A little inspiration for the week
While this is not all about travel, it falls under merry-making + travel + partying. Here are few fun highlights from 2015 – Enjoy and hope it makes you laugh as much as I did while writing it.
- Set the intentions of kicking ass this year
- Seeing my godson, Jacob Thomas
- Keith and I bought international property in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
- Planning the 2015 Summer Travel
- Celebrating Easter
- My 34th Birthday
- Got to see 2 of my oldest friends, Justin Leffler and Matt Ciantar. It was Matt’s wedding. We’ve all known each other since 3rd grade!
- The DogPound Appreciation Party
- Learning to enjoy Caliche Rum with cigars. Thanks Shendi Lu! Thanks Felicia and Dan for joining the craziness!
- Ran a 10k
- Visiting Jerusalem (check out my Jerusalem post for the actual city guide)
- The Pilgrimage Tour with my best friend, Linda Gomes. We hit Paris, Ibiza (we made it!) and Lisbon
- Best Dominican brunch with the DogPound Crew
- Swan’s Birthday Extraganza
- Lunch with former Rutger’s coach Kyle Flood. He liked Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur!
- Bi-annual Hennessy Crew reunion over…surprise, surprise…Italian Food and wine/champagne
- Lauren’s Engagement Party – the Bad News Bitches Crew and our men
- I work for the coolest company, Serralles, USA. Company meeting was in NOLA
- Helicopter ride with Keith
- The annual Shitek’s Summer Series Mets Game: Keith and Brian make it on the Met’s jumbo tron
- U2 Concert
- Keith’s 35th Birthday
- The 10-day Scotland + Ireland Trip with my in-laws (I will be posting this story in the next month – stay tuned!)
- Trish Mannion’s “Sensational” Miami Birthday
- Keith and I felt grown up. We bought a new washer and dryer
- Global Citizen with the DogPound
- Joy Luck Club gals (Swan + Mel) hit Wo Hop (my dad’s old chinatown haunt)
- Swan and my Brooklyn / Queens pizza tour
- I bought sparkle sneaks!
- Caliche Rum made it on the Times Square Billboard with Instapour
- METS Playoffs + World Series. Thrilled we saw Game 3 – Home field and they won
- Rutgers vs. Wisconsin – Halloween in Madison with the RU Crew – rained all weekend!
- LA Adoption Ball with Domenic Venneri. I won 2 nights at the Bangkok Peninsula hotel and a baby bag…what does that mean?!
- Keith in Dodgeball Playoffs
- John Santos’ epic Birthday
- Dec 1st: Launch of Three Quarters There and celebrating the life of my beautiful sister, Nicole Caruso, with her favorite wine
- Decided if I ever own a home, this will be my Holiday Front Lawn Decor – always wanted a Griswold Family Christmas 🙂
- Melissa Mao and Chris Cedeno’s Fabulous Holiday/Housewarming Party with the original Rutgers Matia Crew
- Bi – annual Hennessy crew dinner (aka: Bad News Big Shots as Keith named us)
- Leaf Cookies – my favorite cookie (thanks Mom)
- My favorite ornament (thanks Adam Ponsi)
- The Guest Bartender Series at Piora featuring Caliche Rum and Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, and bringing together some of the finest bartenders in Manhattan. The cocktail creations = AMAZING.
- Christmas @ The Caruso Household: hanging with Rambo and my brother, Paulie Walnuts
- STAR WARS
- Keith and my holiday ritual: Tree, lighting candles for our families, Broadway and champagne at the Palace Hotel
- Spending Christmas in The Villages, Florida with my in-laws. Can’t you tell I love golf, and the bench is real! Stay tuned for the detailed post on this later in January
This had to have it’s own category. The different Christmas Food Spreads I experienced.
