A REAL SIMPLE HOLIDAY & Me

Central Park in seasonReal Simple December 2010 coverStar light in NYCFestive standpipe photo for RSA few weeks ago, my friend Amy at Real Simple magazine asked if I’d be interested in guest blogging for them about the holidays. I still consider myself a blogging novice in many ways, so the invitation was especially flattering. I said yes, naturally.

Between Wednesday, December 1st and Monday, December 6th, Real Simple will be ringing in the holidays with their first-ever pop-up shop at Rockefeller Center. I’ll get to capture it all on camera and in my own words on their Simply Stated blog along with Jenna Park of Whimsy and Spice, Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo of ABCD Design, and Nichole Robertson of Little Brown Pen – all authors of gorgeous design and food-related websites.

On those days, I’ll also be hosting my very first holiday gift bag giveaway here on Amy Blogs Chow, which will include all things Real Simple like Essie nail polish, stationery from ABCD Designs, the prettiest sugars for your tea from Chambre De Sucre, and many more goodies compliments of the magazine. I will make up an easy contest to weed out the weak pick ten winners and will let you know what this easy contest is by Thursday when my participation in the Real Simple pop-up shop / guest blogging showdown officially begins.

To prepare you for all the awesome holiday-related musings I’ll be sharing, read my intro post about how my family used to celebrate Christmas when I was little:

“The idea of putting up a Christmas tree didn’t occur to my parents until my little sister demanded it some time in her teens. However, though we were pine needle-free for so many years, my mother got us all in the spirit by decking every surface with lights, garland, and wreaths. The windows were given special attention with multicolored blinking strands arranged in random squiggles and shapes, which, when one was inside, made telling night from day a guessing game. We were that house on the street.”

With that, my friends, I head to bed. Tomorrow, I will somehow write three blog posts and edit my next Stupidly Simple Snacks video with the wonderful Mari Tuttle of Mari’s New York. For Christmas, I think I’ll ask for an Amy Blogs Chow intern whom I can compensate with brownies. amy • november 28, 2010

For more info and to see a schedule of events, visit Real Simple Pop-Up Shop online.

(Photos by me : autumn leaves in Central Park / holiday light over Fifth Avenue / festive standpipe outside Bergdorf Goodman / Photo not by me : cover of December 2010 issue of Real Simple magazine)

November 28, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . event, Holiday, specials for abc readers. 3 comments.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS, MOM & MATSURI

Matsuri cherry blossom sushiMatsuri in the Maritime Hotel, NYCCherry Blossom Trees at Brooklyn Botanic Garden 2010
MATSURI 369 west 16th st, nyc, 212 243 6400

I’m not much of a traditionalist and I think this keeps me sane. Given my knack for tardiness, I’d be late to celebrate anyway. I rarely get worked up over birthdays – not even my own – and I only celebrate Christmas because Jason does. But one of the (very) few traditions I try to uphold is to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with my mom each spring. So when I received an invitation to sample the cherry blossom menu and eat the petals at Matsuri, my mom was the obvious “plus one”.

From now until May 2nd, Matsuri is offering a cherry blossom menu to coincide with hanami, the annual Japanese cherry blossom festival. Plus! in a partnership with Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Matsuri is offering a complimentary pass to the Garden’s festivities on May 1st and 2nd to diners who take part in the special menu, which features three courses and a cocktail – all with cherry blossoms incorporated.

Matsuri Hanami Menu 2010

cocktail sakura cherry blossom, shochu, plum wine $12

appetizer madai steamed with cherry blossom broth $13

main course pink snapper box pressed sushi with shiso & fish flakes $18

dessert • sakura gelée panna cotta with cherries & cherry gelée $9

• • • •

In true Amy-style, my eyes skipped critical location information in the e-vite. I was convinced the event was being held at the Gardens. Cherry blossom menu? Obviously, I had to go to the source. So I hauled my butt on the F train to Park Slope where my parents live, bussed it with mom to Grand Army Plaza, and marched through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, pausing long enough to take photos of cherry blossom trees.

• • • •

The event was at Matsuri and I only realized this after trying to convince three security guards I was in the right place. While I banged my head against the wall metaphorically, my mother took my mistake in stride as usual. So, as I hope all my stories end, a yellow taxi cab magically appeared at the garden entrance and took us to Manhattan, where I’d just journeyed from and where I was suppose to be. If I had half a brain (or a smartphone), I could have saved myself the trip to Brooklyn. But then I would have missed the view, so maybe being a little lost – and a little late – doesn’t hurt always. amy april 20, 2010

April 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Asian, Brooklyn, event, Japanese, Park Slope. 2 comments.

