Sunday, July 30, 2006

Finally, Thai Food!

Had a really nice dinner with the gals at Nanking, a Thai restaurant. I got to eat all sorts of different food, since Jill is the queen of appetizers. It was decorated beautifully - tall bamboo shoots places around the restaurant - creating little screens and dividing up the space. It was dark, but inviting - like a little hideaway. There was a private room to the side, done in reds and gold with a huge Buddha - it looked like a little theatre. Plus a pretty, lit aquarium next to the bar.

We ordered drumsticks with a sticky, ginger sauce, lamb chops, fried lotus stems and a papaya salad. The drumsticks were good - a little too sticky for my liking though - I'm not a wing person, so take that at face value. The lamb chops were delicious, cooked perfectly with just a hint of spice to them - I could have eaten a plate of them. The lotus stems were surprising. They were fried and then coated in a sweet and sour type sauce. I thought they were kind of like zucchini or a vegetable that, when fried tastes of the batter and whatever you put on it. They weren't heavy, but were more about the texture than the taste. The sauce was good - not too sweet but a nice counterbalance to the other spicy items we had. The papaya salad surprised me the most though. I was thinking it would be very fruity but it was....fragrant, refreshing. The papaya and vegetables were julienned, so it was almost like eating cold noodles - very Asian, but so different.

Jill ordered eggplant in a garlicy tomato sauce, Steph ordered shrimp with black bean sauce and I ordered duck with curry sauce. We got 2 bowls of jasmine rice which sopped up the fragrant and unique sauces. I loved the shrimp - the black bean sauce was delicate, not cloying like the kind you get from the local Chinese take-out. The eggplant was tender and tasted just enough like garlic. The duck was different....but I'm not sure I liked it enough to order it again. It was cooked nicely, but I'm thinking chicken would better compliment the sauce. We all shared and there was enough to go around and for leftovers. (Of course, we were also sufficiently padded by the appetizers)

The owner was very nice and came over to us - chatted us up since the restaurant was still so new. It was nice to get the attention, and nice to see someone making sure that their patrons were enjoying themselves. He sent over complimentary port for dessert, so of course we ordered fried bananas with ice cream. The bananas were still firm, not mushy, and the coating was sugary and crisp. A perfect ending to the meal.

We gave it 4 #s out of 4!

(Last month we tried Peter's Pasta. The food was delicious, and the service attentive, but it was a little more expensive than we would have liked - good for a cheaper lunch, but expensive for dinner. That one we gave 2 1/2 #s)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Happy Birthday Rabbit

Got to go to a birthday party tonight and just have some relaxed fun.

Lesson of the Day:

Jack Daniels mixes much more nicely with Pepsi than Coke.

Just a personal observation is all.

Friday, July 28, 2006

When Did I Become a Woo-er?

So, I started my day off yesterday with a trip to the gym, which had touted a Salsa class instead of Kickboxing. I was all for that. I get there and just sit and relax for a little while. Women are trudging in and once word gets around that it's not kickboxing some storm off angrily. (Hello...there's been a sign in the front for weeks now saying this is what's going on.) Evelyn comes in and I'm relieved. She's a fantastic instructor and really is laid back. I really like her classes. So she gets us started and I got so into it. Loved it. My inner Alex Owens ( was released. Thankfully there were no chairs or water release chains around. But it was just good fun - I didn't care about making a fool of myself or being self-conscious, I just had fun. And embarassingly enough, found myself replying with a "Wooooooo!" when Evelyn asked "How's everyone doing?" *hanging my head in shame*

So I felt mildly vamped up since I got my groove thing on, went food shopping and went home to chill before picking up Diane. I was glad I offered to take her since she was in a bit of pain after the doctor visit. Plus, I'm just so indebted to her after she did so much for me (and Tom) when I was sick. So I was glad to help her out. We hung out, ate Chinese food and actually had a nice evening with the guys who joined us after work. And, had someone told me about the glory that is cream ices at Ralph's long goodness. I'm slowly working my way through that menu. They're better than regular ices (which to me are always very melty, too sweet and too fruity), a little creamy, but not as pleghmy as regular ice cream. Delish.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lessons Learned While Traveling To The Orange County Fair

Saturday came in gloomy. But I had faith that the weather might improve while I drove first to upper Manhattan to fetch Annie and Ahmed and then to Middletown for the Orange County Fair.

