what’s cookin? spinach edition

Thanks for the kind feedback on my last post. Sometimes I feel like such a child when things like that happen and I get so upset, but writing them out really helps calm me down, so there that is. And maybe I am a child. So what.

Remember the Great Cookbook Challenge? Well..I keep forgetting to restart that. I will one day, but I think I’ll always prefer online recipes. I love seeing a photo of the finished dish. Even if mine doesn’t look like it (nor do I necessarily aspire to), I need to see a picture to see if it looks worth my time.

A few things I’ve made recently:

Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo

I love italian sausage. It is probably my favorite meat. I would eat it 2-3 times a week if I could. Keith is not a huge fan, but I can sneak it in 1-2 times a month. I hadn’t made it in a while, so when I came across this recipe, I was sold.

It combines pureed roasted red peppers, pasta, spinach, sausage and goat cheese to make a creamy and super flavorful pasta.  We don’t eat pasta too often, so when I do eat it, it has to be worth my while and this definitely was.

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If you don’t like goat cheese or are not familiar with it, I think this would be a great starter recipe because it’s not very in-your-face. I didn’t even tell Keith there was goat chese and he probably had no idea. You could also definitely leave out the sausage for a vegetarian version.

The best part is it is all made in one pot!

The second best part is I finally have a use for the rest of the goat cheese when I make another favorite dish:

Chicken apple burgers with cranberry and goat cheese.

These are based off a burger Keith and I had in NYC many moons ago, sometimes I will go all out and shred a granny smith apple, mix into ground chicken, make burgers, top with sliced granny smith apple, cranberry jam* and goat cheese. Other times I totally cheat and buy Johnsonville Chicken Apple Sausage and put those on a bun with the apple/cran/goat cheese. They are a super delicious and quick meal. It probably only takes 10 minutes total when I use the sausage. The problem is, you only use a little bit of goat cheese and then the rest of the tube lingers in the fridge until I become afraid of it and have to throw it away.

This recipe solves that! It calls for 8oz of goat cheese but I used the partial tube in my fridge and it was still great! So now those are going to be two back-to-back recipes in my arsenal. Love when stuff works out like that.

The only critque from Keith about that pasta was that it needed more meat. Of course. Every recipe I make I usually add 50% more meat for him and it’s still not enough. I got about 6 servings from this, so on the 2nd and 3rd go-rounds for Keith, I just gave him less pasta with a piece of chicken on the side and he was happy.

Another recipe I’ve tried is these Spinach Enchiladas.

One morning, on a mad dash to the grocery store for lunch, I grabbed Amy’s Enchilada Verde. It wasn’t until I went to heat it up that day that I realized that they were spinach enchiladas, but I shrugged and soldiered on. AND THEY WERE SO GOOD. I have no idea what they do, maybe it’s the queso fresco, but I like spinach well enough and I love cheese, but somehow this combination is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Sorry to yell, they are just that delicious.

But at $5 a pop, a little too expensive for my tastes, so I figured I would try my hand at making some. I googled til I dropped trying to find some sort of copycat recipe, with no luck. Finally I just settled on the above linked recipe. It calls for ricotta, which Amy’s enchiladas don’t have…but I love ricotta, so I went with it.

I subbed verde salsa for the enchilada sauce, regular onion for green onion and only used half the cheese. I only got 6 enchiladas out of the filling. They were not *quite* Amy’s, but they were still great. Keith didn’t eat these, I took them all for lunch. I think next time I will add more spinach, and maybe some chicken. Also queso fresco to see if I can get closer to that taste.

What are you cooking?

 *I still don’t know the difference between jelly and jam but I said jam so you know it’s not a gross can of cranberry jelly, but rather something spreadable from a glass jar. The original burger used cranberry spread but I’ve used cranberry/raspberry spread as well as black raspberry. I don’t think anything super sweet like grape or strawberry would work but anything tart like raspberry/cranberry is great.

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restaurant review: hibachi j sushi grill

Keith and I go out to eat pretty often. Once a week or so. That’s probably not “often” in relation to some, but we never went out to eat growing up*, so once a week is often to me!

We were on a streak of getting sushi on Saturdays but haven’t gone in a while, so last Friday Keith suggested we try a new(er) place near us – Hibachi J Sushi Grill.

