Wednesday, April 29, 2009
When I initially called they had no reservations left but when I called back the Saturday before to see if anyone had cancelled they had a reservation for 2 at 9PM available for me. The timing was perfect.
Babbo's 1st level is small and tight. We ended up having to wait 20 minutes for our table and there really was NO good place to stand but we muddled through. Babbo's decor/style is very interesting. It's fine dining at it's best and the decor is very simple and understated but the crowd is very casual and they were playing Led Zepplin, which while great because I love Led Zepplin is not the type of music I imagine listening to during my fine dining experience. The music continued on to U2 and other classic rock throughout our entire time there.
We were seated in the dining area on the 2nd floor which I was very happy about. There was more space up there and it was quieter because it was away from the wine bar area. We ordered a bottle of wine and of course water for the table and then the waiter brought out a chef's taste of chickpea bruschetta for us to enjoy. Every table received this. It was good (especially since I don't really like chickpeas - maybe I should try them again...) but it was a little spicy for me.
For my first course I ordered the Duck Bresaola which was divine. It was thinkly sliced duck (think like prosciutto) with shaved asparagus on top of it marinated in some great dressing and then there was this parmesean cheese little pie with it that was perfectly browned on top. The 3 flavors together were delicious. Especially the asparagus. Jon had the crispy spring vegetables with goat cheese. The plate was smeared with goat cheese and then layered above that were peppers, snow pea pods, arugula with something sweet drizzled over it. It was also very good - it had a good crunch and went perfectly with the goat cheese.
For my pasta dish I had the pappardelle bolognese. The waiter had warned me it was a large portion so when it arrived I immediately halved the portion and now I have delicious Babbo leftovers for dinner again tonight!!! The pappardelle took me back to Italy. It was perfectly cooked and the meat sauce was the perfect compliment to the pasta. Jon ordered the Bucatiniall'Amatriciana (which I loved in Italy but tends to be spicy in the US). I had a bite of his and it was also very good. It's presentation was not as pretty as it really just looked like a bowl of spaghetti and it didn't have pancetta in it which it usually does in Italy.
For my meat dish I ordered the grilled pork chop which was ginormous!!!! It was a double chop - I was almost embarrassed to have it on my plate (especially with my aversion to bones!) I quickly cute the large piece of meat away from the bone and moved it to the other side of the plate. The waiter came over and suggested that per the chef I use the 16 year old balsamic oil as a dressing for it which I much obliged. The pork could not have been cooked better. I cut this in half as well so that I could enjoy all my meals without feeling like I had over done it. It had peppers and onions with it. Jon ordered the Brasato al Barolo (Braised Beef with Porcini Mushrooms). The presentation on this dish was so beautiful! It was this perfect square of braised meet with sauce on the bottom and the mushrooms piled on top. Jon's dish was melt in your mouth good but it was sweet which surprised me!
All in all our experience at Babbo was thoroughly enjoyable. Ahhh...and now that both of our 30th birthdays are over and our 5 year wedding anniversary we probably won't be "Fine Dining" again for awhile. If you're willing to spend the big bucks for the experience and a special occassion Babbo is a great place in NYC to do it. Babbo on the cheap - it might be possible - if you each ordered one pasta dish and just one drink and didn't get anything else. It wouldn't be quite the same experience but it would be amazing food.
Restaurant Review: 5 Stars
Post in Comments:
Have you ever eaten at Babbo? Did you like it?
When you go out for Fine Dining what kind of music do you like to listen to?
PS - I haven't posted reviews on our other two "Fine Dining" experiences but have no fear they will be appearing sometime during a Foodie Wednesday post!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Our 3rd day we spent exploring actual historic Old San Juan. We allowed ourselves a nice slow start to the day and then walked up the hill and down along the water to Castillo Filipe del Murro. You can't see it in the picture above but all outside the fort were hundreds of kids with kites. It was so windy there it was the perfect spot to fly a kite.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Recently, Shion, Jenn and myself started the NYC Chapter of ABC Club. So I've decided that every other Friday (or every Friday until I catch up) I'm going to review the alphabet bar that we visited.
