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Monday, August 10, 2009

My Sister, NYC and Food

"When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too."

"Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us."

Pema Chodron "When Things Fall Apart"

My sister from Maine was in town over the weekend. We had a wonderful time, and of course, much of the visit was about food and the various obstacles we both are facing in life. She is living a fairly uneventful day-to-day life right now.

Me? Not so much.

My therapist told me to read Pema Chodron's book "When Things Fall Apart". Ominous title, huh? My therapist is a Buddhist and a wonderful man. He and I think alike. Of course, I already have the book in my private library. On the train today, I was read the first three chapters and came across the quotes above.

The idea in the book is when we are faced with extreme situations, we need to celebrate and dive into these moments to find true enlightenment and awareness. As humans, we intuitively jump away from conflict or 'problems'. We want everything to be smooth and easy going. But when we do we deprive ourselves of valuable lessons.

I know I've had my share of avoidance. When life becomes painful or extremely difficult (as it has been of late), I wanna pour myself glass after glass of box wine on a Tuesday night and float away from the present moment and into a state of nothingness. I have to remind myself my shit will be there on Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. I have a choice like all of us have a choice. I can live my life in the present, take action and keep moving forward despite how uncertain and shaky I feel, or I can join the millions of others and drink and smoke and Botox and buy my way into avoidance.

But I know that's not the answer. It really, really sucks when you are aware of what you need to do and it really, REALLY fucking sucks when you simply cannot allow yourself to behave the way you once did to avoid the great lessons which come from enduring and living through life's inevitable pain.

We can open up or we can shut down when we are brought to the edge in life. It's our choice. The key is to stay open, receptive and present during the most trying times of our lives, because there is where the truth of our lives lies.

Pain in the ass, but it's the the right way to live.

I'm turning 45 in 2 weeks. My life is, probably, half over. I'm at a mid-point and as a spiritual warrior, I am always on the hunt to understand life. The way to understand is to be open and present for this moment. It's all we've got.

Jesus - on the one hand I feel like I sound like a tripped out hippie from a bad Oliver Stone movie, but on the other I feel I make sense in some fucked up way.

I can just hear Dennis Hopper saying this line - "Life is a fucking trip, man, it's a fucking trip and all you can do sometimes is hang on. The wind will be blowin' through your fucking hair but all you can do is say, Hey man, I'm alive and that's pretty damn good, you know?"

Okay then!

Come with me, my spiritual warriors, as I detail the weekend of fantastic NYC food my sister and I experienced this weekend!


I took my sister to one of the best Indian restaurants in all of NYC - JACKSON DINER. Check out the Yelp link (no official web site):

Some of the reader online give negative reviews of this restaurant because, well, they're buttheads. It comes from living in such an egocentric city. They truly feel NYC is the center of the world. Very fucked up. Ignore their depressed and cynical attitude. This place is great. I've eaten here dozens of times and each and every time, it's fantastic. Worth a trip!

They are in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, considered by many to be the most culturally diverse area in all of NYC. Let me tell you - you step off the friggin' train and there are authentic Vietnamese restaurants to your right, amazing Chinese restaurants to your left, Ethiopian food behind you and the most wonderfully diverse and colorful strip of Little India anywhere in America.

For only $10.95 from Noon to 4PM Monday-Sunday you can partake of a wonderful variety of dishes. Fiery Chicken Tikki Masala, Murg Tikka, Lamb Korma, Murg Kadai (tasty and exotic chicken legs with spicy herbs) get a feel of how extensive their menu is, take a look:

It's a true taste sensation. They always offer goat curry along the Chili Chicken Curry in the buffet - I'm not a fan of the goat. Too gamey. But don't miss out on the homemade potato and curry chickpea flour crepes made in the corner by the buffet! Sublime.

Here is my sister plowing down on her SECOND plate:

And here is your Food Therapist on his third plate...don't judge me! The food is THAT good:

After we waddled out of Jackson Diner, we headed into town and stumbled upon a wonderful little treat!!

