The burden of expectations

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Lately I’ve been bogged down by expectations. I find that those things that I eagerly anticipate, increasingly pale in comparison to what I envision them to be.

Isn’t it funny how often when you crave something so much and have it within grasp, you realize it’s not what you wanted to begin with? How do you ward against the inevitable disappointment and return to reality after a self-prophesied moment of consequence passes you by?

As Nance and I pow-wowed on the couch the other day, we talked about the issue of expectations and reminisced over our own perfect living situation. When I moved in, we knew nothing about the other and had no expectations of what life could be like together. I saw it as a transitory space to live when I first moved to NYC and Nance saw it as a trial run for a tenant in her long-established home. However that is the beauty of our Manhattan story. As facets of our lives became open to each other, over time we developed a beautiful coexistence that neither of us could ever have expected.

So what am I trying to say? Expectations can make you crazy and also disappointed. Try loosening up on those un-comprisable goals and live a little more recklessly. It’s not an idealogy that I’ve ever called my own but there is something to be said of There’s beauty in the uncertainty. Maybe that job is not everything you ever aspired to achieve or maybe the job you thought as temporary fits exactly what you need right now. Maybe the aspirations you set for a man are shattered when you finally get to know your own Adonis and realize he’s nothing like what you built up in your head.

I’ll say as an overachiever I don’t know if I’ll ever shake the mentality of “All I have to do is carryout plan XYZ and I’ll attain whatever (or whomever) I want”. But I’ve learned, sometimes by falling flat on my face, that life is fluid and a plan is only as good as its allotted flexibility.

Expectations are necessary. They provide something to look forward to and something to devote meaningful energy toward. However the point is that while working toward those expectations don’t be alarmed if along the way you discover a realization more impactful than what you originally thought you couldn’t live without.

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The Opportunity of Unbalance

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Lately I feel rather off balance. The winds of change have swept into my life along with the crisp Autumn breeze. Never more before have I felt the endless rhythm of life propel me forward, giving me less and less time to stop and absorb the changes.

Yet despite a slight sense of unease, I have often felt that unbalance spurs you to make a change for the better. Often stability can go hand in hand with complacency. It’s so easy to get used to the status quo (your social circle, your job, your day-to-day routine, your inadequate boyfriend… theoretical in my case) that your personal development becomes stagnant. However, I firmly believe that each person should work to constantly evolve, reinvent, and better themselves. At the end only you limit the person you will be 2/5/10 years from now.

I try to channel my current unbalance into meeting new people, being open, and letting loose. I can be an icy betch, but I’m opening myself up to new experiences. A party that could mean foodie contacts on a Sunday night, why the hell not? Why not go out with someone you don’t really know very well? Sure, I’ll go to a midnight screening of Psycho! 

You don’t have to tell me that we all need a routine, I’m the perpetuate planner. But when routine makes you less-resilient and fails to allow for  growth, it’s time to a consider taking steps out of your comfort zone. Ask yourself am I working to be a better version of myself? If the answer is no, work toward that goal – or at least that’s my reco.

What I react to now is that change is pulling me in one direction but pulling others around me in possibly another. It’s interesting how you can grow together with someone for so long and then all of sudden change brings you farther apart as you focus on different priorities.

Can you grow apart but still foster the same, deep relationship? I think yes but it takes conscious effort from both parties and a foresight to realize that changes to the dynamic of a relationship are an inevitable part of life. All you can do is try your best to adapt yourself to be better and see where the pieces fall.

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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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Confessions of an Ice Queen

1501597_968241743822_621430820_oI’m a self-proclaimed ice queen. They say the best way to get help is to admit that you have a problem, though I’m still on the fence on whether or not I have a problem.

What does “ice queen” mean? Well for one, I’m inaccessible. Yes I wear my sunglasses around frequently on the subway, have resting bitchface, and often come off as bougie and aloof. But hey I’m a gay New Yorker….

More fundamentally, I find it hard to fall for anyone and in turn it’s hard for anyone to readily read that I’m into them. When I let loose it’s with restraint. I don’t have a stick up my ass but I do have an inability to let all inhibitions go in order to connect with other people. Also sorry gays, I don’t want to go on Grindr and get Herpes. Seems like I’m in just the city to warm me up, no? WRONG. My iciness is perpetuated here.

Sometimes I think am I doing what trolls do, telling myself that I’m “focused on my career” because I’m simply not that desirable? But then I always think nahhhhhhh.

What would be worse: being 30, married, and unaccomplished, OR being 30, wildly successful in a dream career, and ready to meet someone for the long-run? I’d always have to choose option 2.

