Monday, December 8, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Frank & Meg get cider at B.F. Clydes Mill

Eat & Run with Frank & Meg: Fall Foliage in New England from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


In Manhattan, the beauty of fall can pass by completely unnoticed if you're not careful. We decided to make sure that didn't happen this year. We jumped on a train and headed to Connecticut, where we traded skyscrapers and subways for pumpkins and peak fall foliage.

When I think of fall in the Northeast, I think of apples. And when I think of apples, I think of cider. Frank and I decided to make a trip to B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, the oldest steam powered cider mill in the United States. It's located on a charming wooded road in Old Mystic, CT. We pulled up on a busy Saturday, right before the 1pm apple pressing. There was a live band in the front yard, entertaining guests who lounged on the front porch of the gift chop, sipping hot cider and snacking on apples and donuts. Pumpkins were scattered around, completing the cheery fall scene.

We followed the scent of apples to the mill, which was already filled with other guests waiting in anticipation for the main event - the cider pressing. Right on schedule, the wooden mill lurched to life - belts started whirring, wheels began to turn, and suddenly, the sound of scores of apples being emptied into a pulping machine overhead. Very soon, apple pulp began pouring from a cylander suspended above a wooded rack that was covered with mesh cloth. Two workers set up a wooden frame around the rack and began to spread the pulp evenly (using garden hoes!). When one rack was filled with pulp, they covered it with mesh cloth and a slatted lid, and began another layer on top. When the workers had completed perhaps four layers, they stepped back and let the pressing machine do its work. (You can watch the whole process here.) Fresh juice ran off the layers of pulp, and the room filled with the aroma of apples. We were suddenly thirsty for some cider.

We headed to the gift shop, where we perused Clyde's impressive selection of wine. We were perplexed by the inclusion of donuts on their apple-themed menu, but shrugged it off as we left, content with our bottle of apple wine and my (delicious) cup of hot mulled cider.


Later that day we met up with my sister for my niece's sixth birthday party and we told of our experience at the mill (my sister was the one who suggested we go in the first place). My brother-in-law, Steve, asked me, "So, what did you think of the donuts?"

"Yeah, um... we didn't get any."

"What?! how could you not get any donuts? that's the best part."

We thought serving donuts at a cider mill was kind of strange and just shrugged it off as just another snack people might like to eat with their cider. What we didn't know is that's where a lot of the apple pulp from the cider press ends up - in the freshly made donuts.

According to Steve, we had to go back. I'm glad we did. It was worth the second trip.


So, the next day, we once again found ourselves waiting in line at Clyde's. This time, when we reached the counter, we placed our order for some cider donuts (in addition to another cup of cider, of course). They make and fry the donuts right in the shop, and due to the overwhelming demand for them, we had to wait a bit to get our donuts.

When the woman behind the counter called Frank's name and gave him a bag of piping hot donuts, we knew right away we were going to be in for a treat. There are two varieties of cider donuts - sugared and non-sugared (which one is better is a topic of hot debate at Clyde's). To be fair, we got a couple of each. Which was better? Really, I couldn't say. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer...yumminess (is that a word? I don't even know if that's a word) of biting into a warm, fluffy donut that the presence or lack of a sugar coating was the farthest thing from my mind. It was simply heaven.

We washed our donuts down with cider and took another deep breath of the fresh fall air before we had to board the train back to New York. It may have been brief but we managed to squeeze a lot of autumn into into our brief trip to New England. And next fall, when the leaves start to turn and people start carving pumpkins, you can be sure Frank and I will be back at Clyde's, with a donut in one hand, a cider in the other and a smile on our faces.


Cheesy as it sounds, it is all pretty much true.

Taking advice from one of our reader's comments we changed to and were able to use the new and improved web address which is simply:

I hope you all enjoy the new look and name of our blog. More improvements to follow, stay tuned.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Food Adventures with FrankenMeg: The Miracle Fruit

Frank and Meg discover The Magic Berry from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


Frank came home a few weeks ago raving about these strange berries a guy he works with brought in to share. They were small berries - about the size of a grape - indigenous to West Africa. They were expensive little suckers at $3 a pop, but they have an incredibly unique property that makes them worth their hefty price tag - these Miracle Fruits, as they are called, can turn sour into sweet.

"That's impossible!" I initially scoffed. But Frank's unwavering enthusiasm soon chipped away my skepticism. Well, that and a stop at Wikipedia, where I learned: "The berry contains an active glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin. When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds, causing bitter and sour foods to taste sweet.
" Hm, can't argue with science!

Of course, my next thought was - I HAVE to try these things! Frank raved about Guinness beer tasting like a chocolate milkshake, and grapefruit tasting like candy.

Circumstances prevented me from trying the berry for quite a while. They are difficult to come by, arriving in small shipments twice a week to a small chain of gourmet grocery stores here in NYC (Garden of Eden). They sell out immediately. Also there's apparently some guy you can buy them from, but the exchange is...well, rather shady-looking (you meet him on the street, give him cash, he gives you a small brown bag...). If you do manage to procure the actual berry, it is of course perishable so it must be eaten within a couple days.

