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Graciousness and Class

red_tulipsGone, it seems are the days of mailed Thank You notes and hostess gifts. When I was young, my mother insisted that my Christmas Thank You notes were written and mailed within one week after the Holiday. I email them now, but none-the-less, I still send them. As our times have changed, etiquette has had to change as well. But more and more it seems that manners, or even a remote gracious notion, has been forgotten altogether. Grace, class and graciousness will always be in style and will always be appreciated. It is time, however, we remembered a few things.

Cell Phones & Tablets

In a nutshell, put them away! When it comes to genuine human contact, VS our handheld technology – we need to put people first. Nothing is that important. Folks got along fine and conducted their lives as well as business without cell phones for hundreds of years. Do the people you are with the courtesy of interacting with them and not your technology. And never ever at the dinner table.


From a formal mailed wedding invitation to a casual email inviting you over for dinner and everything in between – the classic rule still stands. Those mentioned on the envelope, or in the email, note, verbal conversation, or letter are those invited. No one else. The only exception to this rule is when it’s clear you can bring a guest, as in +1. If a name is not mentioned, they are not invited. If you’d like to bring someone who has not been mentioned (this puts the host in a very awkward position) then you need to ask the host first. Be prepared for them to respond with a polite no. And do not assume it’s okay to tell the host you are bringing someone or to show up with an additional person or persons. Families – this also includes children. If your children are not specifically mentioned, they are not invited. Besides, hire a sitter, rekindle your relationship and enjoy a date night.

As a guest

When you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, to a party, as a houseguest or are being hosted in some way, it’s nice to bring something – this is called a Host or Hostess Gift. Flowers make an amazing hostess gift or a nice bottle of wine, gourmet caramels or chocolate, a quality candle, or something you know the host or hostess would like. Also, it’s always nice to offer to bring something.


It all boils down to who is paying for the wedding. Whoever is paying, it’s their wedding. If you are the bride and yet your parents are footing the bill – it’s their wedding and you are simply an important attendant. My advice to all couples getting married – pay for it yourself! That way it’s your party, it remains all about you, and more important – it will be exactly what YOU want, not what someone else wants. This can’t be stressed enough. Whoever is paying, it’s their party and it will be whatever they want – because it will always boil down to who paid for it. If you can’t afford the wedding of your dreams – then wait until you can or change your dreams.


Unfortunately this is becoming more and more common. People in general, parents, and especially children are under the assumption they are entitled. Discounts, something that is not theirs, a better part, an advanced level, a better position, new stuff, privileges, special treatment, and the list goes on and on. Usually those who feel entitled don’t even see it in their behavior, words or actions. But somehow they feel that they deserve for some reason, something different than everyone else. None of us are entitled to much of anything. Kindness, graciousness and a little bit of selflessness will always go farther than being rude and arrogant.

Dietary Restrictions

It is now the norm for most restaurants to ask before a tables order is taken for any dietary restrictions. This is not giving you carte blanche to list your food dislikes or your preferences. If you do not like mushrooms, then order something without mushrooms or be prepared to pick them out. The restaurant is asking for real legitimate food allergies – such as a peanut or shellfish allergy. Not parsley or diary. If you want something special from a restaurant, call before hand and ask if your request can be accommodated. Often in restaurants everything is portioned out, possibly even weighted, and made to order. Also, if you do have a legitimate dietary restriction and you are invited to someone’s house for a meal, let them know ahead of time so they can make accommodations for you! Don’t assume they know. Or you can also bring something that meets your specific requirements to the event.


If you’ve never had it, then you don’t know with all certainty that you won’t like it. Expand your world and try something new.

Reservations & Appointments

Time is money. So it’s reasonable to say, people’s time is money. If you have an appointment or reservation and are running late or can’t make it – call. Nearly everyone has a cell phone nowadays, and it’s common courtesy to communicate if a change in plans is imminent. Don’t be surprised if the spa charges you a cancelation fee or if your doctor’s appointment is cut in half because they have other patients to see.

Everyone has an opinion

Have your opinion. Live by your own morals, values, truths, and opinions – but it’s not for you to thrust your beliefs into other people. It’s as simple at that.

Web Comments

The comment section under web articles, blogs, posts, photos, etc. has become the lowest form of communication and more often shows society at it’s lowest. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t have the courage to say to a persons face.


  • If you are on the freeway and in the lane other cars merge into, it’s a high possibility that you may need to alter your speed for merging vehicles – if you are unwilling to do this, don’t be in that lane. Buy the same token – if you are merging into 60+ MPH traffic, do your best (foot on the gas) to match the speed of the traffic you are merging into. Don’t enter the freeway going 40 and then speed up once you are on the highway.
  • The fast or passing lane is to drive faster than all other traffic or to pass other vehicles. Unless you are passing the cars in the lane to your right, get over – especially if someone is behind you and wants to pass.
  • If you drive a truck or big vehicle, don’t bully other drivers.
  • Use your signal.


