Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rainbow City in New York City

One of the best things about living in New York -- and I imagine it's the same in every big city -- is that you never know what's around the corner.

There could, for example, be a playground of giant, muti-colored, striped balloons.

Paul and I were just steps from the entrance to the newest section of the High Line, a New York City park I'll be writing more about on this blog next week. But we stopped in our tracks when we came across Rainbow City.

I had never heard of it and knew even less. I gathered that it was sponsored by AOL, and found out a little more about it's history here.

View from above, on the High Line

It really didn't matter anyway. I was attracted to the bright colors like a moth to a flame. It felt like I was prancing around not just in any cartoon, but in anime.

Rainbow City was just one of those things you can't plan for but you can always count on in New York.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paul's Homebrew Nets Him a Fez

Paul has joined yet another club and entered yet another competition.

This time it's really my own fault. A daily email I subscribe to listing cheap and free things to do in New York mentioned a homebrew competition and free samples a few months back. I mentioned it to Paul, and he looked it up. It wasn't long before he became a member of the Knights of Bruklyn.

This is a club of serious homebrewers and, according to Paul, many of them make some seriously good beer. Several times a year they test their chops and invite the world to sample their brews and vote for their favorite. The judges' three favorites and the people's choice of each competition go head-to-head in a brew-off at the end of the year.

Paul entered his first competition with the club earlier this month. Although he didn't place, he was pleased with his showing -- just one point shy of being a contender for third place. I don't care what they say -- his juniper ale was still the best of the bunch for me.

Nevertheless, he still came home with a "prize" -- or at least what he considers one. All new members who enter their first homebrew competition are presented with a fez to wear at that and future meetings. If Paul ever wavered about joining the club -- and I don't think he did -- that in and of itself would have been enough to swing the balance in its favor.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Longest Day of the Year Isn't Long Enough

Yesterday was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.

But it still wasn't long enough for me.

Even though the sun doesn't set until well after the evening has begun here in Brooklyn, it still disappears before it does at home in Ohio. Besides our family and friends, the long days are probably what I still miss the most. I've gotten used to the Laundromat and I don't mind carrying my groceries anymore. Just give me the sun.

Late last week I got it into my head to do a formal comparison. According to
  • New York sunrise: 5:25 a.m.
  • New York sunset: 8:30 p.m.
  • Toledo, Ohio, sunrise: 6:00 a.m.
  • Toledo, Ohio, sunset: 9:12 p.m.
A full 42 extra minutes in northwest Ohio! Yes, I realize New York nearly makes up for that in extra sunlight in the morning, but when have I ever been awake at 5:25 a.m. to enjoy it?

Still, I don't want to complain too loudly. Winter -- and the shortest day of the year -- will be here despite my protestations before I know it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fat Witch Bakery Has My New Favorite Brownie

When Paul and I hosted our latest festivities in February, most people brought beer. One person brought flowers. Another had chocolates to share.

But one friend presented a treat only for me: four brownies from Fat Witch Bakery in Chelsea Market.

One or two of the brownies had nuts in them, so I truly had the best excuse in the world not to share them with my allergic husband. After I took my first bite I wouldn't have wanted to share them anyway.

Fast forward four months and I was in the mood for Fat Witch brownies again. And since Paul was out of town earlier this month to run the Lake Placid Half-Marathon, I had the perfect opportunity to grab a bite.

Better yet, all of the unwrapped brownies are only $1.50 (about a dollar off) after 5 p.m. I treated myself to a caramel brownie and a turtle brownie, the latter filled with pecans and caramel.

In both brownies, the caramel isn't super gooey -- there's just enough there to make the dessert extra moist and sweet. I'm generally not a fan of nuts in desserts, but for these I make a special exception. The turtle brownie, I think, is my favorite.

All of the brownies I've had there are just the perfect consistency -- definitely not cakey but tipping just slightly into the fudgy realm. And one side of the brownie (The top? The bottom? Who cares?) is just a little bit crunchy, keeping the brownie nice and firm.

If a Fat Witch brownie were my treat every time Paul went away, I might shoo him out of the house more often.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Desserts for the Eyes at Ruthy's Bakery

Each time I visit Chelsea Market, I can't help but slow down as I pass Ruthy's Bakery & Cafe.

The last time I was at the market, I actually went inside.

I still didn't buy anything (more about what I did buy next week), but I took a much closer look.

