The “I Love Wine” (and food and friends) Valentine’s dinner

This post is a departure from my usual beat of tackling cultural and social goodness with the kids. It is about something else dear to my heart: food and wine. So, if you want to access some tasty (and easy) recipes, read on. If not, you can bail until my next posting.  But really, doesn’t everyone’s life benefit from a little extra flavor?

A bit of background: we started a twice-a-year wine dinner tradition about 2 years ago with another couple, inspired by joint birthday celebrations (my husband’s and friend’s big days are just a day apart) and the Wall Street Journal’s “open that bottle night” tradition.  Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate and invited other friends along to join in. 

This year, we delayed our winter event from December to February and then seized upon the opportunity for a leisurely Valentine’s Day at home rather than take in a rushed restaurant meal. The four of us were joined by another friend and wine guru whose vinos and presence added real sparkle to our menu. (If you need help in selecting the right wines for an upcoming occasion, just stop into Union Square Wines and see what we mean.)  Hopefully the next time around his lovely girlfriend will be able to join us as well. In the meantime, I think he plans to recreate the goat cheese ice cream recipe for her at their place. What a good guy!

So, without further ado, here is the menu. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Hors d’oeuvre:  Brie and Aunt Kathy’s pear chutney on crackers served with Champagne

Appetizer: Grilled scallop “ceviche” with avocado ice cream (from “The Ultimate Ice Cream Book.”) Served with Albarino (Cepas Vellas Do Ferreiro 2007).

Salad:  Mache and Watercress with roasted butternut squash, pistachios and ricotta salata, in a shalot vinaigrette made with pistachio oil. Served with Albarino (Cepas Vellas Do Ferreiro 2007).

Pasta Course:  Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom Sauce served with Super Tuscan (2 different of which one was Oreno 2004)

Main Course: Venison Daube with Coriander and Cumin and toasted sweet corn pudding served with Brunello.

Dessert: Goat cheese ice cream with spicy fig sauce (2 components from a more complex Charlie Trotter recipe). I used dried figs when I couldn’t find fresh; I just heard they have some in stock at Stew Leonard’s though. Served with Zinfandel (Martinelli “Giuseppe & Luisa” 2006)

Grand Finale: Individual chocolate souffles with blood orange sorbet.  Served with Zinfandel and a Texas port!

OK, I know not to have the detailed wine listings is sacrilege to some, but this recording is the best I can muster up after consuming that much alcohol and food. Besides, one of the points of the dinner is to open up the great bottles you’ve been saving for a special occasion so go ahead and see what you have in stock. Bon appetit!


February 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

Who needs a children’s museum when you have the MOMA?

MOMA Kids Audio Tour

Listening to the MOMA Kids Audio Tour

Mmm, wintertime in the city. Snow frosts the sidewalks, gourmet shops pour rich cocoa, and kids run wild in small apartments…where did I put the basement again? Oh yeah, our “basement playroom” is actually the Museum of Natural History. But every now and then — and especially by February — I need to get out of the neighborhood and into the great art museums the city has to offer. 

Recently, I planned a date with my 7-year-old son for the MOMA. He had yet another random day off from school and I cleared my schedule for a much-needed art fix. We’d been to the MOMA before but for some reason had never tried the  audio tours, so our plan for this trip was to try the Kids Audio tour.

We arrived in midtown a bit before the museum opened so we took time to wander through the fabulous MOMA store. The clever housewares and toys make browsing fun for visitors of any age. I ended up buying my son  a small car that, when pushed, brushes up eraser shrapnel, crumbs and other light debris.  Why? Just because.

We headed into the museum and were happy to learn the audio tours are free with admission. Cool. You can pick them up on first and sixth floors.  I selected the Kids Audio tour too so we could go on the same “tour.” As it turns out, because the audio guide is not a tour per se — it doesn’t send you around in a particular order, but rather allows you to hear about each work which displays the Kids Audio symbol whenever you want in whatever order you want — I later realized I could have chosen an adult Audio program. (The Kids Audio program sticks to the Painting Galleries and many of the works on those two floors are also supported by adult audio guides.)  No matter, though, because it was  fun for us to listen to the same thing and then discuss what we heard.

My son liked that the audio guide player displayed pictures of the artwork.  He mentioned he likes it better when an audio tour “says a “go here, then go there like the one at the Statue of Liberty.”  But, that clearly was a minor complaint because he insisted we view every piece of artwork shown on the Kids Audio guide map. He kept us soaking up culture for a whole two-and-a-half hours. Whew.

