Saturday, March 30, 2013

perfect saturday morning city schlep.

...on that OTHER island, you know, the famous one. ;-)

Jay Cardinal had to work in midtown on the one Saturday I was ironically off from work, so I drove him in and took advantage of the chance to visit my old stomping grounds downtown. (As a teenager I used to get some work done on professional equipment at a place in Tribeca, and while waiting I'd explore Chinatown, Soho, etc.) As ever-changing as the complexion of Manhattan is (and as mixed as the blessings of those changes have been), I'm glad to see that Soho still retains some of its grittiness and neurotic paradoxes, some old (like how can a place right off Canal Street feel sleepy?) and some new-ish (beautiful twenty-something store clerks selling wares most mortals can't afford.)

The benefits of looking up

Stunning building, almost diphanous fire escape

Bricked-over doorway
I loved the composition of the fire escape,
the overhead construction, the little tree

Street corner

Karma (or should I say, Car-ma) was with me today. Parked right on Broome! (Which was good, because I was afforded 35 minutes of Soho schlep--- had to use it wisely...)

1. TopShop. 478 Broadway. Britain's seminal design-within-reach store was stocked to the gills with clothes and accessories. Since it wasn't the main focus of my trip, I didn't dally, but there were a lot of great individual pieces that could augment an existing wardrobe. A lot of the jewelry was a cariacature of the eightie's--- the sort of stuff that a college girl can pull off, but it won't have longevity. Some of the clothing was adventurous but more versatile--- for example, a beautiful lacey empire-waisted maxi dress and a stretchy black & white graphic "LOVE" skirt. At retail price, it's not quite worth it (think a few steps up from H &M) but with a 75% sale going on right now, you can't argue with what's on sale.

2. Kate's Paperie. 435 Broome. What's not to like about this place? If you are looking for remarkable paper, it's here. The wrapping paper is truly frame-able. I had to stifle myself not to buy the whole place. My only regret was discovering they don't sell their color-coordinated paper line in store anymore; that's only done through the website.

3. Harney & Sons Tea. 433 Broome. Having been weaned on the Millerton shop for years, it was time to give this NYC location a try. Though it was spacious and modern, it still posessed that same Harney feel--- rows of boxed teas in cubbies and knowledgeable, helpful staff. Tried a new Darjeeling ---Thurbo, 2nd flush--- beautiful and balanced, with a hint of citrus.

Bistro Cassis on Urbanspoon

Then it was time to pick up DH from his gig. Once again, had fluke luck with the parking (!) and landed somewhere in the 70's and Columbus. We happened upon Bistro Cassis, a delightful discovery which was Old World through and through, from the Art-Nouveau details to the gracious server to the supremely wonderful French cuisine. The Bistro was spacious, and arriving on the early side of Brunch, we were blessed with a quiet meal and a large table. My french toast, which was gently carmelized on the tips, was possibly the best I've ever had. Bacon was substantial and cooked to a perfect degree. My Mimosa was good; Jay throughly enjoyed his Sancerre and his Salmon entree. For dessert, we went with Blood Orange Sorbetto (excellent!) and Creme Brulee, which my dear husband of exacting culinary standards concluded was the "best creme brulee I've ever had". We look forward to returning for dinner soon!

Some people love going into the city. Some people hate it. I don't like to demonize or idealize it; it's a truly fun place to visit, and I respect it. On the other hand, it's nice to be home now and swap dresses and textured tights for some very-comfy, very-suburban sweatpants. :)

Do you take advantage of the fact we're rubbing noses with NYC? What are your favorite haunts, Long Island?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

sag harbor

On Monday Jay Cardinal and I went out east. What precipitated this? My dear husband had Ina Garten on this weekend, and she was going to the Sag Harbor Baking Company to pick up something for one of her par-tays. What started harmlessly on J's part as "Gee, that looks like a nice place..." quickly got usurped by me (who is always looking for excuses to go out east):
"Let's go there this week!!!!"

So off we went, on that drive that continues to enchant my coastal imagination. :)

I love the sillhouette of tree branches against the sky...
any time of year, they're still beautiful.

Juxtaposition of three very different buildings

Some very simple farmhouses...

...and plenty of examples of Revival architecture, too.

