New year, same hot drink

Of the very many hot drinks I enjoy during winter, I don’t think hot toddies are necessarily the best tasting, but at the end of the day I think they’re my favorite overall.

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Hot toddy, happy me.

Hot buttered rum is great, mulled wine makes me feel Christmasy, hot chocolate is pretty much dessert, and spiked cider smells like my favorite time of year, but a good hot toddy, simultaneously sweet and spiced, warming and zesty, soothing and strong, is just my favorite.

I had a good, albeit pretty standard one at Extra Fancy in Brooklyn this week, on the first of the year, and right now I wish there was another one just like it sitting on my desk in place of my water bottle. It had a generous glug of honey in it, making it rich and sweet, playing off the tartness of the lemon juice and the smokey flavor of the bourbon.

Right now it’s about 20 degrees outside and we’re bracing for snow overnight (which is great) and more snow during the morning commute (way less great). Additionally, my throat feels raw and my tonsils achey. I’m at work and I’m sleepy and worst of all, I have a 10k run this weekend that thanks to a pretty awful sounding weather forecast, I’m not especially excited about.

But a hot toddy? All lemony and clovey, warm in my hands and comforting to my throat, fragrant and just strong enough, reliable and everything I want right now? THAT I could be excited about.

 

Hey fall, what’s the hold up?

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Fall, I’m waiting. Drink in hand.

Dear fall,

It’s a been just over two weeks since you were supposed to show up.

Everyone runs late sometimes, so I let it slide, didn’t make too big of a deal about it. I even took off for the beach to enjoy a last bit of summer and give you time to get here.

And nothing.

Sometimes I swear I feel you right around the corner. I dusted off my booties (coated from months spent underneath my bed), bought a new coat, and got mini pumpkins to decorate the office.

The shoes are getting dusty again, my coat looks rumpled from being kept in its shopping bag, and the pumpkins just look lost.  What, did you get lost?

This weekend, even though it was muggy and warm, the air heavy without a trace of you near, I thought maybe if I did one of the things I enjoy most when you’re here that maybe you’d just show up. Surrounded by several Brooklyn coffee shops, I instead went to Starbucks. You hear me, fall? I went to Starbucks and ordered a pumpkin spiced latte. Hell I even got the limited time only PSL whipped cream, all in hopes that it might conjure you up.

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For the season that just won’t come.

I didn’t walk down the street with my drink in hand, nor did I hear the crunching of fallen leaves underneath my shoes. I didn’t burrow into a scarf or tie my coat tighter around me. I didn’t think, ” God I love fall. Isn’t this the best?”

Nope, I sat in that damn Starbucks instead, because they had air conditioning and enough ads for maple pecan this and caramelized apple that to make me almost forget that you are just taking your sweet, pumpkin-loving time getting here.

It’s cool, though. Take your time. Really, I mean it.

When you’re ready, I’ll be here. Probably blotting the sweat from my brow as I finish another pint of pumpkin ice cream, but I’ll be here.

Bitter and sweet, drinks and memories

The first time I tried a Negroni, I almost immediately spit it out like a geyser of blood orange colored booze.

It was worse than the mouthful of CK One I accidentally sprayed myself with in seventh grade. Worse than the bar of soap my grandma shoved in my mouth as a kid. (Because yes, old school grandmothers used to do that to foul-mouthed children.) Worse than the Tylenol I bit into, thinking it was a mint.

It was horrendous, an assault on my taste buds.

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Never thought I’d be excited about a frozen Negroni

Now every time I order one, something that happens way more than I might have ever thought based on that first sip, I think of that night, and how I almost lost all my cool points in front of the Italians I was drinking with, all of them casually, painlessly sipping away at their Negronis.

It took years— it’s been ten since that first stolen sip— but I finally came around. Maybe due to a changing palette or perhaps out of nostalgia for a special time and place in my life, or maybe even because the older I get, the more I appreciate a drink that almost forces me to drink it slowly instead of guzzling it down.

And a good Negroni, with its all-booze-no-mixer blend of Campari, vermouth and gin, all colorful and dolled up with a twist of orange peel, exciting and alluring, a little floral and herbal, bitter yet bright, pretty much demands to be drank slowly.

