WHAT WE DID ON OUR SUMMER VACATION

NYCIt’s not quite summer.  And, it was actually a “working vacation.” 

However, when you wake up late in New York City, wander down the hotel elevator, pick up the New York Times food section at the host stand, slide into a bar seat and order a delicious cappaccino…life will force you to pause for a moment and smile. 

When you wander down the elevator, pick up the Times, slide into a bar seat and order a delicious cappaccino at Danny Meyer’s newest restaurant, Maialino, life will force you to pause for a moment and smile…and realize that you are truly expericning one of this city’s – this LIFE’S – greatest treasures – a dining experience that exceeds your greatest expectations. 

A week in New York City for a foodie is akin to the fat kid in a candy store!  You just can’t get enough.  And this city appears to continually offer one exceptional experience after another.  In a matter of seven days, we visited well over two dozen restaurants, bars and lounges.  We poked through menus, quizzed hostess and bartenders, tormented waiters over ingredients, and made a point to visit dozens of kitchens, coat check rooms, host stands and restrooms. 

On day two of our trip, we played one of our favorite games.  Go to a great restaurant, have a seat at the bar, order an appetizer and a drink, and then ask the bartender for a recommendation for our next destination.  We began at Momofuku, David Chang’s inspired interpretation of Asian-fusion cuisine.  The steamed buns with pork belly were delicious, but we were most impressed by the bartender’s creation – a coffee cognac manhattan.  Words will never do this cocktail justice.   We humbly recommend that you simply make an airplane reservation as soon as possible, land at some airfield close to Manhattan, summon car service, and find yourself delivered to the bar of Momofuku.  Order this cocktail and the steamed pork buns.  Repeat as necessary. Then, return to the airport and immediatley begin reflecting upon how great your life is and just how lucky you are and how charmed your life truly is.  If you can stay for a while, ask the bartender for a recommendation for your next stop, as well.

One week in New York.  We walked for approximately six hours per day, and still managed to gain six pounds. We visited 20-30 bars, restaurants, diners and shacks.  We took notes on our iphone.  We posted pictures to Facebook and tweeted amazingly delicious dishes.  We carefully watched our servers and took pains to tip generously after interrogating our bartenders. 

On day seven, it occurred to us that we had yet to see Times Square.  We had not seen a single Broadway show, an off-Broadway show, an opera, or a concert.  We came, we tasted, we watched, and we learned. 

We arrived home exhausted.  And smiling. 

We can see Times Square anytime!

(It’s a summer of travel.  Stay tuned for dispatches from San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Paris!)

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GOOD PEOPLE DOING GOOD THINGS ( The “Foster Soles” Charity Benefit at Pasadena’s Bar Celona Restaurant)

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WE LOVE BRILLIANCE!

And, the good folks at Hillside’s Foster Care Center have come up with the most brilliant idea EVER for a charity benefit!

FOSTER SOLES is an online auction of autographed celebrity shoes, and it is the primary fundraising activity designed to support the Hillsides Children’s Foster Care Center.  This year, almost ONE HUNDRED FIFTY celebrities graciously sent us autographed shoes – from Joan River’s fuschia Manolo’s, to Ryan Seacrest’s clean white tennis shoes, to Elton John’s exotic, zippered yellow slippers.  The outpouring of support was heartening, especially in a year in which the Center has discovered itself in financially difficult circumstances. 

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Jack & Karen Huang, two of Pasadena’s most committed philanthropists, once again offered their little culinary jewel, Bar Celona, as the host restaurant for this year’s event.  The red carpet kickoff event was hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky, and was covered by tv’s immensely popular celebrity expose – EXTRA, as well as every noteworthy local television news outlet.  By 5pm, the news trucks were already lining the streets of Old Town’s Colorado Boulevard, with reporters filing segments for all late night news casts.  As well, local coverege of the event was immense, with every local media group sending along a representative to cover the event for print media.  The happy result?  A SOLD OUT EVENT, with hundreds of guests enjoying tapas and sangria, and moving from display to display, including entire casts – from soap operas, to “Dancing with the Stars” – to Ellen’s crisp white converse, to Tim McGraw’s well-worn cowboy boots.  The booze was removed from above the bar, revealing vast displays of celebrity shoes, alongside the 8×10 glossy photos of the shoe’s former owner.  And all for a good cause…

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Please visit Hillside’s for more information, or to offer your time and your talents.

