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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A POST ABOUT A DREAM TRIP PAST, A DREAM RESTAURANT GONE, AND A DREAM RECIPE STILL HERE...


The first time that I took my son on vacation to Manhattan, we did so many wonderful
things..

I wanted him to Love the city as much as I did..

You would have thought that I was planning a trip for a "Prince"...

Then again, in my world, he was/is one...( um, more so as a child!)

I loved to spoil him this way when he was young, not always a smart move, but
certainly a fun one!

I DID and STILL DO love to spoil myself when I am able, as I KNOW that I SHOULD
BE SPOILED!

SMALL SIDE STORY...

(I went to an Astrological kind of a "Seance" when I was 18, along with a couple of friends..)

I did a lot of mystical, weird, cool stuff in the 70's...

There were about 20 people there..
We all sat in a large circle...
Lights were turned off..
Eventually a lit candle was passed from person to person..

The Seance began by the Astrological "Genie" that led the group...
A woman that reminded me of "Miss Havesham", the creepy looking woman in
"Great Expectations"..

She spoke some words, (don't remember what..probably wasn't paying attention)

After that there was what seemed to be a long period of absolute silence...

Words were said again by the "Genie"..

Silence resumed

The candle was passed to each person..

We were told that we might be able to see "what we had been or clues to our
identity from our "Past Lives"

It is true that things appeared..
Somewhat foggy but everyone wrote down what they
saw, so that the spirits would not be frightened away by sound

It was definitely on the creepy side...

Soon there were visions, seen by the entire group..

As I said, CREEPY

We did not see anything when the candle was passed to some people...

But with one of my friends, her face was transformed, and appeared as some kind
of war hero that had been badly injured..

Her face changed..I know that most won't believe it..

That hardly matters to me..

I know what I saw that night, and remember it clearly

So does my friend...

We are still friends.

We both remember that night...

NO WE WERE NOT DRUGGED!

I almost left, but was afraid to move...

SO GLAD I DIDN'T...

It certainly explained some things to me...

I am told that a "CROWN" floated above my head...

(LAUGHTER IS HEARD IN THE DISTANCE)

Did I see this? No..

But EVERYONE there said they did, wrote it down, and discussed it afterwards..

(LOUD YAWN)

But of course...My previous life as ROYALTY does not EVEN surprise me, people...

MOVING ON...

I do shy away from overused phrases, but seriously, I believe that if I don't spoil
myself, who is going to?

I spent a lot of money traveling for about 9 years

Money that some think that I should have saved, invested, (now THAT would have
been a SMART MOVE, right? That way I could have lost MORE in the Economic Drop)

Even now when I am frighteningly low on money/savings/everything, I WOULD NOT CHANGE A THING AND WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN...

NO REGRETS

NOTHING HAS BEEN AS DELIGHTFUL AS TRAVELING, AND DOING IT IN STYLE...

NOTHING...

IT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST JOYOUS DIVERSIONS IN MY LIFE SO FAR...

I'm sure that a warm, loving, lasting marriage, or serious relationship would have been a great substitute, or being able to have my own puppy...

(Yes, I absolutely think that a great puppy/dog can make you almost as happy, and often even HAPPIER than a marriage/relationship.)

Hey, look at OPRAH! WHEN HAS SHE LOOKED THE HAPPIEST? WHEN SHE IS WITH STEDMAN
OR ONE OF HER PUPS? (don't say "When she is with Gayle,".. SHAME ON YOU!!)

I rest my case...


At the present time, I cannot afford travel, but I have my memories, which
are very special...(I, by the way, fully intend to delve back into the travel mode
at a later time..All is never lost..Just slowed down for the time being...)

There is a little something that most of you do not know about me...

(WELL THERE IS PROBABLY A LOT THAT YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME...AT THE RATE THAT I
AM BLOGGING, THAT WON'T LAST FOREVER...)

Planning trips, for me, or for anyone, is one of my GREATEST PLEASURES...

