A Divine French Holiday

DSCN0117I just returned from a dream vacation, Paris to Lyon and a cruise on the Rhone River. I ate new foods, tasted wonderful wine and saw monuments and lavender fields.

This was a “check this off the list” sort of trip.

Paris was a wonderful city and I could stay for months and never see all there is to see.

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We saw the Eiffel Tower from a distance, up close and inside. It takes on a whole new look at night with the lights reflecting the steel in the night time sky.

We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triumphe – all 284 stairs!

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I ate an interesting ham sandwich called a Croque-Madame. It is a Croque-Monsieur (a grilled ham sandwich with the ham inside the bread and the cheese on top)!with an egg on top. Madame! Get it? Egg on top? It cracked me up and was delicious.

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I went on a high speed train called the TGV from Paris to Lyon and boarded the Swiss Emerald for a Tauck cruise down the Rhône River. I cannot say enough about that company.

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A Day Of New York Minutes

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4:25 am: I’m up before the alarm for my 6:45 am flight. It’s safe to say that happens never.

5:01 am: put on sensible shoes and put suitcase into car.

5:04 am: change sensible shoes and replace with more stylish shoes.

5:11 am: depart for airport 11 minutes late. No worries…I won’t stop for coffee and will ” make it up in the air.”

5:54 am: arrive at the airport, park and board shuttle. Meet a fellow foodie. Chat about food. He also makes his own Lemoncello. He uses grain alcohol, not sold in New York, which he procures from a friend in Ohio. I share my Polish potato alcohol and Pisco combination. We chat all the way through the TSA line.

6:13 am: have my ID in one hand, sweater in the other at the front of the line. No boarding pass. Oops. Quickly go backward in line. Obtain boarding pass. Back in TSA line.

6:25 am: My need for coffee supersedes all other things, including boarding a plane. Buy coffee.

6:30 am: entered line as they called my row. No problem. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

6:35 am: seated next to my new foodie friend. Took my allergy medicine so my very clogged ears would not explode.

6:50 am: flight in the air, eardrums intact

7:45 am: Kennedy – early arrival

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Terri is pretty happy with her Jamba Juice!

8:06 am: Jamba Juice!! I had an Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie and it was good ’til the last slurp.

9:31 am: Penn Station madness…it may be the worst smelling place ever. Only go to the restroom if it is a dire emergency. Trust me on that one.

9:55 am: drop stuff off at hotel on 40th Street. Head to Rockefeller Plaza and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

IMG_292910:12 am: stopped for a quick bite and quick sip at Pax.  We ordered a few iced lattes and tea along with a lemon bar and red velvet cupcake to share. The quality of the food here is very good but we were disappointed at how dry both our confections were. Brush off the crumbs. Move on.

11:34 am: Ran into Rod Stewart.IMG_2932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_293612:30 pm: stopped by Cafe Metro for some Spicy Southwestern Pasta Salad. It had black beans and corn with a creamy mayo. I would have preferred a little less mayo but it was a tasty salad.

1:25 pm: birthday surprise at a Mid-Town Manhattan women’s clothing store. The birthday girl never saw it coming.

1:40 pm: drinks at a restaurant on 7th Avenue in Times Square. I wish I could remember the name so I could tell you not to go. Sorry.

6:00 pm: Pedi-cab ride to 39th Street Pier. BUYER BEWARE: Know/negotiate the price in advance and have cash.IMG_2949

 

 

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7:10 pm: Ferry to Lincoln Harbor (next to the Lincoln Tunnel) and a short walk to the Chart House.

7:30 pm: arrive and are seated at a curved table with a panoramic view of Manhattan.

7:30 – 10 pm: ate delicious food while staring at one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. I cannot recommend this location more. Be sure to ride the ferry ($17/round trip) if you are capable of walking a bit. Make reservations via Open Table and allow yourself at least two hours. Also, the last ferry leaves around 10:30 pm so be sure to work that into your plan. There are plenty of taxies at the 39th Street station to take you to your destination.

