Christmas Eve dinner with all my favorite guys at our favorite Chinese place.
Category Archives: Eating
The holidays are a magical season. Money, resolve and time all disappear faster than you can say “abracadabra” during these short December days. Accepting that what one gets in exchange for those commodities are opportunities to share time and laughter making new memories, it’s a trade I’m happy to make.
This first weekend of my holiday break has been filled with activity – and cookies. Lots of cookies. Friday’s original evening plan had been to revisit Soul Night downtown at Lost & Found. We went last month and really enjoyed the music, vibe and diverse crowd. But, I caught an ad on Facebook for a Funk Night at Savoy, which was easily within walking distance, and it appealed on a cold night. No regrets – DJ Trumastr was on his game as usual and the Manhattans (yes, two) were impeccably crafted. It was a fun night.
Saturday brought another opportunity to stay in the neighborhood, but this time it was DelSo, rather than Center Square. A neighbor’s annual holiday party brought together a wonderful crowd of yogis/educators/creative types who all shared at least one common friend, the hostess, but often the connections between guests exceeded that minimal number. Albany, Smalbany, I love you. Another merry event with lots of laughs.
Sunday it was our turn to host for the first night of Hanukkah. The plan was traditional latkes, soup, salad and a couple of quiches. And cookies, of course. Prep, beyond the task of preparing and frying latkes, was well in hand until minor tragedy struck – or stubbed, as in a broken toe which required medical attention and prevented the potatoes from being transformed into latkes. What to do?
My friend and uber talented chef, Ric Orlando, had shared on FaceBook that New World Bistro Bar was featuring his “Beat Bobby Flay” latkes…hmmm. Why stress when I could place an order and simply stop to pick them up on my way to my sweetie’s house? Done – and no lingering odor of frying at home with which to contend.
While nothing replaces a hot latke out of the pan, Ric’s latkes were wonderful. They’re large and magically manage to be crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and nearly devoid of oil or greasiness. After reheating them on a rack on a baking sheet, everyone happily loaded on sour cream and applesauce and we feasted. Crisis diverted, we enjoyed a festive evening with lovely people.
I’m not going to claim that bringing latkes to dinner for the first night of Hanukkah is a miracle or anything, but I believe many would be happier to see a resourceful woman arriving with award winning latkes, than three “wise” men bearing Frankincense. I know I would.
After not getting around to making a pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage a few weeks ago, I found myself with a container of ricotta cheese for which I needed to find a purpose. After a quick Epicurious search I came up with the perfect use – Ricotta Pancakes.
In my house, we’re big on pancakes. Since being shamed by a foodie friend for using Bisquik, I’ve been making mine from scratch and I actually have the recipe* committed to memory. It’s so easy it makes me regret all those years of paying for a packaged mix filled with all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients. I use the same basic recipe for waffles and play around by adding canned pumpkin and nutmeg or using buttermilk or almond extract to change things up because, like I said, we like pancakes and variety isn’t a bad thing when it comes to breakfast.
But, back to those ricotta pancakes.
The recipe I found was simple and used common ingredients. Separating the eggs and beating the whites into lovely peaks is the second hardest part, with the most challenging thing being finding the ability to stop after eating two. Or three. These pancakes are wonderfully light and airy with orange zest adding a delicious punch. I bet a dash of Grand Marnier would be an amazing addition.
This recipe, along with the NYT’s Dutch Baby recipe, is a keeper. Do you have a favorite pancake recipe I should try?
*1 1/4 c flour
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
milk to the consistency you like, more milk = thinner pancakes
dash of salt
maybe a t of vanilla or almond extract?
When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.
One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in
the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.
It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.
Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.
At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.
We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.
Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.
It was a good holiday.
How was yours?
*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private
joke term of endearment
Tuesday night I made my way to Troy to finally (after years of missing it) participate in the Night of the Walking Red. The event, organized by The League of Extraordinary Red Heads and hosted by Ryan’s Wake, annually gathers together natural redheads to celebrate how wonderfully special and unique they truly are in a world of brunettes and blondes.
Side note: Twice on Tuesday I was called a strawberry blonde. I suppose it is possible that my hair color is fading as I age, but don’t doubt for a second that my redhead personality remains as vivid as ever.
After posing for the group photo, snapping a few of my own shots and catching up with a fellow teacher I had worked with more than twenty years ago, (who is married to a redhead) I found myself hungry and without a dinner plan.
Hmmmm…Troy….where have I been wanting to eat? Nighthawks!
I Wazed my way to the other side of the bridge and quickly found a parking spot, something that doesn’t always happen in trendy Troy. As I walked the half block to the restaurant’s corner, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how good Troy looked in the dusky, evening light. There were appealing storefronts and shops which attracted my eye for another visit, while the soft glow of Nighthawks’ windows beckoned with a warm welcome.
I arrived at about 7:00 and grabbed a seat at the bar, my preferred spot, particularly when dining solo. It was Burger Night, something that is celebrated weekly on both Monday and Tuesday nights when $15 gets you a burger, fries and a beer. I love me a meaty burger, but the veggie burger called my name and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.
When my plate arrived, everything was hot and well portioned. I’m usually that annoying person who doesn’t eat the burger roll, but I was feeling indulgent with my bean, grains and mushrooms based burger and went hands on. So damn good.
The special sauce and pickles made for a wonderfully messy delight and I’m pretty certain it was the best veggie burger experience I’ve ever had – and that’s without factoring in the tasty Indian Ladder cider and the excellent playlist that had me humming. Gladys Knight and Led Zeppelin? Uh, yeah!
It took me too long to get to Nighthawks but, now that I’ve finally made my way there, a return visit is guaranteed. Keep the lights (and music!) on. I’ll be back.
I’m really enjoying being a part of CivMix! The site is still being developed, but I think you will find there to be some cool features, both in terms of content and interface, once the website is fully fleshed out.
Here are my most recent posts over there. Why not give a read and some feedback – here or there!
I want to get away – Part I
…and Part II