On Nostalgia

I haven’t had time to write.  I haven’t had time to think.  Only enough time to sleep, eat, drink, pretend to do schoolwork and vigorously prepare for the future.    It’s that constant preperation that worries me.  On any given day I feel as though I am either fondly daydreaming of the past or anxiously writing essays and trying to portray my future self.  The past and the future swirl together like oil and water, so that little bubbles of each touch and bounce on the plate, but they never really come together.   I began to wonder, am I neglecting my present?  Nearly as soon as I finish something, be it a meal, an evening out, or a phase of my life, I’m eagerly reaching my arms out to hold it again, to feel it again.  Is this any way to live?

I’m constantly nostalgic for the time I spent abroad in Sevilla, the summer I spent in New York City, the simpler times when all of my meals were ready and waiting for me at Delta Gamma, or when I had the energy of a freshman, ready to tackle any intellectual challenge that presented itself.  And now I have to harness those experiences and turn them into essays and personal statements. I have to convert my memories into cohesive arguments for strangers who will decide what I am going to do with my future.  Nostalgia takes hold of me like a bad stomach ache, twisting itself into knots that weave in and out of me and around my heart, until I’m emotionally exhausted.  It blinds me and pains me until I can’t think of anything else but that past time when I was happy, satisfied and less stressed.  I spend hours looking through old pictures and telling stories with those friends who were there, attempting to relive those moments.  In life we become storytellers naturally so that we’re almost always talking in past tense: “How was your week?  Tell me about last night?  What did you do? How did you feel?”  And then it hit me.  I need to take more time to acknowledge how I’m feeling at the exact moment of action, acknowledging the right now.  I often feel guilty about being overwhelmingly nostalgic for the happiest times of my short life.  That’s the wrong attitude.  When I need to, I will politely ask the past if I can have this dance, and I will take his hand tight and we’ll waltz for a little.  I’ll pull him close to me and I’ll stare into his intoxicating eyes until I’ve lost myself for a little.  We’ll go round and round, we’ll smile through all of the emergent crescendos and every beautiful spin.  But the song will always come to an end and it will be time to find a new partner.  And that partner is the present.  I hear he’s an even better dancer than the past.

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Hunger: Tapas y Jazz

A few weeks back I met up with Jess and Stefanie to reminice and give advice about studying abroad in Sevilla.  Stef was just about to leave and Jess and I never need an excuse to talk about Spain.  Every “tip” turned into a sincere memory relived through our telling of it.  Besides the fact that remembering our glorious lives abroad sometimes gives us aches and pains (because we long to return), we love it.  We ordered something new on the menu as well.  I’ve been to Cafe Riazor a few times but I’ve never tried the “callos a la gallega” or “tripe, sausage, and chickpea stew.”  Convinced that tripe was a white fish we ordered it and happily served ourselves heaping yellow portions that looked like this:

Visible chickpeas and sausage and…

It had a slippery, jelly-like texture.  Something I had never really tasted before.  It was a more soft and chewy version of calamari, honestly I can’t describe the texture because it was quite disgusting to chew.  We knew something wasn’t right… Jess looked up the work tripe on her phone and burst out laughing for what seemed like forever.  I was begging her to tell me what we ate!  She said, ” I think it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten.”  She is probably right.

Sea anemone? Brain? Sponge?

No. Sheep’s stomach.  Or pig’s stomach.  Stomach lining.  Gross, mushy intestines of a foul animal.  Why, Andalusia, why?  I can’t get the image out of my mind.

Yum! Doesn’t that look delicious!

Charm: A Classic Revival

Fashion enthusiasts and Coach lovers alike surely know that Coach is bringing back their classics.  Beautifully crafted structured handbags in neutral colors with demure gold hardware.  My eye is always drawn to matte leathers in go-with-all colors and simple, yet classy details.  I don’t like excessive chains, zippers and things that dangle.  I don’t like bags that slouch or ones that I can’t wear cross-body.  And I never choose to carry a patterned bag, especially because I choose to put the pattern in my wardrobe (usually an animal print, let’s be honest).  In my sophomore year of college I found 2 vintage Coach bags at a local re-sale store called Crossroads.  My first find was a forest green cross-body bag with a circular structured shape. $12.  Convinced this was not an isolated incident I went back 1-2 times a week just to dig through the purses.  Behold, a soft creme colored shoulder purse in great condition.   $15.

