Sunday, October 30, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays: Turning Tables Edition

Same song, two different equally gorgeous interpretations:


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Sunday, October 23, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

I love watching the videos from Boogiezone, a dance collaborative/workshop in Irvine.  I happened upon this class video, which I adore because I would have never expected this beautiful lyrical dance to come out of this manly man.



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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Up and Running

Sorry I've been neglecting this blog the last two weeks.  I have been preparing to launch officially my new photography venture.  As of now, said venture is launched!

Please check out the brand spanking new blogsite for Doubly Happy Photography.


I'm excited to hear what you think!

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays: Winter Repose

I'm a little bit obsessed with the photos of the Ballerina Project.  Now they're making films.  So gorgeous!


Ballerina Project - Winter Repose from Ballerina Project on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

L'shana tova

Happy 5772!  May it bring adventure, love, and happiness.

A preview from my new dance-inspired portrait series.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

I've been sort of obsessed with Adele lately.  And Adele + Kyle Hanagami (one of my favorite hiphop choreographers) is perfection.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sunday: Puttin' On the Ritz Edition

When Broadway meets hip hop . . . .

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Grown-up Party Tricks: Keeping the Food Warm and the Kitchen Clean

We love entertaining, but one of the biggest headaches about throwing a dinner party is serving the food on time and while it's still hot.  This is an especially big challenge for me, because the Emma Pillsbury in me likes my kitchen to be relatively neat and clean by the time guests arrive.  Recently, a friend asked me for some suggestions on how to make a dinner party work.  I told her that I'd share some of my tricks and ask you to share yours.


Before our guests arrive, I prep as much as possible and always load all of the pots and pans and assorted dirty dishes into the dishwasher so that I can run it during the party.  I also set up my mise en place and lay out the serving dishes.  (In the photo above, you can see that I have the plastic chopping board and all of the ingredients out for my miso-glazed brussel sprouts; the wood cutting board out for the roast chicken; and the salad bowl and tongs at the ready.)


For foods that need reheating or finishing in the oven or stovetop, I like to put a post-it with the oven temperature and heating time on the dish itself.  This way I can put away all the recipe books ahead of time and have all of the important details at the ready.


For occasions like Passover and Chinese New Year, when a meal is going to last a looooong time, we use this relatively inexpensive chafing dish to keep the food warm.


As you can see, I also try to do much of the set-up in advance, so that all I have to do the day of is finish making the food and placing it on the appropriate serving vessel.


I'm afraid that these are all the tips I know.  What are your favorite techniques for keeping everything organized and delicious for a dinner party? Please share!

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Kate Jablonski might be one of my favorite contemporary choreographers.  She has an amazing capacity to choreograph for every sound.


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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Maple Soy Roast Chicken

Let's say one had an overenthusiastic husband who bought a GALLON of maple syrup in Vermont.  And said gallon of maple syrup sat on one's kitchen counter for a long time, leering and jeering as one went about one's usual kitchen activities.  What would one do?


Well, if one were me, then the answer is obvious: make chicken.  My mom makes a scrumptious Chinese-style roast chicken with a soy and sugar glaze that is just to die for.  I decided that I'd make my own iteration with maple syrup.  This ode-to-Vermont version has the same sticky, savory, sweet flavor combination that makes mom's chicken so good, but it also has an unexpected hint of smokiness from the maple syrup.  I made it on a summer night, but I can imagine it being especially fantastic when the weather is cold and maple flavors seem more in season.


