Market Bag Challenge: Swiss Chard

I am slowly but surely making progress on my Market Bag Challenge. So far, I have used some of the onions, zucchini, romaine lettuce and swiss chard. I am feeling healthy and accomplished. It did definitely occur to me, though, that this would be a lot easier to do if I had a family to cook for. Yes, I have used a little bit of all of those veggies, but I haven’t used the entire amount that I have. And even still, I have leftovers of all the recipes I’ve made. So I’m going to have to get creative…

Surprisingly, my favorite thing that I’ve made with my Market Bag veggies has been this crustless quiche that I mentioned wanting to try. It seems I am a fan of swiss chard! Well…at least when it’s mixed with eggs, cream and cheese.

This is one dish I haven’t minded having a lot of. As has been previously documented here, I’m obsessed with breakfast. And I don’t always have time in the mornings to cook something or even throw something together quickly (well who am I kidding I would obviously choose being late for work over not even being able to throw something together quickly, but you know). I made this last Thursday night and just heated up a slice for breakfast the past couple of work-mornings. It gets my day off to a rather fancy start.

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Crustless Quiche

1 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 sweet onion, chopped (another market bag item!)

1/2 bunch swiss chard, ends removed and chopped roughly (leaving stems in tact)

2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 eggs

1 cup light cream

salt and pepper


 

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and the chard along with some salt and pepper.

Swiss chard is pretty

Swiss chard is pretty

The original recipe says to make sure not to overcook the chard. I wasn’t really sure what kind of texture to aim for, so I went with this:

Not overcooked?

Not overcooked?

I think, actually, this ended up being perfect! I mean, I guess I wouldn’t really know what overcooked swiss chard tastes like, but this held up pretty well in the quiche without being crunchy or bitter, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for this one! Once you’ve gotten to this point, you can set aside the onion and chard for a minute to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream and cheese. It’s worth noting that I might mess around with this aspect of the recipe if I make this again. Trust me, the final quiche is AMAZING, but it’s somewhat hard to justify the amount of fat in it if it’s just going to be my go-to breakfast before work. If I was entertaining, I would make the quiche just as the recipe says. But again, for day-to-day life, it’s just a tiny bit decadent.

Lots and lots of cheese

Lots and lots of cheese

I always know I'm doing something right by Sasha's proximity to the food...

I always know I’m doing something right by Sasha’s proximity to the food…

Once you’ve mixed the eggs, cream and cheese, add in the chard and onions. Stir to combine it all and make sure all the veggies are evenly distributed. Pour into a greased pie dish.

About to get good!

About to get good!

After that, all that’s left to do is bake it! The original recipe says between 35-45 minutes. I left mine in for 40 and it turned out exactly right!

Voila!

Voila!

Like I said, I actually think this quiche would be a really great thing to serve at a brunch or luncheon if you are the kind of fancy person who does things like that. It is super simple to make and I think it would really be a crowd pleaser – even though the headline ingredient is swiss chard. I can only hope all my Market Bag Challenge recipes will turn out this good!

North High Brewing Company

I’ve always sort of felt like Fathers’ Day is an under-celebrated holiday. By me, yes, but also just by society at large. In elementary school, I remember thinking that dads kind of got the raw end of the deal because Fathers’ Day was over the summer, so dads didn’t get any of the super awesome school crafts that we made for Mothers’ Day. Little did I know that dads were, collectively, probably like, “Thank GOD my untalented kid didn’t make me a dumb craft that I have to take to my office and pretend to like forever!” But in my 10-year-old mind, the disparity seemed unjust.

And yet it wasn’t until 2014 that I finally decided to do something about it.

This year for Fathers’ Day, I decided that my mom, my brother and I should take my dad to a place in Columbus called North High Brewing Company. I had actually never been before, but I had heard of it. I thought it was just like one of the many new microbreweries that are popping up around here, but last fall, one of my friends told me that you can actually brew your own beer there, too, which seemed like a really fun thing to do. My dad (one of my two blog readers – though now that this has switched to more of a food blog, who knows…) is getting very into craft beer. So Fathers’ Day seemed like a good occasion to try brewing our own!