On a recent humid, sticky afternoon in Brooklyn, reminiscent of so many equally swampy summer afternoons spent in AC-aversed Italy, a frozen Negroni was the obvious choice for me. With frost on its little coupe cocktail glass, and more of a dusty red-orange than the candy colored original, the frozen counterpart was a cute, chilly play on the classic. In the blazing heat of our windowside corner at One Bedford in Williamsburg, it didn’t stay frozen for long, quickly melting into a clear, orangey red.

I knocked it down in a few gulps, remembering a time when a tiny sip had tasted so different.

Bone marrow freaking bread pudding!

Listen, before you recoil in disgust, ask me how I do it, or give me so much as a hint of shade over my eating habits (which I’ll remind you are only partially documented on this blog), let me say this: I began my Saturday in Charleston with an 8-mile run all up, down and around the peninsula.

Eight miles is not nothing. It’s a pretty exhausting bit of exercise actually. Let me tell you, you work up a good amount of sweat. So much so, that when other runners were wearing fleece headbands, windbreakers and gloves, I had peeled off my long sleeve shirt (mid-run, like the graceful swan that I am) and was running in a tank top, so sweat-drenched I looked like I’d crawled out of the river.

Why did I do it? Well, part of it’s that I’m training for a half marathon next month, but the real answer, the more pressing answer is bone marrow bread pudding.

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You just can’t capture this level of deliciousness in a photo

The MacIntosh had been recommended by a good friend and when I looked up the menu and saw those four magic words— words I’d never seen all together—I knew there was no getting out of that long run.

Now, I ate a lot of great food in Charleston, pretty much only great food, but hands down, the best thing I ate was the Mac Attack, a  hunk of bone marrow bread pudding topped with pork belly, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. Basically their version of eggs benedict, the Mac Attack was unbelievably good, all gooey and rich and packed with flavor. The bread pudding was almost custard-like, just fatty enough to remind you where you were but not so fatty that it felt gross.

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When bone marrow pudding is an option, you should always go with it.

I thought it was so exceptionally delicious that after, when the waitress came around to ask about dessert, I easily let her sell me on the Mac Attack’s sweet cousin, a take of sorts on french toast, this time featuring the same custardy bone barrow bread pudding smeared thick with apple butter now and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m a fan of mixing sweet and savory so this spoke right to the fat kid heart of me.

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You know what goes well with bone marrow bread pudding? Bacon.

My sister’s entree, a fancy variation of biscuits and gravy, was also delicious, the giant biscuit with butter and jam we split as an appetizer was scrumptious, and my bacon bloody Mary with its candied bacon salt rim was one of the best bloodies I’ve ever enjoyed, but that bone marrow bread pudding… ooooh, I’d run a full ass marathon just for a piece of that at the end.

Unicorn Lattes cause why not?

Ever stop and look at yourself or the life you live and wonder how you got there or what a younger you would think about it if you could travel back in time with a spoiler alert?

I do. All the time.

Like when I ride the train to work in midtown. Or when I listen to anti-slut shaming podcasts. Or when I sign up for marathons. Or when I watch Donald Dump being sworn in as president.

Just things a younger me wouldn’t have necessarily predicted, that’s all.

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::sigh:: Brooklyn…

Last weekend, as I handed over my credit card to be charged $9 for something called a Unicorn Latte at a small coffee shop in Brooklyn, I found myself thinking, “Hmm, bet I never would’ve seen this coming a few years ago.”

I read about The End a few days before, and even though it seemed like another shining example of Brooklyn trying to out-Brooklyn itself, I was intrigued.

A younger me would’ve rolled her eyes at the ridiculous price tag, or the thought of a hot beverage with blue green algae in it, or even just at the friendly surfer/elf/hipster dude that rang it up.

But today’s me shrugged and thought, “Yea, why not. I’m curious.”

So I went and had the whimsical drink and because it was snowing outside, I ordered my Unicorn Latte to stay, which meant it was served in a small glass with a metal handle. (When you pay almost 10 bucks for a drink, you shouldn’t fight the elements to enjoy it.)