Over the years, and a lot of experience, I am very accomplished at this task..

Tell me where you want to go, budget (budge what?), and my research, planning,
and booking starts...

I do the flights, hotels, restaurants, museums, shows, attractions, history, tours, and anything interesting offered, if possible, ahead of time...

I DO leave time for spontaneity, contrary to popular opinion...

My son has always said, "Mom, can't you be more spontaneous? Must you do all of
this research before you're actually there?"

Let me answer this with a true to life example...

I have a friend who went with his wife to San Francisco, and had a horrible
time, just doesn't "GET" the San Francisco thing...

There is a reason for this..

They didn't know where to go, what to see...got completely lost several times, and ended up in confusion and frustration their entire time spent there...

I DID offer my services...but no interest was generated..."We hate to plan"...

"Preventable" would be the word that comes to mind, or is it "Stupid"?

SUCH A SHAME!(San Francisco being one of the best places in the WORLD!)

There is nothing that will RUIN a vacation quicker, besides having your luggage stolen, (don't ask), than to show up somewhere and not know what to do or where
to go, or to be unable to get tickets to an event, or to have to pay twice their worth, or to have to rely on the Concierge.

I have found over the years, that they will rarely steer you in the direction of
the most rewarding places or experiences...

They have this "list", and they rattle it off to everyone year after year..

Most of the time, they themselves have never been to these places...

I like to find experiences "off the beaten track"..

i.e. the BEST Haunted Tours, the BEST Art/Historical Museums/places to browse,
maybe a great local Improv Troupe that's preforming, Restaurants that are "Hidden Gems" and not "tourist traps",(which are often the Very Ones that your Concierge will recommend...)

I have nothing against the Concierge, as I have had a couple of good ones, but
have mostly found that they simply don't research their work as much as is
required...

Sometimes there is even a "Deal" made between the Restaurant and the Hotel.

This has NOTHING to do with the place being the best...

I assume that there's some kind of "kick-back", if nothing more, each place
recommends the other to up their businesses...

This is rarely to your advantage...

If you have the time and know how, all you need is a computer, a few books, and
an "Inquiring Mind"...

Or you could try a Travel Agent, though I myself have only had disappointing
experiences with them the two times that I have gone this direction..

I ended up having to do the work myself anyway...

The only time to use them is if they can actually get you a better price than
you can get yourself...This CAN happen, as far a hotel and airfare, so one should always check...That's all part of the planning...

Researching for a vacation takes a lot of time, but for me, it is part of the
fun, and it makes your trip so much more fun, as you rarely miss out on the very
best that your location has to offer...

Do I go on vacations where I lie on the beach and do nothing but chill?

Absolutely NOT. I can stay home and "chill" on the couch...

I have recommended and actually helped to plan many a trip, not only for myself,
but co-workers, or really anybody that has ever asked...

True to form, if you love what you do, then you will do it well...
Another one of my huge talents that pays me nothing..Not monetarily anyway..
.
I was obviously meant to do things that don't pay...

Now if I could only explain that to my rental office, insurers, credit companies..

They're quite obviously short sited...Poor Dears...

Back to my son's first trip to Manhattan...
It was a whirlwind of wonderful delights

It was Thanksgiving, a great time to visit, as all of the Christmas Festivities
have started, and it is a lot less crowded than Christmas..(though except for
Paris or Disneyworld, I can't think of a better place to spend Christmas)

You'd have thought that we'd won the Lottery

But we didn't

No matter, back then it was okay to live like it for a week...

We saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

Unknowingly I had purchased "VIP" tickets

When we arrived, we were treated to seats on the third row, and given huge
glossy "Rockette" programs

Soon after we were seated, we received baskets of popcorn, candy, drinks, and
mugs with the Rockettes on the front..Who knew?

It was almost embarrassing, and yet somehow we managed..

Radio City Music Hall is one of those place that MUST be seen before you die..

We saw "Hairspray", "Into the Woods", and "Lion King"...best seats in the house..

