Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter Village

OK, I know I am terribly behind on my posts - it's been a crazy few weeks at work, I've been re-reading the Harry Potter books (I'm almost done with book six...can't wait for book seven), and we've had two weeks of eating out almost every night!

I'm not complaining, but the blog has suffered.

Before I go in to the restaurant week updates - here are photos from last Friday. As most people on the planet know, Friday (well Saturday at 12:01am) was the release of the final chapter in the Harry Potter series.

In honor of the big event, the Scholastic (Harry Potter publisher) store in Soho put on a big event Friday evening. The street behind their store was turned in to Harry Potter village. I went around noon to see how they were setting up the 'Village'. Most of the big pieces were in place, it was a great time to take photos. The Harry Potter Village was open to the public from 5pm-10pm Friday night. After dinner we went down there to see the crowd - it was packed! I was glad I took photos earlier in the day.
This is looking down the 'Village' from the top, the Whomping Willow is in the middle of the block.
The first area was the media tent - it was properly named the 'Daily Prophet' after the wizzarding newspaper. There is an owlery set up in front of the media tent, most likely for breaking news!
The next area was the Pensive. I'm not sure what happened here, maybe you were able to think about some of your favorite moments in past books?
After the Pensive, there was a huge Muggle Board. This was an area to write down your thoughts and feelings about the book for anyone to read. The diamond shapes were gold and shiny and hanging down in front of the actual board - they were all sparkling in the sun.
Next you passed by the Whomping Willow. The top branches were filled with air and moved around - it was cool!
They also offered face painting.
And a chance to get your photo taken with the HP 7 cover art.
These are the first two girls in line for HP 7. I was there around noon, there were only about 10 people in line. We went back by the Harry Potter Village around 10pm and the line was circling the block!

Some of you should be getting packages from Honeydukes Sweetshop soon - enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Restaurant Week Meal #2 - Megu

Tuesday night was dinner at Megu, fine Japanese dining.

A mixed review with this one. We probably won't be headed back anytime soon, but the night wasn't a disaster.

Summer Restaurant Week is much more fun than Winter Restaurant Week - the weather is just so much better and in the summer you never have to check your hat, gloves, coat, and scarf.

We arrived early for our reservation, as we waited for our table we enjoyed a cocktail in their lounge. The ambiance of the lounge was great, soft lighting, handmade Japanese paper on the wall, and a DJ.

The main dining room was decorated just as impressively as the bar. In the middle of the room there is an huge Asian inspired ice sculpture sitting above a square water feature with floating rose petals. As you enter the dining room all of the staff shout out a Japanese greeting. Luckily the hostess explained this to me, it was very strange to have people yell as you entered the room. The dining room really had a hip vibe the lines of the furniyure were crisp and modern and the color palette was very neutral with pops of vibrant red as an accent color.

Our waiter looked like just like Luke Skywalker. He didn't seem to embrace restaurant week and the restaurant week special menu was a bit lacking as well. Some restaurants will serve items from their regular menu, in hopes it will give the diner and idea of their food and bring them back when the prices are at their normal rates. Some restaurants offer items that are not on the menu, maybe to entice you in initiall but then steer you away from the lower price selections once you see the regular menu. Megu fell into the second category - the restaurant week menu was not a good representation of their regular menu.

I started with a fried oyster and a fried shrimp while Michael chose the soft shell crab and tempura. Our appetizers came out almost immediately after we ordered, the plates were very warm - it was pretty obvious they had been made ahead of time and were sitting under heat lamps waiting for an order. Both the shrimp and the oyster were in a thick batter and there was a creamy spicy sauce on the side. The batter was not crisp, but kind of soggy especially under the oyster. The taste was fine, but definitely nothing special. Michael's plate looked good, half of a soft shell crab and a tempura coated leaf and shitake mushroom. The tempura was kind of heavy. I just had some really good light and crispy tempura at a sushi restaurant near our house on Saturday night - the tempura at Megu was definitely not as good. The fried leaf didn't offer much taste and the crab also seemed just average.

For dinner I had the miso glazed cod and Michael had the Kobe beef steak. (On the regular menu a 10oz Kobe beef steak was priced at $150! The most expensive steak on the menu was $180!!) My cod was well prepared. The miso glaze was sweet, almost like a honey glaze on top of the tender and flaky fish. On the side was a small fried dumpling. Michael's steak was very good, tender and well prepared. He had a dumpling on the side as well. Both portions were on the small side - I don't think he had a 10oz steak, maybe 6-8 ounces. I don't know what happened with our dinner service, but we had to wait a very long time to get our meal. Our waiter stopped by once to let us know he checked on our order and it was on the way.

