moti mahal: as sinead o’connor so sagely sang, nothing compares to you!

oh my There are times when it is appropriate, if not required, to wail into your dinner napkin. Chest-heaving, shoulder-shivering type sobs. Perhaps you will resemble a foghorn with all that blowing and blubbering. Possibly you will need to be escorted, quite firmly by the elbow, outside of the restaurant. This puts me to thinking of Eliot’s “Hysteria”:

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved
in her laughter and being part of it, until her
teeth were only accidental stars with a talent
for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps,
inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally
in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by
the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter
with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading
a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty
green iron table, saying: “If the lady and
gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden,
if the lady and gentleman wish to take their
tea in the garden …” I decided that if the
shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of
the fragments of the afternoon might be collected,
and I concentrated my attention with careful
subtlety to this end.

Believe me when I say that dinner at Moti Mahal in London’s Covent Garden was EVERYTHING. From the hot and feathery naan blistering with bubbles to the succulent pieces of char-grilled chicken rubbed in cumin, basil, coriander and tamarind spices to the crunch of chick peas cooled with luscious yoghurt, to the salad that comes on board ripe for slicing, every morsel I put in my mouth was worthy of a Keats ode. SIMPLY PUT, THE FOOD WAS BYRONIC AND A PONY.

While I sampled the chicken tikka, saffron rice and a sea of greens dressed in coriander, my friend Dina indulged in the tasting menu, which proved to be a clown car of culinary delights. Because just when we thought we had ravaged it all, we were left to weep quietly over the main course. I nearly contemplated a broccoli (parenthetical: broccoli is my most hated green, so this is telling you everything you need to know about me and EVERYTHING about Moti Mahal), I was that dizzy over the perfection in gastronomy.

Quite seriously, I can go on for hours about the impeccable service (a rotation of wait staff at our table), the elegant ambiance and the perfectly exquisite cuisine (and trust me, I did), I’ll let the photos and my memory of it transcend.

Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal
Dinner at Moti Mahal

chow now: bar toto restaurant, brooklyn

Lunch at Bar Toto
I firmly believe that the greatest gift one could bestow onto another is the gift of food. Slippery pasta, char-grilled chicken, ripened fruit and a spray of pomegranate seeds — we treasure our dining memories, hold them close like yellowed photographs curling at the edges. Because a meal is a celebration of conversation and the time you excised from your day to give to a beloved, whether it be a friend or a loved one. I’ve always adored long, lazy lunches, multiple courses, and the feeling that comes when you order a bottle of sparkling water. Today, a dear friend and I joked that a meal ascends to a whole other level once a bottle of Pellegrino is involved.

As humble thanks for taking care of my foxy feline (THE SOPH) while I’m in London this weekend, I took out my friend Wah-Ming for a delicious Italian lunch at one of my favorite Park Slope spots, Bar Toto. And rather than penning an exhaustive review, I’ll allow the pictures to tell the story.

Never have I had anything less than extraordinary at Bar Toto. From homemade papparadelle to freshly-ground sausage to flatbread pizza and shaved parmesan adorning a peppery salad, the fare is unbelievably delicious. So while an old friend and I stepped out of our respective frenzies, stood still, dined and dished, I keep remembering that these are the memories I want to hold close to me. Of me, happy, with friends, eating.
Lunch at Bar Toto
Lunch at Bar Toto
Lunch at Bar Toto
Lunch at Bar Toto

crave the dish: lupa osteria romana

lunch at lupa
Part of me is breaking because these photographs can’t ever truly articulate rapture on a plate. Can’t quite capture that moment when two heads rise up from their plates, eyes shining, lips salty and glistening, giddy because how could it be possible that a simple bavette dressed in butter, olive oil, melted pecorino romano cheese and crushed black pepper can be the one thing that makes angels sing. I’m vociferous in my passion for food, and although Lupa has been around for ages, one should always celebrate great food as if it were the first time they tasted it.

This puts me to thinking of Jay Z’s “My First Song,” when you hear Biggie rhyming about treating one’s success as if it were the first song, like when one was an intern, hungry. True, Lupa isn’t a gastronomic shock, but savoring peppery greens, warm seasoned bread, a plate teeming with delectable greatness, and a dessert that brings tears to your eyes, you should celebrate. You should fall in love all over again. Because that’s what food does — brings you closer to the people with whom you share it. I snapped a photo of our plates of pasta and I told my friend Katie that I planned to send her photo and the subject line of the email would read: Remember this?