Everyone was bullied at some point in his or her childhood. In some ways, it’s a rite of passage. Today, bulling has gotten way out of hand, especially with added technology and social media in our lives. Children need to be taught self-acceptance. Love and support from the home also helps. But more importantly, if you give in to a bully’s demands today, then tomorrow the list will be longer. Mean words can hurt and may even turn into threats, but until they do, tune them out, ignore them, unfriend, delete, etc. Threats and physical action warrant adult help. Although change or giving in may seem like the answer, it’s not. Besides the “issue” has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the bully!

General Rules

  • Don’t assume.
  • Treat others, as you’d like to be treated.
  • If you ask for something special (extra this, remove that, on the side, etc.) that is not provided – offer the pay for the change. Nine times out of ten, you won’t have to, but it’s greatly appreciated that you didn’t assume.
  • If you break, damage, or ruin something that is not yours, offer to pay to have in fixed or replaced.
  • Please and Thank You go a long way. Even to the table busser, maid service, trash crew, grocery bag person, etc.
  • Hold the door for someone and or pick up a dropped item for someone.
  • Don’t rush /push to get in line to board a plane. You are all going to the same place, and will arrive at the same time.
  • For service above and beyond – tip accordingly.
  • If you are in a position to help, do!
  • Don’t have the “its every body but me” or “it’s everyone else” syndrome. Because if we all think that way, no one will ever look inside themselves.
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Return to the Womb

th-1What does relaxation mean to you? How do you, personally relax? What does it mean to relax? If you asked me these questions a few months ago, I would have said getting a message or reflexology helps me to relax. I “chill out” by drinking my favorite beverage and reading or listening to music. I’m extremely lucky to have a magnificent view of the water from my house, so I guess sometimes I just stare out the window and relax.

A while back I had heard of an isolation pod or chamber. They are also called float tanks or a sensory depravation chamber. A few years ago, I got my husband and myself a Groupon for one in Seattle, but it ran out before we got to use it. So I forgot about it. This last winter I saw an ad for one while skiing in Whistler. Fat chance there will be one in Olympia, I thought. My Google turned up Oly Float.

The next day I was booked for an Intro Float session – 60 minute float. Oly Float’s web site is extremely informative, so I had the general gist of things before going in for my appointment. A staff member walked me through the process and mentioned a few tips to keep in mind. I had reserved the metal room (there is also the wood room). The rooms lock from the inside, so it’s yours, uninterrupted for the allotted time. A shower before and after your float are mandatory and believe me, you want to shower! In the metal room there is the most high tech shower you’ve ever seen – with colored lights, a touch pad, waterspouts in different locations, and square knobs that control water temperature and direction. You can even take a steam shower, which I highly recommend. The shower before is to remove any oil, lotion, make-up from your skin & hair.

Swim suites are optional, but once you figure out it’s only you in the room and only you in the tank, a suite is really unnecessary. After my shower, I grabbed some earplugs and climbed into the tank. It’s a little weird at first; I’m not going to lie. I took the short float noodle that was wedged behind one of the hand railings and slowly laid back. Instantly my body rose up and I was floating. I put the float noodle under my head (for additional head support) and put the earplugs in. I could still hear the soft music playing. The music is faded out to signal your hour float time is beginning. Once your hour is done, the music is gently brought back on. Or if you fall asleep, they will eventually drain the tank. As I looked up, I could see a faint constellation pattern on the roof of the tank, (which also fades out once your float time starts). The different rooms have different choices for lighting, and music to be on in the tank if you wish. For the complete experience, I chose no music or lights. Also, the water and air in the tank are kept at the same temperature as your skin, so you don’t get cold.

The tank is 8’ X 5’ and touted on their web site as one of the largest custom-built tanks in the world. You are floating in only 10 inches of water, but it contains 800 lbs. of Epsom salts. That all may or may not sound impressive, however, the only way to truly grasp the gravity (or lack there of) is to experience it for yourself.

There is a reason it’s called an isolation tank – as I wanted the complete experience – there was no sound, no light, no distractions, no nothing. In fact, I didn’t know the constellations in my room faded out once the float time started and so after 15 minutes or so I opened my eyes to complete and utter darkness. It was so dark, I couldn’t tell the difference between my eyes open and closed. I actually freaked out a tad and splashed some water onto my face – you don’t want this stuff in your eyes, and on your mouth isn’t advisable either. For a few seconds my mind was screaming and a hint of panic washed over me. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and focused on the amazing feeling of floating.