Lesson #1 - There is no need to go over the Triboro Bridge when going to Annie and Ahmed's. Yup. I made the error of not knowing that the FDR and the Harlem River Parkway were the one and the same road. So, I unknowingly got onto the Triboro Bridge, paid the darn toll and looped around Rikers Island. Luckily, I easily made my way back on course and still made it to their apartment in an hour, and we were on the road.

Lesson #2 - If you are heading anywhere near New Jersey, go on a half-filled tank or less. This is because gas prices in Jersey are at least 10-20 cents cheaper a gallon. I thought I was being well-prepared and smart in making sure the tank was filled. Alas. I could have gotten cheaper gas.

Lesson #3 - In-car snacks are very important. We didn't want to eat too much before arriving at the fair, lest we fill up before getting our hands on all that greasy/fried/cheap/stomach-ache-inducing fair food. We were looking forward to funnel cakes (of which Ahmed didn't know), cotton candy, corn dogs (for me, the non-Muslim), popcorn and homemade rural goodies like pies and other baked delights. But it was a good thing we had something to snack on, as we eventually got punchy and snackish. And if we weren't entirely starving, we'd be able to pace ourselves better. We slowly made our way north and west, the light drizzle we first encountered getting steadily harder. But since we kept hitting pockets of non-rain, we thought we had a chance....leading us to,

Lesson #4 - Always check weather forecasts before doing an outdoors activity.
We arrived at the parking lot, paid $5 for parking (Lesson #5 - There will always be free parking somewhere else, you may have to walk a bit, but it's better than being an out-of-town rube.) and sat in the lot while the rain poured down on the car. Ahmed did work and Annie and I tried amusing ourselves by coming up with alternate plans. We checked Ahmed's Blackberry and found that the rain would just keep getting harder and harder (3pm - Hard Rain, 4pm - Hard Rain, 5pm Strong Storms, 6pm Strong Storms) and it seemed that the fates just didn't want us visiting a fair. So we cut our losses, made tentative plans to hit the fair the following weekend and made our way back towards home. But before we left the area, we drove around the fairgrounds and found that they were quite extensive. We saw the bleachers for the "Masters of the Chainsaw" show, all sorts of food tents, a ton of nausea-inducing rides and even an "Old-Time Photo" booth. The anticipation of seeing Ahmed dressed in Old West gear gave Annie and I a good case of the giggles. So we scouted it out and thought maybe we might try again next weekend.

We then made our way back - stopping at Nyack, which I remembered to be a quaint little town "nestled in the lower Hudson Valley." So we stopped, parked the car and decided to look into the cute stores and find somewhere to eat. We went into a few nice stores, they bought some nicely scented soaps and Annie treated me to an "Arabic Groove" cd, which boasted the best of contemporary African and Middle Eastern songs. It is actually quite excellent and I love it. We searched for a restaurant which had promise and narrowed it down to a Northern Italian, Japanese, Thai and even an Irish Pub that touted a nice selection of seafood. So we went with the Irish Pub on the basis that we could always get good sushi back in the city. We had a lovely dinner (rack of lamb for me!) and then went in search of the little place that the local map was quoted as saying "Voted the best desserts in the Lower-Hudson-Valley." Sounded promising to us. So off we went in the pouring rain, giggling and getting sopping wet until we came across Temptations. Annie opted for a flourless chocolate cake, Ahmed for the chocolate mousse cake and me for the Kentucky Derby pie (think a nuty chocolate chip cookie in pie form.) We also grabbed for some of the vintage candy; Charleston Chew (here then known as Chucky Chews) for Annie, (Lesson #6 - Chuckie Chews are the most amazing candy I've recently discovered. How come nobody told me about these things? I remember them being hard and tooth-dislodging, not fluffy pieces of vanilla-y heaven) and rock candy and Atomic Fireballs for Tom to bring him home a surprise (in addition to the mini-squirt gun and egg-laying chicken I nabbed at a toy store). It was a cute place, with incredibly helpful service. I'm always amazed that there are still younger adults who are happy to do their job. The only other place I've recently encountered this is at the local Ralph's Italian Ices, where I was waited upon by not one cheerful teen but two. I was astounded. So we then traveled home, and quickly grabbed the Tappan Zee Bridge (which Ahmed had never gone across before) where we found Lesson #7 - The Tappan Zee Bridge is cheaper than the George Washington Bridge. It's $6 to get back into NYC if you don't have EZ Pass ($5 if you have EZ Pass during rush hours, $4 during non-rush hours) - $4 to take the Tappan Zee. So we were delighted to have "bucked the system" so to speak.

