Sunday, March 13, 2011

2010...Over?! At least I squeezed in a few tremendous rides!

I hate to open this post on such a down note but oyy, regretful! 365+ days gone and I only managed to squeeze in 2 posts? How can that be? Perhaps because this, like most blogs, is really just a glorified journal. Otherwise to say, the lack of a dedicated audience breeds the lack of commitment on the author's part. Yes, "me" in this instance.

Nonetheless-- to now counterbalance the above with some zealous cheer-- were I to summarize my year/my experiences/my findings/my travels in but a single post, it would have to come down to this: Bike touring has got to be the most radical way to travel (Insert many Exclamations!). I owe a whole bunch of thanks to my pretty radical guy for sharing his adventurous spirit with me and for teaching me so much about bike touring. As we pedaled our way through Thailand this past November (2010), I was fairly convinced that I was the luckiest girl in the world.

After a few days in Bangkok and Chang Rai, we geared up and pedaled our way North to Mae Salong! As we stopped for water breaks and did our best to communicate with some of the local tribes, not one person failed to break into hysterical /congratulatory laughter when they heard of our plan to bike the off-road mountainous trails to Mae Salong.

The trip had its struggles, namely my fear of swooping downhill tracks, but it was so So SO very worth it. I don't know whether all Thai tribes are uniformly that wonderfully warm and welcoming, or perhaps whether they were intrigued by our sense of spirit, but biking through the Lahu, Akha and Karen villages was surely the most heartening experience. Most people offered us water, some engaged us in good conversation, and yet others invited us to their wedding, celebrated over lunch in a beautiful bamboo treehouse!

After we alas made it to Mae Salong and spent a few days recuperating and exploring the tea fields of the region, we then decided to bike some more massive hills on our way farther west to Tha Thon. When my thighs pleaded aloud that they'd had about all they could take, we were able to hop a long tail boat back to Chang Rai before we flew south to Ko Yao Noi, a beautiful Muslim island located in Phang Nga Bay, just between the provinces of Krabi and Phuket.

This half of the trip was a tad more relaxing, but there was still plenty of adventure to be had between the snorkeling trips, cave exploration, rock climbing ventures, and hours upon hours of kayaking. Funny enough, even while I loved every moment of our time in the south, I found myself wishing that I had had a two-wheeler in tow!

For every moment that offered acute levels of the most unparalleled freedom, there was also a consciousness that this was indeed how life was SUPPOSED to be lived...We simply rode. We simple WERE.

Never will I Ever forget how it felt to ride through the beautiful landscapes of Northern Thailand... "Epic!"

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A few favorite New York moments of late...

An afternoon escape in BBG

Everyone loves a good guitar player.

Berlin flashback.

One of those perfectly framed moments that makes you love your city just a tiny bit more: industrial badlands that I still find so damn sexy.

A rhythmic afternoon at Miss Favela with pitchers of caipirinha (dangerous and delicious), pao de queijo (greasy and PERFECT), and a few of my favorite smiling faces.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to the Basics

We're all guilty of it. We talk and talk about weekend jaunts out of the city, full of rugged trails, simple flavors, the sound of crickets and voracious reading with only the light of the moon and the fire to help you flip the pages. But it's surely true that us urban dwellers rarely find the time nor make the effort to reserve the zip car that would theoretically zip us out of the city.

Well, I'm quite proud to say that i've alas walked the walk, in no small part thanks to the planning of one lovely man who packed the backpacks and printed out the trail maps.

Alas, after a 7 hours plane ride, a 2 hour drive and a 6 mile hike, full of trail-mix nibbles along the way, we happily arrived at the tremendous destination: Wildcat Camp in Point Reyes, CA. Lo and behold! A magnificent and seemingly endless field of brilliant, yellow wild flowers, overlooking a flawless span of beach front that also extended for miles. I was completely swept away. And, only 15 minute later, as we took our first elated gallop into the icy cold water, I was literally swept away by the powerful swoop of an oncoming wave. Retreat I did, and what better than a hike over to the dazzling Alamere Falls to make me forget my bruised right side?!