We had what's called a "VIEW ROOM" at our hotel,which meant that it overlooked
the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

While others were freezing, we watched from our hotel with our windows open, and coats on!

I don't really approve of the hotels that have these "view rooms"... basically
ripping you off financially..charging way above what the room normally goes for...such a SHAM...Then again...

It was 17 degrees outside..I've never regretted it...

We had Thanksgiving Dinner at THE PLAZA HOTEL...

This was an amazing experience that deserves a blog entry to itself...

It was a WONDERFUL trip

We went to all of the places that I knew that both of us would like...

We also went to places that he did not like very much, but that I refuse not to go to when I am there...

i.e. Metropolitan Art Museum, Modern Art Museum, Jewelry Shopping in Soho and Greenwich Village..etc...

Poor baby...Somehow he just had to put up with that...(though he would not consider
it today..)

That's why you travel with your kid while they're young....though not too young..

On that particular trip, I had also signed up beforehand to join one of the best
"Foodie Tours" in the city for our first day there...

This one was an adventure of "tasting" at some of the best shops and restaurants,
as well as a history and architectural tour of the very charming, Greenwich Village.

One of my earlier posts, the one about Truman Capote, mentioned the incredible
architecture that still exists there...(and all over New York actually...)

Doors, gas lamps, walkways, gargoyles, interesting homes, iron fixtures, elaborate gates, etc, all from another Era long ago..
Still standing..
Awesome...

(Not to stray, but if you love wonderful history and architecture of this type, you
must also visit Charleston and Boston...)

We saw the first known "Speakeasy" that was opened during the Prohibition Period, along with hidden doors and escape routes that were commonly used..

At the time, it was still an open, functioning and popular Bar....
Glad that we got to see it, because about 2 years later, I was watching CNN and saw that it had burned down..
Too bad, a slice of history gone forever....

The foodie tour information stated when I ordered, that the tour goes on as
planned despite weather conditions.
(You'll find that ALL of them say that, and guess what? They MEAN it..)
They are all prepaid in advance..
I have NEVER been on one when the weather was anything but crazy...

That was actually fortunate for us, because it was raining, cold, and windy, so
only 6 of us showed up for the tour...(That's why they invented the Umbrella, though as I recall it only partially kept us dry that day, but we didn't care...)

PAUSE PLEASE FOR ANOTHER LITTLE STORY:

This "small group showing", has happened to my son and I NUMEROUS times..
VERY FORTUNATE..
One time it turned out to be a "private tour", as we were the only ones that showed up...

Scary...

It was just the two of us and a creepy tour guide at the well known oldest,
haunted jailhouse in Charleston...

The tour took place late at night...in a questionable area of the city...

It is said that the old jail's haunted with the Civil War Prisoners that never found their way to the "other world"...

My son was VERY quiet as we walked back to our hotel...

"Mom...I think that I saw a Ghost..."

And "YES" I believe in both Spirits and Aliens...
NO question in my mind...never has been

Back to the Greenwich Tour...

We got a lot of personal attention...My son especially got extra attention, as
he was the only kid on the tour..
He LOVED the experience, (though could have done without the extra attention,
as he was shy at that age...still is a bit...)

I have been on many foodie tours since, the last one being in the North End in Boston, but this particular tour will always be my favorite...

We were to meet at "Murray's Cheese Shop", probably one of the most famous cheese shops in this country, or any country for that matter...

Just a little cheese shop, but you could barely walk through, as it appeared as
though 1/2 of New York was there...

There's a reason for that...
Never have we sampled cheese that was this delicious...The varieties, endless..

This foodie tour included little "tastes" at all 13 places that were visited..

We had a particularly talented tour guide...To tell the truth, I was ready to marry him by the end of the tour...

SO "New Yorkish", Intelligent, Cute, "Edgy"...

(All the classic traits that have always attracted me..)

Love those Guys from up North...

Okay, Okay, TMI...I know...