I’ve managed to avoid heartbreak from my previous relationships but to the same vein, I’ve never been in love. Yes I’m guarded – That’s not a surprise. Dear Cameron, who loves nothing but love, says that I can’t comment on things I don’t know about, but another friend once told me I’m the perfect person to comment on the affairs of the heart. Why? I’m removed, I think rationally, almost clinically, and I don’t let feelings get in the way. Who knows which perspective is correct? Though one thing I do know for sure: I will never again chase after someone I have to convince to like me.

Get ready for narcissism that I see as self-assurance: I am a catch. No one needs to validate that. It’s really a mentality I tell my friends that they should all embody. I don’t know if you personally are a catch but if you don’t believe that you are, then you are lost. If you don’t prize me then keep walking – at the end of the day the only constant is yourself. Assess your merits and find someone who thinks those shining qualities make for the ideal partner. Is it so much to ask to find someone who will court me, be enamored by my brilliance, and keep me interested? Maybe that last point is currently the biggest hurdle – Because hey, my iciness comes with high standards.

Getting it in more helped. Moving to a new job where gays abound is finally breaking my icy exterior. I do feel like I’m moving in a direction where I’m improving, career-wise and simply in regards to myself. Is the ice thawing? I can’t really say (probably not) but for the time being I’m embracing me while still thinking about ways to change for the better. I’ll try to work toward a softer countenance but frankly I think I’d rather continue to build on myself, building accolades and making myself a better catch for the man I envision finding down the road. I’m not one to wait but I guess at this point in my life I have the flexibility to do so.

I’m a self-proclaimed ice queen. Ice has made strong and I for one would rather be made of ice than silly betch tendencies. Is it something I need to fix? Who the hell knows, but for now it suits me just fine.

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Pushing the Culinary Envelope: Taste Talks BK

As an amateur chef and someone who simply gets bored easily, I’m an adventurous eater. You’ll always find me ordering the most avant-garde option on the menu. Why would I order something that I can whip up myself, with ingredients readily available at the local Food Emporium? I say you only live once, try it all.

So when I was invited to the OpenTable-sponsored, Taste Talks in Williamsburg, I was delighted that everything on the menu of the Sunday barbecue proved to be out of the box. OpenTable really is too good to me and armed with my pass as a Food Enthusiast for the entire weekend. Rightly so, I fully indulged in a weekend of food in my self-proclaimed BK getaway.

Open Table New York Restaurant Reviews

Set against the East River right off of Wythe Ave, home of the wildly popular Smorgasbord, Taste Talks ended in the  All Star BBQ event. With high-profile chefs, from some of the hippest spots in NYC, the ALL Star BBQ proved to be the highlight of my weekend with innovative food brimming with foodies and chefs all around. In perfect BK style, the vibe was not stuffy by any means despite the high profile food. Rather the atmosphere evoked more of a trendy block party. Intrigued by the menu? Look no further:

  • Mission Chinese Special – Danny Bowien, Jamie Bissonnette, and Inaki Aizpitarte
  • Pighead Salad – David Santos and Jonathan Wu
  • Grilled Blue Whale Oyster – Matt Rudofker
  • Grilled Duck Hearts – Ivan Orkin
  • Smoked Char Sui Long Island Eel – Will Horowitz
  • Charged Lamb Tongue and Deep-fried Anchovy – Nate Smith and Lee Tiernan
  • Veggie Burgers – Brooks Headley
  • Grilled Chicken Kebab – Max Sussman and Eli Sussman
  • Porchetta “Kra Prow” Tigelle – Action Bronson and Michael White
  • Boar Collar Meat – Andy Ricker
  • Barbecue Duck – Rob Newton and Oliver Strand
  • Texas Hot Gut Sausage – Daniel Delaney
  • Grilled Cinnamon Babka – Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Federman

Calm down betches. Hearts, tongues and whatever the hell gut sausage is… may sound unappetizing. But I can assure you everything I tried (and I tried it all) was flavorable and on point. As I’ve mentioned, relating to all aspects of my life, I get bored extremely easily so food that can excite goes far in my book.

So the winners in my opinion? I have to give it up to the Grilled Duck Hearts. They were juicy and well seasoned, so reminiscent of anticuchos from Peru; cuter  though since they were smaller and trop mignonne. Next I’d have to say the Grilled Blue Whale Oysters scored top marks. While there was the option for traditional oysters, shucked right in front you, the grilled blue whale oysters by Matt Rudofker took the oyster throw-down.  The idea of grilling oysters was new to me, only accentuated with an innovative garnish that included rehydrated golden raisins and fresh breadcrumbs.