It's a tiny storefront in Soho called "Baked by Melissa." She's had a lot of press so I won't retread what may have been written, but suffice to say her tiny little, bite size cupcakes are a cute, novel idea which my sister LOVED.

We had the "S'mores", the "Cookies and Cream" and "Cookie Dough." Far and away, our favorite was the "S'mores." All of the tiny cupcakes are stuffed and very tender, but the "Cookies and Cream" was as bit dry and the "Cookie Dough" to sweet.

She has a cute website and nice fun little photo contest going on. She is also a young, successful business woman who is self made and such accomplishments ALWAYS deserve your food dollars.

Check her out:

While I like the attitude of Melissa and I adore how cute and quaint her site is, truly the best cupcakes right now in NYC can be found at Crumbs. No, not at Magnolia in the West Village. Magnolia has gone downhill since the owners divorced. Rumor has it the husband took all of the good recipes and started Crumbs. It shows. Crumbs is rock and roll cupcakes. Soft, dense and full of love, love, love. Magnolia could use some love. Their baked goods are very depressed. Check out crumbs:

We also tasted a fairly good Crabcake Sandwich at the infamous Dean and Deluca in Soho, as well as a very tasty Grilled Portobello and Vegetable Sandwich from Dean and Deluca. Despite the fact the food is WAY over-priced and the service staff a bit snooty, the food is, on the whole, good...but mostly for snobby, rich New Yorkers.

The next day was dinner at the house. We cooked up a French and Italian feast.

This was the menu:

  • Butter Beans, Dijon Mustard, Chives and Olive Oil Mixture on sliced baguette...
  • Tiny Crocque Monsieur sandwiches
  • Five Cheese Platter with cracked pepper crackers and toasted herb bread
Main meal:
  • Three cheese, homemade Italian-style Lasagna with Spicy Sausage and Sirloin Sauce.
The lasagna I've detailed before on the blog (do a search if you can't find it), so I won't go into the recipe again, but it did turn out quite well and feeds a crowd:

The appetizers were very cool. Very easy, very French and partially inspired by one my idols, Jacques Pepin. I always like to make one meatless appetizer which is lighter and a bit more elegant, and one a bit heavier and with meat. These two balance each other out very well, especially when I served them with a variety of French cheeses and crackers.

It's very simple. For the Beans, buy the best loaf of white French baguette you can find. Mix in a bowl one can of drained and rinsed Butter Beans (big, white, substantial beans in any supermarket), a few teaspoons of chopped chives, 2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (depending on taste), 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, cracked pepper to taste and no more than 1/2 teaspoon salad and top 20 pieces of 1/2 inch diced baguette slices. Do this 2-3 hours before the party so the bread soaks up the tasty juices.

The tiny Croque Monsieurs are a bit heavier, but everyone loved them. Buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farms Country White bread. You need thick bread for this and this is the best on the market. The next part is very simple. Get 1/2 pound of Gureye cheese (famous and amazing French cheese) from the butcher sliced so each slice fits evenly across a slice of bread. Get 1/4 pound of thinly sliced boiled ham, lower-sodium if they have it. Get out a jar of Dijon mustard. Put two slices on the cutting board. Spread a thin slice of mustard on one of the slices. Lay the cheese across this slice. Lay 2 slices of the ham. Cover with another piece of bread. Cheese again, as well as ham. Cover with a third piece of bread. Make three separate sandwiches. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat oven to 350 degrees and coat each side of the sandwiches with 1 teaspoon melted butter. Bake for 12 minutes, flipping half way through. Take out of the oven when they are browned, let cool, then cut into 18 pieces, 6 per sandwich. Serve with napkins or toothpicks, if desired.

I served this before the lasagna. The Croque Monsieur's were so heavy everyone had a small piece of lasagna and a bit of side salad and were very content.

Serve all of this with constant wine, and you'll have a winner every time. Remember - the present moment is all you have, so cook up with your family and friends now and have a fabulous night of food and love!

I'm Mikey Bryan, I'm your Food Therapist - Let's Cook!

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, bravo! Excellent you and loved my time with you! Now, go get another big glass of that boxed wine and toast to our big wonderful family...and food!