ABC Club is awesome for a number of reasons: 1) It's the perfect excuse to get together with all of your friends on a Thursday night. 2) It's a great way to explore the bars of Manhattan. Not only are we working our way through the alphabet but we're also visiting different neighborhoods in NYC. 3) It's a great opportunity to meet new people whether it's to network for work, make a love connection or just make a new friend! 4) It's just a fun time!
Last night was D Bar, we're already 4 letters in. D Bar was Donnybrook in the Lower East Side. Donnybrook is a relatively new bar with an upscale Irish pub interior. The set up is great for a large group because there are tables that line the wall and chairs that line the bar and a lot of empty space in the middle for people to congregate. Meghan the owner was very accomodating. I called before hand and she reserved two large tables for us, arranged happy hour to be extended from 7-10PM for ABC Club NYC members and then even showed up and introduced herself! The bartenders were very attentive and the music was perfect - a little bit of DMB, U2, music you want to hear when you're out.
All in all Donnybrook was a great find. Everyone that was there last night seemed to really love the bar and I would definitely return for a chill night in the LES. The one downfall I guess is that they do not serve food. In typical NYC fashion they do have take-out menus at the bar and you can order food to be delivered to the bar.
We had a great time there. I would definitely recommend it.
Post in Comments:
Are you a member of ABC Club NYC or ABC Club Boston? If so, what's been your favorite bar so far?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
The premise of the movie is that Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is 37 and has forgotten all the reasons that he married his high school sweetheart Scarlett. He resents his life with her and their kids feeling like he passed up opportunities. They are in the middle of a divorce and he is questioning his life. He goes back to high school to reminisce about his great basketball days and a janitor asks him if he would "want to do it all over again". Without hesitating Mike says, "absolutely". On his way home he tries to save the janitor from falling/jumping off of a bridge and ends up falling off himself. When he arrives back at his friend Ned's house he realizes that he is his 17 year old self again (Zac Efron). As he re-enrolls in high school, he gets to REALLY know his kids and tries to help them out and be the father he feels he wasn't.
I have to say that Zac Efron really impressed me in this movie. He really carried the whole movie and was really funny. His friend Ned, stole the show many times, making for some of the movies funniest moments! All in all I would say this would be a great rental. It's perfect for that night you're really feeling like watching a "feel good" "chick flick", with just the right amount of humor, and love story wrapped up to one, that ends the way you want it to end!
I enjoyed it and would rate it a solid 3 stars!
Post in Comments:
Have you seen 17 Again? Did you like it?
I saw many commercials and promos for Castle on ABC and I was intrigued. The premise is that Richard Castle, a very famous mystery, suspense novelist, is writing a new series of books. He has been paired up with Detective Kate Beckett (the muse for his new main character) and he shadows her as she solves homicides in NYC. He's using the real life material to write his new novel the 1st in the series.
I think maybe I was intrigued because I LOVE mystery and suspense novels and the idea of a writer shadowing a homicide detective seemed interesting. I watched the first episode to give it a shot and I am officially hooked. Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle perfectly and his chemistry with Stana Katic is great, just the right amount to be believable. It's filled with mystery and suspense as you try to figure out who-done-it, but at the same time it is really funny. For a "cop" show it's pretty light, which I enjoy. Nathan Fillion makes me laugh every week!
The supporting cast is also entertaining and completely enjoyable. I really hope this is a show that sticks around...it might bump one of the shows that I put in my Top 5 off the list...it has definite potential.
Post in Comments:
Have you watched Castle yet? If so, do you like it?
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
2 large baking potatoes (1 1/2 pounds total), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound lean ground beef sirloin
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
One 8-ounce package shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
Sour cream and shredded lettuce, for serving
1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Last Tuesday I cataloged our first day in Puerto Rico - for this Tuesday Travels edition - I am going to focus on Day 2 - another adventure filled day. We started the day a little later, since our previous day (wake up time 6:45AM, bed time midnight) was not a very vacation like schedule. We got on the road about 10:30 and headed straight for El Yunque, the national rain forest, in Puerto Rico. It's about an hour drive south east from San Juan.