HAVING BIRTHDAY CAKE & EATING IT TOO

Spitzers Corner friesJava Girl MacarOn Cafe smallAndrea mouth openBilly's Bakery cupcake in Madison Square ParkLily LisbonDeep-FriedJenna the fish CristoA+ Pad ThaiJason Rockefeller CenterNicole at SounioView of Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn Bridge 7.3.09Torrisi sandwich rainbow cookiesClare Dia BeaconGreg and me Greek SaladTODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY and to celebrate the first day of my 26th year, I am sharing a photomontage of my favorite things in the world. Some of these, of course, are food – I made a whole Sweet & Salty Cake by Baked last night! – but many are friends who liked me even before I made funny snack videos. After all, what’s the point of mealtime if not for the people who we share it with?

Digging through old photos makes me so happy. That, and making Stupidly Simple Snacks, of course. My next one will be with celebrated pastry chef Pichet Ong, who I recently helped to launch a blog: Confessions of a Sugarholic!

Due to new work projects for the likes of Midtown Lunch, VendrTV, photographer Chia Messina and other excellent people/compaJackie wrinkle in nosenies, I haven’t had the chance to update Amy Blogs Chow as often as I’d like. While I realize you guys are super understanding, I want to thank you for returning each time I resurface. We don’t see each other often so I cherish every time that we do. I hope to meet many more of you this year and to see some old best friends again. Tall order? Perhaps. But they wouldn’t call it a birthday wish if it didn’t come true! amy march 22, 2010

Note: Click on food photos for more info.

March 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , . event, random, Travel. 4 comments.

SHORTY AWARDS • Earning My Fruit Stripes

IT’S BEEN A GOOD MONTH despite the glum weather and slow starts to new projects. I once spent two months in a hospital bed so if there’s a prize for playing the Waiting Game, I think I’d win it. But while some parts of life have been dragging along, other bits have been speeding ahead, diving off cliffs, and plotting great adventures (like a food-fueled blogging excursion in Atlantic City) for the days ahead.

The Shorty Award finalists were determined earlier this month and, thanks to the support of my twitter-ing alma mater and freakin’ incredible Twitter friends, I made the food list. To be frank, I didn’t even think to celebrate until my favorite food blogger, Melody of Gourmet Fury, yelled in caps: CONGRATULATIONS! Melody learned of the news via Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. Only then did I realize the value of Twitter to businesses hoping to connect with customers. Naturally, they will pay attention to a social media contest even if my friends still have no idea why I’m trying to tweet and beat Anthony Bourdain.

•  •  •  •

I nearly forgot to share the Shorty Award finalist results here after my Please Vote campaign. After talking about the “Twitter Oscars” for over a week, I was just relieved to stop harassing my friends. I doubt I will take the crown from the top five finalists, which include Food Network celebrities and last year’s winner – the encyclopedic Foodimentary with 114,150 followers – but I achieved one small feat none of the above did. I invoked the relationships I’d built with 20% of my 1,000 followers. My math skills are pitiful, but I know this much is true: Twitter allows you to connect with great people behind those thumbprint-size avatars. And when you have positive relationships with people you’ve never even met, that should count as Something Good: Achieved.

•  •  •  •

My digital media-savvy friend Bryan was appalled when I told him I didn’t have Amy Blogs Chow business cards. I haven’t needed them til now, really. Being the generous creative spirit that he is, he created a rainbow batch for me.

The Shorty Awards party will be held next Wednesday at the New York Times building. (You can still buy tickets here). One shouldn’t plan to lose. But, if I do, at least I’ll have some colorful new card sticks on which to chew. amyfebruary 23, 2010

February 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Blogs, event, twitter. 9 comments.

A NEW YORK STATE OF WINE • offManhattan.com

offManhattan travelUncorked crowdANYONE WHO’S EVER WAITED 12 MONTHS FOR A PEPPERMINT MOCHA knows our yen for some beverages are not only season specific, they are time-sensitive too. We look forward to light cocktails in spring, citrus notes in summer, and the aromas of cider to ease into autumn. Recently, we discovered a new wintertime favorite, mulled wine. Determined to recreate the hot, spice-infused drink at home, we were pleased to find ourselves swimming in bottles of red, white, and pink at City Winery last week to celebrate Empire State grapes at this year’s local wine fest, Uncork New York! Sip, Savor and Shop.

Warmed by City Winery’s rustic space, which was transformed into one cavernous tasting room for the occasion, guests floated from station to station sipping in-state vinos made from grapes grown a mere train ride away. Over 35 wineries participated, including vendors from Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, and Long Island. Speaking of which, in the new year, the Long Island Culture & Wine Winterfest will present six weekends of free jazz concerts at Long Island wineries between February and March. (With end-of-year festivities underway, we’ll definitely need to replenish our supply by then—especially with all that mulled wine we’ll be making.)

