Sunday, May 30, 2010

thanks!

The lovely, talented and witty Phoebe of Puppies and Ice Cream gave me a shout-out on her blog this weekend.  Thanks, Phoebe!  If for some reason you read my blog but haven't checked out hers yet, please do

amsterdam: zuid zeeland

Zuid Zeeland is a quaint little restaurant on the Herengracht.  The service is excellent and the location is ideal. While I can't say too much about the decor, the food was excellent, especially the beet soup.  A perfect mix of salty and creamy, this soup combines a healthy dollop of crème fraîche, a heaping pile of herring caviar, smoked halibut and a flood of lukewarm red beet broth.  On a nice evening, sip the beet soup at one of the few outdoor tables overlooking the canal.

amsterdam: restaurant de kas


I am admittedly quite spoiled so it takes a lot for a restaurant to really impress me.  I was floored by Restaurant De Kas.  Housed in the fruit-tree filled Amster­dam Municipal Nursery greenhouse (built in 1926), Restaurant De Kas offers a fresh, seasonal menu prepared with ingredients grown at the restaurant's farm or on-site gardens.  For lunch, there are no choices, you eat what is being served and you will like it.  You will...

amsterdam: roses

Holland is generally associated with tulips (and clogs, windmills and marijauna) but the Netherlands is actually the world's leading exporter of roses.  The flower markets are stuffed with them- lush, long-stemmed blooms in every color.  I picked up these beauties over the weekend...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

brussels: hotel amigo

For our quick trip to Brussels we stayed at Hotel Amigo.  The only two things worth mentioning about the hotel are that it is very conveniently located (close to the train station and the old city) and that it's bathrooms are stocked with lovely organic toiletries from REN Skincare.  We were a bit disappointed because we have it on good authority that the Rocco Forte Collection hotel in Rome is spectacular.

istanbul: anatolian wine

We were introduced to the most delicious wine at Changa in Istanbul: Doluca Kav (special reserve) Bogazkere-Okuzgozu, 2007. Made from a blend of Anatolian grapes, Kav is aged in French oak barrels resulting in a rich, complex wine with hints of clove, cinnamon, red fruits, violets and oak.  It was a fraction of the price of a comparable French bottle. I'm not sure where to buy it outside of Turkey yet, but I'd love to get my hands on a bottle or twelve. We also found an excellent white wine...

lost in translation: making conversation

This helpful guide from the Yankee Pot Roast is meant to spur classroom discussions but perhaps some of the conversation prompts would also be helpful in making small talk with new acquaintances in the Old World?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

paris: breizh cafe

The best crepes in the Marais can be found at Breizh Cafe. The crispy, chewy buckwheat crepes are filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. 

purchases: french market basket

Lightweight, elegant, timeless and supremely useful, the French market basket (sometimes called a couffin) should be issued to every urban girl.  I use mine to tote groceries- no more plastic bags!  It fits perfectly on the handlebars of my bicycle.  I also use one for laundry since it's just the right size to hold one load for our small washing machine.  Once the weather heats up I'll put it to work as a beach bag.  I got mine here, but they are available all over the internet.

good riddance

NYC Pigeons Trapped, Kidnapped and Shot for Sport, Group Says
A victory for humans in the war between city dwellers and pigeons! Wouldn't this be a lovely way to celebrate?

amsterdam: de hollandsche manege

I've started riding again at De Hollandsche Manege.  Founded in 1744, it is the oldest riding school in the Netherlands and a national monument.  Next to the Vondelpark, it was traditionally the chosen place for wealthy Amsterdammers and Dutch royals to hone their riding skills.  Now, it's easy enough for anybody to take a few lessons in a majestic, old-world setting.

oysters: an education


"I love oysters. It's like kissing the sea on the lips." - Léon-Paul Fargue

There are few things more delicious than a plate of oysters, a wedge of lemon, some extra crispy frites and a glass of good white burgundy.  Low in calories, high in nutrients, I love oysters and I am starting to learn the subtle differences between the myriad of varieties.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

cheap + chic: striped t-shirt

This is the perfect summer t-shirt.  Add a tan, some ballet flats or Rondini sandals and you're all set for the season.  And, it's only $13.80!  Find it here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

recipe: shrimp scampi pasta


 (I made it!)
This classic recipe yields simple, mouthwatering results after only about 10 minutes in the kitchen.  It was met with outstanding reviews at my dinner table.  Recipe after the jump.

london: the berkeley, a respectable place for ladies

I love London and I think part of why I love it so much is that we always stay at The Berkeley.  The hotel is extremely stylish, perfectly located, and not too big or too small.  The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the service is superb, the food (especially breakfast) is excellent, and the Blue Bar is always a fun time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

venice: philippe starck

 In Burano
I just found this 2009 interview about Venice with Philippe Starck, everyone's favorite eccentric design genius.  He talks about living on the Venetian island of Burano:
For example, there is a special Venetian way of tying a knot for your boat when you park it.  After 25 years, we still fail to do it. And every night we park the boat, we come back the next morning and someone on the island has retied the knot. They say nothing, but they always redo it. I feel there is a certain magic positive bubble around us, and it is so comfortable.
 I've had the pleasure of briefly meeting Mr. Starck and this "magic positive bubble" that he describes seems to follow him wherever he goes.  As he says:
The best way of living is with your feet in the mud and your head in the stars.

london: persephone books, bloomsbury

Bloomsbury.  Just the name conjures up images of mutton sleeves, drooping roses heavy with scent, literary salons and lush flower print fabrics.  That Bloomsbury died with Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf but the Persephone Bookshop at 59 Lamb's Conduit Street seems not to have noticed.  Packed to gills exclusively with Persephone Books titles, the shop is a haven for good, if often forgotten literature. Each dove gray book is lined with a vintage fabric pattern and comes with a matching bookmark.