Dessert was outstanding. There was no choice, only one dessert was offered, something special just for restaurant week. It was layers of crepes spread with green tea cream. The crepes were tissue paper thin and stacked at least 10 high. The green tea cream had the consistency of a thin mousse and was very green. The flavor was like whip cream with a hint of green tea. It was a light and refreshing way to end the meal.

While the food was fine, it wasn't as impressive as the regular menu prices. But it was a very cool space - if you want to see it go to the bar for a drink and hit the bathrooms on the way out. The bathrooms were great. Low lights, well decorated, very modern fixtures and the sweet serenade of bird noises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer Restaurant Week Begins!

It's that magical time of year - when it's so hot they like to reward the people that sweat it out in the city.

Summer Restaurant Week started yesterday 7/16 and runs through Friday 7/27 (Sat/Sun excluded).

Monday we warmed up our palettes with lunch at Smith and Wollensky.

The best value of Restaurant Week - bread, soup, 12 oz filet mignon, and dessert for $24. We splurged and added a side of the creamed spinach. They make the most amazing creamed spinach - very creamy and smooth, more like a spinach puree.

I'm pretty sure our steaks were larger than 12 oz. I brought home such a large left over piece we made steak quesadillas for dinner (how often do you get steak quesadillas made from filet mignon from Smith & Wollensky?). They were delicious, definitely leftovers in disguise.

This Restaurant Week we definitely focused more on value than different cuisines. We chose more high end and highly Zagat rated restaurants than during Winter Restaurant Week. We are going back to a few favorites - Rosa Mexicana, Lure Fishbar and One If By Land, Two If By Sea. Tonight is new to us, Megu for Japanese fine dining - I can't wait!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th!

It's Friday the 13th, watch out for black cats crossing your path!
Scary Roxy!
Supercat Roxy
Put your cat in a box.
Step 1...
Sadie Bird Johnson
Stop taking my picture, I'm tired.

Trixie working on an inter-office memo

Trixie after a long day of typing out memos

Monday, July 09, 2007


Yes, it's true - cakes and cupcakes that are made from meatloaf and potatoes.

In the last few weeks I've come across two (yes, two) websites/blogs that delve into the world of meatcakes.

This website features a 3 layer meatcake frosted with mashed potatoes and bacon bits:

And this blog covers step-by-step instructions for making little meat cupcakes, also frosted with mashed potatoes:

Either one of my brothers would love these! Unfortunately for them, I'm not sure the KO bakery is ready to move from sweet to savory.

Restaurant Review - craftsteak

In celebration of Michael's birthday we headed to craftsteak for a fantastic dinner.

Once again a Tom Colicchio establishment put out a great meal with wonderful service. I don't know if we can pick a favorite between craft, craftbar, or craftsteak ( ).

I decided to try a signature cocktail, the Rojo-Rosato. A blend of strawberried grappa with Rose Cava (I tried to research the ingredients, and I think I have the capitalization correct). It was bubbly and pink, but not too sweet. It was tasty, but nothing I will be trying to recreate in my own kitchen.

Michael started his meal with the Wagyu beef tartare. He really enjoyed it - I was not interested in sampling (I just can't get past the rare beef thing). It was a large portion that was slightly spicy with a raw egg served on top. A good size bowl of home made potato chips were served on the side. The chips were delicious, super thin and crispy - just like potato chip lace, I probably could have finished off the entire bowl. I ordered the shrimp cocktail, which consisted of 6 medium size herb coated shrimp along with a nice cocktail sauce. The plating offered a small bottle of Tobasco hot sauce on the side, providing the diner the option to spice up the cocktail sauce. Nice touch from a restaurant that not only does not put salt and pepper on the table but did not ask how you would like your steak prepared.

While my shrimp cocktail was good, Lure Fishbar offers a far superior shrimp cocktail. The shrimp are larger and have a natural sweet flavor. If I go back to craftsteak I will definitely start with a different menu item, probably the Hen of the Woods mushrooms!

Along with our starters we were served an amuse bouche (tiny bite-sized morsels served before the hors d'Ĺ“uvre or first course of a meal) of liver pate topped with an apricot gelee. It was interesting - good flavor but it was not something I would from the menu. I prefer a dish with more texture.

For dinner I had the side pasta dish of crab and ham ravioli. They were topped with watercress and small sauteed button mushrooms in a light white wine sauce. The crab and ham mixed beautifully - the filling was slightly salty which balanced nicely with the light sauce. I also liked the option of having a smaller portion for dinner. The craft menus are put together so you can create your ideal meal, it's a great concept. For my side I had the Hen of the Woods mushrooms (of course). I cannot describe how good these mushrooms taste. The ends are crispy while the stalks are tender and meaty, the flavor is incredible. According to our knowledgeable waiter this is the peak of their growing season.

