Saturday: “This Is How They Do It in France” (aka the “Central Park Bliss” Post)

First ride on my new bike, Caliente:

We entered Central Park around 80th Street on the East side, went up and around the top, and … break.  Near the quiet, algae-filled pond just south of the Great Hill, we stopped for a late lunch, Euro-style.

photo(4)photo(3)Which means: A baguette; some sliced porchetta from Agata & Valentina; deli-sliced Swiss cheese; an English cucumber (thin-sliced) for condiment. Some assembly required. (Good-for-you Apple & Eve fruit punch juice boxes from my fridge.)

… the loveliness of the afternoon? No imagination required. None, whatsoever.


Breakfast: Living Vicariously Through Granola (aka “The Expedition Granola Mix” Post)

Diving deeper into the many wonderous food offerings at Agata & Valentina: The latest discovery, Expedition Granola Mix ($5.99, 10 oz.).

photoExploratory metaphors aside,  this is some serious granola. It begins with clusters of rolled oats, bound together by a sweet cinnamon-y coating — the exact kind of clusters that are coveted (and sparse) in boxed, supermarket cereals like Honey Bunches of Oats. Whole walnuts and almonds get the same treatment, which results in a candied crunch to the nuts, which is a real treat.

… which doesn’t mean that this granola shouldn’t be taken seriously as a breakfast option — or as a snack option, either. All the ingredients are natural, no additives, and essentially you’re getting whole oats, nuts (an excellent source of protein) and dried fruit (dried tart cherries, crasins and rasins, and coconut flakes).

Might have something to do with the name, but this granola immediately inspired visions of walking along trails in the woods, taking the road less traveled sort of thing, and I’ve been itching to get out of the city since. Sigh …

Dinner: What Is a Ciabattine? (aka the Breakfast at Tiffany’s Sandwich Post)

photo-16Not exactly a sandwich bread — the ciabattine  turned out to be a little tough, would have made excellent olive oil dipping bread — I was so excited about the rosemary I could see caught in its crevices (the ciabattine) that I bought it anyway. 

I keep calling the bread a “ciabattine” because I called it a mini-baguette at the bread counter at Agata & Valentina and was promptly corrected, and of course I don’t want to intentionally mislead anyone. (Unintentionally is another matter.) Of course, I came home and immediately Googled “ciabattine” in search of illumination: There are plenty of Italian references, not many in English, and one very interesting use of “ciabattine” as a Flickr tag for photos that have nothing to do with bread (as far as I can discern).

photo-15… Back on track now. The ciabattine still served its purpose as the basis for my brie, basil and strawberry sandwich, which is a trifecta I would repeat any day, although maybe next time on a softer roll.

There’s just something special about brie and strawberries — a little bit of decadence on an otherwise ordinary day. Strikes me as very Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s … while relatively simple, it gives off the air of having grandiose plans. 

Memorial Day (Weekend) Wrap Up: BBQ, Rose and More

First-class eating and imbibing this weekend included many firsts of the season, including first barbecue, at a friend’s apartment in Williamsburg: 

photo-10I was so intrigued by this package of chicken legs at Whole Foods earlier this week — cheap price point, the whole “air-chilled never frozen” thing, the oddity factor of drumstick and thigh attached — that I bought it on impulse, without any real strategy. So Saturday morning I did a quick Google search and found a marinade recipe on that’s basically chili powder, honey and fresh lime juice. 

photo-11Okay, I confess: I’ve never actually grilled anything myself. There’s always been plenty of experts on hand (like this guy, at the other barbecue happening next to ours) that are more than willing to step up and man the process. And I know chicken can be finicky, as in, all of the sudden it’s too done, so I was mildly anxious for about a quarter of an hour. (The beer in hand did help.) 

photo-12Turns out I needn’t been anxious at all; the chicken turned out beautifully. 

Another first: Today, I packed a picnic lunch and adventured into Central Park for what turned out to be such a lovely afternoon I made a promise to myself that I’ll try to do the same thing every weekend this summer that: a.) I’m in town, and b.) the weather cooperates. 


I made a few stops in the neighborhood, first, to Agata & Valentina to pick up a Portugese roll from the grocer’s bakery, which I still can’t believe is so quality and so convenient. The second stop was at McCabe’s Wines and Spirits en route to the park, where I picked up a bottle of Casal Garcia Rose (Portugal) — and this Built NY one-bottle tote; what a brilliant product! 

The park was busy, but in a very idyllic, pastoral way: Couples lounged in bathing suits or summer attire on blankets; dogs and children frolicked; murmmers of conversation and laughter floated up the hill toward where I’d staked out my blanket (at the top, of course).

photo-8My sandwich is a definite repeat, I’m thinking as early as lunch tomorrow: Brie, basil, red bell pepper, sprouts, zucchini on the Portugese roll drizzled with white truffle flavored EVOO. All in all, a perfect afternoon in Central Park. If this is what summer is gonna look like, I say, bring it on!

Lunch: This Is How Good It Gets When I Work From Home

photo-11Let’s talk about this fresh mozzarella for a moment. I stopped by my new neighborhood cheese counter (which is amazing) and the guy stocking the cheese asked me if he could help me find anything. I said I was looking for fresh mozzarella, and he pointed to where they sat, all bundled up.

Then he said, “We’re making it right now.” Wait what?!! Making cheese? Right now? So I cruise over to where I can see behind the counter. I see: A large, rectangular block of mozzarella cheese, a guy with his (gloved) hands submerged in a huge bowl of milky water, and a cutting board with Saran Wrap / cheese balls in progress of being bundled. It took me another moment, but then I realized that he wasn’t really “making” as much as “packaging.” Personally I don’t have anything against the fresh mozzarella in the rectangular form. 

photo-13Picked up some basil (oddly, with roots on — for what purpose? To document freshness?), and made up this delish little salad at home. So pretty, so tasty. Now, if only I can work on that whole “working from home” thing. This could be every day.

Dinner: Rhymes with Gnocchi (or not) Fiocchi Part Deux

I had much fancier plans than to just boil the adorable fiocchi, plate up, drizzle with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and some coarse salt, but I was too busy around the apartment and found myself instead returning to the kitchen repeatedly to “check” on their temperature: i.e. pop one into my mouth. That ended up being dinner.

The lesson: fiocchi are extremely tasty even when plain and simple, as any pasta worth its flour should be.

And, bonus, tonight I discovered they’re extremely pop-able, which is often (if not always) a good quality in my book, opens up a whole new world of dining possibilities. Really, needs cutlery when you can use your fingers?