We make our way to Blockbuster on Broadway and 103rd Street and grab "Freedomland" to watch while eating our desserts. It was an okay movie, thought-provoking enough and has lots of good acting to it. (I took out the book today from the library.) After the movie I work my way home and make it home in less than an hour. Off to bed I go, not having visited the fair, but far wiser than I was when I left in the morning.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shrimp, Broadway and Fabulousness

My fabulous night on Wednesday. First, I went to the gym and had a good workout. I noticed while checking in that this woman wearing a scarf in that tell-tale cancer person way was talking to another woman about her hair growing back. I got a little bold and walked over and said "Mine grew back the exact same way!" They both looked at me and marvelled at how curly and thick it is. I spoke a little to the woman and we compared notes and treatments and on the way out we both wished each other well. It's odd, but when you find someone who's been through the same thing as you, there's an instant kinship. It's nice and strange and sad all at the same time.

So I get home and relax (or try to in the 90 degree heat) till I need to get dressed, wearing a kimono-type top, black skirt and strappy sandals. I let my hair run free and grab my new knock-off designer bag. The train was fairly air conditioned. We get to the city (Mom and I) and start making our way uptown. We duck into a little body product store that was new to me ( I grabbed mango body butter, mango shower gel, a new natural sponge and a lipstick for mom. We meander further uptown to meet Annie and Ahmed at Avra, this amazing Greek restaurant ( where I had grilled shrimp over the most amazing moussaka I've ever had. Even before the amazing shrimp was a little dish with olives, bread, hummus and olive oil. I could have just eaten bowls of radishes slathered with hummus. Annie of course ordered dessert as did Ahmed, so I sampled a delicious chocolate lava cake with fig ice cream and semolina custard. to the theatre to see the hugely acclaimed new production of Sweeney Todd, starring Patti "the original Evita" LuPone. ( She's just a powerhouse. I sat there watching the opening number with tears in my eyes, just astounded at the people on stage. There were 2 Tony Award winners. It was phenomenal. The pared-down orchestrations were so intriguing, the bare set worked perfectly, and the fact that the actors played the instruments was magical. I didn't know what to watch - the actors singing or the ones playing. It is a mind-blowing production and so completely different than how it was done originally. So I somehow make it through the show without fainting dead away from ecstasy and we beat it over to the stage door to wait for the actors. We get autographs from everyone and I got my picture taken with Patti LuPone. I couldn't stand it. What a perfect night. Plus, it's always fun to be in NYC. So much energy, so much enthusiasm.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunday, Lazy Sunday
I had a truly relaxing Sunday. Went to the gym, where I really worked hard, which felt good. I was actually almost able to use the larger weights, which is rewarding. Plus, I sweat a gazillion times more from that weight training class than I did from the step class the day before. Then I ran a few errands; picked up some clear polish to give myself a proper pedicure (I'm Not Really a Waitress courtesy of OPI), and a bagel to toast at home. Got home, took a loooong shower and actually put on a robe to lounge in. I was able to read, watch a movie and do my toes. It was so nice just to pamper myself.

Since the new boss, I feel like my stress level has dropped considerably, which is so odd. You'd think a new boss would make more stress. I guess that's speaking volumes about the old boss.
Global Village
So I went on Saturday to a "barbecue" at the home of friends of Annie and Ahmed to celebrate her graduation. It wasn't a barbecue - it was more of a casual party in which we got to meet a lot of their friends which was really nice. And as I was sitting with this Egyptian/Palestinian/Iraqi group I noticed something. They were all mostly well-off; dentists, doctors, real estate moguls. They all drove nice cars and the home I was at was absolutely breathtaking. However....unlike "Americans" they never mention their wealth, never mention things they've acquired with their wealth and never really make distinctions about class. Which is so strange, since it's so huge in the countries of where they come from. Now, is this because they think it's un-American to do such things? Which would be ironic because I've found Americans to be so rude in this department. People think nothing of comparing what they have to what you have to see if it gets a response from you. Or is it because they are more polite than the average American? Just an observation/pondering.

But all in all, it was a really nice gathering. It was nice to see the people who care about A-squared and see them all together. For me, any time I can have Middle Eastern food is a good thing - everything was delicious and I always relish (no pun intended) in being able to try something different. With desserts there's such a focus on honey and semolina rather than chocolate and cake. It was so neat.