11:15 pm: arrived at the Marriott Marquise Hotel in Times Square. My friend “had a guy” who could get us past the line and up into the rotating dining room for a night cap.  Drank a pineapple Caipirinha which probably would have been amazing had I not been up since 4:25 am.

photo (16)12:45 am: the view of the Empire State Building from my bed. Goodnight world!

The Glamour of Traveling

When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

Life With a Lap Band…It’s Just Food!

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Before you go all crazy on me for proudly showing a heavenly glazed coffee roll and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, let me tell you a story.

Three years ago I began contemplating surgery to help me lose weight. I tried everything imaginable including hypnosis which cost nearly $2,000. It started out well but ended up only helping me fall asleep…during sessions!

I was actually cleared for it once but couldn’t pull the trigger and let the six month window close. I could do this on my own, damn it! So I tried a few more things then started seeing a nutritionist named Maria Weber.

I wrote about my personal epiphany here. You don’t really know when the moment happens until it is past because it may seem familiar to others that preceded it.

20121007-091218.jpgThis is my dad and I the day of my senior prom. I was almost 18 years old but for my entire teenage life I was convinced I was fat. Look at me. Am I fat?

I was never skinny and my nearly 5’2″ body could never look like the models in Glamour Magazine. But fat? I had to rethink all that I KNEW to be true when my mother gave me a photo album when I turned 50 and got my Master’s.

Picture after picture I just saw a dark eyed curly haired girl having fun. How did I allow myself to think this? Then, it became a self fulfilling prophesy.

This is the last picture that set the course of my life. Here I am, October 2010 at a swim meet at Fairfield University.

20121007-090837.jpgI see this picture and no longer feel sad and defeated.

It was time.

I went back to my doctor with an entirely new mind set. To say I was fully invested almost undervalues the actual change I went through. Eventually I put food into its rightful place. Something to fuel my body, enjoy cooking and sharing with friends and something cool to get to write about. It no longer rules my world. It brings me joy.

20121007-092512.jpgHere I am today. I’m pretty darned happy with the way I feel and look. I am going to lose another 20 pounds before I go to France next summer.

And, guess what? One of the ways I have done it is to have the above pictured coffee roll every weekend. I’m just living life?

Have a yummy day!

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It’s Big Anne’s Birthday!

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As you can see from this picture, my mother comes by the name “Big Anne” honestly. Ok, well it may not be so apparent next to my son who is at least a foot taller than her.

She is “Big Anne” because even though she has a small stature she has a very big reach.

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 When we were kids all she had to do was look at us and we would straighten up. The pool was in our backyard and my cousins towered over her but just one crack of the window and we would all freeze frame on the pool deck.

Here are my top 10 nuggets from my mom:

10. Thanks for making me spell the word A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E. when I was a kid. As it turns out, a good one is nearly all you need to live a good life.

9. You were right about not fighting with my sister and pulling all her long straight hair out when we were kids because she ended up being my best friend.

8. Homemade birthday cakes really are better. Thanks for that!

7. You will always be my Miss America to me. I remember watching the pageant every year and being envious of their long legs and their long hair and before she would kiss me good night she would give me that affirmation…a very sweet memory. We also got to meet several of them and go to dinner with them because somehow my father booked their first public appearance at his car dealership for the new car introduction. Amazing when I think back…

6. Treating your mother-in-law well is just another way to show your husband you love him. Thank you for modeling that for me.

5. I’m no better than anyone else. BUT, no one is better than me. Wow…I just love that one…

4. You want to do it, then do it. She was way before Nike’s time!

3. Think about how long you think something will take and double it. God I wish I paid attention to that one more…

2. Friends may come and go but family is forever.

1. Faith, family and food…and if you can have all three at the same time you are triply blest.

20120926-131632.jpgHappy birthday to my most wonderful mother!

Have a yummy day!

Love Where You Live & Live Where You’re Loved

20120815-173433.jpgI had to drive the “back way” to work today.

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I actually stopped my car to take these serene and lovely pictures of Bond Lake.

20120815-172217.jpgI positively love where I live. Do you?20120815-172339.jpgHave a yummy day!

Quick Bite: Cafe Metro-Bryant Park

My son and I enjoyed a quick bite with food from Cafe Metro near the NYC Public Library. We ate at a table in Bryant Park entertained by actors from the Broadway smash Mama Mia! Just another day in the big city.