Finger Lakes wineries highlighted their “signature wine” Riesling, while Long Island purveyors, like Bouké Wines left us charmed with cHeronreative blends and candy-striped labels. We also met NYC-based winery, Brooklyn Oenology (BOE), which calls the cusp of Greenpoint and Williamsburg home. We especially liked BOE’s artist-designed labels that peel away sticker-style so imbibers can enjoy the art beyond the last drop.

Guests welcomed themselves to alcohol-free fare too, like tart cherry juice from greenmarket stalwart Red Jacket Orchards and sweet-and-savory jams courtesy of Katchkie Farms. With patrons lined elbow-to-elbow for a taste of New York, we were not surprised to find Park Slope’s Palo Santo, a Latin restaurant-wine bar, clean of anticuchos de puerco (skewered pig liver and kidney marinated in chili paste) by the time we reached their booth.

The four-hour event left attendees in high spirits, and we suspect Silver Stream Winery‘s Furry Peach Apple Cider—a medley of hot apple cider, peach port, and cinnamon sticks—had something to do with it. It’s always bittersweet to leave a good party, but an invitation to the next one often alleviates the wait. See you in Long Island.

(Uncorking Winter first appeared on offManhattan.com 12/08/09.)

December 12, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , . event, Manhattan, offManhattan, TriBeCa, Wine. Leave a comment.

Chocolate BREAKDOWN

Picture 3Nanaimo poster4:13PM I JUST REALIZED THE NANAIMO BARS I’m entering into tomorrow’s Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment taste rubbish at room temperature. I don’t think this would be an issue if they were normal Nanaimo bar-size, but my scaled down, bite-size version makes the chocolate-custard square melt quickfast! I am off to buy ice packs after I finish cutting and pasting a thousand colored squares onto the poster I’m bringing tomorrow. The weather isn’t cooperating and Jason, the boyfriend/chocolate assistant, is ill with something he caught from the fishes on holiday in Cabo. Happy day.

11:12PM UPDATE Poster done. And I only seriously snipped the skin off my finger once. Next task: 300 Nanaimo bites. That’s right. I am no longer calling them “bars” as they don’t really deserve that designation, being only a fraction of bar-size. So bites they will be. (Scroll down! More updates below.)

8:10AM UPDATE I ran out of confectioners sugar, unsalted butter, and steam by 3:22AM and decided to call it quits for the night. Left Layer 1: Cocoa Cookie Base to cool down and solidify in the refrigerator before falling heavily, like a tree, into bed with my alarm set to 6AM. By 6:30, I completed my first trip to the corner deli for two boxes of icing sugar and four sticks of butter.

At 7AM, I returned to the deli for another box of sugar. I need 12 cups of sugar for the amount of custard frosting I’m making. Sadly, by the time I emptied Sugar Box #4, I only had 10 cups. That’s one lesson I learned the long, circuitous way.

Quick note before quick nap as Layer 2: Custard cools: I accidentally stained two fingers with green food coloring and it’s not coming off.

370-56:19PM UPDATE Somehow, I survived the day or as Jackie put it – lived to tell about it. I haven’t said much since 4PM, actually, when I stopped having to shout over the DJ: “These are NA-NIE-MO bars! They’re from Canada! And they taste like Andes mint with a crushed cookie base!” I was flustered as hell during the first hour – refilling empty plates is a challenge when contestants are serving side-by-side, elbow-to-elbow – but Jason handled the plating with aplomb while I stood behind my poster wondering what it would’ve been like on the sampling side. The event was sold-out.

Around 3:30, the queue of chocolate fanatics began to die down and I had a moment to taste a few of the other chocolate entries, like the light and crunchy chocolate hush puppies sprinkled with corn flakes. Sadly, I didn’t get to try Roopa Marcello‘s terrifically unique Thai chili-lime chocolate ice cream with miniature hand-rolled cocoa ginger Thai basil cones that ultimately won the competition. (Read the recap by Always Hungry. They sampled and photographed each entry, including my own.)

It was an utterly eye-opening day. It is hard friggin’ work planning a recipe and executing it for 300 people. I would do it again but, next time, I may be more inclined to pay for the fruit of others’ labor than deal with supermarkets, ingredients, containers, and transportation again.

Picture 4MONDAY 11:14AM UPDATE I showered and scrubbed the chocolate from my pores before passing out at 8:30PM last night. Major kitchen clean-up on the agenda this morning, along with treating myself to mini lavender chocolate cupcakes by Keavy of Kumquat Cupcakery for breakfast. I met Keavy at the chocolate after-party and was struck by her sweetness and super cute chin-length haircut. She exemplifies her charming brand from head to toe.