We have lived in Gibsonia for ~4 years now and this place has been at least 3 different things…all Chinese/Japanese. I’m not sure if they keep changing owners or if they are just trying different things, but this latest iteration opened a few months back. I was actually sitting in a parking lot taping up a box for UPS when a lady tucked a flyer under my windshield wiper. We’re not huge into buffets and already have a go-to sushi place, so it never piqued my interest until Keith brought it up.

When we walked in, there was a sign stating that they no longer served sushi. Okaaay, hibachi it is.

Now it’s not your normal hibachi set-up with grills in the middle…it’s the suburban strip-mall hibachi where they just make it and bring it out to you and you have to trust that they made the onion volcano and the flying shrimp for their own amusement.

What sets this place apart from others is it’s all you can eat. All you can eat appetizers and hibachi, I think it was $8.50 for lunch and $10.50 for dinner.

When you are seated, you are presented with a small paper menu. It lists the appetizers (crab rangoon, fried oysters, gyoza, salad, miso soup, clear soup, spring rolls) as well as the starch options for the hibachi (white rice, brown rice, fried rice, hibachi noodles, udon noodles).

The cool part about the appetizers were that you could order as few or as many as you wanted and our waitress kept reminding us if we decided we wanted more, we just had to ask. Which was pretty great. I LOVE crab rangoon, but Keith hates it, so I can never order it because I can’t eat 6 pieces of it. Here I can order 2 for myself and go to town. We also got fried oysters, which I don’t care for…but since it’s included in the cost, Keith can have as many as he wants.

For your hibachi, you pick your rice/noodle and circle it on your paper. Then you head up to what used to be a buffet. There are all your meat options. They had chicken, shrimp, scallops (I think), calamari, (fake) crab, maybe some sort of beef/steak I can’t remember.

You grab a bowl and fill her up. Then you head over to the veggies, fill up on whatever you want (they had quite a selection, much more than the standard onion/zucchini/mushroom of most hibachi places). Then you add a sauce in a little ramekin (again, great selection from spicy to plain). Then you hand your bowl off, go sit down and less than 5 minutes later they bring you your plate!

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And again, this is all you can eat, so you can go up as many times as you want. Keith and I only ate one plate, but Keith is very excited to go back once he is gaining weight again because he knows he could do some real damage. For 10 bucks!

When we were there it was only us and another table, but the food was great, service was great, it was a super fast and super cheap meal! I get why they ditched the sushi…if business is slow, it wouldn’t be cost effective..but like I said, we’ve got a sushi joint, it’s nice to have a hibachi joint.

And I can forgo the theatrics if it means I get my meal in 5 minutes as opposed to 25.

A+ Hibachi J. I will be back.

Hibachi J Sushi Grill on Urbanspoon

*Minus the occasional trip to Hoss’s with my grandparents.

pluses and minuses

+ I can’t stop watching this trailer from my friend Jason. It is so great. It makes me so happy. I’m going to watch it every day for the rest of my life.

Also would you believe it’s the first wedding video he has made? He already shot another wedding, so it was the boost of confidence he needed but man I need to think of other life events for him to film, since I’ve decided he’s my personal videographer. I also told him he needs to get business cards that say

Jason Martin

Photographer/Videographer

I get paid to make you cry.

– Attempting to change my name is turning out to be a HUGE pain. I naively thought I could go to the SSA office on my lunch break Monday and do it. I opened the door, saw a sea of people and turned around and walked right back out. I tried to make an appointment and the lady on the phone would NOT let me make an appointment at that office, I had to make it downtown. And the first appointment? July 24th. Uh, nope. So now I’m going to the DMV on Thursday to try to get a certified copy of my license. Then I just have to wait for the certified copy of my birth certificate (which cost $20!) to come in the mail and then I can mail it all out. Ughhhhhhhhhh.

+ I went to a #bloggerdinnerparty #bloggerdanceparty on Saturday hosted by Alex. We have been internet friends for a while, he is the mastermind behind all the blogger swaps and he invited me and a few others to get together to discuss some fun creative endevours. Since it was a small group, I pretended to be a (brave!) grown up and went. And it was so much fun! I got to meet my favorite internet baby, Finn (sorry other internet babies) and a few other bloggers and it was just great. There was also pizza and cupcakes and will eventually be an awesome collaboration, can’t wait!