We climbed, we plucked fresh watercress, and we admired the waterfall as it basked in the warm glow of sunset. And then, upon returning to the camp site, I learned to pitch a tent and cook meat tortellini on an (adorable) little fuel camping stove: 25 pumps on the lever to build sufficient pressure inside the fuel tank and then light the flame, being very careful not to scorch your fingertips. I was full and wonderfully fatigued by the time we zipped into our sleeping bags with a thermos of hot coco to further soothe us to sleep.

The next day's adventure was equally as incredible. After another demanding hike out of Wildcat camp, followed by a restorative, sunny ride along the gorgeous Highway 1 and Bodega Bay area, we landed at our 2nd camp site, eager for another moonlit dinner. And this time, we would use the fire pit to roast our aluminum-wrapped fresh tilapia, flavored only with butter, parlsey sprigs, lemon juice and s&p. Perhaps a rather simple dish, yes, but I tasted the sea and the smoke nonetheless. It was all that I had hoped for.

And then, once again sublimely exhausted from another beautiful day, we pitched our tent on the beach, under a universe of shiny pearls. I fell asleep silently proclaiming, from here on out I most definitely Will hike the hike more often.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's Your Weakness?

It comes in all shapes and sizes and, though widely available, is revered as a precious commodity by many. I may go so far as to argue that ones favorite _ e _ _ e _ _ is both more revealing and more captivating than even the most spellbinding baby blues.
Correct you are, dear friends. Dessert is no laughing matter. And the New York culinary world would agree. With pastry artists of the like of Jacques Torres, restaurants tycoons know that the last lick is just as important as the first bite.
And the nominees are
Bond StreetChocolate Meltdown. I promise you, Ive never seen a chocolate cake ooze with such ease and such audacity. Its a site to be seen and a bite which will never be forgotten. Yes, it's a classic, but there's clearly a good reason for that.
Apizz…“Mela al Forno. Translation. An apple-crumb pie in all its glory: baked apple-pecan crumble, caramelized apples, brown sugar crumbs and creamy vanilla gelato. Another oldie but I-can-hardly-contain-myself goodie.
Indochine…“Roasted Banana. Agreed. They could be more creative when it comes to naming conventions, but the dessert itself is lip-smacking good. Take a roasted banana, roll it in coconut sticky rice, plate it in a shallow pool of coconut rice pudding, and drizzle on some toasted hazelnuts for good measure. Im a blubbering fool when it comes to bold textures and sweet n salty duosor anything coconut for that matter.
ChickalisciousTruth be told, Ive still not been. Its shameful, I know, but I'd think it wholly more improper to let my absence deter me from spreading the good word. They dont merely specialize in dessert. Instead, dessert and only dessert is served as a complete, three course meal. A vanilla-cinnamon baked fig as an amuse-bouche, a poached pear salad with lemon-verbena ice cream as an entrée, and a warm chocolate tart with red-wine sauce for, well, dessert.
And What would this world be without ice cream?
Il Laboratorio del Gelatoice cream is a science at this Lower East Side gem. Flavors range from the traditional vanilla, chocolate and dulce de leche, to the more colorful wasabi, red bean, or Thai chili chocolateand then some
GromI was there opening week (a lifetime ago at this point)along with the rest of the 200-person lineand on the Upper West Side no less. Apparently its reputation had preceded it, but it was well worth the wait.
All jokes aside, its desserts like these that make me feel so lucky to live in New York.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Don't Buy Food from Strangers

Such is the maxim of any true farmer, not to mention the HomePage spread of my new, neighborhood favorite, Blooming Hill Farm. 

It started this a.m. with a craving, "Mom, let's drive over to Adam's Farm for a few fresh fuji's".
30 minutes for a few apples? might easily guess her response. But then came a wise interjection of the ever-astute step-father, "Why don't you two check out that small, local farm, ummm, Blooming Hill I think".  And so it was. Only 5 minutes by car from mom's and I was giddy as could be, camera in hand. 

Sitting right off of Route 208 in Bloomingrove, New York, this intimate, family-run farm began 27 years ago under the leadership of Guy Jones, gardener gone farmer. And while the hidden drive indeed lends itself to a small, garden feel,  I was happily surprised to see that the dirt path expands into a much larger plot of land...160 acres large, there upon housing several lovely vegetable varietals, as well as a rustic barnyard market & restaurant. And indeed the barnyard made me smile. Colorful fruits and veggies spilling out of raw-wood boxes; a tantalizing aroma bursting from the sectioned-off kitchen; a rolling stream running through the back-garden restaurant. It was just enough to encourage my yelp to the passerby waitress, "I love this place!". She, in turn, grabbed my arm warmly, "Awww, I'm so glad!"