Small: The Witek Family (Keith’s parents)
Party of 5 (all big eaters): Prime rib, croissants, 3 rolls and butter from Christmas Eve dinner at Cody’s Restaurant, caprese salad, 4 baked potatoes, string beans
Large: The Ross Family (my Uncle Frank and Aunt Evelyn)
Party of 5 adults and 3 small children who ate already: Ham, 2 Chicken dishes, 3 veggie dishes, macaroni salad, baked potatoes
Not shown: beef stroganoff, antipasto plate
XXL: Mom and Dad Caruso (no one does it better than my parents who have no concept of portion control or assortment of trays)
Party of 4: There are no hunger games at my house – Salad, Mom’s Famous pepperoni bread + meatballs, sausage and peppers, meatloaf wrapped in bacon, potatoes and onions, raviolis, fresh bread and she always gets me my leaf cookies. Check out the leftovers picture. That’s what we took home!
*I fell in love with Keith even more knowing he was comfortable enough to constructively criticize her pepperoni bread: “You have to go back to semolina. The bread dough you used doesn’t have the structural integrity to hold all the fillings.”
And another that deserves its own category
Epic Rutgers Tailgates – Holy food! Awesome friends! Overdosing on fun! We now have babies at the tailgates. Crap, we’re getting old. Will the team ever win?
Cheers to a memorable 2015!
I am that person that loves symbolic fresh starts and the opportunity to take stock of what I have done and what I need to do. It’s a clean slate. January 1st is a glorious day to set the foundation and tone for the upcoming year.
After some reflection, I realized my personal and work life never had clear demarcation lines, but have always managed (for the most part) to co-exist… OR the people in my life are incredibly patient. I think it’s a bit of both. This helped me realize my hope for the new year: Prioritize better and focus. I’ve become an expert at multi-tasking, but lost much of my focus on one thing at a time…or just paying attention for more than a minute without getting impatient.
This year happens to be the start of my new 5-Year Plan. If you know me, you know about my insane, detailed plans.
Closing out the last plan and seeing all that I’ve done was amazing. I realized I just do shit. I have an idea and whether it works or not, I’ll try it. I guess that’s a good thing but realize sometimes I pile so much on my plate, I get overwhelmed.
So aside from the big hope of the year, here is what I want to accomplish in 2016. Friends and family, please hold me accountable! I am putting this out there.
- By my 35th Birthday (March 27th – Easter Sunday! Bri and Jesus celebration, haha), I want to be in the best shape of my life. That would be 100lbs – mind you, I was 103lbs at my wedding 7.5 years ago. Yikes.
- I cut my blood pressure medication by 75% in 2015. Want to cut the remaining dosage in half this year. Gotta remove this from diet.
- Learn Spanish at Idlewild: http://idlewildbooks.com This has been a resolution for a decade. I signed up for a class that starts January 11th and have Rosetta Stone. Bueno suerto, Bri!
- Take a comedy class. Yup, I’ve secretly always wanted to be comedian. I think laughter is the best feeling in the world and when I can make someone laugh it feels awesome. I am not clever and I take things way too seriously so stand up comedy does not come naturally. What I do have are funny stories and content. Hope the classes will help me communicate it like my idols Chris Rock and Jim Gaffigan (side note: have you read his book Food? Hysterical). My classes start this summer and I do a show as the finale. My friends are highly anticipating this event. Might be bigger and better than one of my birthday parties. How clever is this –
- Do a second tour of Asia. This time it will be Thailand, Vietnam, China. Plan is for April to celebrate my 35th.
- Continue posting on this blog and just enjoying it.
- FORGIVE. I would like to believe I do it well but I don’t. I am awesome at holding grudges whether I mean to or not. I also remember everything. I will probably use my next hypnosis session to work on this one…
There’s my hopes for 2016. I think this summarizes it completely:
It’s amazing to think, but in the end, you really get to make your own life. 2016 is gonna be one hell of an adventure.
2015 was truly (another) epic year. Blessed to know and love the people I do that make my life fun and crazy memorable. Cheers to an even better 2016: Try everything, keep learning, live, laugh, travel, eat, be grateful and continue to change your world for the better. Get ready for some great updates tomorrow!
