Two weeks ago yesterday, Hal, Stacy, Tony, and I went to the Orchid Show (this year's theme: Chandeliers) at the New York Botanical Garden. It was my first time at the NYBG, and this show was amazing. It was almost a case of too much beauty in one space.
And speaking of too much beauty, check out these hunks ;-) in a photo Stacy took (using an honest-to-God camera):
She ran the photo on her website, along with many gorgeous close-ups of flowers.
I didn't do too bad with my iPhone camera, though:
Hellebores outside the pedestrian entrance to the garden:
We saw this magnificent scene when we first walked inside the Haupt Conservatory:
There must have been a gajillion orchids throughout the conservatory:
There were many cool things to see in the conservatory besides orchids:
There were some neat citrus trees and shrubs, including this Ponderosa lemon:
Even though it was an overcast day—and we even got some flurries—there was enough overhead light to make shooting anything from below problematic. This is a hanging basket of tropical pitcher plants:
I was hoping the snow would be visible in this photo, but it isn't:
Some more cool cactuses:
That's a cacao pod:
Here's a shot of the conservatory from the outside in which you can see some snowflakes, especially if you click on it to embiggen it:
I had seen on the NYBG's website that the witch-hazel should be blooming, so I was determined to get a photo of that, since there wasn't much else to see outside. And the flowers look neat:
I'm glad my friend and co-worker Lynn mentioned that Metro North has an NYBG stop on the Harlem Line that lets you off right across the street from one of the entrances to the garden. It saved us a good deal of time compared with the 4 subway line. And I love any reason to go to Grand Central Station.
After we left the NYBG, Hal drove us to the Guggenheim Museum. The main exhibit along the spiral was On Kawara—Silence. Hal said he admired the work that went into this collection of paintings, postcards, typed pages, etc., with repeating themes. Stacy, Tony, and I were unimpressed. To me, it seemed like the artistic equivalent of busywork. We also collectively yawned at Paul Chan's Hugo Boss Prize–winning Nonprojections for New Lovers.
I appreciated the works of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, though, particularly the sculptures that incorporated mirrored glass and reverse painted glass.
Whenever the name Guggenheim comes to mind, I always remember the 2000 movie Pollock, starring sexy Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock. Pat and I both liked the movie (and shared lusty thoughts for Harris), and she did a great impression of Peggy Guggenheim, who was portrayed by Harris's real-life wife, Amy Madigan. And I do the same one, though it's not as good. So imagine my excitement when I saw a Peggy Guggenheim documentary was going to be part of this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Unfortunately, Pat has dogsitting clients lined up the week the film is showing, so she can't come up for it. I snagged free tickets for Tony and me, thanks to a large, evil telecommunications company that's sponsoring all of the screenings on April 24.
And for dessert, I got the Live Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie With Strawberry-Basil Ice Cream:
I enjoyed what I ate, but it wasn't quite as good as my meal at Candle Cafe East over Thanksgiving weekend.
Here are H&S at lunch:
To recognize S&H's fourth wedding anniversary, on April 2, we sent them this Fotofolio postcard of Jack Kerouac, circa 1965, with the message "Happy anniversary to our favorite cat people!":
I saw H&S again on Tuesday, in the town in New Jersey where they live, West Orange, because I went to a seminar on "Taking the First Steps: How to Get Into the Ice Cream/Gelato Business" at Malcolm Stogo's Ice Cream University, which is at Stogo's home in West Orange.
Am I going to start an ice cream business? Yes. Yes, I believe I am.
I took a NJ Transit train to South Orange and then a cab to Stogo's home. Stacy picked me up after my all-day class, and we hung out at S&H's apartment—where I got to meet their cats, Zoey and Mr. Orange—until Hal got home from work. (The high school where Stacy teaches was on spring break.) Then we had a great dinner at Positivitea, a vegan cafe in nearby Verona. I really enjoyed my Mexican-style black bean burger, but the Nice Kream dairy-free vanilla soft serve I had for dessert was the highlight of my meal:
I got the Mr. Cookie Munster, which came with chocolate chips, bits of cookie (of course), and a vegan chocolate sauce that made the dessert taste a whole lot like I remember the Hot Fudge Sundae from McDonald's tasting like when I was a kid. Which is high praise. Because even though I probably haven't had a Hot Fudge Sundae from Mickey D's in 30 years, I remember it being heavenly to '70s- and '80s-era Bill Hawley.
A week ago yesterday, Tony and I hosted Eugene, Lou, and Game Master Mark for dinner. I ended up preparing everything (maybe because I wanted to make up for the fact that Tony had done almost everything the last time we had a bunch of people over, at Christmas?). Eugene and Lou brought great wines, and Mark brought Catchphrase, which we played a couple short rounds of after dinner.
To start, we had a Mixed Lettuces Salad With Watermelon Radish and a Lemon–French Basil Dressing:
The French basil from Penzeys really does have a gentle sweetness to it. It's my second-favorite dried herb/spice we've been using since our fresh herb season ended in early winter.
