An untraditional tradition

As much as I love Christmas (and as I’m sure you’ve gathered from my several posts on the matter, I really do love it) I rarely celebrate in a very traditional way. Family is always someone else’s or none at all, presents are never exchanged on the 25th, and  for most of my life there wasn’t even cold weather (which I think is a total Christmas buzzkill).

This year, in keeping with my tradition of nontraditonal celebrating, I convinced Flaneur to pass on Christmas hams and comfort food for avant-garde American instead with a holiday dinner at wd~50, the LES restaurant from Wylie Dufresne.

After reading Ferran earlier this year, a biography on the famous El Bulli chef and posterchild for molecular gastronomy, I’ve been fascinated with that whole style of cooking and all of the crazy science lab hijinks that go with it. Flaneur is kind of a nerd so I knew if I pitched the science angle, I’d get him. (And I did.)

As first timers, we went with the tasting menu, an 11-course trip through a crazy menu with lots of surprises, interesting presentations, and big flavors.

First out, an amuse bouche of hamachi, marcona almond, ginger, and oolong tea. The different texttures and consistencies definitely amused my bouche.

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Eggnog almonds save the day!

In a word: addictive

Seriously, there is no place on earth that pushes the limits of my sanity and makes me want to punch people in the face quite like the Trader Joe’s in Union Square. For those of you who don’t live in New York and have the great fortune of never having been to this particular supermarket, the closest comparison might be… oh, I don’t know, maybe one of the inner circles of Dante’s inferno.

I was there recently, stuck in a too-narrow aisle, jam-packed with passive aggressive shoppers, at least one screaming toddler and a woman who knocked over a glass jar of tomato sauce (yay for spills and shards of glass!) when I saw something in someone’s basket that turned everything around for me: egg nog almonds! Everyone, out of my way!

These just make everything better.

The thing I love about Trader Joe’s, and one of the reasons I continue to shop there, are their fun, seasonal items, like pumpkin butter in the fall and now egg nog almonds to fuel my obsession during the holidays. Each almond is coated in a smooth, glossy layer of egg nog flavored white chocolate, making this the ideal sweet, creamy, nutty, crunchy thing to curl up with on the couch while watching holiday themed TV shows.

Even if it means braving the herds, I think I need to stock up on these before they’re off the shelves. Post-traumatic TJ’s rage (a real condition in my case) would be a lot easier to deal with if I had these delicious egg nog almonds.


What the F*rk by David Schwen

Seriously, how great would this look framed and hanging in my kitchen? With the fork (aka forchetta) worked into something I yell, whisper under my breath, or think at least a million times a day (don’t judge me, I like dropping f-bombs) I feel like this was made with me in mind. I f-ing love it.

Society6 might just be my new favorite website. The online shop features oodles of beautiful, interesting and sometimes funny art prints like this one from artists all over the world and all at completely reasonable and affordable prices. This is just one of a million that I loved. Check them out!

Buon Natale: Brunch edition

Panettone, it wouldn’t be a Buon Natale without it!

One of my now favorite holiday traditions started a few years ago when I was living in Italy and realized that during the month of December, at any given moment, I was surrounded by a billion panettones. You know panettone, we have them on this side of the pond too: those large, sort of muffin-shaped cakes, speckled with candied fruit and usually covered in some sort of decorative wrapping paper or in a festive, beribboned box. They’re the Italian version of holiday fruit cake, but actually good.

They were everywhere, and while I liked them, I was getting sick of eating just plain ol’ slices of panettone. One day, during a transatlantic phone call with my aunt who lives in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, I mentioned that I was basically drowning in an italian sea of panettone.

“Oh, well you should just make panettone french toast!” she explained matter-of-factly.

I immediately Googled recipes, of which I have to warn you, there are precisely one for every panettone in Italy, and went with one that seemed simple enough to pull off. I don’t remember where it was from, but for your viewing, reading, and eating pleasure, here it is below: Continue reading

Two of my faves

Cheese shaped sticky notes! Awesome!

I’m one of those people who loves Post-it notes. Big ones, little ones, in all colors of the rainbow, and even the digital ones. I also happen to be one of those people who loves cheese. Soft, stinky, sharp, all of them. So when I saw this block of cheese-shaped sticky notes at the MoMA Store in SoHo I was immediately smitten. How great when things I love are combined to create new things I can love!

This would make a sweet stocking stuffer. Not that I’m dropping hints or anything…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Rolf's german restaurant... like being INSIDE a Christmas tree

With the exception of my hatred for Kenny G. and all other pseudo jazzy, easy listening versions of classic Christmas music, I freakin’ love everything about the holidays. I love the twinkling lights and the smell of Christmas trees, movies like It’s A Wonderful Life and Bad Santa (Billy Bob is a dirtbag but there’s never been a more hilarious Santa), the parties, the dinners, the presents, and— you guessed it— the holiday treats.

Egg nog! Cheers to that!

Without even having to think twice about it, I can tell you my absolute all-time favorite in December is egg nog. While I’ve had a few different ones this season and Ronnybrook continues to be the best, the prize for most fun and festive definitely goes to Rolf’s egg nog. Served over ice, spiked with Southern Comfort and garnished with a dash of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, Rolf’s version gives me the same giddy feeling I got as a kid on Christmas morning. (You know, before I learned Santa didn’t exist and my parents were liars.) Rolf’s itself is the most insanely decorated, holiday-crazy, Christmasy place I’ve ever been to with the exception of maybe Disney World during December. Everyone in New York should absolutely go at least once to this Gramercy german restaurant. If you go and don’t feel even a little flicker of holiday cheer, then you my friend, have no soul and a dusty piece of coal for a heart.

Chestnuts, another great holiday snack

Another favorite of the season, though thankfully not as disgustingly gluttonous as egg nog, are roasted chestnuts. The woodsy, nutty, almost-burnt smell as they roast, the warm, soft inside, the cracking them open and chipping away at the toasted shell— I love them. I want to sit in front of a fireplace on a snowy night and eat dozens of them. Even though I have to buy them from a street vendor with mechanic hands and impatiently eat them on the subway, I still love ’em.

Now if stores would just cut the crappy Christmas tunes. I mean, really, Michael Bolton’s A Swingin’ Christmas? No. Just no.