Monday, February 28, 2011

today i'm loving: elizabeth cole jewelry

Friday night at the Standard Beer Garden, I fell in serious lust. My friend Esme was wearing these amazing mohawk earrings and I couldn't keep my eyes off them all night! So here I am, with a full-fledged obsession with jewelry by Elizabeth Cole. How cool are these? 

Easy on the eyes but not too easy on the pocket with prices reaching $333. The little starburst earrings on are quite affordable at $40, however. But the mohawk earrings, which come in turquoise, pink and dark blue will haunt my dreams until I decide to forego a trip for a pair of sparkly little things.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

wanderlust: jazz brunch at commander's palace

On a beautiful Sunday morning in New Orleans, we piled into a street car on St. Charles Street and headed into the Garden District for a jazz brunch at Commander's Palace. This New Orleans institution has been tickling the palates of gourmands as far back as 1880. In its early years, it catered to the distinguished families of the neighborhood. Briefly in the 1920s, its private second-level dining room became a place for riverboat captains and "sporting gentlemen" to rendezvous with women while the lower level maintained a respectable veneer to cater to families. Today, it is one of New Orleans' most highly regarded establishments, serving up Creole and American cuisine.

We sat at an indoor patio flooded with light and music, and festooned with the festive balloons that have somehow become essential to this jazz brunch experience. We started with some delicious cocktails: a Bloody Mary for Ben and Milk Punch spiked with bourbon for Melissa and I. The brunch menu has an extensive list of entrees that come with your choice of an appetizer and dessert for prices ranging between $29-39. So pigging out is not optional.

The best appetizer on the table was Phil's hen's egg carbonara, which had a delicious poached egg cradled atop a bed of creamy handmade linguini, Louisiana soy beans and large hunks of bacon. Amazing.
John's appetizer came in a close second: Shrimp and Tasso Henican, a plate of wild Louisiana white shrimp stuffed with spicy Cajun ham, drizzled with Crystal hot sauce beurre blanc, and served with pickled okra and five pepper jelly. This dish just screamed with flavor.
I couldn't pass up the chance to order something strange and traditional, so I went with the classic Commander's turtle soup finished tableside with a splash of sherry. John thought it tasted just like the pork and beans you get out of the can in the Philippines. Fair assessment. I thought it was hearty and full of flavor, but nowhere near as good as the other appetizers on the table.
My entree, however, certainly lived up to my expectations. I ordered shrimp 'n grits, which was everything I expected in Southern brunch fare. The shrimps were well seasoned with a bit of heat, plump and just delicious. The cracked corn-jalapeño grits coupled with the Hennessy cognac and roasted mushroom sauce was sinfully rich and a smidgen heavy but that's just what I expect from Southern cooking.
I only took a tiny bites of the other entrees as I had way more than enough food to deal with but everything was delicious. John had pecan-crusted gulf fish with champagne-poached jumbo lump crab, spiced pecans and crushed corn sauce.
Phil ordered Southern fried chicken dish topped with yet another egg. In a word: YUM. He definitely had all the best orders for the day.
We were rapidly descending into a food coma by the time they took our entree plates off the table but there was still a dessert course to come. We ordered chicory-spiked coffee to jostle us out of our gluttonous stupor (and because coffee makes dessert all that yummier). I wish I had an extra stomach for dessert because Commander's Palace definitely brought it. The most delicious dessert was Melissa's: the Creole bread pudding soufflé finished with whiskey cream sauce. So light and fluffy, and that sauce just delivers a punch! It is love.
I had to order strawberry shortcake because it's my favorite dessert. Not as thrilling as the soufflé but yummy nonetheless. The fresh strawberries were especially good after all that rich food.
The pecan pie tasted like coming home to Momma. Warm pecan pie topped with vanilla ice cream, and that bed of chocolate sauce and Fleur de Sel caramel ... so comforting. 
Finally, there was the European dark chocolate cake. The rich chocolate fudge cake with anglaise, Bordeaux reduction and a honey pecan tuile is pure romance.
To go with all that delicious food was some great jazz. It really was an experience to visit Commander's Palace, dine in that lovely Victorian style home and listen to all that jazz. Here's the jazz trio performing a bit of Sinatra for the New York crowd.
After our lunch, we needed to walk off all that food so we took a lovely stroll around the gorgeous Garden District. Before coming to New Orleans, I always wondered why Hollywood actors kept buying homes here. After seeing the place for myself, I understand why they get so smitten. We found Sandra Bullock's beautiful NOLA home.
I also found the New Orleans home of my dreams, which I will buy when I become a filthy rich billionaire who just buys homes in random places.
It was a lovely, lovely morning in New Orleans that I hope to revisit someday. If you're ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend a day with jazz, great food and strolling through one of the city's prettiest neighborhoods!