I didn’t believe a piece of meat like this could exist. It’s like finding a unicorn. Filets have always been a favorite cut of mine and if the bone is in, even better! The flavor is astonishing.
Let me introduce you to Strip House’s 60 oz. Bone In Filet – http://www.striphouse.com
Isn’t it beautiful? Oh, that other steak in the picture is their classic strip steak, which is also delicious.
Alright let’s get technical – how is this possible?
- Cleave the short loin from the larger loin cuts which are often referred to as tenderloin or filet mignon.
- This creates 2 pieces.
- The front section is located in the short loin and the rear section muscle, which is usually not found in steakhouses, is fabricated into a steak and then dry aged.
- It is seasoned with salt and pepper, trimmed of excess age, and then the dry aged trimmings are rendered down and used to baste during cooking.
- The steak is seared at 1800° before being roasted in the oven until it reaches the customer’s desired temperature.
- After the beef rests, the bone is removed, the steak goes under the broiler and is served piping hot.
Right now only 35 are offered weekly and the steak is not listed on the restaurant’s menu. Call ahead and reserve one. The cost is $180 and so worth it.
The meat sweats are undeniable after this meal, but it’s a decadent, delightful, meaty experience. Happy Holidays!
Yup, it’s that time of year again. Best of Westchester 2016 from Westchester Magazine!
My friend Cristina Racanelli’s pet grooming, daycare and product superstore, Wipe Your Paws (http://www.wipeyourpawsny.com/) will hopefully be winning again this year, but I need my friends and family to vote for her. The applicable categories are Dog Spa, Dog Groomer, Dog Trainer, and Pet Supplies. Please vote for Wipe Your Paws in Mount Kisco!
In life, if you are lucky, you have many groups of friends. Some stay in your life longer than others, but all impact and touch you in certain ways.
Let me introduce the Bad News Bitches (aka: BNBs). My husband, Keith, nicknamed us after all the adventures he’s seen us go through. It’s fitting. Trust me. We have our own coffee table book!
These 3 women have been in my life since middle school – oh, yes, we knew each other during those awkward teenage years and have seen each other through heartbreaks, hopes, loneliness, triumphs, marriage, divorce, babies, and many trips to Miami.
My feelings of affection, admiration and love for these 3 women have only deepened over the years, and during this holiday season I wanted to showcase their talent in the dessert department.
Please note: I have no knowledge of desserts and I don’t pretend to! I’d rather eat two appetizers and an entrée and completely skip that last course… I have been known to order pasta for dessert.
I did realize with the holiday season in full swing, a post on sugary goodness would be nice. These 3 ladies are my experts and I hope you enjoy their recommendations and recipes.
For my recipe I chose a traditional and easy dessert that I make with my sister in law at most holidays. She has been wonderful with embracing the Portuguese culture in her cooking to appease my brother & our family. On her first trip to Portugal she tasted one of my favorite desserts, Serradura (sawdust), and vowed to make it again at home. Now it’s become a staple dessert at every family event. It’s deliciously rich and simple to make!
Linda’s Favorite Bakery
As for my favorite bakery, without a doubt, it’s Magnolia Bakery – http://www.magnoliabakery.com/ I know its cliché, but to this day, I still ask my friends every time we go into the city, “Are we by Magnolia Bakery?” Their cupcakes, in my opinion, are the best cupcakes I have ever tasted. There is something so unique about the buttery richness of their frosting. And let’s not forget the Banana pudding! I could (and have) eaten it by the pound! I dare you to walk by their bakery and not be lured in by the delicious smells of their treats.
Too Much Chocolate Cake Recipe:
I don’t have any recipes that I’ve managed to make my own over the last few years, but this is one of my favorites:
Lauren’s Favorite Desserts at a Restaurant:
- Toll House Cookie Sundae: The Wine Bar, Atlantic Highlands – http://ahwinebar.com/winebar/
While I feel compelled to name something classy, I have to go with the warm chocolate chip sundae cookie. The warm, freshly baked cookie is topped with vanilla ice cream and makes me nostalgic for the simple desserts of my childhood (when I thought that a Friendly’s sundae was a culinary delicacy). Sadly, this is only on the seasonal menu so it is an infrequent treat for me.
