the skirt steak with flavor by marinading it before you start anything else.


For this, you will need:

3/4 cup olive oil
juice from one lime
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a lipped pan.  Set steak in marinade, make sure meat is thoroughly covered, and allow to sit until ready to grill....


...which will look like this.  But this is the last step, so we won't do that till later, right?

Now for the sriracha! I know I provided the Food & Wine recipe above, but I wanted to give you a few visual aids.


Katie had many of the herbs we needed for the sauce growing in her home garden, which was great!



I'm sure many of you do not cook with poblano chiles regularly, so I want to make sure you know how to prepare them.

First, you will need to place the washed chiles in a stove top flame until they are completely blistered.


Kind of awful to look at, I know, but they taste darn delicious.

After the chiles have been blistered and placed in an airtight container, wait a good 20 minutes before attempting to peel the skins and de-vein them. The sealed container will allow them to "sweat", making the chiles more easy to peel.
 These little guys have a tendency to cause all sorts of problems.  Their specialty is getting their oils onto your fingers so that when you decide to get that pesky eyelash out of your eye by rubbing, their juices get in your eye too, causing lots of pain and cursing.  Moral of the story: wear gloves if possible while handling these sneaks.


Forceps...Scalpel...

This is what the chile should look like once it's been de-seeded and de-veined (the veins are the white fleshy parts on the inside).

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until the sriracha has the same consistency as pesto sauce.



Finally, for the potato filling, you will need:

4 potatoes cut into eighths
1 large sweet potato cut into similarly sized pieces
1/2 white onion chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 poblano chile, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 stick butter
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste


First, place butter, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions in large pot. Allow ingredients to steam and caramelize. Once potatoes start getting the slightest bit soft and crusty, add garlic, poblano, and cheese. Mix all ingredients together.  Be sure to test on of the potatoes before you finish cooking, just to male sure the consistency is both firm and tender; you want to be able to bite through the potato without having it fall apart on you. SO good.


We fried the taco shells (that's right) to make them a little more pliable, sprinkled them with sea salt, stuffed the shells with the potato mixture, and then placed them in a pan standing upright.  
To add a little extra crunch to the shells, we put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-8 minutes. During this time, we cooked the meat on a stove top grill.  Once it was finished, we sliced it into small, bite-sized pieces.

Once the stuffed shells were finished, we took them out of the oven, and dressed them up with our additional toppings.


I can't say enough about this meal.  I'm not kidding when I say it might have been one of the best things I've ever tasted.  That sriracha sauce is so versatile, and would taste wonderful with so many different types of food.

Oh!  Lastly, we also made some tacos wrapped in lettuce, rather than a taco shell, and they were phenomenal as well! The flavors were more robust with the lettuce, and it's a great way to substitute for a fried shell.


Hope you're all having a great week!