I should point out that this is a coffee alternative we’re talking about, so no actual coffee here. Instead, this latte is made of coconut milk, water, lemon juice, honey, Maqui berry, and the magic ingredient which provides the murky blue color, E3 Live, a blue green algae. And on the foamy top, a smattering of pastel sprinkle-type bits.

It had a sort of subtly fruity, milky flavor, almost like heated milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles. Not bad, not great. I was into all of the benefits they said it would provide, however, including mental clarity and a boost in energy.

Will it become part of my daily routine and replace the usual coffee? No, not likely. Then again, maybe I’ll look back on this one day when I’m an algae guzzling ol’ weirdo (who still looks 29) and I’ll laugh. Silly younger self, what have you ever known?

Out with the old and in with the calories

Ok, hear me out. This time I have a good excuse for my latest disappearing act. My dear, sweet computer, my ol’ Italian girl with the keyboard that used to trip everybody up except me, finally gave up the fight and went peacefully in her sleep one night.

We had a good long run together, about 8 years, so I think I need some time alone, no? Blogging on my phone, however, is a nightmare and doing it at work isn’t really an option either at the moment, so there you have it: radio silence.

But don’t you worry, it’s been gluttonous business as usual here. Below, a look at the things I’ve been eating and drinking and just not writing about:

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The phenomenal leek bread pudding from Cassette‘s brunch menu wasn’t what I was expecting (since I didn’t really know what to expect) but it was damn good. Oh and the restaurant, in Greenpoint, is adorable. You should go.

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I hated it the first time I tried it but over the years, the Negroni has become one of my favorites. At Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, they have a frozen one. Clearly, I was in love.

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In all the years I’ve lived in New York so far, I had never been to Carnegie Deli so when I heard that the local institution was closing at the end of the year, I had to go. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half on the sidewalk for a table inside, Stas and I got our order to-go and ate it in the park. The Woody Allen (“lots corned beef and lotsa pastrami”), the most delicious knish I’ve had yet, a fat slice of banana cream pie and a thick wedge of the richest, most dense cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and the two of us were done for.

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And lastly, a special shout out to the pretzel dog at my favorite bar in my old hood, the Rusty Knot. It’s nothing fancy, just a hot dog in the loving embrace of warm, salty dough, but dammit it fills my heart with all the feels every time. Or maybe that was the drinks. Who knows. It’s all delicious.

Left my heart at the bottom of an empty margarita glass

We’ll just accept that somewhere along the way I became terrible at maintaining a blog, ok? That way I can spare you the excuses and spare myself the guilt of feeling like a slacker.

Now, that we’ve gotten that cleared up, I’ll make it up to you with talk about Texas.

Avocados, will they ever stop proving their awesomeness?

Avocados, will they ever stop proving their awesomeness?

Yes, Texas. Or really to be exact, Austin (since everyone’s been quick to point out that they’re two very different things). I went there last week and it was awesome. Really great food and drinks, sunshine for days, warm, friendly people and just all around goodness in every direction.

I didn’t eat or drink a single thing I didn’t love but my favorite was definitely the avocado margarita at Curra’s Grill. That’s right, let that soak in: avo-freakin’-cado margarita.

After a day spent floating down Austin’s Comal River, baking under the relentless Texas sun, a thick, cold creamy avocado was basically a pat on the back from God himself. “Good job, kid,  you’re livin’ this life right.”

Best tasting nachos ever... and total lookers too!

Best tasting nachos ever… and total lookers too!

And because I’m also a firm believer that you can never have too much of a good thing, I also had some of the best nachos of my life when I ordered the house special with pulled pork in mole sauce. Not only were they gorgeous (Just look at those colors, that composition! Perfection!) they were absolutely delicious. Each big, crunchy corn tortilla chip was loaded up with sweet pulled pork in a smoky, rich mole sauce, creamy black refried beans, tangy, juicy pickled beets and a sprinkle of crumbly queso fresco, all around some of the sweetest, softest fried plantains and insanely hot, roasted green peppers.

I mean, it doesn’t get better than all of that. Add a couple of friends to the mix, a bit of shade from the sun, and you’re looking at a pretty perfect afternoon. Austin, consider me a fan.