Frank found a brilliant alternative to the actual berry - Mirac
le Fruit tablet! Affordable, small, and non-perishable, they are a great way to experience the effects of the Miracle Fruit without the expense and fuss. When they arrived in the mail, Frank and I raced to the store and filled our cart with sour foods - a lemon, a lime, a grapefruit, some raspberries, and - of course - a Guinness! We went home and began our experiment.

Did it work? Watch our video to find out!

If you'd like to try the Miracle Fruit for yourself, here's some foods that we didn't try: Goat cheese (apparently tastes like cheesecake), vinegar, cheap tequila, mustard, rhubarb, pickles, brussel sprouts, raw aloe, oysters, and Tabasco sauce. Go easy, though. While it is completely possible to eat a whole lemon, remember - it's still a lemon and you WILL wake up with acid sores (yuk!) if you're not careful. Not to mention that chasing grapefruit with goat cheese, an oyster and a pickle and washing it all down with some cheap tequila and vinegar could leave you feeling...well, exactly how you'd expect to feel.

Indigestion aside, if you do try it, please leave us a comment and let us know how your experiment went! Happy "flavor-tripping"!

To leave a comment just click below where is says comments. If it you don't have an account with blogger, don't worry, just click Name/URL, Type in the word verification, then your name, and then click publish.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

O Canada! Part 2: Toronto

Food Adventures with FrankenMeg in Toronto from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


We asked the young people working at the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls how long it would take to get to Toronto.

"Oh," said one girl, wrinkling her nose, "that could take, what, 3 hours with traffic?"  Another teen nodded his head.  

"Oh ya," he agreed, "three hours, easy." 

"Three hours?" Frank repeated, his face lighting up.  I grimaced at this exchanged, realizing that "three hours" was nothing to Frank but a challenge - an invitation to break speed limits, unspoken traffic etiquette laws, and possibly the space-time continuum.  

A little over an hour later, we were in Toronto.  Frank was beaming and scoffing, "Huh, three hours?".  I was attempting to pry my white-knuckled fingers from the dash and unfreeze the look of terror on my face.

We got to our hotel - the Super 8 downtown, located in the heart of Toronto's bustling Chinatown - and checked into our room.  It was shockingly spacious - we had lucked into the only 2 bedroom in the whole place.  We didn't have much time to linger (our much-delayed flight had put us way behind schedule).  Daylight was waning and we had reservations.

Several months prior, Frank had the idea to eat dinner in the CN Tower's revolving restaurant, cleverly named "360".  He had gone so far as to find out what time the sun was supposed to set, and arrange our reservation around it (good one, Frank!).

We arrived just in time, and after dodging some corny tourist traps and surviving a harrowing elevator ride, made it to the maitre d'.  We were luckily seated at a window table (there are only three rows of seating - the middle row has it the worst) so we got to view the sunset over the Toronto skyline.  The restaurant does about a full revolution per hour, so in our time there, we were able to take in the full panorama.  The food was okay - not the quality you would expect for the prices they charge, but most upscale restaurants aren't perched close to the top of one of the world's tallest freestanding structures (181 stories tall!  that's over 1800 feet!).  Obviously, you are paying for the spectacular view.  And for that, it's worth every penny.

After our meal, in lieu of dessert, we treated ourselves to some paralyzing fear by way of the glass floor in the lookout level of the tower (two floors below the restaurant).  According to the website, load tests are performed annually to ensure its safety, but for some reason, that fails to provide much comfort when you're standing on glass 1100 feet in the sky.  Not for the feint of heart... or those wearing a skirt (at least that was my excuse).  

Later that night, safely back on the ground - more specifically, safely in a bar stool with a drink in hand, we struck up a conversation with the bartender.  She was a Toronto native who had a very strong suggestion for how we spend our upcoming full day in the city.  

"The Ex," she said without hesitation.  "I go every year, never miss it."  The Ex, it turns out, refers to the Canadian National Exhibition - a huge event that lasts for about two weeks every August.  As it turned out, the following day was the last day of the Ex, so we were in luck.

Lured by the promise of an authentic Canadian experience, the next day we hopped on a trolley and headed to the CNE.  We still weren't totally sure what the CNE actually was, but we were soon eagerly waiting in line to buy our entry tickets.  When we got in, we accosted a nice fellow who was distributing programs and asked for clarification.  

"Well," he began patiently, "there's a bunch of games, there's a big food hall, there's some rides, and there's going to be rodeo shortly over there," he pointed vaguely towards a large building in the distance.  Frank and I thanked the guy and surveyed our surroundings - a midway teeming with people playing games, a packed open-air food hall, children running around clutching cheap toy prizes - and it slowly dawned on us that we had forgone a day of touring the city in favor of a county fair.  A really, really big county fair.  