For more information on this event, or to bid on the autographed celebrity shoes, please visit Clothes Off Our Back .

Pasadena’s Bar Celona Restaurant was proud to once again host this BRILLIANT event! 

…A very special thanks to the gracious generosity of Jack & Karen Huang for making this event a reality…even in the land of Hollywood stars…

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And our very BEST WISHES for great success to the dedicated staff of Hillsides!  You Are BRILLIANT!

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A TASTY TWEET (to benefit project angel food)

It could have been just another tweet, one of thousands that spring forth from an iphone.  This tweet in particular, however, received an answer from Chef Diana Stavaridis at BLD Restaurant that read “CONGRATULATIONS.  YOU HAVE WON THE BLD TWEET A DISH CONTEST.  YOUR CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS WILL BE SERVED THURSDAY, APRIL 29.”  Another (kind of tacky, gloating) tweet followed immediately: “I WON! I WON! I WON!”

I wouldn’t say that I “coerced” BLD into choosing my Chicken N Dumplins, but that is probably precisely what they would tell you.  When my dish was not selected the first week, I began an all-out twitter-assault campaign, begging others to re-tweet my dish on a daily basis.  And THEY DID!  The days before the dish was actually served, my campaign climaxed to a point of relentless harrassment!  Tweet after Tweet after Tweet: “I just ran into Starbucks for a quick pick-me-up and the kid looked at me like I was crazy when I ordered CHICKEN N DUMPLINS!” ….or “I have walked up and down the ailes of Pavillions, and I cannot find where they keep the CHICKEN N DUMPLINS,” ….and even “OMG!  CHICKEN N DUMPLINS just topped Justin Beiber on trending tweets!”  One friend begged for an end, at which point I chose to use rhyming clues, such as “There is something missing from today’s food section of the LA Times, and it rhymes with PICKEN AND CRUMPIN!”  To their great releif, an end was soon in sight.

The winning prize was a three course dinner for two at BLD.  Before we arrived, the restaurant manager sent me a text that said “We are about to sell out of chicken and dumplings!”  We arrived at BLD to find my name and dish displayed on the menu, as well as several local food bloggers that arrived to taste Diana’s creation. The restaurant did indeed sell out, but thankfully saved an order for me and my guest – a giant bowl full of warm chicken broth, big juicy pieces of dark, rich meat, and those pillowy little dumplins that make this dish a southern tradition, and a personal favorite.

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Just before I left for dinner, a friend asked “What are you going to do if it’s not good?”  Thankfully, that was never an issue.  It was not only delicious, but Chef Diana and her staff were gracious hosts.  It was an usually cold and windy night in Los Angeles, perfect for this dish, and likely the reason for it selling out so quickly.  Or, as I said to @BLDchefd in a thank you tweet: “New menu item?”

This night was one of the primary yearly fundraisers for Project Angel Food, a group that is dear to our hearts.  For many years, I delivered food to PAF’s clients twice a week, good people that were in need of healthy, life saving meals due to debilitating illness.  Originally the group served homebound HIV/AIDS patients, but has since spread its wings to include many other neighbors in need.  The evening, “Dining Out For Life,” is a annual collection of good hearted restaurants that graciously donate 25% of the evening’s proceeds to the group.  Especially during these difficult economic times, this is a very large financial commitment on the part of the participating restuarants, and we were delighted to cast a bit of “PR light” upon this very worthy group.

For more information, or to donate your time and talents, please visit Project Angel Food or Dining Out For Life LA.

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