Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dinner at Hearth

My birthday adventure to Florida was delayed a day due to snow that never arrived - per usual the weather in February is just unpredictable.

Michael made the day absolutely fabulous by taking me to brunch at craftbar (we shared: white anchovy bruschetta, pork scrapple with eggs, and biscuits with sausage gravy) and dinner somewhere new (to us) - Hearth. Not only is Hearth a James Beard award winning restaurant, but the executive chef's mentor is Tom Colicchio. Chef Marco Canora worked at both Grammercy Tavern and craft - two of our favorites.

When we arrived they asked if we would like to sit in the pass. They have 4 counter seats at the pass which all look right in to the open kitchen. Of course we said yes! It was really cool, we were able to watch all of the prep and cooking and our server let us know who was working on our food. It was really a treat seeing our food being prepared.

We opted for the 7-course tasting menu. The server asked our preferences and from there the chef decided what we were going to eat.

We started with an escarole salad with red onion, Pecorino Romano cheese, walnuts, pear slices, and a light vinaigrette. The salad was crisp and refreshing and all of the different textures gave the dish a nice crunch.

Course #2 was a delicious octopus appetizer. The octopus was grilled and then plated with some potato, celery, and smoked black olives. The octopus was tender and delicious, with a slight char from the grill. The smoked black olives were just the right amount of salty to pair perfectly with the vegetables.

Course #3 was cacciucco (sort of a fish stew or ciappino). The fish station was directly in front of us and we saw the entire course being cooked and plated. The dish had prawns, mussels, Sheepshead bass and clams in a thin tomato broth. The seafood was cooked perfectly and everything tasted like it had just come out of the ocean, briny and delicate.

Course #4 canestri pasta. A home made pasta noodle that was kind of tube shape similar to rigatoni. The pasta noodles were in a tomato based sauce with cauliflower and cabbage and topped with Pecorino cheese an crispy bread crumbs. The dish was amazing but bite after bite it became very salty. Luckily it was a pretty small portion.

Course #5 was a braised pork shank. The meat was literally falling off the bone. It was sitting on top of some creamy polenta and some kind of broccoli - maybe broccoli rabe. We were pretty much stuffed at this point but it was out of this world tasty and neither one of us could stop eating. The meat chef looked up at us after we were served and we made sure to let her know we loved the dish. The braised pork shank is usually not part of the tasting menu, but because it was my birthday they did something special.

Finally the pastry chef provided some relief to our palettes with a bit of grapefruit granita served with a tiny dallop of Greek yogurt. The granita was light and refreshing, perfect after the rich braised pork.

And dessert was awesome. The pastry chef prepared a special plate just for me:

We had warm glazed apple cider doughnuts with apple compote and maple cream on the side.

About 30 seconds after my plate was set down in front of me it looked like this:

A fabulous meal planned at the last minute is just one of the reasons I love living in NYC!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where in the World? Key West!

Michael's mom had the best guess - she knew we were headed to somewhere warm and most likely Florida. She is the official contest winner!

We started off in Ft. Lauderdale, while it was 3 times warmer than NYC, it was still just 60 degrees and a little too cold to sit out by the beautiful pool.

The upper pool was an infinity pool that looked out to the ocean and it had a porthole that looked down in to the lower pool.

Lucky for us the Westin Diplomat has an amazing spa facility and guests have complimentary access. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the steam room and whirlpool.

Monday afternoon we headed south down Highway 1 - past Key Largo and Islamorada - all the way down to Key West. We parked the car just in time to watch the sunset.

The weather in Key West was a sunny 75 degrees, just about perfect. We stayed at the Orchid Key Inn. A small hotel that has a wonderful staff and beautiful landscaping.

Of course we spent time by the pool but we also had a fun time touring the Hemingway House. Not only did Hemingway do quite a bit of writing there, but it is currently home to 44 cats.

It's hard to read, but the sign on the couch says "Please do not sit on the furniture." Clearly this is for humans - the cats do as they please.

About half of the cats are polydactyl - they have an extra toe on their front feet. It looks like they are wearing a mitten on their feet.

The yard around the Hemingway House is fenced in such a way the cats can roam about outside but not jump over and escape.

Of course I tried to find all 44 of the cats, but lost track along the way. Pictured below is the room where Hemingway did his writing and the actual typewriter he used, and another cat!

Even though I really wanted to steal a cat away in my purse Michael made sure we didn't go home with any extra felines.

There are roaming chickens and roosters all over the island (except for the Hemingway House yard).

We also did a stand up paddle boarding lesson and tour. It was awesome. We both were able to stand up and paddle around the mangrove forest and waterways. I have some pictures on a waterproof disposable film camera - it is really strange to think I need to go get film developed!

Our last morning we walked around a bit and went to the "Most Southern Point" in the United States - but we didn't wait in line to take any photos there. Michael is pretty sure there are points further south since you can see them while standing at the alleged southernmost point!

He did agree with this statement and was willing to take a photo here:

Key West was the perfect vacation spot and it was really hard to head home. I'm already trying to figure out when we can go back for a longer stay.

Ummmmm, doughnuts!

My latest toy - a doughnut pan!

Baked doughnuts must be healthy because they are baked and not fried, right?

They are delicious right out of the oven and were a nice Valentine's Day treat for my friends in NYC.

Thanks to Michael's parents for such a great birthday gift.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Packing for next week...

I'm working on my pack list - can you guess where we are headed? This time I know and it makes the packing much easier!

Here are the main pieces:

I am packing for Saturday through Wednesday and trying to stick with 12 items of clothing or less.

My current list:

  1. dress

  2. dressy tank top

  3. tan studded short sleeve tee

  4. pink short sleeve tee

  5. pink long sleeve tee

  6. white pants

  7. denim skirt

  8. black shorts

  9. white cotton cocoon wrap

  10. denim jacket

  11. swimsuit

  12. swimsuit cover up

Accessories include: straw bag, little clutch, beaded necklace, boat shoes, wedge sandals, flat sandals (nice), flat sandals (rubber), and a scarf (TBD).

Four pairs of shoes is quite a bit and I could probably get away with leaving the dressy wedge sandals at home but I want to look snazzy when we go out to dinner!

The wedge sandals work with both the dress and the pants for some evening outfits.

I plan to wear the white pants, pink long sleeve tee, and boat shoes on the plane - need to look nice for our First Class seats!

And a few options for some casual outfits once we are there - denim skirt with the tank, cocoon wrap, and flat sandals.

Or either one of the short sleeve tee shirts work with the shorts or the denim skirt for some easy day looks.

For the beach or the pool I have my Old Navy swimsuit, Matthew Williamson for H&M cover up, denim skirt, and Crocs sandals.

The biggest decision right now is what scarf to bring - here are the three I'm debating between: the pink/green lightweight "pashmina" (pros: good size and perfect colors for our destination/cons:brighter colors compared to the rest of my wardrobe),

the Matthew Williamson for H&M black sheer scarf (pros: doubles as a sarong, colors work well with the rest of the wardrobe/cons:won't keep me warm in NYC between the airport and home), and the Calypso St. Barth for Target dip dye scarf in pinks and oranges (pros: perfect colors for the destination and with the gradation they work with the rest of my wardrobe/cons: not very warm and an odd small size).

What do you think?

Tweet you scarf choice and destination guesses to @90thandKO. The winners get nothing but the self satisfaction of being right.

(OK and fine, I can already hear the complaints you can email as well.)