Vacation

The last time we took a vacation was in 2008/2009 over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday.  That 14 day stretch was spent in Germany, and as you can imagine, it was far from balmy at that time of the year.  With that in mind, we decided it was time to celebrate the completion of the LL.M. program and the end of the journey that was ‘law school’ by going on a Caribbean cruise.

The Itinerary:

Day 1:  Depart NYC (early evening) and head to the open ocean.
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
Day 5: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Day 6: Nassau, Bahamas
Day 7: At Sea
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: Arrive NYC, early morning.

Here are some photos:

Leaving NYC

The Verrazano Bridge

Our Balcony

Grand Turk

More Grand Turk

Nassau, Bahamas

Flower in Nassau

Old Tree

Old Building

Little Lizzard

Parliament

Another sweet Government Building

Old Cannon

Lighthouse

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Late Night on the Deck

We were about to call it a night when we decided to go out on the deck, fire up the grill, and watch a movie.  It’s funny how things work like that.  On top of it all we were watching one of the classiest movies of all time: Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo.  We cut up some Hawaiian plantains, basted them with garlic and olive oil, and grilled until just charred.  Delicious!

It was all fun and games until the lights on the deck started attracting the huge insects.   Within 30 minutes we were being surrounded by moths, huge 4-winged beasties, and large flying beetles.  At that point it was time to go inside and finish the movie.

The Beers of Colorado, How I Miss You

While the availability of fine Belgian beers out here on the East Coast is truly impressive, I do miss the daily drinkers that are the Colorado microbrews.  Having spent a good part of my formative years in Fort Collins, my love of the microbrew is understandable.  After all, Fort Collins is home to two of my favorite breweries in the U.S.:  New Belgium Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company.

New Belgium Brewing Company:  A classic Colorado brewery that has not sold it’s soul like the monstrosity that resides in Golden.  Some of my favorites over the years have included:

1554 Black Ale – One of my favorite beers from NB.  A great everyday drinker!
Abbey Ale
Abbey Ale Grand Cru – My favorite NB beer, which unfortunately is very hard to find and oftentimes not available at all.
Trippel
Sunshine Wheat
Frambozen – A meal in a bottle.  Rich, red, and like liquid velvet.

Odell Brewing Company:  Lesser known, but producing some fantastic beers.  Some of my favorites include:

Easy Street Wheat
90 Shilling Ale
Isolation Ale

I have been lucky enough to sample some delicious beers while being in NYC, but these two Colorado Brewers make me long for delicious beer at a great price.

Sievers and the City

New York City in the Spring is a wonderful thing.  The first flowers are blooming, the first leaves are starting to appear, and everyone seems to have a spring in their step as they walk down the street.  We were lucky enough to experience a few of these amazing springtime days with our friends from Colorado.

The trip turned out to be an epicurean feast and we hit the following restaurants and bars:

Q2 Thai – A great little Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
Basilica – A tiny Italian restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
Valhalla – My favorite beer bar in the city!
Hummus Kitchen – Hell’s Kitchen Israeli restaurant.
Sushi of Gari 46 – Our favorite sushi restaurant.
La Sirene – An amazing BYOB French restaurant in SoHo.
McSorley’s Ale House – The city’s oldest bar.
Caracas Arepa Bar – An awesome Venezuelan restaurant in the East Village.
And of course, don’t forget a delicious Halal Cart meal on the day of their departure!

We also hit various places around the city such as Wall Street, Battery Park, 5th Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, and more!  While the girls were out shopping at H&M and Zara, we were riding bicycles around the full loop in Central Park.  It was simply a beautiful day to be outside and moving.

Another highlight of the trip was when we all went to see West Side Story on Broadway.

Here are some photo highlights:

The Dudes @ Valhalla:

The Ladies:

The Happy Couple in Times Square:

All of us in Times Square:

West Side Story:

And finally… the morning wake up call at our house is when the dog comes in and starts licking your head:

Grilling in the Poconos – Early April, 2010

The weather had finally worked out and I could finally get outside and do some grilling.  The weather in the Poconos at this time of the year can be fairly awful, so I was determined to take advantage of the mostly sunny weather in the mid 60’s.

