Highlights from a weekend trip to New York City

New York City is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s like an onion with so many layers of history to peel. Every time I visit, I discover something new.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I got to take a weekend trip to NYC for a concert at Irving Plaza. We stayed at our favorite “secret” hotel, the Comfort Inn Lower East Side. This inexpensive hotel on the edge of Chinatown has a parking garage at the back of the block that you can reserve via the BestParking app and get great weekend rates. There’s free wifi and a free continental breakfast, and it’s easy to get in and out of Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge.


We found a tiny seafood bar just down the street from the venue in the East Village, Bait & Hook, that had delicious fried oysters. We grabbed a couple of picklebacks and some Guinness before we headed back to the hotel.

We spent Saturday exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, particularly the Egyptian and European art wings.

While heading back to the subway, we found a cute brewpub in Hell’s Kitchen for lunch. NY Beer Company had paninis, burgers and other sandwiches, pizza and a huge selection of beers, including a bunch of local New York options.


My last (and favorite) discovery was the most charming little bar right down the street from our hotel. Les Enfants de Boheme is a French bar and restaurant with a full cocktail menu, cheese and charcuterie boards, mussels and various entrees. The Saturday night we visited, NYC was hit by a snowstorm, so we hung out at the bar, soaked up the atmosphere and watched the snow fall. It was New York magical.


Argentinian Dinner

The food culture of Argentina is an interesting mix of native and indigenous cuisines with Mediterranean, particularly Italian influences. The prevalence of cattle in the South American nation means that beef is nearly always on the menu there. When making a delicious Argentinian-style dinner for my family, grilled steak with chimichurri was a must! Chimichurri is a thick, green sauce that contains cilantro, parsley and oregano alongside red wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil, it’s a flavorful addition to a high quality steak.


Even though the steak was the centerpiece of this South American meal, we needed a filling side item. Toasted multigrain bread with a slathering of provoleta, grilled provolone cheese with spices, made the perfect match.

Our meal was simple and hearty, and all three kids declared it “good,” which is a major accomplishment in a multi-kid household!


Of course we had to finish off dinner with a decadent dessert, and what better to showcase the link between Argentina and Italy than a yummy tiramisu? This rich, sweet treat was the perfect ending to this Argentine cooking experiment, and it was made even better by the light dusting of Puccini Bomboni cocoa powder we brought back from Amsterdam on our last Europe trip.


My Favorite Old-Fashioned

Some classic cocktail enthusiasts may not know this, but the Old Fashioned was originally created as a gin cocktail. In 1862, renowned bartender Jerry Thomas published his “Bartenders’ Guide.” In it, he described the Old Fashioned Holland Gin cocktail as containing sugar, water, ice, Angostura bitters, a small piece of lemon peel and a jigger of Holland gin. A few years later in 1880, Louisville bartender James E. Pepper made his version of the drink, exchanging the gin for bourbon. The rest was history.

Bartenders around the world have created their own versions of this classic drink, substituting various types of liquors and garnishes, but the bones of the Old Fashioned remain the same: sugar or syrup, water, ice, bitters, citrus and liquor.

Here’s how I make my favorite:  Rub a slice of orange peel around the rim of a highball glass, then drop it in the glass. Add 1/2 oz. of Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar simple syrup and a splash of water. Muddle and mix. Add a large ice cube. Add 1 1/2 to 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey. Drop in a Filthy Foods Red or Black Cherry and a barspoon of cherry juice and stir. Voila!


Cooking with Kids – Super Bowl Lunch

My six year-old son loves cooking with me, so much that he has an Easy Bake oven and his own cooking set given to him for Christmas by his aunt and uncle. When I told him I was going to make some tomato soup from scratch for lunch on this #SuperBowlSunday, he couldn’t wait to help.

An easy recipe like soup is perfect for kids who want to help cook. I diced all the veggies and he helped pour everything into the pot and stir it. He loved using his measuring cups and spoons, and he was great at stirring it to keep it from burning or sticking to the pot. I got to try out my new immersion blender to blend it up until it was smooth and creamy, and he picked the accompaniments: saltine crackers and some Annie’s White Cheddar Bunnies.