Sorry, didn't mean to digress...Hmmmmm...Give me a moment..Memories..

We went to some wonderful shops and restaurants that day..

The idea was that you could visit and find out about these places, and at the
end of the tour, they presented you with a list of all the places visited.

It included the phone numbers and addresses, so that you could call and make reservations during the rest of your stay, if you so desired...

That particular Tour Company is the best one in New York, and is still in
business today..

Speaking of "today", most of our favorite places for food in New York, are either
in Greenwich or Soho, some of which we found out about on our tour years ago...

One place is called "Mamouns"..It has the BEST Falafel, Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, and Lamb Schwarma known to man..

Just writing about it makes my mouth water...

Cheap and Delicious Food...UNHEARD OF where I live...

We will actually take a cab all the way from the Theater District, just to order from this dumpy looking little place, and eat it standing up outside on the sidewalk, no matter what the weather, barely able to balance our paper plates,
while devouring this incredible food..

Needless to say, the cab ride costs more than the food...

SHAMEFUL!

NOT!

If you ever wonder why one would want to visit New York City, especially those not into Art or Theater,(a crying shame, indeed),the food itself is a reason not to
miss it...

It unfortunately will ruin you for life though...

There are certain foods that simply cannot be reproduced ANYWHERE ELSE in terms
of taste and quality...(Kind of like trying to reproduce the taste of Sourdough after you leave San Francisco, forget it...)

Don't get me started..

Suffice it to say that I have never felt sorry for anyone who is lucky enough to live in New York...

"Oh it's crowded, you can't have your own car, you have to take a Subway, it's
cold..."

Talk to the Hand...

Someone find a Violin...We're in need of some background music...

Back to the tour...

They only showed us what they considered to be the best places to eat and
experience Village "coolness"...

One of the places that we stopped at, I recognized immediately.

For years I subscribed to Gourmet Magazine, and I remembered that this place was highlighted and featured in one of their restaurant articles, years earlier...

(Ah...thanks...YES, MY MEMORY IS STUNNING, ISN'T IT?)

It was called "HOME." It is no longer open..

I feel lucky to have gone there a few times..

It was a JEWEL...

Owned by a husband and wife team, it was a very small and kind of dark little
place, with a kitchen about the size of a typical New York apartment, in other
words, about the size of a closet...

How the chef was able to turn out those incredible and creative dishes, is still beyond my imagination..

No question as to why it closed..To me, running a restaurant would be a
grueling job after awhile..
I heard that the owners are focusing only on their wine production now...

Sounds like more fun, and more freedom...Good for the marriage..

The couple, David Page and Barbara Shinn, lived outside the city, on a farm where
they grew Organic Vegetables and also produced their own wine at their Vineyard..

All of the food and wines served at the restaurant came from there...

Dishes were almost like "home cooking" but elevated way above anything that one
gets at home...

They were very popular, their menu was small, and their place was quaint and cute, just exactly as I would have imagined a Greenwich Village restaurant.

It was love at first site for me, and my son liked it as well, so I called right
after the tour and made reservations during the week while we were there...

They were infamous for their Brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and reasonable for lunch
Mon-Friday, but as usual, I HAD to go for Dinner, my favorite meal out....

As usual, my son was the only child in the restaurant..

This was true of my older son as well..
Both of them were taken to good restaurants early in their lives

They both appreciated good food in good restaurants
Of course, not to toot my own horn, but they were used to good food at home...

(The truth can set you free, remember that...)

Waiters initially slightly raised their eyebrows...

By the end of the meal, they were ready to give the kid a tip!

My boys were raised well in that way

They ALWAYS acted appropriately at restaurants, nice places in general

This is why I still shake my head in amazement, when I see the way some kids
act out in restaurants and shops...

I would SO leave those kids home...in a heartbeat...

You've gotta start them early, or leave them home...


My son and I were seated in one of the 6 wooden booths, and there was only
candlelight, so it was not easy to see the menu, but we managed after all..

