Friday, July 30, 2010


I don't shoot anything wedding related ever! Well, thats not true because one entire year ago my neighbor booked me for her daughter's wedding shower. I knew that if she was already planning that soon in advance I was in for some crazy by the time the shower rolled around. But I couldn't say no. I don't know why but she had this look in her eyes and I was a little scared.
    I obviously put the date in a far recess in my brain only for it to one year later come back to me in frantic message left on my answering machine by said neighbor. I didn't want to go. I didn't want to do it. I wanted to get out of it so bad. But, Mommy taught me that if you make a commitment you stick to it, like when she made me dress up like a stupid green Girl Scout with that stupid ugly sash every week until the season was done. Ugh.
     Not only do I despise shooting events; I hate going to wedding showers. They are the most boring events ever. You have to watch someone open a million presents that they know they are getting and its all mass produced crap. I could just go to Target and Macy's if I wanted to see everything they were selling. For the record, if I ever have a wedding shower, which I probably won't because I don't want to torture friends and family, it will be at the Shake Shack. The ladies can wear fancy hats and we can sit and eat hamburgers. And no banal games, either. This is a promise. That to me sounds like a nice afternoon.
    The said shower was at Villa Russo in Richmond Hills, the predecessor to Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, where John Gotti's mansion is located. Needless to say, both are the ONLY place any well off Italian American in Queens who wants to show it all off has any kind of gigantic event. When I walked in from the 106 degree weather outside, I was at least grateful for the air conditioning. 
    Lining the mirrored statued walls in a ballroom graced with crystal chandeliers were more presents than I have ever seen in my entire life. This girl is not going to have to buy one thing when she moves into her fancy house. Not even toothpaste. And the tanned bodies covered in bling perched on gem studded high heeled shoes were really a feast for the eyes. 
    I was really happy when I got seated with old friends from the block and we talked about how we used to go around catching snails in hampers and I how I had to wear an Alf life preserver in the pool when I clearly was able to swim. 
    You can make any situation what you want with a little attitude adjustment. I could have been annoyed and pouty or really just embrace my inner guido and have a good time. Even though the announcement over a loud microphone of each and every gift, from a pencil holder to the finest china while paraded around for all the guests to see, was excruciating, I set out to make it a fun day. I took this great shot of some fancy acrylic hot pink nails holding a jar of homemade tomato sauce. Why there was homemade tomato sauce at the shower is unexplainable, but I bet it was some good Italian sauce.
   And great friend Holly from the block let me teach her son how to give the finger. That is genius and classy. And she took a great photo of it, that I should share, but maybe I shouldn't.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spicy Dark Chocolate & Goat Chevre Bite

Spicy Dark Chocolate & Goat Chevre Bite: Trader Joe's Belgian Dark Chocolate, Patches of Star Goat Chevre, Maras Red Pepper Flakes from Santa Fe, Cinnamon Cardamom Sugar.

Fresh and cool, mild and spicy, bitter and  sweet, soft with a nice bite.


    I didn't grow those oranges in the backyard. They just looked so pretty on this dish rather than sitting on my counter.
   I roasted carrots and beets in olive oil and salt and pepper. Meanwhile I sauteed the beet greens with some onion and salt and pepper. When the carrots and beets were tender I took them out and tossed them with fresh tarragon from the yard. I served them over the beet greens with local*** sheep bleu cheese (and some orange slices).

*All ingredients in this dish are local.
**The citrus is not local.
***Where are the sheep? I want to see sheep!

Monday, July 26, 2010


   This is a special one. I get bags and bags of peaches every week from the Forest Hills CSA. For me a fresh local peach is pure heaven. It needs nothing else. But sometimes I like to get a little fancy and I took peach heaven to the next level.
    You know a peach is ready when you can cut it all around the pit and give it a spin between your palms and it pulls apart perfectly. After removing the pit, add some bleu cheese, in this case I used Sheep's Milk Bleu Cheese, add two almonds on top and drizzle with balsamic creme.
    They are sick! Sweet, tangy, juicy and cheesy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vintage Vacation Swap - what I got!