I give it:

Commander's Palace is located at 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130. Phone (504) 899-8221 for reservations. No shorts. Jacket preferred for dinner.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

get your groupon: dance like a diva

I spent a good part of last week completely obsessed with Rihanna's performance of What's My Name at the Grammy's. How crazy sexy was that?

Every now and then, I have these paranoid moments when I'm dancing in a club. I look around and start to wonder, are my moves still current? Or have I become that clueless chick in the club who's still dancing like it's 1989? Unless you're a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I'm gonna bet you've been in this state of paranoia too (if not, humor me; don't burst my bubble and comment to let me know otherwise). Seeing a performance like Rihanna's with sexy moves I have certainly never done myself on the dance floor only exacerbated my paranoia. So I was pretty thrilled when my friend Mitch told me about today's Groupon: $32 for a four-class package at DivaDance Company! Voted Best Dance Class in 2009 by AM New York, DivaDance has DivaHip-Hop classes to teach you how to shake it like Beyonce or DivaStrip to learn how to get down like a Pussycat Doll. I've already bought mine and am pretty excited to "upgrade" my moves! To get in on this deal, click here.

wanderlust: cochon

I came to New Orleans on a mission to party during Mardi Gras but as the trip drew closer, I found myself fixated on an entirely different NOLA experience: dining at the lauded restaurant Cochon. New York Times critic Frank Bruni dubbed it the "Momofuku of Mississipi" and declared it one of ten restaurants that count from coast to coast. Our New York-based party came to the same conclusion that Mr. Bruni did upon tasting what Cochon had to offer: we may be ridiculously blessed with good food in the Big Apple but we just don't have anything like Cochon. My beloved New York, with its war against transfat and fitness-crazed inhabitants, doesn't have anything resembling this as far as I know:
This, my friends is Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage and the most beautiful cracklings I've seen on this side of the world ($22). This particular cochon is slow-braised suckling pig which is thereafter shredded and molded into this hefty pattie. As you may have already guessed, I loved this dish mainly because of the cracklings. They reminded me of the chicharon my Mom and I used to buy from Lapid's in the Philippines. Lapid's chicharon is so freshly made that we would get startled in the car with sudden pops from the pork rinds that were still cooking even after being bagged. Cochon's cracklings brought me back to those afternoons spent munching on crispy chicharon with nary a thought of blood pressure nor cholesterol.

The cracklings weren't the only things that reminded me of home. Our meal started with some warm rolls that tasted a lot like Filipino pan de sal. My friends said that as soon as they bit into those slightly sweet, slightly salty and altogether comforting rolls, they knew we were in for a good meal. They weren't mistaken because the food kept getting better from there. I still find myself daydreaming about the woodfire roasted oysters—plump, succulent, and bathed in the flavors of butter, cayenne, chili flakes, garlic and anchovy. So delicious.
The fried alligator ($10), picked solely for the adventure of chowing down on 'gator, was surprisingly addicting. The alligator meat was coated in batter like most Southern goodness but remained tender inside. Coupled with that yummy chili garlic aioli, I just couldn't stop popping those suckers. If you've never had alligator and are curious about it's texture, I would describe it as quite similar to calamari.
Cracklings not withstanding, I have to say the most delicious pork dish of the night was the spicy grilled pork ribs with watermelon pickle ($10). Those ribs were drenched in flavor and just the right amount of heat, with the watermelon pickle providing a perfect little tart counterpoint. If I ever become one of those crazy millionaires who have food flown to them, you can bet I'll be sending a minion down to NOLA to get me some Cochon ribs. And oysters. And gator. And cracklings. And rolls.
Finally, we also had to try some seafood. One of the specials was a whole fried fish (red snapper, I believe?) with cherry tomatoes on the side. So simple but absolutely perfect. The skin was fried to a delicious crisp while the meat remained soft and flaky. So good.
Apart from the truly wonderful food, I liked the atmosphere at Cochon: sleek but casual, unpretentious but knowledgeable. It's a place where you can relax and concentrate on chowing down on good food without worrying about how you look and which fork goes with what dish.

