Balaboosta [Manhattan]

Balaboosta; n. A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, homemaker, a wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. she does it all and she does it well!

That’s the description that can be found at the top of their website  and is a perfect way to describe the warm, homey atmosphere in the Mulberry Street restaurant.

While I was running late to meet a few women for brunch, they had already started on cocktails and the Mediterranean Sampler [house made hummus, labne, matbucha, za’atar pita]  Since being introduced to za’atar at the Bronxville Farmer’s market a while ago, I’ve loved the flavor profile but can never really nail the application.

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That is what made my drink so perfect – imagine a middle eastern margarita.

“Lily” Za’atar infused tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, ginger syrup, lime, black saline

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I cannot rave about the cauliflower appetizer enough [lemony + crispy], but the shakshouka I had as my main was incredible. The only real complain from those of us who ordered it was that it was so incredibly hot that in eating it I felt like I was melting from the inside out. Even on a cold day, the physical temperature of this dish was a bit overwhelming.

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The flavor was incredible, and the grilled bread was just enough to soak up the tomatoes and spice. I’m definitely thinking of recreating this at home – which would take some thought because my cast iron pans are quite large and Mister is really focused on not deviating from his chocolate chip pancakes routine in the morning.

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Museum of the Month: February

This year, Mister and I have decided to visit one New York City area museum per month – in an effort to get out and do more, but also to help Mister really feel more a part of the area. This is also a vaguely selfish plan: I have a Master’s in Public History, aka I specialized in museum studies. Museums are my thing, so this is a way to get Mister more into them. Hopefully.  I planned out a schedule of 12 museum/sites, and so far we’ve been two for two.

In January we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a quick stop at the Cloisters on our way home.  This was a huge hit – full suits of armor, incredible artwork, mummies.

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One really important thing to note about *most* NYC museums – the admission fees are “suggested donation amounts.” What that means, is that while it says $25 per person admission, you can still pay $1 and get the same ticket.

February, I kept up the theme of the big classics by choosing the Museum of Natural History.   Not at big of a hit, I’ll be honest. The first floor felt crazy dated, but thats almost part of the appeal of the place in a way. The dinosaurs were pretty cool. But I mean, how many bone displays can you look at with awe? No, maybe just me?

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Of course all the dinosaur spotting paired with the rainy weather made me want a snack before we headed back home.

A quick Yelp search gave us Levain Bakery  , which ended up being on the block between the museum and our car.

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There was no line when we walked in to get cookies, but while we were sitting inside eating them, the line backed up long enough to just about hit the door. Luck was definitely on our side that afternoon.

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We sort of panic ordered – thats where we see a short menu and just yell things out without any discussion. Mister got the walnut chocolate chip, I got the dark chocolate peanut butter.

These are big, [under baked] gooey, bites of cookie goodness. First bite verdict: dark chocolate peanut butter was way better. Last bite verdict: walnut chocolate chip was better. Thankfully we had a bottle of water with us, because that dark chocolate monster was so rich it was almost hard to get down after a few bites.

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I mean, I’m not complaining about either cookie. Trust me, these were both intensely good. If you’re going to share, go for the dark chocolate; otherwise stick with a classic.

We paid $5 per person museum admission, parked for free on the street, and treated ourselves to cookies afterwards.  It was a pretty fun rainy day date for just about $20.  I call that a win.

Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

New Years Eve Tradition

Everyone has their traditions for New Years Eve – their ideal evening for ushering in a fresh start.

Last New Years Eve was our first weekend sleeping in our new home. Mister’s brother and sister in law came over for dinner to celebrate our move and the new year all at once. This meant a scramble in the kitchen to find plates (we did not own one matching set), learn how the oven works (we’ve since purchased an in oven thermometer), and decide how to best accommodate more than two people in our small eat in kitchen.

It has been an entire year since that impromptu dinner and thinking back I’m so happy with how far we’ve come. In the past 12 months, our house has become our home. We’ve been blessed with wedding gifts of matching sets of dishes, serving ware, and stemware. And we’ve gotten much better at making other people feel comfortable in our small home. I hope.

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I had ordered beef filet from PeaPod – and Mister requested twice baked potatoes. Which in reflecting on our past four New Years Eve meals – we’ve apparently always had some version of this.

My sister was quick to point out that we’ve had four sets of dishes in four years. Which isn’t exactly the case. The square plates were mine from my apartment, but there were only three plates in the set (the fourth was broken early on) so they were given up when we moved into our apartment. The blue round plates were Steve’s from his apartment, and there were also an odd number of plates, and no small plates. The blue and white anchor set were a gift from when I worked at the USS Slater – and we genuinely use for special occasions only since we have a complete setting for two. In hindsight I should’ve used them for this meal.