After calming myself, I realized – never before had I felt so peaceful, tranquil and relaxed – body and mind. For the first while, every few minutes or so, I’d remind myself to relax the muscles in my body and to clear my mind. After a while, I realized there was nothing left to relax. I had completely relinquished myself to the water. My mind would wander and every so often I’d have some odd image of floating in florescent goo like out of a science fiction movie. But the image quickly faded. And then I had a revelation, I’m back in the womb – but less cramped and with more room. I felt completely safe. It’s probably the single most unique feeling I have ever experienced (no, I’ve never taken drugs).

It really took no time at all for my body to understand what it was experiencing and to embrace it. It doesn’t even compare to swimming – which I train every week in the pool, for my joints. It’s not the same at all. In the float tank you are supine, completely supported, and completely suspended.

What was really amazing (especially if you know me) after my session I was at the front desk speaking with the staff about the different options of becoming a member as well as a few gift cards I wanted to purchase. I was so relaxed that I was having trouble focusing on what I was doing – which rarely happens. Also, after I was home, I was telling my husband about it, he asked what I wanted for dinner. With a shoulder shrug and half open eyes I said, “I don’t know. I’m so relaxed right now I don’t care about dinner.”

I was so amazed with my experience and my level of mind and body relaxation; I have since become a member of Oly Float. I have a two float per month membership, which also includes a 30-minute session in their Infrared Sauna per month – $90 per month. Unused floats roll over to the next month, you can gift your floats and you can also purchase floats for less than the normal cost. Having since learned that floating is the only real place (besides sleeping) where I can truly turn my head off – It’s a small price to pay for the ultimate in personal maintenance, rejuvenation and relaxation.


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Making Your Own Soda

th-2While having lunch at Loulay in Seattle, I became inspired by my husband’s beverage choice. He was drinking one of their house-made sodas. Cranberry-ginger or maybe it was pomegranate-lime, I forget. A tall glass with ice is served with a large carafe of very bubbly soda water and a smaller pitcher containing the flavored syrup. You have the pleasure of making your own soda – to your taste and specification. After watching my husband enjoy this exercise as well as the taste of the beverage – I thought to myself, I can make that! Thankfully, I found an amazing book on Amazon that helped guide me through the simple process of making my own sodas.

Gone are the days of the soda fountain. It’s rare today if we can even find an old-school ice cream parlor. Back in the day (when our Grandparents were children) soda had a whole new meaning. Today, soda means Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush. What appeals to me about making my own soda is:

  • The flavor combinations are only as limited as my culinary imagination
  • I know exactly what I’m drinking
  • The ingredient list is relatively short (VS a paragraph of who knows what)
  • I have control of how much sweet I put into my drink

It really couldn’t be easier. As for the soda, you can either load up on club soda at Costco – which is what you may want to do before deciding if this is for you – or you can purchase a SodaStream machine. A SodaStream turns regular water into bubbly water. I purchased the SodaStream Revolution in stainless steal from Williams-Sonoma ($180) because this model gives you the option to carbonate the water to the level of your liking and displays the amount of CO2 left in the cylinder. I just ordered it and can’t yet comment on how well I like it. In the mean time, I have been using club soda.

The first syrup I made was Basil (recipe in the book). It may seem like an odd first choice, but this is exactly the kind of flavor profile I was looking for. Next was dried cherry and cream soda (great separate as well as mixed together). All three turned out great. I have ordered a few unique ingredients like chicory root for coffee syrup and Hibiscus flowers for Hibiscus syrup. I not only plan on gifting my syrups as unique presents, I also plan on having multiple flavors available for parties and when guests come over. I have been buying up canning bottles at nearly every opportunity, just so I can have various flavors on hand at once.

We don’t really have much canned soda in the house anyway simply because we’ve learned it is bad for us – but now that I can make a far superior drink, I’m never going back. Now, if only other restaurants would follow the example Loulay set fourth, more people would catch the make-your-own-soda bug and we could banish canned soda to the outer realm forever.

Remember: You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!

Bon Appétit!



Make Your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pop, Floats, Cocktails, and More

By Anton Nocito

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Own-Soda-All-Natural/dp/0770433553/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428512591&sr=8-1&keywords=make+your+own+soda

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Selective Breeding VS Genetic Modification

th-1It’s been a loooooong time since my last blog post – March of last year to be precise. I really have no decent excuse except life happened. The two major things that occurred within that time; I got a certificate from the University of Washington in Food, Health and Wellness and my husband and I moved. However, there is no time like the present.

Being a resident of Washington State, we were the second state (behind California) to vote on the labeling of GMO’s. This initiative passed in Vermont, but they are having a heck of a time fighting lawsuits from the food industry. Recently I’ve seen a great many hits in the media about this very subject as well as the differences between traditional agricultural breeding techniques and genetic modification. I myself was curious about that very answer – and this is what I found.

Many folks are under the impression (unfortunately Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of them) that traditional agricultural breeding techniques or selective breeding (that’s been around since farming began) are the same as genetic modification or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). This is NOT the case. They are indeed quite different. Let me explain.