As a native New Yorker with ample eatingGifted+Postcard+FRONT+FINAL experience, I’m an enthusiastic supporter of quality local goods and think Kumquat’s signature cupcakes are among this city’s best. I wish Keavy had a storefront, but til she does you can find her this holiday at Gifted Holiday Market, the Manhattan counterpart to the Brooklyn Flea market, between November 27th and December 24th.

NOON UPDATE All’s well that ends well. I’m meeting my new friend Adam (@avantsweater) for medium-rare cheeseburgers at JG Melon on the Upper East Side. Gonna thank him for his suggestion, which started it all.

Event photo from Metromix | Cupcake photo courtesy of Kumquat Cupcakery

November 14, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Brooklyn, Dessert, event, Manhattan. 6 comments.

Chocolate FOR THE WIN

chocolate thumbprint cookies ACI’VE BEEN BAKING. And crushing, chopping, melting, stirring, sifting, pressing, spreading, cutting, rolling, dipping, and photographing like mad. Two weeks ago, I entered the Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment thinking, “Fourteen days will surely be enough time to overcome 25 years of kitchen nightmares, to pick a worthy recipe and, of course, to write about it.” With only two days until the event, happening this Sunday at the Bell House in Brooklyn, I have a bona fide awesome entry.

It was a close call between Canadian chocolate bars and my sister’s chocolate thumbprint cookies pictured at left. In the end, I knew – No Guts, No Glory. So I confirmed: Amy Blogs Chow will be sharing 300 miniature Nanaimo bars.

Certainly, the chocolate thumbprint cookies were photogenic – cute, even – but baking 300 bite-sized pecan-coated butter cookies topped with chocolate kisses would have been akin to navigating a mountain with necessary equipment and years of experience. On the other hand, entering a chocolate dessert I’ve never known until two weeks ago (and never tasted until 2am last night) is like jumping off a cliff and building my wings on the way down. Should I fail spectacularly, I can always blame Canada.

I hope you’ll join the chocolate fest on Sunday. I even created a Facebook invitation. See you Sunday! You can meet my mom. She’ll be there since she lives, like, up the block.

November 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Brooklyn, cookies, Dessert, event. 2 comments.

Amy Blogs Chow takes over @ZAGATBUZZ

Picture 1Picture 19Z1Z2z3z4z5z6z7z8z9z10z11z12z13z14I ATTENDED THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION of the French Culinary Institute on behalf of ZAGAT this Monday. Initially, I was just attending a panel discussion and after-party, but when I asked my editor if I could tweet about the evening among French folk and amuse-bouche, he suggested that I beam the event to the foodie masses from the company twitter account. It was cool beans.

By the end of the evening, I made a new friend, Chichi, who writes for the fun, recipe-centric site Serious Eats. (Read her take on the evening.)

The event coordinators gave out baguettes and chocolate as departing gifts, so I wandered up Broadway with a major breadstick protruding from my bag. In the end, I re-gifted the baguette to a doo-wop duo singing for change on the 6 train.

I’m quite lucky to do what I do and it only makes sense to pay it forward, even if it’s something as simple as sharing a baguette, an invitation, banana shake instructions. Time. After all, sharing is caring! At left, see the twitter feed from the event. As always, thanks for following.

November 11, 2009. Tags: , , , , . event, French, SoHo, ZAGAT SURVEY. Leave a comment.

Tasting Table Delivers

SOMEHOW I MANAGED back to Midtown on my own two feet after Tasting Table‘s Great Taste Debate at Hill Country last night. Good thing too, as all-you-can-eat events have a way of making me feel like I swallowed a whale. Still, it was a well-done evening with free-flowing tequila, a cupcake tower, whole roasted pig and highlights including Patrón‘s Diablo (recipe below), Hill Country’s pulled pork and PB&J cupcakes, and pork belly courtesy of Shorty’s.32. I also ate my weight in oysters thanks to the speedy shuckers of forthcoming Mermaid Oyster Bar. If the mission was to make food culture (even more) accessible to the latest generation of food enthusiasts, then Tasting Table can rest easy tonight, like I will in my food-induced coma.

PICTURES (from left): Boqueria lamb sliders, Hill Country red velvet and PB&J cupcake bites, Salumeria Rosi charcuterie, Billy’s cupcake, Jacques Torres chocolate, Mermaid Oyster Bar Skookum and Blue Point oysters.

Patrón Diablo: 1.5 oz Patron Reposado | .5 oz cassis | splash of lemon juice | ginger beer | lemon twist

Add ingredients, except ginger beer, to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain onto fresh ice. Top with ginger beer.

September 15, 2009. Blogs, event, Flatiron District, Manhattan. Leave a comment.