Sunday, December 30, 2012

I have had a hard time motivating myself to write a blog post 
when so much more important happenings deserve our collective attention.  
I feel for all the fellow New Yorkers still left homeless by hurricane Sandy 
while they await desperately needed help.  
I feel for those who just wanted to escape into a movie, 
do some holiday shopping or go to school and lost their lives to violence.  
I feel for the parents, siblings, children, friends and other loved ones who will miss those smiles.  

As this year winds to a close I appreciate my life more then ever.  
I give thanks for all that is good in it.  
I am grateful to be able to hug my son at night and ask him about his day.
 To sleep next to a man that loves and cares for me.  
To be alive.  

I look forward to this new year with hope and optimism.
Happy New Year - now go hug somebody

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spiced Rum Recipe

My husband and I were first introduced to sweet spiced rum after a fine meal in Grand Case on the French side of Saint Martin.  It is a locally made spiced rum called Ma Doudou.  Over the years we have had home made spiced rums all over Saint Martin.  Some were infused with bananas, coconut or vanilla beans.  Ma Doudou reins as the standard among those for sale.  For many years we brought home several bottles, by request, for friends & family.  
Then security hit the airports and liquor had to be packed into your checked luggage.  Lets just there wasn't enough liquor in those bottles to make up for a plane ride filled with stress over rum soaked luggage.  
I knew I would have to learn how to make my own spiced rum at home.  So with a couple of bottles of Ma Doudou in my possession, to use for taste comparison, I experimented with seasoning and sugars and rums.  Yes tasting the samples was fun.  What I came up with is a recipe that makes my mouth feel like its sitting in a restaurant on Saint Martin.  I am posting the recipe here so family, friends & everyone else can make their own!

Spiced Rum

You'll need a small pot to make the syrup and a large jar to store the rum while it infuses with the spices.
2 to 3 liters of rum (I use Bacardi dark)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2-4 vanilla beans - split lengthwise and beans scraped out with a knife
2-5 star anise
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole green cardamon pods
1 tablespoon whole allspice
18 inches cinnamon sticks (more or less)
     Mix sugar and water in the pot and heat to a low simmer.  Sugar will dissolve. Add spices and let them all continue to simmer, covered, for 45 mins.  Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Put syrup with spices into large jar.  Add rum of choice.  Seal jar with lid and store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.  Show it some love with a shake or two every once in a while.
Start tasting at the 4 week point and when it has enough spice for you strain the spices and discard all but the cinnamon and vanilla beans.  Pour your rum into clean bottles and add a vanilla bean and /or piece of cinnamon to each, if desired.   

--The rum can be sipped straight as a dessert drink or cordial, mixed with OJ and/or cranberry juice or added to a hot earl grey tea with cream.  I made french toast with it this morning (the alcohol cooks off but the flavor remains).  It can be used in cooking instead of vanilla.  The list is limited by ones imagination.
--You can use what ever kind of rum you like, different rums will add their own flavors. Meyers Dark Jamaican rum will add a molasses note, lighter rums will have less caramel notes.  The kind of sugar you use will also affect the final flavors. Start with white sugar which adds the least flavoring.  Turbinado sugar adds a little richness, light brown sugar adds more.  I used unbleached sugar which adds the lightest note of molasses.  Also smell the spices, use more or less to your taste.  Taste it as it steeps, you might like more or less steeping time.  
--Make your first batch plain.  As you get to know the flavors you like you can add bananas to the jar for steeping with the spices or after the spices are strained.  Coconut milk, coconut water, or coconut creme each add their own kind of flavors.  Some like orange peel, some mandarin segments, some both.  Experiment, have fun, enjoy and share the rum!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Mermaid Oyster Bar