Directions:

  1. Begin by making the glaze.  Mix 1/4 cup dark soy sauce (use a Chinese or Vietnamese brand if available; the Japanese will not be as intense) with 1/2 cup maple syrup (you can substitute in honey if you don't have the syrup).  Grade B maple syrup, which is more intensely flavored, is better for this recipe (and cooking in general) than Grade A, so use the cheap stuff.
  2. About half an hour before you start roasting the chicken, brush the glaze over the bird.  Don't worry if not all of the glaze "sticks" -- it'll be a lot easier to glaze once the chicken has started roasting.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 475 degrees (if you have a convection oven, use it for the first 30 minutes of cooking).
  3. Heat a saute pan just large enough to hold the chicken.  When the pan is hot, place the chicken breast-side up into the vessel.  You should hear a sizzling sound.  This step will help prevent your chicken from sticking to the pan.
  4. Roast chicken for 30 minutes, basting the top of it with the remaining soy-maple glaze every 15 minutes.  If the tips of the wings or drumsticks are burning from the sugar and heat, wrap a tiny bit of foil around them.  I actually quite like the smokiness of a slightly burnt glaze, but if you don't you can also postpone the basting until after you flip the chicken (next step).
  5. After the 30 minutes are up, flip the chicken over, baste it again, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Turn the chicken breast side up again, baste it again, and then return it to the oven for 10 minutes to recrisp the skin.
  7. Once the chicken is done, remove from oven, set the chicken on a cutting board, and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Taste the pan drippings.  It should be very savory and sweet, though you can add 1/4 cup of water to it if it's too flavorful.  Pour out as much of the fat as you can from the pan, then boil the pan juices until they reduce to a syrupy consistency.
  9. Cut the chicken into pieces, place over rice or cous cous, then spoon the gorgeous soy-maple reduction over it.  The rice or cous cous will absorb all of the chicken, soy, and maple flavors and become super delicious. 


Enjoy!  If you love this (seriously, you will), you can thank my mom for the inspiration.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Easy, Elegant Strawberries

Here in Boston it's a dreary, rainy day . . . with nothing but dreary, rainy days ahead this week.  The weather reminds me that summer is just about -- if not already -- over, and that I'd better enjoy its bounty before the fall sweeps in and there's nothing fresh, ripe, and delicious to be found.  To that end, I present to you my new favorite breakfast: strawberries with brown sugar and sour cream.  When you swirl the brown sugar into the sour cream, the mixture takes on a luscious caramel texture and taste that's unbelievably good with strawberries.


I learned this recipe from the innkeepers at Inn Victoria, where we stayed during our recent trip to Vermont.  They, in turn, learned the recipe from Paul Bremer -- yes, that Paul Bremer, who took a break from Iraq to become an artist in Chester, Vt.  Random, no?

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance: Mia's Sage Advice Edition

Some beautiful footage and motivational words from Mia, recorded at WGI.



I was in Winterguard in high school, but never got to do anything as amazing as this.  It makes me want to go dance with a flag RIGHT NOW.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Flats that are anything but

Now that I'm taking the T to work and doing lots of walking, I need a pair of super comfortable flats for my commute.  My go-to Tory Burch flats are pretty dead, so I took my friend R's advice (and Oprah's 20% discount) and got myself a pair of Tieks.


They arrived the other day in the cutest packaging, complete with a darling little flower and a handwritten note.  The box was so small I thought it was a mistake: maybe they sent me dwarf-sized Tieks?  It turns out the shoes fold up really, really small.  The nerdy origami-loving girl inside of me did a little dance of joy and wonder upon unpacking the box.


The brilliant thing about Tieks is that they have a split sole, like my favorite Capezio ballet slippers.  So they fold up right in the middle and fit compactly in a small carrying pouch.  Once folded up, they are no more than 3.5 or 4 inches long!  They could probably even fit in a small evening clutch that way.  Also included with the shoes is a fold-out bag I can use to carry the stilletos I'm not wearing for my commute, as well as pant clips that have already come in super handy.


Of course, all of this ingeniousness with the packaging would mean nothing if the shoes themselves were awful.  Fortunately, they are gloriously comfortable.  I love that the soles (in a signature turquoise color) are padded and non-skid.  And the split sole design makes the flats almost as flexible as my real ballet slippers.