Michael enjoyed a New York steak topped with garlic confit and a side of shrimp and pea risotto. The steak was served with 4 sauces on the side: chimichurri, hollandaise, house steak sauce, and creamy horseradish. All four sauces were delicious, but the chimichurri and the hollandaise were outstanding. I tried a small piece of steak - it was the most tender New York steak I have ever tasted. It was delicious on its own and in each of the sauces. The risotto was full of shrimp and peas - the color was a nice verdant green and it was so creamy and delicious. You really can't go wrong with a risotto side.

The bread basket was a small cast iron skillet filled with soft, warm dinner rolls. They were topped with a little bit of oil and course salt. I was dipping the bread in to the chimichurri sauce and spreading them with soft garlic cloves from the garlic confit.

Of course we saved some room for dessert! I ordered the strawberry soup which was angel food cake topped with semifreddo creme fraiche and strawberry sorbet. It was finished tableside with a generous pour of sweet strawberry juice. The strawberry sorbet was outstanding - sweet and light it hit the spot after a big meal. The semifreddo creme fraiche was almost like a frozen piece of cheesecake, but with less tang. It sort of melted in to the strawberry juice in the bottom of the bowl and made a soft strawberry ice cream.

Michael enjoyed three scoops of ice cream - banana chip, cheesecake, and vanilla bean. Just as in craft, the ice cream was amazing. Well flavored and very creamy. The banana ice cream is the best, it tastes like fresh bananas and sweet cream.

As an added bonus, we were also given the cookie tray. It had about 8 varieties of house made cookies. While I did sample them all I can hardly begin to describe them. The bite size treats consisted of: brownies, blondies, apricot and nut biscotti, PB&J cookies, linzer tarts, fig bars, and chewy oatmeal cookies. My favorite were PB&J cookies - sweet strawberry jam sandwiched between small crisp and flaky peanut butter cookies. The oatmeal cookies were chewy soft and packed with spices - very flavorful. Rounding out my top three cookies were the blondies. They were sweet and chewy with a perfect crackly crust.

The treats didn't stop there - with the check they served bite sized lemon sandwich cookies and chocolate sandwich cookies with cream filling. These little treats were just one bite each. The lemon cookie melted in your mouth, leaving just a delightful lemon aftertaste. The chocolate cookie was soft and reminded me of a little tiny Devil Dog.

But wait, there's more - as a parting gift they sent us home with coffee cake muffins. I had mine for breakfast the next morning - how nice of them to make my breakfast so tasty. The muffin was not too sweet, very moist, and had a generous cinnamon swirl running through it. The best part was the traditional crumb topping. The muffin was perfect compliment to my cup of Dunkin' Doughnuts iced coffee.

In additional to the perfectly prepared food, we had outstanding service. The staff was attentive and informative without being overbearing. We asked no less than a dozen questions about the menu and our waiter patiently went through every detail. The staff also helped us with the extensive menu by making some great recommendations.

Well done Colicchio, well done!

Changing Tastes

Look who is eating wet food! That's right - it's Roxy cat.

She used to only eat dry food, she would sniff at wet food and then walk away. Well now she is a card carrying member of the 'I Love Wet Food' fan club.

Here she is cleaning Trixie's plate.

Who Needs the Kwik E Mart?

7-11 and The Simpsons Movie joined forces for a huge cross-promotion.
Twelve 7-11 stores were turned in to Springfield Kwik E Marts overnight.
If you are a Simpsons fan you will love all of the little touches.
The outside of the store from across the street.
Window advertisement for Buzz cola (they are selling Buzz cola, but limited quantities make it impossible to find on the shelves)
Can you read the small print on the Springfield Bank sign?
9 of the Simpsons characters have been placed throughout the store, including:
Ralph, Jasper, and Comic Book Guy
and Chief Wiggum
They even have the Squishee machine with a special limited edition blue vanilla woo hoo flavor.
And of course there is the Home Simpson signature doughnut with pink icing and sprinkles available for purchase. I suspect it tastes like any other doughnut from 7-11, but the signage is much better!
There are change jars at the counters collecting money for 'Krusty's Kids' and the employees have official Kwik E Mart uniforms.
(This gentleman was nice enough to pose for me, even though he thought I was totally crazy for wanting to take a picture of him.)
Lyrics from Who Needs the Kwik E Mart:
whether igloo hut or lean-to
or geodisic dome
there's no place that i have been-to
that i'd rather call home
when i first arrived you were all such jerks
but now i've come to love your quirks
maggie with her eyes so bright
marge with hair by frank lloyd wright
lisa can philosophise
bart's adept at spinning lies
homer's a delightful fella
sorry 'bout the salmonela (he- he thats OK)
who needs the quik-e-mart
now here's the tricky part
oh won't you rhyme with me?
who needs the quik-e-mart
their floors are sticky-mart
they made dad sicky-mart
lets Hurl a brick-e-mart
the quik-e-mart is really d'oh
who needs the quik-e-mart not me
who needs the quik-e-mart not me
who needs the quik-e-mart?
i dooooooo

