Monday, February 26, 2007


I innocently placed my Detroit Tigers baseball hat on my head this afternoon and headed off to get my glasses fixed. So imagine my surprise when one of the opticians walked behind me at the glasses store and, with disdain in his voice, said “Detroit Tiger, hah!”

Instantaneously, my innocence was shattered, and I remembered that I am in the land of the New York Yankees, the team whose World Series bid was ended last year by…THE DETROIT TIGERS!! The second optician joined in the taunts and just about the only positive thing they could say was that at least I wasn’t wearing a Red Sox hat.

Little do those gentlemen know that they’ve now issued me a challenge. I am now going to wear my hat around town with pride and delight in taunting a whole city:-) Play ball!

Friday, February 23, 2007

In the headlines

In the last couple days, three stories made the headlines in New York that could have some impact on my life to greater and lesser degrees:

Big bite in Big Apple: What a surprise! Tax hit on city residents is worst in nation by far

Commentary: this sucks! If I am paying more in taxes than anyone else in the country, I want cleaner subways that actually run on the weekends and more frequent garbage pick-ups so trash bags don't have to sit on the curb.

Court: Ban on Social Dancing in New York Bars Is Legal

Commentary: Apparently the city's Cabaret Law, enacted during Prohibition, forbids dancing at all but specially licensed venues. A group of swing dancers said this infringes on their freedom of expression, but the state's Supeme Court Appellate Division disagreed and the law is going to stay on the books. I guess my days of dancing on table tops is over:-(

But just when those two stories got me thinking that maybe living in the city isn't worth it, I saw this article in the NY Post:


Apparently the Turkish and Russian baths on the LES are the place to be...FIELD TRIP!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Throw Me Somethin' Sweet Mister

Being the Germanophile that I am, it should come as no great surprise that I love Carnival/Mardi Gras in Germany. In high school, my German class made masks to celebrate (my Budweiser frog mask won me top honors). In college, I experienced traditional Black Forest celebrations complete with wooden masks, torches and dried pig bladders.

To celebrate Rosenmontag last night, I decided to check out Loreley, a German restaurant on the Lower East Side (Rivington between Bowery and Chrystie.) The restaurant got immediate minus points when I was the only one of my friends asked for ID when I ordered a Koelsch (isn’t “beer for one and all” part of the German constitution?) The other un-German part of the beer experience was that they fill the beer glasses over the 0,4L line on the glass (I think there really is a law about that!) Luckily, after the beer brew-haha, things improved. The atmosphere is great—low lighting, exposed brick walls, some of the tables are beer hall style and Cologne stuff decorates the walls.

Now on to the important issue…the quality of the cheese spaetzle. It was shockingly good! The noodles tasted homemade and there was a good balance of cheese and onions. Has it unseated the Schlecker Family recipe? Of course NOT. But if you are curious to taste the dish that I write about so frequently, Loreley would be a great place to try it. A friend who I was in Germany with me said the schnitzel and Nurnberger sausages were not quite authentic, but his non-Germanophile girlfriend liked them and there were lots of Germans in the restaurant—both good signs. Tricia also very wisely pointed out that even mixed salad are orderly in Germany...lettuce on the bottom with toppings and other salads strategically placed on top without any mixing taking place. (I had never thought of it that way!)

While there was no virgin sacrifice, cut neck ties or other similar Carnival debauchery, the restaurant was decorated for the occasion, the Cologne parade was broadcast on a big screen and rousing rounds of Viva Colonia could be heard emanating from the bar.

I will definitely be back for the beer garden in the summer!

Monday, February 19, 2007


I had a fun weekend in DC with Katie, capped off by skiing at Liberty ski resort on Sunday. Though the wind was whipping up the slopes at times, everything else was perfect. Katie, Erica and I hopped in the jeep early Sunday morning and were on the slopes by 10:30. The snow earlier in the week made for great trail conditions. At the ski lodge, apres ski music and the smell of burgers and hot dogs cooking on the open grill filled the air. We were all comfortably on the intermediate trails by the end of the day with minimal bobbles...WAHOO!

