Category Archives: Dinner Party Series

C&C Dinner Party Series: Seasonal, French & Pensive

Ahhhh Avril. Je t’aime. Fresh produce starts to come alive, mornings workouts are actually carried out in the sunlight, and fashion scarves can once again find a happy place in my day-to-day wardrobe. I emphasize this point in a lot in my posts, but the seasons heavily affect us New Yorkers. We live in our concrete jungle bubble and as a result we’re a slave to the seasonal elements of Manhattan. I firmly believe that the NYC elements builds character, with the start of new season making me extra pensive on what I’ve done and what I want to achieve next.

This year, Nance and I hosted another wonderfully-springy French dinner party; intimate and exclusive – because not every C&C shindig can be a rager. To start I made an onion crème brulée. Yes you heard right – onion. If you think about it, it’s not crazy since onions innately have a lovely sweetness when cooked down. I’ve gotten sick of the traditional French mainstay for dessert but decided to try this recipe (Courtesy of one of my favorite cooking shows, Rachel Khoo). Although heavier than what I normally like to start with for a first course, it had an undeniably whimsical quality that I couldn’t resist trying. I paired it with a frisée and mesclun salad with a simple dijon mustard vinaigrette.

For the main, Nance made Julia Child’s show-stopping blanquette de veau (essentially veal braised in all kinds of creamy white sauce goodness). Served alongside parsely rice and a cauliflower purée, she was intentionally going for a white/saintly-Easter-themed main.

If that wasn’t enough, I decided to end with a Paris-Brest. Essentially this pastry comprises of chou molded into a hollowed out circle, sprinkled with slivered almonds, and filled with whatever creme you prefer. My favorite is Julia Child’s pastry cream so I decided to make an vanilla-brandy variation of her famous recipe. Garnished with strawberries, this did not disappoint with the wow-factor.

April has a way of injecting boldness into our veins. Is it the vitamin D? Is it the warmer weather? Who knows, but I seem to raise my bold-i-can-do-anything factor in this, my favorite, month. Lately I’ve been focusing on one philosophy: Everything in life, if done with purpose, can make you better.

Your less-than-ideal job may be crazy but you can produce passable work or you can produce work that wows. Yea you may not be up for a raise, but that work may make you a more-experienced presenter, a buzz-worthy analyst in the office, or give you an extra bullet on your resume when you want to switch careers. Kill yourself to go to the gym, so you can enjoy that happy hour, and then kill yourself to do cardio in the morning (OK I know most people don’t do this, but they should). Work to get the next promotion and learn how to effectively be a shark in the process – riches don’t come quickly to the meek. Never settle and kick your mediocre fling to the curb, or boyfriend who you don’t want to admit is flawed beyond salvation, and look for someone who checks off all of the boxes. Harsh perhaps, but necessary in my opinion. Should these posts start to be tagged as Musings of a Bitchy Ice Queen?

Frankly, there’s no time to waste on pursuits, or people, that don’t make you better. So byeeee Felicia. As I careen towards a milestone birthday, I know I have a lot more life to live, but looking forward, I also know I need to position the train toward those things that are necessities rather than passing desires. Settling is for the throes of winter, capitalize on that superhuman energy now when it’s back in our veins.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Chandeleur to Save us from Winter

Once again NYC is in the throes of winter. I’m not amused. Living in NYC has actually made me hate a season I once thought of fondly while growing up in the suburbs. It’s dark, it’s windy, it’s downright frigid. I can’t wear fashion boots because of the slush and corrosive salt. I stay at home more which makes me just want to binge eat, which I can’t do effectively on a paleo diet, meaning I binge eat on almond butter (This will not be a sustainable habit when I get older). I stand by my proclamation that it’s troll season, necessitating me to be somewhat of a recluse, opting for Yoga rather than scoping out men.

Not all is lost however because at Chez C&C, cold weather provides the perfect opportunity for a dinner party. For us francophiles, the logical choice for a February fête is to celebrate Chandeleur – the glorious holiday all about crêpes. I remember when I studied abroad, coming home on February 2nd to 3 courses of crêpes! How can you go wrong with that?

In the wintertime, to combat the harsh weather, the menu should aim to be decadent. For appetizers I made Chorizo-filled, medjool dates, wrapped in bacon. I don’t need to say more other than to say that these are paleo-friendly. Along with some classic French cheeses and a mushroom tapenade, you can tell we were going for a lite menu, no?

