Hanukkah…and Matzoh Ball Soup!

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.

coolest-hanukkah-menorahs-9

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

2nd Ave  letter MatzohChicken Soup

  • Sadelle’s: The bakery/restaurant from Major Food Group. It’s luxury Matzoh Ball Soup. http://www.sadelles.com

sadelles

  • Katz’s Deli: Classic and simply delicious. No matter when you go, there is always a wait but so worth it.

katz

 

Inspirational Quote w/o Dec. 7th

Prabal

 

Shhhhh… Pioneer Town x Joshua Tree

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A lot of people will be mad I am writing about this, but whatever.
Palm Springs is the sleepy desert retirement city 1.5 hours from LA where my Grandmother lives and will probably die. It’s not all retirement’y, there also is a thriving gay scene, and a music festival called Splash House once a year where kids take proper doses of ‘stuff’ and electronic music plays at a few well polished turds of hotels. I’ve been, twas’ pretty fun. This is also a gross understatement of the city based upon my social circle, time on earth, and sexual preference that makes those past few sentences totally shallow and probably wrong, but that’s how I know it.
 Pioneertown_california_saloon_and_bath_house
Anyway, back to the stars. So, you drive 38 minutes into the deserted mountain desert, and like a mirage, Pioneer Town appears. You’ve seen this place before, in fact, several times. Most every spaghetti western film ever made was filmed there.
 giphy-5
The story goes:
Hollywood, ripe with the profits of Spaghetti Westerns, pours the gas on the genre and needs to film more, so they build an entire Spaghetti Western city, including prison and post office (yes, exactly like the ones Clint Eastwood walks down with the dust in his eyes staring at the bad and the ugly). Entire set, close to LA, equals more movies, equals more money. Math.
Meanwhile, the movie stars need a place to stay, so Dick Curtis and Gene Autry build the Pioneer Town Motel in 1946. You name the star, and at some point they stopped by. 17 rooms, in the middle of Joshua Tree.
The only reason I know all of this is because the aforementioned best friend of mine, bought this place, and I have visited several times. Oh, the places you will go…
This is why I am writing a story about it:
  • Westerns are badass
  • Joshua tree is vast and beautiful
  • There are almost no laws in this part of California because it’s literally in the middle of the desert
  • When you walk outside, silence
  • At night, you can see every star in the sky
  • Literally every star
  • Garth’s Boulder Garden
  • One time Garth was invited to a wedding in California, he was on the west coast, so he started walking, and by the time the wedding started, he had walked across the united states…Yea
  • The stereotypes of taking mushrooms in Joshua Tree, is a stereotype for a very enjoyable and enlightening reason
  • Pappy and Harriets – easily the best dive bar on the planet where world class bands come to play
  • I have never met someone I did not like in this city, and I have tried..ish
  • For the most part there are no cops, and therefore no rules, definitely tested this one and confirmed it
  • The Integratron
  • If this bullet point matters, you did not comprehend the ones before it
I have to stop talking about this now, I don’t want many people to know about it, but I will do anything for Brielle; like tell people one of my great secrets.
Here is where you should stay:
Low Key HospitalityPioneer Town Motel
Well kept motel – the only motel/hotel in the entire place, right next to Pappy and Harriets, owned by one of my best friend’s who brings in artists and events from around the world to spread good vibes to the world **Highly recommended.
Party PadPipes Canyon Lodge
Title earned with dense with psychedelic art and an indoor jacuzzi surrounded by 8 beds.
Boulders with Soul – The Boulder House 
I have not stayed here, but several friends have, and had phenomenal times, great for photos .
Love, Dom
follow me on insta instagram.com/domvenneri

Party PAST the Plane – Guide to New Orleans

How do you write about a city like New Orleans ? I’m going to try…

I was introduced 5 years ago when I started working for my current company, Serralles, USA. My boss, John Eason, invited Keith (my husband) and I down for Tales of the Cocktail (aka: the Superbowl of the Spirits Industry – God save your liver if you go). The moment we landed, I fell in love.