Upon arrival we stopped by the visitor center to watch the movie on El Yunque as well as to pick up a map. Our only goal for the day was to swim in a waterfall. The guide at the front desk informed us of some good stop points for photo ops and we headed on our way (in the car). We stopped at the observation point, the waterfall along the roadside filled with tourists and visitors climbing all over it, and at the Observation Tower.
After that we headed for a "hike" to Minka Falls. The hike was along a concrete path taking a little bit of the fun out of it and said path was pretty crowded. It was a pleasant walk to the waterfall but boy were we shocked when we got there! It was pretty crazy - there were hundreds of people just hanging out at the waterfall, perched on rocks, with tons of food, drinking beers while they swam. We had our lunch and then Alison, Meghan & myself decided to brave the freezing cold waters and the crazy swarms of people to swim in the waterfall. It was chilly but well worth it!
After that we packed up and headed back to the car where we drove back to Luquillo Beach (the main entrance this time) and spent about 2-3 hours just laying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and enjoying our time in the sun. On our way home we stopped at the kiosks for a quick snack (eating on the roadside is a big thing in Puerto Rico.)
That night we took advantage of our kitchen. It was Good Friday and everyone we had encountered had warned us that a lot of places would not be open. So we decided to have a night in. We had a simple pasta dinner with salad and wine followed by fun games!
It was a much more relaxing, slow paced day, where we once again got to experience a couple of things and spend good quality time together. My one complaint would be that if I were to go back to El Yunque I would talk to the guide about hiking paths a little less traveled and touristy so that I could really get a feel for the rainforest. I felt that it was definitely a very touristy destination and having so many people crowded around you kind of takes away from the beauty of being in nature!
Post in Comments:
Have you ever felt that a place you were visiting was just "too" touristy? If so, where were you?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
You may have noticed that I wasn't around to blog last week! That's because I was in Puerto Rico!! Every year starting in 2005 my Holy Cross girlfriends and I get together somewhere for a couple of days. In 2005 we went to New Orleans, in 2006 we went back to HC for our 5 year college reunion, in 2007 we went to St. Louis, in 2008 we visited Philadelphia and in 2009 in celebration of our 30th birthdays we decided to take it up a notch so we decided on Puerto Rico. It was a blast, we had a great trip, fun conversation, and a good variety of activities. I definitely know how lucky I am to have such amazing friends in my life and I cherish that we are able to get together once a year and explore together. I decided to break down the blog entries about our trip into a 3 parts, one for each full day that we were there to explore. So this is Day 1!
We all arrived on Wednesday, April 8th at varying times and had a fairly chill afternoon and evening together. Thursday was when all the craziness began. When we're planning our trips, depending on how many days we have, we each pick 1-2 activities that are a "must do" for us and then we try to arrange the itinerary to accomodate everyones wishes.
The first activity we did on Thursday was to get up early and drive about 90 miles Southwest of San Juan to visit the Camuy Caves. You get there and have to wait for your number to be called. Then you watch a short video on the "history" of the caves and their safety rules for your visit. You then hop into the "modern & fun" trams and travel down 200 feet to Clara Cava the Cave that is open to visitors.
Once there you walk through the cave out the other side. Inside it is amazing. My pictures didn't come out because it was all lit up inside the cave and so they came out all dark. It was breathtaking. Our guide Hector, was incredibly passionate about his job. Kirsten and I were able to walk up front with him for awhile and ask him questions about caves in general and Clara Cava in particular. You could just tell that he loved what he did and he loved exploring caves.
It was about a 45 minute tour but definitely worth the drive out there. I wish we could have repelled down the cave but alas maybe next time. The one thing I would say about visiting Camuy Caves is that you have to be patient. We waited about 80-90 minutes before our tour started so make sure to leave yourself plenty of time and if you're in a rush then skip it because you won't enjoy your visit.
Afterwards, we drove back East past San Juan and spent an hour at Luquillo beach. It took us awhile to figure out exactly where the entrance was and as we found out the next day we didn't even go to the real entrance, we were definitely at the local entrance, but we were there. It was beautiful (although very windy when we were there). Everyone was just enjoying themselves, drinking, eating, playing in the sand & water.