The Mermaid Oyster Bar
79 MacDougal Street
New York City, NY 10012

First the decor greets you.  Like a beach front restaurant on MacDougal Street.  
White paint, shore photos, retro milk glass light fixture and a perfectly sized bar.  
This is Greenwich Village where spaces are small.  
I'm glad they resisted the temptation to cram another table in, 
achieving cozy over crowded even when full.  
We sat at a small booth table in the first room.  
They have a another room not visible from the entry.  
The staff is very attentive without being annoying.  
We started with cocktails.  
Proseco for Annie and a Legend of Zarro for me.  
Tequila, passion fruit, chipote and lime.  
Tasted like Blood Orange sherbet. Yum!
For appetizers Annie ordered a half dozen little neck clams 
with a special limited harvest oyster topped with fresh ceviche.  
It was beautifully presented on a bed of ice.  
Its oyster season and oysters took up a large part of the appetizer menu, 
east coast and west coast with great descriptions of each individual flavor.  
I opted for the grilled calamari with mushroom over lightly dressed frissee.  
Lemony without being too tart and very good.
Annie had a lobster sandwich served on griddled brioche bun with old bay seasoned french fries.  
I had mermaid fish taco.  The lobster was lightly dressed and
had nice size pieces of lobster on a tender roll.  
My fish tacos were very well made, heavy on fish and again dressed just right to let the fish shine.

We were fully satisfied and asked for a check.  
It came with 2 little espresso cups with chocolate pot au creme topped with whip cream.  
A few bits of sweet to seal the deal.  A perfect ending to a great seafood dinner. 

Sometimes restaurants over use flavor and it becomes the star of the plate.  
At Mermaid Oyster Bar everything was dressed and seasoned so delicately 
that the main ingredient is supported by a cast of flavors 
that let it shine like the fresh diva she truly is.  
I will definitely be back.

Bottom line -
Food bill with 2 cocktails, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, tax and tip was $130.00.
The oysters can be pricey but they do have a happy hour that includes all those bivalves at deep discount and a very comfy bar to enjoy them at, with a cocktail of course.

Good for romantics, double dates, birthdays, girls night out.
Sorry boys no big screen LCD.  Conversation is the order of the day here.
We dined on November 15, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honorable Mentions - PDX

We ate well while in Oregon.  
People in Portland treat their tastebuds good.  
Here are a few of my favorites.

One of our first meals was a lunch at Hawthorne Fish House.  A gluten-free fish and chips joint.  No cross contamination to worry about here.  The entire restaurant is gluten free and fabulous.  My wheat-eating family also loved the food.  We ordered halibut, cod, shrimp and clam strips between us.  All came with fries.  All were very good, crisp and not greasy.  I hear they also have GF batter fried fish.  Next time.

Tacos are one of my favorite foods.  ?Por que no?, also on Hawthorne, is the place to eat really good tacos and drink one of the best Margarita's with fresca (fresh fruit flavorings) you'll ever have.  My white raspberry Margarita was so good I had another.  The food is fresh and made to order.  The place is colorful, loud and ready for a good time.  Kids, both adult sized and smaller, are welcome.

My last mention goes to a really inventive ice cream shop named Salt & Straw, pictured above.  Not your regular kiddie fare here.  Flavors tickle the mind, and with free samples, your tastebuds too.  Some of the flavors we tried were Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper, Pear with Blue Cheese and Honey Lavender.  My hubby settled on a cup of Almond Brittle with Chocolate Ganache.  I had Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


342 East 11th Street
New York City, New York 10003
Anyone from New York City knows Veniero's.  
It is one of the oldest and best bakeries in the City.  
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Veniero's at a very young age.  
I went to school across the street.  
Its as good now as it was then.
One of my favorites as a child was a Millefoligies - a napoleon with cream instead of custard.
I have since discovered that I am gluten intolerant and that Veniero's has a gluten free pastry.
Hence my selection of this Diamond Baci, a slice of GF heaven.
They also have a great selection of dessert aperitifs and coffees.  
If you happen to be anywhere in Manhattan -
head over to 11th street just west of First Avenue and
have a piece of pastry like your Grandparents ate.  

Friday, August 3, 2012


Last week my husband and I had the chance to spend some quality time with family in beautiful Portland, Oregon.  While we ate in a few good restaurants, see my next post -"Honorable Mentions - PDX", the stand out meal was at
The Woodman Tavern Restaurant and Bar
4537 SE Division Street
Portland Oregon
The meal here is everything the name implies, not for the vegetarian crowd.  Luckily non of us are vegetarians.  We started with a round of drinks that included a yummy rum cocktail served in a saucer glass called a Bermuda Yacht Club.

