Monday, March 15, 2010

changing seasons (for the better)

I'm excited about daylight savings time.  An extra hour of daylight means spring, which means that summer isn't far behind.  Last week, it was chilly in San Francisco—in the 50s—and raining every other day.  This week is supposed to be mostly sunny and almost 70 every day.  I might get to actually wear some of my short-sleeved shirts without having to put a sweater over top of them.
But I'm also looking forward to some of my favorite foods coming back into season soon.  Around this time last year, I was eagerly awaiting the return of zucchini and summer squash for Jamie Oliver's courgette carbonara.
Summer of 2008 was the first time Steve made this recipe from Jamie at Home.  I enjoyed it then, but I could almost take it or leave it.  By last summer, I started to crave it: penne pasta, pieces of yellow and green squash, bits of salty pork, the creamy sauce from the egg yolks and parmesan, and thyme to top it all off.  A perfect summer lunch—or dinner.

And then there are tomatoes....  A lot of heirloom tomatoes don't really show up at the farmer's markets until mid- to late-summer, and some of them stick around until mid-October.  They're great in a simple caprese salad, but my favorite way to eat them is on a pizza margherita.  (Excuse the nearly three year-old picture.  At least I re-edited it a little.)

This pizza is actually based on an old recipe that Bethany and I "developed" nearly ten years ago when I was at her place in Princeton for a summer.  Steve and I have refined it a bit since then.  I used to buy pre-made pizza dough when I was in college, but now Steve makes it for us.  There's no tomato sauce on this pizza, which makes it quick and easy to assemble.  

Simply brush the crust with olive oil, apply sliced mozzarella, add basil leaves and then tomatoes, and finally grate parmesan and pecorino cheeses on top.  Steve bakes it on the pizza stone in our oven at around 500 degrees (I think), rotating it once partway through, and taking it out when the top and bottom are nicely browned.  In the last year or so, we've also started putting a little goat cheese on top for extra tang.
We mustn't forget strawberries either.  They're my favorite thing to eat on waffles, which are the perfect weekend morning breakfast.  This shot is from Memorial Day last year.
I/we got a Belgian waffle maker from Steve's parents at my bridal shower, and unlike many couples, we use ours somewhat regularly.  The resulting leftover waffles keep well in the freezer and can be reheated in the oven.  They're good with just powdered sugar or syrup (or coconut syrup) on top, but strawberries are the best.  The one thing to be careful of, however, is that you cut the strawberries on a different cutting board than the one you use for things like say... garlic.  I've had a couple bites with some curious extra flavors.  Strawberries seem to pick up those flavors pretty easily.
My absolute favorite summer foods, however, are stone fruits.  Nectarines are my choice to eat plain, but we have recipes with peaches and plums in them as well.  New to us last summer was another recipe from Jamie at Home: Grilled Peach Salad with Prosciutto and a Creamy Dressing.
This salad features a few of my favorite foods: peaches, goat cheese, and prosciutto.  (The original recipe suggests bresaola, but prosciutto is easier to have on hand or pick up at the corner store.)  It makes a wonderful dinner for those evenings when our house is around 80 or 90 degrees with the windows open.  The peaches are herbed and grilled, which adds extra flavor, and they're still warm, but not hot.  The rest of the salad is cooler to contrast.  Just watch out for the bits of tarragon; they're a little intense.
And what better way to finish one's summer dinner than a stone fruit crumble?  If you've been following my food pictures on Flickr lately, you've probably noticed that the inspiration for a lot of Steve's recent projects has come from things we've had in restaurants.  It usually works like this: we eat something we like at a restaurant, I take a picture of the dish and hopefully of its description on the menu, I mention that Steve should try making something like it, Steve looks in his cookbooks and online for similar recipes, and then he makes something based on those recipes and what we remember about the dish.
We had a plum and blackberry crumble at Range in October of 2008, which was served with nectarine ice cream.  Last June, we decided it was time to try to replicate it, since the fruit was finally back in season.
That first time, Steve used plums, blackberries, and peaches.  For the ice cream, he used David Lebovitz's recipe for peach ice cream, using white peaches.  It was good, but not quite perfect.  Some of the fruit in the crumble was a little too tart, and the white peach ice cream didn't have quite the same flavor intensity as the nectarine ice cream Steve had made in the past.  The crumble topping itself, however, was perfect.  I insisted on including oats, as the Range dessert did.  The oats make the whole thing seem a little more wholesome and natural.  It just feels like a healthier dessert.
Steve made crumbles a few more times between June and September of last year, including one for our Fourth of July dinner.  It was especially good that time: nectarines, plums, and cherries, with nectarine ice cream.  (He made the crumble a day before, which gave the flavors time to "party" a little.)  In August our crumble had nectarines and plums, with nectarine-bourbon ice cream.  And in September when his parents were visiting, there were peaches and plums, with peach-bourbon ice cream.  Sadly, nectarines were out of season by then, but the yellow peaches stood up well to the bourbon in the ice cream.  They were quite pretty too.
While some of these foods won't be available for another few months, at least daylight savings time will start to benefit me right away.  One of the best parts of summer is the light.  It's so much easier to take good pictures, both at home and at restaurants, when it stays lighter out longer.  
I'm looking forward to our next dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Contigo—maybe tomorrow?—when we can sit outside and it shouldn't get dark until after dessert has arrived.  Pictures will be taken, good food will be eaten, and the arrival of spring will be celebrated. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ode to macarons

