2011, The Year Of...

 Corning Preserve, March 2011

My friend Jenna asked me "So what was this the year of?"  Unsurprisingly, I couldn't think of one particular thing to define the year.

But 2011 was big for us.  It was our first full year as residents of the Capital Region, far from the big city that we called home for the start of our adult life, as well as its many amenities.  The second half of the year also made it the year of The House, The Dog, and The Second Car--none of which would have been possible for us without that first part, the move.  And, of course, the marathon invaded all other thoughts from April to November, and my body (in new ways) from August to Central Park.

In travel, it was a year of new North American cities.  Portland, Oregon.  Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri.  Montreal, Quebec.  Hudson (which we've come to know better and love). We hadn't even been to Saratoga Springs before (I'm discounting a meeting where I only saw the inside of a conference room). 

For tea, J seeped most of the year with Prince of Wales (like 2010) and I had Honey Vanilla ChamomileBrunch almost always means corned beef hash for one of us, and quick lunch or cheap early dinner often meant Andy's & Sons subs.  In 2011, having company meant having brunch, dinner, or apps and drinks at New World Bistro Bar. But in our own kitchen, it was the year of grilled pizza, grated ginger, crispy no-knead bread, and the slow cooker.

In fresh and local, it was most definitely the year of the cherry.  When we talk about picking cherries back in July, our eyes light up, our faces flush, and we ooze with joy.  J had never even tasted a cherry before this past summer, and there we were, plucking them from trees on a clear sunny day and eating several pounds entirely too quickly.   

I'm not sure what 2012 will bring.  We have a list of new (to us) restaurants to try, so we can start there.  More new places to check out, including Toronto, Nashville, and--fingers-crossed--some cities across the Atlantic.  And maybe we'll get our act together and decorate our house.

If you're curious (I was), the last post of 2010 was The Roundup of Roundups.  In 2009 it was Chanukah at Equinox.  In 2008 I was buried in finals, and in 2007 I was giddy over Rasika, upscale modern Indian cuisine that is entertaining and delicious.

A very happy new year to you and yours.


How You Got Here, in 2011

I write this blog completely for fun.  When it's not fun (or life takes over), I stop posting.  Every time I think I might never post again, I experience the need to overshare (where better than the internet?) about a certain recipe or meal or restaurant.

I'm not a huge stats-watcher, but the best part of visiting Google Analytics once every three or four months is that it will show me, among other things, the search terms people used to arrive at search results, and from those search results, pick a link to this blog.  And there are some gems.  

This year, three out of the top five search terms that lead people to this blog are Harry Potter-related. Thank you to EmM for that guest post on the Wizarding World.  People continue to search for the Best Burger In Virginia.  C'mon, you know where it is.  And people are still wondering (with no answer from me) whether injera is kosher for Passover.

My usual Google strategy is pretty standard.  Type in words related to what I'm looking for, often in no particular order (for example, "car harness labrador" or "kristen stewart bella wedding dress").  It's pretty cute how people type complete questions into search engines.*  Such as:
how many calories are in a teaism soba noodle bento box

is injera kosher for passover (and variations)

ray's hellburger, metro accessible?: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Courthouse (walk downhill) or Rosslyn (walk uphill), and it's not far from either.  Don't be a wimp.

where is hogwarts (and variations)

how to spend a good time with my boyfriend in dc (that's for another blog, ma' friend)
where can i buy sheepsmilk in chicago

who is ray of rays the steaks: Um, Michael Landrum?

why round challah at rosh hashanah: Symbolizes the year, which is cyclical and whole, starting anew at Rosh Hashanah

what bus takes you to comet ping pong: There's a site for that.

Search terms I can't explain include anything to do with Snooki and Brielle (I had breakfast in Brielle, but I wasn't giving out directions to Snooki's beach house, and furthermore, why do you want those!) and anything written in Russian (at least, I think it's Russian).

Thanks to Urbanspoon, All Over Albany, and Google for being my top three referring sites.

I'm looking forward to seeing you, however you got here, in 2012. 

*Extra adorable to the people who include the question mark.  



We have some fabulous newlyweds in our life, including F and M.  Getting together with them often poses a difficult question--to go out, or to stay in?  See, while F, J, and I can certainly make a meal, M is a superb cook.  He's fearless when it comes to complicated flavors and time-consuming methods, and he is incredibly optimistic.

But with Thanksgiving weekend upon us, I suggested that we all needed a night out without shopping or clean-up.  F said we had several options in the area, but her original thought was closed for the holiday weekend.  I'm not sorry at all that we ended up at Acacia.

Butternut squash quesadillas with mushrooms, cheddar, and white truffle aioli- not greasy at all, crunchy on the outside but not brittle, a little fluffy underneath that crust.

Fresh mozzarella, and on the long sides is a caramelized onion chutney that F and I were a little obsessed with.  I'll take a bowl of chutney on the side, thanks?

Goat cheese and duck meatballs.  F said that she could just get a few more of these and that could be a delicious meal.

