Archive | August, 2012

Meet me in Westchester: Part 1

31 Aug

I think I might be bipolar. Seriously. I have two very distinct personalities: one is very much interested in fashion and technology and beautiful material things. And the other is a crunchy granola boho, interested in veggie gardens and organic wool and prairie skirts.

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, and it’s on-site restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, satisfies both sides of me. It’s kind of genius, really. It’s a non-profit center that creates an air of exclusivity around its on-site offerings and activities. But the “experience” is authentic, down-to-earth and inspiring. And truly beautiful.

Stone Barns was the first stop on my whirlwind 2-day tour of Westchester hosted by Westchester County Tourism & Film and The New York Mom. The purpose was to celebrate their new “Meet Me in Westchester” campaign, aimed at showing off all the amazing gems here, right in NYC’s backyard. Starting off on the right foot and making a strong “first impression” is paramount in event planning, and our hosts did their homework. Stone Barns is the kind of place that would inspire you to eat a dandelion. The kind of place where you’d salivate over a pint of bleeding red wild strawberries. And where you’d find yourself walking through a chicken-poop-covered field, climbing up a ladder in open toed espadrilles and a skirt, sticking your hand into a coop and collecting eggs straight from the source. I know, because I did it.

First we were taken on a personal tour of the property, the grounds, and the main house. I found myself daydreaming about just walking away the copywriting and marketing and social media and blogging world and just becoming a farm hand. Seriously, don’t laugh. This place is truly magical. It must be all the chemicals (not) in the air (not).

I mean, seriously. Can’t you see me donning one of these straw hats while I shear a sheep?

I’d like to move in. This place is magical.

We learned all about Stone Barns’ offerings, classes, and events from our thoughtful guide, Shaina Robbins. From egg collecting for the kiddies (although I wouldn’t recommend it for the under 4 set, as the chickies are known to nip at feet and this might scare little kids… ) to their Kids in the Kitchen program, to a Grow Your Own Bitters class (pour mama a drink, stat!), we got the full scoop on everything we need to put on our calendars this coming season.

And then we toured the kitchen.

Yo. For real. The door opened, we walked in, and it was all right there. All the magic. All the hands, quietly, efficiently and skillfully chopping, prepping and organizing all the food for that night’s feast in the restaurant. It was like walking through that special gate in heaven, the one reserved for the sustainable foodies. The one reserved for those who care where their food comes from. A little piece of me died in that moment. Like in a Rachel Zoe way.

After our tour, we grabbed lunch at the cafe. We were so hungry after all this talk in the field about food. I had an awesome open face goat cheese and heirloom tomato sandwich, and a berry panna cotta that I seriously inhaled in like 14 seconds. I didn’t even have time to unlock my iPhone and take a picture, that’s how fast it was gone. I licked the container it came in too, and I’m not ashamed. It was the silkiest, creamiest deliciousness I’ve had in ages. You’ll have to just take my word for it.

This is Stone Barns’ wine cellar. It’s the size of a house.

If you’re interested in checking out Westchester, this should without a doubt be your first stop. Dan Barber’s celebrity and awesome partnership with Michelle Obama notwithstanding, this place will inspire you to eat well, and at the very least, care a little bit more about where the food you and your family eat comes from.

And if all that doesn’t impress you? Pull out your iPhone: ’cause  there’s an app for that.

I wasn’t compensated for this post, but I was wined and dined to within an inch of every waistband I own, thanks to Westchester County Tourism and Film!

Meet Me in Westchester!

22 Aug

I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it. Tomorrow I embark on a 2-day adventure with Westchester County Tourism. We’re going to be galavanting all over the county, visiting some amazing spots… like Caramoor and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (Did I mention that I can. Not. Wait? ‘Cause I can’t.)

If you want to follow along on our adventures, be sure to ‘like’ Westchester County Tourism on Facebook. If you’re a Tweeter, you can follow the tour through hashtag #MeetMeInWCNY.

Stay tuned… there’s more excitement to come!!

