Running off to Manhattan in the first week of December is beginning to be a bit of a tradition. No matter how many times I go there I still run around in the same loop that I did when I was a teen. As soon as I landed of course I needed to flutter around and explore the city and its iconic landmarks and delicious food. I kicked off with a leisurely walk to Grand Central, over to Bryant Park and the Library, and along 5th, where the energy of the city is always at peak. Despite my getting older and less interested in crowds, the allure of Rockefeller Plaza always draws me in with its sparkling lights and iconic art installations (plus the new beam ride, have you heard?) The charming Bryant Park, with its winter transformation this time of year, adds a touch of festive magic instantly. And don’t even get me started on the Nintendo store. It’s my childhood. ￼
The evening unfolded with dinner at Hawksmoor, a carnivore’s haven known for its impeccable steaks. The sizzling aroma of perfectly grilled cuts filled the air, setting the tone for a delicious start to our culinary journey. The cozy ambiance and attentive service at Hawksmoor left us in high spirits as we wrapped up the night. But damn, I forgot to try the marrow pie!!
Saturday morning commenced with an exclusive brunch at the Harvard Club, where refined indulgence set the stage for a day filled with sophistication and delight. The elegant atmosphere and exquisite fare provided the perfect prelude to the experiences that awaited us. That building, no joke, is spectacular. Harry Potter on steroids. Not a speck of dust in sight.
The day continued with a leisurely exploration of markets galore – Union Square Christmas Market, a bustling hub of holiday cheer and artisanal treasures. Strolling through the festive stalls, we found unique gifts, sipped on hot cocoa, and soaked in the magical atmosphere. Bryant Park market again, Grand Central holiday market, and Chelsea Market, complete with a Gingerbread House contest. Phew.
A delightful pre-theater dinner at Joseph Leonard followed, with the restaurant’s intimate ambiance and inventive American cuisine adding to the pleasure of the day. Satisfied and content, we made our way to the Lucille Lortel Theatre for a riveting performance of “Danny and The Deep Blue Sea,” brought to life by the talented duo of Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott.
Sunday unfolded with a leisurely stroll through the Bryant Park Christmas Market (again. why not), where the festive ambiance and handcrafted treasures continued to captivate. Our exploration extended to include the modern allure of Hudson Yards, whose architectural wonders and upscale retail scene provided a contemporary contrast.
To cap off our weekend retreat, Sunday dinner at Portale brought an exquisite conclusion to our culinary journey. The restaurant’s chic ambiance and innovative Italian cuisine provided the perfect ending to a weekend filled with good food, cultural experiences, and the festive spirit of Manhattan. As we bid farewell to the city, the memories of savory steaks, captivating theater, and the enchanting markets lingered, leaving us refreshed and eager for our next escape to the heart of Manhattan.
With another awesome contract under my belt, working feverishly with the Apply Digital folks to build not one, not two, but three sites for their superstar client Moderna, I knew I had to step away from the computer and experience some beauty in real life to unwind and recharge. The goals – to get sunshine and heat (I had missed summer pretty much entirely), to give friends hugs (so much needed), and to see what travelling with a 70lb dog looks life (boarding a dog is way too expensive, the flight cost is infinitely cheaper).
I’ve been to California a handful of times now, and the geography of this state never fails to astound me. There’s just so much here, so much natural beauty. The oceans, the colours, the heat, the flora and the fauna is so different from home. The dryness, that desert earthy dustiness of it, and the smell of eucalyptus and cacti everywhere is wonderful. The state parks are out of this world. Each one is more beautiful than the last, and the people are just… well, they’re happy. And happiness makes you pleasant, and kind, and generous, and good to be around, and chatty and fun. So there’s that.
It’s also so insanely big, so filled with options and people and constant motion that it can be very overwhelming. You have to leave the ridiculous belief that you’ll see it all at the door – it’s just not possible. I saw a banner that read “California is for everyone” and it really is – whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever you do, you’ll find it here. You’ll find your tribe.
Flying with a dog was shockingly easy. All we needed to do was find a crate (in our case it needed to be hardshelled, big enough so that he could stand comfortably in it, yet small enough that the collective weight of crate and pup did not exceed 100lbs. Once that was sorted, the rest was just the tasks of purchasing a spot for him (~CAD$100), getting documentation from the vet that he was vaccinated and in good health (~CAD$40) and shlepping over to the airport, keeping fingers crossed that he wouldn’t start barking the second we left him at the oversize luggage area. He held it together like a champ, and when we collected him in LA – his cute little face searching the crowds for us and that frenzied tail wagging, still silent – we knew taking him with us was completely the right way to go. We were also super lucky that we found an AirBnb host who loved dogs and shared with us all kinds of tips about where to go and what to do, that his next door neighbour was the friendliest person ever (and a talented artist to boot!) and that LA in general seems to love dogs and didn’t really restrict his access anywhere. Because dining here is 95% outdoor, Remy was able to go with us everywhere, and friends offered to stay with him if we wanted a night on the town on our own. Plus, we stayed in an old part of Hollywood called Whitley Heights that was a hop and a skip from Runyon Canyon, where Remy could run off-leash to his hearts content.