Since that trip was such a hit, we are now talking about hitting the Design: USA at Cooper Hewitt museum. I like to visit Cooper Hewitt in the summer because they have great activities in their (my?) grassy backyard but Design:USA’s incorporation of on-site iTouches loaded up with an interactive tour make it our new winter destination.

As a grande finale, I think we should visit the Tino Sehgal exhibit in the rotunda of the Guggenheim. Apparently this installation involves interacting with trained participants, some of whom are kids. I think it could be a healthy reminder that the best interactive experiences don’t require electronic devices.

February 4, 2010 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

Chicago nabe great for kids

Blue Horse welcomes Andersonville visitors

And here I digress…I want to go a bit off-topic today and talk about the great time my 4-year-old daughter and I had visiting the Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago. I’ve been there several times before with my son and, if you live in or are visiting the Chicago area, I recommend spending half a day in this family-friendly neighborhood.  

My daughter was totally enamored with the small but well-done Swedish Children’s Immigration Museum. Consisting of a model “olden days” Swedish home, a ship, and a farm in America, children are encouraged to live life in the old country and then immigrate to America (where they learn, life is still full of chores).  My daughter loved “sailing” to America — I think the idea of walking through a pretend boat to instantly arrive at a new destination was particularly appealing after enduring real-world travel from LGA to O’Hare. I love the fact that on a Friday afternoon, we were one of three (!) families visiting.  Just try to find that scenario at the fantastic but frantic Chicago Children’s Museum.

After an hour of playtime at the museum, we headed to the fantastic Women & Children First bookstore where my daughter enjoyed the funny photos in Cat and I picked up the first book in the Sisters Grimm series, recommended by the store staff, for my son back home. Next, it was onto Geroge’s for an early dinner and let’s face it, the real reason for stopping in, dessert. I am a total ice cream addict and trust me, this place alone is worth a trip to Andersonville. My sister and I devoured our sundaes, but nothing beat watching my daughter morph into a picture of true bliss upon meeting a cone of Blue Moon topped with rainbow sprinkles. When I tell you that the bright blue ice cream is “fruit loops”-flavored then you’ll understand when I say they have a flavor for everyone at George’s

On Saturday, we only had time to grab a quick bit before heading to see “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” by the Emerald City Children’s Theatre at the Apollo Theatre. It wasn’t in Andersonville, but worth the trip as my daughter loved the show and, thanks to her aunt who works there, she is now planning to attend one of their amazing summer camp weeks this June.

On Sunday, my little traveller was a bit under the weather so we laid low. However, if she had been up for it, we would have revisited our favorite Swedish pancake spot Svea, or the better known and bigger (but not necessarily bette) Ann Sather. Then we would have strolled along N. Clark where she would have enjoyed a toy store and kids’ clothing store stops while I ogled the furniture and housewares in the home shops that seem to be opening on the street daily. Oh well, if we didn’t get to everything on our list, that’s ok because my daughter is already planning our next trip back to Chicago!

February 1, 2010 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

Try a Read-a-thon to raise funds for Haiti

Ok, so my son did in fact clean our two bathrooms today in order to earn some money to donate to the relief effort in Haiti. Now, he plans to hit the books.  That’s because the whole second grade at my son’s school is participating in a read-a-thon this month to raise money for Haiti.  I love this idea and the way it is being executed. This is an idea any class,grade, school or family can easily implement. Here are some excerpts from the letter the teachers sent home:

– The children have had questions about the earthquake and the response to it, and many have expressed real empathy as they hear about the suffering.  We have decided to create a way for the second graders to take action and really pitch in to help out with the relief efforts.

–  Today we have introduced your children to an exciting project that we’re calling the “Second Grade Read-A-Thon!”  The concept is simple.  The children will ask for sponsors to support them as they log extra reading hours over the next few weekends. They have been given a recording sheet and a copy of the instructions and guidelines.   

– We’ve put a limit of 4 on the number of sponsors and would ask that you please stick to the $2.00/15 minutes formula.  We don’t want this to become a competition in any way.  We want it to be a communal project where everyone works together.  The amount of money raised is really secondary to the primary goal of having our children actively involved.

Meanwhile, I want to give a special shout out to Macy and Taylor Miller who hosted a Treat Stand in front of their apartment building today; they raised more than $200 to send down to Haiti! Nice work girls!