 

 

My Westchester To-Do List

16 Aug

Do you have one? Recently I was thinking about the things I still want to do here in my own backyard… or things I want to do again because I loved them so much the first time. Here’s my list:

  1. Take Jack to Stone Barns Center for their egg collecting. Jack loves to be a big helper, and I’m excited to teach him where food comes from. What better place to do that than the holy grail of agricultural centers? And it’s right here! Like 5 minutes away!
  2. Speaking of Stone Barns… I need to eat at Blue Hill again.  Sure, hubby and I did it once, and once is certainly more than most people will eat there, considering the financial commitment and reservation restraints. But couldn’t we just do it one more time? Just one more, I promise. It was seriously the best meal I’ve had in my lifetime.
  3. Because so many of my favorite experiences revolve around food, I’d also like to eat at Tarry Lodge again. If I have to spend the rest of my life having only had that Guanciale, Black Truffles and Sunny Side Egg once, I just might die from sadness. It’s like crack. On pizza.
  4. Visit Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. It’s practically in my backyard. And yet six years living in Westchester and I haven’t made it over there for a concert or a walk through their supposed-magical gardens. What a doofus.
  5. Spend a day at Rye Town Park and Beach. When you think of Westchester, you don’t really think “beach.” But in May, we visited the Rye beaches for the first time and were super impressed with their “kid friendliness.” Plus, I love how it opens up onto a really beautiful, expansive park, making for a great day of beach-going/picnicking. And seriously, being able to lay on the beach 20 minutes from my house instead of trekking to Long Island or the Jersey Shore is a major plus. (So why haven’t I been doing this every summer??)
  6. Spend some days at W@tercooler in Tarrytown. It’s a cool co-working space run by a cool chick who is so dedicated to her space and her people and her craft that she spends her free time signing up awesome workshops, events and parties for W@tercooler’s off-hours. Seriously, if you work from home, or just work independently in some fashion, come pick up a day or week pass and see what this co-working thing is all about. The coffee is included!
  7. Spend an afternoon strolling around at Ridge Hill. I was there when Whole Foods first opened, but that was before most of the other stores had opened. I also ate at Yard House once, and it was surprisingly good. Now, I keep hearing all about how amazing the Lord & Taylor is, and then there’s the exciting news about Legoland coming in and creating a monster-sized kid-zone for all the local LegoHeads… I really have to get down there and see for myself what’s happening in Yonkers!
  8. Use the fire pit in our yard. We’ve been in this house for four years. FOUR YEARS. And when we bought it, we were totally excited about the built-in stone and brick fire-pit in the yard. It has log benches around it, and I could just picture us with our friends hanging out with some boozy cocktails and s’mores and having a fun little fire party after dark. Alas, we have never, ever even sat on one of those little benches. WTF? Who’s coming over, and can you bring the marshmallows?
  9. Check out some bike trails. Hubby and I bought new bikes last year, and a sweet little seat for Jack on the back of hubby’s bike. We’ve been biking around the Croton reservoir a few times, but seriously… there are SO many trails and mountains and places to ride around here, and with fall coming, there is no excuse: let the bike riding excursions commence!! (Do you have a favorite place you like to bike?)
  10. Take a boat ride on the Hudson. I’m not picky as to whether this is by canoe or sailboat or booze cruise – I just want to experience chilling on the water and taking in the Hudson Valley from that vantage point.

What’s on your Westchester bucket list? Do tell!

Little Man is Turning 2!

8 Aug

1 day old, 1 year old, and almost 2. WOWZA!

Unreal. Jack turns 2 on Friday. Two years of parenting under my belt. I can say with confidence, it was nothing like I thought it would be and everything that I hoped it would be. Jack is the coolest kid in the world, with a laugh that can cure any bad day, a smile that is infectious, and the sweetest personality I could ever hope for in a little boy.

Happy Birthday, Jack! Here are the top ten things you’ve taught me so far:

1)    It’s much more fun when you tag a “y” onto the end of everything. Like “hug-y” and “lunchy” and “drinky.” (I think mommy’s clients agree.)

2)    Throwing out “gahbage” can be a very good way to spend 2 hours. And no one should judge otherwise.

3)    TRRRRRRRRRRUCKS!!!! are indeed the most exciting things in the universe. And they should be acknowledged as such. Every. Time. We. See. One.

4)    A person can survive on peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt alone. Thank you for dispelling the rumor.

5)    The word “shooshee,” whatever it means, will always elicit a monster giggle from you, which makes it pretty much the most valuable non-word in my vocabulary.

6)    Unlocking an iPhone, scrolling through the various screens and folders, and finding all the apps you like to play was a fun game when you were one. Now that you’re two I’ll have to step it up and get you an internship at Tumblr before you get bored.

7)    When in doubt, call Ammy and Papa.

8)    Negotiating for 3 bedtime stories (instead of just one) only requires being coy and saying, “lah-loo Mommy…peez?”

9)    Sleeping beyond 6am is for the weak. 6am is the perfect time to watch Despicable Me! In its entirety! In our bed! (EVERY day….)

