Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category


As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)

 

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Yeah, I know – it’s been way too damned long since I’ve posted. Life does that sometimes.

Somewhere around March, I realized that I had fallen into a pretty bad depression. The weight gain, the impaired mobility, the inability to get the MRI I needed, the loss of several relatives and friends all served to hit me pretty hard. I started working my way out from under, and have been coming along slowly but surely.

One thing that helped is that I have been getting more social again. That started with the 25th anniversary party for two close friends. Two adventures lie therein, btw. The first was finding an appropriate gift for our friends, which entailed a trip to Eichlers, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue. Being a Sunday, parking was a pain, and we ended up parking around the block from the store. The Ex held my arm as we walked there, and the kind store staff found me a chair to sit on so I could catch my breath. We got the couple a lovely Havdallah set. The second was the saga of the lock. The morning of the party, I got up, got dressed (a beautiful long dress from Holy Clothing), and was checking my email when the Roomie came in and told me she couldn’t unlock the front door. I went up front to check, and sure enough, it wouldn’t unlock. Called the Landlady, who was in the Poconos. She called her dad and sent him over, so we cleared enough space by the front window to hand out our keys so he could try to open the door from the outside. No luck there. Next step was that we removed the doorknobs so we could try to manipulate the mechanism from the inside. That didn’t work.I was beginning to think I’d have to climb out the front window to get to the party. Called the Ex, who was also going to the party, and he came by. We got the Landlord’s dad to open the side gate, and the Ex came to the back door to try to push my bed forward by pushing the door open. To do this successfully, I had to try to move the 140 lb. Peloton exercise bike that sits in front of my bed. Not fun, but somehow I managed to do it. Marc got the door open enough that I could climb over the bed and out of the apartment.Then it was down some stairs, up the alleyway, then up a bunch of stairs. We got to the venue, and it was down some more stairs, which was a bit much, but I made it. The party was lovely, and while I was out the Roomie called a locksmith, and had the lock replaced properly. So we now have a properly working lock.

Since then, I have been out on several Friday dinner missions, a Saturday mission that included a book party, then a walk of about three blocks (2 half-avenue blocks and one street block) to a local ramen place we like and knew could hold a large group, and a Passover Seder that included a climb up stairs and down the same stairs. Pretty good for a mobility-impaired person who also has sciatica. In fact, these days, the sciatica is more of a problem than the heart is.

Today was my three-month cardiologist checkup. He was delighted with my blood pressure (132/80), and even more delighted to find my heart murmur has gotten a bit softer. Best of all, at some point – about three weeks ago – my ankles stopped looking like grapefruit and have started looking like ankles again. My left ankle is totally unswollen at this point, and the right one is so slightly swollen that you have to really look to see it. The legs are unswollen, too, which is nice. I also had a bit of a walk – the car service missed the turn at East 27th Street, so I had him drop me at the corner of my block, and walked the one-third of a block to my house.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan since the end of March and have lost 20 lbs. so far. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still annoyed that I have to do this all over again, but I can be annoyed and be working on it or I can be annoyed and doing nothing about it…I’d rather be the former, so that it gets done. I am taking advantage of their coaching program, since I was able to book my coaching sessions with my favorite lecturer. At some point, I will be able to get around enough to go to meetings, but for now, this is working, so I am happy about that.

Anyway, that’s about where things are for the moment, so I’ll be heading off to eat breakfast. Talk with everyone again soon!

 

 


Marc, Sue, Cindy and I were in the mood for something Polish last night. In fact, Marc had a yen for some white borscht and some bigos (hunter’s stew). Normally this would not be a problem, but our favorite Polish place in Greenpoint had closed a couple of months ago. So we looked on Yelp! and found a couple of places that sounded promising. We ended up at Krolewskie Jadlo, 694 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (Phone: 718.383.8993).
(What Yelp! didn’t mention, btw, is that the Owner/Chef used to be the Chef at Nobu.)

We got parking right out front, which is a Good Thing. Te restaurant was not crowded, either. This was unusual, because when Marc and I had passed it on other occasions the lines were out the door and down the block. We got a booth right away and settled in and looked at the menu, which was varied, but not so much so as to give people menu paralysis. Looking up, we easily ascertained that the lighting was old school incandescent. Another plus was the sound level. We could hear each other with no difficulty.

The food was wonderful. Marc and I had white borscht, which came with a small side dish of mashed potatoes topped with diced kielbasa. His main dish was the bigos, which he found satisfying. I had a few appetizers, rather than a whole meal. I opted for the beef tartar (which came with an egg, capers, diced onion, diced mushrooms, and diced pickles; the stuffed mushrooms; and the bacon stuffed with plums. All were superb. Cindy had the stuffed cabbage, and a side order of pierogies, and Sue ordered the King’s potato pancakes and a crepe. Marc added a take out order of kielbasa and pierogies to bring to his wife. Prices are good and portions are generous.