– After the #bloggerdanceparty, I offered to drive one of the other guys home, since he lives downtown and I was already headed north. As I made my way up 19 into the city, a man ran out into the road in front of me. It was after 10 p.m. and really dark and I saw the guy with plenty of time to slow down, but was really annoyed and beeped my horn. The guy then proceeds to stop, flick me off and scream at me. Dude, I just very graciously did NOT run you over, do not tempt me.

– After the GPS for some reason took me on 279 and back to get downtown, I dropped off Mike and headed home. And drove right into a DUI checkpoint. I immediately starting freaking out. Not because I was drunk but I had had a beer or two earlier in the night and what if they could tell? And what if, even though I was not even remotely impaired, they thought I was? And made me take a sobriety test and failed me because I am nervous and uncoordinated? But I finally got up to the guy he said “We are checking for impaired drivers, you don’t look impaired, have a nice night.” And then I drove off, heart still pounding. No WONDER I never leave my house.

+ I signed up to this website CookSmarts which is a meal planning website. What makes it different than other meal planning sites is each recipe you can adjust to be paleo, gluten free or vegetarian. The thing I liked best was that you are able to sign up and get 3 free weeks of plans and don’t have to enter your credit card or anything sneaky. We’ve tried out 2 meals so far and they have both been hits! I made a chicken basil stir fry on Sunday and last night we had panko-crusted fish tacos. I really dug both meals and Keith did too! It seems like most weeks have something we’d definitely like, something we might like, and something I have no idea if we’ll like. The stir fry and tacos will definitely be made again. Additionally this week I’ll make apple-fennel turkey burgers (we *should* like these) and butternut squash curry (this is the wild card. I’ve never made curry before – I’ll definitely also have to make some meat on the side for Keith.) I’m really digging it so far, probably going to sign up for the paid service! If you use that link up there, you can get $5 off and I’ll also get a couple bucks, but check out the free plans first!

meatza

On Saturday, I made a meatza. Keith and I have both completely overhauled our diets in the past few years. We both love carbs but have gotten more and more serious about cutting back on them. I still cheat way more often than he does but the thing I miss the most is pizza. I will have it every once in a while but we don’t order it like we used to. I came across a post about *meatza* on reddit and was both kind of grossed out and kind of intrigued.

The premise is that it is a pizza…with a meat crust. Haha, just typing that out is kind of gross. I ran it by Keith and he was into it, so I went for it, following this “recipe.”

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It wasn’t until halfway through adding the sausage to the top I realized how ridiculous that was, but it was already cooked so I threw it on.

I had mixed feelings on it. It didn’t taste like pizza, but it was about 70% as satisfying. (Add enough cheese to anything and it will satisfy me.) Both Keith and I had wished that there were more veggies or something on top. After we finished, I did feel a little queasy for a while from eating so much meat.

Keith ate it for lunch the next day and the last half-piece for dinner, so he said he’s not going to want it any time soon, haha. I couldn’t even think of eating it for lunch the next day, so he has a stronger stomach than I.

For lunch on Sunday I had some roast zucchini/potato/onion concoction with an egg on top to offset all that meat.

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I think if I were to make it again (some day…far down the line) I would use something other than ground turkey. Even all doctored up, it was still a little bland. I would also try to make it thinner, which is tough since it shrinks up in the oven. If you think of it like a bun-less pizza burger it is a bit more appealing, haha.

pittsburgh restaurant week – part 2

Our second stop during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week was Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen in Regent Square. We had been talking about trying Alma for a while, but never made it.

We went on a Thursday night and it was actually the day I got my grades for the summer and found out I had gotten straight A’s! Woo! So it then became my celebratory dinner. To start things off right, I did something I never do and ordered a drink. Anytime I see a caipirinha on the menu, I have to order it, and Alma had two. A blackberry and a passionfruit.

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I chose the blackberry and it was good, but I probably should have tried the passionfruit for something a bit more exciting.

Alma was offering a 4 course meal for $30. Alma is a little on the pricey side, so I think I figured out we saved at least $20. We probably wouldn’t have gotten as much food either, so probably more.

For starters, there was an option of empanadas or fried plantains. Keith and I both got the empanadas and they were good, but probably my least favorite part of the meal. The empanadas had pork and olives and I kind of hate olives, but they were still tasty.