And it all — the sorbet that tasted of ripened nectarines, the chill of the tartufo — and the memory of it, would come rushing back.

lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa
lunch at lupa

dinner on the deck: saute chicken + pesto pasta

dinner on the deck

the only thing worth salvaging from the wreck that was eat pray love: the pizza: barbounia, new york city

pizza at Barbounia
Last night was magic. I spent the evening with the girls dishing on our careers, gents, movies, books and the like, whilst munching on appetizers, salads and luscious buttery pumpkin ravioli. Come Fridays I tire easily, so after a few hours on a friend’s rooftop apartment, the idea of motoring to the opening night of Eat Pray Love — a book I abhorred — was quite a challenge. Fridays are reserved for candlelight, almond chocolate and Korean horror films. However, bonding time was essential, so I spent over 2.5 hours watching a movie I knew I would dislike.

I could write odes on why I loathe Eat Pray Love, the self-absorbed diary of a woman with extraordinary means who “finds” herself and spirituality, etc, etc, etc, by taking a year off! By going to India! An ashram! Cue the sanskrit and porcelain GANESH figurines! Eating pasta! Etc, etc, etc. Hold on while I remove the bitter from my tongue.

Believe me when I say that I am the rare breed of woman who is frightened by the idea of a theater filled with weeping estrogen. Of woman who buy into this idyllic journey when women are putting in the work in their offices, in their homes, with their friends and families, every single day.

While I LOVED spending time with three whip-smart, strong women, I enjoyed the 2.5 hours of self-inflicted cinematic torture a little less. Part of me wishes we would have spent the evening on that rooftop talking into the gloaming.

However, I enjoyed one thing about Eat Pray Love: the food. From slippery, well-dressed pasta to grilled asparagus to heavenly, pillowy gelato, I found myself not weeping about Julia Roberts’ existential crisis, but over the massive amounts of delicious PIZZA.

Hence my jaunt to Barbounia Restaurant, home of incredible Mediterranean food, cry-into-your-napkin hummus, and light, crispy pizza. Located in New York’s chic Flatiron district, if you’re not smitten by the airy decor, high ceilings, and wafts from the brick oven, the hot, seasoned loaves, the peppery olives, luscious fresh mozzarella will give you shelter.

Today I took myself out for lunch and indulged in flaky croissants dipped into blueberry preserves and a thin-crust pizza. Life crisis solved.

lunch
pizza at Barbounia

eat here now: nanoosh mediterranean, nyc

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eat this now: apricot salad with pistachio vinaigrette

Apricots in a Pistachio Vinaigrette
Weeks ago I enjoyed the most extraordinary salad: peppery arugula, juicy apricots and toasted pistachios tossed in a light vinaigrette. The salt and smoke of the nut juxtaposed with the yielding sweet fruit, cut with the acerbic green absolutely MADE MY LIFE.

Every since, I’ve been desperate to recreate the recipe, adding my own special touch. I wanted something fresh and luscious. A dessert that could be eaten alone or enjoyed with whipped cream, or made savory with salad. And I found perfection when making a pistachio vinaigrette!

INGREDIENTS
3 cups small apricots (fresh)
3 tbsp pistachio oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cup pistachios, lightly toasted on a dry pan
salt/pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Whisk the oil and vinegar (remembering that a vinaigrette is super simple — 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), adding salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the fresh apricots and toasted nuts. The dish can be served at room temperature or chilled. The longer it sits, the longer the flavors meld.

eat this now: watermelon and feta salad with toasted almonds!

Watermelon, Feta, and Almond Salad
Nothing truly embodies the taste of summer other than watermelon. The crunchy seeds juxtaposed with that cool, juicy melon — I have fond memories of splashing in a johnny pump, a sticky mess of watermelon covering my chin. So it’s with great affection that I’ve whipped up an adult version of my revered summer treat.

INGREDIENTS
6-8 cups cubed watermelon
4 ounces of feta (I tend to shy away from the crumbly version as I prefer hearty chunks)
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed, fine dice
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed, fine dice
1 clove minced garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of white whine vinegar
salt/pepper to season and taste
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds, toasted in an ungreased skillet, until brown

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, until you get a vinaigrette emulsion. You should nix the vinegar, and marinade the feta in the oil and spice mixture — either way is FAB.

Toss the feta in the dressing/mixture and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Combine with watermelon and add in the almonds. The nutty crunch married with the yielding, salty feta and cool watermelon are divine!