To clarify, neither one of us is big on large, sweaty crowds.  We avoid Times Square and other densely populated areas in our own town.  As the smell of hay mingled with the aroma of fried dough, the gravity of our mistake suddenly weighed on us like a full meal of fair food.  We had chosen poorly.

We decided to make the best of it, though.  We had some bison burgers and poutine, which is a distinctly Canadian concoction of gross deliciousness - french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered with brown gravy at a Canadian food stall.  It probably aged our arteries by 10 years, so we decided to burn it off by playing some games.  Frank won a prize at the ring toss, which ended up being a good stopping point for our experience at the Ex.  

We went back into the city and ended up having a really great night out on the town.  The locals were so nice - very welcoming and incredibly friendly.  We will always look back with fondness on our trip across the border and eagerly await our next adventure...

For our review and more info on the hotel we stayed at click here to go to our

Friday, September 26, 2008

O Canada! Part 1: Niagara Falls

Food Adventures with FrankenMeg in Niagara from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


Frank and I took a trip to Canada over Labor Day. Frank had never been to Canada before, and I hadn't been since I was a little girl, so we dusted off our passports and headed over the border.

We had planned to spend just one day in Niagara Falls and then move on to the much more cosmopolitan Toronto, but within hours of our arrival, we got sucked in to the carnival atmosphere of the town. We didn't want to leave.


Lets back things up a step or two.

We planned to fly from LGA in New York City to Buffalo, rent a car and drive over the border. Our short 1 hour flight, however, turned into a five hour delay due to a malfunction with the auto-pilot. And yes Meg, I am still complaining.

Flying to buffalo instead of Toronto saved us almost $200 on the flight, and by renting a Toyota Prius we only spent $20 in gas over the 320 km we drove (that's close to 200 miles for those who don't understand the metric system and that includes Meg and I).


When we first arrived, we were a little put off by the chaotic atmostphere of the main drag. A long day of traveling had worn us down. We pushed through the crowd until we reached the falls. Since we got there so late, we could hear them roaring but couldn't really see them very well, so we gave up and traipsed back up the hill.

The hill is packed with carnival-like attractions. Haunted houses, games and rides are practically piled on top on each other. After we had some food, we were much more receptive to the party-like atmosphere.


That night we hit the casino or should I say the casino hit us... right in the wallet. After taking a beating on the roulette wheel we found a small bar that was a little more our speed. It had a local band of teens playing our favorite grunge songs from the late 90's. After chatting it up with some Canadian we learned of the best drunk food ever... poutine (more on that in part 2 of this post).

The next morning we got our first glimpse of the falls, and I must say that they were more impressive the closer I got. Not one for doing touristy things, I bit my tongue and we bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist, which I think was a good decision. A bad decision was all the tourists around us who put on their plastic blue ponchos the minute they got them. They all stood baking in the sun waiting for about a half hour to get on the boat. There really is no need to put on the poncho until the boat gets right up to the falls. But then, make sure to get it on quick, or you will get drenched.


The Maid of the Mist was such an unexpected highlight of our time in Niagara Falls, we were actually upset when we realized we didn't have time to partake in more "touristy" experiences - particularly the Behind the Falls attraction.

This time, winding our way back up the hill, still drenched from the mist, we allowed ourselves to be swept up by the carnival kitsch. Frank took some whacks at a "Test Your Strength" attraction, and I couldn't resist a few games of Skeeball. We poked our heads into a haunted house, goofed off in front of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, and laughed as fellow tourists posed with replicas of celebrities in front of the wax museum. By the time we reached the top, we had worked up an appetite. Luckily, we weren't far from the Embassy Suites - and the Keg Restaurant, which is located on the 9th floor. We enjoyed a Canadian beer and a leisurely lunch before heading to the falls for one last look before we had to leave.

As we grudgingly packed up and climbed into our Prius, we actually contemplated staying another night - how great could Toronto be, right? Niagara Falls had surprised us when the corny, over-the-top circus facade gave way to a truly fun town with nice people. In the end, we had to move on. Toronto was waiting...

Check out our review of the hotel we stayed at while in Niagara here at

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's Lobstah time! Making lobster rolls in Rhode Island

Lobster Roll: cook, clean and eat this New England favorite from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


After a stressful week in the city, we went up to Rhode Island this past weekend in the hopes of spending a couple of relaxing days at the beach. Saturday we woke up to an overcast sky, which quickly developed into thunderstorms. We were disheartened, until Frank suggested we partake in one of New England's other summer offerings - fresh seafood!

As much as I love the sweet taste of a fresh lobster, I have to admit the sight of the creepy buggers scares the crap out of me. I don't know if it's their arachnid-like legs, or their overall resemblance to the aliens in, well, Alien, but they never fail to give me the willies. This isn't enough of a deterrent to stop me from enjoying a fresh lobster roll, though (clearly).