The crew minus Mom

The crew minus Mom

We had a reservation to brew our batch at like 11:30 A.M. on Fathers’ Day, which was somewhat of a weird time to be in a bar. We were basically the only people there when we first arrived and we weren’t quite sure where to go. Pretty soon, though, a bartender materialized and gave us a list of all of the beers we could choose from to make. My mom and dad ended up deciding that we should do a more neutral, easy-drinking beer. This was definitely the right decision because you end up with about 144 beers at the end of this process, so you definitely want a lot of people to enjoy drinking whatever you brew.

Once we settled on the type of beer we wanted to make, the guy (hereinafter referred to as the “Brewmaster”) came back and helped us get set up at a station. The stations were surprisingly uncomplicated. I’m not sure why, but I always imagined brewing beer to be this incredibly complex and scientific process. In reality, our station took up about 10 square feet and was really nothing more than an industrial size cauldron (or kettle, for all of you non-sorcerers out there), a table and a small chemistry class-esque scale.

Then the brewing began! First, we measured out the grain we needed. Then, we ground the grain. Then, we put the ground grain into a “teabag” as the Brewmaster called it. From there, we steeped the ground grain in a cauldron of water, as demonstrated below:

Steeping the beer in the cauldron

Steeping the grain in the cauldron

After the grained had steeped, we put in some caramel (sugar). All kidding aside, this may have been the most difficult part of the whole process. The caramel is (obviously?) really thick, so you have to have one person holding the container, and one person scraping with a giant spatula to make sure that it all gets in the cauldron. Not complicated, by any means, but there was definitely some finagling involved..

caramel

After that, all that’s left is adding the hops. This has to be done in intervals. So we measured out the amounts that we needed to put in at various points in time and then we waited.

This was science-y

This was science-y

At this point, I want to give a shoutout to the Brewmaster. When I called to schedule a reservation, I was told that the beer brewing process would take anywhere from two-and-a-half to three hours, but that we would be able to order food, have drinks, etc. while brewing so the time would fly by. With this in mind, we planned to eat lunch at North High while we brewed beer rather than eating somewhere either before or after.

Waiting to add the hops seemed like the perfect time to order food since there is pretty much nothing else to do during this time. But unfortunately, the Brewmaster told us that the bartender had not showed up that morning so there was really no way that we would be able to order anything (apparently the “bartender” also serves as short-order cook (and I’m actually not being sarcastic)).

The Brewmaster was clearly stretched pretty thin at this point, as a couple of people the night before had apparently drunkenly made reservations to brew beer at the same time as us and the bartender had not added them to the reservation list. Not to mention, more and more people were coming to the bar to watch the World Cup. And the Brewmaster was the only person working. So we understood why it wasn’t possible to order food. But it was still kind of annoying.

Eventually, though, the Brewmaster told us that he didn’t know when the bartender was actually going to make it in, so he was going to turn on the panini press for us and let us order food. I felt so bad for him, but it was also incredibly impressive. He was going from beer-brewing station to beer-brewing station, acting as the bartender out front and apparently also cooking paninis. Like whoa. That guy deserves a raise. The paninis were actually not bad, too. I mean, I wouldn’t suggest going to North High Brewing Company for like a date or anything since literally the only menu item is a panini. But you know, for a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t bad!

So we ate our paninis and chips, added the hops as directed over a period of an hour, and then, voila, we were finished!

Dad breaking the No. 1 rule of chemistry class. #WAFT

Dad breaking the No. 1 rule of chemistry class. #WAFT

Once you’re finished brewing the beer, you basically just leave. It’s a little bit anti-climactic. They take the beer you’ve brewed and…do something with it. Then, in about two weeks or so, once the beer has fermented, you come back and bottle it, which I will discuss in a separate post.

Overall, I thought it was a good way to spend Fathers’ Day. We learned that my brother is weirdly knowledgeable about conversion ratios and that you can identify a hipster bar by whether they’re only showing the early rounds of the World Cup (non USA game) on the TVs even though the final round of the Masters is also on.

Market Bag Challenge

There is a company in Columbus called Great River Farms that delivers fresh and local produce to companies around the city every week. I had never heard about it, but one day when I was waiting in line to buy coffee in the cafeteria at work, I happened to notice a stack of informational fliers at the register. I was kind of absentmindedly reading one to kill some time, but the program ended up striking me as a really neat idea.