Nancy dazzled by making a Provençal Omelette Cake. 5 stacked omelettes finished with a tomato coulis. Completely decadent, oh-so eggy, and quite the crowd-pleaser – this main course of layers was purposefully picked to play on the theme of crêpes.

For dessert, I aimed to impress with another layered centerpiece, a Crêpe cake filled with layers of chocolate-brandy whipped cream. Finished with a chocolate-brandy ganache and truffles, I must say this is surely a show-stopper.

If that wasn’t enough, Nance made some extra crêpe batter and we had dessert crêpes made to order (with options like Nutella, sugar, honey, and Rum) for anyone feeling extra gluttonous. It was a lovely evening – the feel perfectly homey – with just the right amount of wine-drunk conversation, where good food and friends meeting friends proved to be an accomplished goal.

Circling back to my passing thoughts amidst this drab NYC deep freeze, I can’t help but feel slightly off my game in winter. My New Year’s resolutions were all about priorities but winter has a way of making question the worth of the daily grind. For me, as I tackle the goals  at the top of my list, I sometimes wonder if I am focusing on the right priorities. As I focus on shifting goals, my free time and energy shrink, a trade off I realized I would have to make for somewhat overexerting myself. Though I’ve lived through almost 3 cycles of Manhattan seasons to know that spring will bring a blossoming of beautiful weather and renewed superhuman drive for us New Yorkers. So I keep telling myself to stay zen and razor-focused. I tell myself I’m building character – let’s hope that’s sound rationalization. Screw you polar vortex.

Winter in NYC is horrid. But honestly, it doesn’t make me love NYC any less. I liken it to the mood swings of a lover, something I can look passed due to its countless redeeming qualities. So where the hell are you Spring? My limited optimism can’t hold out forever.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: A Perfectly Intimate Christmas

I’ll admit I’ve been quite the Scrooge this Christmas season. Seemingly no amount of sparkling lights, yuletide cheer, or Christmas shopping could lift my spirits. Maybe as you grow older and get extremely caught-up with work, it’s harder to stop and take in the holiday season. It also could be something about NYC – I avoid the touristy Christmas attractions like the plague. Rockefeller Center makes me want to die this time of year, which inevitably makes me somewhat aggravated with the heightened hoopla of it all.

But like all things serendipitous in the Nancy-Brian-Cub-Cougar story, our life together managed to snap some cheer back into my ice queen soul. I was all set to have no Christmas party this year but Nance and her daughters made a point of committing to a Christmas celebration, albeit intimate but always bougie. The petit soirée included picking out a tree, tree trimming, champagne, and baking cookies. Nance is recovering from a surgery (explaining her hiatus from the blog) so she lorded over all as we served her nom noms and decorated the apartment.

Perfect dish for a party such as this? Swiss fondue of course! I made an Emmental cheese variation with Swiss white wine (Nance’s go-to recipe) so we could all binge eat over a course of hours. Served alongside my favorite Maison Kayser baguette (New Yorkers – If you haven’t tried this yet, go NOW), apples, cornichons, and saucisson, you really can’t go wrong. Throw in some FOIE GRAS from Juju’s beau and our standard extravagance for dinner parties was achieved.

As I sat in our beautiful apartment looking out onto the Upper West Side, so very happy with my adopted Manhattan family, it dawned on me that this has become home. It’s funny how a transition like that happens gradually overtime but the sudden realization can catch you off guard. I guess home is where you choose to create your life, feel comfortable, and are the happiest. That has become our apartment in 14A, filled so often with betches and laughter, always brimming at the seams with real talk, big dreams, and small successes from our New York City life.

We wish you the very merriest.

Brian & Nance – C & C

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Intimate Betch Dinner

It’s safe to say that my list of dinner party invites is rather short. Event invites? I’m good. But not so much for “want to come over for dinner so I can cook for you?” invites.

I get it. We live in NYC, space is at a premium and not all of us have a bougie cougar who comes well-equipped with a beautiful UWS apartment. Also, in a city where takeout is a facet of life, it’s so easy to opt for Seamless rather than cook a good meal (or even learn how to cook a good meal). Add to the list that my friends are bougie betches who are young and wild and free (maybe that’s a stretch). I  play the old soul the corrals the betches together.  I’m OK being the one in my friend group to host. For godsake I love entertaining.