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Watermelon, Feta, and Almond Salad

eat this now: moroccan lamb meatballs

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
It would be fitting, perhaps unbelievably so, that my oven would cease to function the day before my housewarming party. The evening when I’m preparing crumbles, crisps, and meatballs and the like. The day before I celebrate my new home with dear friends.

However, after begging to borrow an oven for a sweet friend (what are neighbors for? she texts me), I settle into recipe finding, and I came across a luscious Patricia Wells’ recipe for simple Moroccan meatballs. Very decadent, very heady, I was shocked to discover that this meal clocks in under $10. And although I don’t eat lamb, I very well near broke my rule after the cumin wafted through my abode.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
salt/pepper to flavor
1/4 cup mint leaves, fine dice

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients to the lamb. Mix with your hands (as they are the cook’s greatest tools) until just combined. You don’t want to overwork the meat, as it will get tough and chewy, so mix quickly until each meatball has a smattering of the ingredients.

Roll into small bite-sized meatballs. The recipe makes 24.

In a large skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Ensure that the pan is hot so you’ll get a great sear. Cook the meatballs in two batches, otherwise the meat will crowd the pan, bring down the temperature, and your meatballs will boil rather than cook. NOT OKAY. You want that sweet caramelization!

Cook 3-4 minutes a side (total time 10-12 minutes, depending upon how you prefer your meat). Serve hot with greek yogurt infused with fresh dill or cucumber.

Enjoy!

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs

hello, home: covetable housewarming gifts worth the splurge!

Diptyque Paris Roses If this be a home, fill it with lavender and life. Lay down plush rugs and hang gossamer curtains from wrought iron rods. Fragrant the rooms with blooms, citrus and a cacophony of aromatics hinting of a spice garden. Make your four walls and rented rooms a place worth coming home to.

After nearly a decade of hoarding Domino (the cover and spread of actress Zooey Deschanel’s abode warmed my cold, cruel heart), Real Simple, and ELLE Decor magazines, shuffling from one dreary and dirty apartment to another, I’ve found a small, but inviting space I feel privileged to call home. For years, photographs and sketches were wrapped in paper, rolled and bundled with twine; expensive shower curtains and objets de art were tucked away, awaiting the moment they would make their very audacious debut.

Come next week I’m celebrating my new home and new life with a housewarming party. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than entertaining for my dearest friends, watching their eyes light up like fire when encountering my red velvet cupcakes with peanut butter icing or my delectable pistachio pesto. The gifts they feel obligated to bring (as etiquette requires one to do on an occasion such as a housewarming party) doesn’t concern me, because the greatest gift they could possibly give me is their friendship, their presence in my new home. So when I think about housewarming gifts, I focus on the sweet indulgences, the perfect, personal touches one can bring to their home.

Hammocks & High Tea Lavender Satchels ($20): From the artistic print to the lavender and verbena perfume, I adore these closet satchels because they immediately dispel the ubiquitous packed-in-a-box smell. Hang them from your closet rod or nestle them in your lingerie chest, and your clothes are guaranteed to smell and feel unbelievably fresh and floral.

Diptyque Roses Candle ($60): My affection for Diptyque, the crown jewel of illumination, runs deep. I’ve always been enraptured by the line’s distinct, subtle fragrances, which warm and fragrant your surroundings, making it a worthy at-home investment. And while I typically eschew the pungent scent of most rose candles, this delicate blend of a variety of roses, renders a warm yet subtle fragrance. Diptyque craftsmen blend the wax with very rare natural essences from Grasse (the very location where Chanel’s fragrances are born!) to ensure that each candle releases the perfect amount of scent for as many as 60 hours of burning.

If you adore candles, but balk at the sometimes hefty pricetag, I’ve become smitten with Good Home Company’s Village Lavender Candle ($20), a soy-based candle that infuses your home with its warm, inviting scents. Akin to tumbling through groves of blooms, you will find yourself settling in on Friday nights with a great flick, popcorn (my ultimate must-chow is Popcorn Indiana’s Cheddar) and a candle burning down to the wick.

mrs. meyer's Affordably priced at under $10, Mrs. Meyer’s Geranium Candle offers a clean, cool scent to accompany you when you’re busy scrubbing into the gloaming. Earth-friendly and cruelty free, I adore Mrs. Meyer’s products because they offer gentle and effective products that won’t crack the proverbial piggy bank. From lemon verbena to astringent basil to soft lavender, their line of hand soaps, counter/surface cleaners are the gift that keeps on giving. So if you’re tired of the ubiquitous dizziness that accompanies a Clorox wipe down, opt for natural products come move-in day.