Kayaking back was much more difficult as we were against the current, it took a lot of hard work, paddling & communicating to get back to the start but it was worth it. It was by far my favorite acitivity of the trip, although the caves were a close 2nd, it just was so peaceful. I love to kayak and it isn't something I get to do often, I hope it's something I get to do more often in the future!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Back in the late fall/early winter when Jon and I were going to the movies pretty much every week before every movie we saw a preview for the movie Watchmen. After seeing like the 5th preview for Watchmen I finally turned to Jon and said, "I think I would like to see this movie...". I mentioned this to both my Uncle Joe and my future brother-in-law Josh and they recommended that I read the book first. I won't lie I was skeptical about a graphic novel but I was also excited about branching out and experiencing a whole new genre of reading! My Uncle Joe lent me the book and thus I began....
Watchmen is the story of costumed/masked super heroes. At the beginning of the book we learn that The Comedian has died and another masked man Rorschak is trying to find out who is behind his murder and why. As the novel unfolds we learn the hisotry of the costumed/masked super heroes and what happened to them. The novel goes between the present and the past to unravel the mystery of who would be behind getting rid of the costumed/masked super heroes and why.
There are 12 chapters in all and each chapter consists of about 25-30 pages of graphic novel and then 4 pages of "regular book writing" which provides the reader with information about the person featured in that chapter or additional "historical" information about the time that was discussed.
I will admit that it definitely took me 2 chapters to really get into a rhythm of reading this book because it's just so different. You have to train your eyes to read the bubbles in each box, take in the pictures in each box (especially because sometimes the writing & the picture do not directly correlate) and process the information to make the story in your head. Once I got into a rhythm though I was turning the pages until the end. I actually ended up finding the graphic part more interesting and easier to read in the end then the journal entries at the end of each chapter.
Overall, I would rate this book 4 stars. I enjoyed it, it was very different from anything I am used to, and I thought the story was interesting. I don't think that I'll become a die-hard graphic novel fan but I could definitely see myself picking one up every now and again for a change.Post in Comments:
Have you ever read a graphic novel? If so, which one? Did you like it?
Monday, April 6, 2009
Good In Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
This book has been on my "to read" list for years. Whenever I go to the library to check it out it's never there. I finally just reserved a copy from the mid-town Manhattan library and got it last week. I was exited to see what all the fuss was about (even though I'm about 8 years behind said fuss!)
Good In Bed follows the story of Cannie Shapiro, an over weight, 20-something, newspaper writer living in Philadelphia. When we meet Cannie she has great friends, has a bizarre family situation and has just broken up with her boyfriend of 3 years Bruce. Bruce then proceeds to write about their sex life in very intimate detail in his new column for Moxie Magazine, titled, Good In Bed.
The book weaves between Cannie's present and her past in a very subtle manner as we follow Cannie through registering for "Fat Class" (as she calls it), a surprise pregnancy, an important trip to Hollywood, among other adventures. Weaving through her past helps the reader understand Cannie as she is as a person today, her insecurities, her relationship issues, and of course her self-protecting sense of humor.
While Good In Bed was perhaps a little to racy for me at times (I could have done without the descriptive reading of Bruce's column...) overall I thought it was a really good read. It's about learning to love yourself for who you really are, accepting yourself, realizing your self importance and self worth in the eyes of others, and loving your family for they are regardless of their quirks. There is also some classicly good chick-lit in there as well with an ending that you'll root for. But I don't want to give anything away....
Overall, I enjoyed the writing style, I enjoyed the story, I did however think it was a bit long winded. I would say it was a solid 3.5 star rating. A book you'd enjoy if you picked up but I'm not saying it's a must read.
Fade Away, Harlan Coben
This is the 3rd book in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series. I had read many of Harlan Coben's books but the stand alone ones. A year ago I decided to start ready the Bolitar series because they were his first books.
