Monday, 25 April 2011

Christos Anesti!: A Greekster Story

I see the question marks in your eyes. N. What are you talking about? What is Greekster? Greek + Easter = Greekster. Well let me tell you, it should be it's own Holiday. You think you know Easter? Think again. I must say, in my 27 years of existence, the evening I lived through last night was the most intense Holiday party of my life. If you are unaware of what is a Greek Easter, let me give you a little lowdown. Then again, last night was a true PARTY! The host will probably not read this blog, but I thank her and her family from the bottom of my heart for putting on such a fiesta!

Just picture. 150 people. Full lamb (eyes and all people, EYES AND ALL) roasting on the grill. Enough appetizers to feed an army. Dancing. Drinking. Main meal will remain a meal that goes down in deliciousness history. Candy Bar. Need I go on?

For the Greeks, Easter is a feast. I was lucky enough to have some very close family friends who enjoy the true means of a good party.  I knew the second I walked out of my car that this party wouldn't be like any other. Down the road, I could smell the lamb cooking and the intense Bouzouki music playing. For those that are unknown to Bouzouki, let me give you a little taste.

As I walked into the background, to my surprise, the lamb I smelled roasting was quite something.... I was in Greece. The music, the alcohol, the food. Oh I was excited!

THE LAMB! Photo courtesy of KG.
Oh yes! You thought I was joking? I don't joke. What a sight! And to think that I later on inhaled so many pieces of this delicious lamb. I just don't want to make the connection. There was enough food there for the whole 150 us and more. The host likes to innovate by adding new things to the party every year and she throws a big Easter party like this every year. You better believe that I will be there next year! It's a huge family celebration. Many people were there with their families, or with their close friends. Everyone is happy, nice and well celebrating this holiday. After chowing down on lemon chicken, lamb chops, grilled shrimp, mini BLTs, mini Sloppy Joe sliders, and countless glasses of wine, we were finally ready for the main course. As the entire 150 of us made it inside for the Easter Greek prayer, we were all anxious to try out this lamb that had been cooking there for hours. Let me tell you. My entire body - clothes, hair, you name it, still smell like lamb. Everyone went silent and we inhaled the lamb, the delicious salads, risotto, yabra (oh yes there was some Leb in there!), and grilled chicken.

Once dinner was over...that's when the real party started, just when I spotted the Grappa come out. How I got myself into this? I still don't know. But there I stood at a table with all men, serving me shots of Grappa. I thought Grappa was meant to be enjoyed and not taken as a shot, but the younger men of the place, probably Buena or Cavalli goers, were downing that Grappa like it was going outta style. That was probably the highlight of my night. Sipping Grappa with a bunch of 50-60 year old men. They took me into their little boys club, made sure I didn't have too much, and we all stood there enjoying the.. soothing.. effect of the Grappa.

It's GRAPPA time!!
After I couldn't take any more shots of Grappa, I made my way upstairs to find a huge candy bar! Mini Eggs, Jujubes, M&Ms, you name it, all in Easter colors of course, with mini baggies to pick your own selection. Just as I was stuffing some Mini Eggs down my bag....THE POLICE SHOWS UP. Hmm Hello Crazy Easter Party. You know you're at Greekster when the cops show up! They checked around, I can't really go into details, we even offered them some chocolates for the road, which they kindly declined. And shortly after, left our party and decided to not give us any trouble. Aw. This night was just getting better and better.
Candy Bar!
After the candy bar, came the dessert table. Yes, it's never-ending. Cakes galore. Cheesecake, chocolate cake, chocolate lovers cheesecake, fruit, cookies, pastries, cheese, hmm. there is more. Portuguese cakes. It was a mix of cultures on that dessert table. But my stomach couldn't take it. I just had a little and decided to call it a night in terms of food. We then made our way outside, and the troopers were still there, enjoying an evening smoke. We all sat outside, laughed at each others ridiculous late night jokes, and I just wondered to myself, wow Greekster is AWESOME, how come I had never done this before!! I finished the night with a couple sips of Grappa before heading to my bed and I must say, the Greeks sure know how to party!!!

Just part of the dessert table...
So.....if you don't know any Greek families, GET TO KNOW ONE because you won't want to be missing Greekster. I know this event will be one to never ever miss. A true success, a true food explosion, an awesome evening and boy did I meet some great people!

Until next year....


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Gotta Knock That Egg!