The waiter explained that while they would try their best with my meal, there still is gluten in the kitchen.  He helped me order and we kept it simple, no sauces or fried anything to be safe.

We started with an octopus appetizer.  Well made, not chewy or over done.  They were very tender morsels of deep sea treasure that melted in your mouth.  I tried one each of the 4 kinds of local oyster they had on hand.  These were four of the freshest and sweetest oysters I've ever tasted.  Like eating pure sea butter.

For entrees Joel (my BIL) ordered the Braised Rabbit, presented and consumed with great care.

My husband, Danny, had the Crisy Pork Shank.  Slowly braised for hours and then finished in the frier.  He was in hog heaven.

Minnie (my dear MIL) and I opted for the Whole Roasted Trout.  Deboned perfectly, not one piece of cartilage left behind. Moist, flavorful and a pleasure to eat.

Adding the outstanding selection of great local brews and wines and this place wants for nothing.
Now for the dessert.  We consumed them so fast I couldn't get a picture.  There were 2 key lime pies with a coconut and ginger crust - gluten free! - now just empty jars.

Bottom Line -
Cost for oysters, appetizer, 4 entrees, 2 desserts, 2 rounds of drinks & tip (no tax) was $220.
Would I eat there again - next time I'm in PDX
Decor is dark wood like a hunting club, very tastefully done.  Nice romantic spot for carnivores.
We dined on Tuesday July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012


Mesa Grill 
102 Fifth Ave
NYC, NY 10011

On this day I had lunch with my knitting friend, Susie, and a couple of her tweetie friends, Linda and Sheri.  They wanted to explore LionBrand Studio so Susie suggested Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.  Both are located just west of Union Square.
I have eaten here before and have not been disappointed so my mouth began to salivate as we approached the restaurant.  Today was just as good as every other time.
They are very helpful with my gluten intolerance and so knowledgable about the items on the menu that it helps to put one with a food issue at ease.
Susie eats light so she had an appetizer of the blue pancake with duck

Linda, a vegetarian, had the Chile Relenos'

Sheri and I had burgers, hers with a bun - mine without.  Gluten free fries with a light southwest seasoning from a dedicated fryer!

Burger was moist and cooked to perfection.  It was also large enough to share so I didn't get to eat too many fries.  Nice tomato and soft grilled onion with red leaf lettuce underneath it all.  Yum, I have been on a kind of burger kick lately.  Good thing so many restaurants are doing good burgers and Mesa is among the best.
For a nice lunch from an iron chef head on over to Mesa Grill

Bottom Line
Cost 1 appetizer, 3 entrees, 3 ice teas, tax & tip - $90.00
Would I eat here again - already have
Special attraction- Chef Bobby Flay, nice decor/ambiance including the bathroom.
We lunched on July 10, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Cooperstown Diner
136 1/2 Main Street
Cooperstown, NY

My husband and I went to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday.  Cooperstown is a great small town. During the tourist season the men seem to outnumber the women by 50 to 1.  Before you single girls get your hopes up let me just say the majority of the boys are about 12 - you know little leaguers.  And 12 year olds have hearty appetites so restaurants abound.  We needed a little insight to help us decide.

While waiting on line to enter, we got to talking with a very nice museum tour guide and we asked him where we should eat in town.  He said he eats in 2 places - The Cooperstown Cafe and the Cooperstown Diner.  Before I could say another word he said "If you want a good burger go to the diner.  I eat there everyday."  I love a good burger so the diner it was.  If you blink you might miss this place - its what we call a hole in the wall, but worth looking for.

How do I describe these burgers?  Fitting for a Major League ball player!  In a word - huge.
My comment when the burger came was "Oh my my!"

The yellow is mustard I covered the cheese and bacon with.
We both ordered the deluxe burgers with lettuce, tomato and a side.  I got mine with the gluten-free no bun bacon and cheese with a side of cole slaw option; my hubby got his burger with bacon and onion rings.  He loves onion rings and these were just the way he likes them - real onion rings, sliced thick and batter dipped.

