so American, so delicious

I rarely talk about my work on this blog which is a shame as I really do adore where I work and what I do. I suppose most of the time I think it would bore people which, to be honest, it probably would. At certain times, however, I can’t help but contain my excitement about something new happening at the Met!

This past Thursday was the press preview for the new American Painting Galleries (which opens to the public, Monday January 16!). It’s really such a classic space, with natural wood floors and open sky lights– very American indeed. The paintings, however, are really what glow. Iconic ones like Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emauel Leutze (above) as well as works by other American artists such as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins and…

this absolutely beautiful painting by John Singer Sargent. Reminds me of my favorite show, Downton Abbey. In fact, the makeup artist of the show said that she was greatly influenced by Sargent paintings… I like to think this one in particular.

Madame X also by Sargent. Stunning.

The New York Times has even posted this interactive tour of the galleries which gives you an amazingly realistic sense of walking through the space. I’d really recommend you check it out… as your duty as an American.

Now, when I think of America one of the foods I think of is macaroni and cheese. And when I think of macaroni and cheese, I immediately think of Thomas Jefferson. Although the dish most likely existed centuries before in Italy, he can certainly be credited for popularizing the dish in America. In fact, “Thomas Jefferson is known to have had a pasta maker as early as 1793 and to have served a macaroni pie at the White House in 1802.” Are you thinking what I’m thinking… what is a MACARONI PIE and where can I get some?

Below is a recipe for stovetop mac & cheese, you know, like the kind that comes in the blue box (only much better). I remember my mom used to slice hotdogs into our mac & cheese when we were younger… I thought she was a genius.

 

  

This version has been lightened up a bit and incorporates broccoli, but still remains very classic, very American, and of course very delicious.

Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese (lower fat)
adapted from skinnytaste.com

  • 12 ounces high fiber elbow or shell noodles (I used Barilla)
  • 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese

(1)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente (or slightly under cook 2 minutes). In the last 1 minute of cooking the pasta, add the broccoli. Drain in a colander once done.
(2)  While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Add onion and cook over low heat about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent. 
(3)  Whisk in flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. 
(4)  Whisk in the milk, vegetable broth and Dijon mustard, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a bubble.
(5)  Cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
(6)  Once the sauce is thick, turn heat to low, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted.
(7)  Add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. 

Makes 8 servings

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The ‘Experience’

Wondering why my dear friend Alyssa looks like an extra for the next Star Trek film? Read on…

Yesterday was Alyssa’s birthday and lucky for me, she chose to spend it visiting New York City with her new fiancé Trevor and our friend Alex! It was one of the most fun, relaxing days I’ve spent in the city thus far.

First on the list was a delicious brunch at Freemans. Freemans is a bit difficult to explain. It’s a tucked away-cozy-yet-eclectic-lodge-hipster-gastropub… see what I mean? What they do have is an excellent brunch menu with an equally good drink menu. I ordered the poached eggs on top of white cheddar grits with roasted tomato and sourdough toast along with a star anise-flavored lemonade. Both were pure yum-ness. I honestly have only great things to say about Freemans. Although the brunch crowd was there in full force, we were lucky enough to be seated in the private wine room with no wait at all! Our waitress Phoebe was also just amazingly sweet. I am absolutely going back there again.

me with the birthday girl!

... and the manly men too of course

side note: what’s with this freakish weather?? 50 degrees in January is not what I imagined when I moved to New York. Back in the sweltering summer months, it seemed every New Yorker was warning me about the brutal city winter that lay ahead. ‘Winters here are so bad. They’ll make you want to hibernate indoors because every time you venture outside your eyeballs will freeze to death.’ I remember thinking ‘Oh dear… but I don’t want frozen eyeballs!’ … And yet yesterday I walked around in a silk blouse and a trench coat with not an eyeball popsicle in sight. Not to complain but where’s my snow?

Anyways, next on our list was the New Museum which currently has an exhibition called the ‘Carsten Höller: Experience.’ This is also hard to explain (or maybe I’m just really bad at explaining things). In general, it’s an adult amusement park with every art piece in the exhibition having an interactive sensory experience linked to it. The main attraction is the giant slide that goes through three floors of the museum. The wait for it was about 40 minutes long but I would say worth it… I mean, when else can you scream at the top of your lungs going down a giant steel slide?

Other installations include a mirrored carousel (beautiful to look at but not very fun to ride… too slow), a Psycho tank (sensory deprivation tank in which you float weightlessly in water, meant to mimick the Dead Sea), a fish tank in which you can stick your head underneath and watch all the fishies swim around you (my favorite!) and other works meant to stimulate/disorient your senses.