Last December, I conducted an experiment.  I had reason to suspect that I was not allergic to almonds, as I had always assumed, so I decided to test that theory.  Now, I don't have a death wish; I had some evidence to support my hypothesis.
First, I learned that my cousin Jessica and my sister Bethany—both also allergic to nuts—had eaten Honey Nut Cheerios, which are made with almonds, and suffered no ill effects.  Second, I've had almond extract before and had no problems.  (Technically, some almond extract is made from apricot pits rather than almonds, but whatever.)  Third, I knew that almonds were in the same family as peaches and other stone fruits, so they are different from walnuts and pecans.  Fourth, and most important, I found the results of an allergy test from when I was almost three years old, stuck in my baby book.  That test listed my allergies for peanuts, walnuts, and pecans as "4+" and soybean as "1-2."  (I guess that explains why things with soy protein make my throat scratchy.)  But almonds? "0."
For the last couple years, I had been lamenting the fact that so many French desserts use almond flour: madeleines, financiers, and macarons.  It wouldn't have been so disappointing, but macarons are some of the cutest cookies imaginable.  I've seen numerous pictures of the pretty French pastel sandwich cookies, and I so wanted to get some to try (both for photos and to eat).  It broke my heart that I might be allergic to them for all of time.
So when I decided to test my almond theory, the choice of "how" was obvious.  Why try just plain almonds when I could try beautiful cookies?  And macarons were really my motivation for testing anyway.
One afternoon in December, I made my way to Hayes Valley and went into Paulette to select my first macarons.  Obviously, I still had to avoid other nuts like pistachios, just in case.  (Pistachios weren't listed on that allergy test, so they're still in the "unsafe" category.)  And I decided against the Sweet Wedding Almond flavor, with almond ganache inside and almond bits on top; no need to be brazen about it.  I ended up with a box of 6 macarons of various flavors, hoping that I'd actually get to try all of them and not be disappointed/allergic after a single bite. 
From the left: violet cassis, pumpkin, raspberry, Madagascar vanilla, Columbian coffee, and Caribbean chocolate.
Of course, as soon as I got the macarons home, I had a photo shoot with them.  That was the first priority.  Then, when I couldn't wait any longer, I decided to try one.  I would have waited until Steve came home from work, but I was too impatient.  (Hey, I had Benodryl at the ready.)
Which one to try first?  Vanilla.  I figured I'd go with the classic, which meant that I'd save the more interesting flavors for Steve to try too.  It was wonderful: slightly crispy on the outside, moist and vanilla-y on the inside where the cakey cookie and the buttercream melded together.  The lingering texture in my mouth took a little getting used to, kind of like grated coconut, as I waited to see if any red flags would go up.  But it seemed to be fine.