The trip also presented some challenges, mainly for gimpy ol’ me. My first several minutes in the Pacific came to a screeching halt as a stingray angrily speared the base of my right foot. Convinced that I had stepped on a piece of glass and the whole throbbing painful ordeal would only last a minute, I sat on the beach and waited for the pain to subside. When it instead exponentially increased and spread up towards my pelvis, I hobbled over to the nearest lifeguard station and begged for a vial of secret potion that would make all this go away (amputation at that point was also something that I wasn’t completely against). The secret potion came in the form of a foil bag of near-boiling tap water in which I was to essentially cook my foot. The relief was instant, and despite the pieces of stinger exoskeleton that were still lodged in my foot (and presumably would remain ad infinitum) that ordeal could be put behind me. Fuck you Pacific. I get it. You win.
Five days later, just as I was finally able to walk without thinking too much about the healing wound on my foot, a grown Dalmation (presumably in his absolute delight at running after a gorgeous intact Vizsla from a land to the North) forgot his surroundings and failed to maneuver around me as he ran full speed across Huntington Dog Beach. His body made full contact with my right knee, and I fell to the ground in miserable excruciating pain. It was like being hit in the leg with a golf club. As I do, I gave myself a minute for the pain of the impact to subside, convinced that deep breathing and comical wincing would make it all go away. Mostly, it did, but I couldn’t put weight on the leg. Given the direct impact it made sense to me that it should be painful for a while, but when the next morning my knee had swelled to triple its original size and I could put no weight on it without agony, I decided it was best to make sure that nothing was horribly wrong and went for some XRays at an Urgent Care Clinic. Spoiler alert – I survived, but it messed me up for a good two weeks, and those beautiful hikes in Runyon Canyon with Remy went out the window.
When I could walk again without crutches (and just after the US Open Surfing Championships), that’s when there was an oil spill across the California Coast that closed down the OC beaches. I won’t even pretend that this is a poor me moment – the whole thing was shocking for all Californians and pissed off everyone who loves their ocean, their wildlife, and their neighbourhoods. Cleanup efforts are continuing, and I was happy that we didn’t spend double the amount of money on accommodations to be close to the beach. On the flip side, if we had, we wouldn’t have been anywhere near an LAPD standoff a block from our place or a DTLA hostage situation near Central Market.
So I sit here, writing down what’s in my head, left to wonder what I really think of LA and if it’s somewhere I could be long term. I gravitated to San Francisco more but I straight up wouldn’t be able to afford it. John is much more in favour of LA.
Pros: California is incredibly beautiful and the heat and geography are absolutely intoxicating. Gawking at all the unique real estate would keep me busy for 10 years, the houses here are amazing. People you encounter in LA are warm and kind, creativity abounds, and for a kid like me who grew up obsessed with television and movies, everything under the sun is here – the Mattel headquarters. Jim Henson studios. Paramount, Fox, Warner Brothers, Snow White’s house, everywhere you look there is some landmark, some reference to some piece of your childhood that made a serious impact. The food scene is incredible, and on any given night you can find eats from any corner of the universe.
Cons: The sidewalks in the whole city are full of tents, with the homeless, addicts, young kids who ran away from home, and people who either can’t afford housing or simply cannot secure it living there. For someone who walks and does it more for pleasure than practicality, it sucks. You need a car for everything. Walking three blocks takes 10 years, and you’re dodging addicts, beggars and yellers. And don’t dream of just hailing a cab either, that doesn’t exist in LA. You need to explicitly book a rideshare, and there’s so much demand that most of them decline your request, so you either stand on the sidewalk of the restaurant you just got out of for an hour and wait (and pay USD$70 for a ten minute ride) or you take a scooter, if you can find one. For real (on the plus side, when your rideshare does arrive, it could be a Tesla, as was the case with us. We got to zip around town like millionaires and the driver showed off just how much those cars can do).
I think my pros list is longer.