Retailing at between $145 to $265 (depending on the color and style), the flats are not exactly cheap.  And I think Oprah's discount is over.  But I hear that occasionally Tieks will announce promotions on their facebook page.

Have you tried Tieks?  What are your favorite flats?  In addition to the Tory Burches, I have a pair of Bloch flats that I love too . . . .

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend in Vermont: Quechee, Chester, & Perkinsville

On our way back from Montreal last week, we took a little detour through Vermont to check out the Cheese Trail and relax at a B&B.  I thought I'd share some highlights from our short trip.


Our B&B, Inn Victoria, is in the little town of Chester.  Southern Vermont is so pastoral and picturesque, with beautiful mills, perfectly dilapidated and rustic structures, and gorgeous covered bridges.


On our way down to Chester, we stopped in Quechee (near Woodstock) to have dinner at the Simon Pearce Restaurant.


The restaurant (and store and workshop) are located in a mill that is adjacent to a historic covered bridge and the stunning Quechee Gorge.  The night we were there, local kids were having a blast jumping off the rocks under the bridge into the gorge -- it totally freaked me out, but no one seems to have gotten hurt.


The restaurant's terrace overlooks the falls.  The rush of the water provided a melodic soundtrack at dinner.


And while we were waiting for a table, we checked out the glassblowing workshop, where a few artisans were crafting some of Simon Pearce's delicate (and expensive) glassware.


The food was scrumptious; I had a panko-crusted fish with crispy onions.  The entrees were probably slightly overpriced, but you can't beat the experience and the view.  Sadly, Hurricane Irene did a number on the mill; the gorge apparently flooded, and the mill is temporarily closed while they assess the damage.  I hope they are able to make speedy repairs; it's really a beautiful building and site.


Our B&B, Inn Victoria, is the second highest-rated B&B in Vermont.  The Inn takes its Victorian seriously -- lots of tchotchkes, a glorious selection of mismatched china (which I love!), florals everywhere.  You probably know that's not exactly my aesthetic, but it's got tremendous character and is really comfortable and well-appointed.  Also the inn-keepers are so welcoming and hospitable that it's no wonder the Inn has such glorious Tripadvisor ratings.  I particularly loved their afternoon tea; they even dress up in Victorian garb!


Of course, even an extravagant afternoon tea wouldn't keep me away from a delicious dinner experience.  We managed to score a last-minute reservation to Restaurant Verterra at the Inn at Weathersfield.  The chef at Verterra is at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, and we were treated to a menu of Vermont delights, beginning with a corn chowder with a corned beef hash.


The main course was a soy-glazed sirloin, from cattle raised on a local farm.


The dessert was a carrot cake with cream cheese ice-cream (!), pickled rhubarb, and peach chutney.


Of course, since we were in Vermont, we couldn't pass up the cheese plate, which featured a tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm, and two cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm, including Consider Bardwell's Dorset, a pungent, soft cow's milk cheese that is probably the best cheese I have ever had.  (Consider Bardwell's cheese shows up regularly at Per Se and French Laundry, so you know it has to be good.)

The Times this morning reported that many areas of Southern Vermont, including Chester, sustained quite a bit of damage from the hurricane.  Thankfully, the Inn Victoria did not report any damage.  My heart goes out to the other residents of the area . . . .

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays: Hurricane Edition

SYWYCDS is back!  Sorry for the short hiatus.  If you're on the East Coast and are staying in on account of the hurricane, here's a bit of awesomeness to keep you entertained.


I think this girl is 12 or 13 years old.  Isn't it ridiculous how mature her dancing is, and how much control she has?