For the sake of argument let’s call selective breeding, SB and we’ll call genetic modification, GM.

thIn a nutshell with SB, one must take species (from plants or animals) that are already closely related, so they can achieve sexual reproduction. For example, two different breeds of cats or two different varieties of squash. Two species with specific desired traits are mated and their offspring hopefully have the desired trait(s). This process may or may not involve human assistance. SB can occur naturally in nature in all sorts of different ways – pollination, mating, as well as the evolution of species or natural selection. Seed saving is also a method of selective breeding. SB is also a timely process (as it occurs in nature) because time is needed to achieve the complete growth cycle. Again, the two key points that are stressed here are: A. (by nature’s hands or human hands) SB occurs in nature and B. the species must be closely related. Otherwise it would not be successful – IE you cannot breed a mouse and a potato or a wild fern with a Bumblebee.

GM happens in a laboratory by selecting genes from vastly different species (including viruses and bacteria), that do not naturally occur in nature together (nor be able to achieve sexual reproduction). Not only do the two species being “genetically mated” not occur in nature together, but their “offspring” certainly do not naturally occur. By splicing together DNA from completely different organisms, the ramifications and safety for consumption are still yet to be determined.

Round-Up ready corn is a good example of GM. The pesticide Round-Up is injected into the corn’s DNA to make the corn resistant to pests. So when a bug eats the corn, the pesticide causes it’s stomach to rupture. I think it’s very naive to think that this has no consequences for humans. The biotech industry says it’s safe, but it’s also the very company making the product. I, personally find that to be a conflict of interest? And it’s a fact that adequate testing has not been done to prove the safety of GMO’s. It’s no coincidence that allergies, gut issues, cancers and a whole host of other illnesses have been on a dramatic rise since the introduction of GMO’s into our food system.

GMO’s entered the food scene in 1986 with the introduction of the Flavor Save tomato. Due to the biotech industry (the people who made GMO’s) being in positions of power within our government, they ok’d these products going into our food supply without us even knowing – or approving. In Europe and many other countries, GMO’s are labeled. It seems they know something we don’t.

The following examples were taken from the web site of The Institute for Responsible Technology.

 What combinations have been tried?

It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
  • Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.


th-2So as you can see, SB and GM are not the same – this is not a debate, these are facts. One can argue the other side, but I imagine once the facts are learned, a change of tune might be in order. Just like one does not debate that 2+2=4 or that the sky is blue – these are also facts.

The solution is really very easy. Label all GM products. If they are really as safe as the biotech industry would lead us to believe, then they should have no problem labeling their product. It’s really that simple. In fact – they should be proud to label them. They should want to label them, so people choosing to eat them would be proud of eating their fine work. It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that changing labels will result in a rise in price. Food manufactures change their labels all the time! This silly point is just a smokescreen put up by the GMO corporations.

But Monsanto for example has fought hard and has invested millions and millions of dollars to fight the labeling initiatives. Why? If it’s as safe as they say – then there shouldn’t be a problem with labeling. But there is a problem. Monsanto knows that if you label GM products then people have a choice and they become more informed. Right now, the majority of people don’t know GMO’s are in the lion’s share of the food they eat. People are buying products containing GMO’s, making Monsanto rich. If people know what products are GM and what ones aren’t, then there is the chance that people won’t choose to buy the GM products and their revenue will take a serious hit. Not to mention when the studies come out in 5, 10 or 15 years that GMO’s are indeed bad for us – then they will be out of business and or slapped with the mother of all lawsuits.

GM foods can be patented. New genetic crop modifications make huge profits for companies like Monsanto. IE Monsanto currently owns the patent to all their seeds and products. And this is growing to include our nation’s (and global) food supply. I’m not sure patenting Mother Nature is a good thing.

If you want to eat GMO’s great. In fact, I’ll support you. However, I have the right to know what’s in my food and I have the right to not eat GMO’s. It boils down to the right to choose.

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Signs of the Times, Food Labels to Know

Unknown-1I know it has been a while since I have last posted, but I’ve got a good excuse. I’ve been in school. I have been in a year-long certificate course from the University of Washington in Food, Health and Wellness. I started last fall, taking Nutrition. I just finished Molecular Gastronomy and I am about to start Sports Nutrition, which will finish in June.

The inspiration for this post has come from my local super market. Formerly Top Foods, now known as Haggen, the Olympia store has been making some changes I have noticed and certainly appreciate. For one, the organic fruit and vegetable section has grown considerably in the last year. Organics now take up almost 50% of the produce section.  I also value their country of origin signs, sometimes specifically noting city and farm origin. This store has an impressive selection of fresh produce.  I often see new and exotic items, not often found in Safeway or other grocers. Bright and colorful displays are always being manned, stocked and freshened up by the produce team. The department is always clean and fresh looking, with the seasonal items being highlighted in big displays.