The sailboats felt like austere watchmen

 A charming Catholic church

Bustling East End town
Sag Harbor Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Sag Harbor Baking Company, located in a diminuitive building off Division Street, proves that "size doesn't matter." The baguette we purchased had a wonderful, rustic flavour, crispy, gently chewy crust, and soft inside. I also enjoyed a predictaby yummy brioche. Coffee was full-bodied but not particularly acidic. It's plain to see (or rather, taste) why Ina Garten christened this place with a TV show visit.
Cute little bakery :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

jay cardinal's "cassis bella"

A perfect cocktail to start Spring! :)
Sorry, the photo doesn't do it justice...
-1/2 part Vodka
-1/2 part NV Fruite, Cassis Mona & Filles,  Saint-Pierre, Ile d'Orleans, QC 
(Vinified Black Currant Appertif)
-2 parts Orange Juice
-A Splash of Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
Shake, and preferrably serve with a Marschino Cherry for garnish. (I mistakenly threw them out,
though I have since been informed the darn things could probably outlast a nuclear war.)

and it's just the start of spring break...

[...for many schoolchildren, teachers, public servants, etc. on Long Island] and we are already off to a great start here at Pond House. Jay Cardinal has taken it upon himself to cook several improvisations off the Charlie Trotter cookbook. Coming home from an engaging, wonderful but busy day at work, I was rewarded with the most incredible smell as I entered. Sitting in the nook, it's been a trip watching the pond. Mystery Shorebird has been hanging out again in the dead branches, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk just made a pass at the Mourning Doves. (Caught a few feathers, but not much more.)

H2O Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

Yesterday found us at H20 Seafood Restaurant on Main Street in Smithtown. We were greeted right away by the congenial staff, who were eager to make sure we had a positive experience. The Taste of Spring weeklong prix fixe featured 3 courses for $40, with an option to add in wine pairings with each course for an additional $10. (From a cost standpoint, it was a great deal--- the price was very reasonable, the portions a good size, and the plating immaculate.) The waitress handled our requests and concerns graciously, and the busboy was attentive. While we couldn't enjoy the White Burgundy we had hoped for (unfortunately, it was not available per the curse of Jay Cardinal), the gently-oaked, slightly-floral Sancerre brought a taste of early Spring to accompany our dishes. Jay's Fried Oysters with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Red Pepper Aioli were "well executed" (the oyster were quite moist, even after being fried), while my Spring Salad with Red and Yellow Beats, Local Goat Cheese and Verjus Dressing was healthy-tasting, in the most pleasant sort of way. We both had the Chilean Turbot with Cornmeal Crust and Spring Pea Lobster Ragout. It [the turbot] was quite good, but further seasoning of the fish would have put this dish over the top. The Strawberry Rhubarb Napoleon featured a brilliant creme, but the puff pastry lacked the desired warmth and flakiness. Valet service took expediency to a whole new level (which was very much appreciated.) This would be a great return place for an early evening cocktail and light plates.

Friday, March 22, 2013

coastal cheap & chic #5: calm, coordinated closet

In the possession of a crisp, fresh new hall closet, I went to work at thinking about how best to 1) make use of it and 2) update it within our budget. Some of the issues that came up included the pre-existing 2-panel doors, which were in rough shape (and their track was failing.) We were also starting to better organize the closet and designate what was really the best use of that space.

Empty. Clean. Crisp. No ripped wallpaper! :-)

Our short-term solution to the door situation came in
the form of a tension shower curtain rod from Target ($22)
and some beautiful, modern, ikat curtain panels
from JC Penney ($25/panel) that were thick enough to
block out view of the closet contents.
Curtains are nice and easy to push away; you can get to
whatever area of the closet you want to pretty easily.
Threshold (tm) Maple Hangers from Target ($12.99 for 20)
look grown-up, maintain our clothes' forms, and are
a nice touch for guests.

The dimensions of the original closet had to be preserved;
though generous, the closet wasn't particularly deep. The
plastc shelf from Home Depot ($14.98) was tall, sturdy,
narrow enough ...and cheap. Little baskets from Home Goods
($5-12) were purposed for specific things, as well as
catch-alls. They pull the colour from the curtain nicely. Who
thought shoving junk in places could look so pretty?

Emergency supplies (radios, flashlights), everyday tools
(hammer, screwdriver, measuring tape), batteries, bulbs,
picture-hanging materials, computer accessories, cleaning
supplies and paper towels accompanied the coats.
Labeled clearly, it's easy to find these common-use items.
What do you use your hall closet for?

coastal village star: prestige remodeling and development, inc.