However when an invite comes for dinner, I make sure to take it. Faye invited the Cub and Cougar over for a Sunday dinner at her new apartment on 9th Ave. In true Faye fashion, the doors opened to a hallway lined with designer shoes likened more to an art piece than a shoe collection. Nance swooned as I marveled at her tasteful furnishings.

Her mother was visiting from Korea so she essentially prepared the menu but did disappeared before we came over.  To start we had Jeon, Beef and Seafood savory pancakes. For the main we had the Korean dish, Bulgogi Deopbap, essentially a beef stew rice bowl. How perfect! Faye seems to be broadening my culinary horizons to include Korean food. This adventurous foodie has no problem with that.

Dinner was intimate yet special. I channeled slight basic betch and made a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. Possibly a bit basic…It was perfectly satisfying for the onset of fall. Nance supplied the Prosecco with good conversation and a beautiful view making for a perfect end to the weekend.

I’ve said this before. I like hosting because I like the idea of bringing people together, cooking for the people I love, impressing with “a big reveal”. But dinner at Faye’s made me think that you don’t always have to host an over the top extravaganza, but dinner with close friends tête-a-tête-a-cougar can be just as extravagant. I’m waiting betches, where are my invites to have me over for dinner?

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New-Age American Italian: Lincoln Ristorante

 

If you know me, you know that Italian is rarely my go-to cuisine. I’m sorry but I’m camp French. I don’t understand tomato sauce’s appeal. Heresy for a foodie… or for someone who works for an Italian food celebrity?Let’s caveat that I love pizza as much as the next New Yorker, but frankly I have never been one to crave pasta. Give me carbs in the form of baked goods.

I’ll admit that in America I’m within the minority and Italian food is ubiquitous. It’s so effortlessly engrained in the culinary scene that one could even say that certain staples are extensions of American comfort food. I must say that as I grow up, the allure of the deft use of fresh basil or the briny quality of a good seafood dish grows on me, but I won’t be picking an Italian restaurant if I’m the one to decide where to go for dinner.

That being said, Faye’s birthday brought me to Michelin star-rated Lincoln Ristorante in the heart of Lincoln Center. First of all can we talk about the space? It is simply stunning – basically an architectural feat. Floor to ceiling glass walls, simultaneously looking out onto 65th street and a stunning water pool behind LC’s main façade. In the summer you can sit outside and enjoy the best of my neighborhood. The aesthetic is clearly modern but the service and overall feel is neither stuffy nor rushed. Unlike most of the Michelin star restaurants I’ve been to, LR is rather sprawling which lends to both a spacious yet intimate ambiance.

Cleary as the name suggests, Italian is on the menu. I was dually impressed. LR is an example of what I like to call New-Age American Italian. A mouthful yes. The food is not eggplant parm or spaghetti with meatballs but nuanced fare blending creative ideas with fresh, ingredients, evocative of Italy. LR specializes in offering selections from Puglia, a region in the south of Italy. For being a Michelin Star Restaurant, the menu is not outrageously priced. You can get 3 courses for $66 or 4 for $75 – Not bad for NYC.

As we were not feeling overly gluttonous we opted to go for a 3-course prix fixe. My first course was the Soppressata di Polpo (Octopus, Beef Tendon, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Cipollini-Pilacca Conserva, and Lemon Basil). The presentation was absolutely stunning and I’m still slightly stumped on how they sliced the octopus so deftly. The dish was an epitome of the clean, fresh, Italian flavors at their best. No elaborately concocted sauce (which is why I’m camp French) but frankly that’s OK in this instance. A bite of octopus with the fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil was the perfect starter.

For my main I had the Coniglio in Porchetta (Roasted Loin and Confit Leg of Rabbit, Spaetzle, Chanterelles, Corn and Savory Jus). Now here I must say is where the New-Age American Italian shines through. I’m not fully versed in Italian cooking but I can’t remember most Italian restaurants serving Rabbit with Chanterelles in a beautiful composed rabbit jus. But LR did just that. The technique and plating evoke French panache with Italian sensibility.

Although plated beautifully, I must say I was not impressed with my Tartufo (Cherry, Hazelnut and Chocolate Gelatos, Italian Meringue, Stregacustard, and Macerated Cherries), nor any of the dessert selections as they were mainly cold selections. But possibly that’s a product of summer. As always with the best restos in NYC nom noms were provided after dinner that finished a rather beautiful evening.