Basically, Great River Farms partners with several local farmers to collect and deliver a bag of eight produce items to you at your office each week for 30 weeks through the spring, summer and fall. You also have the option, for an additional cost, to get fruit included in your bag. Thinking that this would save me some money and force me to maybe get out of my comfort zone and try some foods I’d never tried before, I decided to sign up.

To answer your question, yes I feel like a giant loser carrying a bag of vegetables out of my office.

To answer your question, yes I feel like a giant loser carrying a bag of vegetables out of my office.

Every Thursday for the past couple of weeks, I have gotten my market bag. And every week, I’ve used a couple of the items, but I haven’t really tried much in the way of new recipes, and I have never used the entire bag. Therefore, my theory that this would save me some money is definitely not really panning out.

Adding to my guilt over not using all of the vegetables is the fact that, if you don’t plan on using your bag, you have the option to donate it to a local food pantry. I did do that one week when I was going to be out of town. But the other weeks I have just let the vegetables rot in my refrigerator. So I feel like a jerk on a lot of levels.

This week, I swore things would be different! I am officially throwing down the gauntlet and challenging myself to use every single item in the bag. Even if I don’t use the entire amount of it, I WILL be at least using a bit of every item or else I am going to force myself to sell my kidney to a food pantry as penance. (When I throw down the gauntlet, I throw it down hard…)

The items in this week’s bag, and my plans for them are listed below. I will report back with successes and (inevitably) failures.

All the goodies!

All the goodies!

1. Swiss Chard. A vegetable I have never eaten, let alone cooked with. My plan is to make this crustless quiche that Great River Farms recommended. It has a ton of cheese in it, so even if I end up not liking swiss chard, hopefully the quiche will still be edible…

2. Summer squash and zucchini. This will not be a challenge because I love eating and cooking with both of these veggies. I haven’t settled on a recipe yet, but I am considering making either “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) or else just roasting them with parmesan cheese as a side dish. To be determined.

3. Cabbage. This one is going to pose a challenge as I’m not really sure how I feel about cabbage. Great River Farms suggested making coleslaw, which could be a good idea…I am going to a “Bachelorette viewing party” next week, so a great big batch of coleslaw may be my contribution. And you wonder why I’m not more popular…

4. Fennel. Another tough one. Haven’t given this one too much thought yet.

5. Romaine lettuce. I found a recipe for lettuce wraps I’d like to try. And any leftover lettuce will be used to make a salad. I LOVE salad. I’m not normal.

6. Cucumbers. Again, fairly easy. I have been bringing veggies and hummus to work with me as a snack, so I think that will be the fate of the cucumbers. And I may get fancy and chop some up and put them in the aforementioned salad! Watch out!

7. Carrots. (See number 6).

8. Sweet onions. Another easy one! I typically go through one or two onions a week, so this will just save me from having to buy them at the grocery. Now there’s that money saving I was talking about! Suddenly the $800 I spent on vegetables was all worth it…

Asian Quinoa Salad

Well it has been a busy couple of months for me! Since January, I have been to Atlanta (twice!), New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. (twice), West Palm Beach, New York City, Austin and Nashville. I’m honestly a little exhausted just thinking about that. (and footnote – you can probably expect to see a couple travel related posts here soon – bringing it back to the roots over here!) It has been hectic and expensive, but very, very fun! I have one more trip this month and then I have a glorious month and a half of NO PLANS! I am probably the only person in the world who is excited about having a month and a half with absolutely nothing on the social calendar, but to be honest, I’m pretty exhausted. And broke.

Needless to say, the first half of this year was not the best from either a physical or financial health perspective. This week I decided it was time to re-commit to saving money and to eating better and working out more regularly. In furtherance of goals one and two, I made a big batch of Asian Quinoa Salad that I found here: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/asian-quinoa-salad/. My plan was to make a big batch of this and have it for lunches during the week.

The only ingredients in this recipe that I had already were quinoa, soy sauce and vinegar. I also decided to double the recipe because when I initially read the recipe, I wasn’t convinced it would actually make four lunch-portion servings. (You know how sometimes cookbooks will be like “what, do you not consider these four noodles to be a sufficient serving size of this dish?”) So yeah I made two times what the recipe called for. And guess what – my grocery bill was still only $27. And super guess what? It made like A TONNNNNNNN of food. I realized about halfway through that I definitely should not have doubled it. So basically what I’m saying is, if anyone is in the vicinity and wants some of this, come over.

Lots of healthy goodness

Lots of healthy goodness

So…so far I am rocking my healthy eating and saving money plans (other than the entire pizza I ate last night…oops…)! But the best part about this is that it’s actually really delicious. I don’t open up the refrigerator at lunch and feel like I have to force myself to choke this down because it’s healthy. The flavor is also not so strong to the point where I get sick of it after eating it a few times. Which is good because I will definitely be eating it more than a few times. But guess what? I will still definitely be making it again!

Barre3 Overnight Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Parfait

So I have a confession. This month, I’ve been attempting (key word here) to participate in the Barre3 Spring Challenge. I have been taking barre classes regularly for about a year and a half now, but I’ve mainly been focusing on becoming a runner. I was just starting to feel like I really needed a change of pace when Barre3 started advertising the Spring Challenge.

The Spring Challenge is a challenge to take four in-studio barre classes a week, to take two 10-minute  online workouts a week and to follow a guided nutrition plan. I’ve been doing really well about doing the classes, which I enjoy. However, I have to admit that I have been slacking off pretty hardcore in the nutrition plan department. I started out with great intentions, but I basically now have a refrigerator filled with spinach and kale that is definitely not going to get eaten. Oops!

One of the recipes I did decide to try was this Overnight Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Parfait. I’ve had a couple mandatory and early mornings at work this week. That, combined with the fact that I prefer to take the early morning barre class at my studio, has meant that I’ve been rushing around in the mornings a little bit.

Another confession I should just go ahead and get out there is that I am completely OBSESSED about breakfast. My work event was advertising having a free continental breakfast. But, to be honest, I would probably get fired from my job if I was asked to function and network after eating only a continental breakfast. I’m not even kidding. Eating only carbs for breakfast makes me cranky. And it’s not that I’m anti-carb or bread. Quite the opposite in fact. However, in the mornings, I definitely need a little protein and fat to help get me through the morning.

The combination of rushed mornings and the threat of continental breakfast inspired me to try this breakfast parfait that you actually prepare the night before. And it was great. If you think about it, you can just prepare it while you’re getting dinner together and leave it in the fridge overnight and in the morning when you wake up and remember what you have, you will LOVE your former self.

Here’s the recipe:

(serves 1)

  • 3/4 cup yogurt, plain, whole milk
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • Stevia (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 large banana, mashed
  • 2 Tbs. almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 cup (or more) mixed berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbs. chopped almonds

In a medium bowl, mash banana with a fork until mostly smooth. Add yogurt, oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, vanilla extract and almond milk. Definitely add the full amount of almond milk. I did not because I was concerned that it would be gross and runny, but the chia seeds help thicken everything overnight, so you definitely need the extra moisture. If you don’t think this is sweet enough, you can add some stevia or other natural sweetener. I left it out.

It does NOT look very appetizing at this point.

It does NOT look very appetizing at this point.

Then, begin layering in a tall glass or in my case, a to-go container. I started with a layer of berries (I used fresh raspberries and strawberries because they are in season right now and there is NOTHING better than fresh berries!). Then I added a layer of the yogurt mixture, a sprinkle of almonds, and then back to the berries! Easy!

The finished product

The finished product

Stick in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy when you wake up!

Sweet Potato Hash

This is a dish that was inspired by my friend Meghan’s blog. I changed some aspects of it, basically to accommodate the fact that I don’t own a cast iron or oven-friendly skillet. To be honest, cast iron skillets seem intimidating. They are not expensive, but from what I hear, require specific and meticulous care. I pretty clearly need to just bite the bullet and buy one, though, because I am constantly finding recipes that require a cast iron skillet and I feel like I’m missing out on a wide range of culinary delights by not having one!

Regardless of the fact that Meghan used a cast-iron skillet to make her version of sweet potato hash, I was so inspired by her recipe that I knew I could improvise and use another cooking method. In fact I was so inspired by her general concept that I’ve actually made a few different versions of this dish.

The first time I made this, I followed Meghan’s suggestion to cook bacon in the skillet and use the remaining grease to saute the onions and sweet potatoes. Of COURSE this version was delicious. However, and trust me, it pains me to say this a little bit, but I actually think I preferred the version I made earlier this week that was BACON-LESS. Sometimes I don’t even know myself…

This is a hearty and healthy dish that is sure to get your day off on the right foot!

Sweet Potato Hash - Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Hash – Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe (serves one):

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 large white onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (very precise measurements are clearly important in this recipe…)

2 eggs

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and saute until slightly softened; about 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potato, salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and paprika (as well as any other spices you think would taste good – like I said, no science to this dish!). Saute until sweet potatoes are soft but not completely cooked through. My trick to achieving the perfect crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside textured sweet potatoes is to cook them over medium high heat and do not mess with them! You, of course, will need to stir the sweet potatoes around in the skillet so that they are cooked evenly; however, if you can leave it for a couple minutes at a time without stirring, the outsides of the sweet potatoes will get a little crispy/delicious!

When sweet potatoes are close to being completely cooked, add spinach. You may want to add more salt and pepper at this point. Saute for another minute; until spinach has wilted a bit.

Finally, crack two eggs directly into the skillet and cook as desired. I don’t like very runny eggs so I usually let mine cook for a few minutes before breaking the yolk and making sure they get cooked all the way through.

Transfer to a plate and enjoy!

Blog re-Revival

Hola, loyal readers. It’s been a while, huh? I recently got an e-mail from WordPress saying that my domain name registration was about to expire. I would hate to lose this little blog, so I decided to renew my registration. As I was doing that, it occurred to me that it doesn’t make much sense to continue to pay for this site if I’m not going to use it.

I really enjoy having this blog, but, unfortunately, I can’t travel enough to update regularly. I made a decision today that I would repurpose the blog to be more of a food blog! I’m not a great cook, but cooking and eating are two things I do enjoy (and bonus – I do at least one of them daily, so I’ll always have something to post about!). I figure if I commit to updating this blog once a week, maybe it will inspire me to test a couple new recipes and have a little fun in the kitchen. Then I’ll have this fun record to look back on and keep track of what worked and what didn’t.

So starting later this week, check back here to see my adventures in the kitchen and at various restaurants around Columbus! Can’t wait to get started on this fun new chapter!

Travel Bucket List

This week, I spent some time planning a vacation to San Francisco, for which I will leave in about a week. The circumstances surrounding this upcoming trip are unusual in the sense that I actually decided to take a vacation before deciding upon the place I wanted to go. I don’t know how most people plan vacations, but for me, it’s usually the opposite – I come up with a destination and then start figuring out when it will happen and dealing with logistics.

Knowing I was going to have some time off of work and then trying to decide how to fill it was surprisingly difficult because the options were literally unlimited. I debated going down to Florida to see my grandparents and relax, I debated going to Ireland, and I even thought about just staying at home and hanging around Columbus.

The whole process got me thinking. I love to travel and experience new places and see different things. But at the same time, it’s also nice to find a place you enjoy and go back time and again. With limited vacation time (again, I reiterate the point that adulthood sucks), it can be hard to do both.

I have probably been to Naples, Florida, a hundred billion times. I love it there! I have my favorite restaurants where I like to eat, I know where the good beaches are, I know how to get around (somewhat), and I am all but guaranteed to have a good time. When thinking of taking a vacation, Naples is often a very tempting choice because I know what to expect and I know I’ll have fun.

Can't beat it!

Can’t beat it!

Other places that fall into the I’ve-Been-There-But-REALLY-Want-To-Go-Back category are Paris, the South of France (all of France?), Vail, and the Greek Isles, especially Santorini. These are places I know I love. But just going to the same places over and over prevents you from seeing new places that you might end up loving just as much – or even more!

So, for my upcoming trip, I chose to go to San Francisco. I have actually been there once before, but I think that at this point in my life, I am better equipped to appreciate all the ins and outs and quirks of a city like San Fran that maybe I didn’t appreciate or even notice the last time I was there. In a way, it’s like getting the best of both worlds.

All of this got me thinking of all the places I have yet to see in my life. So I put together a Travel Bucket List. Of all the places I have never been and hope to visit, these are my top ten.

10. Somewhere in the Caribbean. Technically, I have been to the Caribbean. But it was on a cruise in college, so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count. We spent one day in Grand Cayman and ate at a Hard Rock Cafe (WTF, college self?), and that was basically it. So I would like to go back and have a relaxing, beautiful beach vacation in the Caribbean someday.

9. London. London just seems like such a neat, sophisticated and fancy place. I would love to go see all the sites and just take in the city.

8. Vancouver. I have always heard that Vancouver is a gorgeous city. It is supposed to be the best of both worlds – beautiful natural scenery and a lot of things to do outside, such as hiking, canoeing, etc., but yet still be a big, vibrant city with great restaurants and hotels.

7. Italy. Sorry I can’t even narrow it down more than just to say I want to visit this entire country. I think I could literally spend a month in Italy alone. This would entail, of course, devoting a sizable chunk of time to the Riviera and southern portion of the country, spending tons of time in the countryside at vineyards and gorgeous villas, and then seeing each major city: Rome, Venice, Florence, Sicily and Naples. And eating a lot of pizza. It will basically be “Eat Pray Love” minus the praying and the loving aspects ;)

6. Berlin and Munich, Germany. Sausage. Enough said.

5. Alaska. I get a lot of flack for this one. No one seems to understand my incredible desire to visit Alaska, but it is somewhere I have wanted to go for a really long time. You should know that I have a weird fascination with whales (all marine life, really, but mainly whales), and Alaska is known to be one of the best places in the U.S. to go whale watching. On top of that, I think Glacier National Park would be really cool to see. My one concern would be getting eaten by a bear. A pretty major concern, in reality. 

4. Ireland/Scotland. Is it cheating to include both of these countries in one number? Fine, call it the United Kingdom, then. A long time ago, my dad, grandpa and uncles went on a golfing trip to Ireland where they drove all around the country and golfed at various golf courses and drank beer in pubs. I want to do this, but just without the golfing. (Upon re-reading this, it kind of sounds like I want to visit these countries and just get drunk and drive around, but that’s not exactly what I mean…then again, maybe it is?).

3. African Safari. This one is probably pretty surprising to a lot of people who know me. It has always been a dream of mine to go on a safari in Africa. It just seems like it would be so cool to see so many types of animals we’re only able to see on TV or in a zoo.

2. Wine Country (Napa, Sonoma). This should be highly self-explanatory to anyone who knows me even a little bit. I am including Monterey and Carmel in this trip, as well.

1. South Africa. This one, like Alaska, also has to do with whale watching to some degree. I have heard just amazingly wonderful things about South Africa, though, even apart from the whale watching, which is supposedly phenomenal. Obviously, South Africa has its share of political and social issues, but it is a gorgeous country that I would really love to visit some day.

 

Eataly is Heavenly

I’m not really sure when Eataly entered my consciousness, but it was one of the few New York City places that my mom and I went that I had heard of before my mom suggested going to it. It is a…hmm…I’m not really sure how to describe what it is because it is unlike any place I have ever been before. It is part restaurant, part grocery store, part coffee shop, part gelateria. And it. is. huge. I mean, Eataly would be big even by Ohio standards, but by New York City standards, it is absolutely colossal. The weird thing is, though, from the front entrance, you can barely tell it’s there.

Like I said, I had heard of Eataly prior to visiting, so I kind of had an idea of what it was going to be like. Kind of. My mom and I decided to go to Eataly for dinner on Saturday night after doing some shopping. (Side note…I ALWAYS somehow forget that my mom can outshop me by about 3 hours, so shopping with her on 5th Avenue was enough to work up a pretty large appetite). We decided to just walk from our shopping excursions to Eataly, which we figured would be about 20 blocks. I think this is probably a long way to walk if you are a New Yorker, but for us, it was nice to walk a lot because it allowed us to see a lot more and get some exercise in between ginormous meals.

I had pulled up directions on my phone, but when we walked up to Eataly, we literally did not see it. Instead of assuming that it was tucked away, we assumed our cell phones had led us astray. Eataly is literally 10,000 square feet – not something you think you’re going to just not see when you’re right in front of it. We checked and double checked, but ultimately concluded that we were in the right place. To this day, it cracks me up that we stood outside of this behemoth of a store and literally did not know we were there. But that’s how unassuming it is from the outside.

Even after we walked in, I actually still wasn’t convinced we were in the right spot. That’s because the front of the store seems pretty small. Right at the front, there is a coffee shop, a gelato shop and a place to buy sandwiches. It was really, really crowded so it was hard to tell just how far back the store went. We started meandering back and suddenly the store just opened up into this huge, expansive and maze-like place. I think you could walk around there for two hours and not see everything.

 

 

 

 

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We came across what looked like a hostess stand, so we put our names on the list to wait for a table. The woman estimated that we would have an hour and a half wait for a table, and she asked for our phone number so that they could text us when a table was ready for us. I kind of liked this system except for the fact that when I am expecting a call, text or e-mail, I become extremely paranoid that my phone is going to stop working and I’ll miss something important.

We decided to walk around a little before getting our table (me, glued to my phone like a teenage girl). We noticed a couple other “restaurant” areas that we hadn’t known about, but we still felt like we made the right choice putting our name in at what turned out to be the pizza/pasta/casual eatery. One of the others was a very high-end fish and seafood eatery. There was also a steak place that was more upscale, as well. I’m sure the food at those places would have been incredible, but we didn’t really feel like doing anything too involved at this point. We had been shopping, walking and eating all day, so casual and low-key was perfect.

As we kept winding around the store, we realized just how huge it is! There are like five looooong aisles of just various types of pasta. The selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegar was equally impressive. But this is what makes me certain that if I lived in New York, I would go to Eataly all the time:

HEAVEN

HEAVEN

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Huge butcher counter

Huge butcher counter

After meandering around for a while, I convinced us that we should get some pre-dinner gelato as an “appetizer.” By the time we finished our dinner, the store was going to be closed, so it seemed like a great idea to make sure we got to try some of Eataly’s famous gelato.

Raspberry Gelato

Raspberry Gelato

I’m not really an expert on gelato, so I can’t really say how this gelato compares with other kinds. It was good. I was glad we tried it. But I can’t say that I would get it again if I went back. I have mentioned before that I just don’t go crazy over desserts like a lot of people and gelato, in general, ranks pretty low on my list of desserts, so take this “review” with a grain of salt, but yeah, I thought it was fine.

While we were eating our gelato, I got a text message saying our table was ready, which was perfect, because instead of curbing my appetite, eating the gelato kind of just made me realize how hungry I was. So we went alllllll the way back to the hostess stand and were taken to a table in a pretty crowded little restaurant area. The ambiance was definitely not the best. It had the typical grocery store lighting and it was loud and jam-packed, but I mean, it is a grocery store, so it was fine. It felt somewhat like a food court.

At our table

At our table

Our server brought out bread and olive oil and we ordered. Like I said, service moves pretty fast in New York because they are intent on getting as many people in and out as they possibly can, so within like 10 minutes of sitting down, we had WONDERFUL plates of pizza and pasta in front of us!

Ate. it. all.

Ate. it. all.

My mom ordered the four cheese pizza, which I had a slice of, and I ordered some type of pasta that I don’t really remember (worst blogger ever, I know, sorry). It had meat (sausage?) and cheese (duh) and perhaps some tiny portion of a green vegetable (because I’m health conscious) and it was absolutely delightful. It totally overcame the lack of ambiance and just tasted so good!!

The portion was not that big, so I know this would be an issue for my brother, who gets irrationally angry when restaurants do not serve what he considers to be large enough portions. If I had been there in what I hope is my usual capacity of “Laura – girl who is trying not to be a fatty and doesn’t want to stuff a vat of carbs and butter and fat into her face” then I would have loved the portion size of this pasta. It was enough to fill me up but not so much that I would have felt incredibly guilty about eating it. Unfortunately, on this particular day, I was more in my capacity as “Laura – girl who has been forced to try on a billion outfits (I know, what a tragic life I lead…) and who has just been given the most delicious pasta ever and who wants to eat like twice this much no matter how disgusting doing that may make her feel” so even though I was full, I was so sad when I finished my dish.

The other cool thing was that this ended up being one of our least expensive meals we had the whole trip. By New York standards, this particular part of Eataly is pretty affordable and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting.

After we ate, the main store was closing down for the night, so we walked around one last time and then left. We decided that we should probably walk back to our hotel after our delicious, heavy dinner. Our walk took about 30 minutes. It actually did feel nice to walk around after eating all that pasta, but in a way, it just made me feel even more certain that I should have eaten more ;)

 

Broadway, Baby

As I mentioned in my previous NYC post, one thing that my mom and I wanted to do when we were in New York was see a couple Broadway shows. We both love musicals and so we wanted to make sure that we got to see at least one or two during our stay. Say what you will, but most shows are just wayyyy better in New York. I think it’s awesome that most shows have touring versions, and I definitely do go when something good comes through Columbus, but there is just something about being on Broadway that really brings out a different dimension to most of the shows.