While Frank grew up in and around the ocean (and had an extra three years as a sushi chef to pad his already impressive knowledge of seafood), the closest I came to seafood for much of my life was an occasional tuna salad sandwich or a fish stick during Lent (my mom and my brother are not fans of anything that swims). So for me, being faced with opening a fresh lobster is a daunting task. I now cringe with embarrassment as I think about the messes I've made as I hacked ignorantly through a lobster tail on the two occasions I've attempted to order one in a restaurant.

So, if you are like me and need a few lessons in lobster cooking and cracking, watch the video and take some notes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Day in Tibet - The Dalai Lama and Tibetan food


Last week, His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to New York to give a talk on the Four Noble Truths, a basic tenet of Buddhism. Frank and I went to see him speak at Radio City Music Hall. I'd seen him speak several years ago when he did a free talk in Central Park - it was an amazing and inspiring experience, so I was excited when Frank managed to get tickets for this event.


I was excited to see the Dalai Lama because I had been wanting to ever since I went to a Free Tibet rally in Washington DC almost ten years ago. I became interested in the philosophies of Buddhism after reading The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation: As Taught by S. N. Goenka earlier that year. Which, by the way, is a great beginner book if anyone is interested in learning more about Buddhism or just wants a little more zen in their busy, hectic, over-crowded, noisy, cockroach-infested lives (apparently I need to dust my copy off).


I have to say, we were both a little disappointed with the actual event. While it was cool to see him again, our seats were pretty far back and we found the lecture to be almost too textbook-y. Although he did intersperse his comments with funny anecdotes, it was difficult to hear him (a problem that was exacerbated by a woman who was seated very near to us using an automatic translator - a VERY LOUD automatic translator) and we quickly grew frustrated.

Even though the Dalai Lama's lecture itself didn't exactly inspire us, we were inspired by the throngs of Tibetan people that both attended the lecture and showed up at Radio City to try to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. There were hundreds of people there wearing traditional Tibetan clothing (layers of heavy silk) - in the 90 degree heat. To wax political for a moment, their dedication to holding on to their unique culture in the face of unchecked oppression by the Chinese government is nothing short of incredible.

Seeing the Tibetan people in their traditional clothing piqued our interest in Tibetan culture in a larger sense. We knew that Tibet is a mountainous country, but beyond that we had little experience with the culture. We decided to change that immediately.


There are three Tibetan restaurants (that I know of) in New York City; Cafe Himalaya (on 1st St. btwn A & 1st Ave.), Tibetan Kitchen (on 3rd Ave. at 31st St.), and Tsampa (on 9th St. btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave.). That weekend we decided to go to Tsampa and learn a little more about the culture and food.


We walked into Tsampa on a busy Saturday night. We were seated right away at small wooden table, lit by a single tea candle. Our wooden seats were cushioned by decorative woolen rugs. The overall effect was dim, warm and austere. Right off, Frank ordered bocha, which is Tibetan tea. Being from the South, when I think of tea, I think of a nice tall glass of sweet tea. So when Frank offered me a sip, the last flavor I was expecting was...butter. That's right - traditional tea in Tibet is served hot, and prepared with the usual black tea, but instead of a nice heap of sugar and maybe splash of cream, it's flavored with unsalted butter and salt. In my mind, that's a preparation for a baked potato, not tea, but Frank drank it down happily. He was even a little let down when he discovered the milk in the tea was cow's milk, and not the traditional yak's as he had hoped.

We began our meal with momo, a dumpling that is the most popular dish in Tibet, according to our waiter. They were fairly typical of Asian dumplings in shape and filling. Their shell was a little...earthier, almost whole wheat, or something. They were smaller than Chinese dumplings, but very filling.

We followed that up with our entrees - I got something called Ngo Ngopa, a vegetarian dish comprised of sauteed kale, collards greens, and shitake mushrooms. Frank got Shende Ngopa, which was a pan fried rice with basil and ginger. Both of our dishes were so flavorful that it prompted us to ask our waiter to explain the typical spices in Tibetan cooking. He was actually from Tibet, so we ended up talking to him for quite a while. He told us that the primary spice in Tibetan cooking is pepper. Since Tibet is so mountainous, the soil isn't the best for growing stuff. The main staples of their diet are meat and dairy (yak dairy!). He pointed out that, while no red meat is offered on their menu, it's rarely absent from meals in Tibet.

We noticed several things on our own. First of all, the food on the menu had a heavy curry influence. Tibet's geographic closeness to India is no doubt responsible for this. Also, the food had a delicate balance of key flavor, much like Thai cooking. The main characteristic of the food was its heartiness. Even my vegetarian dish was a MEAL meal. There was nothing dainty about this mountain fare.


Although my Tibetan meal was tasty, I would recommend going in the winter months rather than the 90 degree day in July that we chose.