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Bubbe Jennie's Taiglach

My husband's 91-year-old grandmother, our Bubbe Jennie, is an extraordinary baker.  On the farm (in a small Jewish farming community of Edenbridge, Saskatchewan) where she raised her two boys, she would bake almost everyday out of necessity.  Once they moved to more urban environs -- first Sasketoon, then Montreal -- she would still bake for her husband, who looked forward to her desserts after every dinner, and her kids and grandkids, who raved about her chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon buns.  Amongst all of her excellent recipes, though, the one that sends the whole family into fits of nostalgia- and hunger-fueled ecstasy is her taiglach.


Taiglach (or teiglach) is a Jewish dessert that consists of small dough balls (mandlen or teigel) held together by a honey syrup.  Rolled with shredded coconut, the mandlen form a gooey, chewy concoction that is something between a candy and a cookie bar.  Taiglach is in some ways similar to the Cantonese dessert sachima, Indian gulab jamun, or American rice krispie treats.  It's a popular dessert for Purim and Rosh Hashanah, but (as we managed to convince Bubbe) it's just as good for a random Thursday when your grandson and granddaughter-in-law come to visit.



Perhaps because it's so time-consuming, taiglach recipes are hard to find these days.  It was thus particularly meaningful and important that Bubbe Jennie taught us her recipe last week.



To make taiglach, you begin by taking your bubbe shopping.  If she's like our bubbe, she already knows the location and price of every item in the store.  If you are making this recipe sans bubbe, then you'll have to procure the following items for yourself:

For the dough balls:


  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Mazola oil (plus 1/4 cup or so for the baking sheets)
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • enough flour to make a soft dough (about 3 cups)
For the honey syrup:
  • 1 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch of cinnamon (if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon oil
For the final product:
  • shredded coconut


Begin by making the soft dough.  Beat four eggs.  Mix in four tablespoons oil, 4 teaspoons sugar, and a pinch of salt.


Mix -- either by hand or in a mixer -- the egg mixture with the flour until you get a soft dough.  To ensure that the mixture doesn't get too tough, start first with one and a half cup of flour.  Then add the remaining flour, a half cup at a time, until you achieve the right consistency.


Once the dough is manageable, you can turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it gently, integrating more flour as needed to get the dough into a soft, but not sticky, consistency.


You'll know the dough is ready when it can hold its shape.  To test the dough, you can cut a small strip of it, roll it into a tubular shape, and see if it retains its shape.  If not, add a little bit more flour.


Now you're ready to make the dough into mandlen.  Cut the dough into small strips.  Roll each strip into a small tube, then cut the strip into little pieces, about 1/2 in. by 1/2 in. in size.  Try to make the mandlen regular in size if possible.  (Check out Bubbe Jennie's knife skills, by the way.  She's got the shakiest hands, but she still managed to cut all the mandlen.)


Put about 1/4 cup of oil into a rimmed baking sheet.  The oil should reach about 1/8 in. up the side of the baking sheet.  Put the mandlen on the sheet.


Bake the mandlen for 5-8 mins. in a 350 degree oven.  The oil will get foamy, and the mandlen will brown.  You should check on the mandlen often, making sure to flip (or stir) half-way through baking.  You can remove the mandlen when both sides are lightly browned.


Set the mandlen aside to cool.


Then make the honey syrup.  Put 1 1/3 cups of honey, 2 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon into a large pot and bring to a boil.  The mixture should become syrupy.  You'll know it's ready when a drop of the mixture in cold water forms a soft ball.  At this point, remove the mixture from heat, and add in a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of oil.


In the meantime, lay a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a flat surface.  Sprinkle a layer of the shredded coconut onto the parchment.  Place the mandlen into the syrup, mixing well until all of the mandlen are coated with the honey mixture.  Next, pour the syrup-covered mandlen onto the coconut, spreading it out to about an inch in thickness.


Sprinkle a bit more shredded coconut onto the emerging taiglach.  Then allow the mixture to cool.Once the taiglach is cooled, slice it into small diamond shapes using a wet knife.  (We ended up having to make two batches because we didn't boil the syrup long enough on the first batch, and the mandlen wouldn't hold together.  I assure you though that if you are more patient than we were, the mandlen will in fact hold together and make very pretty diamonds.)