That night after dinner, we tried more of them.  I had a couple nibbles, I'd let Steve take a bite, and then he'd let me finish it.  The next night, we finished the last ones.  My favorite?  Maybe the pumpkin one, but the violet cassis was also really interesting.  They were all fabulous, though.  It was difficult to decide on a favorite.
A week or so later, Steve brought me a leftover chocolate macaron from Miette to try.  (There had been some at work, and he saved one for me.)  I enjoyed it, but it had gotten a tiny bit dry.  I waited until he got some directly from Miette in January to take pictures.

The macarons from Miette were a little more rustic than Paulette's, making them a harder to stack too.  This time, Steve brought home vanilla, chocolate, grapefruit, and chocolate-orange.  As much as I enjoy chocolate, the vanilla and grapefruit may have been my favorites.  Steve liked the chocolate-orange one best, though.
My next macaron encounter came by chance when I decided to visit Bernal Heights.  I came upon the Sandbox Bakery and decided to have a look inside, since the design aesthetic of the place appealed to me.  Then I noticed that they carried macarons, made by Christopher David Macaron.  I got two to take home in a small paper bag.
The things I liked about the Christopher David macarons were the unique flavors and the presentation.  I got butterscotch (with little gold flecks on top) and strawberry-lavender (with a speckly blue top).  Unfortunately, the blue food coloring on top of the strawberry-lavender one wanted to come off on my fingers.  It wasn't until I had a blue thumb that I noticed I was smudging the top of the cookie.
Flavorwise, these were pretty intense.  They weren't kidding around with the butterscotch or the strawberry-lavender.  I ate half of each cookie that afternoon and that was plenty of sweet for one sitting.  I saved the two remaining halves to share with Steve after dinner, and he agreed with my assessment.  These were a little less refined, with the flavor overshadowing the almond cookieness a little too much.  I'd still buy them again, but they're not my first choice of macaron.
Paulette is still my favorite.  They're pretty and colorful, there's a variety of interesting flavors (more than Miette or Christopher David), and they're still relatively refined.
The time was coming when I would need to try making macarons myself, but Steve beat me to it.  I woke up on Valentine's Day, and Steve was making me macarons from the Bouchon Cookbook.  He used caramel-chocolate-fleur de sel buttercream in the middle, leftover from making our Valentine's Day dessert.  The cookies ended up a little large, and the buttercream was too runny and messy, but they were good.  They even developed the signature "feet" at the bottom of the cookies.
Steve tried again the next weekend, this time using coffee extract (from instant espresso powder) for the cookies and chocolate ganache inside.  The result didn't have a lot of coffee flavor, but the size was about right.  They tasted good anyway, but they were a little dry.
I still haven't tried making macarons myself, but the important thing is that I can eat them now.  It's taking some getting used to, this eating almonds thing, especially when at restaurants.  We got a dish with almonds on top when we went to Contigo for Steve's birthday, and it was really strange to me to eat the halved almonds in it.  Somehow, I still expected to have an allergic reaction, even though I knew from eating all that almond flour that it was safe.  It still felt a little wrong to be eating something with a nutty texture. 

So this is what nuts are like...  It's a brave new world, friends.