P.S. I saw Music and Lyrics this weekend and recommend waiting until it comes out on DVD to see it. While it's true that watching Hugh Grant on the big screen for 90 minutes is always enjoyable, this movie is not nearly as funny or compelling as his others.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Insha'allah, I’ll be back to Little Pakistan

Brooklyn is huge and diverse and I know that I have only explored and live in a tiny (perhaps unrepresentative) part of it. But I still admit being surprised by my visit earlier this week to a part of Brooklyn I think is called Midwood. Midwood is about 30 minutes southeast of Brooklyn Heights on the Q line.

I was sent out there for work and felt as though I had entered a different world for a number of reasons. Impression #1: I got off at the Avenue H stop and thought I had taken the subway to the suburbs or Cape May, NJ. Victorian Houses peppered the streets as far as the eye could see.

My amazement quickly turned to concern, however, with Impression #2: no Starbucks. I was an hour early for my appointment at saw nothing but a “Food-o-Rama” and a Laundromat. At first I thought Coney Island Ave. was no better. The only shops nearby were Halal meat and pizza shops. I saw the Golden Arches beckoning me in the distance but I resolved to find something local. I found a gem: a sweets shop owned by a Pakistani family. I told the guy that I had never had Pakistani sweets so he selected a few of his favorite cakes/candies for me and then proceeded to tell me how you make each one. He was also quick to tell me all about growing up in a Christian part of Lahore and how he loves Christians because he went to a Christian school. I told him that I was surprised there were no Starbucks in town, but very happy that I found his shop. He said his English wasn’t good and the conversation ended, but I most enjoyed our little inter-cultural dialogue moment.

After another cup of coffee, I bought some samosas for dinner, stuck them in my purse and headed for my meeting at the mosque, headscarf in hand. I covered my head upon arrival, but was horrified to accidentally open the door to the men’s part of the mosque while the imam was speaking instead of using the womens’ entrance, which I had yet to find. Luckily, a mosque official came out soon after and welcomed me in. When the rest of my group arrived from Manhattan we had our meeting and I was thoroughly impressed that two of the visitors from the UK spoke English and Arabic. The non-verbal cues we received from the congregation when they started speaking Arabic were great! It definitely showed the importance of foreign language in effective public diplomacy. On a personal note, I was a bit unsure about how I would feel wearing a head scarf. I was unquestionably willing to do so because I was a guest in a house of worship, but I thought I would feel stifled. By the end of the meeting, I decided I rather liked it as a fashion statement if nothing else:-)

So overall my trip to Little Pakistan was amazing—good food, better understanding of how a mosque works, and a better understanding of the borough I live in. For an international affairs geek this was a good day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spaetzle time!

The cold weather and the fact that my life is finally settling down, meant that it was time to whip out the Spaetzlehoebel (noodle maker) on Saturday and make some cheese spaetzle (German mac n’ cheese.) The end result was pretty tasty and best of all, my tiny kitchen survived the endeavor!

In other exciting cheese spaetzle news, I am heading to a Colognian restaurant on Monday to celebrate Rosenmontag (German Mardi Gras.) The restaurant serves cheese spaetzle so I will see if The Schlecker Family recipe has a challenger on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Winter Jam

Though Central Park has yet to see a measurable snowfall this year, skiers, snowboarders, igloo builders and sledders converged on the park yesterday for Winter Jam 2007.

Snow machines had been brought in earlier in the week to create an area for skiing, snow shoeing, and sleigh rides. There was also a ramp for snowboarders to try a few tricks and a trampoline where trampoliners(??) did flips with snowboards attached to their feet.

Cabot was giving out samples of cheddar, an upstate orchard was giving hot apple cider and apples and Dunkin Dounuts was giving out free hot coco. While I dislike the mele that usually ensues when free stuff is being given out, the overall atmosphere at Winter Jam 2007 was lots of fun!

I also amazed at the plethora of dogs that were in the park and enjoying the festivities. The highlights included a Bull Mastiff (imagine the size of apartment required to keep a dog like that) and a dog riding in a wagon (something we’ve considered for Leland, but never actually done.)

