Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Batali Botanicals Birthdays and Bees

The fall is in full swing as the red, yellows and oranges are changing from their lively greens. Nothing like vibrant shades of color to stir the deeper joys and energy within.  A great place to see all this is the well-kept grounds of the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG). The weather this weekend was sunny with cold and crisp air; a perfect recipe for a walk in the park.  I was in to cash in my birthday gift from my husband to see the great man himself, Mario Batali. This is close to Kee's work so he took me to the NYBG before work so I could peruse the grounds at my leisure. He would join me later for for the tastings post work.

The NYBG has been having an Edible Garden Exhibition which included a special Martha Stewart Garden Exhibit, food tastings and special guest appearances throught the week. The first part of the day on my own was spent exploring the grounds which was found to be a vast landscape of green with sections created with a special purpose. Rock gardens, Azaela gardens, waterfalls, Conifer paths, rose gardens etc. A stroll along here with some classical  piano music and some contemporary hymns on Nano created some poetic touch to the things around.

                                                     Do you see the little guy below?

After some lightning and thunder, conclusion had it that this was a chipmunk since it looked kind of like Chip and Dale from a hey-day cartoon. It'd be cute if this little thing was wearing the same aviator jacket or red hawaiian button down and talked in a high-pitched dubbing voice.

The most amazing garden exhibit was the rose garden. What incredibly well-tended and tender landscape. I think I found the secret garden...  It was a spread of arches, vines, paved ways and roses in full bloom! It was good fortune to find such a wonderful mix of roses all in one place.

Certainly, the word of this robust garden has been circulating in the bee community at the sight of so many of them doing their pollinating thing. A bee's cushy job is sticking their nose into pretty flowers that are 50x bigger than them all day long.

Butterfly's too. Here's a pretty monarch butterfly I watched for a while. I lost it for a second and when I found it again in the view, it flew right into the camera!

Taking pictures of flowers is a peaceful pleasure; the soft,silky petals, the Qtip-looking stigma and stamens and the rare wildlife that pleasantly interrupts the concentration. However, bees were not rare this day. Like on-demand TV, it was like on-demand Bee. 

There were all sorts of different colored roses in the garden as well as other flowers on the grounds.


And after perusing the gardens, it was time to get in line for the main event. First up was Mario Batali. The line started 1.5hrs before he went on. Look at this line! I was fortunate to get in line early and here you can see how long the line was. Can you tell who I am?

and while Mario was making his way in, there were a lot of inquiries surrounding about whether he was wearing his orange crocs.

The guy is quite an entertainer! Quite outgoing, pleasant and funny. He gave tips on pastas, Italian traditions spotted with subliminal advertising for his products, Eataly and his chef buddies. Took some good notes that'll hopefully help me make better Italian food in the home.

Post presentation, it was time to get my book signed and got a chance to meet the man himself. We talked about crocs for a second. I asked him,

Me: "Why orange?"
Mario: "It's the national color of Batali!"
Me: Do you approve of my crocs? (showing him my birthday shoes from the hubs)
Mario:  I approve! :)

So here we are showing off our crocs. But silly me, I seem to get caught blinking more times than not.

 So after the line died down, I got a second visit with the man and he let me take another picture.

and look at the little shoe keychain someone gave him! I shall go in search of this to add to my mini collection. He loved it.

and then it was onto the next big chef appearance. Chef Michael Psilakis, who has one of the only 2 Greek restaurants with Michelin stars internationally. And guess who hopped up on stage to greet him hello before he took off? Mr Batali. Two great chefs in one shot.

Chef Psilakis talked about his concept which was to build layers of flavors through the dish. I was a little disappointed when he said he was going to demonstrate a salad, but it ended up being quite complex,excellent and flavorful!  Here we are with the Greek Chef. I am beginning to notice that the loyalty of Greeks to their Greek traditions are really like My Big Fat Greek Wedding! He talked about being Greek, how he was raised Greek , broke words down to their roots and put it back together.  He did however mention that the windex thing was not true.

Martha Stewart Gardens

Olive Oil Tasting

Hot apple cider and pumpkin muffin

Champagne in mini cups

Wine and Pumpkin Ale Tasting
We each got samples of both but I drank all the wine, and he drank all the ale. :)

Hanging out on the green grass

And Batali's signature dedicated to:

Yuri and Lee 

Bon Appetite!

Foodie Yoodie

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Birthday Weekend of Suprises!

29 came in with a slew of surprises and good eats. Thank the good Lord for all the blessings that I have received. Thank you to my thoughtful husband, my parents, my brothers Harry and Sung and Tammy for the great birthday weekend. You are some extraordinary people. :)

I could sit here and chatter on like a bird at length of the whole weekend, but to sum it up, there were quite a few surprises, coincidental running-intos, academy award winning performances, some longings fulfilled and some good food.

So through some great theatrical acting from the hubs, we landed at Alfred Portali's Restaurant Gotham Bar and Grill.  It's located in New York's Union Square, home to the place we dated and later engaged!

Everything on the plates were so carefully arranged and presented by the staff. For one of the dishes, the server came out with a little serving of sauce in one hand, the plate in the other and when he put the plate down, did a whole sauce presentation that included a lot of wrist and twirling action! I felt like we should have tipped or applauded him as he quietly walked away . The night was peppered with appearances of the chef by our table at the requested "most romantic table available". It helped that his significant other was sitting right behind us too! Great service, elegant ambiance and amazing food.