As if the meal wasn't wonderful enough, Cochon had another unexpected treat in store for me. At the end of our meal, I was completely taken aback to feel a tap on my shoulder, turn around, and find myself staring right at my old high school friend Pia, who happened to be visiting NOLA. She was also on a mission to cross New Orleans off her 30 Before 30 list and was also about to enjoy an epic meal at Cochon! It turned out to be a fortuitous meeting as we all had so much fun partying it up in NOLA for the rest of our stay.

To anyone setting foot in New Orleans anytime soon, I implore you to please do yourself a favor and stop by Cochon. It's one of the most delicious meals I've had in my life and one I hope I'll be fortunate enough to repeat in the future!

I give this one a whole lot of love:

Cochon is located at 930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70195. Phone (504) 588-2123 for reservations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

restaurant week diary: brasserie

In the middle of a workday so freakishly sh!tacular that it felt like an episode out of The Twilight Zone, it was a treat to stop and sit down for a three-course lunch. A few weeks ago, my co-workers and I took time off to treat our friend (and expectant mother) to a baby shower lunch at Brasserie in Midtown Manhattan. I'd never been and was pleasantly surprised to discover this spot in our neck of the woods. Brasserie has held this location since 1959 but its current incarnation is ultra-sleek and decidedly stripped of nostalgia. The food remains classically French with clean, modern presentations.  

The lunch menu offered pretty standard RW fare: salmon tartare, seared scallops, braised short ribs and flourless chocolate cake. Not that I'm complaining; I never can resist tartare and short ribs. I did feel bad about skipping the scallops because they looked pretty delicious. However, these were served as an entree and would probably not have sated my appetite. Anyway, I really shouldn't spend my money on seared scallops since I kinda know how to make this now, right? (Yeah. Sure.)
I started with the salmon tartare with taro crisps and pommery mustard vinaigrette. The salmon was very fresh but I would've liked a few more crisps and a pinch more mustard. If I'm being honest, I actually prefer the salmon tartare that you can pick up from Grand Central Market just a few blocks away. Sorry.
For my entree, I had the braised short ribs with royal trumpet mushrooms and crushed herbed Idaho potato. It was very hearty and filling, but maybe a tad too rich for my taste.
For dessert, I picked the lemon tart with creme fraiche since I don't really have much of a sweet tooth.
What I should've picked was the crème caramel with pecan brittle and bourbon sauce. That was yummy. The crème caramel was airy and light, and the sweetness not too overpowering.
Overall, I would say that the meal was just okay. Nothing stood out for me enough that I would hurry back. But Brasserie does earn a spot on my list of places to for a more special weekday lunch in the area.

Restaurant Week Rating:

Brasserie is located at 100 East 53rd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, New York, NY. Restaurant Week menus are available everyday during lunch and dinner until February 27, 2011. Phone 212.751.4840 for reservations.


Monday, February 14, 2011


If you've been reading this blog or have known me for awhile, you'd know that I've never been Valentine's Day's biggest fan. Primarily it's because I don't like getting ripped off. The strange thing is, I'm not really bothered by Valentine's Day today. For some reason, seeing flower delivery men struggling with bouquets and extremely cheesy Valentine's Day-themed store displays made me smile. I even kinda want one of those pink cupcakes smothered in heart-shaped sprinkles. Damn, how hard did I hit my head when I went snowboarding last Saturday?