10) The best things in life are hugs, snuggles and kisses from you, despite how messy they may be at the time.

 

What fun thing(s) have your kids taught you? Please share with me!

Moroccan Dinner Party recap

2 Aug

There’s a group of us here in Mt. Kisco who have a sort of irregular, when-the-mood-strikes tradition of getting together for Sunday night dinner. It’s usually suggested mid-week, and usually after we’ve been drinking way too much, and the thought process is something like, ‘Sure! I can put together a meal for 12! No problemo!‘ Until the next morning when we realize what we’ve committed to, and our thought process is something like, ‘F&*k, well there goes my weekend, now I have to clean the house and grocery shop and cook.’ 

But it always is without fail a super fun night with a great group of friends and it makes it all worth it.

A few weeks ago was my turn to host, and after being told I was ‘booooring‘ when I suggested an Italian meal, the mood struck me to take things up a notch: What could be more un-boring than a colorful, traditional Moroccan dinner party outdoors? Call in the belly dancers and set up the hookas!

This party ended up being so much fun to put together! Everything for the table came from inside my house. I just walked around collecting things I thought would work. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too:

The “rugs” were two king sized quilts.

For the table, we used a piece of plywood set on cinder blocks. I wrapped the plywood in a table protector pad and then wrapped it in a dark brown tablecloth. I dressed it up with a colorful, mirrored runner. Did you know an 8×4 piece of plywood creates the perfect sized table for 10-12 people? Two can sit comfortably on each end and 4 on each side. Score!

I grabbed all the throw pillows I could find and just tossed them around the blankets. I brought out accessories like brass elephants and candles to create a centerpiece. I recently inherited an amazing brass and crystal chandelier from my grandmother, so we strung it up inside our tent, and it added the perfect finishing touch.

Mismatched, patterned plates and colorful Indian and Moroccan print cotton napkins made up the place settings.

My #1 hosting tip? Always use real linen napkins at a dinner party!! They are the most inexpensive way to dress up a table and make it look like you tried harder than you really did! I am obsessed with linen and cotton napkins and I pick up interesting patterns whenever I see them. Anthropologie is a great place for finding cool patterns and colors.

Also, when doing outdoor parties like this, I head to Target for their selection of fun melamine dinnerware. Any time I see an interesting pattern or shape I like, I’ll pick up 4 plates or bowls to add to my collection, because I love mismatched place settings, and trust me: melamine plates are so much easier when hosting outdoors.

Our menu consisted of crispy Moroccan chickpeas, mesclun greens with green olives, almonds and lemon with a homemade lemon spiced vinaigrette, couscous, chicken and apricot tagine, Moroccan meatballs, flatbread, and cucumber salad. The only thing missing from our meal was Moroccan mint tea, but I made up for it with some fresh cucumber water. We boozed it up with homemade rye lemonade and loads of wine… Riesling goes pretty well with Moroccan food. The sweet balances the spicy, and of course white wine on a hot summer night is pretty perfect. We finished the meal with ice-cold Limoncello shots, fresh fruit, and a delicious cake for our friend Mark’s birthday. And if there’s one benefit to eating while lounging on pillows, it’s being able to literally just roll over and lie down when you get too full.

Here’s my recipe for the Chicken and Apricot Tagine, which was made in a…wait for it, wait for it… a CROCK POT! I swear, the crock pot is the most undervalued kitchen accessory, and the most useful one. You have to have one hell of a big tagine to cook a meal for 12 people, so I busted out the crock pot and this recipe worked like magic. It simmered for hours, and was absolutely delicious. (I think, or my guests were lying.)

Chicken + Apricot Tagine… in a Crock Pot!

(serves 6…double up for big groups)

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts, cut up into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces dried apricots (you can roughly chop these or leave them whole, I left them whole)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chickpeas
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 pint chicken stock
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • The following spice mix:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
    • salt and pepper sparingly
  1. Heat up olive oil in a large pan or skillet and saute chopped onions & garlic for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock, gradually stirring in flour until no longer lumpy. Add honey & tomato paste & mix well.
  3. Stir in herbs,spices, ginger and canned tomatoes.
  4. Pour the above tomato,onion & spice mix into crock pot.
  5. Add dried apricots, and then add chicken & chickpeas on top & mix well.
  6. Cook on high for about 3 to 4 hours OR low for up to 8 hours. (Please note that the cooking times depend on your crockpot… play around with it, and taste!)
  7. Serve harissa on the table so people can add their own heat to the dish!

Great success!

[Special thanks to Maria Famoso for some of the awesome pics you see here!]