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Course two was soup or salad. They had a quinoa salad and gazpacho. Keith wanted the quinoa salad, so I decided to go out on a limb and try the gazpacho.

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I am glad I did because I LOVED the gazpacho. It does not photograph nearly as well as Keith’s salad but it was soooo good. They apparently use a coconut milk base, which I was kind of afraid of but it was soo good. It had a slight kick to it and lots of veggies floating around in it. I never in a million years would have thought I’d like cold soup, but my mouth is almost watering thinking of it. Keith’s quinoa salad was okay, I wasn’t a huge fan. He liked it better than my gazpacho though. He said it tasted like gin. (He’s crazy.)

Third course was the main event. There were quite a few options that I cannot remember. Keith got the brisket and I got the scallops.

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scall

I have an unfortunate habit of liking whatever Keith orders better than what I order. But for the second time during this meal, I thought mine was so much better. The brisket was over rice and while it was good, it didn’t blow me away.

My scallops were served with veggies and rice and covered in this amazing lime and garlic sauce that I could have eaten plain. I want everything covered in that sauce. Even though I was quickly becoming uncomfortably full, I cleaned my plate.

And we still had dessert!

Keith ordered an avocado pudding and I got the chocolate cake. The warm chocolate cake.

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choco

I was pretty blown away by the avocado pudding. It tasted like avocado…but better! And sweet! A little tart. I only had the tiniest of bites because I had that amazing dessert in front of me.

Warm chocolate cake, cinnamon ice cream. It was SO GOOD. It is almost criminal that I wasn’t able to finish it. I ate about half and couldn’t force myself to eat anymore.

I’m pretty sure Alma was my favorite stop of the week. Everything I ate was just incredible. Huge portions, fresh ingredients, delicious results. It is a little bit pricey, I don’t think it could ever be a casual dinner place for us, but I’d definitely head back for a special occasion. Like more straight A’s!

NYC 2013 (part 2)

Okay, when I left off, we had left Barcade and headed back to the hotel.

I took a nap while Keith read comic books on his iPad. (I got really used to these before dinner naps, they were hard to give up.)

So then it was time for dinner and Keith said that he did not want to leave Chinatown without eating Chinese food…so Yelp to the rescue again. We were just a few blocks from Joe’s Shanghai and with 2,000+ reviews, we figured we had to try it. Until I read some reviews and got a little nervous, but we headed over anyways.

So we walk in (luckily no line – there were probably 30 people in line when we left an hour later) and are seated at a big round table with two other groups. We are seated, given menus and a pot of tea. All the reviews said that you HAVE to get the soup dumplings, so we got those (I think I tried to order pork/crab as suggested, but I am pretty sure we only got crab) and pan fried noodles. I had no idea what pan fried noodles were but whatever the group across from us had looked delicious so I was trying to order that. In hindsight, I should have just asked/pointed.

So the restaurant is insanely busy, there are just about as many employees as patrons and they have different colored shirts on based on their job (? I think?). So it was hard to find someone to find to get some water, but eventually we did.

So then the food came out and the noodles were not at all what I expected. Still good though and Keith said they were the easiest thing he has tried to eat with chopsticks (no forks).

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The soup dumplings were awesome! I sort of had no idea what they were until we got them. They are little pillows of (in our case) crab…but also a broth…so you make a hole, slurp out the broth and then eat. They were a little messy, but before we got them, a group of old Asian people came and sat at our table and I was able to learn from watching them eat and not make a fool of myself. One of the women kept SCREAMING at the waiters in whatever language and it was sort of ridiculous.

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Another group came and sat with us and anything they asked the waiter, he was baffled by. They ordered fish, then asked to order a vegetable and he just kept saying “Vegetable?” over and over until she said “What kind do you have?” Then he rolls his eyes and starts listing them off. They really blew his mind when they asked for another spoon. (And I don’t believe this was a language barrier, he spoke English perfectly well…I guess they are just Soup (dumpling) Nazis.)

Then we headed over for the 2nd night of KATG festivities which was a live version of the “What’s My Name” show podcast, hosted by Chemda, the girl. The show was all about bad roommates and it was pretty hilarious. Another afterparty at which we did not exactly party and then home to bed.