The highlight: "hamburger and french fries" ... made entirely of desserts. That's my kind of meal.

A hamburger and spaghetti and meatballs ... in frosting

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NYC Festival Food: Stuffed Plantains

Delicious festival food.

Bay Ridge's Fifth Avenue Festival was the first Sunday of June, and for once I had a fairly pleasant time.

I associate the festival with heat, noise and headaches.

The first year we lived here, one of the bands was right underneath our bedroom window -- not only did I endure six hours of beating drums and not being able to think straight, but it was preceded by about three hours of clinking and clanking, setting up the stage. While no band has been at that precise location since, last year my head pounded that entire day and I slept through most of the festival.

And every year, band or no band, headache or no headache, is horrendously hot.

But not this year. This year, the bands were sufficiently far away from our apartment, I was in tip-top shape and the weather was warm and pleasant. So Paul and I strolled the mile or so of the festival looking for something to eat.

All I really wanted was an avocado shake. Paul brought one back during last year's festival, and I took a few sips between naps. Delicious. I scoped out two booths that listed the shake on their menu, but no dice. Neither had avocados.

I didn't feel like a corn dog, and while fried Oreos sounded good, it wasn't exactly a healthy lunch. So I stopped at Punto Boricua for an empanada.

I stepped up, ready to place my order, but then I saw something intriguing:

Beef-stuffed plantains.

I couldn't let that go unsampled, so I added that to my order. The empanada was too thin and tasted stale, but the plantain was good enough to be dessert. And if Paul is reading this, I'm sure he's thinking that anything stuffed with meat is his kind of dessert.

The meat cut down the plantain's tartness, and it was very filling.

Next year's goal: stuffed plantains and an avocado shake.

This I skipped.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Summer I Think I Became an Adult

I graduated from Ohio State eight years ago today -- specifically, on Friday the 13th -- which means I could have gone to college twice more in the meantime.

I remember thinking at the time that I couldn't wait to get into the "real world," to actually apply the skills I'd honed. How idealistic. (And if I think that about myself now, I can't wait to look back in 8 more years. Or 58.)

Many people would say that adulthood starts that day, or perhaps when you graduate high school. I've always considered my entrance into adulthood, however, as starting midway between those two points, exactly 10 years ago this summer.

June 2001 was the first summer in which I didn't return to Defiance. Instead, I scanned the classifieds for a room to sublet and moved in with a handful of girls I had never before met. The 12th Avenue house just east of OSU was charming in a grungy sort of way. My tiny furnished room on the third floor was small, with an even smaller window overlooking the back. The acts at the nearby Newport Music Hall drifted into my bedroom all summer.

I had just made my largest purchase to date -- $2,000 to my parents for the 1987 Buick Century my sister Katie nicknamed "Smurfette" for obvious reasons once you saw the color. Katie and I had both driven it throughout high school, and I wasn't likely to get a better deal for a set of off-campus wheels.

Four days a week -- 30 hours a week -- I worked as a page at the Ohio Statehouse, specifically in the Clerk's Office of the House of Representatives. That's where I met Paul. We started dating a few weeks later.

Of course, if you define adulthood as paying all of your own bills, I wasn't quite there yet. It was around this time or perhaps the school year that followed that I started paying an increasing amount of my own rent, food and housing expenses. And when I visited home, Mom and Dad were always sure to send me back to Columbus with a full tank of gas. So I suppose my slide into adulthood was more like a kiddie coaster than Millennium Force.

By that September, I had found an apartment for me and three roommates to live in over the next year, Paul had left for 10 weeks in Mexico and, a few days after that, two planes flew into the World Trade Center.

Summer was over, I was 20 and I was no longer a kid.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Paul's Beer ... in a Brooklyn Restaurant

A white tablecloth.

Linen napkins.

Paul's homebrew.

It was Paul's dream come true when the owner of a local restaurant asked him to brew up a batch of juniper beer to give to his regulars (not sold -- doing so requires following a whole new set of rules and regulations).

Paul was excited enough that he might have done it free of charge -- heck, he might have paid the restaurant for the honor -- so a small stipend was a nice reward, above and beyond swilling his own beer in a fancy sit-down place.

He lugged his brewing equipment to the restaurant, bottled the results a few weeks later and waited.

Then we went to the restaurant to sample the results. Delicious, and even more so since I've watched Paul brew for almost 10 years.

The restaurant's owner says the beer has gotten good reviews, except from the Bud-and-Coors crowd. No surprise there.