In fact, the only downside to this place is that public transit to Greenpoint is not the greatest. Still, if you have a car or can go earlyish, it’s a great meal.

They apparently have a second location at 66-21 Fresh Pond Road, over in Ridgewood (Brooklyn/Queens border), but we have not tried it yet, although I won’t rule the possibility out at all, at all.

(Note: This review was originally posted at my Facebook page, New York Fluorescent Free.)

Marc, Sue, Cindy and I were in the mood for something Polish last night. In fact, Marc had a yen for some white borscht…

Posted by New York Fluorescent Free on Saturday, November 28, 2015

 

 


Well, the adventure started on Wednesday. Naomi and I took Sue (the roomie) out for her birthday. We had a lovely dinner at Teresa’s in Brooklyn Heights. We shared an order of potato pancakes (lovely and crisp – almost crepe-like). Naomi had cherry and cheese blintzes, Sue had a chicken cutlet with kasha and beets, and I had goulash with kasha and beets and a small mushroom barley soup. All were delicious, as food at Teresa’s always is. We even got parking right in front of the restaurant, which was an amazing feat!

After dinner, we tried to get to Max Brenner, then Veniero’s, then Cha Cha’s In Bocca al Lupo, but we were too late to get to any of them. So we headed back to the Mirage Diner in Brooklyn for cheesecake. We agreed to pick up the slack on Friday, when things tend to be open later.

So today, Naomi and her friend Paula picked us up and we headed to a place called Brooklyn Ice House that had been recommended by a friend who shall remain nameless. It was horrible. The dive bar was so dark that standing under one of the lights it was still impossible for the menu to be read. It was, in fact, so dark that Sue could not see the legs of my chair and tripped over one of them. None of us felt comfortable there, so we walked back to the car. On the way, we found a place, Red Hook Lobster Pound, that seems to have a great lobster special on Wednesdays. We do plan to try it, but at that point we were all starting to get hungry.

Our alternate plan took us to Manhattan – Harlem to be exact – to a place called Harlem Shake. My friend Limore Kurtz Dooley is running for Miss Harlem Shake 2015, and I wanted to vote for her. Well, we should have gone there in the first place! Outside (they have outdoor seating) the place was packed because it was such a nice night. Inside, however, there was plenty of seating when we got there. The menu is burgers, salads, fries, shakes, mac ‘n cheese — pub food with a twist. Naomi and Paula had classic burgers with cheese fries (Paula), sweet potato fries and mac ‘n cheese (Naomi). Sue had a chicken sandwich and the mac ‘n cheese. I had a chili cheese dog, a Sonoran (bacon-wrapped dog with Deep fried bacon-wrapped dog, with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, chipotle mayo and onions)and the chili cheese fries. Paula’s meal came with a mini chocolate shake, Sue had water, Naomi had a clear birch beer, and I had the Gertrude (a lemonade/watermelon non-alcoholic cooler that was delicious and refreshing). The food was excellent; the prices were right (mine was $20.09, Sue’s was about $14, and Naomi and Paula’s was under $40). Inside is open seating, so tables could be arranged if we want to do a group dinner up there. Further, they have vegan options and various other choices that are actually healthy, so it looks like it will be able to meet the diverse food issues my Friday dinner group has! The only downside we saw is that the lighting is shielded fluorescents. We all decided we want to head back there and try other menu items.

We tried getting to Max Brenner’s once again, but between construction and traffic that bombed out. Instead, we hit van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream in the East Village, finding a parking spot just one store past the ice cream store. Three of us were pretty stuffed, so we just had two scoops each (Sue had mint chip and chocolate, Paula had strawberry, and I had mint chip and salted caramel). Naomi had a delicious looking sundae.

I grabbed a watermelon juice for the road, and we headed off to Naomi’s place so she could pick up some stuff she needed. Sadly, between construction, traffic, and various rude drivers, it took us forever to get uptown as far as the Midtown Tunnel. I suggested we take that, we did, and once we exited we had pretty much clear sailing the rest of the night.

So, the main takeaway was the discovery of a wonderful, inexpensive eatery (even if it is halfway to the ends of upstate Manhattan) that all four of us want to visit again.


Johns-Pizzeria-in-New-York-NY-Times-Square_Outside-300x225 Another great place to add to our list of fluorescent-free dining place in and around New York: John’s Pizza of Times Square, 260 West 44th Street. I’ll let Abby’s LJ entry explain it:

“Table for eleven at a theatre district pizzeria:

It started to rain as I got to John’s Pizza, 260 West 44th St., just a block from Times Sq. The northernmost entrance to the A train station was just at the corner. Definitely qualifies for New York, Fluorescent Free. It used to be a church. New York murals on the walls and a lovely stained glass cupola upstairs that looks amazingly like pizza slices. Special Guest Star was Robert Osband (Ozzie) up from Florida on a special mission. Two pizzas (one meat, one veggie) were ordered and a dozen conversations barely heard; ham radio, Revolutionary War re-enactors and personal distance walking records across NYC. Having dinner on Thursday night again harkens back to the old days of NYUSFS.”