    When swap deadline is approaching I am in panic mode. Its a fun panic because it involves shopping and bad crafting on my part, but its a pressing time all the same and I am wicked dangerous with a glue stick.   
    "I have to go shopping for the swap!" I tell my friends, knowing they will respond with, "What's a swap?" and I roll my eyes because the explanation eats into valuable swap shopping/glue stick time and they always think I am a loser after I explain what it is, anyway.
     So let me explain why I am a total dork. My name is Jen. I am a blogger. I have online blogger friends. Some online blogger friends are people I have met in real life, like Jenny from Everyday Is a Holiday. Actually, I have not met Jenny face to face, but we have lots of mutual friends I know in real life. Aaron, her partner, and I used to work together. 
     Take Laura, from A Dozen Eggs. After a long hike in the mountains of Vermont I stumbled upon a little cupcake and cookie shop, and there I met Laura, who happened to have a Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake painting from Jenny from Everyday Is a Holiday. Small world and great cupcakes. So we are all online blogger friends and through each other we make new online blogger friends. 
     One of the funnest way to make new online blogger friends is to participate in a swap.
     Here is how it works. One blogger will host a swap. She will pick a swap theme that usually has something to do with what her blog is all about. Jenny's genius theme was a Vintage Vacation Swap. She then announces the swap and asks for participation. Online blogger friends will comment that they want in on the swap, then the host will pair bloggers. You are introduced to your partner via email and you two tell a little bit about yourselves and exchange addresses. Then its shopping time. A dollar limit is established by the host; its usually $20, and a deadline to mail the goods is in place. After a few weeks you receive a box of goodies from a random person somewhere in the world, who you are only acquainted with through blogging, and you send them in exchange a box of goodies. How fun and exciting! I know, I am a major dork. But who doesn't like to get present and go shopping and use a glue stick?
     The first swap I participated in was hosted by the Gregarious Homebody, who I met through Laura from A Dozen Eggs. See how all this online blogging networking works? It was a Winter Gastronomy Swap and it started out disastrous but ended well. So when Jenny announced this awesome swap, I gave it another shot and boy am I happy I did! She did a great job partnering everyone. My partner was Natalie from the 1 Hungry Hippie blog.              
     When we emailed she asked what I like? BIRDS! She was so excited because she has a craft bird tree outside her house that she made! And when I got my box, it was filled with bird patterns galore! Awesome bird patterns. She went absolutely nuts in an awesome way! I got a bird pillow, a bird tote bag, bird mug cozies, a tissue holder, a little bird cage key chain, a Buon Apetite trivet, a mug with black tea in it, a tea infuser, a bird napkin, awesome vintage picnic plates, a Scotland snow globe, a Scotland cloth map, awesome magnets, Farrah's Barley Sugars and Olde English Toffee and Sour Candies! Everything was so awesome! She really went above and beyond her swap call and even mailed it to me early! And aside from all the fun shopping, crafting and awesome goodies we exchanged, we made new online blogger friends!
   Stay tuned for what I gave Natalie. I can't show you yet because I don't want to ruin the surprise for her. Jenny thankfully extended the deadline and boy did I need the extra time. I can't wait to let you all see it. I am kind of proud of how it all came together. I can't sew but I sure can glue stick with the best of them!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Best Road Trip Ever! Kick-off brunch

    A road trip across the United States of America is "one of those thing you have to do at least once in your life!" The pressure! That was our initial plan. Then Julie and I looked at a map and looked at each other and got a little scared. "Thats a lot of driving!" And a lot of each other! We never traveled anywhere together, much less sat in a car together for 2 weeks straight. It could get ugly. There could be fits of rage, unconsolable tears, fists beating the dashboard, someone left dead in a ditch! So we modified our plans and booked plane tickets to Austin then planned on driving to New Mexico; two places we both  really wanted to visit. 
   Julie and I are very different people. Julie is a well put together, organized planner type. And she is gorgeous. While I pretty much wander through life without direction. Things fall into place. We have less control than we think we do. Yes, we can book tickets to Texas, but it turning out to be the BEST ROAD TRIP EVER, was really left to chance. Not knowing this, Julie wanted to do some trip planning over brunch. 
  "Let's just book the first night's hotel. Please? And maybe the car rental?" she begged. 
   Fine. I am not against planning attempts. Some idea or structure is good for the brain. But I knew we would get little done aside from chat and eat and drink gin and tonics in my backyard, but that sounded like a perfect afternoon for me. It was also during World Cup soccer and Martin swung by so there were a lot of factors that detracted from the plan to plan. 
   Julie "likes to pick," so a little bit of this and a little bit of that, plus some bread and cheese and it was a perfect brunch. We hardly got anything done, but we laughed, recovered from the previous evening's debauchery, collaborated on styling some gorgeous food photography "moments" (look at that bread and cheese!) and enjoyed a gorgeous sunny afternoon in Queens. Our road trip was off to a great start! 
    Pictured: Cucumbers in WaterCaprese Salad (Mozarella, Tomato, Basil, Olive Oil, Balsamic Creme), Local Strawberries, Watermelon, Bacon Marmalade, Homemade Strawberry Ginger Jam, Olive BreadLocal Raw Sheep Manchego with Peppercorns, Local Raw Aged Goat Cheese, Local Greens, Black OlivesMarcy's Famous Caponata, Rocco's Local Escarole with White Beans and Fennel SeedsDuck Eggs (I meant to use these to make Duck Egg Pasta Carbonara, but later they made me hurl, so I am very glad I didn't serve it to Julie and Martin.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't you just want to bite your screen? birthday is coming up!!! And I plan on making it a fun one. My birthday usually bites just because its always 9,000 degrees and 100,000% humidity so this year I am embracing the heat and having a pool party in Brooklyn! A kiddie pool party that is. Wanna come?
     My friend Jenny, the owner of Sassy Sweet Treats, the best cookie companies ever, sent me a box of pure cookie love! Thanks so much Jennie! Sorry everyone, I am not sharing. Get on her website and order your own. I got: Milk Chocolate Chunk, Sugar Cookies, Dark Chocolate Chunk and her famous Oatmeal Toffee Chocolate Chunk! Plus, she sent me pieces of her amazing Coffee Cake that isn't sold online and its my favorite cake in the entire world. When I eat it my brain melts in a good way. Happy Birthday to me! I could not ask for a better surprise. Excuse me while I go into diabetic shock!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Puking sometimes almost makes sense ...

