Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gage in Chicago

I like to do a lot of things alone. Go to the movies, go to museums, walk around cities, and work out just to name a few. There's something about having some quiet alone time around a ton of other people that I find to be really relaxing and rejuvinating. One thing I learned recently, though, is that I really hate to eat out alone. In an episode of Sex and the City, Samantha is stood up for a date, without any of her dining-alone armor (books, etc.). At the end of the episode Carrie takes herself out to lunch without any of this armor in an attempt to get over the fear of being single and alone. I think my recent lunch experiment was similar to this. Or maybe I just thought I'd be able to handle it considering I like to do other things alone so much. And then I failed miserably.

The restaurant was packed, I sat in a dark corner where I could see the whole restaurant, and just felt like everyone must be wondering where my lunch date was. At one point another middle aged woman walked in and was seated at a table 2 over from me by herself and for a moment I found some inspiration from her as she ordered a drink on her own. I thought to myself, "this is a woman I need to be more like." Then a friend joined her and our sister-hood of solitary diners ended. My solution? To get a really good imported beer and get drunk. So the dining experiment failed, and I have a pretty strong desire to never eat out on my own again (not sure if I'll follow this because I think this is something I should get over). But at least the food was good.

Speaking of food, the restaurant I went to was The Gage in Chicago. After walking around downtown for a couple of hours I was starving and the restaurant was perfectly placed on Michigan Avenue on the way to the Chicago Institute of Art. I arrived right at the start of the lunch rush so I was able to get a table no problem (although I still was told to wait for a different hostess to seat me). The menu itself has a lot of standard fare on it, burgers, salads, roasted chicken, etc. but with seasonings and sides that reflect the more sophisticated diner. One such example was what I ordered, the Gage Burger which was topped with Camembert cheese and onion marmalade. I'm a sucker for a burger with fancy cheese and any type of sweet onions. It was delicious and I think the waiter was surprised that little me could finish the whole thing plus all of my fries...did I say I was starving when I went in? And as I said earlier, I had one of the seasonal beers on tap, which was recommended to me by my waiter. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I was in the mood for something to match my burger and it was great. I wish I had remembered to write it down for future reference as it's really rare that I find a beer that I don't get sick of half way through the pint. All in all it was a little pricy for lunch, but I figured 1. I'm on vacation! and 2. if I'm going to suffer through a meal by myself I should really like that meal. So I guess the discomfort was worth it then...although maybe next time I'll get dessert too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dressing Recipe

Three times now this year I have made Trader Joe's Stuffing for a big holiday feast and each time it's gotten great reviews. Outside of the bird, stuffing is called dressing. Don't ask me why as this confuses the crap out of me. When I initially searched for stuffing recipes that didn't require being inside an animal "dressing" kept popping up and I kept thinking, "I do not want to make salad; what the hell Google?" But apparently that's what the South calls it, so that's what we're going to call it too.

Alrighty, now on to the recipe!

What you need:
- 4-5 strips of bacon cut into small pieces
- 2 sweet sausages (I usually go for Apple, Champagne, etc. ones) cut into small pieces
- 1 large apple peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4-5 crimini mushrooms diced
- 4 cups of Chicken Stock
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Melt the butter and cook the onion on medium heat. When the onion starts to become a little bit transparent add the bacon then sausage.
2. After 3-4 minutes add the mushrooms and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the apple.
3. When all the vegetables and meat are cooked all the way (don't worry about the apple), transfer to a BIG BIG bowl and add the contents of the stuffing box (seasoning + bread cubes). Then add chicken stock. Stir and put in a casserole dish.
4. Bake at 350 degrees until hot/brown on top (this depends on size of dish and the amount of stuff in your oven).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: All Good Things

Lately I've been in the mood to watch a lot of fun movies (so after this great ready for lots of comedy reviews because I've done nothing but watch Netflix and On Demand for weeks). It's funny because depending on the phase I'm in you can look at my Netflix cue and watch out the list changes as you scroll down. I'll watch one movie, browse the site and then add 6 to my cue, and so on. Five movies in a row will be kid cartoons, then a bunch of documentaries about fashion and art, then several romantic comedies, then BBC dramas. You get the point. Before my comedy phase I went through a "serious" phase and watched a lot of darker films. One of which was All Good Things starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.

Set in New York, the story chronicles David (played by Gosling) through his relationship with his wife Kathryn (played by Dunst), career, and their eventual demise as mountain psychiatric symptoms cause him to have a breakdown which presumably leads to the murder of Kathryn. The story is based on a real life socialite, and I vaguely remembered the story when I originally watched the trailer on months ago. At the time, what drew me to the story was how happy the couple looked and how it was clear that David loved his wife yet he ended up doing something so horrible to her. That was very difficult to understand.

Once the movie started playing I started to realize that the story was not about a relationship gone wrong but one of the toll mental illness takes on a person. David watched his mother commit suicide and not only struggled with that trauma but also his own symptoms of rage, depression, and paranoia. His marriage was a bright spot on a privileged but troubled life. As the viewer watches David's descent into madness you are scared for his wife and generally think he's acting like a jerk, but as more bizarre behaviors crop up you start to realize there's more going on than two people growing apart. David's repeated bad behaviors are not excusable, but as a mental health professional I couldn't help but feel bad for the character as a lack of proper care and social support early on in his life led to such a horrible chain of events.

Gosling is amazing in this film. I know that years ago women fell in love with him as the 2000s version of Jack Dawson because of The Notebook (a movie that makes you cry regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship), but the last 3 years have really shown that Gosling truly is the new Jack Dawson. Just like Leonardo Dicaprio, he has done nothing but try to prove that he is a serious talent. And Dunst, after taking a lot of time off for bad behavior, is no slouch either. I wouldn't be surprised if after this and Melancholia if she has a career resurgence (or at least I hope so).