The gist is that Myron Bolitar, a super-star basketball player out of Duke, was injured early on in his career with the Celtics. Since then he had a stint with the FBI and is currently working as a sports agent. His sidekick Win runs a financial institution of impeccable reputation that all of Bolitar's clients use. Together Myron and Win work cases on the side, disappearances, murders, etc. They are great tag team and in this 3rd book in the series Fade Away they are as fun as ever.
Greg Downing, a guard for the New Jersey Dragons (and Myron's biggest college rival) goes missing just weeks before the playoffs begin. The owner of the Dragons brings Myron and Win onboard to help find Downing. Before long Myron and Win are in deep, gambling, debts owed, murder, blackmail, you name it. Can they solve the mystery and find Greg (hopefully alive) in time....you'll have to read to find out.
One of the things I love about Coben's writing is that it's simple, and it builds and builds until you get to the end. I can very rarely figure out who's done it before he reveals it to me. The only book where I've actually figured out the end was the 2nd book in the Bolitar series. The pagees keep turning and I know when I pick up one of Harlan Coben's books that I'll finish it in a day or two.
This book lived up to my expectations, it kept me turning the pages and kept me guessing until the end. I would give this book a solid 4 stars in the mystery department. I look forward to finishing this series and seeing Coben's writing style continue to develop!
Post in Comments:
Have you read Good in Bed? Did you like it?
Have you read Fade Away? Have you read any books by Harlan Coben?
Which do you prefer: chick-lit or mysteries?
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Definitely, Maybe stars Ryan Reynolds as Will Hayes, a 30-something New Yorker who is getting divorced and trying to explain to his 11-year old daughter what went wrong. She asks him to tell her the story of how he met her mother. He starts at the beginning (the beginning being his graduation from college). Tells the story of his last 3 relationships and lets her guess who her mother is.
It's a sweet story and the casting I thought was just right. It made me realize how much I enjoy Isla Fisher, I wish she was in more movies. She is just so sweet and likeable and enjoyable to watch! Ryan Reynolds, I thought carried this movie well, he was certainly a very likeable guy, although off the top of my head I couldn't tell you one movie I remember him being in...I'll have to look in to that. And Abigail Breslin was perfectly adorable.
This is a definite chick-flick, but one that I think is worth renting and watching!
I give it 4 stars.
Post in Comments:
Have you seen this movie and if so, did you enjoy it?
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I am a sugar addict - there - I said it! Every afternoon I get this craving for something sugary whether it's chocolate, candy, a cookie, whatever. Sometimes I give in to my craving and sometimes I just have the snack I packed.
Since moving to NYC I have been eagerly awaiting trying the infamous Magnolia Bakery cupcake. However, the location was not really close to my house, and the long lines that I constantly heard about kept me away.
That was until last December on the way to our Theater Benefit, my co-worker Rachelle and I, spotted Magnolia Bakery midtown (photo above). We were very excited! We decided that for the next birthday or celebration we'd have Magnolia cupcakes.
The first celebratory event was the engagement of our other co-worker. I gladly walked to the corner of 49th and 6th (not too far from our offices) to have my first Magnolia Baker experience. It smells like heaven when you walk inside. There are separate lines depending on what it is you are looking for (cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc). See the cute cupcake sign to the left!
Since that day last fall we have had 3 other occassions for celebration and I've decided which cupcake I prefer. The first time I got a cupcake I got chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. It was delicious but it was a little too sugary and that's saying a lot coming from me. The red velvet frosting looking more creamy then sugary so I wasn't really interested in that, but the chocolate cake with choclate frosting intrigued me....
It is so deliciously decadent, it is everything that a cupcake should be! NYC is cupcake central. I've had Crumbs cupcakes (they're alright - I personally do not like their frosting), I've had Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery's cupcakes (those are pretty good), I've had Amy's Bread's cupcakes (those are delish) and now I've had Magnolia's Bakery (I don't think I'll return to a different cupcake store when I can get Magnolia!
So when you come to NYC and you see that line the answer is, Yes, it's worth it, you should wait, they're delicious!
Post in Comments:
Have you had a Magnolia Bakery Cupcake? Did you think they were worth the wait?
If not, what's your favorite cupcake in NYC? And if you're not from NYC, what's your favorite cupcake place from where you're from?