Our first night there we made lobster salad sandwiches and had some homemade coleslaw.    We got a 2 lb lobster from the grocery store and I boiled it for about 6 minutes before splitting it in half and finishing it on the grill.  Once it was thoroughly cooked I removed the meat and chopped it into bite-size pieces and let Brie work her magic with the dressing.  Long story short:  It was delicious!

The second night featured grilled vegetables (asparagus, eggplant, onion, and mushrooms) and garlic-lemon marinated shrimp.  One of my favorite things to use are the awesome metal skewers that my parents brought back from Turkey.  Each one has a different handle featuring a different animal or character.  The only problem?  They get incredibly hot and you have to make sure you have enough layers between them and your fingers.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly and the non-stick grill basket is one of the coolest things I have used.  The only issue was that the asparagus was so thin they occasionally worked their way through the holes in the basket!

On the final day we had marinated london broil.  For the marinade I used garlic, rosemary, cracked pepper, hot pepper flakes, and olive oil.  After marinating for about 10 hours I shook off the big bits and put the meat on a hot grill and cooked them to medium-rare.  After they were done I let them sit for about 10 minutes before slicing them in thin strips across the grain.  With this I served an appetizer of roasted golden beets with feta cheese, topped with a lovely vinagrette that Brie put together.  For side dishes I made mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.

As with all of our trips to the Poconos, the weekend wouldn’t be complete without a few encounters with some wildlife.  This trip featured a very hungry red squirrel at the deer trough, and a black bear doing the same thing. Now that the weather is warming up my parents have vowed to stop feeding the wildlife in hopes of preventing the bears from hanging out permanently.

And finally, we moved the bar and stools from the basement up to the sun room.  It looks fantastic!  I look forward to many cocktail hours out there this summer.

A Weekend in the Poconos – 03/26/10: Asiago Chicken with Pancetta; Homemade Pizza

This trip to the Poconos was centered around the kitchen and the amazing meals we had planned.  Due to the rain and temperatures hovering in the 30’s we decided to cook entrees that would warm us from the inside out.  On Friday night I decided to cook Asiago Chicken with a side of Chive Polenta, Mushrooms and Onions with Gorgonzola, and Green Beans.

Here are the recipes:

Asiago Chicken

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
4 slices Asiago cheese (1/8″ thick)
Flour
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 slices pancetta
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme or fresh oregano

Mix some salt and pepper (1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper) along with about 1/2 c. of flour in a shallow bowl or plate.  Dredge chicken breasts, shaking off any excess flour.  Place chicken in a hot oven-proof skillet with ~ 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (as needed).  Turn on broiler and move rack to the top shelf.  Cook the chicken until golden brown (3-4 minutes), flip and cook additional 3-4 minutes.  Place 1 slice of cheese followed by 1 slice of pancetta on each chicken breast.  Place in broiler and cook until chicken reaches 160F (~4-5 minutes) and pancetta “crisps”.  Remove chicken from pan and cover with foil.  Add 1/2 of wine and finely chopped herbs to pan, deglaze, and reduce until thickened.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

On Saturday night we had some delicious homemade, thin-crust pizzas that Brie made.

The one on the left was a spinach (sautéed with garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil), oyster mushroom, and gorgonzola pizza.   The gorgonzola melted perfectly and the spinach blend had a lovely taste and texture.  The oyster mushrooms really held up well and were still firm, without a touch of the slipperiness that button mushrooms can have.  The crust had good flavor, and was made with a touch of red wine (thank you Mr. Batali).

The second pizza (on the right) featured roasted red peppers, hot italian sausage (crumbled and cooked beforehand), oyster mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and a homemade red-sauce base. 