EASTER IS COMING! Yes, it's this Sunday as most of you know! Do you celebrate Easter? Some do, some don't. In my family, we do. I am from Lebanese descent, and I'm actually Christian Orthodox, our Easter is therefore usually different from the Catholics Easter. But this year, it falls right at the same time, happens every 2 or 4 years depending on the calendar. I always enjoyed the fact that my Easter was always a little later, the Easter chocolate was always on sale and you can get some really good quality chocolate - I'm talking Godiva or Laura Secord for like 75% off. Clearly these merchants aren't aware of Orthodox Easter, and well, hopefully they don't read my blog...

In my opinion, family get-togethers are always more interesting if there is some kind of entertainment. Whether it be Taboo, Trivial Pursuit (which I played last year with my brother-in-law's family), Karaoke, or whatever game to keep everyone entertained. I know that every one's family is different, but with a game everyone kinda becomes a little normal and on the same level and spends some good quality time together. Think of it as a warmer Christmas! So being Orthodox, our traditions are also a little different, but what I want to share with you is a great game you can introduce to your family. It's not so much of a board game, but to my knowledge, it's a Lebanese tradition I have been doing since I can remember. I don't even know if it has a real name, but I'm calling it EGG WARS!

So what exactly is EGG WARS? Well, it's as easy as the name says it is, it's a battle with eggs. Now don't think now that you're gonna get yolk all over yourself, it's actually much cleaner than you think! So here are the rules and instructions!

First, you need eggs. (no duh!) You need the same amount of eggs as the number of people that will be at the gathering. You also need egg colorant, at this time of the year, if you get to Adonis, they have some at each check-out counter, or you can probably find some at your local Dollar store. You just need some kinda food coloring.
-So, once you have these 2 things, you are ready to go. Now you got to boil your eggs (don't crack them!), boil them until well, they are cooked.
-While they are boiling take out your different colors of food coloring and add a couple drops to a bowl of water.
-You can have as many colors as you want but each need to be in separate bowls, unless you decide you want to make some kinda combos!
-Once the eggs are cooked, have them cool off for 7-10 minutes.
-Once they are cool, take your eggs, and put them in the food coloring. You can really play around with this, by doing different colors on each side of the egg, or mixing colors, this is up to you.
-If you have young nieces or nephews or cousins, this is a fun activity to do with them, or to do with the whole family. My advice is to give the eggs a few coats of coloring, I think it makes them stronger.
- Once they are dry, have each person chose an egg - it will be their special egg. AND LET THE WAR BEGIN!
- Take one side of your egg, and hit someone else's end. See which end breaks! Is it you? Oh aint that too bad. Now someone needs to hit you. It needs to be someone else than the person you hit. If both your sides are broken. You lose. 
- You can't hold your egg to close to the end, that's cheating! And no smashing either, only 1 end on each of the eggs should break, not both!
- The winner needs to get through the 2 rounds, and then there is a 3rd round until one person is left with either both ends not broken or just 1 end unbroken. THEY ARE THE GRAND EGG WAR WINNER!!!

So I just tried to youtube this, and I found this video, seems like it's known in Louisiana!! THERE IS A WHOLE CITY CONTEST!!! Fast forward to 4:50 min!
This video is AMAZING! It's probably at least 25-30 years old! But shows you exactly what EGG WARS is all about!!

I hope you guys try this and bring it into your family and then, if you don't know what to do with all these eggs, you make some delish egg salad sandwich mix, or make devilish eggs, or HEY, if you guys have any ideas on what to do with hard boiled eggs, please write your comments below!!

Hope you all spend a great Easter, no matter what you do!

Happy Egg Wars! :)


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Eating NYC.

I was in NYC over the weekend. What a fabulous city! It totally destructed me, I still haven't caught up on all my necessary sleep. We partied, we shopped, we walked, but most importantly, WE ATE! Here is my rundown of all the places I discovered, the good and the not so good! If you click on the names of the restaurants, they should direct you straight to the link of the place! 

First stop of the weekend - EATALY in Midtown. It's basically a grocery store/restaurant/pretty place/yummy. You walk in, and right there, they have a gelateria, considering that on Friday it wasn't too warm, I didn't venture into the ice cream, but decided on a sandwich instead. No any kind of sandwich, but a panini with the most freshest Italian meats and cheese. It was called the PANINOTECA. It served warm and cold paninis. Just cheese, meat and veggies. No mayo, no mustard. And to be honest, there really isn't a need for them. I can't even remember what I took, but it was a combo of a proschiutto type meat with some cheese. DELISH. It was smooshed in the panini machine and tasted like little pieces of heaven. My 2 other partners had other types of paninis. One of them had veggies in it and she didn't like that one bit, so maybe refrain from the veggies. 