And as she continued to enlighten me, it seems I may very well have been late to the catch, but some of our favorite & farm-friendly NY chefs have long since been in the know. In fact, not only does the farm custom grow seasonal produce for various New York restos, but alternating, New York chefs also drive up & cook-up a monthly, candle-lit dinner for 50 lucky restauranteurs. Garden brunches are equally as exciting, with weekly imports of Balthazar's buttery croissants. And, as you may have guessed, Blooming Hill indeed partakes in Union Square's Greenmarket festivities. It's all great news to me.

But further still, and arguable the best takeaway of the day, Blooming Hill offers a 10% discount on CSA sign-ups, offering shareholders yearly access to a host of fresh produce as grown by Blooming Hill, rather than a single, seasonal crop as offered by the traditional CSA. 
In other words, it's a pretty cool opportunity to make a more dedicated contribution to sustainable food in exchange for a colorful feast of fruits & veggies. Ever was there a better win-win?

Well, I'm thus far only 1 bosch pear in, but make no mistake, Blooming Hill, my belly salutes you.

Blooming Hill Farm
1251 Route 208
Blooming Grove, New York 10914
(845) 782 7310

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Welcome Home BBQ

I was the hit of the party, or so they had me believe. The Actual Armstrong here: Grandma's twist on homemade arepas.

It starts with 8 ripe plantains, stripped and boiled until doughy. At the same time, finely dice 1/4 cup of green chives and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.

Your plantains should be sufficiently supple after roughly 40 minutes of high heat, so go ahead and strain the boiling water and then have fun mashing up your plantains into a large mixing bowl. Throw in the chives and cheese and then hand stir until your plantain clumps look equally fromage-y. Salt to taste, then hand rolling your plantain dough into silver dollar-sized pancakes.

Pre-heat your frying pan over medium heat and pour in a thin pool of olive oil.
And alas, the moment we've all been waiting for, lay your plantain cakes into the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp. Let your cooked plantains cool on a paper towel lined dish. This will also help absorb any excess oil.

Easy, delicious, and just the touch of grandma that i'd been missing in my time abroad!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Adieu, Adieu... to you and you and you

From Paris to Austria, thank you little ones Von Trapp.

What more to do but celebrate and bid farewell to my beloved Paris, Parisians and expats alike? Choose the bar. The bedazzling clink of tonight's kir royale will forever resonate. 

One Option:
Le Grand Prairie, brought to us from la Bellevilloise as their way of saying, "There there, my little Parisian. Come sit upon my lawn chair and sip a mojito. You, too, will soon realize that remaining in Paris for August isn't really all that bad".    
Converted from a loft into a very colorful prairie, Le Grand Prairie is an awesome lounge space with a faux, al fresco feel, perfect for an evening cocktail with friends or else an afternoon session with your latest and greatest paperback.

Second Option:
As an ode to my first 6 months in Paris, perhaps commemorate the farewell with a blast from the past: Le Perle, Paris' beloved grunge bar on Rue Vielle du Temple, just in the heart of Le Marais. Ahhh yes, many a weekend after weekend was spent at this fashionista favorite, sipping vin rouge after vin rouge, intermingled with  vodka tonic after vodka tonic. Memories.

Le Perle
78 Rue Vielle du Temple
Paris 75003
+33 (0) 1 42 72 69 93

Third Option and This Evening's Winner:
The infamous Andy Wahloo bar and lounge. Delicious cocktails and nifty, North African pop art aside, the venue is the perfect blend of laid back bar married with fun hipster scene. And with seating that spills out onto the backyard terrace, neighboring the darling "Derriere" concept resto, there's plenty of room for all the fashionably late comers. 

Andy Wahloo
69 Rue Gravilliers
Paris 75003
+33 (0) 1 42 71 20 38

Always and forever,  each and all of the above will remain near and, yes, very very dear.