It's not because my love life is so stellar; there isn't really one to speak of, actually. But I guess it's just that I love my life right now and there's really no anger to dredge up for Hallmark and the flower and chocolate industries.

So if you're blissfully in love, I wish you a happy hearts day with the person you love. If you're not, I say have fun spoiling yourself silly today. I, for one, am looking forward to getting sloshed on wine and glutted with fried chicken and ice cream with my girlfriends tonight. I suggest you do the same! 

XOXO S'mores from Williams-Sonoma

Friday, February 11, 2011

i want a papercut

My memory is pretty sh*te. In computer geek talk, I would say all I seem to have is volatile, random access memory. I don't think I have a terrabyte drive up there as a vast repository of info. If there's any non-volatile memory storage there, it's most likely a tiny little flash drive full of Dave Matthews songs and Barney Stinson catchphrases.

There is a point to this post, I swear.

The great thing about having this blog is that it helps me remember things. If I like something enough to write a post about it, then it was probably sorta memorable. This blog has served as offsite back-up storage for me, if you will. Can't remember where I had those amazing polenta sticks in Charlottesville? The blog can. Need to be reminded why Hemingway's favorite combo of absinthe and champagne is just not a good idea? The blog can slap some sense into me (or at least say "I told you so") if needed. 

Today, it reminded me of something I wanted quite badly a year and a half ago. But it didn't exist then, and I prayed fervently to my guardian angel to please tell this particular artist to make the wall art of my dreams. Well, my guardian angel came through. The lovely Julie of Famille Summerbelle made a cutout map of my beloved New York.
It took me awhile to realize it now exists, but now that I've discovered it, I MUST HAVE IT. I guess my nesting phase is not winding down just yet ...

my mini parsons desk is home

After bouncing from one apartment to another four times in the span of two years, I had a severe case of commitment-phobia. Furniture commitment-phobia to be exact.

So it was a big step when I finally bought my first piece of real furniture a few weeks ago. I decided that I was tired of cranking out blogs and articles from my bed, and that I needed a proper workspace if I wanted to get serious about my writing. So I took the plunge and finally ordered the mini Parson's desk from West Elm that I've been in love with for years.

On Wednesday night after a draining 13-hour workday, I got home to find my beautiful desk waiting for me. Except, it wasn't quite so beautiful yet. It came in this massive rectangular box that I couldn't even lift. Our doorman had to hoist it on a trolley so that I could get it up to my apartment, and once there, I had to gingerly push it on to the floor, praying I wouldn't break anything. Getting the damn thing into the apartment was about all I could muster energy up for that day. I would leave the rest for another day.

See the thing is, my fabulous apartment has a not-always-fabulous feature that makes things like lugging furniture up to my room or getting to bed whilst drunk off my ass a bit ... challenging.
There's a wider service stairwell far more convenient for getting furniture to my room but it's a longer route so I decided to stick with the shorter (albeit more potentially disastrous) of the two. I realized I might be able to pull this off if I took the table pieces out of the packaging and carried them up one by one. Thank god this table doesn't have too many pieces! It was a little difficult carrying the table top up but I made it without breaking it in half or scratching the surface. I did lose a slipper on those treacherous stairs though.
Once all the pieces were in my room, it wasn't so bad. It's really easy to assemble and everything you need comes in the box. Instructions say you need two people to assemble but if a 100-pound miniature Asian can do it, so can you. 

Hoorah I've got a desk!
I was going to just grab an office chair in Ikea but got smitten by this chair that's a doppelganger of the Saarinen tulip chair. I love the Saarinen chair but it's way out of my league; even its miniature is more expensive than the doppelganger! So I ordered the aforementioned doppelganger and I'm waiting for it to arrive. I'm also waiting on this lovely little print that I intend to hang over my desk. Pretty soon I'll have a proper space to work in, and hopefully all the wonderful things in it will keep me inspired. Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

hot coco fest at city bakery

I would like to take this moment to applaud the heroic efforts of Ms. Amy Plitt of Time Out New York, who risked waistline and muffin top to sample every single flavor on City Bakery's Hot Chocolate Festival calendar last year. With her selfless posts as a guide, I am gunning for darkest dark hot chocolate on the 10th and chili pepper hot chocolate on the 13th. Ms. Plitt was not a fan of the creamy stout hot coco due to its "bitterness" and "graininess." But since I was raised on bitter and grainy Filipino cacao and have been searching high and low for something similar, I'd like to give this one a shot. I swear, it has nothing to do with my incurable beer addiction.
Also highly intrigued by What Would Faulkner Drink? on the 22nd. I think I really need to know.