During this first foray into Central Park, I also passed a hippy playing the guitar, which I thought was strange because it was cold outside. But after seeing a mosaic with the word Imagine and people taking pictures, it dawned on me that this was probably the John Lennon memorial/Strawberry Fields. While I am not the world’s biggest Beatles fan, it was neat to just happen upon such a New York landmark. (I later read that I also walked past the actual apartment building where Lennon was murdered and where Yoko Ono still has a place—according to the source of all information…Wikipedia.)

An impending winter storm has been keeping my fingers crossed that I can use my XC skis to Central Park on Wed. In any case, I am already excited for my first spring stroll in the park in a few months.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I found the Village

As I have mentioned before, I am confused about exactly where Greenwich Village is. Yes, I know this sounds like a dumb blonde comment… just look at the map and figure it out. But every time I get to where I think "the Village" is, it isn't cool/unique/urban chill. Lo and behold, I found the cool part of "the Village" this week:-)

Drew and I went to Bar Pitti (268 Sixth Ave near Bleecker) in the West Village for a birthday lunch on Monday. NY Magazine describes the food as Tuscan and I figured it was a good sign that the waiters and even some of the diners spoke Italian. (Though the guy at working the bar did remind me of the cousin in Mickey Blue Eyes.) The ambiance was average but the food was fantastic! I had pasta fagioli soup and eggplant parmigiana; both were some of the best I’ve ever tasted! The eggplant was only lightly breaded, the marinara sauce had just the right balance of tomato and basil and the cheese was creamy. Drew had a pasta dish and carpaccio he said were great. Apparently Bar Pitti has quiet the clientele (other than Drew and I). Film directors Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach and even Drew Barrymore are known to eat there.

My other Village spot of the week was Chumley's (86 Bedford Street.) Chumley's claim to fame is that it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Some even say that the term "86 it" refers to a warning the bar would get before police would come to raid the establishment. Apparently the building might have also been a stop on the Underground Railroad. They are known for their burgers and Katy, Jackie and Brandy all enjoyed theirs. For the veggies in the crowd, the portobello mushroom burgers were also great! The walls of the restaurant are decorated with the book jackets of authors who have visited throughout the years, including Hemingway and Mailer. Though I detest the bar scene in general, I must also say that Chumley's was loaded with cutie patooties I'd like to take to a speakeasy and dance the Charleston with;-)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Park Slope

On Friday night, I met up with a friend from Germany and his girlfriend to check out the wonders of Park Slope. I didn’t end up living in Park Slope because I thought the vibe wasn’t right and it was too far away from work. But it does seem like a fun area that I am excited to continue exploring.

Stop number one was The Chip Shop (383 Fifth Ave. at 6th St.) for some fish and, well, chips:-) The restaurant itself was great—bright yellow walls and lots of pictures and news clips of all things British. Matt had Dandelion & Burdock soda, which he said was gross, but other than that, everything was delicious. The cod and fries, served with tartar sauce and malt vinegar were crispy. I also had a side of British-style Heinz baked beans, which have more of a tomato sauce than American style baked beans. Trifle, spotted dick and the like were on the dessert menu, but we opted for something that has got to be uniquely American: fried candy bars! The restaurant fries Snickers, Twinkies, Twix, Mounds, and Bounty, but we chose to split two Reeces Peanut Butter Cups. What did it taste like? Well, like a battered and fried peanut butter cup--a warm, deliciously gooey peanut buttery gut bomb!

The second stop was The Tea Lounge, where the jazz group Waking Vision was performing. I was impressed with the lounge’s beverage selection but not the crowd. There were way too many tiny boppers posing as hipsters…and real hipsters, who I also found to be annoying. The guys cuddling on the couch, the two playing a never-ending game of chess and the laptop toting-intellectuals interspersed for good measure added to the strange mix. I can see myself going back on a Sunday morning with a newspaper(before hipsters are awake) but as evening hangout location, I think not. Also ranking high on my annoyance meter was the server who referred to everyone as “friend.” (okay, enough whining.)
Waking Vision is definitely a group to be heard! Though they had a clear jazz feel, they were also mellow like Nickel Creek but not quite as folksy. (That’s a strange and confusing description. Have a listen to the songs on each group’s website and see what you think.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mama Mexico and Bistango

What do they have in common? Nothing other than the fact that I ate at both of them this week.