Another fun element in the exhibition were these upside-down goggles. A prism inside the goggles turns everything you see completely upside down. Quite disorienting to say the least (in fact, you have to sign a waiver before you enter the galleries) but SO MUCH FUN! We all got such a kick out of the simplest tasks, such as watching someone drop a quarter into their hands or trying to walk in a straight line, all done UPSIDE DOWN. Plus the goggles just made us look plain silly.

Hey, you look funny.... NO you look funny.

We ended up spending close to 4 hours in the museum… granted most of it was spent waiting in line for each of the activities. As you would expect, this has been a very popular exhibition and everything you do (slide, carousel, goggles, etc.) requires you to stand in a separate line. All in all though, if you know what to expect before you go there, it’s definitely a worthwhile experience. All four of us had a blast!

After the museum, we were dizzy with hunger, and just plain dizzy. So we headed uptown to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Café Sabarsky. Attached to the Neue Galleries, Café Sabarsky is an Austrian-German café with a rich decor of dark wood-paneling and a beautiful marble fireplace. The food is fantastic but the Viennese coffee and desserts are to-die-for! I first was introduced to this place by my boss who adores the restaurant. Last night was my third time there in the past month (second time with Alyssa who requested it especially for her birthday) so you could say I kinda love this place as well.

Alyssa showin off her ring aka 'Big Sparkler'

I won’t go too much in detail over what I ate because, holy cow! this post is long… and pretty much anything you get here is guaranteed to be delicious. As long as I am there with you when you get it.

I honestly could not have wished for a better day.

Happy, Happy Birthday to Elvis!… oh yes, and to Alyssa as well. xo

Freemans
8 Rivington Street (down Freemans Alley), New York, NY 10002
(212) 420.0012

New Museum
Carsten Holler: Experience (closes January 22, 2012)
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
(212) 219.1222

Café Sabarsky
1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028-0111
(212) 288.0665

 

have a holly, jolly (Lincoln) Christmas!

2011 has been the year of my first grown-up Christmas. The first year I got my own Christmas tree in my own apartment with my very own golden pinecone star! Sexy Sallie (the name we bestowed on our tree) is the first real pine tree I’ve ever had and I have to say, the smell of a real pine tree is unmatched. Look at Sallie in all her glory…

Another first for me this Christmas was my first holiday work party. And lucky for me, I had not just one holiday party but two! The first was a lovely lunch last Friday hosted for the entire staff and volunteers of the museum. It was a wonderful affair held at the Temple of Dendur with entertainment provided by staff members (!!!).  Now, the second party was a smaller, less formal affair for our department planned by the PPC (Party Planning Committee) of which yours truly is a member. Here is the invitation we sent out for our holiday party:

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Umm, are they having a Lincoln-themed holiday party?’ I can feel your jealousy burning and let me explain.

(1) It’s actually a Civil War-themed holiday party, thank you very much
(2) Our Vice President of External Affairs is a pre-eminent Abraham Lincoln scholar and we were all hoping the theme would inspire a certain holiday bonus (still waiting on that btw)
(3) think Little Women. The soundtrack alone sold me.

Most of the staff outside of the PPC were still skeptical about the theme but once party time arrived, everyone got into the 1864 holiday spirit!

Our (Gingerbread) House Divided

wonderful members of the PPC (minus Christopher Gorman)

As a representative of the South, I thought it would be fitting to bring something with true southern roots. So I made these delicious red velvet bars. Exactly the same as red velvet cake but more portable and party-friendly sized. So yummy, just like anything slathered in cream cheese frosting.

Red Velvet Bars

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 ounce red food coloring (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.
(2)  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.
(3)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
(4)  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
(5)  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. (Be careful not to get ‘red-handed’!)
(6)  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored red batter.
(7)  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(1)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy.
(2)  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next ½ cup.
(3)  Once all of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

Oh how I love the holidays! And tomorrow evening I will be heading to the best place to spent one’s holiday season… HOME!!! I am just so excited. Because as much as I love my grown-up Christmas, there’s nothing like being a kid on Christmas morning!

xo Margaret

Fashion Flashback

I have recently become completely obsessed with the show Felicity. You see, I missed the wave of Dawson’s Creek and My So-Called Life that swept the 90’s (too busy still playing with Barbies I guess). But thanks to Netflix, I have now zipped through Season 1 of Felicity in a couple weeks.