I used to be better about keeping up with new musicals and knowing which were supposed to be good, but in recent years, I have not really followed the musical news as closely. The one recent musical that I had heard about and really wanted to see was The Book of Mormon. Then my mom and I did a little research and came up with a list of a few others that we would also be interested in going to. On our short list was Kinky Boots, a new musical written by Cyndi Lauper that won a few Tony Awards this year, and Once.

Broadway!

Broadway!

We started looking into buying tickets online, but we were completely shocked when we saw how expensive tickets to The Book of Mormon are! It basically would have cost at least $800, which is a little bit cray. We ended up deciding to wait to try to buy tickets at the box office once we arrived in New York. Assuming that the shows aren’t completely sold out, you can normally buy relatively inexpensive tickets at the theater box offices for performances that day. Because The Book of Mormon was at the top of our list of musicals we wanted to go to, we just decided to wait to see if/when we could go see it and then plan our other show choices around it.

Well we lucked out! We walked down to the Box Office and were able to get tickets for a Saturday matinee performance of the Book of Mormon for a much better price than we would have paid had we booked our tickets in advance. And we actually had really good seats, too! Then we lucked out again and got tickets to see a Sunday afternoon showing of Kinky Boots. Based on our extreme success with this box-office tactic, I would definitely recommend this strategy to anyone wanting to go to a Broadway show in New York. The tickets were definitely not dirt cheap, but definitely far less expensive than they could have been.

Finally there!

Finally there!

Although I had heard how amazing and hilarious The Book of Mormon is, I honestly did not really know what to expect, and I purposefully tried to keep my expectations a bit low. First, I don’t really watch South Park that often, and although I do think it’s surprisingly intelligent, I think the humor can be a little bit too crass at times. Secondly, I really couldn’t anticipate how that type of humor would translate into a musical. And lastly, I have been burned by people overhyping musicals to me in the past. I will never forget when I went to see Wicked, someone told me they thought it was better than Phantom of the Opera, so I sat there the whole time waiting for it to get AWESOME, but it never did. Instead of just appreciating it for what it was, I ended up being disappointed and not liking it very much. (Sidenote – does anyone else think Wicked is EXTREMELY overrated?? I just do not understand the hype!!)

Now, it is important to note here that this musical is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. The whole premise of the musical is that Mormonism is a made up religion, and the musical goes to extreme lengths to make a complete mockery of it. So obviously if you’re Mormon, you will probably not be super amused by it. Also, if you are very religious in general, you will most likely be offended by this musical. But luckily (…well maybe unluckily, depending on how you feel about the fate of my everlasting soul), I am a heathen, so I was HIGHLY amused by The Book of Mormon.

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It definitely helps to have a basic understanding of Mormonism and the history of the church. If you don’t, a lot of the jokes would probably fly right over your head. But my mom had recently read a book about the history of the Mormon religion and I learned about it in middle school (why?), so we were pretty familiar with at least the very basic tenets.

We both LOVED this musical! We were laughing out loud for 80% of the show. That is not an exaggeration. It is superb. The humor, while crass at times, is not overwhelmingly so. It is mainly just really witty and silly. We both said we would go back to see it in a heartbeat (if it didn’t cost eight billion dollars). I was literally laughing out loud for a couple hours afterward just thinking about certain lines from the show. I actually feel like I’m underselling it here. I cannot stress enough just how amazing we both thought The Book of Mormon was. I was actually surprised that my mom seemed to like it just as much as I did, but that just confirms that it does appeal to a pretty wide variety of people.

In all honesty, Kinky Boots kind of didn’t stand a chance with us. As I said, we had tickets for a Sunday matinee, and we were definitely excited to see it because we had heard great things and it had won a bunch of awards. We went in with high hopes, but this, unfortunately, was one of those situations where we didn’t think the reality lived up to the hype. At. All.

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Kinky Boots is about a guy who inherits his family’s struggling shoe factory. He tries to make it profitable again by making shoes for an underserved population – drag queens. So it’s a really fun and lively show, but, to be honest, it was a little bit generic.

Overall, it was so cool to see two musicals in such a short period of time. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but hey, that’s me! It was a lot of fun and I definitely hope that it’s not ten years before I see another musical on Broadway.