- Chocolate Covered Cannoli: Egidio’s Bakery, Bronx – http://egidiopastryshop.com/
My first time visiting Egidio’s was during college. Despite sampling cannoli’s in various bakeries for the last decade, I can’t find anything that comes close to Egidio’s. The filling is rich and creamy, with the chocolate shell providing the perfect ending!
Since it’s the holidays, my recipe contribution has to be Venetians (aka Rainbow cookies or Italian Flag cookies). I’ve been making these every single year since I was 12 years old (even further back than our Holiday dinners at Lauren’s!) and they continue to be a holiday tradition my family won’t let me give up. I’ve made them in more kitchens across more apartments than I care to count and it wouldn’t feel like Christmas if I didn’t make them.
Prep time: 2 hours (1 hour each day, with an overnight setting period)
- waxed paper
- 3, 13×9 pans (just buy disposable aluminum pans)
- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- red food coloring
- green food coloring
- 1 1/2 cups apricot jam
- 1 pound bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
- Grease 3 – 13 x 9 inch pans. Line with wax paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Grate almond paste or chop into small pieces.
- Combine almond paste, sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract. Beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt.
- Divide dough into 3 -1 1/2 cup portions. Add red coloring to one of the portions, and green to another, until you get the color you like. Leave the last third uncolored.
- Spread the batter in the 3 separate prepared pans (they will be thin layers).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Use the wax paper to remove cakes from pan immediately. Cool thoroughly.
- Heat jam on the stovetop until it thins out and use a colander to remove the larger fruit pieces. Retain the more liquid jam.
- Place green layer onto a stable surface (I use a cookie sheet) and spread with the strained apricot jam. Add the white layer and spread jam on that. Top with pink layer.
- Cover the 3 layers in plastic wrap and place another cookie sheet on top. Weigh down the layers (to compress them and ensure they stick together when cut) with a few heavy books and place in the fridge overnight.
- Melt chocolate over a double boiler (chocolate in a saucepan, on top of a frying pan of water works fine).
- Spread chocolate over the cake and allow to set, but not get too hard (can refrigerate to speed it up).
- When chocolate is set, trim all the edges of your “cake” so that it is a true rectangle. Then, cut the cake into 1-inch squares.
- NOTE: It will be easier to cut the squares if you keep a glass of hot water and a towel handy. Heat the blade of your knife in the water, dry with the towel, and make each cut. Use the hot water to heat and clean the blade between cuts.
*Store cookies in the fridge for up to one week
Tricia’s Favorite Desserts at a Restaurant:
I realized that my favorite restaurants have seasonal menus, so a dessert I may have enjoyed a few months back isn’t offered today. That said, these are my 2 favorites on-the-go:
- Levain Bakery – http://www.levainbakery.com/ I have to give it up to my neighborhood favorite, which also happens to be the best cookie in NYC. Chocolate chip walnut is the classic, but the dark chocolate chocolate is pretty amazing too. They chill the dough before baking, so you end up with a cookie crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. The line on the UWS is ridiculous during weekends, so be prepared to wait. If you can’t stand it, Jacque Torres Chocolatier has excellent cookies for sale right around the corner.
- Lady M Confections – http://www.ladym.com/ The Lady M Mille Crepe cake is divine. It consists of a stack of paper-thin crepes layered with an airy vanilla cream and topped with creme brûlée. It is both decadent and light, creamy and crispy. There is a green tea version which is also very popular. Lady M has an outpost in the Plaza Food hall, as well as on the Upper East Side and Bryant Park.