There are so many cultures within this city. Today, the heritage is reflected in the great diversity of things to do, see, eat (the food is heavnely), and of course…the drinks. The people are warm…and sassy. New Orleans is a lively place and I’ve been fortunate to visit it many times.

Keith and my first time:

first time Brielle fIrsttimeKeith

Halloween with the Rutgers Crew 

Halloween 1 Halloween 2

My friend, Mel’s, Bachelorette Party – Pimp Necklace and red wine…oh what a night…and Willie Mae’s fried chicken the next day!

PimpandWine Willies Girls

Oh ! I’m going next week for our company meeting and holiday party. I have been working out like a crazy person to prepare for the food frenzy – expect updates to this post.

Before I go into my classic Brielle-style list, I want to thank two couples that shared their experiences and best-of’s with me every time I visited this fantastic city: John and Suzy Eason & John and Cillen Meisler. Both couples have been the ultimate authorities on where to go / what to do and I have had the time of my life because of them (and so have my friends). I have literally partied PAST the plane in this city…and it was so worth it.

Enjoy the New Orleans list !

Hotels:

Bars:

hurricane

purple drink

Live Music:

Food:

CafeDM

  • *Willie Mae’s Scotch House* (Mid-City) : BEST fried chicken – need a cab to get there and go early!

Willie

Commanders Palace

  • Arnaud’s Jazz Brunch (Upper French Quarter) : Friday brunch is the way to go. Like a mardi gras museum. Famous shrimp remoulade. https://www.arnaudsrestaurant.com
  • Mr. B’s (Upper French Quarter) – the fried oysters are to die for and they have a helluva gumbo http://www.mrbsbistro.com

gumbo

  • Huck Finn’s (Upper French Quarter) – fried alligator (it’s all about the protein !) http://www.huckfinnscafe.com
  • French Market  – alligator on a stick
  • Johnny’s Po Boy (Upper French Quarter) – yummy variations of Po’Boys ! http://johnnyspoboys.com

PoBoy

Coops

  • Muriel’s (Lower French Quarter) – Looks lavish but the food is great and it is a haunted house http://muriels.com
  • Camellia Grill (Garden District) –  Take a street car there. BEST breakfast hangover omelets EVER. Counter service with all the guys dancing behind it. So South…so awesome.
  • Mother’s (Warehouse District)  – the ultimate Po’Boy. It’s like a cafeteria but I swear by the ‘debris’. Meat! And the Bloody Mary’s are awesome. http://www.mothersrestaurant.net
  • Pascal’s Manale (Garden District) –  birthplace of NOLA legendary BBQ shrimp http://pascalsmanale.com
  • Jaques Imos (Uptown) – It’s such a chill vibe and totally off the beaten path. Both are going to sound gross but might be one of the best and most memorable meals: Deep Fried Roast Beef Po’Boy (French Dip under Pickles) and Shrimp and Alligator Cheesecake http://jacques-imos.com
  • Joey K’s (Garden District) –  Creole pot cooking http://www.joeyksrestaurant.com
  • Dragos (Upper French Quarter) – Fried Oysters and Gumbo http://www.dragosrestaurant.com
  • Cafe Amelie (Lower French Quarter) – Nestled in the historic 150-year-old Princess of Monaco Courtyard and Carriage House on Royal Street in the French Quarter – very very romantic. http://www.cafeamelie.com
  • *Rib Room* Bar menu @ Omni Hotel – I can’t remember the actual name of the appetizer but it consists of potato skins topped with gruyere cheese and roast beef debris. They also have splits of Chandon (or order a classic martini) to accompany it. No joke, this is my ritual when I arrive to New Orleans – I go by myself and have a food-love moment. http://ribroomneworleans.com

Rib Room

Excursions:

  • Natchez Riverboat with Lunch (the fried chicken is delicious. I asked for seconds and they stopped me)
  • French Market
  • St. Charles Street Car
  • Antiques and jewels on Royal Street
  • Jackson Square (great street performers)
  • Harrah’s Casino
  • Airboat Swamp Tours and Plantations: www.aswampadventure.com 
  • Oak Alley Plantation – ask your hotel concierge how to set up transport
  • St. Roch Market – one of the oldest open-air markets in the region. Enclosed and with vendors specializing in everything from local produce to Korean-Creole fusion. 
  • Cajun Encounter Tours : Visit plantations, French Quarter, Garden District, Cemetaries and Swamps www.cajunencounters.com

nola cocktail run

Recovery:

  • The Remedy Room – It’s the place to replenish all your fluids and vitamins through infusion therapy. I make it a point to go before I leave the city so I can return my body to normalcy. http://www.theremedyroom.com
  • A muzzle: Looking at this list, I have truly enjoyed myself in this city. This is why I cannot lose those extra pounds! Oh well.

December First Launch Inspiration

Vacation

Pick of the Week: The DogPound

DogPound

I love food. You will notice my slight obsession as you peruse this site. That said, after 34 years of eating, drinking and merry-making, I realized I had to sort myself out. In my younger years, I was very active. I earned a black belt in Shukokai Karate, ran track and cross country, was cheerleading captain (spirit fingers!) and if eating food was a sport, I would have been a gold medalist.

Life did catch up. My body changed. I started distributing weight…differently. I came to the realization that my blood pressure issue was partially genetic and partially self-inflicted. It was a come to Jesus and I realized: It was time to begin a solid workout routine. I’d like to think I’m a pretty disciplined person, but when it comes to anything gym/fitness related, I am a whiny child. When I mentally made the commitment to find a trainer  the world conspired to help me on this arduous task, and I happened to open up my latest issue of New York Magazine to find an article about Hugh Jackman (whom I love!) and his (drum roll) trainers. I thought to myself “Hugh is the perfect human so his trainers must be incredible.” I did a little research and had an appointment with the DogPound within 48 hours.

Holy hell. I never worked out so hard. The DogPound is no joke. The warm up started with burpees.

Their philosophy is simple: Break through your limits to reach your goals…and smash it!

So who are these miracle workers that craft the beautiful bodies of celebrities, industry big wigs, Olympic athletes and mere mortals (like myself)?

  • Kirk Myers – at 21 he discovered he had congestive heart failure and almost died. This was his life changing moment and has been helping people transform into their healthiest selves
  • Brey Pena – At 17 his father was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He could have went many directions but under some guideance from his brother, Dawin, who suggested going to the gym as a way to release his aggression, he leared to reflect and channel his energy towards building a strong, healthy foundation for himself. He has never looked back and with the utmost enthusiasm, this man changes people’s mentality on fitness with a combination of discipline and motivation.
  • Dawin Pena – Fitness has always been a passion of Dawin’s. He’s used it to build a solid foundation of emotional and physical health. His multi-tasking workout style, advise on nutrition and strength training modalities transfer from the gym to his client’s daily life.

These guys radiate positivity and genuinely care about their clients. Their innovative approach, devotion and pursuit of the best and most credible fitness info has resulted in quite a roster of clientele and loyalty. They are creators, teachers, givers.

The DogPound has become my badge of emotional and physical health, and for a former gym grump, this is a huge milestone. I cannot thank them enough for the transformation.

Check them out: http://www.thedogpound.com/

Jerusalem

Jerusalem B Jerusalem Fountains Jerusalem

Jerusalem was my spiritual journey and will begin my series of travel stories on 3QT. I spent my life growing up Roman Catholic but never identified with it completely. I took courses on religion in college to better understand the historic aspect of each one and give myself an opportunity to interpret each religion using my own filters. Of all of them I wound up identifying with Buddhism the most! (That’s another story!). I did decide I wanted to visit Jerusalem once in my life. What was it about this area of the world that held the most sacred spots of our 3 major religions? For 3000 years, the Holy Land has seen unwavering faith, war and conquest from what seems like every nation. I had to experience this mysteriously, fascinating and magical land for myself.

Keith and I journeyed to Old City Jerusalem over Memorial Day weekend 2015. We only scratched the surface of the Holy Land based on the amount of time we had, but seeing Jerusalem left a lasting impression on us.

Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims. It has a fractured past and an uncertain future, but this small land remains central to our three global faiths.

In true form, I love my lists and have decided to format my travel stories with the personal experience first and then the lists of places to go, what to see, facts, etc. I hope you enjoy this first entry.

Old City: 3000 Years Old; no liquor. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian Quarter / Outside is Modern Jerusalem.

Where to Stay:

What to Do:

  • Take an organized tour. Viator (viator.com) is a great destination for this – private and group tours available and you are able to knock out a lot of sites at once with an educated guide. We did the Old Jerusalem Full Day Tour.
  • Side Trips:
    • The Dead Sea: 20 min from Jerusalem and the lowest body of water in the world. Plus it’s great for exfoliation
    • Bethlehem: must take a taxi from Jerusalem (at the Damascus Gate). There will be checkpoints so be weary of that. You will see the Church of the Nativity (where Jesus was born)

Quick Facts about Judaism & Sites to See:

  • Decedents of Abraham / Promised Land / Torah (means Instruction) Five Books of Moses and Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament)
  • Western Wall: remains of the great temple built by Herod to hold the Arc of the Covenent. Holiest of all Jewish sites. Can put petition in the wall. I did and so far my wishes have been coming true!

Quick Facts about Christianity & Sites to See:

  • Jesus was the son of God = New covenant
  • This becomes the new testament – life and teachings of Jesus and his apostles
  • Churches didn’t appear until 200AD. Conversion to Christianity due to Roman emperor Constantine.
  • Jesus’ time in Jerusalem
    • Triumphal entrance before Jewish feast of Passover.
    • Temple where he drove out money exchangers
    • Passover Meal – The Last Supper
    • Garden of Gethsemane where he was arrested
    • Condemned by Jewish authorities and Pilate (Antonia Fortress or the Citadel)
    • Monastery of the Flagellation
    • Via Dolorosa (14 stations) walk to Golgotha
    • Holy Sepulchre Church (said to be buried there and most important of the Christian sites – last 5 stations are in here)
      • Christ’s tomb: marble slab covers the rock which his body was placed
      • Stone of Unction: anointing and wrapping of his body
      • Golgotha (Place of the Skull): Glass around the alter with a view of the outcrop of the rock venerated as the site of the crucifixion
    • Ascension from the Mount of Olives. Rising on the Eastern side of Jerusalem, start at the top near the Mosque of the Ascension, walk downhill to the Tomb of the Virgin – best to go in the morning. Garden of Gethsemane is here, too.
    • Mount Zion: Hall of the Last Supper, King David’s Tomb and Schindler’s Tomb

 Quick Facts about Islam & Sites to See:

  • Founded by Muhammad, a former merchant of Mecca in Arabia. At age 40, he received word from Allah which he transcribed into the Quran. Forced to flee Mecca (his birthplace), he moved to Medina.
  • Crescent moon: symbol of Islam and resonates with lunar calendar
  • Haram esh-Sharif: Noble Sanctuary is a vast rectangular esplanade in the Southeast part of old city. Site of Solomon’s temple, housed Second Temple, enlarged by Herod the Great and destroyed by Romans. Became Islamic shrine. Dome of the Rock: mosque and the third most holy site of Islam after Meccan and Medina.

Add’l Places to see:

In Muslim Quarter:

  • Central Souk 3 streets – David and Chain St (Bargain, bargain, bargain!)
  • David St. in Christian quarter from the Jaffa Gate is a main route down through the Old City and doubles as a bazaar
  • Damascus Gate: most monumental in Old City (Roman origins)
  • Herod’s Gate: means Gate of Flowers (Christians thought it was an entrance to Herod’s son’s home. Crusaders used this gate to enter the city and defeat it).
  • Lions Gate: Suleyman the Magnificent built it. When Islamic fighters took the city from the Christians
  • Emek Refaím St in the German Colony – 5 min from hotel for boutiques and cafes.