_MG_9782This was a very slight ramp to our Broolyn subway stop and it freaked me out a little bit. I think I played too much Tomb Raider as a child because I kept expecting a giant boulder to come rolling down after us.

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Sunday! I was really excited for Sunday. The one thing I wanted to do was go to Smorgasburg, a Brooklyn Flea Food Market. It was in the same area as all the shows, so very convenient to where we were staying. It was a gorgeous day and people were out in droves.

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The food is actually inside that structure. This was just spillover of people eating. I had really wanted to try Milk Truck, but the line was soooo long that I just couldn’t do it. We had carnitas tacos from Choncho’s Tacos which were pretty good, a chicken burger with granny smith apples, goat cheese and cranberries that was OUT OF THIS WORLD from Bossa Nova Chicken Burgers. (That was Keith’s suggestion, I wanted a different burger but I am so glad I listened to him.) Bossa Nova was right next to Red Hook Lobster Pound and we both really wanted a lobster roll but at 16$ it seemed a little pricey. The line was enormous and I have heard they are worth it. Next time! We kept passing this booth with MASSIVE black and white cookies, and as a B&W cookie lover, I had to try.

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It was from Lassen and Hennigs and even though that may look like a domed cookie, it was not. The cookie was perfectly flat and there was at least a 1/2″ of icing…which proved to be way too much. I like B&W cookies for the slightly hard icing…and this was more like frosting. It was good…but I kind of wanted to die after I ate it. While I was suffering through my sugar shock, Keith got an arepa from Palenque. Aside from the burger, this was my second favorite.

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Although it was a little hard to eat with the paper plate and bamboo fork, it was delicious. But! The crowing glory of Smorgasburg was again something Keith chose. A 6$ icecream sandwich from The Good Batch.
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This is the only picture I have of it. It was the MG – flourless chocolate cookie, roasted crunchy peanut butter, sea salt, Blue Marble vanilla ice cream. The flourless chocolate cookie sealed the deal. It was so flaky and almost like a chocolate macaron and just thinking about it, my mouth is watering. I only got 2-3 bites but it was the best thing ever.

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I love old brick buildings. I especially loved the stars on this one.

_MG_9728Some cute door on a random side street.

_MG_9729Ha, this picture is not the best, but I was trying to be covert. This guy was dressed pink head-to-toe but his shoes were insane! Pink poodles!

Sunday we had dinner at Barrio Chino – a tiny, unmarked Mexican place in Chinatown. We got guacamole, then Keith got enchiladas verdes and I got calamari tacos. Everything was awesome.

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They had a pretty awesome looking drink menu, but we didn’t partake. I loved how the food was all served on blue china.

Monday we met up with a friend/photographer in an attempt to do a mini-engagement session but it was cold/windy and since he was working alone he thought it would be better to postpone til we got back to Pittsburgh. So we shot a few but then just went and had a drink and chatted.

Monday night was the big stand-up show. After the show, the final after party. All of the afterparties had been held in this neat space on the 9th floor of this building.

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Well..the final night…the elevator got stuck…with people inside! The FDNY came and we had to wait outside for probably a good 20-30 minutes. Idiot that I am, I packed for Pittsburgh weather (which was 10 degrees warmer all week) and had to stand there in a dress/sandals.
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Eventually the people were rescued, but the elevator was unusable. So everyone climbed up 9 flights of stairs to the final afterparty. And since I don’t want to make another post…I’m going to end this with a bunch of pictures. Including this one by our friend Newsy.

heh

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Someone opened a window on the 9th floor and I took advantage to get some shots of the gorgeous view.

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NYC 2013 (part 1)

The second weekend in April found Keith and I travelling to NYC for Keith and the Girl week. Keith and the Girl week is an annual event which centers around Keith Malley’s birthday stand-up show. There are a variety comedic events/parties and this would be our third year going.

Keith (my Keith) handles our travel plans (hotels and whatnot) and then I usually try to plan things to do/places to eat.

We left Friday morning and drove straight to Manhattan. Our hotel this time was in Chinatown, which was a first for both of us. As we are about a block away from the hotel, we are sitting at a light under the Manhattan Bridge and some sort of train rolls over us and the noise is DEAFENING. I suddenly am very very unsure of this hotel’s location.