Prestige remodeling
& Development, Inc.
71 Gazza Blvd.
farmingdale, NY 11735
(888) 253-8601
When we bought the house, I won't go into the scariness of the hall closets. Fortunately we put this project (as well as others!) into the hands of Prestige Remodeling and Development, Inc. a Farmingdale-based construction business. Contractor Jay DiMucci put us at ease with his professional nature and was highly responsive to our questions and needs with this project. Within two days, we had two beautiful new closets! Jay's craftsman Stephan also did an excellent job cleaning up the space as well after he finished the demolition of the existing closets. There were a few things around the house that needed some adjustments, and Jay came to address those himself.

This was a smaller project, but Prestige also handles bigger jobs. Past projects that they've completed on our home included but were not limited to:
-a beautiful, expansive hurricane-proof deck (which, true to its name, withstood Sandy well)
-a completely remodeled and resized masterbath with wainscotting and a gorgeous oversized tile shower (complete with a large, built-in ledge for soaps and shampoos)
- a new granite counter in the kitchen and breakfast bar with custom-built golden oak table legs (stained to match our pre-existing cabinets)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

in like a lion...

...and out like ...well, baited breath for now. (Remember, we can blame Melville Mel and his buddy, Holtsville Hal.) Smithtown was rewarded with more snow, though thankfully it's melted today. Hopefully this was the last of it!

Hyacinth Happy! Instant smell of Springtime,
regardless of whether or not Mother Nature cooperates. :-)

Since it's a quasi-few-weeks-off I'm enjoying a little staycation, Long Island style. After a busy few hours of home construction, I enjoyed an extremely fresh and inexpensive sashimi lunch today from Kushi. (Since our initial take-out experience I've been back there several times, and each visit I'm delighted anew.) Additional moments of serendipity:

1. Drumroll, please... Coastal Village Girl is mentioned in ...Newsday! On Thursday I'm meeting with journalist Brittany Wait, who is doing a multi-faceted study of Town of Smithtown, from its history to government to dining. Send me good vibes as I share with her all the loveable things about this special community!

2. T. Carlton Spalon in Smithtown had a little deal running in Clipper Magazine for a first-time face frame foil. To shake those last vestiges of winter, I made a trip there voila!:

Sunny highlights for Spring... Maria, you are a magician! :-)
Certainly makes up for cleaning out a half-frozen chicken feeder at the crack of dawn this morning... have a great day, Long Island!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

long overdue balthazar review...

Balthazar on Urbanspoon

Bistro-ly goodness, thy name is Balthazar. My husband took me and my parents for a birthday, and it was an experience to cherish. The bustle and close quarters of the place were anticipated, and so we found the vibe and the interior more transportatively European than anything else. (Understandably, some may find it claustrophobic.) The 'Fruits de Mer' was amongst the most memorable cold/raw seafood experiences I've ever had, and the Saturday evening special of 'Braised Short Ribs' was delectable. The Chocolate Pot de Creme's a winner, as were all the entrees and desserts our party enjoyed. If you have time to stop by their bakery, it won't be in vain. They also have a wholesale location in Englewood (NJ) which is open to the public, offers seasonal specialties and takes holiday orders.

back on "island time"... gotta love L.I.!

After a crazy few days of work, much driving and no legitimate meal yesterday, I returned to the Island to my favourite any-time meal:

Breakfast for dinner rocks! Especially when it has a face.
My husband is pretty adorable. :)
I can't get over how windy it is today! Though I'd been lamenting the cold, it makes one feel good to be indoors and out of the wind. The Pond is shimmering like a jewel. Wish I could capture it on film, but it would come out all wrong. I guess all truly beautiful sights are like that--- better in person than a picture. Chickens are noisy as anything today--- am hearing lots of "Egg Songs", so I guess that means we'll be getting 3 or 4 eggs by sundown. XD
"Work-Life Balance" is a hot topic again, largely because of two recent journalistic pieces by the female working elite. "Island Time", as I like to call it, is my personal answer (hence the title of this post.) Working non-traditional hours and driving a lot allows me to come back to the Island looking forward to spending time with my wonderful new family, chicken-keeping, house work, crafting, exploring (and then hack-blogging about it.) That distinction of not just how time is spent, but where, allows me to switch gears at home and refresh, then return with joy to a meaningful, bill-paying career each week. It's not for everyone (especially if you weren't a taxi cab driver in your last life) but it just happens to work for us. As provocative as the different perspectives of "hot topic" conversations may be (and as much we may agree or disagree with or be apathetic to the points made), I think it can be a real catalyst to search for and trust our own individual instincts, find balance, and make a life for ourselves that uniquely suits our and our family's needs.
Which brings me to the second part of my post title... "gotta love L.I.!" Long Island, like many metro area bedroom communities, gets a bad rap. It's expensive, it's crowded, and any number of complaint variations. Regardless of your employments status or where you might work, there are plenty of fun things to take advantage of out here. And so, begins my list of five quality-of-life things I LOVE about Long Island (and I won't even mention the Hamptons or NYC, which we are the obvious benificiaries of ;-)
1. You are always close to the beach, and the beach is supremely beautiful not just in the summer, but in the fall, winter and spring. It's a joy to watch the seasons unfold; in fact, in the off-season, the beaches are frequently quiet and pristine. Additionally, you can sometimes spy migrating waterfowl and songbirds you wouldn't otherwise see, because the Northeast corridor is privy to some remarkable migration patterns. On top of that, there is tremendous diversity among the beaches--- the smooth sandiness of the South Shore contrasts the rockiness of the North Shore.
2. There are an endless supply of restaurants in a variety of price ranges and cuisines that reflect the ethnic and demographic diversity of Long Island. Want a great diner? No shortage. Looking for something high end? We've got you covered. Craving Indian? Persian? Sushi? Easy fix. Nevermind the amazing seafood... ;-)
3. For people who have certain spiritual or religious convictions, there is a house of worship, spirituality center or hot yoga place for you. It's amazing how numerous and vast are the scope of traditions and denominations represented here. There are also certain towns with large ethnic populations that have a strong sense of community. Again, a benefit of living in a culturally diverse area.
4. For the 21-and-up crowd, there's the wine country. It's still a fledgling wine region when you really think about it (approximately 40 years old), but agro-tourism is experiencing a considerable boom on the North Fork, and there are a few wineries that really stand out as truly exceptional. The pastoral drive alone is worth it... unless you're in a hurry at 5 p.m. on a Friday in July...
5. As much as the mall culture is bemoaned, having access to a lot of different shopping can be a huge help and time-saver and allow one to shop prices competitively. I love having a half-dozen foodstores within a maximum of ten minutes from my house and consider it a vast improvement from one store twenty-five minutes away (or, when I was living in a city, seventy-six blocks to the nearest non-scary, food-not-yet-expired, safe grocery). Parking... well, that's another story :-)
How do you carve out your equivalent of "Work-Life Balance", Long Islanders, and what regional advantages do we have here that improve the quality of your life? As always, I welcome your suggestions and insights.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

10 days...

...until Spring, but before this weekend it felt like forever. Fortunately, the weather has taken a long-awaited (and remarkable) turn for the better, with temperatures in the upper 40's to low 50's. Today Jay Cardinal spotted six turtles sunning themselves lazily on a bit of the Pond's shore. It was a welcome sight.

There's something about the long winter that causes us four-season folk to anticipate the Spring and any signs of warmth joyfully. Here are a few ways I like to banish winter from my mind. How about you, Long Island?

1. Wearing cheerful and warmer-weather clothes helps me think warmer-weather thoughts. I like to trade in the monochromatic knits for colourful ones and incorporate lighter, Spring-ish fabrics in layers. Floral patterns don't hurt, either... especially when them come on combat boots.