There are a few Mama Mexico locations, but I went to the one at 214 East 49th Street for lunch on Tuesday. Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines (veggie friendly) and Mama Mexico did not disappoint. The dining experience begins with the waiter making guacamole at your table. It gets high marks from me because there wasn’t a lot of cilantro (gag) mixed into the avocado wonderfulness. The salsa did have too much cilantro in it, but why bother with salsa when there’s guac on the table!

I ordered cheese enchiladas and was again impressed. I special ordered my enchiladas with red and green sauce (Christmas style as I learned from a trip to Albuquerque.) Also of note, the beans and rice that came with the entrée were a great compliment to the meal rather than a weak afterthought as is the case at many Mexican restaurants.

The meal was topped off with a delicious glass of sangria. Though lacking chunks of fruit like the version I make (Mrs. Whitmore’s famous recipe), it was some of the better sangria I’ve had.

My fellow diners had paella, fish and beef dishes and everyone seemed to enjoy what they ordered.

Definitely a “go back to” restaurant.

Bistango, a cozy Italian restaurant in Murray Hill/Gramercy was also a great find this week. I had penne with artichokes, shallots, green peas and pink sauce and Andrew had veal parmigiana. While I certainly did not taste the veal, we were both members of the clean plate club in no time! I wish I could remember what my dish was called because I’ve never had that combination of veggies in an Italian dish before. Whatever it was called, it was great! For dessert, Andrew had tiramisu and I had homemade coffee ice cream. Once again, clean plates! The icing on the cake was the manager (maybe owner) who was super attentive and friendly. Personally shaking our hands and asking us how our “dining experience” was a classy touch to the end of the meal!

Also a “go back to” locale.

(Don’t worry, not all my reviews will be positive. Just wait for the next installment of restaurant/lounge reviews.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day!

Last year, in the Berlin Adventures blog, I explained the link between Groundhog Day and Germany. Click on Berlin Adventures if you need a refresher.

This year, I am pleased to say that I have found a New York City link to this wonderful holiday: Staten Island Chuck!

Staten Island Chuck apparently spends most of the week at the Staten Island Zoo, but spends weekends at his keeper’s house. Chuck is actually Chuck VI and was born in New Jersey last year.

Just like his Pennsylvania cousin Phil, Chuck came out of his house this morning and did not see his shadow. For those not versed in groundhog weather forecasts, this means we will have an early spring. (As if we ever had winter this year!)

Have a great weekend!

(photo courtesy of the Staten Island Zoo website)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Get Your Lazy A** Off The Couch

Let’s be honest, I’ve been quite lazy lately!! And by lately, I mean that I haven’t made a conscious effort at exercise since about July.

To inspire my new exercise regiment, I’ve decided I need to train for a race. First requirement: find something unique and close by. I googled “Brooklyn Heights Race” and was thrilled to come up with the following entry in The New York Times. Unfortunately, this article is a bit dated.

Brooklyn Heights Race
Published: October 15, 1982

A two-mile race through Brooklyn Heights tomorrow at 9 A.M. will kick off the fourth Cranberry Street Festival on the street, from Hicks Street to Columbia Heights.
The festival sponsored by the Cranberry Street Association features games, square dancing, cooking contests, crafts, plants and food. The rain date is Sunday.

Does Brooklyn Heights not have a 5 or 10K? What’s up with that? The area seems to be loaded with runners. There’s actually a guy from Greenpoint who is running every street in Brooklyn, but it seems that we are lacking an actual race. Think of the possibilities, the t-shirt could be so cool: runners striding along the Promenade with the NY skyline in the background or runners coming across the Brooklyn Bridge.

T’shirt design gets to my second road race requirement: there must be a cool t’shirt. Without a cool shirt, why bother?!

The marathon is OUT, but if anyone knows of a fun race in NYC with a cool t’shirt, I’d love to hear from you!