Lastly I think the Pighead Salad took it to another level. As foodies may know, Pighead is actually becoming quite the commodity on menus across the country. And let’s be real, everything slow cooked on a pig is bound to be good. This offering also showcased the international flare present at the event with many of the dishes evoking the preparations of other cultures (i.e. Eel, Arepas, etc.). Everything else on the menu was equally as interesting and I left completely over-satiated.

I must say that BK seems to be a bastion for out-of-the-box food, giving me added munition to run away to BK and find my hipster boyfriend. Though we’ve already gone through this and this Manhattanite is not meant to be in BK; le sigh. But I digress. On account of food, life is too short, order the steak Tartare, try the pickled beef tongue, pick the boudin noire. You may never want to order it again, but at least you can say you tried it.

See more reviews at NYC Restaurants.

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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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Have time for a Weekday Lunch? : The Little Owl

Weekday lunches. For most New Yorkers the idea of taking a long lunch at a great restaurant is the thing of dreams. For us career-driven power betches, who has time to languidly spend time dining in the middle of week… let alone have time to leave the office for lunch (Seamless please)? I admit that may be construed as depressing.

However, in honor of my last summer Friday I decided to say F-it and told my boss I would be leaving promptly at 1:45 (albeit for “an appointment”). You see there is something invariably different between a NYC weekday lunch and an NYC weekend lunch. Brunch rules all on the weekends, which means I’m usually going to go for that French toast or Eggs Benedict. However weekday lunches offer completely different menus with a markedly unique ambiance from dinner.

As I am a West Village-junkie I met Faye for lunch at the Little Owl. I’ve also been feeling slightly nostalgic with it being the FRIENDS 20 year anniversary (AM I that old?) that I wanted to dine at the purported spot of Central Perk. Often extremely hard to snag a reservation here on any night of the week, I easily booked a late afternoon lunch a week in advance. The resto screams West Village charm, with an intimate ambiance. The middle tables are somewhat cramped and it’s surely not the place for a large group, but sit by a window for a tête-a-tête and you’re set.

The food at the Little Owl was simple and nothing extravagant. But the clean flavors and lite fare fit perfectly for an afternoon lunch. I had the Seasonal Melon Carpaccio with prosciutto, figs, arugula and robiola fettunta. Perfectly seasonal, not complicated, but unique and well-executed. Faye had the Fried Chicken with Watermelon Salad. Surprisingly not oily or two heavy for being fried. To finish we split the Beignets with Raspberry-Nutella Dipping Sauce. I do not need to say more.

Although I was not blown away by the food in any capacity, the Little Owl is a perfect place for a lunch. The large windows look out onto the picturesque tree-lined street as the intoxicating vibe of the WV spills into the restaurant, making you feel like you’ve escaped NYC. The menu is seasonal and I can simply describe the fare, ambiance, and overall feel as cute. It’s really a perfect date spot. Although the summer is now gone, and the hope for leaving the office for a long lunch have passed, be bold and take an hour to soak in the nuances of that forgotten NYC weekday meal.

The Little Owl – 90 Bedford Street – 212.741.4695

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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: Summer’s Over When I Say it is

Why does everyone languish at the passing of Labor Day? As far as I’m concerned, one of the perks of the working world is that summer lasts until September 21st. I’m not starting a new semester, so why adhere to an outdated concept for the end of the season? Not to mention that we’ve had the hottest weather of the year this passed week, might I remind you, POST-labor day.

Alas, the warm weather proved for a perfect occasion for another C&C-hosted soiree on the roof of our building. Overlooking the Hudson with beautiful views of Uptown and Downtown Manhattan, the setting is an effortless backdrop for a bougie evening with friends. Though this time I wanted to mix it up, lower the pretentious factor, and give guests the opportunity to mingle and enjoy a beautiful NYC evening.

Current goal for my personal life? Meet as many new people as I can in my sparkling city. Nance and I have developed a theory that with fewer commitments, less restriction, and overall fewer concerns, youth breeds the willingness to connect (NOTE: This rationale does NOT apply to Nance but then again she’s an “against-the-grain” legend). Albeit, in NYC it’s hard to connect to anyone. We’re all so busy with our jobs, social lives, and personal vanity that it’s hard for meaningful connections to stick (romantic, business or otherwise). Though what I’ve discovered is that you need to be persistent, follow-up and be patient. Easiest tactic? Meet others through mutual friends.

That gave me the idea to have a quasi-plus one party. All of the betches of the blog had to bring someone who had never graced a C&C party before. BFs or fuck buddies don’t fit the bill, but guy friends ideal since my short list for male party goers is rather…short. With a spacious roof in play,  they could invite more than one person, but someone new who  would mingle well and enjoy the vibe (It’s not a hard sell). On top of that, I invited friends from work, those I haven’t seen in some time, and friends of friends, all the while hammering home the casual feel.