Friday, March 5, 2010

dinner and a show

And so we finally reach the end of the NY trip recap...  At the end of the last entry, Steve and I were getting ready for dinner and a show on Sunday evening.  As I previously mentioned, we had made an OpenTable reservation at DB Bistro Moderne after our Saturday night dinner at Café Boulud.  DB Bistro was already on my list, partly because the website looked so good and partly because Alyson had recommended it as one of her favorite meals ever.  But our experience at Café Boulud cemented the deal; might as well try another Boulud restaurant while we had the chance.
This one was obviously catering more to the pre- and post-theatre diners.  It was located a couple blocks off Times Square and was a little more casual.  The menu also had pictures of Times Square on it.
The decor was also more noticeably stylish compared to the understated Café Boulud.  There was a clear motif of squares, no doubt inspired by the modern font of the "db" in the name.  It appeared as a design on the napkins, some of the plates, and the upholstery.  It was also echoed in the shape of the chair backs and the square mirrors on the wall.  The natural tones of a lot of it conveyed a sense of refinement, while some red walls and votives added vibrance.
In deciding what to eat, I employed one of my favorite strategies: order a couple small plates and leave room for dessert.  I had learned from all of these fancy dinners that my favorite parts of the meal were usually the first few courses—raw stuff, soups, salads—and dessert.  The meaty entrees, while good, take up much more space with their large portions of protein.  I also tend to get tired of them more quickly, and winter braises are not my cup of tea.  Since nothing on that side of the menu was grabbing my attention anyway, I decided to go with a soup and salad.
But first, we were served some bread and an amuse bouche.
The bread was good, but the crostini were definitely more interesting.  The two spreads for the little toasts were olive tapenade and eggplant-mushroom, I believe.  Not wanting to test the theory that night that I might not be allergic to mushrooms, I stuck with the tapenade.  I don't really like olives, but I'll eat a good tapenade on bread.  And once all the little toasts were gone, we did just that.
Soup du Jour
Butternut Squash
My first menu selection was one of the soups du jour.  When our waitress was telling us about the specials, she mentioned the butternut squash soup and told us that all of their soups were made primarily from puree.  I remembered how good the cauliflower soup had been the night before and decided that the butternut squash soup sounded perfect.
It was, in fact, perfect.  Not only was the soup itself good, but the toppings were too.  There were caramelized onions, pumpkin seeds, Italian parsley, cherries, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Each added something different to the soup and kept me from getting bored.  Some people would probably take a look at it and then stir it all together, but I liked being able to control which components were in each bite.  The caramelized onions were differently sweet than the butternut squash, the balsamic had some acid to cut through the creaminess, the pumpkin seeds were nutty and differed in texture from the smoothness of the soup, and the parsley added its green herbiness.  The cherries were probably the most surprising element, but the fruit flavor worked really well with the squash.
Rocket Arugula
Favas, Yellow Wax & Green Beans, Olives, Serrano Ham, Manchego, Balsamic
The other half of my order was a salad with arugula and all sorts of other things.  My favorite components were the manchego cheese, the serrano ham, the cherry tomatoes, and the croutons.  I probably would have been happy with just those things on the dressed arugula salad.  The various types of beans—fava, green, and yellow wax—were interesting, but I didn't seek them out as much.  And I left most of the olives, donating a few to Steve.  Maybe not my favorite salad ever, but I still really enjoyed it.