And not to get all philosophical on you but, when going to see the Dalai Lama my biggest mistake was seeking out some sort of enlightening experience. Most of the best discoveries in my life have been made when I least expected them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

iPhone 3G


Forget the super useful GPS, the lightning fast 3G network, and seriously try to forget about the not-so-great battery life. The thing that has me most excited about the new iPhone 3G are all the new applications that are now available. (There is even an application where you can sing into your phone and it will tell you the name of the song, very useful when you've got one stupid line from a song stuck in your head and you can't remember the title)

Yes, I was one of those idiots who stood in line after work for 5 hours on the Friday it came out to get the new iPhone at the 5th Avenue Apple store in Manhattan. At first, Meg and I wondered why on earth we were wasting our Friday night standing in line for a phone. But eventually we made friends with the people around us (standing next to someone for five hours will usually create that kind of bond) and it was kinda like a party with no beer and food catered by street vendors.


The best part about Frank getting a new iPhone was I got his old one! As my Dad pointed out, I suppose I was the only person in that 5-hour line to walk away with a free iPhone! Even though mine isn't a G3, I am still able to access the Application Store and download apps to my phone. I've noticed that apps run the gamut from extremely useful (Mobile Google) to total time-wasters (like our iSabers, that come complete with Star Wars sound effects) and tend towards one extreme or the other. The food apps follow this trend - they're either very useful, or fun for five minutes, then quickly forgotten.

The one Frank and I have gotten the most use out of has been UrbanSpoon. The application detects your city (or you can enter it), and then you "shake" it for a dining suggestion. It breaks it down by neighborhood, cuisine, and price range. If you'd like to stick in your neighborhood, you can scroll down and "lock" it in, and leave the rest up to chance. If you find a restaurant that sounds good, you're one click away from a more detailed description, reviews and links. It's a fun and interesting way to find new restaurants in your city. They are expanding their available cities and their restaurant database via regular updates.

There's also another one called Restaurant Nutrition that I have. This is an interesting concept, but its usefulness to us is limited. Its focus is fast food restaurants - it allows you to find the closest one to you and to access its menu and nutrition facts. So, say you're standing on the street, waiting for the light to change, and suddenly you have a desperate craving for a Big Mac. You can bust out your iPhone, access Restaurant Nutrition, tap "McDonald's" and it will automatically bring up a map pinpointing both your current location and all the McDonald's in your immediate vicinity. Amazing. Even more amazing - after hasten to your nearest McDonald's to satisfy your Big Mac Attack, while you stand in line you can quickly see that your craving will cost you 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 1040 grams of sodium. Ouch. A McSalad it is. If you find yourself eating fast food frequently, this would be a helpful application to get. It also keeps a running tally of the calories you've consumed at a fast food joint on any particular day (which could make you think twice before ordering the large fries).


As cool as most of these applications sound, to be honest, I think I've gotten more use out of my iSaber than out of any of the food applications. But there was one food application that I did find useful. However it is a web app (which means I need to access my web browser instead of downloading the application) that has been out for quite some time. It is 101 Cookbooks. You can look up recipes right in the grocery store and get what you need right there on the spot. I'm not going to name any names but I think someone needs to get their developers into gear and start negotiating with Apple's new app store.

Until then I suppose Meg and I will have to make do with our iSaber battles in the aisles of the grocery store and make a grocery list like every body else.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Frank's chipotle-cinnamon BBQ sauce: How to spice up your 4th of july picnic

FrankenMeg: BBQ Sauce from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

What is it with men and sauce? Barbecue sauce in particular. They have festivals in its honor; contests to taste and compare various recipes (and, of course, compete for the bragging rights that accompany an "award-winning" BBQ sauce); entire restaurants dedicated to barbecue. I'm from the south, so perhaps I understand this uniquely male love affair better than some. For this reason, I don't complain when my mustard and relish are pushed to the back of the fridge to make way for one of Frank's new sauces. Even when our fridge is bare, it's still teeming with sauces - hot sauces, marinades, teriyaki sauces, steak sauces, but most prominently: Barbecue sauces. Frank dearly loves BBQ sauce, and collects it feverishly in every imaginable flavor and style. He scrutinizes ingredients lists with scientific zeal, occasionally nodding and grunting in approval or disdain.

He's also a whiz in the kitchen and has a keen sense for flavor combinations. When he finds a sauce he likes, he frequently takes it upon himself to create an improved version of it, or to pair it differently. While he may enjoy a bottled or restaurant sauce, it's very rare that he's "blown away" because he can usually make a similar sauce at home (only his is better). In fact, the only time this year he's been really impressed was when we were down in Mexico. Our first night there, we were exhausted after a very long day of traveling. We decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a nice restaurant on the beach. I had a very nice shrimp quesadilla, and Frank ordered the special. It arrived, and the aroma was heavenly - perfectly cooked shrimp served in a chipotle-cinnamon sauce. He devoured it and fell in love with the unusual flavor combination.