Coach is now selling this purse for $298.  I am squealing with delight!  Who would choose to expel this from their collection or accessories?

Classic leather shoulder purse, $298, coach.com

I adore flea market and vintage bargain hunting, so I couldn’t resist visiting the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market every other weekend this summer.  My first find was this absolutely gorgeous, super square cross-body bag in a deep mahogany leather,  with only slightly worn gold hardware.  I couldn’t get the seller to go lower than $45, but that still feels like sweet sweet victory.  That SAME purse is now retailing for $298 entitled the “willis bag”.  Their description reads <<At one time, our best-selling handbag. Not-too-big, not-too-small, this right-sized bag was one of the first to use the dowel as a design motif.>>  Why they discontinued this design and shape back then I cannot understand.  It’s effortlessly classic.  It’s just the perfect shape.  Also, I worship the dowel.  I’m never worried my purse is going to pop open, it’s always secure.  I’m in purse heaven.

Willis Bag in Mahogany, $298, coach.com

To own this for 1/6 of the price makes me so very happy.  Last but not least is my final find.  Perfect for evenings out, my small black cross-body bag is just big enough for a small wallet, blackberry, and camera, plus a lipstick or two.  The hardware is of course gold, and the strap a bit thinner than the 3 previous.  I think this has a unique look because a leather flap arches over the opening of the bag and hooks on the front.  I also have the option of zipping it to close, but I find that just hooking and turning the dowel keeps everything in there.  I snagged that one for $25-$30, I believe.  I’m extremely content with my classic collection in black, brown, creme, and forest green, for a fraction of the price of one of the new Coach revivals.  I told myself I would not buy anymore, but on my last trip I spotted a few red leather gems.  Did I mention that small red leather cross-body purses are a Fall 2011 trend?  I’ll let you know if Miss Scarlett joins the family.  Ciao!

Edit: One of my favorite bloggers, Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere, featured the Coach “station bag” in black leather in her most recent post.  Glad to know that I’m on the right style track.  Dear Emily, please tell me you didn’t pay full price!

cupcakesandcashmere.com

Hunger: Food On Repeat

If there’s one thing I like more than diving into a delicious meal, it’s diving into that same delicious taste a second time.  You can live in New York City and never eat the same thing twice, of course, but when I love something all I can think about is how much I would love to eat it again.  So here’s 4 of my favorites on repeat: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night.

Abuelo’s Egg Sandwich, $8.50, Penelope, 30th and Lex

Photo Credit Serious Eats: New York

This sandwich is so mouthwatering I could eat it all day.  I’ve been to Penelope twice and ordered this twice.  Both times the eggs have been perfectly cooked: the first bite sends the rich flavor of the hot yolk all over your sandwich.  The swiss is sharp, the ham smoky, and the somun bread extra crispy.  The combo of balsamic-mayo and swiss compliments the lightness of the egg white and yolk (if you have any left inside your sandwich), and I love that you can really taste every layer of flavor, however simple.

Tarragon Shrimp Roll, $7, The Lobster Place, Chelsea Market

Photo Credit dembellyfull.com

Chelsea Market truly is foodie heaven as Food Network has pointed out in this season of Food Network star and I feel overwhelmed and dissapointed every time I go, simply because I can’t eat everything in sight.  Just knowing that Food Network is upstairs makes me smile from ear to ear.  My upbringing in Baltimore taught me to love crab and shrimp (sorry Bubbie and Zayde!) and I can never get enough.  If I were spending this summer at home I would probably be eating steamed shrimp every other week but it’s basically non-existent on the raw  bar here.  This shrimp roll is the next best thing.  The tender shrimp are mixed with mayo and tarragon, which imparts a minty and peppery flavor on this chilled salad.  I suppose it reminds me a bit of the Old Bay seasoning I’m used to back in my area.  It is then served on lettuce and a buttery piece of white bread, with salted ruffle potato chips and cole slaw.  Try it for the shrimp salad if nothing else, especially if you have a sweet spot for mayo.