OK so I’ll relent. Some of NYC’s hottest NYC Italian restaurants surely live up to the hype (especially those with Michelin star accolades). And I will say that working for Donatella is broadening my Italian culinary horizons as I sift through her many expertly crafted, recipes. But let’s make it clear I’m not going to be craving Penne à la vodka anytime soon, just pass the Duck Confit and we’re good.

Lincoln Ristorante – 142 West 65th Street – 212 359 6500

See more reviews at NYC Restaurants.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Dinner Party To Go

Besides our shared love of food, the Cub and I share a fascination with other cultures and the travel that takes you there. Years ago as an upstate girl, the local grown hometown boys held no interest. I dreamed international! Another recurrent dream was imagining what was beyond all the trees along the thruway to the Big Apple and farther. Choosing to go to college at Georgetown University located in the very international city of Washington, D.C. was a huge departure from my family. Later, not content with the U.S., I lived in the south of France with my daughters at a moment when I needed the Atlantic Ocean between my husband and me.

Today my travels are limited due to lack of resources and a focus on school.Every negative can become a positive as this forces me to make hard choices about how I use my few travel dollars. I’ve decided that there is no DR in my future but there will be a priority on making visits to reconnect with my friends who live around the world. A huge appeal of travel is the exposure it offers to new cuisines. My belly still remembers the trip to Hanoi with JuJu, eating the best pho at street stalls, squatting as Asians do, around small plastic tables on the sidewalk on child size stools. Personally I’d love to see the Porcupine at such a meal!

I also remember the trip to Morocco for a mechouia in honor of friends’ first born son. Since these very friends live in our building, I wrangled a dinner invitation to their spacious, impeccable apartment so the Cub could talk Morocco, the site of his upcoming trip. C&C made the food; power couple provided the drink from their sizable wine cellar. BM was born in Morocco and spent his formative years there as a “pied noir”. This term refers to people of French (or other European) ancestry who lived in French North Africa, often for generations, until the end of French rule. He reminds me of the French actor Gerard Depardieu in bulk and appetite. MH-M takes a hyphenated last name as she is the real power in the couple and won’t be defined merely by her spouse’s ancestry. She’s German and a powerhouse like a BMW.

What’s nice about this dinner to go on a Sunday night is all it requires is taking the elevator three floors up. Since we were there for Morocco, I wanted lamb on the menu. Have you seen the price of lamb loin chops lately? At $21.99/lb with BM’s appetite and their teenage son (of mechouia fame), I settled on perfectly acceptable lamb kebobs from Whole Foods for outdoor grilling on their balcony. (MH-M prefers her meat organic.) The menu was a reflection of summer as a watermelon salad with feta, olives and red onion rounded out the main course. Despite not really liking watermelon, this salad has become one of my favorites. The lime juice softens the red onion; the feta and olives add saltiness and the watermelon is crunchy and watery at the same time. This is a salad that needs to be consumed asap so don’t make any for leftovers. The Cub contributed dessert in the form of pistachio madeleines and a raspberry clafoutis. Very pied noir as a marriage of French and Morocco inspired menu. BM insisted on adding a cheese course. Mais oui!

The evening was inspiring for reasons besides the food and travel. I have known this couple over the span of my marriage which represents a very long time. What is remarkable is that they have not let their fire go out. When you are in their company, you still see evidence of a spark between them. They are opposites in many ways and use this to tease each other playfully rather than impose change upon each other to conform to their individual expectations. They accomplish the impossible in human dynamics by making their differences a source of delight rather than the source of conflict and strife. They seem to genuinely to like each other and have found a balance between their personalities that most couples never attain.

I certainly missed the mark with this in my marriage. Always futilely hoping that we’d grow closer once the children were grown and money worries diminished, we simply grew apart and he fell into someone else’s arms. It was the children who kept us together and when they left, we fell apart. In truth, we never really had that spark, that dynamic that keeps you interested in another human being as forever fascinating. It’s no surprise they call it the Tinder app because spontaneous combustion between people can happen. Today I’m hopeful in another way more like a tornado waiting to meet a volcano or two force fields of equal energy between two people who come together in strength. Alas, I still can’t imagine him being an American guy, and as the Cub suggested, may have to wait for his appearance when I teach abroad. Apologies to Eminem, but in honor of the relationships that last, that keep on growing and adding to the flame in a positive manner, I offer another song, New Flame. But then again I could watch Chris Brown and Usher dance all day.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Woodburning Oven Options