Crispy Duck Confit
Wild Mushrooms, Broccoli Rabe, Sweet & Sour Duck Jus
Meanwhile, Steve was enjoying his duck confit.  He loved it; I loved that it was pretty.  I don't think I tried any, though.  I was focused on eating my own food so I could get to my favorite part of the meal: dessert.
We saw two desserts on the menu that looked especially good, and we decided to get both to share.  It was a good move.  The first dessert:
Crispy Caramelized Apples
Cinnamon Twist, Yogurt Apple Gateau, Mascarpone Ice Cream
This is the dessert that started out in front of me.  (We switched partway through.)  There was a little package of apples in the back, probably wrapped in phyllo dough, a small cake next to it with the mascarpone ice cream on top, shaved apples between the package and the cake, some good-sized dots of thick caramel on the plate, and a crispy cinnamon twist to top it all off.  In some ways I preferred this dessert to the apple tart tatin at Café Boulud.  It probably wasn't as refined, but there were more flavors here to love—cinnamon, caramel, mascarpone—in addition to the apple.
Coconut Rice Pudding
Vanilla, Sable Breton, Ginger & Rum Infused Pineapple, Mango-Banana Sorbet
The second dessert was perhaps even more impressive.  The coconut rice pudding had been piped on top of the sable breton (somewhere between a cookie and a crust) and topped with dried pieces of pineapple, if I remember correctly.  On top of that were some raw coconut shavings.  That was actually the only part of the dish that wasn't perfect: the raw coconut was a little bland and tough.  I think it was more for decoration.  The rest of the dessert was wonderful, however.  The ginger/rum pineapple and the mango-banana sorbet gave it that light tropical flavor, adding some context to the coconut of the rice pudding.  The best part was probably the sorbet, though.  It reminded me a little of baby food, but in a good way.

Last came this trio of mignardises, which Steve and I shared.  The madeleine was even smaller and cuter than the ones we had had the night before, and this one was plain vanilla, rather than lemon.  In the middle was an orange marshmallow, and on the right, a pate de fruit (fruit jelly).  I think it was passion fruit.  They were a good way to end the meal, even though we had already filled up on the desserts.
Having finished dinner, the evening was not yet over.  Next, we walked through Times Square to the Imperial Theatre to see Billy Elliot with Erica and Stu, Erica's parents, and Danielle.
We found our seats on the side, in the nosebleed section, and the show started not long after.  At that point, we realized that there was whole section open in the area next to us, more center, which wouldn't have an obstructed view of one side of the stage.  (Someone had probably bought group tickets and then failed to show up.)  But since the show had begun already, we didn't want to pick up and move to new seats.  As a result, I spent a lot of the first act wondering what was happening that we couldn't see on the right side of the stage and trying not to be distracted by it.  At intermission, we all moved down and in to fill some of the open seats.  The view was much better there, and I enjoyed the second half more.
I had seen the movie years ago, so I knew what to expect of the plot.  Billy gets into ballet classes, he loves it, his father finds out and forbids it, and there's a mining strike going on that complicates things.  The part about the strike, with the history and the politics, was a little difficult to follow.  The accents didn't help much with that either.  Luckily, the part about Billy and the ballet was really the heart of the story.  That part was easy to understand.
I'm often fascinated with the set design of these shows, and there were some really cool sets in this show.  Billy's house had a piece that would rise from the floor, which included the kitchen and a spiral staircase up to Billy's tiny bedroom.  The mechanics of it looked pretty complicated, since it was able to revolve while rising, and I think an inner piece (Billy's bed?) was able to rise independently from the rest.  Later in the show, there was also a mirrored drop for when they were at the Royal Ballet, which was ornate and reflected the audience in the theatre.  It made the place look both fancy and expansive, while really just using the apron of the stage.
On the whole, the show was a lot of fun.  I wasn't sure what to expect of the style after seeing the performance at the Tony Awards last year.  They did the Act 1 finale, which involved a dance freak-out by Billy and a lot of thrashing against police and picket lines.  I remember thinking at the time that it was all kind of spastic and emotional.  Happily, it worked in context, and I enjoyed myself throughout the show.  It wasn't my favorite work ever, but we were all very impressed with the boy who played Billy Elliot at our performance.  If he had been mediocre, the show wouldn't have been nearly as good.
When it was over, we all trekked to Riley's apartment to say goodbye.  It was a nice little studio apartment—small, but pretty new.  It's probably a little crowded for Riley and a parent, compared to what they were used to in the Bay Area, but it's typical for Manhattan.  As Riley told us, he spends a lot of time out and about.  If nothing else, they have a great view.
We all chatted for a few minutes, and then we said goodbye to Riley and his mom.  Deciding that we didn't want to walk all the way back to the hotel in the cold, Steve and I broke from the group and took the first entrance to the subway that we passed.  We had one ride left on our MetroCards, so we used it to get from the 42nd St. station to 59th and 7th.  We still had to walk quite a ways to get to the NRW line, but at least it was all underground, out of the wind and the crowds.  And since we were no longer walking with a group, we could walk as fast as we wanted.

