Say Cheese!

As you may remember, my simply amazing (albeit injured) husband got me a pretty sweet (as in, thoughtful AND rockin'!) Valentine's Day gift. Though we usually don't exchange big gifts, this year he surprised me with a shiny, brand new Kindle. I know, my jaw was on the floor with surprise while I simultaneously squealed with excitement.

Of course, this absolutely upped the pressure that I get him something pretty fabulous as well. Since we long wanted to {finally} try out a Mario Batali restaurant together (I had only been to Otto in the past, where this classy photo was taken...),

I thought it would be the perfect, surprise gift for my husband who always, always takes me out for dinner. A little table turning, if you will. And since I wanted to get a little creative with my gift (you know, rather than just proclaiming Happy Mario Batali Dinner Date Day!), I created a cheesetastic poem to announce our future date. Did I mention that I also read it aloud to him with perfect inflection, eye winks and all?

I attached it to a bundle of Mario Batali menus from all of his restaurants in NYC so that Shaun could pick which he wanted to try. And because I love you guys too, I thought I'd share my foray into sappy, cheesy greeting card writing here on the blog. It's a first for me, so I hope you enjoy.

To my love
It’s Valentine’s Day
and what can I say?

My sweet honey pie
I’m not gonna lie
You’re the love of my life
and I adore being your wife

A love that will never end
You’re my very best friend
Just thinking about you makes me smile
For you, I’d swim the Nile ;)

Your gift was so sweet
I just couldn’t compete
I scoured the (online) mall but,
what’s better than an e-book after all?

So I pondered and obsessed
And discounted all the rest
And then I thought, hey that’s it!
A romantic dinner that’s candlelit

Mario Batali is the guy
Let’s hope his shorts don’t show any thigh
You choose the place if you get my gist
For next Friday evening is the date of our tryst

I really hope that you like this idea
Or a sad little wife I will be a
If you’re smiling, I’ll say “Phew!”
Because I’m simply incomplete without you

I love you more each day
in every single way I really hope you’ll say
Take me out on a date next Friday!


Still there? Don't worry the cheese factor isn't lost on me, and as soon as Shaun decided on Otto as his choice, he proclaimed that I just had to share this on the blog. So tonight is the night of our date and I'm so excited! I actually have been to Otto before, but Shaun has not. The cheese platter with brandied bing cherries and truffled honey alone is worth the trip.

Yep, I've been dreaming about this since the last time I was there. In fact, the truffled honey is worthy of Best Thing I Ever Ate status. I cannot wait to finally take Shaun here so he can understand what I've been raving about for the last 1+ years.

So that's how Shaun and I will be enjoying his Valentine's Gift this evening. Not too shabby huh? So for today's question, I just want to know...what super sappy/cheesetastic things have you done for a loved one?

August Favorites

Another month gone by and this one signals the end of summer, though you wouldn't know it by the heat wave on the east coast this week. While I can't believe how the summer has flown, it's been a particularly fantastic one and I'm excited to round up my favorite eats over the last bunch of weeks.

Lipton Cold Brew Iced Tea
A refreshing way to hydrate. Though I love me some carbonation, fresh iced tea with a slice of lemon is just the ticket to enjoying a warm afternoon on the terrace. Oh and extra love goes out to my Cuisinart coffee pot, which dutifully multitasks as an iced tea pitcher until further notice. Gotta love a space and money saving item like that!

Using whatcha got
Like my skillet chicken parmesean or my daily at-home iced coffee, I’m all for using up ingredients that are already in my own personal pantry rather then shelling out for unnecessary goods. While I love a good sushi or pizza delivery, I also see the value in saving some coin on a random Thursday evening by finding inspiration in my own cupboard. Though I could actually feel my mom cringe when I made my skillet chicken parmesean, I was able to concoct a bona fide delicious dinner without breaking the bank or slaving over the stove - and getting in some quality blogging, TV, and terrace time to boot.

Otto's Truffled Honey and Brandied Cherries
Oh, mama, I could eat just about anything drenched in these two accoutrements. The ultimate complement to any cheese platter, Otto's truffled honey and brandied cherries are out of this world amazingly delicious. In fact, I once proclaimed that they'd top my Best Thing I Ever Ate list, and I'm sticking to that proclamation. I enjoyed these during girls night with my mom and sisters and just can't get them out of my head.