johnspizzeria2 Back to me: We were at the double table under the stairs. The food is excellent. I had some of the soup (lentil with bacon), the spinach salad, a slice of the meat pizza, and a delicious dessert called a coppa mascarpone. Sue the Librarian had the spaghetti Bolognese and said it was delicious. Cindy devoured her chicken marsala. Desserts were tasted by several people – in addition to mine, Sue had the chocolate souffle with gelato, Nina had the pyramid (chocolate mousse), Fred C had the cheesecake. Nancy had the tiramisu. Sue had regular coffee, Nancy and I went for cappuccino (it was delicious). The lighting was acceptable to our resident photomyoclonic disorder sufferer. Even better, they were able to easily accommodate eleven people without a reservation (you need to make a reservation for 15 or more people). The pizza was reasonably priced: the meat pizza came to $3.57/slice and the veggie pizza was $3.25/slice. The wait staff was very helpful, bringing extra plates, bowls and spoons so that the salads, soups, and dessert could be shared. The one downside is that they only do pies – no slices – so go with a few friends or be prepared to take home a lot of pizza.


Wednesday was the ex’s birthday, but I was working and he had plans, so we got together with the roomie and a friend, H, for some good Indian food.

We love trying new places, and had actually been planning to try a new Mexican place in my neighborhood, but they were having their official Grand Opening last night, complete with mariachi band.  So, what to do?

Recently, the ex and I found a really great Indian restaurant here in Brooklyn, called Gandhi, about half an hour away by car, so we headed there (I could eat Indian food six days a week (the 7th day would be for sushi).

We ordered channa poori (spicy chick peas and a poori bread), a Peshwari naan (naan bread with fruit & coconut), and a plain paratha for the table. Soup was coconut for everyone but me – I had a wonderfully creamy, tomato-based mushroom soup. I love their coconut soup, too – it’s not overly sweet to the point of cloying the way some Indian places make it – but I wanted something different.

For main dishes, I had seafood korma, which was yummy, even though it had rosewater in it (rosewater and I do not get along). H had the mixed Tandoori platter; the roomie had tandoori shrimp, and the ex had tandoori salmon, which I really must order the next time we go there! It was delicious (he gave me a taste).

Dessert was easy. The ex and I had rasmalai – cheese patties in a sauce that is creamy and rich (and is the base for their ice cream, which we need to try one day). The roomie had the Indian rice pudding, and H had gulabjamon, which I used to love until I became sensitive to the rosewater in the sauce.

So, all in all, we had a very nice dinner, with great company.


Yes, I should have posted this yesterday, but when I got home from dinner I was in what my friend Lisa calls “sleepy predator mode.” The food was so good, and I was so full, that I actually slept on the bus almost all the way home.

So, what was this wonderful food?

We (Lisa, Josh [her SO], Marc, Harold, Kathy, Abby and me) went to La Vie En Szechuan, at 14 East 33rd Street. Lisa and Josh had been recommending this restaurant to me for a while now, and it seemed like a nice treat given that Kathy is in town.

It’s a nice place, btw; a bit loud, and very crowded (any time one of us had to get up, half of our table had to get up and move), but the majority of the diners were Asian, which is a good sign for an Asian fusion restaurant. Other than the noise, the only real issue we had was the lighting — Abby has a health issue called photomyclonic response, which means that fluorescent lights flicker at a rate that can trigger an epileptic-style response, which she dealt with by going our for walks a couple of times.

We primarily ordered family style:  two appetizers, and five entrees, and shared according to who could eat what…in order of food crotchets (from greatest to least) we run Abby, Kathy, Marc, Harold, me, Lisa & Josh.

What we ordered:

Appetizers:  Chicken with Szechuan Pepper Sauce, mini crabmeat soup buns, fried pork dumplings

Entrees: Barley Flavored Ribs, Pan Fried Rice Stuffed Duck, Mei Shan Dongpo Pork Shoulder, Shrimp with Salted Pepper, and Stir Fried Shredded Duck with Pickled Ginger

I had a bit of everything except the duck (I can’t eat ginger – it tastes like soap to me), and it was all yummy.  We were all just stuffed enough to decide against dessert. With seven people sharing, it came out to a reasonable price, too – $21 each, including tax and tip.

If I do go back there, and I suspect I will, it will not be in the middle of dinner hour on a Friday.  I am glad I thought to call and get us a reservation in the morning — they never would have been able to seat us had I not done so.

Oh, on a different note:  If any of my readers in New York City (yeah, all five boroughs) know of any good places to eat that use either incandescent or halogen lighting, rather than fluorescent lighting, I would love to hear about them.  Our group tries to make allowances for each other’s physical issues, and I would love to find some good, not-too-expensive places that we can go to with Abby where she won’t have to get up in the middle of dinner and go for a walk outside.

See everyone Monday!


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