Goodbye Cute New Shoes

I'm so sad to report that after 3 wearings and 3 sets of really bad blisters, the cute new shoes are on their way to Goodwill. I tried to make them comfortable. I tried to make them not give me blisters - but it just didn't work out for us. I can only hope some lucky person with feet that are shaped a little different than mine find them and wear them as they should be worn.

Happy Birthday Michael

I had a few more things to take care of while I was in CA. I needed to prep for Michael's birthday.

Michael had to work on his birthday so I thought it would be really fun to bring in cupcakes for the office. I was going to buy them at a local bakery, but once I realized how expensive it would be I decided it would be much better if I made them myself. Plus it amazes people when you take the time to actually make something yourself. I tested out a new cupcake recipe while I was in SD - it was a home run right out of the gate (I think I totally screwed up that phrase, but you get the point).
I also had to figure out a way to transport my precious cupcakes. I found this awesome cupcake carrier at Crate and Barrel. (Quick product review - Pros: the lid securely snaps to the base, no worries of the whole contraption falling apart as you walk down the street, bottom tray is a cupcake pan - no additional cupcake baking equipment necessary. Cons: the bottom tray bows down in the middle, so the really short cupcakes need to go on the bottom, the cupcakes on the bottom are harder to get out of the tray without smushing the icing.) The carrier worked really well and my cupcakes made it to the office in perfect condition.

My little yellow cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting and multicolored sprinkles were a hit. They made Michael very popular in the afternoon and he received many birthday well wishes as he passed out these treats.

He did get to open a few presents in the morning before work (a shirt from Roxy, and the blackout kit from MomO which included a crank flashlight and two fans - one for Michael and one for Roxy), but he had to wait until after work for the big gift. Because he really was only getting one gift, I had to make it fun to open. I used a cipher wheel to create a code and gave him 12 coded messages, a template, and the cipher wheel. He had to use the wheel to figure out the messages. The messages told him we were going to 2 Braves games in Atlanta! Everyone pitched in towards the gift, it was fun to all pull together to get him something we knew he would really enjoy. (Plus I get to go on the trip too and we're staying at the Ritz-Carlton!)

After gifts we went to craftsteak (it is supposed to be lowercase, even though it is a name) for dinner. Our meal was amazing, but I'll save the details for another day!

KO's California Adventure

Even though I had my camera all week, I only managed to take these 4 photos while I was in CA last week (and now it's 2 weeks ago, I'm so behind on the blog).

I had a busy but fun 4 days in San Diego. We had to develop a new drink for a wedding shower. I was eager to share my new favorite spirit - infused vodka. I made the Spiked Arnold Palmer which was well received, but hard to make for a group. We used the Margaritaville drink machine to create the 'Frozen Blushing Bride'. It was a fabulous blend of ginger infused vodka, lemonade, and a splash of pomegranate syrup. From what I understand it was a huge hit at the party.

The Margaritaville drink machine is an amazing frozen drink maker, well worth the price if you are considering such an investment. It shaves the ice before blending, giving your frozen beverages a restaurant quality.

After the "work" of making up drinks on Monday and Tuesday, I spent Wednesday night relaxing with Mel and the tabbies in O'side. Per usual we watched Top Chef, it's so nice when your snark filled comments are fully appreciated. We went to dinner and it was so funny to me that the local restaurant closed its doors at 9pm - guess that's life on the beach.

Thursday afternoon I said my goodbyes at the office and headed to a late lunch with Bex, Linda, and Elizabeth at PF Changs (can you say lettuce wraps?).

Bex was the only one with a driver so she ordered the Lucky Cat martini. It wasn't a favorite - but it's always good to try something new. At this point I don't remember what was in it, but it sounded good on the menu.

Happy Birthday Linda! Her big party was this past Saturday - I wanted to be there, but the timing just didn't work. She's all decked out in her Perfectly Pink birthday present featuring many lovely Laila Rowe items. Very fitting because she is the one who introduced me to the store when she was visiting NYC!

Bye sunny San Diego!

From SD I drove north to visit with the family. We had a whirlwind weekend that included Palm Springs, losing money at the local Indian casino, and whizzing around in Jason's new ski boat on Big Bear Lake.

It was hard to leave all of the fun, but I needed to get some rest!