Useful Facts:

  1. May weather: 75/80 – It’s a beautiful time to visit
  2. Need passport
  3. Arab and English spoken
  4. 7 hours ahead of EST
  5. Bring adaptors (220v)
  6. Currency: Israeli shekel (NIS)
  7. Jewish Quarter: cover head!
  8. Always carry a bottle of water
  9. Bargain in souks but not city-centric shops
  10. Olive oil soaps and Ahava and Mineral Dead Sea products
  11. Taxis (white if Israeli and yellow if Arab)

Fun Food Facts

  • Hummus: if you eat hummus in Jerusalem, you will never be able to eat it anywhere else again. No joke
  • Falafels and Bourekas: filo pastry with cheese potato and spinach
  • Meze or Salatim: starters
  • Shashlik and Kebab: spiced ground meat on a stick
  • Shwarma: gyros or sliced meat on a spit
  • Tilapia: St. Peter’s Fish – grilled with lemon slices
  • Beigeleh (Hebrew) & Ka’ak (Arabic): only-in Jerusalem enormous loops of bagel-ish bread coated with sesame seeds sold by mobile vendors all over the Christian and Muslim quarters of Old City. Make sure you get a packet of the Za’atar (an oregano based spice blend) for dipping
  • Entrecote steaks: I am dorking out here – but this comes from the rib area of the carcass – think rib, rib-eye, scotch filet or a Delmonico. They are fantastic! Get your hands on one!
  • There is NO meat available on Shabbat
  • In Jewish establishments you cannot combine meat and cheese. Sadly, no Grilled Cheese with bacon on sandwiches.

Where to Eat: (as you will notice, Keith and I participate in ‘Food Tours’ on all holidays – we have earned every calorie!)

  • Darna: Try the savory slow-cooked tagine of lamb. By far, the best Moroccan restaurant in town
  • Eucalyptus: aka the locavore temple. The standout is their Palestinian national dish, Maqlouba which is an inverted casserole of lamb, eggplant and rice
  • Philadelphia: the Musakhan (roasted chieck, onion, pine nots over flat bread) is exceptional
  • HaShipudiya: for the kebabs although you really cannot go wrong anywhere
  • Marzipan Bakery: pine rugelach
  • Pe’er Bakery (behind Emek Refaim Street): Holla for the Challah
  • Mordoch: Red kubeh soup (soul food!) is made of meat stuffed bulgur and semolina dumplings in a tangy broth of beets and root veggies
  • Dolphin Yam Fish and Seafood: the best hummus, dipping sauces and bread I ever experienced
  • Zabu Jerusalimite Bar: when we needed some American food (burger and fries) with a mix of Israeli style (spices!) this is the place to go. Ask for Efi Mizrachi – an amazing host.
  • Big Apple Pizza: Believe it or not, the pizza is good and add that Za’atar spice – yum!
  • We did not go, but heard in the Machane Yehuda market, there is a resident witch doctor that makes a special juice that will cure whatever ails you. I’m willing to go back and try!
  • Lara and Colony were also great dining establishments

This city gives off a spiritual high. I cannot explain it…you just have to experience it for yourself. The cultural cognoscenti talk about the offerings of religion, theater, museums, but there is so much more than that. Sometimes it takes just walking around, getting lost and rediscovering something so old that will somehow become new and inspiring in your life.

Holiday Pet Presents

Rambo Antler Daily News Rambo

Brielle and Keith adopted me in June 2004. I’ve had a pretty good life. While my dad is more of the disciplinarian, I’ve got my mom wrapped around my paw. She treats me so good I was in the Daily News for my eating habits. I can’t complain. When I heard she was starting 3QT, I told her I wanted in. I’m wise and old and figured I could impart my knowledge on some pet related topics.

With the help from my friend Cristina Racanelli, the President of Wipe Your Paws Inc. http://www.wipeyourpawsny.com/ here is my first post: Holiday Presents!

