Sunday, April 29, 2012

Birthday Fun

Aaron's card, in which I promised not to do homework all day!
Today is Aaron's day of birth.  We've been celebrating all weekend with good food and drinks.

We started the weekend with some morel mushroom hunting... at the Farmer's Market and Whole Foods (they are way cheaper at Whole Foods, fyi).

Last night we had a great dinner at Sardine.  If you are ever in Madison, I highly recommend eating there.    There are a lot of great restaurants, but this is the only place that has impressed us with every single dish every time. Its also not as big of a budget buster as other places, which means we can afford that extra nice bottle of wine or special appetizer. Which we did last night.  Well I could go on and on about Sardine for a long time, but moving on.

After dinner we got our favorite drink, Justin's Yellow Jacket at Opus, which I wrote about last year.  Those drinks in the picture are still the best ones we've had from their menu. Finally, we made the cold walk from the Capital Square back to our neighborhood, where we stopped at The Weary Traveler for a late night snack and game of Yahtzee (I won).  Birthdays are exhausting!

Of course just because Aaron had his birthday dinner last night didn't mean we could let today go to waste. I woke Aaron up with his birthday present, a new wallet I snuck back from New York.  Then we had "the best brunch in Madison" at El Dorado Grill.  We have been once already and we each ordered the exact same thing as before: Chilaquilas and Eggs Benedict. Someday we'll branch out to the rest of the menu. Maybe.

Brunch at El Dorado
Next we went to see a movie, which is a big treat for Aaron because I'm not big on movie theaters. I don't like not being able to pause it to go to the bathroom or paying a million bucks for a gross snack (Aaron got a bag of Reeses Pieces for the very unreasonable price of $4.50). Aaron loves going to movies so we decided when we have a kid that can be his special time with them and I'll never have to go again.

We also picked up scones from our favorite bakery for lunch, had beer and fried cheese curds at The Great Dane, and are getting pizza from The Roman Candle for dinner (its down the street from our apartment).  We sure are supporting the neighborhood establishments this weekend.  Happy Birthday Aaron!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finding the best Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary from Genna's (with an Oberon side-car: the baby beer is common in Wisconsin and Genna's lets you pick anything on tap).

Sorry for the noticeable lack of posts this past week.  Its that time of the semester when everything is due.  I have two exams and an important paper due this week.  Add that to picking classes for next year, planning for the summer, and trying to maintain a healthy exercise/social life and I hardly have time left to eat (cue junk food).  I could bore you all with some macroeconomics talk or discuss my paper on radionuclide contaminated food from Japan but I don't want to give away all of the excitement of grad school. Maybe its time to start hiring Aaron to write my posts.

I do have something to talk about today that is important enough for a study break: Bloody Mary's.

The best thing that came out of my second round on the elimination diet is that I discovered I can eat tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes again. I don't know if it was the time off or the probiotics and enzymes I've been taking religiously, but what used to give me a terrible stomach ache isn't bothering me at all now.

Still, I have been taking it easy for fear of retribution and haven't been cooking with peppers or tomatoes beyond the introduction phases. It is so nice to be able to order food at a restaurant and not worry about every ingredient... I would have missed out on some great food in NYC. Lobster mashed potatoes? And don't get me started on the vodka pizza sauce.

One thing I have happily been taking advantage of is the freedom to drink Bloody Mary's again. They are one of my favorite drinks and I went a whole year without one! Sometimes I would have a taste of Aaron's, but I was always afraid of giving myself a stomach ache.

Since allowing myself to have tomatoes and pepper's again, I have tried multiple versions of the Bloody Mary, including versions with tequila. Aaron always asks for his spicy, which is way too much heat for my now sensitive tastebuds.

So far I have had Bloody Mary's at the following establishments:
Cooper's Tavern, $6
El Dorado Grill, $6.50
Sardine, $6
Genna's, $6
Cookshop, $12

Guess which of those places was in NYC?

All were delicious, complex, and adorned with lots of good stuff.  Some were thicker, spicier, more pickle-y, etc, which allowed us to pick the winner so far: Sardine.  Aaron agrees, although nothing beats his uncle's homemade mixture fresh from his garden!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

NYC Day 4

Sorry for the delay in posting the pictures from our last day in NYC. I had a statistics project due yesterday and it seems that I caught a cold on one of our flights, so its been a rough week.

Saturday in New York was great, it was the only day that all four of us could spend together. We started with brunch at Cookshop, then went for a walk on the High Line, a park built on old elevated train tracks. Then we went to the Chelsea Market, witnessed a massive pillow fight in Washington Square, and headed back to Astoria for one more pickle martini at Sweet Afton before an amazingly delicious dinner at Vesta, located right around the corner from Ruth and Sean's apartment.