The website says that this is "the biggest burger in the smallest diner"  It should add best to that statement . This is one of the best burgers we have had anywhere.  It's about half a pound of 100% pure beef cooked perfectly to order.  My hubby and I were pondering just how they might go about cooking something this thick so perfectly without burning any part of it.  It was juicy and cooked as ordered throughout, not just around the edges.

We also ordered 2 fresh brewed iced teas. Yes they were fresh brewed and yes they came with free refills.  As you can see from the size of the burgers - we skipped dinner last night.

Bottom line -
Lunch with 2 platters and 2 drinks, tax and tip - $27.00
Would I eat there again - yes but I would probably share the burger.
Special attraction - go for the burgers or breakfast (which is served all day)
We dined on June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Joseph Leonard
170 Waverly Place

On this Thursday Annie and I tried a place recommended by Annie's sister Susie.  As Susie said "Girrrlll, you've gotta have one of their drinks"  followed by and the food was . . .
So off we went - west on Christopher Street, where the streets intersect in ways that only occur in the West Village of Manhattan, until we came to Waverly Place.

From the outside the place seems very small but once you become part of the dining room it seems to open up wide.  We sat on the second tier by an open window overlooking a triangle of green on Christopher Street.

Girl - the drinks.  The cocktails are fresh, inventive and hard to choose a single one.  But choose we did and settled on a K'Naan which came with a very nice story about its creation and naming.  It has dark rum, maple syrup and smoked pineapple - 3 of my favorite things.  The smoke flavor was unusual.

We started with appetizer's.  I had deviled eggs on an arugula salad with white anchovy.  The eggs were cooked perfectly with yolks of creamy goodness flavored with just he right amount of dijon mustard to give it a bite but not enough to linger too long.  They were served atop a bed of delicately dressed arugula and halved grape tomatoes.  Annie had 6 of the freshest oysters, from MA. She paired them with a nice spinach and parmesan salad dressed in just the right amount of balsamic and herbs
The smokey pineapple didn't set right with Annie so when I ordered my second K'Naan, she ordered a glass of Rose Cava served in a saucer type champagne glass.  We loved the kitsch of the glass - it so fit the ambiance of the restaurant.  As we sat their sipping our drinks and waiting for our entrees I felt like I was sitting in a restaurant in Grand Case, St Martine. Yes - its that kind of good.

For entree Annie had crispy braised pork hock. It was a pork shank that was so tender it just fell off the bone atop a bed of arugula.

I ordered the skate wing (fish) atop frisee.  It came to the table breaded, as I held my breath and pointed, Andrew the waiter said "rice flour".  I just about squealed in delight - delicious.

We were served a side order of shredded and sautéed brussell sprouts lightly topped with sriracha.  Again delicious.

So we ate past room for dessert once again. Surprise!

I think I want to have dinner here for my birthday.

Bottom line
Dinner with 4 drinks, 3 appetizers, 2 entrees tax and tip $170.00
Would I eat hear again - Definitely
Special feature - The ambiance of the entire establishment is fabulous.
We dined on June 14, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012


168 West 4th Street (just west of 6th Avenue)

This Thursday Annie and I found Tio Pepe while wondering east on West 4th Street.  As we were looking at the menu posted at the entrance, we were warmly greeted and invited in.  We couldn't resist the charm of both the host and the atmosphere.

We sat at a tiled top table near the front of the restaurant.  The storefront windows were completely opened adding to the cafe charm.  But this is not a small place.  They also have a garden greenhouse in the back.  The decor is Castilian Spanish by way of Mexico.  And to some degree so is the menu.

Annie started with a straight up Mojito.  I opted for the Tequila version with sprit and orange juice added to the Mojitos sugar, lime and mint.  Chips and a nicely spicy salsa came also.  Both were yummy.

We shared nachos for an appetizer.

You never know what you're gonna get when you order nachos.  Everyone uses the same ingredients - its the architecture that varies.