IMG_1967An additional change I have noticed lately is the visibility of the Non-GMO Project Verified label on the shelf price tags.  This tag tells customers that specific items are a non-GMO product, IE: they do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). There is much controversy around GMO’s, here are a few facts that have been scientifically proven by organizations other than Monsanto.

GMO’s can be toxic, allergenic and less nutritious.  They are not adequately regulated to ensure safety, nor do they increase crop yield potential.  They don’t reduce pesticide use but actually increase it.  And GMO’s cannot solve the problem of world hunger and may actually distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.


With more and more findings everyday that prove GMO’s are not only everywhere in our food, but bad for us and the world, I have chosen to purchase organic and Non-GMO products.  But how do I know if the products I choose are safe, you ask?  Start by educating yourself, be curious, and ask questions. Know what brands are “in bed” with Monsanto and therefore contain GMO’s.  Unfortunately, the FDA ultimately approved the use of GMO’s, and most major food companies elected put GMO’s into their products. This includes nearly all companies associated with the Grocers Manufactures Association, such as Betty Crocker, Nabisco, Coca Cola, Duncan Hines, Pepsi, General Mills, Hunts, Stoffers, and Kellogs just to name a few.

IMG_1969The Non-GMO Project label is becoming a recognizable sign of products you can trust.  But who are they? (Taken from their web site.) The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building the non-GMO food supply, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. We believe that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms.


Unknown-2Two labels that are making safe food choices more identifiable are: the USDA Organic label and the Non-GMO Project label.  The USDA Organic symbol guarantees that the product is AT LEAST 95% organic.  Unless the product has this symbol, it’s organic content is questionable.  Yes, manufactures can lie and often do.  For the low down on specific terminology, visit: http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-201

The USDA Organic image is more for packaged goods, produce advertised as organic, is.  Fruits and vegetables don’t need this specific label to be organic. But packaged goods do need it.

As I mentioned above, the Non-GMO Project Verified label is also a symbol to look out for.  The verification seal indicates that the product bearing the seal has gone through a specific verification process. The verification is an assurance that a product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO avoidance, such as:

  • Ongoing testing of all at-risk ingredients—any ingredient being grown commercially in GMO form must be tested prior to use in a verified product.
  • Action Threshold of 0.9%. This is in alignment with laws in the European Union, where any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled.
  • Absence of all GMOs is the target for all Non-GMO Project Standard compliant products. Continuous improvement practices toward achieving this goal must be part of the Participant’s quality management systems.

IMG_1970We have come to a time and place, where we need to research our food.  It’s not as simple or as safe as it used to be.  GMO’s are bad for you! Anyone telling you different is simply uninformed, or they are working for (and being paid by) Monsanto or a similar company.  Listen up Washington – all those ads against labeling GMO’s were paid for by Monsanto, the Grocers Manufactures Association and their food groups.  All those farmers, doctors and people were being paid to tell you GMO’s are safe.  These companies care nothing for the well-being and health of our country.  GMO’s are labeled in every other country but ours. Why is that?  The bottom line is their bank account.  This cold and hard truth often gets me rather down and I question the morals and integrity of people in general.  I sincerely don’t understand why the choice was made to put questionable things (that have not been properly tested) into our food supply.

Be that as it may, we need to accept “what is” and do the research if we don’t want crap in our food.  These two labels are a start.  They make it easier for people like you and me to identify safe food. And just keep in mind that life is about balance and choice.  When armed with the facts, we can make intelligent and informed decisions.

Bon Appétit

PS – please note, on the two raw honey product photos, both symbols are on the packaging.  The USDA Organic sign is on the front, right hand side and the Non-GMO label is on the back, right hand side!

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New York, Part 2

IMG_1473Day four of our seven-day trip in NYC, we headed to the East Village to Chef-owner David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar.  Momofuku is his group of award winning restaurants.  Those in NY are: Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Má Pêche, Momofuku Ko, Milk Bar, and Booker & Dax.  “Momofuku” could be translated from Japanese as “lucky peach”, though Chef David Chang has written that the name is “an indirect nod” to Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese-Japanese inventor of instant ramen.*

Arriving a tad early via the subway, my husband Michael and I roamed First Ave.  We killed time by wandering through a drug store and grabbed a tea at Starbucks.  At about ten to noon (opening time) we found that we weren’t the only ones with the brilliant idea to arrive at Noodle Bar early.  A few folks were already forming a line.  We jumped in line with them and watched more people arrive as the ten minutes passed.

Once open, we were seated at the bar, given menus and quickly served our drinks.  The restaurant was instantly full and I realized that I’m in the midst of a New York City lunch rush.  We really didn’t need much time with the menu, two orders of pork buns and two Momofuku Ramens, please!  I watched as the Asian gentleman next to me devoured small plate after small plate of pork buns, ribs and what looked like an artfully prepared salad, and then his Raman.  Our pork buns came and by the time I was done admiring my plate, Michael was done with his first bun.  I had better hop to it!  Not being keen on inhaling my food, I did the best I could to keep up.  Food is meant to be savored and enjoyed especially if you’ve traveled almost 3,000 miles to eat it!