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Above is the set of dishes that now inhabit our cabinets.  We have an entire set of these – everything from soup plates to serving sets and I love their classic simplicity.

That phrase can also be applied to our dinner – filet topped with blue cheese and mushrooms, oven roasted carrots and asparagus, twice baked potato.

In all honesty, I don’t love twice baked potatoes. I would much rather have mashed potatoes and/or potato skins. Mister doesn’t even eat the skin so that’s an argument I bring up every year – why can’t we just eat mashed potatoes?! But its a tradition, and he only asks for them once a year so I oblige.

This blog actually gave me the inspiration for our dessert – in looking back on old posts I came across the rice pudding recipe. I hadn’t made any since that one time so I thought it would be something different to add to our menu. I did add some booze soaked raisins this time, and I loved it even more.

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How could I resist serving it up in these dishes I inherited from my grandmother? I think they’re dessert dishes – though I’ve seen in Mad Men-esque movies that they’re used for cocktails on occasion. Throw some boozy raisins on top and sip away at the rice pudding, I guess. Or not, that sounds terrible.

I had planned a cheese plate, and some appetizers as well – but we ate at around 7:30 and then I started prepping some dishes for our New Years Day brunch. By the time the table was cleared and reset, and the food all set, I took a quick nap and then it was midnight.

 

Chelsea Creamline, NYC

While on a job site the other day, I decided to explore Chelsea Market a bit for lunch options.  There were crowds, I was getting cranky and I went for what looked like the only choice that didn’t have too many options, people waiting, or strange buzzwords [i.e. vegan, green, fusion].

Chelsea Market can be overwhelming and comforting all at the same time, so choosing somewhere to eat (without any help from a lunchtime partner/date/companion) was tricky.  Thankfully, Chelsea Creamline had easy, elevated comfort food listed on a menu I could quickly read.

I went with a burger (sans cheese) and appreciated that they offered tap water at no charge.  NYC is expensive enough, so I liked the option.  I settled myself at the counter area facing their dairy counter (milkshakes looked delicious, unfortunately dairy and my stomach don’t agree all that well so I tend to avoid it in the middle of the work day).  I opened a book and got barely two pages in when a man appeared with my order.

066The presentation left a little to be desired, I would’ve appreciated some form of a plate if I’m being honest.  Regardless, the burger itself had great flavor and my only wish is that the patty was bigger with more substance.  The small patty combined with a really airy bun left me feeling as if I’d just ingested a delicious burger meant for a Disney fairy; while I was no longer hungry, I wasn’t exactly full.  Maybe I should have ordered fries, but instead I decided to take advantage of some fresh air and grab a juice at JuicePress.

I’m fully aware that this is a hype-y, buzzword laden trend of juice cleanses and fresh juices; but there’s just something to this trend that I can get behind. I love a sour, citrus juice when I feel a cold coming on, or a green juice when I’m feeling stuck in a cycle of sugar binges.  They’re expensive, and probably all placebo effect, but hey, you do you folks.

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Appreciate Your Time

Some days, I rush around the city between appointments.

Monday was one of those days.

I realized that I don’t often value my time as much as I do of others; for example, if I have an appointment I do my best to get there early, or at least on time.  But when I’m looking forward to the gym and something comes up, well no gym time for me.  When did we stop valuing our own time?

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So while I was running from appointment back to the office, I stopped.  I sat on a park bench and I ate my lunch.  I didn’t look at my phone, I didn’t read a magazine.  I just ate.  It was about 15 minutes of pure relaxation.

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I deserved it.

Not Every Day Is Great

Not every day is meant to be a great one, but without the bad days, the good once wouldn’t be as memorable.

This morning I left the house at the usual 5:20 am to make it to the gym close to my office.  Upon arrival, I realized I didn’t have my phone.  Of course my brain decided to then remind me I had tossed my phone on top of a pile of recycling, which I had then dumped in the recycling bin at the curb before getting in my car this morning.

So I drove back to the house, changed into my work clothes, rescued my phone and drove back to work in time to find a decent parking spot and be sitting at my desk at 6:50 am.  Yup, only slightly frustrated before heading out on my appointments for the day.

Construction, NYC

Construction, NYC

My first appointment was in the Financial District, followed by a few more.  After heading on the train back up to the Bronx, I get an email that I need to revisit one of the sites in the Financial District.  Hey, at least the weather is nice!

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I even managed to treat myself to an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.

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Decided that I was in control of my day, I would enjoy my book and a quick lunch break.  Then the trains were delayed, a ginger kombucha spilled in my bag, and the 4 trained turned from local to express without warning.  Shit happens, and sometimes I think its just karma’s way of reminding you that you can’t control everything.  But that’s okay.