Although I’ve been crazed with settling into my new space, I couldn’t help but race into Anthropologie’s home section. Although I find their clothing quality to price ratio sometimes questionable, Anthropologie’s whimsical, fantastical and eclectic home items always give me pause. From coasters that could forseeably be transformed into works of art to etched ombre bowls to wrought iron lamps, you can find magic from $8-$800.

Naturally, one who collects cookie cutter discs and saves for a stand mixer, couldn’t help but yearn and splurge on the Breville Dual Disc Juice Processor ($399). A brief aside: while I was in the stages of moving and selling off my furniture, four men on varying occasions pointed to my juicer and said it was the best one could buy. Each word of praise was followed by a knowing nod that I had acquired the king of juicers. A Williams Sonoma exclusive, the titanium cutting disc coupled with the superior motor speeds and stainless steal puree disc, you could juice apples to baseball hats, seriously. In the midst of a horrendous heat wave, it’s a great privilege to come home and savor delicious, healthful juices.

Ultimately, the greatest gift you could possibly give yourself is appreciating your great space, being humble about all that you have in your life, heart, and home, because life can take unexpected turns, objects could be lost or taken from you, and what matters are those people trickling into your home. Holding your hand as you step into a new life, a wonderful, wonderful unknown.

Full Disclosure: The aforementioned products, save the Anthropologie items, were provided for editorial consideration.

eat this now: the dinner on the deck salad!

dinner on the deck
Friends who know me well know that I love to entertain. Even with rooms cluttered with boxes and dishes wrapped in newspaper, you’ll find my kitchen unpacked and cutlery folded into crisp napkins. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than making food for someone else, and I was tickled to have my sweet friend and work colleague, Dina, over for some healthy chow.

Before we made the epic journey from midtown to my Brooklyn abode, we slipped into Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro for cavalier cheese, and carted home miniature bricks of deliciousness. Who could resist gruyere?!

When we arrived home, we marveled over a delicious homemade salad, lemonade with springs of mint, and a healthy dose of multigrain baguette with a smattering of cheeses.

Recipe for “Dinner on the Deck Salad”
INGREDIENTS

6 cups of red and green kale (I employed a 3-1 ratio of red to green, as red kale tends to be less bitter)
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 cup of fresh figs, halved
Slices of Monte Enebro cheese, or any goat cheese will do
1/4 cup of pan toasted slivered almonds
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cucumber, 1-inch dice

Extras to add? Chopped red and green peppers add a pop of flavor!

Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

dinner on the deck
dinner on the deck
dinner on the deck

when the day was a photo worth taking…

lunch at bouchon bakery
Sweet Jesus on a pony — who could possibly resist the allure of the grilled cheese sandwich? From the old school cast iron skillets, clarified butter on a pan, and two pieces of parchment white bread with strips of orange cheese poking out to the newfangled varieties of multi-grain, Pullman and tangy gruyere — the grilled cheese sandwich is sacrosanct and continues to be one of my beloved comfort foods. Paired with a hot tomato soup and a sugary sweet pistachio macaroon, lunch at Bouchon Bakery was worthy of photographing. Sometimes the simplest of foods yield maximum pleasure.

And the celebration? The acquisition of an affordable LG flat screen HDTV from Best Buy and the softest of grey rugs from West Elm (Atlas Rug available online 8/25). Can’t you just see the tufts of feathery hair? How one’s feet will surely sink in. It was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT with this area rug, and akin to my epic quest for the J. Crew pave bracelet, I had to have West Elm scour the country for my size (3×5). Luckily enough, Philly was stocked.

I must be careful because I tend to go wild on a hue. So while I’m fondling grey cotton drapes at that cruel, cruel Restoration Hardware (my aesthetic, another person’s more abundant salary), and considering metal-edge colors for metal frames, I have to remember a room is all about balance. Infuse the creams, hang photographs and mirrors that lend interest. And most importantly — just play it as it lays. Go where the day takes you.

lunch at bouchon bakery
lunch at bouchon
lunch at bouchon
lunch at bouchon
lunch at bouchon bakery
new area rug! West Elm's Atlas in Feather Gray
new area rug! West Elm's Atlas in Feather Gray
new area rug! West Elm's Atlas in Feather Gray

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