Well it’s official – I’m at a crossroads in my career trajectory. If you are an adherent to this blog then you can tell I love food. Whether it’s indulging in dinner at Michelin star gems or entertaining my friends with seasonal fare, there are limitless things to talk about when food is at the center of attention. That being said, lately I’ve been highly considering a transition into the food industry. Sorry mom and dad, I don’t want to be a patent lawyer or a cardiologist. I enjoy my job but I don’t think working in a science-focused industry can capture my interest for the long-run. Wouldn’t it be great to work at a job where food occupies my energy? (I realize this decision may ruin my hopes at attaining a 6-pack) Food-related brand marketing seems like  the first logical choice but I really don’t know if that’s the right move and I crave to learn the ins and outs of the profession before taking a leap of faith. Where better to network than a culinary capital of the world?

You see, the beautiful thing about this gleaming city is that opportunities are within reach if you’re diligent and persistent.  Having spread the word of my desire to explore the food industry, Nance’s daughter JaJa mentioned the possibility of connecting with Donatella Arpaia. Wildly successful restaurateur, Food Network personality and frequent judge on Iron Chef America, Donatella is a bonafide food celebrity.  In a New York minute, within a week actually, I was sitting across the table from Donatella, as she asked for my availability as well as an invite to our next dinner party… It’s funny how life works. 

So here’s the deal: I’ll be helping Donatella and her team – supporting on recipe creation, blog upkeep, food photo shoots, and whatever else my schedule allows. Although I’m not going to be reckless and quit my 9 to 5, I want to push myself to take full advantage of this great opportunity. The first assignment? Come up with recipes to be cooked in a woodburning pizza oven for an upcoming shoot. AMAZINGGG, though… I’ve never cooked a pizza, let alone in a wood-burning oven.

Needless to say I had to try recipes before giving my stamp of approval to an Iron Chef America judge. I did my research and essentially these ovens use very high heat so I cranked up our stove to its highest 500 degrees. I then invested in a ceramic woodburning slab from Zabar’s and had Ivanka and Faye over as guinea pigs (NOTE: Betches of NYC there will be many more upcoming impromptu occasions to come over to Chez C&C).

First thing I learned? Pick your dough carefully. I used a recipe that uses all-purpose flour which lends for a chewier crust (Bread flour apparently leads to a thinner, crisper crust). However I think I need a lesson in kneading because I failed to knead enough and the dough was entirely too sticky when I took it out of the fridge. However, I was resilient and added flour liberally to get it to the right consistency. Net-Net I’ll be experimenting with a new dough for the next round. I first served a traditional margherita with San marzano tomato sauce. It was adequate though I must say it suffered from the lack of a perfect crust.

I got the next recipe option from my sister. It’s a beet pesto pizza with kale and goat cheese. I’m all about the beets and all about the kale. Not to mention they’re two ingredients that are so IN VOGUE right now. I altered the recipe by adding orange juice instead lemon juice in the pesto for a sweeter variation and used the same dough used for the margherita pizza. Possibly due to sitting out longer, the dough on this round achieved a better consistency. This pizza checks out for a Donatella recommendation.

Lastly, I made a nectarine crostata. I used Julia Child’s sugar pastry crust, which was probably a miss. In the high heat the crust did not bake altogether evenly. Although all of the flavor was on point and the pie crust resembled a shortbread cookie, I think I have to cut the sugar in the dough for high temperatures. The filling itself was great. I soaked the nectarines in honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, cardamom pods, vanilla, cinnamon, and syrup of poppies. It can’t be a total disaster with ingredients like that.

Clearly I had some woodburning oven snafus but it’s exciting testing recipes, sharing time with friends, and working toward a change. My culinary prowess has always been by the books, stemming from my start in the regimented world of pastry. It’s good for me to try new recipes, fall on my face a little, and learn the “do-nots” for next time.

I realize that I’m about to give up most of my free time, but from my point of view, why not pursue the things you love? Don’t we all strive to do the things we truly enjoy, and at the end of the day call it work? As this is my year of clarity, I think what I’ve decided is that I need to follow a passion, trusting that with that passion as a guiding principle, success is just around the corner. And hey if all else fails, there will be a lot more C&C test kitchen recipes and extravagant dinner parties for all to enjoy.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Hamptons Virgin No More

C&C Hit the road? We did just that and took a trip together to that haven of NYC socialites, the Hamptons.