Fast-forward five months to Frank's family's annual 4th of July reunion/cook-out. Frank struggled for a bit deciding what to bring as a dish to pass. He wanted to bring something summery and suitable for a picnic, but he didn't want to bring your run-of-the-mill potato salad. Luckily, inspiration struck: Chipotle-cinnamon barbecue wings. He realized the smokey sweetness of the chipotle-cinnamon sauce would easily translate into a savory but distinctive barbecue sauce.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Where's the beef?! Going vegan for a week


Let me just start off by stating that I am by no means a vegetarian. I wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of going vegan for a week but the fact that I already ate fairly healthy, quite a lot of vegetables and not a ton of meat led to me think it would be easy for me. Boy, was I wrong.

I work at the Hearst building in New York, which has one of the best cafeterias in the city. It has some of the freshest produce and uses fresh, locally grown, and organic whenever possible. It features a pay-per-ounce, hot and cold, buffet style, salad bar that changes daily. And as if someone knew what my project was for this week, Monday's lunch bar featured my favorite: Grilled hanger steak (which only comes out maybe once a month). Normally, I make myself a huge salad add a few scoops of what ever sides they might have and maybe 1 small piece of chicken or pork (...or a nice, juicy cut of hanger steak!) This was the miscalculation that led me to believe that this would be easy (and ultimately to me feeling faint by the end of the first day). The problem was, most of the "vegetarian sides" that I would normally get were loaded with either cheese, a cream sauce of some kind or at the very least, butter. Normally, I would crumble bleu cheese on top of my salad, and without this, it felt a little empty. This was going to be harder than I thought.


I've never been a big meat eater, and have gone back and forth with (lacto/ovo inclusive) vegetarianism for years. But when we embarked on this experiment, I knew there were going to be some things I really, really missed (CHEESE!). However, I'm always up for a challenge, so I put away my beloved string cheese (and Babybel mini cheese rounds, and cottage cheese, and parmesan...) and geared up for a week of deprivation.

While my office doesn't come equipped with a healthy cafeteria, there were several items at my disposal that helped to ease my transition: Plenty of fresh fruit, soy creamer (and eventually rice milk), raw almonds, dried fruit, and an interesting variety of flavored waters (hint water and mint water).


First things first: After a day of eating nuts and berries, Meg and I realized we needed to go shopping. Luckily, New York has many health food stores, so we took a trip to one nearby our house. We knew we needed some staple replacements, but we took the opportunity to try some new things. Here are some of my favorites:

Smart Dogs (vegan hotdogs) - Quite satisfying hot dog replacement - throw them on a slice of multi-grain bread, melt a Veggie Slice (vegan cheese slices) on top of it, and throw on some organic catsup - it's not half bad! Satisfies a craving for something meaty (non-vegetable!!).

Vegan chicken salad and tofu salad - We bought these pre-made at the health store. I bought these with the intention for them to serve as Megan's lunch (seeing as though she doesn't have a posh cafeteria). However, I pretty much ate the whole "chicken" salad one when we got home (I'm not sure if it was that good, or I was just that hungry - either way, it was pretty meaty).

Health is Wealth All-Natural Chicken-Free Buffalo Wings: These little guys came to me at a dark time. A couple of long days at work, combined with biking home in the heat, dehydration (more on this later), and the fact that I had eaten nothing but grass and twigs had left me quite cranky and in serious need of something MEATY. Put these in the oven, they toast up great - dipped in your favorite barbeque sauce, they are surprisingly stringy, juicy and chicken-y. It wasn't until about 2 hours later, when I remembered Megan had said something like, "Wow, these have quite a bit of fiber in them!". Yeah, I remembered that when I was on the toilet.

Tofutti Cuties - These delicious little morsels are good even if you're not vegan. I've eaten them for quite some time just because... they're friggin good! My favorite kind is Strawberry Wave.


By the second day, Frank was feeling kind of bad. It was turning out to be harder on him than it was on me. Poor guy. He had a headache and general malaise. After we ruled out "meat withdraw", we figured out it must have been dehydration. He just wasn't drinking enough water. That's important to note. I mentioned earlier that I have a lot of water available at work. So does Frank. The difference was, I drink it. A lot of it. After we pin-pointed the source of Frank's ailments, he added more fruit and water to his daily diet - problem solved! Anyway, on to my favorites:

Amy's Tofu Scramble Pocket - I love these. I ate them before going vegan. Loved them then and love them now. Basically, anything from Amy's Kitchen is fantastic. They specialize in vegetarian and vegan quick cuisine. Frozen meals, pizzas, burritos - It's all really good, I've even turned some of my non-vegetarian friends on to these products. I just had to make sure to check the labels (most things are clearly labeled if they have milk products in the ingredients list, some even have "vegan" or "vegetarian" clearly marked). I had one of her Indian Burritos later in the week for lunch, and it was great, too.

