Entries in My Humble Opinion (26)


Free Association*

It's been very enjoyable associating freely with all the great women at the 5 Minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party. It runs through Friday; let's keep the momentum going, gals!
Who knew there were so many blogging moms out there? Apparently the advertising world is clueing in; a friend of mine in sales forwarded me an article about the buying power of our particular demographic. Apparently we are a force with which to be reckoned.

Some of you may have popped over to Cranberry Corner to visit my pal Jenna. Since she compares herself to a cranberry, and she's more than a little nutty, I'm posting a recipe for a delicious dish that's currently baking in my oven.

I got the recipe from a lovely German lady in our congregation (of course, I've monkeyed with it). Elga called it a dessert when she gave me the little handwritten index card, but I know she must have been kidding, because, ummmm, see, Elga, it doesn't have any chocolate in it.

But it makes a fantastic breakfast item. It's a great thing to make for a Ladies-Who-Brunch event; maybe I'll make it again for Needlework Group next Monday. I'm betting you have all the ingredients in your house right now: a bag of cranberries and some pecans rattling around your freezer, left over from the holidays, for example. Why not give this a try?

Cranberry Pecan Upside-Down Tart
8 oz. frozen cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Pour the frozen cranberries into the pie plate; sprinkle the brown sugar and the nuts evenly over them. Beat an egg in a small mixing bowl until it is uniformly yellow and thick. Add the white sugar and salt and blend. Stir in the flour and melted butter, mix well. Spread the batter over the cranberries with a spatula. Bake for 45 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. Whipped cream is optional (not really). Delightful!

Which reminds me of The Upside-Down Show. Have you seen this program? It's brilliant. All five of my kids--the 13-year-old on down to the 2-year-old--and I are completely enthralled when it's on. It features two gloriously goofy Australian guys whose adventures are governed by the imaginary remote control they give to the audience at the beginning of each episode. It's very meta, and I never metafiction I didn't like.

Ahem. And now for something completely different: another reason to celebrate! Today I'll be able to finish Daniel's sweater. Look at the cute-as-a button buttons I found at Knittingsmith. They're the beysssst!

* If you need a little help with this one, click here.


Happy Feet

Here's the place I'll be buying our summer shoes: www.tomsshoes.com. I read about Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, in Time Magazine; he and TOMS have also been featured in Vogue. Moved by the sight of countless barefoot children on a visit to Argentina, Blake decided to start a shoe company with a unique business plan. For every pair of shoes purchased, he donates a pair to a child in need. He doesn't call himself the CEO; instead, his title is Designer/Chief Shoe Giver.

Modeled on a traditional Argentinian shoe called the alpargata, TOMS come in a variety of appealing fabrics. They look like a cross between espadrilles and the surfer shoes I grew up with called Vans--very hip. They are inexpensive as well, especially when you consider that you are buying two pairs (one for you, one donated) for one price. And how great--Blake is coming out with a line in leather just in time for the fall. We'll have happy feet year round!

Other news in happy feet: Hope is loving her Irish step dance class. She's obsessed with Jean Butler and all things Riverdance, and has been practicing on her own every day. Of course, the cute dance shoes add to the fun (photo above).

And my socks are so comfortable! My Mephisto All-Rounders (the walking shoes I bought for our trip to Italy--the most comfortable shoes EVER) show them off nicely. Patrick has requested a pair of socks for himself (in a quieter colorway).
I hope YOUR feet are toasty and happy this bitterly cold day!


Look to the Cookie!

Someone requested that I post this email of mine (first sent out last spring) to my blog, so here: your wish is granted!

As Jerry Seinfeld famously decreed, the Black & White Cookie is a perfect dessert, symbolic of the unity that should exist in society. But long before Seinfeld featured this NYC delicacy on his show, I was on the search for the perfect B&W, because when they are good, there's nothing better. On the other hand, a bad B&W is more than disappointing: it's an abomination.

Today was a rainy, crappy day on a lot of fronts. At about 4:30 this afternoon, I found myself seeking comfort through food, as is my wont. I stopped at the fabulous Garrison Market (more on them later), thinking I'd have a little scoop of heaven (Blue Pig ice cream, made by local genius Julia Horowitz down in Croton-on-Hudson).

At the counter I noticed something that had never been there before: a platter of Black & Whites. "Hmm," I thought. "Do I go for the sure thing (the Blue Pig), or do I take a risk and try Garrison's version of the B&W?" I'd been happily surprised before; their lemon pound cake rivals my own, for example. I decided to gamble.

What a payoff, my friends. I've eaten many a B&W, from Zaro's in Grand Central, to a funky version from a Dominican bakery on Amsterdam Ave., to shrink-wrapped numbers from your bodega of choice, to the (previously) definitive version made by William Greenberg. I even made them myself once from a recipe published in the NY Times and served them at our Seinfeld "Final Episode" party.

Garrison's blew them all away. The cakey cookie, potentially dry and crumbly, was light, fluffy, and perfectly moist. The two frostings--vanilla and chocolate--were ideal. Not too sweet, and a bit al dente, but not glue-ish. Fresh and fragrant--mmm. Though milk would have been a pleasant accompaniment, it was not necessary. I finished the entire cookie in the car on my way home.

It's a good thing that Tess's preschool is ending next week, because right now I drive by the Garrison Market four times a day doing drop-off and pick-up. I'm not sure I could resist the siren call of a daily B&W, and that could be disastrous.

