Archive | June 2013

Fun Plan Turned into a Reality

Sometimes when we make plans to do some fun thing it doesn’t always work out for one reason or another, and we know to just let it go and move on.  But last August, when my friend Susan and I were at the Minnesota Twins game, somehow the subject of New York City came up.  The hotdogs and beers might have helped to start the conversation.  When Susan asked me what I would want to see there, I pretty much knew that the trip would become a reality.

The first place that came to mind was the Statue of Liberty.  Since the Statue of Liberty is like a heroine to me because of what she represents, of course, I wanted to meet her.  I also knew that I would be honored to be able to visit the 911 Memorial.  We saw those things and so much more.

We arrived on the Sunday before Memorial Day.  As we traveled from the airport to our hotel on the Upper West Side, we remained calm as our taxi driver swarmed about the traffic as if he was some sort of bumble bee dodging in between a winding garden of flowers. The van came close to scraping some barricades on the highway. Our cabbie, who is originally from Bangladesh, told us he has lived in New York City for over 20 years and how all his family lives close by. Since Susan, a seasoned traveler to the area, asked how he was going to get to our hotel, he delivered us there promptly without venturing off course.

The glass doors to the hotel were opened wide to greet us. Several doormen bustled about carrying customers’ luggage to and from the building. When we entered the Lucerne, I felt welcomed by the extravagantly decorated lobby. Comfy sofas and chairs were grouped in circles on each side of the room.  The elegant colors blended together and felt homey.  We weren’t able to get into our hotel room right away, so we checked in our luggage so that we could wander about the city. Seeing many other people stroll along was just what I expected. A yellow sea of cabs zoomed by while vacant cars sat parked on the street.  Every other group of walkers was accompanied by a dog. Most of the dogs were small, but occasionally a larger dog appeared. The dogs seemed to be happy as they walked along the cement sidewalks.

I thought that the subway station was crowded for a Sunday. We bought our $30 pass for the week, and walked to Le Pain Quotidien, a French bakery and restaurant on 72nd Avenue. We sat at a butcher block table close to the window. As we studied the menu, the sounds of dishes being ushered about echoed through the restaurant. People’s hushed conversations melded together. When I looked at the two women sitting next to us, I noticed a small dog inside a carrier that was sitting at its owner’s feet. If I hadn’t looked in that direction, I wouldn’t have even known the dog was there just minding his own business.

The waitress took our orders and soon she delivered this delightful creation which is a tartine:

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After lunch, we only had to walk a couple blocks to Central Park. In the back of my mind I thought Central Park was a place where people got mugged because that’s all we ever heard about New York all the time we were growing up. I was surprised to see how beautiful the park is:

We walked for hours around the park discovering the statues and attractions.  We heard many different languages and wondered if they were visitors to the park too.  More dogs could be found and enjoyed the grass all around us.

When we got back to our hotel, I wondered how many miles we walked.  It wasn’t long before we were off exploring again.  We stopped at the Gin Mill, a very lively bar that was only a block away from our hotel.  Next we had delicious lasagna at Al Dente Restaurant.  By the time we arrived at Café Lalo for dessert, it was 10:30.  I couldn’t believe the atmosphere because where I come from everyone is in bed at 10:30.  The customers were wide awake and the conversations were lively.  We split the amaretto tiramisu, and it was divine!

The minute my head hit the pillow back at the hotel, I was off to sleep in the blink of an eye.  I wasn’t even worried about the next day when I would travel on the subway for the first time.  I was just glad this fun plan turned into a reality!

To be continued…

I Heard Someone Say “Rhubarb”

Today I bought a bunch of rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market downtown. I passed by several stands before I came to one that looked to have a very nice selection of ruby-red stalks with some green parts in between.

“This is all grown on a farm in Elk River,” the lady said to me from behind the stand.

“It looks beautiful,” I said. I thought it looked like a real bargain too at $2 a bunch. Other stands were selling their rhubarb for $3 or $4 a bunch and the colors weren’t as vibrant.

“The honey dew is a $1 each,” she said as she opened a plastic bag. My friend and I looked at the large melons, and we looked at each other and laughed.

“No, we both ride the bus, and it would be too much to cart on there. I can just imagine the melon rolling down the aisle,” I laughed.

“Well, we don’t want to haul it back either!” she said. She packed up the rhubarb for me, and away we went.

It all started about a month ago when I heard someone say rhubarb. I started to think about the rhubarb sauce my Mom used to make for us when I was a little kid. She served it to us warm over cold vanilla ice cream.  I searched recipes on-line, looked through my own cookbooks to see what recipes I could find for rhubarb sauce, but deep inside I knew that I really wanted to use the recipe that my Mom used for her rhubarb sauce.  I wish I knew I wanted that recipe way before now.

Today when I got home, I searched through Mom’s recipe box and cookbook for the first time since I became their new owner. The recipe box had tabbed dividers that said: Beverages, Bread, Cake, etc. When I found casserole recipes under the Sauce tab, I figured out that Mom didn’t divide the recipes up accordingly, so I leafed through the entire box. There I found the many recipes that I typed up for Mom when I was just a little kid. I loved to type away on the old black typewriter. It was the kind that had ink on a ribbon and you had to push the keys down so far that you built very nice muscles in your fingers. It didn’t work from any electrical energy. It was all done by manpower. Those lovingly typed up recipes were mixed in with Mom’s handwritten index cards and lots of recipes cut out of newspapers. I found a pepper enchilada recipe that sounded good, but there was not a recipe for rhubarb sauce.

I pulled down the large green cookbook from the top shelf of the pantry in the kitchen. The Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, © 1942-1946, informed me that rhubarb is a vegetable even though it is usually served as a fruit. I always wondered! Many pages are devoted to rhubarb, but page 254 explains how to make spiced rhubarb, stewed rhubarb, baked rhubarb and rhubarb sauce. My own Betty Crocker Cookbook doesn’t even have that many options! The rhubarb sauce from Mom’s book called for lots of water and cornstarch, and I knew that wasn’t right. I decided to try the stewed rhubarb:

  1. Clean and cut 2 pounds of rhubarb in 1-inch lengths. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 2/3 cup of sugar.
  2. Cover and simmer over low heat 12 to 15 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
    Makes about 3 cups.

I cooked it a little too long, and it looks a little mushy. It tasted okay but not as good as Mom’s. I’ll always wonder if this is the right recipe, or did she just make it up on the way every time even though it always tasted the same. Now, for the rest of my days, I will be trying to figure out how to make rhubarb sauce that tastes just as good as Mom used to make.