Soy yogurt - I was a big fan of the milk products before going vegan. I always had a yogurt in the morning for breakfast, so I knew I needed to find a decent replacement for this fast. We tried both soy and rice yogurt. The rice yogurt, to me, was too thin and had a funny smell. Frank, on the other hand, enjoyed it. I liked the soy yogurt much better (handily enough, Frank didn't like this as much, so we swapped out, he had the rice and I kept the soy).

Soy pudding - Again, a great soy replacement. Frank's not big on chocolate, so he didn't try it (more for me!).


On Friday (my last day of vegan) we decided to splurge a bit and go out for a nice vegan dinner at Candle 79 on the Upper East Side. Now, this isn't the type of place you can eat every night as it isn't cheap, but this is a great way to ease into going vegan. It can give you hope for what eating vegan can be.

They have a grilled seitan chimichurri on the appetizer menu that is the closest thing to eating steak while still staying vegan that I've ever tasted. If I could eat here every night I would probably keep this up indefinitely.


Unfortunately, we can't. Candle 79 was a great capper for an interesting week. We enjoyed lovely appetizers (I liked the stuffed manicotti - I was desperate for some "cheese" and it was a convincing replacement! Finally! Also, Frank just now realized that it wasn't real cheese - it was a tofu-basil "cheese", now you know it must be good!), their signature dish for an entree (seitan picatta in a white wine sauce with capers, this time the seitan was more chicken-y than the steak-like texture of the skewer appetizers), and a lovely chocolate-peanut butter dessert (chocolate peanut butter bliss, I think it's called). We got a chance to talk with the manager, Francesca, who offered a good description of Candle 79 - "A good restaurant that happens to be vegan." This is very true. They have a very accepting philosophy - they're not trying to push their lifestyle down anyone's throat, they're just providing people with good food. They equate food with love, so they are, in fact, spreading the love. That's pretty cool.

So, at the end of the week, Frank is done with being vegan. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when he didn't race to the nearest steakhouse at exactly 12:01 Saturday morning. I've decided to stick with it, though! I've been feeling very energetic all week, and I feel better morally, too. I'll save the factory farm speech for another time, though.

That's it for this week! You can check out my blog if you'd like an account of the (sometimes) grisly details of our week of going vegan.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sushi for beginners: The propper way eat sushi


One thing Frank and I share is a deep and abiding love/fascination with all things Japanese - the wacky pop culture, the fascinating history, the architecture, the philosophies, and of course, the food!

The first time we went out for sushi, I thought Frank would be impressed with the fact that a Kentucky girl even knew what sushi was, so I ordered my California roll with confidence. When his mouth fell open, it thought it was to compliment me on my choice, but I couldn't be more wrong.


Having spent three years of my life as a sushi chef left me being somewhat of a sushi snob. And while yes, I was kind of embarrassed by Megan's choice in sushi (the California roll was created in LA by a sushi chef to ease Americans into eating sushi), I was horrified when I saw her put a piece of ginger right on top of her sushi before putting it in her mouth.


That was the point where he actually said something (although, knowing him as well as I do now, in retrospect it's shocking he held his tongue as long as he did). "What are you doing??" he demanded. I looked innocently at him from across the table - "What? You don't put ginger on your sushi?" I asked.

Thus began my true Sushi Education. After he had flung the wayward piece of ginger off my offensively "American" California Roll, he took a deep breath and began the difficult process of re-educating me. He explained that the purpose of the ginger was to cleanse the palate in between pieces of sushi (ahhhh!). And then he made me try a bite of his tuna roll.


Just to be clear, putting ginger on top of your sushi would be similar to going to a wine tasting and throwing the little crackers you are given right in your glass of wine. Megan has come along way since then. She looks on in horror when I eat my piece of uni sushi (sea urchin roe) but she will get a couple pieces of salmon, a tuna roll and usually try what ever I might order.

Those who might be afraid to try raw fish should know that you can still have sushi with out ever leaving your comfort zone. Sushi, first of all, refers to the short grain sticky rice that is used. Not only are there all kinds of new creations that include cooked seafood like crab and shrimp, there are also many options for vegetarians as well.

Back before my California roll days (for the record, California rolls are a good starting point as they don't include any raw fish, just cucumber, avocado and a crab stick), I would stick with vegetable rolls. Frank has introduced me to some other Japanese dining options since that first early sushi date - two of my favorites are taco yaki (no actual tacos involved - it's a doughy, creamy octopus dumpling served warm with mayonnaise) and shumai (another dumpling, this time usually shrimp). While they're not sushi, they do offer the chance for non-sushi eaters to try something on the menu other than the teriyaki!