I've already finished the three books I bought on my first visit so I'm dying to check out the other Persephone Bookshop in Notting Hill.

recipe: salmon with citrus yogurt sauce

 the salmon, waaaaaay before it was finished
Greek yogurt is delicious.  Fresh, wild salmon is delicious.  Throw the two together with some citrus and garlic and you've got summer dinner heaven.  I started with this recipe from epicurious.com and made a few minor tweaks.  Served over lemon mint tabbouleh, it was a fast and tasty warm weather dinner.

Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce
Mix the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt or plain whole-milk yogurt (see cooks' note, below)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mild honey (to taste)
  • 1 clove pressed garlic
Cook your salmon however you like- grilled, broiled, pan seared, etc...  Then, dress with citrus yogurt sauce.  Easy peasy!

brussels: degand

We are heading to Brussels for the weekend and I am so sad to learn that we just missed The Sartorialist who hosted a book-signing there earlier this week.  He just published this fantastic blog post about Brussels men's shop Degand.

Can't wait to check it out!

all images courtesy of The Sartorialist

venice: museo fortuny

On my last morning in Venice I wandered past the Accademia Bridge and up to the Museo Fortuny.
A visit to Mariano Fortuny's home/studio turned museum is a must if you're in Venice.  A true Renaissance man, Mariano Fortuny was a painter, an inventor and a fashion designer.  His dresses graced the lithe bodies of some of the 20s and 30s' most glamorous women including Isadora Duncan.  Now, of course, Fortuny fabrics are found primarily surrounding windows and encasing pillows in the homes of the discerning and wealthy (or the wealthy with discerning interior designers!).

venice: murano glass ring


It often feels as though Venice continues to keep itself afloat solely for the tourists who keep the gondolieres in business and get lost in the winding streets around Piazza San Marco.  It is overrun with places to buy "Venetian" items- leather, paper, Murano glass, etc...  But even in a new environment, a savvy shopper quickly learns how to discern the average tchotchke from something truly special.

We found these fabulous Murano glass rings at a gallery halfway between the Accademia Bridge and the Peggy Guggenheim museum.  More dramatic in size and subtle in color than the average rings that are peddled around the city, at 18 euro this is a beautiful way for me to remember Venice.

venice: caffe lavena, piazza san marco

Yes, Piazza San Marco is touristy. Very touristy. But, the best morning I had in Venice was spent there at Caffe Lavena sipping a cappuccino and being waited on by a legion of white tuxedo-ed Italian men, all handsome, all tan, ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-70s.

venice: aperol spritz

Ahhhhh… the Spritz.  The official drink of Venice, this cocktail is one of my all-time favorite beverages.  Aperol has long been my go-to aperitif, (why is it still so hard to find outside of Italy?!?!) but I hadn’t experienced a true Spritz until I had one in Venice. The bright red cocktail casts off a fiery and inviting glow as Venetians sip them canal-side in the setting sun.  Tart and sweet, refreshing and complex, the Spritz, with it’s low alcohol content, is perfect for brunch, lunch and all night long.

Here’s a great article about the Spritz from T Magazine.

Pizza and a Spritz on the Grand Canal

Aperol Spritz:
  • a few ice cubes
  • 2 fingers of dry white wine, ideally a little bubbly prosecco (nothing too fancy)
  • splash of soda water
  • 1 finger of Aperol
  • 1 green olive
  • slice of orange
  • slice of lemon
(make sure to follow this order or the Aperol won’t mix properly!)

Cin cin!

venice: hotel casanova

For my trip to Venice I was looking for two things in a hotel: a private bathroom and a low price. I found both at Hotel Casanova.
Run by a pair of kind, elderly gents, Hotel Casanova is located in the heart of the San Marco area, steps from luxury shopping like Loro Piana and Hermes, and a straight shot from the San Marco vaporetto stop. Though I don’t think the hotel’s accommodations would be plush enough for it’s namesake’s affairs, Hotel Casanova is convenient, clean and as comfortable as can be expected for 90 Euro/night.  Here is a peek in my room:

venice!

Several weekends ago I popped over to Venice to meet up with a few girlfriends who were beginning a trek through Italy and Croatia. It is an enchanting city.

The water is the most other-worldly aquamarine. The way the seaweed sways in the current is mesmerizing.


It was a perfect weekend- brilliantly sunny and the city was absolutely magnificent in it’s own dignified, decayed way.





You get the idea…

recipe: spaghetti carbonara

I whipped up this recipe from epicurious.com last week for an impromptu dinner party. It was easy to make, elegant and most importantly, delicious.
Carbonara is a simple pasta dish based on eggs, bacon (pancetta or guanciale) and cheese. A relatively new pasta dish, it originated in the 20th century, most likely during WWII in Rome, where many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by U.S. troops. Despite it’s rich texture, authentic carbonara does not include cream.
It was perfect for dinner, but could also easily be served for brunch.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Ingredients:
  • 5 oz guanciale (unsmoked cured hog jowl) or pancetta
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 oz Pecorino Romano, finely grated (1/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
*The quality of your ingredients is paramount in this recipe; don’t skimp!
Preparation:
Cut guanciale or pancetta into 1/3-inch dice, then cook in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fat begins to render, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.
Cook spaghetti in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano , Pecorino Romano (1/3 cup), 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
Drain spaghetti in a colander and add to onion mixture, then toss with tongs over moderate heat until coated. Remove from heat and add egg mixture, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.
(I added a clove of pressed garlic to the onions and bacon for a little extra flavor.)

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