For reference:

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The bridge…our hotel was the 3rd building from the bridge. I should have taken some sort of audio, it was insane. Luckily, even though we were on the 6th floor (out of 7), the noise from the bridge was hardly noticeable. You could tell something was happening, but it was less like a train was rolling over you and more like just something mechanical kicking on.

Our hotel was pretty interesting too, it must have been some sort of mall at one point, this was the view walking in:

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I was sort of surprised they hadn’t rented out the little glass cubbies as rooms.

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View back to the main doors, elevator was to the right and you had to take it up to the 2nd floor to check-in.

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This larger than life fella kept an eye on the first floor. (No matter how hard I try, I can’t get the white balance right.)

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The elevator was also mirrored which was…weird.

Okay, so enough about the hotel. We checked in, sat around for a little and headed to grab some dinner. Pulled up Yelp and ended up at Cheeky Sandwiches. It was a good thing someone on Yelp had a photo because I would have walked right past. I was tempted by the shrimp poboy, but Keith and I both ended up with the chicken sandwich.

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buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken, gravy, coleslaw

The shop was just adorable and considering it was only 5pm, we were the only two in there.
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From there, we headed over to Brooklyn for the first show. The reason we stayed in Chinatown was because it was literally one train stop away and it was wonderful. The Keith and the Girl podcast has expanded to include several spin-off podcasts and the first night was spin-off night. The shows were hilarious, of course. Afterwards there was an after-party across the street, which we attended for approximately 30 minutes before being old people and going back to the hotel.

The next day we headed uptown so Keith could check out a comic book store. And get lunch. One of the reasons I was most excited to head back to NYC after 2 years away (Sorry, KATG) was the Halal Guys. It is a food cart…but not just any food cart. This cart is legendary. (Over 3000 reviews can’t be wrong!)

The first time I went to NYC, way back in 2009 with Keith, he raved about this food cart. We were in the city for a basketball game and the game ended around midnight. We took the train but then had to walk at least 10 blocks to 53rd and 6th (where the cart lives). It was sleeting. I was in canvas shoes. I was miserable. We arrived and there were literally 30 people in line.

It’s finally our turn…Keith orders and then we walk a half a block away to take shelter while we eat (still sleeting!) and after all that, IT WAS SO WORTH IT. (And way too much food, after that we only ever get one meal and share it.)

So. Anyways. The cart is open 7pm-4am, and we typically make a late night trek, but we had heard that there was a daytime cart on a different corner. Now it gets tricky because the Halal Guys are seriously legendary…and they have many imposters. I almost stopped at two different carts before we found the correct daytime cart. One of the imposters even had sweatshirts that said “The Halal Guys.” The REAL guys are on the corner across from the Hilton at night, but they are in front of CBS during the day. The fool-proof way to tell is the yellow bags.

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So we got our food and found a random spot to eat…and it felt like cheating! To get it during the day…by taking a subway that went almost right to it (holla, F train) to not have to wait in a ridiculous line in the rain/cold/snow/wind…was weird. Dare I say it dulled the experience a bit. It was STILL the most delicious food of my life…but I didn’t feel like I earned it.

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combo platter with chicken, lamb, pita, lettuce, orange stuff is rice, white sauce is the star of the show. ALWAYS get extra white sauce. (this was what was leftover. SO MUCH FOOD.)

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some cute guy who bought me lunch.

After lunch, we headed to Midtown Comics so Keith could nerd out. (And buy nothing.) From there we zoomed across (under) the river, back to Brooklyn to hit up Barcade. Keith has been dying to go the past few times he has been in the vicinity but never made it, so he was really excited.

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It was a really cool place! We were there mid-afternoon, I’m not sure I’d want to be there at night…I would imagine it can get pretty packed. I had a delicious pear cider and mostly watched Keith play games. (All games are a quarter!) But then I discovered Timber, which I could actually play! (I am not good at video games.) We hung out there until we exhausted Keith’s quarters and then went back to the hotel.

And now I’m sick of writing so…to be continued…

iphone snaps

Just some pictures that have nothing to do with anything but I wanted to share.

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This is the most depressing thing to see in the morning, Daisy at her window looking so sad. Luckily she doesn’t do it every morning otherwise I could never leave.

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The tree-eating culprit.