As I am the perpetuate host I needed to somewhat flex my culinary chops even if it was a purported low-key evening. I served lite finger foods such as my Moroccan-spiced lamb meatballs (Paleo friendly) and Zuchini Fritters. Nance added the contribution of her her tried-and-true Rum Bundt Cake. However it was in the drink category where I wanted to impress serving a Geoffrey Zacharian-inspired Watermelon-Basil Rum Punch, Ginger Shandies, and Cactus Pear Martinis provided by Éva – not to mention the cavalcade of drink selections provided by my generous friends.

Overall it was a perfect evening. The turnout was great. As I looked around I saw college friends mingling with work friends mingling with Nance. The interactions seemed effortless and the vibe? Somewhere between  subtly refined, recklessly youthful, but oh so hedonistically Manhattan. I mean I should have used more hairspray for a somewhat breezy rooftop and maybe I had too many Patron & Fireball shots, but if those are my biggest problems, I think we’re good.

It’s so easy to get stuck in your circle and forget that we live in a metropolis where your network is however big you decide it to be. I have always enjoyed bringing friends together as I find playing host both rewarding and invigorating. The chance to forge new meaningful connections and see what they can become with time, proves to be an exciting prospect. I’m not one to approach strangers at a bar or in a club (Ummm you’re free to dazzle me with something interesting) but as I try to work on that issue, it’s good to simply know that about myself. That being said, a dinner party with mutual friends and friends of those friends is a perfect outlet.

I think the most exclusive rooftop off of West End Ave may be closed for the year – C’est triste! Though as we hurtle into more-intimate dinner party season, Nance and I may need to invest in an event space to accommodate the growing list of dinner party guests – Exactly my intent for the evening.

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Nouveau Korean: Hanjan

 

Do you need another reason to love NYC? Any cuisine you’re craving, you can find it in this cosmopolitan metropolis. For me, I get bored of most things in life and subscribe to a logic of why revisit a restaurant in NYC when there are so many others to try. Also having zeal to experience new cuisines and cultures, I love that something exotic is often just a block-a-way… in every direction.

On that note, I’m all about the Nouveau Korean trend, brought to life by Chef Hooni Kim. Now I’ve had Korean food in Koreatown before, but Kim’s take on Korean is truly inspired. I first tried Danji with Korean socialite herself, Faye, and the excellent dining experience brought me to its sister restaurant, Hanjan. To send-off the always-illustrious Eva before she flew to Ecuador (before coming back shortly after… this betch), we decided to frequent flat-iron for a out of character, low-key night for Eva, Naisha and I.

Hanjan was named one of the best new restaurants of 2013, and I must say I agree with the praise. Both Danji and Hanjan serve Korean food transformed in a modern way, offered tapas style. I’ve asserted I’m a fan of small plates and the Korean twist just adds to the flair. I enjoyed the ambiance of Hanjan more than the smaller Danji. Although both are rather intimate restaurants, there’s slightly more breathing room in Hanjan. Plus you can make reservations, which is always a plus in my books. The setting is laid-back and perfect for a late dinner or first date.

For dinner we started with the Scallion Pancake with Local Squid served with a soy dipping sauce. Fried, unique and rather delicious. Next up was the Fluke Sashimi Salad, simple and fresh as Fluke seems to be all the rage in restaurants these days. I always like to try the most interesting thing on the menu so logically so we ordered the Braised Pig Trotters with Squid Fermented Kimchi. The theory is correct: Anything braised is delicious… even when eating Pig feet. The Kimchi & Beef Brisket Fried Rice with Egg were just as those list of ingredients suggest: decadent, rich and oh so satisfying.

But let me stop and mention the Soji. Ummmm I’ve been missing out but I am a Soji virgin no more! We had the “50” SeJu, a house special blend of strong Jinro “24” and sweeter Bek SeJu’. I can describe it as a heightened sake, more floral and rather lovely. And at a bargain price! $20 for a relatively large bottle? Ok Korea, I see you.

For the record its Michelin-star rated sister restaurant Danji edges Hanjan out. I think Danji’s menu has a bit more intrigue and variety. I must say Danji’s Poached Sablefish with Spicy Daikon was one of the best-prepared fish I’ve had in New York and you can’t go wrong with those famous Pork Belly Sliders.

Alas with either restaurant you’re really in for a unique dining experience. From the interesting ingredients to the tapas style menu, if you’ve never tried Korean and are feeling adventurous, new fare try Kim’s NYC gems.

Hanjan – 36 W 26th Street –  212-206-7226

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