The buns were fantastic.  Two lovely square slabs of pork belly were being embraced by a soft while pillow of sweet doughy bun.  Add shiitake for earth, hoisin for spice, scallion for light onion, and thin cucumber for crunch, and you have a perfect bite.

Next was the artistically arranged, steaming bowl of Raman.   If you like warm, cozy, soul hugging wonderfulness in a bowl, this is for you!  The broth was light and subtle in flavor with a tad of smoke.  If you are a fan of any kind of meal in a bowl, you know it’s all about the broth baby!  I didn’t notice glistening globules of fat dancing on the surface, but you could taste their understated presence of richness and depth.  When is more pork belly a bad thing?  Pork shoulder anyone?  Accompanying the pork were two paper-thin sheets of seaweed, Asian radish or daikon, and a perfectly poached egg perched atop like a jewel.  And noodles, don’t forget the noodles!  Made in house, these noodles were the ideal balance of chewy, starchy, slurp worthy masters of all that is holy in a bowl.

That evening we were one of those lucky enough to see a preview of Betrayal on Broadway, staring Daniel Craig (6th James Bond, Cowboys & Aliens), Rachel Wiesz (The Deep Blue Sea, The Constant Gardner), Rafe Spall (Life of Pi, Prometheus).  Betrayal is a play about infidelity, essentially, but with far more humor than I expected.  All three actors were superb and surprisingly enough, Craig had the smallest role of the three.  None-the-less, I was prepared with my theatre glasses or mini-binoculars that I commonly use at the ballet.  Yes folks, being the Craig fan that I am, I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity (nor did my husband deny the chance to spy on Ms. Wiesz).  We did however, waltz past the throngs waiting for them at the stage door after the show.  I saw them in a remarkable performance in a professional capacity, I didn’t need to gape at them as they left the theatre and leapt into their black Range Rover to go home for the evening.

IMG_3670The following day was pretty much spent at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (cue the 30 Rock theme music).  I got us both the 30 Rock Tour and the Top of the Rock Tour.  I thought the 30 Rock Tour was the studio tour, but I was wrong, it was a tour of the buildings and architecture of Rockefellar Center.  Soooo after the Top of the Rock Tour, 70 stories high with out of this world views of Manhattan, we booked a studio tour.  All was not lost; we did walk down a few SNL hallways and see the stage.

We saved the big guns for the end of our trip.  Michelin, a French company (same as the tires) produces Europe’s oldest and best-known restaurant and hotel reference guide, usually referred to as the Red Guide.  The restaurants are rated on a star system:

One star: “A very good restaurant in its category”

Two stars: “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”

Three stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” *

Le Bernardin is a Michelin Guide three-star, French seafood restaurant located in Midtown ManhattanEric Ripert is the head chef.   A few awards and accolades include:

Le Bernardin is one of only seven restaurants in New York awarded three Michelin stars, and is the restaurant which has held four stars from The New York Times for the longest period of time, having earned the ranking in early 1986.

In 2009, Le Bernardin was voted 15th best restaurant in the world in the Restaurant magazine Top 50.*

Now, with all the pomp and circumstance out of the way, can we eat?  On our final full day in NYC, and as a birthday celebration for Michael, we ate lunch at Le Bernardin.  There was some confusion over dinner reservations, but we managed to secure (extremely hard to get) reservations for lunch.  Perhaps it was the better value, a three-course, prix fixe menu for $75 pp.  Jacket required for gentlemen (even for lunch), Michael and I dressed up in our smart duds and took a taxi to our noon lunch date.

We breezed through the large glass revolving door and into the foyer.  I gave my coat to the coat check attendant and we were seated.  The staff, who were dressed all in black were incredibly professional and courteous, and many of them were French (undeniable accent).  Since I didn’t really have a feeling for what I’d like to drink, Michael ordered us both a glass of lovely white wine from France’s Loire Valley (we had visited it during our adventures in France last year).  One of the staff introduced the lunch menu to us.  One could make a choice of two courses from three categories on the prix fixe lunch menu and dessert would be on a separate menu.  The selections would come from: Almost Raw, Barely Touched or Lightly Cooked.  Michael and I both chose our first course from Almost Raw and our second course from Barely Touched.  Descriptions below.