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Last night I looked out the window and saw these FIVE deer (one not shown) eating my tree! I only saw two at first and ran out in the yard to yell at them and then I saw the other three and promptly ran back inside. The one in the bottom right was just STARING at me.

oh you're leaving? meh.

Daisy typically gets really anxious when we leave, but Friday night we went out to dinner and she couldn’t care less.

smoke!

We went to Smoke Barbeque Taqueria last week after hearing rave reviews forever. I was not in love with the mac and cheese, but I really really liked the chorizo taco and the chicken taco.

sleepy daisy

Daisy loves her tile.

revenge of the chicken nuggets

I’ve had a really bad head cold and in my fog managed to burn the almost-crook-of-my-elbow with a cookie sheet while making chicken nuggets. How I managed to touch the cookie sheet there, I will never know, but man it hurts.

treehouse

My view from bed. Looks like we sleep in a treehouse. Also still madly in love with that paint color.

first solo road trip

This past weekend, I embarked on my first solo road trip. I was headed to D.C. to visit my friend Elyse. I’ve gone down twice before, both times with Keith, so we thought it would be fun to have a girls’ weekend. I was slightly nervous considering the longest I’ve ever driven before was 2 hours and that was only because I got lost in a park. (Ugh.)

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Over-pack, much?

The drive was actually pretty easy, although I don’t know how people lived without GPSes. Mine did trick me once, telling me to keep right then keep right then keep right and well, eventually I ended up taking the wrong exit because that was keeping right!

About halfway down the GPS started to die, so I had to unplug my iPhone (aka music) and plug her in. That then left me to random radio since I could no longer pick up any signals I knew. For a good hour or so the only thing I could find was country (like 6 stations worth!) and christian rock. Eventually I stumbled across a classic rock station, just in time to hear the beginning notes of Bohemian Rhapsody. Now if you think there is a better ‘first solo road trip’ song than Bohemian Rhapsody, you are wrong, it was awesome.

I arrived there just before 5 and we just sat around catching up before heading to dinner. We went to Lauriol Plaza which has some of D.C.’s best Mexican food. We walked in and there was a hugggge line but since there were only two of us and we wanted to sit on the roof, we got taken right up!

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Oh yes, we ate on the roof! Thankfully they had ceiling fans.

Of course we had to partake in the swirl margaritas! (Strawberry and lime)

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The chips were also soooo good. They were so thin and crispy. I’ve been to a restaurant in Pittsburgh with really thick chips and the further you get into the bowl, the soggier they get. So gross. These were probably the best chips I’ve ever had.

Then came time for food. Elyse had lamb fajitas and I got crab and shrimp enchiladas.  Sooo good. I was actually dreaming of them on my drive home yesterday.

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And some nice fellas sent us over a pitcher of margaritas! (One brought over a phone number for Elyse at the end, which she offered to the table next to us, hahaha. So it was pretty much the best possible scenario. A 40$ pitcher of margaritas and no small talk!)

The next day we went on a tour of the Brewmaster’s Castle. It was the home of brewer Christian Heurich and is one of the best preserved Victorian homes in the nation. Sadly, they don’t allow pictures, but there are a few on the website. I love looking at people’s houses and love old things so I really enjoyed it.  I am sooooo glad that style went out though because man, is it gaudy.  Heurich was also apparently terrified of fire so there were a lot of weird fireproofing techniques implemented throughout the home. They also had a weird doll named Michael that would join them at dinner if there were 13 guests, because they were so superstitious.

After the tour, we melted (it was 105 that day!) over to Urbana for brunch and a bottomless bellini bar. They’d bring you a bottle of champagne and on the bar were all different kinds of fruit purees. You mixed your own and when you got to the bottom of the champagne bottle, they’d replace it with a new one. So fancy!

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I also had a really great burger there, on a sweet potato bun. Mmm.

The trip back to Elyse’s was so hot we decided just to stay in Saturday night, which was fine with me. We ended up going to Trader Joe’s and getting stuff to make pizza and just ended up watching Forest Gump.

I did get to try this though:

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And came home with these:

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Sunday was already 96 degrees at like 9am so we just ate some breakfast and I hit the road. I had a lot of fun, ate a lot of delicious things and it was really nice to see Elyse and catch up on life. I totally refuse to go to D.C. in the summer again though. I think I’ll shoot for winter next time.