We left the city the next morning, via cab to Penn Station, train to the Newark Airport station, and tram to the airport terminal itself.  From there, we flew to Charlotte, NC, then home to SFO.  While we were waiting in Newark for our flight to Charlotte, we were treated to one last view of NYC in the distance.

And with that, the New York trip was over.  Not having been to NYC for nearly five years, it was nice to visit again for a weekend.  I did a better job this time of not overbooking us, so we didn't feel as stressed out by the pace.  Three shows was a good number for four days, even if there were others I would have liked to see.  Food-wise, the trip was one of our most successful and most enjoyable.  We even managed to eat well when we hadn't planned out a meal ahead of time.
The one complaint that I had was the weather.  It wasn't snowing or raining, at least, but it was too cold to be outside for very long.  I would have liked to take more pictures, do more street photography, but I just couldn't keep my fingers out of their mittens for very long at a time.  Next time, we should probably not go in the dead of winter.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

new york sunday

Sunday, January 10 was our last day in New York.  We left the hotel that morning with a little over an hour to kill before lunch.  We had made a reservation at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, which was just a block away from Le Bernardin, where we ate on Friday night.  After walking by Bar Americain, Steve and I headed to Rockefeller Center so I could take some pictures before lunch.
The ice skating was still in full swing, but the Christmas tree and most of the extravagant holiday store windows nearby had been taken down already.  We did, however, pass an Anthropologie store near Rockefeller Center that still had its window displays up.  The store in downtown SF is pretty impressive, but this one had much more window real estate to show off the creativity of the Anthro display people.

I later read that the theme was "Fifteen Inches of Snow."  The most memorable part was the window with the front half of a car, covered in "snow."  Most of the car was covered with fabric, as were parts of the road signs next to it.  The snow itself also looked like it was made from fabric.  Attached to the front of the car was a "hood ornament," which was similar to one of the Christmas ornaments I had bought from them that year.

You can see a shot of the full window here.  I mostly took pictures of the details that I noticed.  My favorite detail, however, was part of a scene in one of the other windows.  (See more on Flickr.)

Clearly, I had way too much fun taking pictures of these windows... when I wasn't freezing my fingertips off.  It was unbelievably cold and windy that day, and I was wearing my combination gloves/mittens, with the mitten part that flips over fingerless gloves.  Without the mitten part over my fingers, my fingertips were starting to go numb from the cold.  I had to hurry it up and take the pictures before I froze completely.
The walk back to Bar Americain was relatively short, but the wind in my face was making my eyes tear up.  I was glad when we got inside and out of the cold.  I learned that day why there are so many revolving doors in NY: a frigid gust of wind rips through if one opens a regular door to the outside at just the right moment.  It happened once while we were eating lunch, and I immediately understood.
But back to the restaurant itself...  When we sat down, I already had a good idea of what I wanted for lunch, from looking at the online menus.  We started with a trio of seafood cocktails, which looked both pretty and delicious on the website.
We tried the middle one first, which was shrimp-tomatillo.  It was my favorite.  I could have eaten a lot more of it.  As it was, we were taking turns sipping the leftover tomatillo sauce from the shot glass after we ate our shrimp.  
The one on the left was my second-favorite: crab-coconut.  It was kind of light and tropical, like a ceviche, but with crab and bits of mango in it.  
The lobster-avocado cocktail on the right was less memorable.  There wasn't enough of the lobster, I think.  Maybe it was just missing something in the flavor to make it amazing, but it didn't compare to the other two, in my opinion.
Steve ordered the Smoked Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Biscuit Crust for his main dish.  (Kind of a sucky picture... natural light + artificial light in one picture = difficult.)  Steve loved his pot pie.  I didn't try any, since I wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing.