K         TUNA

Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellow fin Tuna; Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette, Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Ultra Rare Seared Tuna; Marinated Fennel, Basil and Capers

K         BLACK BASS

Crispy Black Bass; Roasted Shishitos and Kabocha Squash “Ceviche”, Peruvian Chicha

M        CODFISH

Baked Cod; Warm Razor Clam “Salad”, Turnip and Shiitake, Spiced Tomato Nage


Caramelized Phyllo, Thyme Gelée, Salted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream


Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Candied Peanuts, Popcorn Ice Cream

IMG_1499Besides the food and the experience of dining at Le Bernardin, which were sublime, I have a confession.  I have a small chef crush on Eric Ripert (come on, he’s French!).  During our lunch I happened to look up and see someone in a white chefs jacket walk past us.  I thought it was odd to see someone from the kitchen in the dining room simply because all of the dining staff were in all black.  As my eyes traveled up, I saw Chef Ripert walking past us.  Gleefully I smacked Michael on the arm several times and said “Eric Ripert just walked by!”  As our meal continued, I began scanning the dinning room for more sightings.  I was lucky enough to spy him one more time walking past our table.  I turned my head and smiled at him, he smiled back and gave a polite nod of his head.  On our final day in NYC, while having lunch at Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert smiled at me.  Ah, NOW my trip to New York is complete!

* Wikipedia

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New York, Part 1

IMG_3612For ages I have wanted to go to New York.  In my dancing years, I longed to visit The Big Apple and call myself a true artist – one who had made the pilgrimage to visit the Holy Grail of arts and culture in the United States.

In more recent years, while watching cooking and food shows featuring NYC, without fail my husband and I would look at each other and say “We’ve got to go there one of these days.”  After hearing about a trip one of our friends took to NYC, and wanting a vacation destination around my husband’s birthday in October, we finally settled on going to New York.

As one might think, the options in NYC are simply dizzying.  From hotels and restaurants to entertainment and transportation, there are options for every budget, taste and style.  Even traveling to Manhattan, you have three airports to choose from.  We took the first timer’s experience and choose to fly directly into (and out of) JFK.  Leaving the slightly closer La Guardia airport for possible future trips.

We also chose to hire a town car for the trip into Manhattan.  Honestly, the convenience paid for itself and it was only slightly more than a cab.  I had requested a town car, but our driver said he and his limo were closer to the airport, so we arrived at our hotel in a stretched limo.

I feel our hotel choice needs some explanation.  I do not support this man, nor do I watch his TV show or agree with his politics, but the Trump Hotel Central Park met my two NYC hotel criteria: great views of Central Park and a relatively affordable rate.  You really can’t get a much better location.  Located at Columbus Circle in the left hand base of Central Park on the Upper West Side, three major subway lines run just under the hotel (no you can’t hear them).  After staying there, I have to say, the Trump brand operates a great hotel.  The service was outstanding, the amenities were excellent and our room on the 16th floor had fantastic views of Central Park and the NYC skyline.

Speaking of the Trump brand, the name is a branding machine, from the slippers, to the room stationary, bath products and even the room furniture; there was no hesitation to slap the Trump name on damn near everything.  Oddly I didn’t mind, simply because we had more free waters than we could drink, a bottle of champagne in the room upon check in, daily NY Times every morning, chocolate treats and great turn-down service every evening.  The hotel also offers an attaché service for its guests.  Before arriving they sent me an email outlining the service and inquired what additional things I’d like in the room.  They’d even stock the minibar and refrigerator with anything you’d like, but keep in mind you’re paying for it.  The (complimentary) body pillow I asked for was in our room per my request.  The only gripe I had was the bathroom was a tad small for two people.  But our room did have a European style kitchenette complete with small refrigerator, a Keurig coffee machine & coffee packets, microwave, dishwasher, two gas burners as well as cutlery, glasses and plates.  Not that we’d be using it.  Our trip was mostly about the NYC dining scene.

One of the first things we did was to venture down to our Columbus Circle subway station and purchase a seven-day subway pass.  It’s truly the best way to quickly and efficiently get around the huge island of Manhattan.  The subway also travels out to the farther burrows such as The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.  Several weeks before our journey, I downloaded the app Embark NYC, which became invaluable when navigating the labyrinth of subway lines, directions and stops.

IMG_3416For our first full day, I reserved passes to see the 911 Memorial in lower Manhattan.  While slightly confused as to where specifically to go, funneled and ushered through security with the rest of the throngs, once there, the pools where the North and South towers once stood are powerful, yet graceful reminders of that horrific day.  As I did while visiting the beaches of Normandy, France, I chose a piece of classical music to assist in my personal meditation.  Sharing ear buds with my husband, we reflected peacefully while listening to angels sing Spem In Alium.  In some way, I felt my time there was too short, insignificant even.  The quiet and solitary visit I had hoped for was somehow not the same in the midst of hundreds of tourists.  Teenagers beside us were busy acting goofy; people were smiling and posing for photos; making it about themselves and not embracing the solemnness of the location.  It was difficult to have the moment I had envisioned and pay proper homage to all those who lost their lives.  I not only wanted to grieve for them, but I had a strong pull to relive that day.  I quickly realized my song and prayers needed to be enough, if I wanted to enjoy the rest of my first day in NYC.

