Monday, May 4, 2015

Adventures in Food

     It has been a long time since my last post, but to be honest, I've been a bit of a homebody for the first few months of this year. It has been a pretty financially and mentally draining start to 2015, and as a result, Andy and I have been lying low on the weekends most of the time.

     The other big factor has been the weather. It seemed like spring was going to remain a distant dream indefinitely, but now that the sunshine and warm temperatures have become more frequent, I am determined to get out and explore the city more.

     New York City has a plethora of outdoor fairs and markets, and I happened to discover the Hester Street Fair online last week which piqued my interest. I asked Andy if he wanted to check it out, and as always, he was game for any explorations.
     "Located in the heart of the Lower East Side and housed on the historic grounds of New York City's largest pushcart market at the turn of the century, the Hester Street Fair pays homage to those roots by bringing together a collection of NYC's best vendors in a bustling outdoor marketplace.  We curate the finest artisanal food, vintage clothing, jewelry, crafts, home goods and much more. " ​

     When we arrived, my first impression was, "Oh, it looked much more extensive on their website." It was definitely less square footage than expected, but they certainly packed in a wide variety of vendors in the small space.

     As always, my first priority was food! They had so many choices it was difficult to pick. They had everything from wood oven pizza to grilled corn to buttermilk biscuits, but we ended up opting for some Asian cuisine. I picked the Korean fried chicken sandwich from Red Star, and Andy chose some squid with scallion pancakes. Everything was delicious!

     I love that Andy is always willing to share food with me, and I'm happy to return the favor (although I still struggle with the concept of sharing ice cream).
Andy looks so angry that I'm taking his picture!
     My sweet tooth demanded that I round the meal out with some dessert, and while this blackberry popsicle from Mom & Popsicles was a bit seedy, it did not disappoint in flavor. I even managed to share a few bites with Andy which I shall count as a true accomplishment.

     After wandering the fair for a bit, we decided to venture up to Houston to hit up a couple more food venues, one known favorite and another that we've been curious to try. It was a lot of walking in one afternoon, but a little exercise on a beautiful day can never go amiss.

     Our first stop was Prohibition Bakery which fuels both my love of cupcakes and booze. I made sure to purchase a few cupcakes that I know I love (Pretzels & Beer is probably our favorite), but I'm always looking forward to trying more flavors. New varieties that we explored this time around included: Mint Julep, Sangria, and Blood & Smoke. I only wish the cupcakes weren't so miniature!

    Andy and I have a running list of New York restaurants and food vendors that we want to try. We're always getting recommendations from acquaintances or seeing restaurants on Food Network that look interesting, and while we've managed to cross a couple places off the list, it seems to grow faster than we can keep up! Our third and final stop of the day was one of these designated venues, and it was a truly New York experience.

Lox galore!
      I walk by Russ & Daughters on a fairly regular basis since they are located near my hair salon, but I've never actually stopped in before. After peering in the windows and seeing the shop featured on television multiple times, however, I knew we had to check it out. 

     I knew Andy would love Russ & Daughters for one key reason: smoked fish! I've never been a huge fan of smoked fish, but I was impressed by the variety housed in this one cramped shop. It was obviously a popular local spot, because we could barely find a place to stand in the narrow aisle as we waited for our number to be called. One man who was a few numbers ahead us was practically having a conniption every time they served anyone before they got to him. He must be a lox addict!

Spreadable heaven!
      One thing I was looking forward to tasting was bagels and cream cheese. They had at least 10 varieties of cream cheese, all of which looked delicious. Um...where has goat cream cheese been all my life? It was amazing! It seriously needs to be widely available in large quantities.

      Don't worry. We were not total gluttons. We didn't eat a bunch of food at the fair and then turn around and stuff our faces with cupcakes and smoked fish right away. Somehow we managed to wait until dinner before we consumed the rest of our goodies (Andy has more patience than I do), but they were worth the wait.

     Ever since some unappetizing experiences as a child, I have never given smoked fish of any variety much of a chance. Andy has a knack for making me push beyond my preconceived boundaries (something that I truly love about him), and after much pestering on his part, I reluctantly agreed to try some of his beloved smoked whitefish.