“A Behanding in Spokane” – A New Play by Martin McDonagh

We are big fans of Mr. McDonagh’s work, so when I got an email a few weeks back offering discount tickets to his recently opened play, A Behanding in Spokane, we had to go.  The only thing I knew about the play going in was that it was a dark comedy; as if it could be anything else.  Having seen both The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore in person, I had a good idea of how “dark” of a play it may really be.

The play was being performed at the Schoenfeld Theatre, a rather intimate venue, on W. 45th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway.  We had decent aisle seats about 15 rows from the stage, but I don’ t think there would have been a bad seat in the house.  The play revolved around a man who was searching for his missing hand (forcefully removed from his body when he was a boy), a hotel “receptionist”, and two misguided pot dealers.  In the typical McDonagh fashion, the dialogue is what made the play.  Interestingly enough, I didn’t find it nearly as dark as his previous works, and not quite as funny as The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  With that said, Christopher Walken was a perfect casting choice for Carmichael, the man in search of his missing hand.  He was creepy, in the way that Christopher Walken can only be, yet damn funny.  I think the star of the show however was Anthony Mackie, who had some incredibly fast paced lines that were truly hilarious and well acted.  Sam Rockwell’s monologue was another one of my favorite parts of the show as well.  All in all, this was a very entertaining show and I am so glad we got to see it within the first few weeks of its opening.  Was it McDonagh’s masterpiece?  No.  But if he continues to produce works of this caliber for the rest of his life, I will be a happy (and entertained) old man.

Grilling in the Snow – Another Weekend in the Poconos

After four weeks without leaving the city, we were desperate to get out to the Poconos and have a little breathing room.  When we arrived in Long Pond we were shocked to see the amount of snow still on the ground.  There was over 3 feet of snow in many places, with 6′ tall drifts around the house and 10′  tall plowed piles on the sides of the road.  It was insane.

One of the delicious meals we had this weekend was a pesto-stuffed chicken breast recipe that my mom made.  It was served over wild rice and topped with a tomato relish.   With that we had a side of baked butternut squash and roasted asparagus.  We even used the official “Hotel Hübner” plates.  It was a lovely start to a great weekend.

The weather had warmed up significantly by Sunday morning and I was adamant about using the grill for the lunch that we were going to make for our friend Scarlett.  Although I had to shovel a ton (literally) of snow off the deck, it was finally starting to dry in the sun by midday.  The next step was to prepare lunch.  The previous day we had run up to Wegmans and picked up 4 pounds of NY Strip Steak, some bell peppers, gigantic white mushrooms, and some pearl onions with the thought that we could make some kebabs and put them on the grill.  Luckily, the weather had worked out and a bit later we had another fantastic meal.

We weren’t the only ones that were eating well this weekend.  On Friday night we looked out on to the patio and saw this awesome porcupine, dubbed “Prickles” by my parents, munching down on an ear of corn.  The photo isn’t the best, but he’s a cute little bugger:  What a great weekend!

The Beers of the Day: Valhalla NYC – De Koninck, Belhaven, Kwak

It was a dark and stormy night.  No wait.  Really, it was.

So there I was in the greatest of NYC beer bars (Valhalla) with my lovely wife talking about the happenings of the day.  It was the first time it had rained in quite some time and it was coming down like mad.  The craziest thing is that the clouds were so low that the huge “GE” sign on top of the Rockefeller building would disappear completely for minutes at a time.  It was the perfect type of night to be inside a warm pub drinking some quality beer.
Speaking of which, on a recent trip I was drinking Hofbrau from a huge 1 liter stein, but this evening’s trip was all about sampling, and less about getting hammered and wearing a viking helmet (there are photos somewhere out there).  These were the lovely draught beers I tried:

De Koninck – A Belgian beer that is very smooth, a bit malty, and not overly carbonated.

Belhaven Wee Heavy – A crazy Scottish beer that was creamy with a nice dark roasted flavor and a touch of sweetness.

Kwak – One of my favorite Belgian beers served in what can best be described as lab equipment.  I love this beer!