Celebrating 2011 — a yummy year

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The Foodie:

It has not even been a year since we started sharing a few minutes together every Thursday but we have done a lot of things this year.

As I wrote this compilation of the year I realized if I actually included all of the food I cooked, recipes I created, restaurants I have tried and wines I have tasted, I could write a column every day.

What fun this is!

This year:

We found inspiration from:

Emilia Romagna region in Italy
Cheese
Gardening
Summer
My mother
Canning
Failure
Pressure cooking
Parties

Things we celebrated:

Sabre’s Hockey Playoffs
Kentucky Derby
Grand Opening of Melloni’s
Lewiston Tour of Kitchens
Niagara Wine Trail Food and Wine Festival
Being family
Lewiston Art Festival
Peach Festival
Thanksgiving
Christmas
New Year

Drink recipes we shared:

Mint Juleps
Sangria
Limoncino

Food recipes we shared:

Rubbed Bourbon Ribs
Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Chicken & Tomatoes
Grilled Steak
Grilled peach pound cake
Tomato Puree
Tomato Sauce
Vegetable beef soup
Christmas Cookies
Turkey stuffing
Cranberries
Turkey sandwiches

Food we grew:

Parsley
Rosemary
Garlic chives
Thyme
Sage

Food we ate:

Parmigiano Reggiano
Prosciutto di Parma
Yancey’s XXX Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
Yancey’s Double Cream Cheddar Cheese
Steamed Clams
Artichoke French
Black Raspberry Frozen Custard
Rigatoni and meat sauce
Eggplant Rollatini
Rice Balls
Calamari
Creamy Potato Bacon Soup
Chicken Fingers
Corned Beef Hash and Poached Eggs
Specialty Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Osso Bucco
Bone Marrow Salad
Soft boiled egg on wild mushrooms, arugula and creamy polenta

Drinks we tried:

Marjim Manor:
Jewel in the Crown
Appley Ever After
True Blue
Cat’s Meow
Black Willow Winery
Bare Cat Blush
Odin’s Nectar
Cabernet Franc
Chardonnay
Trilogy Red and Trilogy White
Chateau Niagara
Chardonnay
Riesling
Gewurtztraminer
Cayuga White
A La Mode
Water Street Landing
Sea Breeze
Madras
Hops-N-Vines
Massaya Classic Red
Predator 2010 Old Vine Zinfande
Rock and Vine Cabernet Saugignon
Les Cigales de Montirius Cote Du Rhone
Eataly
Espresso
Orange Cat
Coffee

Food and Wine People We Chat With:

Anne Macri, Gary Macri
Annie (Brennan’s)
Lewiston Tour of Kitchens
Carmelo Raimondi (Carmelo’s)
Kevin Robertson (Wine on Third)
Richard Schwertfager (DiCamillo Bakery)
Christian Willmott (The Nines Catering Company)
Aimee Loughtan (The Village Bake Shoppe)
Chris Connelly (Kinetic Kitchens)
Dan Gagliardo
Diane and Lou Melloni
Karen Fellow & Kim Lee
Kurt Minervino and Chris Salada
Margo Sue Bittner, Cindy Chanberlain, Jim and Kathy Baker
Michael Broderick and Robin Faulring
My mother and mother-in-law
My son
Tom Tower
Vinny Bevilaqua, Mike Ciulkowski

Places We Visited Below the Falls:

Brennan’s
Casey’s Malt Shoppe
D’Avolio
Hibbard’s
Hops-N-Vines
Lewiston Art Festival
Macri’s Italian Grille
My backyard
Orange Cat
Water Street Landing
Black Willow Winery
Chateau Niagara

Places We Visited Beyond the Falls

Eataly, (New York, NY)
Pizzeria Molto (Fairfield, CT)
Gina Tina Ristorante Italiano (Bronx. NY)
Bambino (Buffalo, NY)

Thank you for joining me on my food and wine travels. I look forward to 2012 and invite you to send me suggestions of places to eat, food to try or wines to drink.

We had a yummy year … cheers. See you next year!