Huevos Rancheros at Cookshop.

The High Line.

Chelsea Market.

Washington Square and crazy pillow fight.


Oh yeah, one more thing. Our suitcase gained a little bit (a lot) of weight during our trip, because we brought home these...

A dozen whole wheat everything bagels (plus two extras that we ate at the airport).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NYC Day 3

Here are some pictures from our third day in New York. Ruth and I had plans to hang out together and then meet up with Aaron and Sean for dinner. We got manicures ($8!), then went to ABC Kitchen for lunch, a highly anticipated meal (we had to make reservations a month in advance). The food was fantastic and we got to catch up for a couple hours.

After lunch, we went on some shopping adventures in a couple different neighborhoods. I finally got to buy the purse I wanted that everyone in NY has, but no one in Wisconsin has. We also checked out the new Uniqlo and of course, got our rings cleaned at Tiffany's.

Aaron and Sean hung out together and were so generous to win us crappy stuffed monkeys from the arcade they went to.

Dinner was at Blue Water Grill in their Jazz Room. It was too dark to take good pictures, but we were seated right next to the performing band, which was really fun. The food was fantastic (they had me at the lobster mashed potatoes) and we spent a total of three hours there enjoying our dinner and drinks before calling it a night.

Grey nails. Not the same shade!

Getting our rings cleaned at Tiffany's.

ABC Kitchen.

Union Square and Plaza Hotel.

Monkeys Aaron and Sean won for us.

Monday, April 9, 2012

NYC Day 2

For our second day in New York, Ruth took the day off from work to show us around. We fueled up on bagels (the infamous whole wheat everything bagel!) and spent the day walking around downtown/lower Manhattan. We definitely got out a good workout in. Later we met Sean at Sweet Afton in Astoria for dinner, drinks, and pickle back shots.

Since Ruth and I don't live close to each other anymore, we aren't used to people asking us if we are twins all of the time (which used to be a regular thing). This happened a lot in NYC, but the best was at the bagel place. Ruth ordered her bagel (Whole Wheat Everything toasted w/plain cream cheese) and a few minutes later I stepped up to order for Aaron and I. I ordered the same thing as Ruth and the guy was just staring at me, so I repeated myself, thinking I ordered wrong. Then he said "but you already ordered that, do you want another one on top of the first one?"

The joke was on him when he realized we were twins and all of his co-workers laughed at him.

World Trade Center and Zuccotti Park.

Wall Street.


Battery Park.

Riding the Staten Island Ferry.

On Staten Island.

Brooklyn Bridge.

Sweet Afton for dinner and pickle martinis.

NYC Day 1

I'm sad to say my Spring Break is over and I'm back to the reality of the last month of the semester! There are a lot of projects due and there will be very little free time to enjoy spring. Luckily the weather was perfect for our trip to NYC and I was too busy looking around me to remember all of the work I need to get done this month. We had so much fun hanging out with Ruth and Sean (without the rest of our families :) hehe) and seeing New York.

Here are some pictures from our first day. Sean and Ruth were both at work, so Aaron and I were on our own. We only went the wrong way on the subway once...

Highlights included visiting Ruth at work, having lunch with one of my college friends, Central Park, and going to the top of the Rockefeller Center. Then we had delicious pizza for dinner at Rubirosa, which I neglected to take any pictures of because I was too busy eating.

Council on Foreign Relations.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Central Park.

Top of the Rock.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chai Tea Concentrate

I still remember the first time I had a chai tea latte. I was in high school. My friend told me it tasted like pumpkin pie and I was hooked. Since then my tastes have changed quite a bit and I find that the concentrate used at most coffee shops is really lacking in flavor. Its also too sugary for me.

There is one place in Madison, Marigold Kitchen, that makes a spicier, less sweet version (they make their own concentrate). I love it, but it costs quite a bit and has caffeine, which I haven't been drinking for a while. It also means I have to drink cow or soy milk.

I have been seeing recipes for homemade chai concentrate on the internet for a while and had been meaning to try it. I was finally forced into action after the hot weather we have had the past few weeks left me craving an iced chai tea.

After checking out the variety of recipes, I decided to follow this one: Chai Tea Concentrate, but cut the sugar in half and use decaf black tea. This required a trip to a specialty spice store, but all of the spices were under $8 together and there is plenty left to make a ton of batches. In less than a half hour, I had enough for a weeks worth of chai tea lattes.

Although it says to mix the concentrate and your choice of milk 1 to 1, I found that to be too milky, so I did more like 1.5 parts concentrate to 1 part milk.

And unfortunately the weather dropped this week, so I only enjoyed my chai tea as a hot drink. I'll be making it again soon, hopefully having a delicious iced version for the hot afternoons when I bike home from campus.