Nance, a seasoned New Yorker, has her long list of “in-the-know” contacts and so we took off after work on Friday to spend the weekend with an old friend in East Hampton. Me, being a Hamptons virgin, completely relished the experience from start to finish. To preface, I never understood the allure of having a separate house, 2 hours away, that New Yorkers visit every weekend. No thanks. I’ll just invest in a beautiful Parisian apartment overlooking the Seine and skip the Hamptons home.

However my intrigue got the best of me and I took the trek to the far side of Long Island. I must say, my understanding for the distinctly New York City fascination is growing. The Hamptons, in my mind, epitomizes an idyllic suburb. Every house is adorned with quaint cedar-plank paneling with perfectly manicured lawns, often accompanied with perfectly trimmed hydrangea bushes or hedges, that provide an undeniable allure. The aura is somewhat pretentious, as we took an evening stroll by the yachts stationed in the harbor (betches), but it’s clear the streets are lined with New Yorkers who simply want to get away from the bustle. We stayed at a house in the wooded area of East Hampton, so no clubbing on the agenda this time. Though frankly, that was fine by me. The house screamed retreat house, each room separated distinctly from all others, with large windows accentuating the peaceful forest outside.

While at the Hamptons, when not lounging by the pool or taking long naps, I did the cooking for the weekend. I mean I had to remunerate my host in some way, no? Summertime fare included an Arugula salad with tarragon-orange vinaigrette, grilled chorizo and clams atop cauliflower rice, and cumin-spiced ribs with pinapple-avocado salsa. Dessert comprised of LeVain cookies, fresh from the East Hamptons shop, Coconut milk almond-chocolate chip ice cream and a Peach crostata. The food was simple and summery, as I wanted more to relax than to dazzle. I stayed Paleo for most of the weekend, but I’m sorry it’s humanly impossible to resist indulging when you throw LeVain cookies into the mix.

The houses are beautiful. The money seeps from the private driveways. But the feeling of relaxation is ubiquitous. As I thrust myself further into establishing my career path, I get the need for a retreat from NYC as it really can be too much sometimes, and frankly too hot in the summer. For me the Hamptons is a little too waspy for my taste, I’d much rather be at a Villa in Ville-franche-sur-le-mer. However as I work more and more, having a respite to go where relaxation is an established state of mind makes so much more sense now as a New Yorker. What a perfect weekend to get away and be a bougie betch… Oh wait Nance and I are perpetually bougie betches. Such a nice weekend to get away and ponder about what’s in store next for this bougie power couple* 🙂

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Old Friends, New Beginnings

Another week, another Sunday funday dinner party.

Yes tomorrow’s the start of a new workweek, and no, getting shitfaced is not a priority. Though in some ways doesn’t that make a Sunday party a different kind of enjoyable? Low-key and understated can be just the remedy to rewind before opening your EMs on Monday morning and dying inside.

Last week my friend Colton was in town, who I met while studying abroad in Paris.  Rightly so, Ivanka and I showed him all the best that NYC has to offer – Including a C&C Dinner Party with all the betches in attendance.

As it was a spring fete, and summer is on the horizon (THANK GOD), I served light fare. To start Eva, slightly subdued on this particular evening, supplied the appetizers. I hail from the school of thought of thought that host should make all course but on this occasion I obliged Eva’s kind offer and let a betch lend a hand (Hosting a guest is tiring). She made Blue Cheese Apple Crostini… You really can’t go wrong with crostini.

Next I made a few Artichoke & Feta Cheese Tarts served alongside a Frisee Salad with an Almond-Balsamic Vinaigrette. Nothing crazy or too indulgent, but parfait for the occasion.

As I met Colton in, still my favorite, the great city of Paris, I served a cheese course highlighting a mild Brie and a slightly stronger Rechoulon; courtesy of our neighborhood Zabar’s. FYI, cheese courses are the perfect option to serve when you want to take a hiatus to the kitchen in order make a fresh dessert for dinner party guests.

I did just that.  I whipped up a simple yet scrumptious Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin from Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook, spicing it up with some brandy.  The dessert definitely has that wow factor and takes less than 15 to cook before popping into the oven. When served with Mint chocolate chip ice cream with a homemade cinnamon-chocolate drizzle? I can attest – Irresistible.