For the main course, I roasted large chicken breasts from Violet Hill Farm on which I'd liberally shaken California Seasoned Pepper, my favorite dried herb/spice of late, and I'd liberally piled chopped leeks from the Greenmarket. (I pushed the leeks to the side late in the cooking process so the tops of the breasts would get browned and put some back on when I plated the boobs.) For the sides, I made Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root With Celery Seed and Boiled Gold Beets With Tsardust Memories Russian-Style Seasoning. The cleverly named Tsardust Memories—an unusual mix of salt, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram—went really well with the beets, which were more pale yellow than gold; I'm pretty certain they'd been stored after having been harvested in the fall or early winter and had lost some color in that time:
Here are our guests drinking Canadian ice wine:
For dessert, I whipped up my second batch of coconut milk ice cream in the new ice cream maker and I baked gluten-free Chocolate Chip Blondies based on my usual source recipe, this one from Martha Stewart. The blondies were the first ones I'd made using (store-bought) ghee. Tony had been urging me to try baking with ghee, and so I did, after I verified that it's an acceptable butter replacement in baked goods. And I was really happy with how they turned out. They had a very cakelike texture, very much like with whole butter:
Tony can eat ghee because it's all fat; the dairy protein is what causes issues for my boy.
I replaced the regular all-purpose flour in the recipe with GF flour and added 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every cup of flour.
The CMIC was very good, too. I once again reduced the amount of sugar called for in the original source recipe—to only 1 heaping cup—and for the second time added arrowroot—a neutral-tasting starch used in some GF-baking recipes—as insurance against the coconut milk's curdling in the blender. This time, I used only a half teaspoon. The previous time I'd made Vanilla CMIC in my new ice cream maker—on Feb. 1—I had used a whole teaspoon of arrowroot and 2/3 cup of agave syrup instead of sugar. That's because (according to the food-blogging notes on my iPhone) my CMIC base had curdled in the blender on my previous attempt, on Jan. 25. That time, I had used 1/2 cup of agave syrup, 1/2 cup of sugar, a small container of mint leaves from the Two Guys From Woodbridge stand, one can of coconut cream that Tony had bought, and one can of organic, unthickened, no-BHA-in-the-can-lining coconut milk that I had bought. I'll never know what caused the curdling that time, but from here on out, I'm going to use arrowroot in my CMIC base to be on the safe side, because I read online that corn starch prevents curdling in coconut curries and so I figured arrowroot would accomplish the same thing in my ice cream base.
And the next time I make it, I'm going to go back to the recipe with the teaspoon of arrowroot and 2/3 cup of agave syrup, because Tony said it was the best ice cream I've made. After he was done eating a bowlful, he said, "That was just ridiculous"—in a good way.
The last fun thing in this fourth and final collection of fun things is our trip to Fort Lauderdale, which was way back in early February. The weather was too often chilly and overcast/rainy, but we had a great time anyway. I got to meet one of Tony's closest college friends, Greg, and his partner, Michael, who live in Coconut Creek. And we also hung out with Tony's longtime friend Marcheta (who was his adviser at his undergraduate college) and her wife, Uli, who live in Greenacres. I had met M&U when they visited the city not long after Tony and I had first started seeing each other.
We were treated like kings at our hotel. (Tony got a sweet deal on the room. The deal involved his, mostly credibly, becoming a student member of the American Bar Association. Hee hee.) We ate many meals—gratis—in the club lounge. And everyone on staff went out of her way to accommodate Tony's dietary restrictions, almost to the point of ridiculousness. On our last day there, while we were hanging out in the lounge before heading to the airport, the chef prepared a large plate of seared tuna for us that must have been sushi grade, or at least very close to it. I never buy tuna anymore because it's been so terribly overfished. Because of the generosity and the overfishedness, we tried our hardest to eat every bite, but it was just too much. We left a couple pieces behind. They also gave us a chicken salad sandwich and cucumber at the same time:
Among the other delicious things we ate in the lounge were grilled chicken and asparagus, Macadamia Nuts With Wasabi ...:
... wonderful soups, including this Vegetable Beef Soup, which I enjoyed with housemade Garlic Salt Potato Chips and a glass of pinot noir ...:
... and oatmeal and plentiful fresh fruit for breakfast:
Here are some shots of the view from our seats out on the terrace of the club lounge our first day:
There was a delay in getting our room ready that day, a Thursday, but it all worked out well in the end, because we were given a room with this view:
Greg came over to the hotel and hung out with us for a while that afternoon. He and Michael had gone to a massive gay wedding at a nearby hotel that morning because two friends of theirs were one of the couples who'd gotten hitched, in a ceremony with former 'N Sync-er Lance Bass and his husband, Michael Turchin, in attendance. Because, let's face it, if a celebrity isn't there, does it really even matter?
Tracey saw a story about the mass wedding on TV and thought Tony and I might have snuck away to Florida to get married. I assured her that we wouldn't have done so in secret. And I'd much rather prefer to have the 'phews—and my friends and the rest of my family—at my wedding than a former boy band member.
We had dinner with Greg and Michael and a friend of theirs that evening after they showed us their house, which I was very impressed with, especially after having seen their before pictures. It's a gorgeous home, and they did most of the fixing up themselves.
I liked their entire place, but I was most taken with their kitchen, so I asked them to pose for a photo for the blog there:
Greg is holding their older dog, Mr. Charles. They also have a younger boy named Riley, who lay with his head in my lap on the couch for a while.
We had dinner with Marcheta and Uli the next night in our hotel's restaurant. Here are Marcheta, Tony, and Uli posing with some artful buttocks in the background:
And to wrap things ups, here are Tony and me on the windswept beach our last day in Florida: