Today’s My Birthday!

October 24, 2021

When it came to birthday cards…

…great minds were thinking alike!

Left to right: Mel & Marcie – store-bought; Jen – her own watercolor painting; Michael – homemade using a card program

No such thing as too much cake!

Rosh Hashanah Dinner at Mark’s Off Madison

October 23, 2021

Mark’s Off Madison opened in November 2020. The chef/owner is Mark Strausman. Back in the 1990’s, he had an Italian restaurant called Campagna, located on in the East 20’s, a short walk from our apartment. We only ate there once, and Jen was with us. I distinctly remember it was a Sunday evening, and we had meatballs and spaghetti (a special on the menu) which was delicious. Why we didn’t go again is a mystery. But in any case, Campagna eventually closed.

The next time we had Strausman’s food was when he was the executive chef for many years at Fred’s, the restaurant in Barney’s flagship store. We had lunch and, again, the food was excellent. But again, it would only be once because at that point the upscale department store was in financial difficulty, Strausman was fired, Barney’s went bankrupt, and then closed.

From what I’ve read, prior to being let go, Strausman, seeing the proverbial handwriting on the proverbial wall, was already scouting locations to open his own restaurant. Lucky for us, he ended up in the space formerly occupied by A Voce. (We had dinner there once right after it opened but never went back because the noise level was hideously loud.) It’s on 26th St., just off the corner of Madison — hence, the eponymous name — a very short walk from our apartment. Another big plus is that the restaurant’s building is set far back from the street which provides for a capacious, comfortable outdoor seating area enclosed with shrubbery. Ergo, no need for a hut in the street.

The dinner menu includes dishes for which Straussie (as he’s affectionately known) has become famous, including some of the Italian persuasion. But overall, I’d describe the menu as eclectic. All the meals we’ve had there — so far a total of 5 — have been on the patio for which they take reservations. Another plus!  The only time we step indoors, masks on, is to let them know we’ve arrived. The first time Michael and I went, we had dinner. Shortly thereafter, Jen joined us for brunch. That brunch-y menu includes smoked fish platters and bagels & bialys Strausman makes himself.  The food at Mark’s is not fancy-shmancy but of high quality, exceptionally well-prepared, and delicious.  Portion are generous to a fault, and service is always friendly and attentive.

When we heard that he would be offering a special Rosh Hashanah menu, the question of where to go on the second night was immediately solved. (The regular menu was also available.)

Michael began with a Cocktail (don’t know what it was)…

…and I ordered a glass of Lemonade.

The holiday meal itself started with a basket of Challah and the traditional Apples and Honey.

 

For the first course, Michael had the Matzoh Ball Soup.

I chose Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Liver

.

For the main course, we both chose Marilyn’s Brisket served with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots.

To accompany that, Michael enjoyed a Quartino of Red Wine (don’t what kind).

For dessert, I had Honey Cake, which is traditional for Rosh Hashanah. I ate one slice and took the other home.

Michael preferred Vanilla Ice Cream

.

From start to finish, this was a delicious and enjoyable meal in every way.

Note: As I said above, we’ve been to Mark’s a total of 5 times, which means we had dinner there two more times after Rosh Hashanah. They are now open for lunch which we have yet to try. They have heaters, so with the onset of cooler weather, the next time we’re in the city, we’ll give Mark’s a try to see how comfortable the heaters make us. In any case, I can easily say that when we’re in the city, Mark’s has become our favorite restaurant.

At Home in NYC 2021: Rosh Hashanah Dinner

October 12, 2021

In the Before Time, we had our Rosh Hashanah dinners in restaurants. On one of the two nights, we went to Tocqueville for their special Rosh Hashanah menu with Jen and Louis. The other night, Michael and I would go by ourselves to an upscale restaurant that didn’t feature a special holiday menu. (For example, one year, it was Gramercy Tavern.) Last year, because we were still quarantining, we were at home in NJ, and I cooked dinner both nights for just the two of us.

This year we celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah in our apartment with Jen and Louis. I kept it simple and easy.

I brought the traditional round challah which I got from Salomon’s Kosher Bakery near our house.

There were the traditional apples and honey.

For the first course, I took the easiest route. In the morning, Michael and I went to Sarge’s Deli and picked up chicken soup with matzoh balls and noodles, the broth and additions packed separately so Louis was able to have the soup without the accompaniments.

Before coming to the city, I bought a whole (uncooked) Kosher chicken from ShopRite and roasted it in the apartment’s oven. It was perfect!

Sides were mashed potatoes and carrots. (No photos)

A few things for dessert. Jen and Louis brought a boatload of fresh figs (which he bought at the Whole Foods near their apartment) along with cashews.

I brought along a small apple pie from the folks at Baker’s Bounty. They have a stand at the Marlboro Farmers Market.

The perfect accompaniment for the apple pie? Van Leeuwen Vanilla Ice Cream, of course! Luckily, there’s a shop a few blocks from the apartment.

We all agreed the meal was delicious.  But the best thing about it was being able to celebrate the holiday together!

Rosh Hashanah 2021/5782

September 6, 2021

Shanah Tova!

Celebrating Our 53rd Anniversary at Chez Catherine

August 30, 2021

Chez Catherine//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The original plan was to go into the city and have dinner al fresco at Gabriel Kreuther. However, on June 8th, the weather was way too hot and muggy for us to dine outdoors, and we had decided not to do any indoor restaurant dining. Nevertheless, Michael suggested we consider having lunch indoors at Chez Catherine, in Westfield, our favorite French restaurant in New Jersey

when Chef Catherine Alexandrou opened her eponymous restaurant in 1979, it was uncommon in Central New Jersey: haute classic French, 3-courses prix-fixe, and at a cost which for us back then was a splurge. Our first visit (I think it was in 1981) to celebrate an anniversary was so outstanding that I still remember most of what I had: sautéed calves liver in vinegar sauce for the main, and poached pear in crème anglaise for dessert. Through the years, we went back a number of times, at first only for special occasions and then, as our finances improved, whenever we had a yen for Chef Catherine’s exquisite cuisine. After about 20 years, she decided to give it up and sold the restaurant to a lovely French couple who re-christened it Chez Mamere. He was in the kitchen; she tended the dining room. The cuisine was extraordinary, and we became regulars. Unfortunately, they were poorly financed and had to close. Not long after, the space re-opened with another name (I think it was Rose something) with a chef/owner who had previously worked at with Chef Andre Soltner at Lutece. Considering the pedigree, it was shocking that the food did not measure up, and the restaurant didn’t last long. We presumed the space remained empty until, in 2001, we learned that Catherine was re-opening Chez Catherine. She had married a chef, was now Catherine Bourdeaux, and they were running the restaurant together. Needless to say, the cuisine sparkled. There was, however, one major difference: she had lost her liquor license, so the restaurant was now a BYO. They did regain the license and, eventually, sold Chez Catherine again, this time to restaurateurs Didier and Edith Jouvenet. They employed different chefs who maintained the stellar quality of the cuisine. When they were ready to retire, they sold to their maître d’ Stephane Bocket, the current owner. In 2019, he renovated the dining room (still beautiful!) and hired the very talented Christine Migton as executive chef.

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Original Dining Room Decor

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Current Dining Room

For the past few years, we’ve been going there mostly for lunch. While I was hesitant about celebrating our anniversary at a restaurant indoors, Michael convinced me by pointing out that Chez Catherine is never busy during lunch (we’ve occasionally been the only diners there!), and should there be other diners, tables are well-spaced. So, I agreed. When we got there, we were greeted warmly by Stephane who takes care of the dining by himself during lunch. Once seated at our favorite table, I noticed a card in a plastic stand advising that the air circulation system had been upgraded substantially.

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Turns out, this information was on the website which I had somehow missed. It certainly made me feel a lot more comfortable.

There are always fresh flowers on the tables. The roses on ours that day felt appropriately celebratory.

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Excellent crusty French bread always arrives warm, accompanied by butter in a French bell server. (When we were in France in the mid-80’s, we bought a couple of them.)

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Michael started with a Cocktail. (I didn’t note what it was.)

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Although the menu at lunch is a la carte, we opted for three courses, and both of us chose the same thing for each course.

We started with the Potage du Jour, Chilled Corn Soup. Perfect for a hot June day, it had the deepest corn flavor imaginable. Sensational!

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For the main course, Sole du Douvres Meunière. Finished tableside with Stephane doing an expert job, the perfectly prepared Dover Sole with its delectable lemon and brown butter sauce was accompanied by haricots verts and fingerling potatoes.

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The wine pairing chosen for Michael by Stephane was this Chablis.

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Soufflés are a staple on the dessert menu. They change daily and are always sublime. On June 8th, the Soufflé du Jour was Raspberry with Raspberry Crème Anglaise.

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Michael ended the meal with Irish Coffee.

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And so, he was right! Chez Catherine was the perfect place to celebrate our 53rd!

The album for this dinner is on my Flickr here.

Happy 50th Birthday, Jen!

June 22, 2021

Jen's 50th Birthday

Number 53!

June 8, 2021

Anniversary Card Photo 2021

June 8, 1968

At Home 2021: Memorial Day

June 3, 2021

Traditionally, Memorial Day Weekend is when we raise our patio umbrella. However, the umbrella has actually been up since mid-April when an unusually warm day enticed us to have lunch al fresco. As it turned out, Memorial Day Weekend was almost a complete washout with continuous rain, along with cool temps, on Saturday and Sunday. Although Monday was dry, cloudy skies all day and still cool temperatures prevented us from eating outside.

At Home: Memorial Day 2021

We did continue our tradition of having our first franks of the summer season. We had them for lunch on Monday. I did cook them on the grill, but…

At Home: Memorial Day 2021

…we ate indoors. There were the usual accompaniments: deli mustard, sour kraut, pickles, Busch’s vegetarian baked beans, and homemade cole slaw.

At Home: Memorial Day 2021

Alberiño: Our First Meals at a Restaurant Since March 2020

May 14, 2021

Alberiño

I ended my “Fully Vaccinated!” post with this: The last time we ate in a restaurant was March 10, 2020. So, to celebrate being fully vaccinated, we went out for dinner!

The restaurant we chose was Alberiño, in Shrewsbury, about half an hour from our house. We are not doing indoor restaurant dining, and since the weather was fairly warm, Alberiño’s outdoor terrace was perfect for an al fresco dinner.

Alberiño

We masked up to go inside very briefly to the reception desk, and a hostess led us to a table outside. All staff were masked, and tables were spaced for social distancing. Since the restaurant did not require masks when dining outside, we removed ours and didn’t wear them from that point on.

There were no printed menus. Instead, we scanned the code…

Alberiño

…to access the menu on our iPhones.

First up, a drink for Michael.

Rosé Sangria

Rosé Sangria

We assembled our meal from the tapas menu.

Chicken Charcuteria Empanadas

Chicken Charcuteria Empanadas

organic chicken, ground chorizo & jamon, piquillo membrillo purée

Crispy Eggplant

Crispy Eggplant

rosemary, acacia honey

Garbanzo Hummus

Garbanzo Hummus

roasted garlic, tahini, smoked paprika, house-made pita

Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo

roasted wild shrimp, garlic, sherry, pimentón

American Lamb Chop

American Lamb Chop

almond romesco, chimichurri

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

crispy potatoes, bravas sauce, garlic aioli

Everything was perfectly prepared and, as I said above, delicious! After 14 months of not going out to eat — something we did a lot in the before time — it was wonderful to once again enjoy a meal at a restaurant. And monumentally relaxing for me because I was not doing the cooking, serving, and clean-up!

You might have noticed that in this post’s title, there is the plural word “meals.” That’s because yesterday, the weather once again being warm enough to dine outdoors, we returned to Alberiño for lunch.

This time, we were given a paper menu.

Alberiño

Michael again ordered the Rosé Sangria, and I got Lemonade.

Lemonade

We started with the one dish on the tapas menu that is always a must: the sensational Crispy Eggplant. It was the only tapa we ordered because for the main course, we went big and shared a Paella.

Valencia Paella

Valencia

organic chicken, chorizo, gulf shrimp, calamari, mussels, asparagus, zucchini, peas, saffron, piquillo pepper

Interesting to note that when we had the Valencia previously, it was different in some respects.

Last week, we didn’t have dessert, but this time we did.

Churros

Churros

fried dough, cinnamon, spiced chocolate sauce

Another splendid meal on the sunny terrace at Alberiño. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we’ll be back — and often!

Happy Anniversary, Jen & Louis!

May 10, 2021

Happy Anniversary, Jen & Louis (2021)