I ordered the Grilled Pizza with Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Toasted Garlic.  I enjoyed the flavors and smokiness of it, but I was already half-full from the cocktail trio.  It was too heavy for me to eat more than about a quarter of it.  I think the main problem was that there was a lot of salt from the bacon.  The cheese also seemed pretty salty, and the caramelized onions weren't sweet enough to counteract that.  It probably would have been better if it had been less loaded up with bacon so I could taste the other components more.

Overall, Bar Americain was good, but I preferred the southwestern food of Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill—we went in Vegas a few years ago—over the reinvented homestyle food of Bar Americain.  It wasn't my favorite meal, but I would definitely give the restaurant another chance, since the first two seafood cocktails were so good.

After lunch, we walked back over to Rockefeller Center.  We thought about going into Anthropologie then to check it out, but we didn't want to add Steve's newly purchased cup of coffee to the pile of abandoned cups that we saw outside the door.  Instead, we continued with my list of things to do.

The first was to find La Maison du Chocolat at Rockefeller Center for some macarons.  We looked around a little, didn't see it, and then I decided I was too full for macarons anyway.  Instead, we walked up Park Avenue to try to find the NY outpost of Pierre Marcolini, a chocolatier that Dan and Carmen discovered in Paris and Belgium.  The chocolates that they brought back for us were so good that we hoped to get some more.  Unfortunately, we got there to find them closed on Sundays.  No chocolates for us.
Despite the cold, we trudged on.  Central Park would be both easy to find and certain to be open on a Sunday.  I had a few landmarks in the park on my list, but I settled for a quick look around the southeast corner.

Don't be fooled by the warm colors in those photos; I adjusted them somewhat in editing.  We were, in fact, freezing.  We stopped by the bridge to see the ducks in the water, and then I went after some shots of the iconic carriage rides through Central Park—also on my list (to photograph, not to do).
With that accomplished, we decided it would be a good idea to go back to the hotel room and get out of the cold for a while.  On the way back out of the park, we passed a familiar face: Bob Tuschman, the Senior VP of Programming/Production at the Food Network.  I recognized him from being one of the judges on The Next Food Network Star.  (Kind of a stupid show, especially compared to Top Chef, but I still end up watching it for some reason.)  He looked like he was showing some friends around.  Funny how the "celebrities" that we ended up seeing in NY were all food people.
Once we made it back to our room, we noticed that housecleaning hadn't been by yet.  We had left a little later than usual that morning, so we had missed the initial rounds.  Normally, I would have just gone out again and done something else until I actually needed to be back to get ready for dinner.  We were feeling tired and kind of apathetic, however.  The original plan for the afternoon had been a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, which had a Tim Burton exhibit on display.  Unfortunately, the tickets for the exhibit were sold out when we checked the website that morning.  That left us with more time to do Central Park, but the cold meant that we didn't want to spend the entire afternoon outside.  I felt guilty sitting in the hotel room when I could be out doing something exciting, but we had already done most of the things I had been looking forward to.  Everything else required significant time outside or just significant time, when we had a set schedule for dinner.

So we hung out in the room for a little while until housecleaning arrived, and then we went down to the lobby to contemplate going somewhere or finding a drink.  We ended up in the hotel bar, where we each had a cocktail.  It wasn't as good a photo op as a cute little cafe would have been, but Steve and I enjoyed ourselves, and we stayed warm.  By the time we finished our drinks and went back upstairs, our room was clean, and it was time to get ready for dinner.

Since this post is long enough already, our last dinner and show will be the final post for the NY trip.  Coming soon.  And by "soon," I mean "as soon as I write it."