Second stop of the day was JAZZ STANDARD in Midtown, actually known for being a jazz bar, but the restaurant above "Blue Smoke" is known for serving BBQ style food. I could go on about this place, but this culinary experience wasn't the best. I have had much better ribs at Baton Rouge. We were 6 and we sat at this table in the jazz bar, we couldn't see our food, we couldn't talk. The quality of the jazz was amazing! 

Saturday morning, we decided that we wanted to try a great brunch place. One of my friends suggested a place in the West Village called BLUE RIBBON CAFE! What a treat! 2 of us had the Blue Eggs Benedict which came with egg, ham, cheese and tomato on a baguette, 2 of us had the french toast on challah bread and another one had the Steak and Egg with fries. All meals were DELISH! It's a really cute place too on a beautiful street. When you're done your meal, you can walk around the pretty streets!

After our brunch, we walked.. FOR A VERY LONG TIME! What else do you do when you're in NYC anyways! We made a quick stop at the CHELSEA MARKET. This MUST be on your list of places to go. Food galore. You like sweets, you'll get sweets, you like smoothies, well they have quite the smoothie place! They have TONS of food!

Right after our quick stop at the Chelsea Market, we kept on walking, did I mention we walked a lot? I must say that i really love the West Village area. I can't tell you if I actually stayed in that area because I was guided by others, but the streets are lovely. We even visited Hilltop which is a park created on top of a building, very beautiful too! Then I know we walked into Chelsea, and for those that know NYC - hello gorgeous community! All the bars, restos and places you can ask for!

We finally stopped for dinner at a place called Co in Chelsea. According to the NY Mag, Co is known for having the best meatballs in the city. I tried the meatballs, but I wasn't SUPER impressed. Bottega in Montreal has better ones. The pizza however was quite good and the decor of this little italian pizza spot was really cute too. The food was good. Perfect for a pre-going out meal! 
Co (Company) Restaurant in Chelsea

Sunday was a lazy day. Big time lazy day. We went to bed at hours I should usually wake up at. So we headed to Chinatown for some Dim Sum. We went to a place called GOLDEN UNICORN. Oh yes. Very typical dim sum. I very much enjoyed all the yummy food they had there, and mostly enjoyed the coconut gelatin bars we had at the end of the meal. We were 5 VERY TIRED and grumpy people, but managed to eat and sorta enjoy each other's company! The place was packed, the food was yumm and well, that's as good as it gets on a lazy Sunday!

Golden Unicorn in NYC
After some dim sum - we headed to Nom Wah Tea Parlor because one of the us wanted to get some tea. Nothing too special, but the tea was nice, they also serve dim sum, but we decided to drink some jasmine tea instead. Right smack in the middle of Chinatown, on a winding street, we walked in, sat at the counter while Wilson talked to us about tea, that it can even be compared to wine. Aged tea is better, and the quality depends on the leaves, where it comes from, what was the altitude, etc! 
See Nom Wah in the background. Cute place!

Later that night, we headed to DOS CAMINOS in the Theater District for supper. We wanted to go to the Meatpacking, but they didn't have any room for us at the time we wanted to eat! I had some ceviche which was WAY TOO SPICY. Well I can't eat spice. But the tacos were delish and so were the margaritas, but for the price we paid, I think I could have found something a bit more wow. It was good, don't get me wrong. I had some chicken tacos, and by the time I started my first taco, I was already pretty full! We started with some guacamole, which i need to say had WAY too much onion. But the company was perfect and we had a good time! 

My last meal of the trip in NYC (Red Lobster in Albany doesn't count!) was at this place called HAMPTON CHUTNEY CO. A perfect stop if you are shopping in Soho and you're looking for something good and different. This place serves what they call are DOSAS, which looks like these long crepes with stuffing. The typical dosa is with tikka masala potatoes (yes it's indian) and they serve a really amazing CHAI tea, which you must take! 

Dosas at Hampton Chutney Co.
So that concludes my culinary adventure! My favorite picks? Eataly and Hampton Chutney Co. Those are a must, along with the Chelsea Market! If you have any great recommendations for NYC, please don't hesitate to add them in the comments below! Be awesome and SHARE! :)

I'm heading back to NYC in May - so PART II is sure to come!