Now I'm just waiting for Paul to make me call him brewmaster. I think, however, he's just working toward his hipster badge.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Columbus Pizza in Queens, New York

It was 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I had already been up for five hours.

Paul and I had taken American Airlines' earliest flight from Columbus to LaGuardia that morning. We've done the 6 a.m. flights into New York before after visits to Ohio, and each time it hits me like a ton of bricks that vacation is over.

This time, the ton of bricks took the shape of not only very heavy eyelids, but also hot and muggy weather and an hour commute to work even after we landed at LGA. We catch the M60 bus at the airport, and then we transfer to the subway at Astoria Boulevard. It's easy but annoying.

As Paul and I waited for a Q train at Astoria Boulevard, Paul glanced across the tracks and saw a sign for Columbus Pizza. Fate? Either way, it made us want to turn around and go home.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Ice Creams of Ohio

I've written time and again about how I miss Ohio food and restaurants you simply can't find in New York.

As spring heats up and summer is right around the corner, at the top of that list is Ohio ice cream shops. Or, in Ohio, perhaps that should be "shoppes."

To my delight, my sweet tooth was satisfied with ice cream twice during our trip to Ohio last month, and in two very different ways.

First, Graeter's. This ice creamery was founded in Cincinnati more than 140 years ago and now has locations throughout southeast Ohio, Columbus, Louisville and Indiana. I was introduced to Graeter's shortly before starting at Ohio State and I soon fell in love with the black raspberry chip, with chocolate chunks nearly as big as my thumb.

There's a Grater's in Worthington, right at the farmer's market we attended that Saturday. So I was a bad girl and skipped all the homemade, surely organic treats and went straight to the food I've been craving for almost four years.

It was worth it.

Second, the Town Trolley. This small outpost is in the tiny town of Huntsville, an hour outside of Columbus just off Route 33. I think it sells Hershey's ice cream, and I tend to get black cherry, but the brand or flavor hardly matters. See, the Town Trolley is directly on the route between my parents' house and Paul's, and we would always stop at least once each time we'd visit Defiance in the spring and summer.

That's a tradition you just can't break.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Stormy Sunday Evening in Ohio

The weather, for the most part, cooperated while we were in Ohio.

We were preceded by rains so long and heavy that lawns were like ponds and farmers and gardeners worried about getting their seeds planted. After we left, strong tornado-like winds whipped down branches and scared a small neighborhood a few miles from my parents' house.

But the sky was blue and the sun was out that Sunday afternoon, when my parents hosted a big family get-together and potluck. Two-thirds of the three-car garage was filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents snacking and chatting. The other one-third was reserved for the ping-pong table and the many duels we challenged each other with.

After everyone had left, however, we could see dark clouds barreling over the farmland, quickly coming to a rest over rural Defiance. I could feel the first raindrops as I took my last photo, but the shower didn't last long. The bark was worse than the bite.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Summer Saturday Morning in Ohio

One of my oldest friends got married a couple of weekends ago in northwest Ohio, which gave us the perfect excuse to go home and visit our family and friends.

We arrived in Columbus late one Thursday and departed the following Tuesday morning, early enough so that I was at my desk working by 9:15 a.m. We spent the first half of the long weekend with Paul's family and the latter half with mine.

Since we were in Columbus on a Saturday morning before leaving for the wedding, Paul and I did something we've done only a handful of times since moving to New York: We attended the Worthington Farmers' Market.

Paul's mom has had a table at the market for many years, selling plants, flowers, tomatoes, potatoes and other goodies. When we lived in Columbus, Paul would regularly join his mom in Worthington on Saturday mornings. Despite growing up in the country, I would usually stay in bed. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to visiting the market again, even if it would mean getting up at 6:45 a.m. to get ready, leave and set up before the crowds arrived.

Truth be told, I wasn't much help. I can't tell one plant from the next, and I spent most of the time browsing other booths. And yes, that was me taking a 20 minute break inside the van, reading a magazine. I like to think I provided moral support, but I'm not so sure.

Paul was also excited to buy some beef jerky, which he realized he forgot in his mom's refrigerator as we drove to the airport Tuesday morning. Whoops.

Allergies bothered both Paul and me nearly the whole time we were in Ohio, and being around so many plants and greenery probably didn't help. Sneezing because of nature, however, is eminently better than sneezing because of pollution, as I was doing Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan.


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