City Bakery is located at 3 West 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York, NY 10011.
Image via Time Out New York

Monday, February 07, 2011

theyskens' theory

Is it just me or were we already wearing the silhouettes seen in Theyskens' Theory circa 2003? Low-slung wide-legged pants that hugged the hipbone and almost completely obscured pointy-toed heels? Check. Capris worn with aforementioned pointy-toed heels? Check. Navel-baring tee? Oh those were the days when the only prep required for a bikini-clad weekend at the beach was maybe eating a spoonful less rice during dinner; when my belly seemed impervious to the beers I love to chug. Yup, an oh-so-wistful check there, too.

Olivier Theyskens, who previously made stunning clothes at both Nina Ricci and Rochas, described his Theory collection for T magazine's blog as clothes he would wear if he was a girl; his intention is clear with the line's seamless blend of masculine edginess and feminine sensuality. The clothes are definitely pieces I'd love to have in my closet but I somehow find myself wishing I'd held on to my pinstriped wide-legged pants and reliable flared jeans rather than have to cough up the dough for these. That's the problem with moving between three continents and numerous apartments since 2003 ... there are no fashion heirlooms in my closet. I'll have to cough up the cash and get some new flares and capris eventually, if this trend persists.

There's nothing quite like seeing trends that I wore the first time around crop up again to hammer in the realization that I'm no spring chicken anymore. I feel like my mom when I say things like, "Doc Martens are in again? Why I used to live in my 8-holed Docs when I was fourteen." *shudder*

Theyskens' Theory will be available at Net-a-porter starting next week.

the meatball shop

Tonight we decided to ditch the Super Bowl fetes and chase a ball that means so much more to us: the good old meatball! Top Chef's last challenge at New York Italian institution Rao's seemed to have everyone craving hunks of beef smothered with tomato sauce, so Melissa, Ben and I trekked to The Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side for a fix.
I love how ordering is done in this joint. You each get a marker and are told to tick your orders off right on the menu. Genius!
Ben ordered a hero with three delicious meatballs smothered in cheese and tucked into a fresh baguette from Il Forno Bakery. He loved it. I didn't have the heart to snap a picture since he was starving while Melissa and I were still digesting the last of our three-course lunch. Our gene pool seems to include having a bottomless pit for a stomach so somehow, she and I still devoured the hearty meatballs with rigatoni and tomato sauce that we ordered, plus a few bites of side salads ordered mostly to make us feel "healthy" (see image above). Digging into those bowls of pasta and meatballs tasted like coming home. So delicious and absolutely worth every bit of the sick, stuffed feeling I was left with hours later.

After seeing several ice cream sandwiches pass us by, we had to have one. We ordered mint ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies to share. When it comes to best decisions ever made, ordering mint ice cream ranks up to there with Anheuser-Busch deciding not to kill off Corona. It was seriously the most delicious mint ice cream I've ever had, flavored with real mint and containing tiny flecks of real mint leaves in all that creamy goodness. I might have to come back for a weekly fix.
The Meatball Shop is a gem of a spot in the Lower East Side: really good food, a proper drinks list, great service and a cozy ambience. They do not accept reservations, however, and even on Super Bowl night had a packed house. I would suggest coming on slower evenings and in small groups.

For someone who attends Super Bowl Sunday more for the chili, wings and beer rather than to actually watch football, I'd say this was a awesome way to spend the evening! Football lovers or not, I hope you enjoyed your Sunday night, as well!


The Meatball Shop is located at 84 Stanton Street between Allen and Orchard Streets. You may phone 212.982.8893 to order takeout, get directions or maybe even have a chat, but The Meatball Shop does not accept reservations.


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