You can store the taiglach in a sealed container for a few days, though it's doubtful you'll have much left over.  This stuff is like crack, if crack were caramelly and insanely delicious.


Many thanks to Bubbe for sharing with us this recipe.  We kept this 91-year-old woman on her feet for hours in the kitchen while we documented every step of this long process.  Not only did she entertain us the whole time with stories from the farm, she was also good-natured and patient with our fumbles; in fact, when we fudged up the first batch, she just laughed and said, "it wouldn't be as fun if it turned out perfect!"

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Montreal Jewish Food Tour

This past week we took a little jaunt up to Montreal to see my husband's bubbe and extended family.  We hung out, made taiglach with bubbe (watch for a HUGE post on that later this week), but mostly we ate, and ate, and ate.  


Our first stop in Montreal -- always -- is the Snowdon Deli, off of Blvd. Decarie.  Their smoked meat sandwich is my husband's favorite food in the universe: tender, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of spiced smoked meat between two mustard-schmeared pieces of rye.  Smoked meat, if you've never had it, is similar to corned beef.  It has a different spice rub from corned beef, however, and is cured, smoked, steamed, then hand-cut to order.  We both got our smoked meat "medium" (slightly fatty).  Mine is old-fashioned (slightly more spiced), and my husband's is regular.  And of course we both got fries.  Snowdon's fries with vinegar are amazing.  Add a black cherry soda, and you've got a perfect meal.


Our next stop was Moishe's Steakhouse, which is a Montreal institution.  My husband's family has been going there for 40+ years (back when Moishe was still around), and it's still their go-to place for special occasions.  Of course, this being a steakhouse, I had the most amazing filet mignon there -- probably the best steak I've ever had.  But the real highlight at Moishe's is the sides, like their cole slaw, boiled verenikas, and fried onions.  I also tried sweetbreads for the first time . . . and they were delicious, so long as I didn't think too much about what they are.


Of course, no one can leave Montreal without tasting a Montreal bagel.  Unlike a New York bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, less puffy, crunchier, and sweeter.  And unlike a New York bagel, the Montreal bagel usually comes in just two varieties: white seed (sesame) and black seed (poppy).  Our favorite place for these bagels is REAL Bagel, on Cote St. Luc, where the bagels emerge fresh from the wood oven.


A little cream cheese, lox, fresh tomatoes from the garden . . . the perfect breakfast with bubbe.

Been to Montreal lately?  What are your favorite Montreal eats?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Diary of a Secret Househusband: Homemade Lox

I know that from the contents of this blog, it must seem like I'm the cook of the household.  And I suppose that this is true: I do the day-to-day cooking.  But the CHEF of the household is my husband. He's the darling who spent days mastering the art of truffle-making to make me artisan chocolates for Valentine's Day, the loon who invited a billion of his friends over for a make-your-own pasta party (there was pasta hanging out to dry over his entire apartment), and the guy who, this weekend, made lox.


For quite a long time, he's been complaining about the poor quality of the lox and smoked salmon we've been getting lately.  Finally, he got fed up and decided to make his own.  Technically, he made gravlax, as the salmon is merely cured, not smoked.  All it took was some good quality salmon from Whole Foods (still cheaper than good lox); a sugar, salt, and water brine; and a little patience (the salmon has to cure for about 2 days).



Let me just admit that I am not a huge fan of lox.  It's my least Jewish characteristic.  (Though I don't like pickles either, so I'm totally goying myself out here.)  But even I thought this lox was really good: fresh, delicate, not at all fishy.  Don't tell him, but I was kind of impressed.


If you're intrigued about the process of curing your own gravlax, my husband used the recipe available here.  Have you ever made your own lox?  Are you a lox and sesame bagel fan?  Or a super goyish chocolate chip bagel with butter fan like me?

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