     Let's talk about old friend Jerry, Queens native and first owner of my morbidly obese cat "Calogero" AKA "C." Its a Bronx Tale reference; Jerry was practically my roommate for a while in the boogie down. For the record, I didn't make the cat fat, like Jerry would claim. "C" is just big boned! And if "C" ever dropped the weight Jerry would still give me crap about it. Jerry is the biggest ball buster I know, he is a human vacuum, meaning he will suck in large quantities of any food you put in front of his mouth no matter how inedible, and the last time we hung out he shocked his balls with a dog shock collar. He has the scars to prove it if you want to see.
    Jerry disgraced his identity and moved to New Jersey. Gross! But he does have a nice place there with the best cat I ever met ever and he lives near a rock climbing gym. Fun! So he took me out there for a day of "bouldering." It was super hard. I was sore for days. As an aside: ladies, if you want to pick up, hit up a rock climbing gym. There were a lot of cuties there. And there is virtually no competition because most of the girls who rock climb are lesbians, with the exception of me, of course. And once my hair grows out (and I sell that Subaru Outback) hopefully all the rumors will stop!
    Everyone warned me not to go to New Jersey that day because of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Midtown. Puerto Ricans are some of my favorite people, and despite the parade's spotty groping past, I was not worried about being caught in a mob of drunken men. There was zero traffic and I even scored an awesome flag!
    Rock climbing was really challenging and I want to do it again, but next time outside on real rocks where you are meant to rock climb. And after a good hard day of wearing the most uncomfortable shoes ever and Jerry taking the liberty to purposefully crash me into the wall while he was "belaying" me to then just leave me hanging from my crotch a few centimeters off the ground for his own entertainment, we needed a good meal. I had duck eggs and wanted to make Duck Egg Pasta Carbonara again, but this time get it right.
    Jerry is also a great chef. He is very inventive, always coming up with new and sometimes strange concoctions. I figured he would appreciate the duck egg and be able to help me properly temper the egg white to create a creamy cheesy sauce rather than scrambled eggs which is what I ended up with last time. Then to be fancy we reserved the yoke to add on top of the pasta raw, thats how Mario Batali does it. It made for a mighty fine photo.
    The pasta was perfectly al dente, the sauce really rich and creamy. We paired it with Jerry's homemade beer. The pasta came out perfectly, but while I was eating it something was wrong. I may be small but I proudly can consume large quantities of pasta and that day I just could not eat that pasta. My stomach was telling me no. But of course, I can fight the irrational whims of my body and I ended up woofing it.
    Afterward, both Jerry and I started to feel funny. Things just weren't sitting right. I drove home, no traffic, and was talking on the phone when all of a sudden: HURL! I NEVER PUKE! (from food.) My body had spoken to me, "don't eat the duck egg pasta you moron!" but I did not listen. Weird. I am not sure what it was: the golf ball size raw duck egg yoke or maybe it was just the proper way to end a day with Jerry. It was the same sensation I felt last time we hung out and I saw him hook up electrodes to his testicles. Same feeling precisely.
   Sadly, I think I am through with duck eggs. Turkey's, get ready!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No apologies - A Rocco quote

I cannot apologize for traveling my ass off and having a great summer, maybe the best ever yet! 

So while I organize my thoughts and photos, here is a ridiculous Rocco quote I swapped from FB:

"I know, I have no scruples or ideals. I'm just a Mediterranean subhuman who will survive at all costs."

This is why I love crazy people. One made me; and craps me up ALL the time!