The gift to give the dog of the hostess for any holiday party: Bubba Rose cookies

Bubba Rose is a bakery in New Jersey that ONLY makes dog cookies, cakes and pupcakes. They believe that every dog treat should be made with real, wholesome, clean ingredients.  That’s why they only use local, organic, fresh ingredients from the USA and never any preservatives. Every treat they bake is wheat, corn, soy & gluten free (the most common allergens and fillers in commercial dog products) and always baked in small batches in their bakery in NJ. They only use local, cage-free eggs as well. Just healthy, simple ingredients go into their treats. As if all of that wasn’t enough to sell you on Bubba Rose, they make the cutest darn dog cookies you’ve ever seen.  http://bubbarose.com/collections/winter-time

For the dog that loves to chew: Deer antlers!

“What??? REAL deer antlers?!?!” you say? The answer is YES! These deer antlers are naturally shed (read: no deer were harmed in the gathering of antlers). They are organic, odorless and long lasting.  Even the toughest of chewers can’t go through these chews like they do most.  Best part is they come in a wide range of sizes so you can find the perfect one whether you have a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. My favorite is American Antler Dog chews (though a ton of companies sell them). http://www.americanantlerdogchews.com/

For the traditionalist dog: West Paw Holiday toys

West Paw makes an array of adorable holiday dog toys. My favorite is their Rudy and Mini Rudy toy.  All toys are made in the USA which we love!  West Paw also makes some cute cat toys too in case there’s a feline living in the house. https://www.westpawdesign.com/dogs/dog-toys/holiday-gifts-dogs

The gift to give the dog lover in your life: Auburn Jewelry’s “Where’s Dexter?” pendant

Each “Where’s Dexter?” pendant is a portrait of an actual dog’s ears. In order to make these adorable pieces, Auburn Jewelry enlists some help from their customers. You send them a picture of your pup and they use that picture to hand cut the silhouette of dog’s ears and turn them into a wearable piece of jewelry. This is the ultimate gift for the dog lover in your life (or a gift for yourself perhaps?).  Who wouldn’t want to wear their very own dog around their neck in the form of beautiful, colorful jewelry? http://auburn-jewelry.com/pawburn

The New York Steak List

Steak

Dear Steak…how I love you so. Even with the current trendy health kick you remain my true food indulgence. You are my heavyweight champion of culinary greatness and in honor of your deliciousness will be the first food post on 3QT.

If you know me, you know I have a slight obsession with steak – down to the cuts. It took years and many calories to create this list. I plan on updating it as I discover more delectable cuts. Enjoy!

Overall Great Steak: Costata – my personal favorite in NY http://costatanyc.com, Sparks http://sparkssteakhouse.com, BLT Prime http://www.e2hospitality.com/blt-prime, Quality Meats http://www.qualitymeatsnyc.com/

Filet: Quality Meats, Sparks, Del Frescos http://delfriscos.com/steakhouse/new-york, Smith and Wollensky http://www.smithandwollenskynyc.com/, Porter House NY http://porterhousenewyork.com/

Bone-In Filet (more flavor): Arlington Club http://arlingtonclubny.com/, Bowery Meat Company http://www.bowerymeatcompany.com/  **I am trying the 60oz Bone in @ Strip House http://www.striphouse.com/ this month. Stay tuned!

Porterhouse: Quality Meats, Peter Lugers http://peterluger.com/, Harry’s Café http://www.harrysnyc.com/

Strip Steak: Strip House

Bone-in Strip Steak: BLT Steak

American Tomahawk: Costata

Cote de Boeuf: Piora – Not on menu, must order in advance http://www.pioranyc.com/, Dirty French http://www.dirtyfrench.com/, Minetta Tavern – with bone marrow http://www.minettatavernny.com/

Hanger: BLT Steak

Ribeye: Arlington Club, Acme http://www.acmenyc.com/, Wolfgang’s http://www.wolfgangssteakhouse.net/, Manzo (in Eataly)

Cajun Ribeye: Morton’s http://www.mortons.com/

Prime Rib: Morton’s, Mission Chinese Food – rolling cart! https://missionchinesefood.com/

Honorary Mention: The Beef Mignonette dish (au poivres and french fries) at Tartine – it feels just like Paris and might be my favorite place in the city. Also a BYOB. http://tartine.nyc/