These were the kind that are individually made, each with its own healthy piling of creamy black bean, melted cheese and topped with a ring of jalapeño.  In the center of the plate was some shredded lettuce and sour cream.  Good for this type nacho.  Just the right amount of each ingredient on a just the right amount of crisp chip.  I wondered why there was no guacamole on the plate and then saw the mobile table side guacamole station roll by.  Guacamole is made fresh to order at ones table.  (Next time!)

Annie ordered the Mariscada en Salsa Verde but asked for the Ajillo sauce instead - no problem.  The dish was lobster, gulf shrimp, clams and mussels in garlic and olive oil.  Annie loves shell fish and lobster.
It must have been good cause she picked that crustacean clean, not an occupied shell left on the plate.

I ordered Lubina a la Vasca - sea bass, clams, mussels and gulf shrimp in parsley, garlic and white wine.  As usual I talked to the waiter about my gluten intolerance and was told that there was no flour or various other gluten products in our selections.  And if I wanted my dish prepared another way that would be no problem.  The sea bass was perfectly cooked as were the shell fish.  The sauce was light and not distracting and the fresh peas added just the right amount of fun and color.  I enjoyed it very much.

Both entrees came with yellow rice - which was soft and creamy in texture yet not at all mushy.
Very good food along with very nice customer service.  Water glasses were filled promptly when they got low, plates were cleared as they were emptied and the staff were very attentive even though they were 2/3 full.

Bottom line
Dinner with 2 drinks, 1 appetizer and 2 entrees including tax and tip $100.00
Would I eat there again - Yes
Special feature - Atmosphere - people watching if you opt for the front dining room, romantic if you opt for the garden.

Monday, June 4, 2012


94 Christopher Street
between Bleeker and Bedford Streets (closer to Bleeker)

A nice little spot tucked away in a tiny west village storefront. But the real attraction for us came with the word “Garden” on the sign we spotted in the window as we were wondering west on Christopher Street.
The Garden is in back of the restaurant.  It’s covered with a canopy and green house type thing, well hidden from city life. The area is planted with a few nice plants. A drawback is that boxwood is not my favorite scent to have around food, a factor not made better by the incense sticks that were lit by the wait staff and placed around the yard.  Not overwhelming enough to deter us as the incense faded and we quickly became accustomed to the plant life.
As it was early in the evening we lucked out on happy hour and enjoyed a couple of $5.00 Mojito’s.  Very nicely made with fresh lime, mint and a juicy piece of sugar cane about 7” long that quickly became a tasty chew toy.  Warning – they are healthy, you can just taste the rum.
Moving on to the food.  We each ordered an appetizer and shared them.

Annie ordered the Ceviche.  It was made with shrimp, scallop & calamari, slithers of red and orange peppers, onions, cilantro & lime juice. It was a tad too spicy - and I like spicy. Annie’s standard for great Ceviche is that it should make her feel like she’s on tropical vacation.  This one missed.  It was still good – just no vacation.
For appetizer I ordered Chorizo.  I explained to the waiter that I was Gluten intolerant and he said no problem, it was not made with any wheat or wheat products or stuff like that.  Out came nicely prepared chorizo sautéed in caramelized onions sitting on 2 slices of bread.  (Sorry no photo) I scooped mine off the top without half of the item touching the bread and queried the waiter about my entrée, again he assured me that the entrée I ordered would be OK.

Annie ordered Roast Suckling Pig from the standard menu.  It came with yucca and a side order of rice made with black beans so the rice looked blackened.  The portion was healthy. Pork was moist but a little bland, the rice was made very well but the standout on the plate was the yucca.  Yucca can be dry, this yucca was moist and very flavorful.

I ordered the seafood special – shark with mussels accompanied by yellow rice with asparagus.  The shark was very good. The mussels were cooked just right and
arranged around a timbale of rice that sat in the middle.  Annie loved the way the rice looked with its rich orange color against the bright green cylinders of asparagus scattered throughout. Did I say the shark was very good? The mussels were moist and the rice was as tasty as it was colorful.

We were too full for dessert so we opted for a stroll north along the West Side Promenade picking up 2  coffees along the way.

Bottom Line
Cost for 2 drinks, 2 appetizers and 2 entrees with tax and tip $94.00
Would I eat here again – Yes
Special feature - Garden