'Dacey' Floral Combat Boots by Arizona Jean Company. $35, JC Penney.
2. Incorporating sensory elements can remind one of Spring. Was there a favourite album, artist or genre you like to listen to in the Spring? Make a mix tape. (Er, in twenty-first century lingo, "an iTunes playlist".) Are you a seasonally-nostalgic person? Find a candle with your favourite Spring scent. Cut flowers like Tulips and Daffodil are very inexpensive this time of year and bring a little of nature's beauty indoors. For many the smell of Hyacinth evokes a strong connection to Spring, and Hyacinth plants are only a few dollars at your local food store or home improvement store.
Oi Ocha by Ito En. Unsweetened, refreshing goodness...
I think it tastes like Spring. :)
3. Get out of the house. Yes, I realize that means we have to get behind the wheel and join the rat race, but just being out in the world can have a nourishing effect when one has spent the last few months dealing with hibernation-induced ennui.
So to that effect... DH and I decided to take advantage of Town of Smithtown's Restaurant Week, which started last weekend and runs through today. Many area restaurants participated and offered a 3-course fixed price meal for $25/pp. A good deal, indeed!
Five Five 2 on Urbanspoon
Five Five 2 in St. James was on my list of new places to try for 2013. Housed in what was formerly O's Wine Bar, we found the converted farmhouse cozy and warm. A woodburning fireplace sat in one dining area for the enjoyment of the guests, while we were escorted right away to a romantic little corner that was quite private, with french doors that faced out onto a charming patio. For our selections, we both choose the peeky-toe crabcake with sweet corn and piquillo pepper coulis, and the truffle ricotta ravioli with maitake mushroom sauce. The crabcake was expertly plated and in spite of the pepper, it wasn't overly spicy; in fact it had a nice, mild, sweet taste to it. As an Eastern Shore of Maryland girl, I am extremely picky about the content of my crab cakes--- it has to be more lump meat than "fluff". Here Five Five 2's kitchen really delivered! The sommelier was helpful and pithy in his synopses of each wine's flavour profile, and the advice he offered was spot on. The steely 2011 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre paired beautifully with the crabcake; while the 2007 Phillippe & Vincent Jaboulet Syrah (which had a wonderful port-ish, pruney nose) brought out the balsamic accents in the ravioli dish, and its bit of spice married rather than competed with the earthiness of the truffle. In fact, the wine list in general was quite good and left us thinking of what we might like to try next time. Waitstaff was a bit green, but endeavoured to make sure we were contented. A repeat venture? Most definitely.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

coastal cheap and chic # 4: sound advice.

It's been a happy, lazy Sunday here at Pond House. As I wait for my yard-fresh eggs to fry and my inimitable New York bagel to toast, I wanted to chat about the classical music scene on Long Island. I've heard that Long Island has a lot to offer in terms of club, Indie and cover bands. Today I wanted to talk about live classical music, particularly a commonly held myth surrounding it: that it's too expensive to attend a concert. Some may find surprising is that there is great live classical music available right here on the Island, and that attending classical music concerts can be surprisingly affordable (and even, free!) You don't have to go into the city and pay $40 for parking to hear remarkable music with a rich cultural heritage.

The easiest place to start? College campuses. Numerous fine music programs exist at schools throughout Long Island, including but not limited to: SUNY Stony Brook, HofstraLIU Post and Five Towns College.

If you don't mind trekking as far as Queens, you can also check out the highly-regarded CUNY Aaron Copland School of Music

To secure their concert calendar, you can call the box offices of any of these institutions. Many of these schools have large student ensembles like Symphony Orchestras, Wind Ensembles, and Choirs. Concerts listed as "chamber music" feature more intimate-sized groups such as string quartets and piano trios. Many schools have "resident" faculty artists, like the Hofstra String Quartet, or the Emerson String Quartet (Stony Brook) who put on concerts throughout the year. Some of these schools with large music programs offer seasonal opera performances as well, if opera is of interest to you. Tickets of these sorts typically run between $8-20 a person, with very reasonable senior rates. Alumni frequently are eligible for discounts as well.  (For example, today I'm going to hear the Hofstra Quartet play one of my favourite Shostakovich Quartets and a riveting Mendelssohn Quartet. The ticket cost and seating assignment? General admission--- $15.)

So for the cost of a movie ticket, you can experience the joy of live music. But wait! ---it gets even better. The students who participate within these music programs are frequently required to hold their own solo recitals as part of their graduation requirements. These recitals are free and open to the public. Very frequently graduate students (such as those in Master's and Doctorate programs) pull off performances with near-professional musicianship. Like the beforementioned ensemble concerts, information regarding these student recitals is available frequently available through the college's website, as well as box office and music department information numbers.

So, there's no excuse, Long Islanders! :-) I hope you take advantage of this beautiful art form which spans many centuries, nationalities, styles and genres.

Phone Numbers:

Stony Brook- Staller Center (631) 632-ARTS
                       Music Department (631) 632-7330

Hofstra-  Playhouse Box Office (516) 463-6644
                Music Department (516) 463-5490

LIU Post- Tilles Center (516) 299-3100

Five Towns College- DHPAC (631) 656-2148