For those who have had sushi before, and want to push their boundaries, there are a few raw fish that I would recommend: While white fish like snapper or fluke are mild in flavor, salmon (Meg's favorite) tastes pretty similar in both raw and cooked forms. My favorite is toro, which is the fatty underbelly meat of the tuna. It's hard to come by, but it has a creamy texture and a mild, buttery flavor that makes it worth the (usually) higher price. The next time you want to impress the sushi chef, try ordering any kind of fish "nigiri" sushi (meaning served over a ball of sushi rice) and dip the fish (not the rice) into your soy sauce. If you really want to get technical, you're not really supposed to mix the wasabi into the soy sauce, but let's just start with keeping the ginger off the sushi.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In the beginning: How we met

Exactly 2 years ago today, a young teacher from Kentucky met with a film editor from Rhode Island in a cab in the middle of Manhattan after chatting on Myspace. The two met had a few drinks and really hit it off. From then on the two of them were pretty much inseparable. This is their story and this is their blog.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Frank
Date: Jun 6, 2006 8:06 PM

you seem like a lot of fun... besides you have good taste in movies.
i'ld love to chat online with ya.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Meg
Date: Jun 6, 2006 7:12 PM

he he, it's funny, usually I get a lot of slack from film folk about my aversion to pretty much All That Is David Lynch. But, hey, if you're okay with that, I wouldn't mind chatting.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Frank
Date: Jun 6, 2006 10:21 PM

hey... believe me, I am a movie snob... but I personally hate david lynch... oh I get it... he's very clever... but jesus christ, tell me a story thats somewhat entertaining. I would rather punch myself in the face over and over for 90 minutes than watch his garbage (excluding that scene in mulholland dr. where naomi watts and laura harring hook up on the couch.. haha)...
Ya, needless to say, I couldnt agree with you more about David Lynch.

So, anyway... tell me more about yourself... what do you do for fun in the city?

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Meg
Date: Jun 6, 2006 7:40 PM

Yesssss. *fist pump* You're only the 2nd person EVER to agree with me about the Lynch thing (maybe I should find some friends w/ better taste in movies). I feel slightly vindicated. Uh, me? I teach art to a bunch of young thugs in the South Bronx. I got tired of that racket, so after this year, I'm moving to Seoul, South Korea. In the meantime, I'm doing all the cool stuff I can think of here in the city. I've been here for seven years, so I've done a lot of it. I went to Coney Island last weekend and rode the Cyclone for the first time. (I highly, highly recommend it, if you haven't had the pleasure. It's frickin' awesome.) I like going out to different bars (as long as the jukebox is good!), walking around and people-watching, going to museums, basically the same junk as your average NYC 20-something. Although I have recently developed an affinity for going to Little Korea and assaulting various restaurants with my broken Korean. So, if you had only a month left in the city, what would you do?

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Frank
Date: Jun 7, 2006 3:57 AM

damn... you sound wicked awesome... if I were you and only had a month left in the city... i would spend as much time as i could with a cool guy named frank.
i know a tiny bit of korean... ahn young ah sayo...
i dont remember too much more.
seriously.. we should get a drink sometime before you leave

Jun 7, 2006 3:23 PM

RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: hey
Eh, anneonghaseyo! Very good, grasshopper! Yeah, I really don't know much more than that at this point. I do know how to order soju and beer, and how to ask for toilet paper. So, really, I should be all set. I'd be up for getting a drink sometime. What's your favorite bar?


I must say, looking back now I don't know how I got her to agree to meet up with me. I sounded kinda lame.


I was not looking for anything serious. I was in the process of packing up my apartment and applying for my Korean visa when I took Frank up on his offer to grab a drink (well, several drinks). We had such a great time out karaoke-ing the night away that we met up the next day, too. And the next. And the next. In the back of my mind, I knew I would be leaving soon, but we just had a lot of fun together. We seemed to


I was bummed over the break-up of some stupid girl I was seeing and was just looking for someone to drink away my sorrows with. I had had too many distractions from the real reason why I had moved to New York (to further my career in film and television) so, Someone leaving for Korea in a month or so seemed to do just fine.


I ended up opting out of my teaching contract in Seoul. When I really thought about what was motivating me to go, I couldn't think of anything better than "It seemed like a good idea at the time". I didn't really have a reason to go, but I hadn't had any reason to stay, either. Now, that was changed.

Now that two years have gone by, it's funny to think back to that first night of karaoke. We had no idea what was in store, but plunged ahead anyway, eager for a new experience. That seems to be the theme of our relationship. In the past two years, I have tried more new things and traveled to more new places than ever before in my life.


for the Past 2 years meg has pretty much been my glue. holding me together and keeping me organized. I have grown a lot as a person and in my career these past couple years and she has been there right along the way rooting me on and a lot of the times actively being a part of my projects. I liken our relationship to me being like an electric guitar and to her being my Amplifier. Well, an amp plus an effects pedal seeing as though she doesn't just amplify what I do but adds in her own flair and input. Everything is bigger with us. We live big, we play hard and we also fight huge. But I don't think there is another soul on this planet that could handle the other one.

Over the past two years we have come to realize that we both like to experience life. If there is something out there to be seen or done we would love to see it, do it or taste it. This Blog will be about our travels, our tastings, our thoughts, and our lives. If its out there, we want to do it and we want to give you an honest opinion about it.