We’ve been missing London a lot, and really wanted to do something that would feel like we were back there. We got the chance to experience it in such a beautiful way, mostly thanks to our amazing friend and colleague Diana, who is the most awesome and generous person in the world. In fact one of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t jump at the opportunity to live there, but that’s a story for another time…
And so Family Day weekend was all about food. Afternoon Tea with teeny tiny sandwiches, scones and cakes and Beef Wellies (yes, plural… got a couple of little steaks instead of one giant one) where I got to freehand a lattice pattern with the pastry (who needs another cluttery gadget, come on) and confirm once again that the mustard layer is absolutely integral to the taste of the mushrooms and the entire dish. I went bonkers with the Madeleines – John got me a little Cuisinart Madeleine pan so I made the classic orange rind version with the hump and everything, and let me tell you, fresh out of the oven, they are just delightful.
Prep is everything. Making the batter takes time and effort. Making the steaks and the druxelles takes time and effort. But taking it out of the fridge and popping it into the oven is nothing. Knowing now just how much I can do beforehand (92%) makes all the difference in the world, and now I see post-Covid dinner parties in a much less intimidating light…
Want to know what I’ve been up to since April and why I have not kept the blog updated?
That about sums it up. Goodnight.
But seriously, there’s not that much to write about during a Canadian winter lockdown. I watch tv. I eat. I stare at my computer screen.
Instead of celebrating my 40th in the Maldives with a margarita, I celebrated it on Zoom. All day. I played Among Us with my kid brother and my sister-in-law on Zoom. I virtually ate German Chocolate Cake (which is American, FYI) with my folks on Zoom. I had a whole meal complete with sparklers and champagne on Zoom. I had a call with my Amsterdam buddies (who made me cry because clearly I am an emotional basketcase and miss them dearly) on Zoom. And you know what? Screw the Maldives, it was adorable.
Sometimes people amaze me. I randomly came across a blog post about 90 second keto English Muffins and had to try them out myself, because.. well… 90 SECOND ENGLISH MUFFINS!.. with a few adjustments of course based on what I actually had on hand. The result is something earth-shatteringly miraculous, and so this last week at my casa there have been many a Benny in my breakfast routine, as well as the usual wet kisses of my puppy Remy.
I was coming back from a meeting last week and passed by the flagship Greenhouse Juice Co. just off of Yonge street, and got their recipe for Gingerbread cookies. Now my home smells like heaven and I have treats to share with my friends.
The holidays are a tricky time for many people. Not everyone has somewhere to be when the carollers are singing and the lights are twinkling, or where they do spend their holidays isn’t particularly peaceful. I missed my old friend Gray yesterday (having watched the beautiful Heisenberg at CanStage, which made me wholly reevaluate my minimalist-set-thumbs-down stance of yore), and remembered how crappy the holidays were always for him. I hope whatever you all do, and whomever you’re with, that you feel content. Much love to you all.
It was a most gorgeous day outside, with an evening that necessitated the use of the bicycle, the purchasing of fresh fruits, and of sitting on the porch studying my favourite MasterClass lecturers while eating freshly-baked crumble. With May days like this, life ain’t bad.
I’m on a snacking kick lately, so I’ll tell you something – store-bought granola bars don’t do it for me, and as we’re running around like crazy people all the time, we need pick-me-ups. Something quick to grab and go, but something tasty, a little more complex than just a carrot or some nuts. And as much as I love my chia seed pudding, those don’t really travel that well.
Enter the Energy bite. Energy ball. Energy truffle. Whatever you want to call it, it keeps you going for several hours. The internet has gazillions of variations and though they take about five minutes to make, they’re expensive to buy. Make your own. Here I have some sesame, cinnamon, matcha and cocoa-dusted ones. I forgot about coconut flakes I have stashed in my pantry, would have been perfect to have cute little white ones. Oh well. Next time.
I’m a huge snacker. I need to eat probably every two hours or so, and though that’s not necessarily bad in itself, it’s entirely dependent on the quality of the foods that you’re snacking on. In the past, if there was pizza or candy like sour peaches around, they would be gone in a heartbeat. When I worked in Amsterdam, the office would offer a spread at 3pm of cookies and pound cakes. Heaven help the Oreos within my arms’ reach. Or the Maltesers. Or the Rolos. You get the picture.
I think that’s why chia seed pudding is such a godsend for me. Look, I have no idea if I’m buying into a bunch of baloney eating this stuff, whether it’s worth the plastic bag it comes in, but I do know that it tastes great and it’s easy as pie to whip together. I know that it complements well the fruits that I throw into it, and that with a handful of steel cut oats and coconut shavings and almonds, I’m good to go until dinner. And I need that, I need that on the days when apples are boring me to tears and it’s raining cats and dogs outside.