Gotham Bar and Grill

Great bread here...

japanese cucumber, shiso leaf and sweet miso
asian ginger vinaigrette

baby chiogga beets, sicilian pistachio and mango
marble rye toast

smoked bacon, dry sherry and fine herb crème fraîche

bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and sticky rice
soy lemongrass ginger sauce

coco blanc cassoulet, duck saucisson d'ail, acorn squash and quince
quatre épices 

and this is what they do when you drop things on the white table cloth.
It's very nice service of them to do, but very embarrassing!

My thoughtful and academy-awarding winning, main squeeze

with seasonal ice cream

Complementary petit fours. Do you know the origin of these little desserts? Back in the day when the stoves were wood/coal burning, people would try to be resourceful in using the energy so when it was time to cool the oven down for the night, they'd put these little cakes that take little time to bake into the oven. That way, the energy would be used and everyone could have little treats. :)

The man himself,  ALFRED PORTALE.
(his significant other took the picture for us)

The next day, I planned it to be a normal day at home making sure things around our house were in order. The windows were open, our clothes were swishing at the local laundromat and I was being really productive making my way down the list, but to my surprise the rest of my day had already been planned out for me!  Through a series of tricks and plots, I was lured to the city and conveniently ran into my brother (from DC).

Oui, too much sun.

Hubs was at work, but the guys planned that I would catch up with my brother for the morning and when it came to lunchtime, he would take me to Grainne Cafe where we would wait for Kee. It was a homey French Cafe with seats outside and cafe doors swung wide open and we were akwardly sat next to... a fighting couple.  They ended up kissing when they're plates came out either  a) because they made up or b) they were famished and were so happy to have food in front of them. World peace restored. *hushed cheering*

I told my brother that there must be a reason why Kee planned this cafe since he's usually very intentional about his finds. I looked down the menu..... and aha.


Escargot is simply a fancy term for snails-in-lots-of-garlic-butter-sauce. :)

Hubs planned to bring me here because they serve escargot!  A few weeks back, we were talking about the best thing we ever ate, and I shared that it was the escargot we had on your honeymoon. It was my brother's first time trying escargot, which turned out to be a treat for him too because it was favorable to him. We had two orders of the buttery goodness followed by some crepes and pasta.

The previous picture is of Kee's dish as it came out, but since he went to wash his hands, my bro and I decided to bless him with the garnishes from our plates too.

Post lunch, the guys were thoughtful and had planned to spend time doing things that I liked to do. It was a beautiful day to be out and about the city. We ended up hitting up a unique bookstore, art galleries, stores, wine and...getting our nails did. Everyone. The guys were great sports about it and perhaps enjoyed it a little if my suspicious are correct.  They only got the hand trimming, but I got the trimming and polish.

Then after we hung out during the day, it was onto dinner at Mario Batali's restaurant, Luppa. I've been trying to learn more about Italian food these days and the chef of the hour has been Mario Batali. With his opening of Eataly, his new book Molto Gusto coming out and his restaurants going strong in New York, I was in for a pleasant surprise as a treat from Sung and Tammy. Dinner at Luppa!

It was a long wait at this popular dining destination, but worth the wait for especially their Gnocchi and the pasta dishes. The olive oil for their bread was superb. I don't know much about olive oil, but even a novice can taste that this olive oil was better than the ordinary.  Mario Batali's philosophy of pastas is to make it simple and let the ingredients shine. The pictures will show simple pasta but the flavor really leads you into a pleasant surprise. :)

It was thrilling to go to dinner at Luppa, because my husband told me just before dinner that he had purchased tickets for me to go see Mario Batali this weekend! I've been working on raising some herbs and these tickets are to learn about edible gardens! 

Batali's book Molto Gusto. check!
Crocs. check!
Mario Batali? coming soon. Hopefully, a sig and pic to come. :)

Pictures all courtesy of the Tam Cam

Pork Shoulder with Snap Peas & Radishes 


Linguine with Mussels, Tomatoes and Thyme 

Calamari with Farro & Salsa Verde

Bucatini All' Amatriciana

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Fennel 

We ate family style.

Lupa Tartufo (tasted like a giant Ferrero Rocher)

We are all full and happy

Happyyy~~ (2cha)

And finally, after the night was over and we said our goodbyes, we returned home around 11pm. Lo and behold, our doorbell rings. Tammy and Sung are back at our house...with Cake! What a stir! :)

We had pretty red velvet cake from Sugar Sweet Sunshine and ice cream. We have no ice cream scoop to make nice round scoops for our guests, but I had a creative idea. A melon baller.

Mini scoops of ice cream. This rocked my world. 

And one of the shining gifts from my husband I will hold dear is my new Le Creuset  pot (Just like Julia Child and the inside is white!) and to accompany the new gift, my brother bought me the biography of Julia Child! So now I am cruising through Paris vicariously through Julia Child, but looking forward to cooking something good for the first time myself in the new pot. There is none other more Julia Child than Boeuf Bourguignon!

Alas, I have chattered on like a bird.  It was a wonderful birthday weekend. Thank you to all of you who made it special for me. In my pursuit of building our home, my birthday weekend was truly a gem of inspiration for the kitchen.

Cheers to the next year :)

Bon Appetit!

Foodie Yoodie