Fentimans Ginger Beer, $2-3, cafes and markets

I only discovered this “beer” because it was sitting in a small fridge next to the cash register at The Lobster Place when I was grabbing for a lemonade.  But this caught my eye because I had never heard of it.  I don’t like raw ginger on my sushi or sashimi and I don’t like ginger rounds in my stir-fry, but it works in this ale because the flavor is so strong it’s almost spicy and it adds dimension to smooth, creamier flavors (such as the shrimp salad).  It will also clear up any nasal issues you may be having at the moment.  Trust me, it’s that strong.

Dolsot Bibimbap (with beef and chili sauce), $19, Chom Chom, 56th between 5th and 6th

Photo Credit chomchomny.com

I first tried Dolsot Bibimbap on recommendation from the waitress at a Korean grill in DC.  I found it to be absolutely delicious, but Korean wasn’t really part of my repertoire so it didn’t cross my path again.  The best part of this dish is the DIY feel. It’s served in a steaming, sizzling hot stone bowl that’s been heating in an oven for hours.  Add white rice, Korean marinated beef, shredded spinach, shredded carrots, shitake mushrooms, sprouts, some other julienned veggies perhaps, chili paste, and a fried egg over easy.  You get to mix the veggies, paste, and egg yourself so that everything sizzles and cooks against the bowl and the rice gets extra crispy.  This dish has all the flavor and satisfaction of fried rice, one of my favorite comfort foods, without all the heaviness of the extra oil and fat.  It’s easy to eat the whole bowl and you feel satisfied, but not stuffed.

Extra large slices, $2.75-5, Primavera Pizza and Pasta, 2nd Ave between 53rd and 54th

I don’t think there are any photos of these slices because the consumers, between the hours of 12-3 AM, are only focused on one thing: eating.  They don’t want to take photos of the food, or themselves, after a long hot night.  Anyone in the city knows that the best thing to do before bedtime is have a piece of pizza and a gatorade.  Here the slices are large and the crust is extra thin.  Toppings range from cheese and pepperoni to baked ziti and buffalo chicken.  I prefer plain cheese or a white slice.  I’m always satisfied because each bite is extra cheesy and crispy, with a slightly sweet sauce.  Being in New York makes me crave pizza at all hours of the day, and even though I’ve eaten Primavera around 12 PM and even 6 PM, it never tastes as good as that much needed 3 AM slice.  Ciao!

Hunger: Baked Rosemary Onion Rings

Last Sunday I woke up in a fowl mood after a not so pleasant Saturday evening.  I didn’t get out of bed until nearly 1 PM and when I finally did arise I simply crawled back into my King-sized cave and watched My Sister’s Keeper silently sobbing to myself.  When I’m in a bad mood all I crave is comfort food that is easy, hot and fried and I contemplated ordering from a local diner, going out to McDonald’s and ordering an extra large french fry, or heading to the grocery store for frozen chicken tenders. I had no desire, however, to get dressed or move just about anywhere so I decided I would try my hand at a classic comfort food turned healthy: baked onion rings.

I’ll be the first to say it, the only reason I baked these was because I don’t own a deep fryer or enough olive oil or finesse to pan fry onion rings.  Nor did I  have panko bread crumbs or buttermilk.  I had basically given up hope until I came across Ellie Krieger’s oven baked onion ring recipe with only 205 cal and 3.5 grams of fat (a marvel for onion rings!).  She made hers coating them in buttermilk, flour, and crushed potato chips before baking.  Most who reviewed this recipe were strongly against the potato chip theory, but that was the only thing I had on hand.  I modified the recipe to my pantry.

Ingredients: 1 vadalia onion, 2-3 egg whites, 1/2 cup flour, 3-4 handfuls Deep River Rosemary and Olive Oil Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, 1 handful Stacy’s Pita Chips Simply Naked

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and begin slicing your onion, to create those nice thick rings.  Grease the baking pan ( I used a few spritzes of Pam).

2.  Take chips and place in a gallon-sized plastic bag.  Smash, crush, and break chips with hands/feet/glass/plate etc.  Continue to crush until the breading is evenly broken.  Chunks are fine, they make extra crunchy bites.