Now Colton is a firmly-established, born and raised, Midwest boy– where he’ll bear and raise his kiddies. On his last night in Manhattan, we were chatting about his life GP (gameplan), and Nancy simply stated, “Well if you already know what you want in life, don’t make it harder than it has to be”. Just like that Nance drops sage-like wisdom compelling me to mull over my own decision tree.

Colton has always inspired me by how sure he is about what he wants in his life, where he wants to be, and what he stands for (Midwest-pride). Lately I feel as though I’m trying find a foothold, striving to dictate my  life trajectory rather than moving mechanically to the pace of NYC. Isn’t it so easy to sometimes just fall into something and decide it works – Career, Friendships, Love? As the future holds so much change, I can’t help but think that my future is nothing short of complicated. Conflicting ambitions, uncertainty on where I want to root my life next, propounded by the fact that there seems to be a dearth of gays in my life in a city overflowing with gays weigh on my mind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never monotonous but definitely not uncomplicated.

Am I the only one that thinks starting afresh is a better alternative than losing yourself to a life you don’t dictate? Scary to do, but a gamble that can so rejuvenate everything.

For now, good cheese and Bordeaux, the joy of trying new recipes, and time well-invested with friends get me through the pensive bouts. Just  passing thoughts as we continue to live our glittering lives in my shimmering city. To you mon cher Colton!

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A Birthday of Consequence

 

What does one do for a birthday of consequence? Milestones are traditionally celebrated with family and close friends. Although I am frequently the exception to every rule, in this respect, I was no exception. My daughters and the Cub colluded to put together celebrations that were fitting for me and for the special occasion.

The kickoff celebration was a home cooked meal chez JaJa & the Chief Optimist, thoughtfully prepared by my two daughters and attended only by my inner circle. The food choices reflected our cultural influences and spanned Italian, French, and Polish cuisines. Starters were a choice of meat or potato baby pierogis as a reflection of my Polish heritage. An architecturally constructed ratatouille tarte paid homage to my life-long obsession with French, followed inevitably by pasta smothered with chicken marsala in tribute to our longtime take-out favorite from Carmine’s. Our family’s favorite chocolate cake topped with strawberries and a la mode completed the meal with a class of champagne in hand. This was perfection – a reflection of the past as I looked forward to my next decade. No birthday is complete without a surprise and the more unexpected the better. A collaborative video was orchestrated by my daughters as together we viewed many family and friends offer their best wishes and memories of the past. I cried.

Leave it to youth and the Cub to suggest that I not merely celebrate my day, week or month but the entire decade. The celebration beginning my decade continued the next evening when a larger group assembled in the comfy Bubble Lounge in my new fav ‘hood – Tribeca. Conversation flowed with the bubbly until we finally made the short walk to the club M1-5 since no birthday would be complete for me without dancing. All I remember is later that night being put into a taxi with $20 in my hand as a thoughtful friend gave my home address to the driver.

It’s also wonderful to have a friend who decides to spoil me with a birthday lunch at Jean-George. It made me feel like a lady who lunches in style. The food prepared and served with such delicacy, the serene décor in a soft palette, the effortless conversation with my bestie all worked their magic to make me feel bathed in happiness on my special day. Further food delights awaited me later in the week as my daughter and I had an impromptu lunch at Sushi of Gari on West Broadway. Letting go was the order of the day as we choose the omikaze menu and the chef made inspired food choices. We tasted and compared each morsel thoughtfully, patiently and lovingly. I left that meal with the singular experience of feeling complete – my palate was sated. I could not imagine any other food passing my mouth with the exception of perhaps an excellent Bordeaux later that evening.

Is there the expectation that by the time one reaches a birthday of consequence one feels like a person of consequence? As I reflect on my past, I have no sense that I’ve achieved anything of consequence. Rather I feel like I’ve achieved small victories – surviving personal heartbreak, absorbing loss, continuing to put one foot in front of the other daily. As I think about the Cub, I’m sure that he has more lofty goals as reflects his youthful optimism. My mature optimism is trending differently – towards more celebratory lunches with friends, finally getting that leather jacket I’ve coveted, upp-ing my yoga game, loving like I’ve never been hurt. At a particularly low point in my past life, I vividly remember in hip hop class wanting long hair that moves seductively. I’ve got that now and it’s not inconsequential. I feel exceptional.

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