I know that I was not nearly as blind back then...
Neither one of us wore glasses then, as a matter of fact...

I remember that this was the first place that my son decided that he liked Duck,
as that is what he ordered...

Lucky that he was at a great restaurant...

There's nothing worse than Duck cooked inappropriately...

There's nothing better when it's done well...

The bread was fragrant and tasty, the side dishes of vegetables tasted like none that we had ever tasted before.

This was before anyone offered "Organic" ANYTHING...

Before "Whole Foods" became one of our favorite places to shops on EARTH...

We remembered what our "Foodie Guide" had said about saving room for their most popular dessert..

He said that it was "beyond description"...

That there were no words to do it justice..

It was their version of "chocolate pudding."..

Chocolate Pudding?

I was never a huge fan even as a child, and faintly remembered something about a
possible rubbery formation that can occur on the top of the pudding...

My son's reference point was the jello packs of pudding which are barely tolerable.

We went ahead and ordered it with open minds...

There have only been two times while dining with my son, where we looked up at each other, with eyes widened, without a word spoken, after our first bites of a dish.

We were completely silenced and in what appeared to be "temporary paralysis", due
to the taste sensation that was occuring...

Once was when we were in Vancouver and were eating our first Chinese food in that
city.

It was and still is, the BEST Chinese Food that we have ever tasted..

There is NO comparison to any other Chinese, not in New York, San Francisco, you
name it..

Haven't been to China, not yet anyway, so maybe that will prove the exception...

The only other time we were in "Silent Tastebud Shock", was when we first
tasted the Chocolate Pudding at "Home"..

Even though that wonderful restaurant is gone now, we are in luck...

I purchased the restaurant's cookbook, filled with their best dishes/recipes

(At this point I could use a storage unit for my collection of cookbooks, if anyone
wants to chip in for the rental money...)

I have already feature one of Home's wonderful recipes on Foodbuzz..

"Blue Cheese Fondue with Rosemary Toasts"

A great starter...never missed...Wonderful....

Of course, as it turns out, HOME'S version of Chocolate Pudding is nothing
like the normal one, where you stand at the stove, stirring, and then put
it in the frige...

Like most things that are very special, it is a bit more time consuming and
complex...

What can I tell you? If you do this recipe you will be spoiled for life, when
it comes to chocolate pudding or any mousse that you may have had previously..

And now for "Home's Chocolate Pudding"

4 cups of Heavy Cream

5 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (see Note), finely chopped

6 Large Egg Yolks

1/2 cup Granulated Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat.

Place the chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl, add 1 cup of the warm cream, and let stand until the chocolate is melted. Sir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth, then stir in the remaining cream.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer and skim off the froth on the top.

Pour the pudding into eight 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Place them in a deep baking pan and put the pan in the oven.

Carefully add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins, then cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Bake the puddings for about 50 minutes.

When gently shaken, they should look set around the edges, but not quite set in a quarter-sized area at the center.

Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool at room temperature.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Served chilled

Could top with whipped cream, but I wouldn't want to "cut" the chocolate taste..

Serves 8 "Normal" people with admirable amounts of Willpower and Restraint

NOTE: Bittersweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla, and lecithin added to the pure chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Although semisweet usually has more sugar, the two are pretty much interchangeable in recipes...

MY PERSONAL NOTE: In this day and age, with the availability of every kind of
chocolate known to man, my advice is that you buy the best quality Bittersweet
Chocolate that you can afford for this dish..The quality will reward you in the
end...If there was ever a recipe where "chocolate is the star", it's this one...

3 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

I enjoyed reading your stories here and the chocolate pudding sounds sooo heavenly! Yummy chocolate goodness!

Bond said...

WOW! That is some post, filled with so much information.

As a born and bred NYer, I miss my city so very much.

Thanks for the laughs and recipe

MANGIA Y'ALL

Ricardo said...

wow I feel like I read a whole news paper...hehe nah jokes aside really interesting story, and a lovely recipe. well done.