Garrison Market―what a gem. It opened up a year or so ago in the former Gulf service station on 9D, just north of St. Philip’s-in-the-Highlands. They make homemade doughnuts daily that are to DIE for. Sandwiches, paninis, dang good cheeseburgers. Lovely drinks, from Italian lemon sodas to Izzes to Ronnybrook's celestial drinkable yogurt. And the Blue Pig ice cream. And now the Black & Whites. And the chance that when you're there, you'll bump into Kevin Kline tanking up on some Catskill Mountain coffee. Life only gets better here in Putnam County, I tell you.

I hope that all you locals come up and join me for a B&W soon. Those of you who are far away: I hope you are drooling by now, and that when you finish reading this, you will go online and buy a ticket to come visit. These cookies are worth the trip.



Years ago, my good friend Trevor started publishing his Year's Best list and emailing it to his wide circle of acquaintance. Several of us in that circle reciprocate, blithely clicking on the "Reply All" button and scattering our opinions far and wide. Every year it's a treat to discover what people known and unknown to me relished and despised in the year before.

Trevor waits until Oscar season to publish his list, but my life is too much of a blur to wait that long. I find I have to summarize pretty early in the new year so as not to lose all memory of what I read, watched, listened to, and tasted in the previous twelve months. So, here are my lists. Some of them are in order; some are not.

Top Ten Books:
1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl
2. Lisey's Story, by Stephen King
3. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
4. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, by Susannah Clarke
5. Coming Up for Air, by George Orwell
6. if on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino (Yes, I read it again. Still a work of genius.)
7. Perfume, by Patrick Suskind
8. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
9. Rome, by Mauro Lucentini
10. Return from Tomorrow, by George G. Ritchie

Most Disappointing Book:
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini (How did this book get published? It is a puzzlement.)

Top Ten Movies:
An Inconvenient Truth
Casino Royale
Glory Road
Lady in the Water
The Prestige
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Stranger than Fiction
Akeelah and the Bee
16 Blocks
Happy Feet

Looking Forward to Seeing:
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Children of Men
Miss Potter
Pursuit of Happyness

Top Ten Songs:
Reservoir (Hem)
Pride (Syntax)
Steady as She Goes (The Raconteurs)
Short Skirt, Long Jacket (Cake)
Firecracker (The Wailin' Jennys)
The Seventh Wave (The Duhks)
Woman (Wolfmother)
Jubilee (Alison Krauss)
Hey Ya (Outkast)
Beautiful Garden (Toni Price)

Top Eating Experiences:
10. Chicken Salad and Pink Lemonade at Pittypat's Porch (Atlanta, GA)
9. Chicken Burrito and Tres Leches Cake at Cafe Rio (St. George, UT)
8. Truffled Mac & Cheese and Sticky Date Cake at Cafe Umami (Fishkill, NY)
7. Black & White Cookie and Ronnybrook Creamline Milk at Garrison Market (Garrison, NY)
6. Thanksgiving Stuffing with Gravy Chez Les Perkins (Cold Spring, NY)
5. Return from Chiang Mai at Bouley (NYC)
4. Roasted Bluefoot Chicken at Alain Du Casse (NYC)
3. Bread and Butter and Hot Chocolate at Hotel Exedra (Rome)
2. Pizza and Carciofi alla Giudia at La Sagrestia (Rome)
1. Fettucine with Truffles at Il Colosso (Rome)

Yarn of the Year:

Rose of the Year:
Sharifa Asma

Compiling this list, I am struck by the fact that 2006 was an amazing year--"the best of ever," as my nephews would say. Here's hoping 2007 tops it.



Generous gifts from friends and Patrick's clients prompted a Hot Cocoa Taste-Off in the quiet days between Christmas and New Year's.
Being quite familiar with the charms and strengths of our everyday standbys, Nesquik and Droste, we made a batch each of Ibarra, Godiva, and Marie Belle. We used milk with each, and blended each in our trusty VitaMix for optimum frothiness and smoothness.
Ibarra is a treat fondly remembered from my childhood. It's from Mexico, and you may be able to find a similar product under the brand name Abuelita. Milky, sweet, with strong cinnamon overtones, this was the kids' favorite.
I've never been a Godiva fan. I like my chocolate either a) American--which to me means homey, milky, and indulgent, See's being my favorite brand in this category; or b) Swiss--refined, less sweet, and smooth as silk. Cailler's Frigor and some Lindt work for me in this regard.
Godiva has always seemed to me to be a very awkward marriage of these two types, the lovely packaging notwithstanding. Sometimes the chocolates are nice, but too often I find them to be shrill flavor combinations housed in brittle couverture: not my idea of an treat. Unfortunately, the Godiva Hot Cocoa did nothing to change my opinion of the brand. It was redolent of powdered marshmallows--nothing more than a tarted up Swiss Miss.
The Marie Belle was the clear winner for me. It was the most like the celestial brews I've had in Paris (at Angelina's) and in Rome (at the Hotel Exedra)--thick, creamy, and to be sweetened at the drinker's discretion. No off flavors polluted its singular charm; it was nothing but good, dark chocolate, through and through. Marie Belle will be the gift that keeps on giving whenever I'm feeling the need for a little warmth in the coming months.