Quick and Creamy Tomato Soup from Scratch

2 tbsp. canola oil

1/2 a medium onion, diced

1 medium garlic clove, diced

2 tbsp. flour

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

3 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

3 tbsp. Greek yogurt


  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and saute for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for another minute to let the garlic soften, then sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and broth. Stir.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir.
  6. Remove from heat. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or use a food processor or blender. Return to the pot.
  7. Add the Greek yogurt and whisk.
  8. Serve with cheese and your choice of crackers. Enjoy!

Unique Chateau in Alsace, France

Near the Eastern France/Germany border, the region of Alsace is a unique mix of French and German culture. Over the region’s long and storied history, ownership of this region has passed back and forth between the two countries time and again, resulting in shared influences on the cuisine, language and culture of the area.

The Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg is perched on a mountain near the town of Orschwiller, and is a fascinating look into the region’s past. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle and grounds were intended as a fortress in a strategic location perfect for watching all the main roads in the area. Defensive structures were added when the castle was rebuilt after the original was destroyed in 1462. Unfortunately, the castle was again destroyed in 1633 and sat in ruins for two hundred years, until Germany took ownership of the region again and the town transferred the property to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who restored the castle to its former glory.

Since 1908, when restoration was completed, the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg has looked down over the Alsace plain, first as an estate of the Kaiser, then as a French national historic site.

On the day we visited, the mountain was foggy, with snow in the air. We were practically the only visitors, and got to take in the unique perspective of the castle in winter. It was easy to imagine how isolated, and yet how cozy and secure this chateau would have been in the colder months of the year. As with any castle fortress, there is an exterior “village” area where the workers (blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, etc.) would have plied their trades, then an interior keep where the family would have had their living quarters. Drawbridges and heavy doors separate the interior living quarters from gardens, pens for animals and the like. A small chapel, an armory and a room full of hunting trophies are highlights of the grounds tour.

At the conclusion of the grounds tour, there is a restaurant featuring delicious local fare, such as quiche Lorraine and blueberry tarts. In addition, a gift shop offers souvenirs related to the castle and general historical items. I picked up a medieval cookery/receipt book and some souvenirs for the kids.

The Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg is convenient to other Alsatien towns. We stayed in Colmar, but Strasbourg is only about 50 minutes away if that’s your home base in Alsace. Our visit was in early November, which is a great time to visit and avoid the crowds if you don’t mind a little cold.


Warming Winter Tea

This quick blend will transform your tea into a winter-spiced pot of comfort. Slice an orange in half and squeeze a bit of the juice into your teapot. Dice the remaining pieces and drop them into the pot. Add in two tablespoons of star anise, a couple of cinnamon sticks and two tablespoons of grated fresh ginger. Steep the mix along with a pot of black tea and enjoy this delicious, winter-spiced tea!

Slow Cooker Cuban Beef

The trick to this delicious dish is a quick sear on both sides of your beef roast. Paired with rice and black beans, it’s a hearty, cold weather meal the whole family will enjoy.

Sizzle some diced garlic in about a tablespoon of oil, then sear your beef roast on both sides for about five minutes a side. Next, drop it into your slow cooker and add 2 cans of tomato sauce, 1 medium diced green pepper, 1 medium diced onion, 1 small can chopped green chiles, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook on low for eight hours.

About thirty minutes before the meat is done cooking, you can start the rice. Next, heat a tablespoon of oil and saute a medium red onion and 4 cloves of diced garlic. Add in two cans of black beans and a cup of warm water and bring to a boil, then turn the heat back down to a simmer. Add your spices:  1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder. When you’re ready to serve, dice some cilantro to sprinkle over and slice some fresh limes to squeeze on top.

By now, your beef should be soft and tender. Shred it and serve the meat with the rice and beans. You can also do like I did and pack it for lunches for the week!