3.  Take each onion ring, one to three at a time, and dip into flour, egg whites, and breading, in that order.   I used my fingers to do this and kept a wet paper towel nearby, although many suggested you can avoid the mess with chopsticks.  I placed the onions in my chip breading bag and shook until all were evenly coated.  Place coated rings onto the baking sheet in a single layer.  Spray each ring with a bit more Pam, which will help the chip bake even crispier.

4.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until rings are golden brown, or if you like things extra crispy like me, a deep golden brown.

I could not believe the flavor bursting out of these onion rings!  Because the chips themselves are already extra crunchy and highly seasoned, the coating was crispy, fragrant, and not heavy.  They were best eaten piping hot out of the oven.  While there’s nothing quite like a deep fried extra crispy onion ring from the local diner, I have to say these were a welcome change.  My craving was definitely satisfied by the hot and crispy, but it felt practically gourmet to eat a rosemary flavored onion ring.  Sorry for the lack of pictures, they were gone before I even got the chance!  Here’s to never leaving a craving unsatisfied.

New Apartment, New Room

Lately I’ve been taking some time to think about how I’m going to decorate my room when I move into my new apartment at school.  I really want a space that reflects my love of color and pattern.    My love of language and excessive wanderlust.  The modern style desk would not normally attract me, but I couldn’t resist that pop of bright orange…what a desirable spot to study!  Here are a few snapshots:

Bonsoir Pillowcase-Set of 2, Urban Outfitters, $34

World Map (Vintage Style), Amazon, $4

Mandala Curtain, Urban Outfitters, $39

Vintage Chic™ Locust Valley Duvet Cover Set, Bed Bath and Beyond, $99

Micke Desk white/orange, IKEA, $79

Weekends before Weekends

The weekend before last weekend I:

celebrated a 21st birthday, where I discovered that alcohol filled cupcakes do exist and not only do they taste like alcohol, you can even drink out of them with a dainty black straw;

fell asleep in the grass at Central Park, thumbing though Afar and Conde Nast Traveler, imagining my next destinations and my past explorations;

caught up with some family friends who are engaged to be married in September, and simultaneously felt filled with excitement about their wedding and a bit more at ease with my options post-graduation, and the thought of growing older;

met the alleged “Bachelor of the Year”, a Southern lawyer from Charleston, SC who had a refreshing approach to life;

pretended to be the woman I would like to be in a few years and it was easier than expected;

introduced myself to the Hell’s Kitchen flea market for the first time and realized it may be the beginning of a beautiful and dangerous affair, for my wallet;

decorated my hand with traditional Indian henna and decided I would definitely need to explore South Asian culture more deeply;

Last weekend I:

celebrated a friends 23rd birthday with wine and cheese and new friends, with new and interesting beers and large slices of pizza on the Upper West;

perused my way through the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, taking in the smell of 100’s of different types of roses and herbs, despite a dissapointing “Gardens of The Alhambra” exhibit;

took a spontaneous trip to Merona, New Jersey to see a friend where we revisited homemade food, high school friends, and the ability to make an exciting variety of cocktails;

ventured solo to Fort Greene, to see Marilyn Monroe next to Clark Gable in her last film, The Misfits…she was stunning, real, and a glamourous size 12;

This past weekend I:

dined on authentic tapas and tall pitcher of sangria in an intimate Spanish cafe in Chelsea, where the waiters told me, “aprovecha” and the chef asked, “todo bien?

worked a non-profit benefit in East Hampton, where the property was overwhelmingly large and beautiful, the guests were rich, and the music conducted by Izthak Perlman, even richer;

had an unforgettable egg sandwich at Penelope, with a friend who was visiting from Chicago;

revisted the Hell’s Kitchen flea market and returned with two vintage Coach bags in brown and black, to complete my growing collection;

got a pedicure in fifteen minutes, which I did not know was possible;

looked through almost every item of clothing on the 4 applicable floors of the 5th Ave Forever 21, and luckily only came home with 3 new tops;

went to bed satisfied and perplexed, what have I done this summer and where has the time gone?