Delicious red snapper with sweet potato and sage croquette/fritter.  The spinach was the low point on my plate.  It didn't really taste like anything, and I don't get why it was there.

Blackened mahi, sprouts, and Dijon chived mashed potatoes.  This dish was really good, adn I liked that it was completely different from mine. I hate when fish dish 1 and fish dish 2 taste exactly the same.

 Steeeeeeeeeeak.  Matt was manly with this choice, and I don't remember tasting it.  I gather it was quite good.

The star of the meal, in my opinion.  J's 24-hour braised Colorado lamb shank. Serve with risotto and--NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, let's be honest, this lamb was off the hook.  It reminded me of the goat shoulder at Komi.  Not only was it delicious, but it looked badass.  Very Flintstones.  It's the texture of meat that I love, when you can fork it apart because it's so tender.  Sawing a cut of meat into gray/brown squares will never make my To Do or Best Of list.  If you go, make sure someone gets the lamb.  Thanks.

Also, we were in BYO territory.  And we brought it, wine-wise, with two delicious bottles that we easily finished.  The Yelp on Acacia is interesting. Overpriced?  For the quality of our meal, I say no.  "And they don't even serve wine?"  To that I say, you are a fool.  Bring your own and avoid a glass marked up to a price of 2/3 that bottle.  "There was a loud business party there."  That's timing, Bub.

8 Thumbs Up from our table of 4. Our service was great (a chiller/ice bucket for our wine, even though it was red, because hey some people might want that and be embarrassed to ask?), the breadbasket was super yummy, the ambiance was delightful (quiet but not silent, dim lighting but not pitch black), all around love.

Acacia Restaurant
2637 Main Street
Lawrenceville, NJ

Acacia on Urbanspoon


2nd Avenue Deli

My posts may be infrequent here, but that's because I'm obsessed with my dog.  Moving on...

Once, I ran the marathon.  And apparently I lost a ton of salt over that nearly four and a half hours, because afterward the thought of going to the 2nd Avenue Deli (located conveniently near Seester's apartment) made me freak out with excitement.  The only things on my mind were PASTRAMI and MATZAH BALL SOUP.  (In my mind they were definitely in all caps.)  And when we got there that quickly changed to pickles pickles pickles pickles.

Awww, classic Hebrew-style font. 

This soup was delicious.  Little square noodles!  The matzah ball's density was just right - no softballs in this biz.

Knish.  Pronounced cuh-nish, for the uninitiated.  It was a pretty decent knish, its size and outer crust were the bomb.  I've been really over potatoes lately, so I wouldn't go out of the way to order it.

And delicious pastrami.  It was everything I wanted and more.  They had a meal option of half a sandwich and bowl of matzah ball soup for around $15 (remember, it's New York City and it's kosher).  But I thought I got a good deal.  Not only were the soup and sandwich delicious, the portion on this "half" sandwich was extremely generous.  

We ended our meal with some weird but delicious chocolate soda in small glasses.  I loved it.  What was it?  I'm not sure.  But I loved it.  

I'll definitely back to the Deli.  It's delicious, it's reasonable (thanks to good portions), and it's convenient to my dear Seester.  And you just can't get good deli everywhere.

1442 1st Avenue (also 162 E. 33rd)



While I was away we went to Graffiato.  We arrived ready to eat some Italian-inspired cuisine with a fresh batch of reviews from K.  I wasn't the biggest fan of Mike I in Top Chef DC, but I always had a soft spot for Zaytinya, particularly for a group brunch.

I wanted to order pretty much everything, and because some plates are probably small, you probably could if you brought a few more people.

Look how cute these bandit vegetables are!  They're painted on the wall at the top of the stairs.

Let's kick it off with Saged & Confused.   Handmade vodka, cucumber juice, sage, and lime.  Cukes are my jam!

Chestnut agnolotti with butternut squash and browned butter.  These little suckers can slide right down your throat without a thought, but you should take it slowly and savor it.

Cauliflower with pecorino and mint, flatbread with pepperoni sauce.  Not easy to share such a small dish of delicious cauliflower among 4 people.

Striped bass with potato...good but not great.

The star!  The best in taste and the best in value. The Countryman pizza with black truffle, fontina cheese, and a soft egg.  The yolky truffleness was ridiiiiiculous.  Crust was crispy and chewy at the same time, as a good crust must be.  I could have eaten the whole thing, but that would have been unsportsmanlike!

Talk about comfort food...this pumpkin risotto with smoked provolone (topped with toasty pepitas) was definitely good, but couldn't top the pizza.  An egg on my food will almost always win.

So go to Graffiato, get a bunch of pizzas, maybe some vegetables as sides (but prepare for the dishes to be quite tiny).  We saved some calories and dollar bills by enjoying tea and Red Velvet cupcakes at home a while later.  

707 6th Street NW
Metro: Red Line to Gallery Place/Chinatown

Graffiato on Urbanspoon