    I have to admit that I was wrong. Smoked whitefish is delicious. It was a bit salty and surprising at first, but after a few bites, I was hooked! My dad would be so proud.

      If I have learned anything from Andy, it has been to keep an open mind about food. He is always inspiring me to be more adventurous in all things, and while I like to think I'm pretty willing to expand my horizons, there are certain things I would never try on my own. I don't think I will ever be quite as fearless as Andy is (He keeps talking about how he wants to try brains...), but I am discovering so many new cuisines with him by my side.

     I'm sure we'll have more adventures to share in the coming months. I just hope that they aren't all food related for the sake of my waistline. Moderation is a struggle when I'm surrounded by so many amazing restaurants on a daily basis. New York City is never short on food options. That's for sure.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day Cocktail: Loko 4 U Jell-O Jigglers

     I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day. Andy and I spent ours shopping for furniture at Ikea and being productive. Not the most romantic of experiences, but as long as I get to spend the day with the guy I love, I'm happy.

     I decided to make a tradition of creating a Valentine's Day cocktail for Andy each year, but I wanted to mix it up a little bit this year. Andy loves Four Loko (I'm not a fan. Too sweet!), so I thought it would be fun to use his drink of choice in a fun way. I immediately thought that it would work well in a Jell-O shot, but I really wanted the drink to convey Valentine's Day. Then it hit me: would it be possible to make Jell-O shots in the shape of a heart? The answer: Yes.

I always loved the fun shaped Jell-O Jigglers as a kid, so why not make an equally enjoyable adult version?
 Loko 4 U Jell-O Jigglers

2 boxes of cherry Jell-O (I couldn't find actual Jell-O at our local grocery store, so I used D'Gari brand gelatin instead. Either should work marvelously.)

2 cups fruit punch Four Loko (This is almost a full can, so you could probably get away with using the entire can.)

1. Cook the Jell-O according to the instructions on the box. Let cool to luke warm temperature.

2. Add the Four Loko and stir until thoroughly mixed. (Try to get all the carbonation fizzed out during this. Less bubbles equals a more solid jiggler.)

3. Pour into pans. Jello should be about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep.

4. Place pans in fridge and let solidify overnight.

5. The next day use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the jigglers. (The cookie cutters I used were a little too big for a stable jiggler. I would suggest  a 2 inch cutter or smaller.) This recipe yielded a lot of jigglers, probably around 12-16 total.

6. Place on a platter and present them to your loved one(s). Enjoy responsibly!

     I hope you all enjoy the recipe. You could certainly alter this for other holidays. Just choose an appropriate pairing of Jello and Four Loko flavors and find the right shaped cookie cutter!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Upcoming Performance: Albert Herring

     Happy New Year to you all! I can't believe it is 2015.

     I still feel like my body is recuperating from our Christmas travels, but the fatigue was worth it to see all the people we love and care about back in the Midwest.

     I totally forgot to take lots of pictures like I intended. I was too busy enjoying the good company instead of photographing everyone. I know I'm a terrible blogger for neglecting to document my life, but it's a tough habit to break.

    My body is also still feeling fatigued in the aftermath of audition season. Those first few weeks of December kicked my butt, and while I'm currently busy preparing the role of Belinda with Sing Through Central, I am enjoying a more relaxed singing schedule as the new year dawns.

    And now let's get down to the whole point of this blog entry, the upcoming performance:

     I promised you all that I would update you as soon as I found out more details about Andy's upcoming performance in Bronx Opera's production of Albert Herring. You can find more details about the casts and locations at their website here or at the Facebook event page here.

     Andy will be singing on January 11th at Lehman College and January 17th at Hunter College, and when I find out any information about discounted tickets, I will gladly pass it along.

     It is a very fun show, and I highly recommend it to those who already adore opera or for those who are curious about the art form. I'm not in the show, so I plan on being there as Andy's resident fan girl. I just hope I don't get a massive nose bleed in the middle of Act 2 like I did when I attended a performance of Albert Herring at my undergrad. That was an awkward situation...

    I hope to see some of you at one of the performances, and I hope I shall have some upcoming performances of my own to share as 2015 progresses.