I’ve had a love affair with cheese all my life. Growing up in an Italian household there was never a shortage of it. In my travels, I’ve had the good fortune of eating amazing cheese in Paris and Italy (can I say pure heavenly bliss!). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d find artisan cheeses in…Wisconsin.
I have visited Madison, WI 3x in my life and have loved every trip. The people are friendly, the food is outstanding and it’s a chill, healthy, active city. But the stand out is truly the cheese – from old favorites to new gems – try them all.
I won’t bore you with cheese education, but highly recommend visiting (if you’re in town) or going on the website of the remarkable Fromagination: http://fromagination.com. It’s a cheese-lover’s paradise. They will break it down by Sheep’s Milk, Mixed/Various Milk, Cow’s Milk, Goat’s Milk and Other Selections.
Before I begin my guide, I must thank the following people for their insight’s and recommendations on this wonderful town: John Kinder, Zachary Correa and Grant Hurless.
Where to Stay:
- The Edgewater: luxury hotel on Lake Mendota (Dalai Lama stayed there!) and walking distance to State Capital https://www.theedgewater.com
- Hotel Red: great if you are going to the stadium http://www.hotelred.com
Where to Eat:
- The Merchant: what’s not to like about a farm to table restaurant, craft cocktails and a grocery store on site? The sausages and corn fritters are a stand out. The Buffalo style cheese curds are fantastic. Wash it all down with The Regret (I prefer with Death’s Door Vodka). Comes in cocktail or pitcher style. Sharing is caring. http://www.merchantmadison.com
- Dotty Dumpling’s Dowery: They call themselves the World Hamburger Headquarters. They do not disappoint. You seriously cannot go wrong with any burger. There is a style for everyone…or just build your own. Get the deep fried pickles and poutine fries for sides. A heart attack is also included in this meal. http://www.dottydumplingsdowry.com
- Heritage Tavern: the brunch is exceptional. For dinner, the tempura bacon wrapped cheese curds, sumac blackened chicken and peanut oil fried whitefish (sorry folks with peanut allergies, you’re missing out!) are stand outs. http://heritagetavern.com
- Nostrano: super fresh and simple. The salumi board is fantastic and although I normally don’t order this dish, the roasted quail is lovely. http://nostranomadison.com
- The Boathouse at The Edgewater Hotel: cheese plate is great and cheese curds come with siracha sauce
- The Old Fashioned: CHEESE curds at their finest. http://www.theoldfashioned.com
- Salvatore’s Tomato Pies: My mom turned me onto this type of pie. It’s all about the sauce. Enjoy building your own pie. Delicious… http://salvatorestomatopies.com
- Rare Steakhouse: if you are in need of a classic dry-aged steak with a view of the capitol, this is your spot. It’s a classic steakhouse with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. http://rareonthesquare.com
- Teddywedgers: A little hole in the wall serving everything in pastries. The chicken pot pie is like mom’s. The traditional is like hearty stew and the Big Cheese? No words. I wanted to take a pic of the food but ate it so fast I forgot. http://www.teddywedgers.com
What to Do:
- Dane County Farms Market
- Anything outdoorsy is available (hiking, fishing, etc)
- Eat cheese
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, and began on Dec. 6th 2015 this year. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.
The festival is observed by the lighting of the menorah. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating delicious foods like doughnuts and latkes.
In my food obsessed world, my favorite is Matzoh Ball Soup. It’s truly my Jewish Penicillin. In NY, there are 3 staple spots I go:
- 2nd Ave Deli: Last year, one of my resolutions was to send 365 Gratitude letters to someone / organization that touched my life that particular day. When I tried the matzoh ball soup at 2nd Ave Deli I was so grateful for how delicious it was I sent them a letter. To my surprise, they sent a response…with the recipe! http://www.2ndavedeli.com
- Sadelle’s: The bakery/restaurant from Major Food Group. It’s luxury Matzoh Ball Soup. http://www.sadelles.com
- Katz’s Deli: Classic and simply delicious. No matter when you go, there is always a wait but so worth it.