Friday, October 30, 2009

NYC - eating and shopping

Recently, I made my annual pilgrimage to New York City.

Some highlights:

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue (between 10th and 11th sts)

This place was awesome. We had the famous pork buns (which were good) but the shitake buns were even better - thin slivers of crispy cucumber nestled in sauteed shitake mushrooms. Yum. We also had the Momofuku ramen which I have to say is damn good ramen. It makes me want to watch Tampopo again. The only downside for me was the dessert - sweet potato and pie crust soft-serve. Normally I love soft-serve. But the pie crust was more salty than sweet and I found the whole thing to be too gimmicky to end an otherwise slamming meal.

My friend Becca was kind enough to get an advance copy of David Chang's new book:

So far, I've only read the introduction. But the recipes beckon... I'll keep you posted.

Joe's Shanghai
9 Pell St.
Chinatown - Manhattan

Soup Dumplings. Good.

Joe's Shanghai is famous for these dumplings. The soup is inside the dumpling. Here is a picture of Becca tearing into one. Despite the look of pain on her face (they're hot!), I think she enjoyed them.

333 Henry Street

A small but very welcoming Japanese restaurant. I ordered the fresh tofu which came in a small glass bottle - like yogurt. It was deliciously custardy and paired beautifully with a light soy bonito broth (I think that's what it was). For my main course, I had the Chirashi which is basically slices of fish served over sushi rice. I always judge the quality of a Japanese restaurant by its Chirashi. I know I'll get the ubiquitous salmon and tuna but it's always interesting to see what else the sushi chef includes. Octopus, yellowtail, sea urchin...

Red Bamboo
271 Adelphi St.

It's billed as "vegetarian Caribbean soul food." So I had to try the Jamaican Jerk Mock Chicken. I'm a fan. Mock meats (seitan, wheat gluten, tofu etc) are great bases for delicious sauces just as long as you don't expect them to taste just like meat. It's nice to know that Jerk spices translate well to the vegetarian palate.

Brooklyn General Store
128 Union St

A good sized yarn and fabric store. How could I resist? I perused their piles of yarn and admired their bolts of fabric. They even had a wall of roving for all the spinners out there.

Purl Soho
137 and 147 Sullivan St.

One address houses the yarn and right down the street lives the fabric. Both places are pretty tiny which made it hard to maneuver. But I didn't care. Both are beautifully organized shops with great attention to the smallest of details. I was particularly enthralled with the fabric. They had lots of whimsical cotton and linen prints from Japan which are hard to come by in South Florida.

Ooh, pretty.

Originally I had planned to go to Mood Fabrics. But alas, it was closed the day we were in the Garment District. So we visited another fabric megastore instead.

Paron Fabrics
206 West 40th St.

When we got there, we had only half an hour until closing time. I had my very own "Project Runway" moment as a little voice in my head said, "You have $50 and 30 minutes, designers."

Lately, the little voice in my head sounds just like Tim Gunn. Huh. Go figure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Caribbean Blue Bolero

Knitters tend to be fond of shrugs/boleros/short cardis. Almost as popular as the ubiquitous lace shawls. Every knitter must knit one. It's a rite of passage.

Here's my first shoulder cover-upper.

Pattern: Ribbed Lace Bolero by Kelly Maher
Yarn: Blue Heron Rayon Metallic 3/4 skein
Needles: US6

The pattern is a freebie available on Kelly Maher's blog. It's well written pattern in which she explains how to calculate the dimensions for a custom fit. It's also a great design - elegant in its simplicity. Basically, it's knit as a rectangle and finishing involves seaming the ribbed portions together like so.

The yarn had been hiding in my stash for a few years. I had bought it on a trip to St. Michael's Maryland with the vague idea of knitting it into a shawl. Recently, Yarn Widower and I went on a cruise, a first for both of us. After much thought, this was the project I brought along. I'd sit out on the lower deck near the water and watch the clouds drift by. The yarn in my hands looked like the ocean on a sunny day. Clear blue at times with hints of golden sunshine playing off the waves.

When we got home, Yarn Widower's mom asked, "Did she actually knit on the boat?" Yarn Widower hates to be conspicuous, a trait he gets from his mom. Me, I tend to be shy but I've long since gotten used to the amused looks on stranger's faces when they see me knit. I responded, "Of course I did. Why would I go anywhere without my knitting?" Sheesh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lana Lace Cardigan

Lest you begin to think that I have been neglecting the knitting...

Pattern: Lana Lace Cardigan by Louisa Harding
from Jaeger Handknits Book JB35 (out of print)

Yarn: Jaeger Siena - 100% mercerized fingering weight cotton
10 skeins (1530 yards) in color 431 Sage
(Jaeger is no longer in operation - too bad as this was one of the nicest cottons I have ever used)

Needles: US 1.5 for the garter stitch trim
US2 for the main body

I ended up charting out the lace pattern which made it much easier to negotiate the various increases and decreases. Other than that, the pattern was well written and I encountered very few problems.

The yarn was very smooth and pliable. I know a lot of people don't like knitting with cotton, but I love it. Used in lace patterns, it's very versatile in garments since it doesn't get too heavy with wear. This is a particularly nice cotton yarn and I'm glad I stockpiled a bunch before Jaeger closed shop. The one big drawback of cotton and other non-wool items is that it's more difficult to join skeins of yarn since it lacks the "grabby" quality of wool. Therefore, it's ill suited for knitting in the round where there are no seams to hide the ends. Which is fine with me - I like seaming. It must be the seamstress in me but sewing up flat pieces of knitting to make up a three dimensional garment is not an onerous task at all. Plus I think seams give a garment some strength especially in the shoulders. Less potential for unsightly saggage.

Yes, knitting with fingering yarn and Size 2 needles takes a bit of time. But it was worth it. I'm very pleased with the finished product. It was fun to make, fits nicely and looks great.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Resplendent with Raisins

Lately, I have been hankering for cinnamon raisin bread. But I'm never really happy with the ones I get from the store. They're either too light and airy or too thick and dense.

I'm picky. I want a lot of things. I want something with just enough chew to support the additional weight of some walnuts. I also want raisins in every bite with a swirl of cinnamon sugar in the middle. But not too sweet. This is bread after all, not cake.

So after hunting around the net and the library, I settled on a near perfect recipe. It's from The Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (culinary master of all things leavened and someone far more persnickety than me). The nice folks at google even provide a free copy of the recipe. It's a pretty straight forward recipe that makes two loaves, one to eat right away and one to freeze for later. Yarn Widower likes his with peanut butter. I like mine toasted and slathered in butter.

I don't recommend using a standing mixer. Even with the proper dough hook, I don't think the bread gets kneaded all that well. Kneading by hand is a good deal of effort but it's effort well spent. Bread dough is a deliciously tactile thing, especially towards the end when the dough is silky smooth and studded with raisins and walnuts. Even though I have yet to obtain the "windowpane" test, the loaves end up looking, smelling and tasting wonderful. So I wouldn't worry too much if yours doesn't stretch paper thin. I know that the bran in whole wheat can interfere with the formation of gluten and I wonder if cinnamon can do the same.

Regardless, this is one great cinnamon bread. Try it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

American Gothic Dress - pitchfork not included

I find myself wearing dresses quite a lot. Not so much the fancy kind (although I do love me a nice silky frock every now and then), but the good old utilitarian, throw-on for a throw-down sort. Something I can get muddy in. Yet pretty too. Something that would have made the couple in American Gothic put down that pitchfork and maybe do a jig on the front porch.

The Prairie Girl Dress by the pattern company Favorite Things was just what I wanted. A relatively easy pattern that I could figure out on my own, it's a slip-over-the-head dress with ties in the back. This also means that it's pretty forgiving around the midsection and I can make it as loose as my ice cream habit necessitates.

The ruffly sleeves were easy to do after I got the hang of gathering in my last dress project. I also made the optional dickie and sewed it into the dress to keep it from flapping out of place.

The fabric is from a local quilting store. It's from the Nouveau collection by Moda. Ocean Blue Garden - here's a close up.

I'm pretty happy with the dress. It came out just as I had envisioned and it's light and airy enough to wear on even the muggiest days here in South Florida. It's the perfect thing to wear when gathering freshly laid eggs from my chickens. That is, if I had chickens - maybe someday.

Bad Blogger

Holy smokes! It's been over a month since I've posted.

Life gets busy. But really that's no excuse. The busier one's life, the more there is to post. On the other hand, the more there is to post, the less time there is to do just that.

Well, whatever. I finally got around to getting some photodocumentation. So here come the posts!