While I'm biased because the movie takes place in New York City and Westchester County, the scenery is captured gorgeously. The more movies I watch the more I realize that cinematography is very important to me and this film does a good job of showcasing some of the New York metro areas finest views. And it doesn't hurt that the set design and costumes are top notch for a film set in the 70s and 80s. Highly recommended all around.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a love-hate relationship.

Don't get me wrong, I love the farm. Pets are the childless person's fur-babies; and I know many people here will agree with me that while pets do not truly replace the presence of a real baby in someone's life they come pretty damn close. My pets are such a huge highlight in my life. A living being who I can smother with love and cuddle with, get out all of my maternal instincts to take care of, and the best part is they all love me back. Last night I got home after being gone for 11 days and I was smothered with love back. Three animals following my every move; whining for more love when I was tired and just wanted to lie down. Lulu effectively tried to snuggle up my armpit, Charlie was never more than 2 inches from my feet, and Batman would have crawled inside the skin on my back if he could have. Yes, I am definitely loved.

But holy crap. Batman has either been really stressed out since I've been gone, upset that the litter box got dirty, or has a UTI-like problem because he has friggen peed on everything. Two cardboard boxes, on the carpet behind the TV stand, a paper bag, and my soccer bag (no words can describe the frustration and anger over this).

First thing this morning (after crashing for approximately 10 hours) I woke up and changed the litter box and cleaned up as much of his stank as possible. I need to go to the supermarket to buy some supplies for a remedy from this website:

Home Remedy for cat urine smell. This is a great recipe for removing cat urine odor from carpet. Start by blotting up as much of the urine as possible with old rags or paper towels. Next mix 3 parts water with one part vinegar and saturate the spot.Dry thoroughly using the same method mentioned above. Once dry, sprinkle the area with Baking Soda. Next mix ¾ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with one tsp. dish detergent and sprinkle over the Baking Soda. Try this first on a small inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure the hydrogen peroxide won't discolor your carpet. Next, use your fingers or an old brush to work the Baking Soda in. I've used an old hairbrush with little bits of plastic over the tips with good results. Allow this to dry and vacuum it up. If there's still a slight odor when done, lather, rinse and repeat.

Hopefully this will work. I hate the smell of cat pee almost as much as I hate people who choose not to clean up after their cats and let their whole house be overrun by the smell. My poor roommate has had to deal with this by herself this whole time and she's not even that big of a cat person. But I will get rid of this smell. I will not be that person who lives in filth.

Ugh, why do they have to be so cute? At least they're all getting along now...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sorry Chicago fans, New York Pizza is still the best.

I think it's no secret I am from New York. Born, raised, and proud to admit it to anyone, even those who don't ask. I will always tell you why the things about New York that people don't like are the best parts of my home state/city. And then I'll tell you why New York is better than anything else too. Sure I'm biased, but can you honestly tell me a place with consistently better bagels? Subway service? Readily available taxis? Late night diners? Or really anything that's open late? And of course, for fans of NY style pizza, our pizza is the best too.

I'm starting to really wonder about that myth that there is something in the water. When I went to college in upstate NY, a mere 4 hour drive from New York City, the pizza was terrible. Whether it was from a restaurant or the dining hall, it was not the same. People from downstate moved up there, so it's not like there couldn't be a single person who had worked in a pizzeria and didn't know the tricks. So I thought, ok, maybe there was something about dirty water that had some kind of magical power?

Now after moving to California and living out there for over a year I am once again extremely disappointed in the pizza selections. I have found a place that is tolerable (ironically enough called New York Pizza), but you have to get their whole wheat crust and it's still not the same. And I've found a place that serves great Italian pizza in SF, but this is not like home where whenever I want I have a ton of great places within a short drive. When I am the city I go to my favorite Rays on 11th St. and 6th ave. There's close to 50 "original" Ray's, and everyone has their favorite, so asking which is the best will yield you a different answer every time, but that's mine. When I was in Westchester my favorite was Irvington Pizzeria (which unfortunately has closed after decades of business). And when I'm at my parents, Posa Posa in Nanuet is my favorite.

Despite what my aunt says about the pizza having "changed" over the years, to me it's still the perfect pizza. Crispy bread, perfectly pluffy crust, not too much sauce, just the right amount of cheese. Heaven. There's no other pizza like it, and it's enough to drive me crazy on those late nights when I'm studying for finals and all I can think about is crap food, but there's no good places to order from. When I am back in NY, as I am now, I definitely take advantage of that fact and go as often as possible. The waitstaff must think I'm nuts. I guess my appetite, despite all the fancy tea parties and recipes I make, is still that of a little kid's. And sometimes I just really need to eat a good pizza.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Holy crap it is December already! How did this year go by so fast? I feel as if I blinked and it went from August to December that quickly. What did I even do last month? I can't remember, it flew by too fast.

Although, you know what, if it's going to be any month of the year that sneaks up on me, let it be December. December is my happy month, my favorite month. I know most people usually pick the month of their birthday as their favorite (mine is in April by the way), but not me. December = Christmas, snow, presents, general happiness floating around the human population, cinnamon and evergreen tree smells, mittens, fresh baked cookies, family meals, movies you only watch once a year, and my personal favorite: people getting drunk on wine and giving big hugs telling you how much they love you.

You know how much I love Christmas? When everyone dressed up as something cool for Halloween, this is what I was:

Yeah, I can see the resemblance.

Bah-humbugs be damned, you will not ruin my month and the constant hypomanic state I am in because of it. At least wait until after Christmas to do that.
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