January 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Helping Haiti with Handhelds and Humble Pie

It is impossible for the horrible situation in Haiti to stay out of my thoughts for long.  Another earthquake hit Wednesday further stressing a difficult situation.  The news continues to take a personal turn as one of the longtime and wonderful staff members in our building is from Haiti.  After days of no communication after the original quake, this doorman learned his immediate family was unharmed, but that his aunt and her six children all perished; they were in their first-floor apartment in a typical cement apartment building. No word yet about further impact from the most recent quake.

We want to help our friend’s family but we will have to wait for that.  There is no way to do so until the situation stabilizes and begins rebuilding. For now, our family is giving to the Red Cross to help the country as a whole. And with digital media making it easier than ever to give, the overwhelming number of donations is making the once-trite statement of “any amount counts” an impressive reality. As of Sunday, an incredible $22 million, or 20% of the total $103 million pledged to Red Cross, was via text-messaging. (Send a text to 90999 to make a $10 donation, which will be charged to your cellphone bill.)

Beyond texting donations, mobile devices and social media have been used to great impact. They’ve been used to share real-time pictures of what is happening on the ground, to try to help families living outside Haiti identify survivors, and to spread the word about how doctors can get to Haiti, and provide info on local fundraising events.

And what about our kids? While teens are plugged into the digital world, younger kids also want to take action. My son’s grammar school is running an old-fashioned Bake Sale this Friday to raise money for Haiti. When I told my son, he decided he wants to donate some of his piggy bank contents to the cause. When he pulled out the cash, he wa disappointed by the amount he’d be able to give so he asked me if he could do some jobs around the house to earn more.  I gave him a big hug and asked,”How did you get to be so sweet?” And just in case I was harboring some sense of credit due to me, he immediately answered,”What do you mean? I’ve always been this way!”  Oh, right. I guess for the Bake Sale I should bring the humble pie.

January 20, 2010 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

MLK Day of Service provides worthwhile family fun

I love that our pre-school Claremont sent out a note reminding everyone that Monday, January 18, 2010, will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.  The note included information about events you can participate in with your children here on the West Side of Manhattan. (Details included below.)  No matter where you live the in US, you can find local events by visiting

Three NYC events are listed below. My kids and I have participated in the Children for Children and JCC events in the past. Both are popular so I recommend getting there early. Last year, the JCC was mobbed but it looks like they are requesting registration this time around which will probably help them plan for all those motivated volunteer families living on the Upper West Side. I am not familiar with the third event listed but it may have a smaller scale (harder to be larger than the other events) and lists some really nice hands-on arts project.  Feel free to comment with additional event suggestions or let me know how your experience was after the fact.  Enjoy!

Children for Children  “Grow Involved”

When: Monday 1/18, 10am-2pm

Where: Martin Luther King High School, at 122 Amsterdam Ave @ 65th St. and, PS 57, at 176 E. 115th St between Lex & 3rd Ave. 

This event is free and open to the public and engages youth volunteers in hands-on service projects to benefit the community and those in need.  The Dream World features age-appropriate activities for the 5 and under group. For more information, go to

JCC Manhattan

Please join JCC staff, members, and neighbors by participating in organized community service activities in and outside of our building as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action.  Breakfast will be served.  To register, please contact Judy Gross at 646.505.4450 or

 Congregation Ansche Chesed Day of Social Action in honor of the MLK Jr. National Day of Service

When: Sunday 1/17, 10am-12pm

Where: Ansche Chesed on 100th St. between Broadway and West End

Please join our community as people of all ages engage in projects that address hunger, homelessness, poverty, the crisis in Darfur, the environment, human rights and other issues. Children’s programs include visit with JNF’s Blue Box Bob, making get well cards for pediatric patients, library bookmark-making, placemats for a senior center, cards for homeless shelter guests. For more information, contact Claremont mom Lynne Bermont at

January 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Thank you to all who got engaged Nov 14!

I had a great time at TUTA’s season kick-off at The Spot in Chicago. Between the event and online donations, we helped TUTA Theatre raise more than $800. This was a great success for the first-time casual barnight event. Attendees at the event included Company and Board members, old friends and a bunch of people new to TUTA. You can check out the fun in pics from the event. I’m sure the party seems like a long time ago to the cast and crew members in the upcoming production of  The Wedding as this wedding requires rehearsals nightly — gift certificates make a great holiday gift. Performances will run  January 14-Feb 14.

December 2, 2009 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

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