That evening we had reservations at Mario Batali’s Babbo in Greenwich Village.  Being huge fans of his restaurant Otto in Las Vegas (also in NYC) we knew we couldn’t go wrong.  It was an amazing meal!

Our menu:

Starter             Grilled Octopus with Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette

Starter             Armandino’s Salumi (from Seattle) – Finocchiona and Coppa

K’s Main        Homemade Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage and Rapini

M’s Main       Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles

M’s Sweet      Polenta Budino with Vanilla Gelato

K’s Sweet       Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo

Our dinner reservations were rather early, so after Babbo we returned to the hotel, donned a change of clothes and ventured out to see Times Square.  Believe me when I say, once is enough!  It’s really nothing more than a bunch of billboards, Broadway & TV advertisements, and neon lights.  The shops are nothing remotely interesting.  And please don’t bother with the food scene!  It’s all generic crap like TGI McFunsters, Olive Garden and fast food.  You can find an excellent inexpensive NYC food experience without visiting the same chain restaurants located in most any town. The worst part of Times Square is the tourists.  Times Square seems to attract the nitwits of the world. They are slow-walking, oblivious, stopping and pointing (right in front of you no less), photo-taking, meandering ass-hats!  Wow, I’m feeling like a New Yorker already!

Day Two: Saturday.  We began our day with an adventurous stroll through Central Park.  The one thing I wanted to see in Central Park was the famed Alice in Wonderland statue.  Upon approaching the statue, I realized my desire for a kid-free photo was not going to happen.  Alice and her Wonderland mates were crawling with teens and children.  Parents snapped photos like paparazzi and families surrounded the entire circumference, and no one seemed to be in any kind of a hurry.  I considered calling out a request for ten seconds of kid-free Alice so I could get my photo, but I thought I’d be met with the stink-eye or be stoned to death.  Completely and utterly annoyed, I slunk off muttering and grumbling under my breath.

My mood quickly changed with the wonders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Endless in its collection, we decided to dedicate our time to the Director’s Highlights audio tour.  I always have better intentions with museums than what actually transpires.  I enjoy museums, provided the material is of interest to me, however I can only do about four to five hours max. per day.  Michael and I have coined a term, “museum back” – the dull ache in your lower back that increases over time without Advil, swift walking or a stiff cocktail.  The Met was amazing and I heavily regret not seeing more of it, but I feel we saw the highlights.

IMG_1445Dinner that night was at Chef David Chang’s Ma Peche (Momofuku).  We indulged in reservations for Kappo (chef’s table) which gives a limited number of people intimate bar seating facing the kitchen.  Our own team of Ma Peche professionals hosted Michael, six others and me.  The prix fixe dinner consisting of ten or so courses for $95 pp is one of the best values in the city.  The experience was out of this world.  I had the best seat in the house, right next to the kitchen.  We were encouraged to ask questions about cooking methods, ingredients, textures, temperatures, techniques, anything you could think of pertaining to the food.  The food was outstanding.  One item that happened to stand out was the (made for two) duck fat Challah bread.  You have no idea how wrong it was or just how phenomenal.  I can’t say enough about this event.  The food, the staff, the personal attention, the service, and the atmosphere – the whole package was simply stunning and I highly recommend it!

Sunday we had matinee tickets for Spiderman Turn Off The Dark.  We both enjoyed the show.  However, the technical aspects including the sets, scenery, lighting, flying and projections rather outshined the performers.  The storyline and the lack of precision from the performers led me to believe perhaps a months worth of rehearsals is in order.  Even though it has been in production for two years.  None-the-less, it was entertaining.

That evening we ventured to the Meat Packing District to eat at Iron Chef Morimoto’s Morimoto.  We chose the Omakase or chef’s choice.  I have to say, that having experienced Omakase (for the first time) at Nobu earlier this year in Hawaii, I was less impressed with Morimoto.  I’m unsure why.  I was however, vastly impressed with the Japanese toilets at Morimoto of all things.  They looked more like toilet-shaped armchairs and had a remote control as well.  The bathroom was immaculately clean, so was my stall and the porcelain king 5000.  So, I sat and was met with a rather warm seat.  Seriously, if you’ve never experienced this, it’s a rather odd sensation – a warm bum.  I looked at the remote and noticed buttons like massage, clean – not only self cleaning, but it can clean you as well, front or back.  For fear of not knowing what I was getting into, I didn’t push any of the buttons.  It was my best restroom experience in Manhattan, I think.

I shall end my first post about NY on a rather silly note (the above Japanese commode).  Stay tuned for NYC Part 2 that will include the best pork buns and Ramen I’ve ever had, as well as a birthday lunch at 3 Michelin star Le Bernardin.


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