Yellowstone National Park

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my wonderful August vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Sampling local eats in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Gardiner, Montana added an extra bit of excitement to an adventurous and awe-inspiring sight filled vacation. From microbrews to bison burgers, the food, or scenery for that matter, didn't disappoint.

La Carbonara
One of my go-to restaurants and one that has not yet made it into a Restaurant Roundup. A tiny yet charming Italian restaurant on 14th and 7th, La Carbonara serves up fresh Italian dishes. I like it so much in fact that I tried to replicate their orrechiette with sausage, cherry tomatoes and broccoli rabe in my own apartment kitchen, but with a few alterations.

So there you have it. My monthly roundup of delectable eats, all of which were enjoyed this past month. But what I really want to know is, what did you enjoy over the last month? Did you test your skills in a new recipe? Or stumble upon a fun restaurant?

Restaurant Roundup: Grimaldi's Pizzeria

As I mentioned in Keste Pizza & Vino, Lauren and I already had our next stop on the pizza tour lined up and done, and this time with a special guest. The location was Grimaldi's and the guest was none other than my fab sister Kimberly. It was a date night for 3 on that chilly Monday eve, and our hope was that it would be one of the only situations in which there would be absolutely no wait for a table - something that becomes a serious issue at the famed Brooklyn hotspot, though I wouldn't know because we were right - apparently the perfect time to go with no wait whatsoever is directly after work on a cold Monday night. The tiny pizzeria in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass...and that it was) is a blink-and-you-miss-it locale, except for the fact that you probably wouldn't be in DUMBO unless you're after a mean piece o'pie. And when I say it's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge's literally Down Under the Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass. Luckily for Lauren and me, Kimmi has become somewhat of a Brooklyn tour guide slash connisseur since starting Brooklyn Law in September. Otherwise, we probably would have been walking in circles. If you're going to make the trek, bring a map. And you might say, "Rachel, don't you live in Jersey City and therefore wouldn't it make more sense to visit the Hoboken location?" And I'd reply with, "Yes, it certainly would make more sense. But my need to try the original and authentic coupled with a Brooklyn date night with my sis led me straight to the source." Anyhoo, you probably want to hear about some deelish pizza, so I'll ramble no further.
We started off the night, as any ladies night should, with a carafe of wine. House red wine, to be clear. I'm not sure what house red means, but I will say that for $16 it afforded us about 3 glasses each. And don't you just love the checkered tablecloth? I mean, really, does it get more authentic than that?
Since there are no slices, we ordered a large pie, half regular, half peppers and onions. Though for me personally, the peppers were a little overpowering, it was still quite a fantastic slice of pizza.
For me, the real winner in this situation was the cheese. It really made the entire pie sing...and by sing, I mean come together in one saucy, cheesy, gooey delicious bundle. The thin crust makes this pizza very close to my heart as a good, thin crust is the perfect vehicle for shoveling lots of sauce and cheese into my proverbial piehole (pun not intended!). Unlike the filling, thick crust of Keste (which, by the by, I was recently told is not in fact a quality of authentic Neapolitan pizza..something I need to look into further), the paper thin Grimaldi's crust allowed for more slices and so Lauren, Kim and I decided it only necessary to order another small, plain pie. For research, of course. For an even deeper look at Grimaldi's, Kim and I snuck some photos in the back where the magic was going down.

Toward the end of the evening, it came to the part of dinner where we inevitably articulate the ups and downs of the meal. The part where we ask ourselves, how does it measure up? As a stand alone pie and in comparison to both Otto and Keste? And the truth is...all three pizzas were so very different that I don't even feel it fair to compare. For a basic, thin crusted pizza, Grimaldi's was pretty outstanding. (I will mention here that Shaun has been participating in the 'satellite pizza tour' as I bring him home take-out orders, and he thinks Grimaldi's comes in strong at numero uno). It was nothing fancy - just straight up, good pizza. Would I go back? In a Brooklyn minute.

So what do you think? Have you been to Grimaldi's? Or any other pizza joint that measures up, so to speak?

Psst...if you missed any other pizza reviews, check out Keste Pizza & Vino and An Otto-matic Favorite...