Although it’s a show very representative of the 90’s (it has Amy Jo Johnson, the Pink Power Ranger, for goodness sake!), I feel it really resonates with my current life. Felicity is a smart, yet rather meek high school graduate who ditches her Stanford plans to follow a crush she barely knows to New York City. Not exactly what I’ve done… but I can definitely relate with the confusion and humor that comes with struggling to find yourself in such a big city.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that all the characters wear flannel, like A LOT of flannel. Sometimes the screen is filled with so much checkered pattern, I wonder if it has a hypnotic effect on me. It’s put me in a flannel-inspired bend, and it appears I’m not the only person who wants to bring back the flannel craze…

J.Crew, $49.95 (on sale)

I really like this J.Crew shirt because it’s a very subtle, elegant pattern. Flannel often screams ‘lumberjack!’ but the neutral gray of the shirt makes it incredibly stylish and versatile.

H&M, $29.95

This is a modern version of the classic flannel shirt. I love the colors and most of all, the elbow patches! It’s bold but can easily be dressed down with jeans or dressed up paired with skinny black pants or belted over a dress.

Madewell, $69.50

I love this shirt. And not just because the pattern is called Dorthy Blackberry Julip (how delicious does that sound?!). The colors add a bit of a feminine flair to this garment, if you nix the bowtie.

J.Crew, $88 (on sale)

Flannel doesn’t have to be designated only to shirts. I really adore this red checkered flannel dress. Simple, yet fun.

Long live the 90’s!

Live from NEW YORK…

This summer when I first arrived in the city, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people (and sweat) and underwhelmed by the magic of this city. Of course, most of my notion of a “perfect New York” was solely due to watching films like Sleepless in Seattle and Serendipity way too many times. I had relented to the fact that life, especially in New York City, just isn’t how it’s shown in movies. But now, I realize all I needed to do was add some twinkle lights and… New York City is suddenly starting to feel very magical!

This weekend was a wonderful surprise in itself when one of my Vanderbilt friends, Erica, popped into the city for a visit with her sister and boyfriend. We spent the afternoon culturing ourselves first at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) which is renowned as the home of van Gogh’s Starry Night. I personally love MoMA as it also has one of the best photography collections and the building itself is a very stark, contemporary space.

We then stopped by Rockefeller Center to see the assembly of the new Christmas tree as well as the skaters on the ice rink.

Margaret trivia fact #1: I have never ice skated in my life.

Afterwards we got some Chinese food nearby. Scratch that, Erica, her sister and boyfriend got Chinese food while I smuggled in some Chipotle I had picked up (so cultured and refined I know but I was craving it!). We were struggling to get through dinner though in anticipation for what lay ahead afterwards…

MAMMA MIA!

Oh, do I love a Broadway musical! And this one was a steal for $31 (tip: Erica had checked with the ticket office earlier that day and bought student-rate tickets). The show was fantastic– full of outlandish costumes and fun dancing! It’s given me a new motivation to attend as many Broadway shows as possible. Because like twinkle lights, I really do think they make the city magical…

Margaret trivia fact #2: As a child, I was OBSESSED with the Sound of Music and can to this day recite the entire film. It’s a gift and a curse (for my family).

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
11 West 53 Street  New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400
 
Rockefeller Center
48th-51st Street btwn 5th & 6th Avenue, NY NY
(212) 549-5100
 
Mamma Mia!
1634 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
 
 

Baby, It’s (Gonna Be) Cold Outside!

Time to bundle up! Being from the South, I still think of snow as something magical… apparently jaded New Yorkers seem to think otherwise. So I’ve been preparing myself this year for my first ‘real’ winter. Forget the cute peacoats and wind-blown scarves, here’s a list of what I’ll be in this winter:

(1) long down jacket with hood

Michael Kors down jacket with faux fur hood

This seems to be essential winter garb #1. Make sure it has down feathers and a hood, it’s like wrapping yourself in a duvet. I love the Loden color (found on overstock.com)!

(2) rainboots/snowboots with fleece liner

Hunter wellies with fleece liner

There’s nothing more satisfying than fearlessly stomping through puddles (I apologize to those who walk beside me). Come winter time when snow turns to slush, rainboots with liners will keep your piggies warm and dry.

(3) Smartwool/Heattech legwear

Uniqlo W's Heattech knee high socks (fair isle) $12.90

Uniqlo W's Heattech tights $12.90

Heattech wear helps keep you extra warm by absorbing moisture and generating heat through movement. Both the knee high socks and tights are a a great way to dress up for work/going out and still look stylish without exposing your gams to the elements.

(4) glittens

J.Crew Hearthstone Glittens $28

Because texting with mittens makes me sound incoherent.

And of course, don’t forget the knitted scarves, grandpa sweaters, ear muffs, and hats! Cause the last thing I wanna feel is this…