Thursday, May 27, 2010

my first curbside freebie!

Ok, so let me start by explaining that I am inexplicably attracted to impractical, antiquated storage items (library card catalogs, architecture flat files, etc.), but they are always so prohibitively expensive given how essentially useless they are, so I've never bitten the bullet and invested in one. But lo and behold, on my afternoon walk with Lulu today, I stepped out of my mom's building and there on the curb, literally two feet from the front door, was a giant, steel flat file, all sad and abandoned and practically begging for a home.

So, it's about 3x4 feet, about a foot and a half high, and in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. I was already imagining it as my coffee table, hiding away all of my artwork in its large flat drawers, until my dreams were almost crushed (literally) by the sheer weight of the thing - it must weigh a BILLION pounds!

I was trying to think of somewhere that I could rent or borrow a dolly to cart it down into the basement until I get keys to my new place, when all of the sudden some strapping young gentlemen came strolling by ... and I decided to play the damsel in distress card. Yep, it's true, the feminist gods may come strike me down, but I let some big, strong, good samaritans help me wrastle the thing down the stairs (they had brains, too - taking out the drawers made the job a thousand times easier. DUH!) They wouldn't even let me throw them any cash or buy them a slice of pizza. Ladies, don't believe what you hear - chivalry is not dead...

Now that I've got it in my possession, I'm thinking of putting it on casters to lighten it up a little and make it a little more mobile, but I'm still not sure what color to paint it! Glossy white? Metallic silver? Chalkboard paint?? I have no idea! Thoughts are very welcome. Here's a little inspiration:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

rad housewares in red hook

So today was an alternate-side parking day, so Mom and I took advantage of the whole being-in-the-car thing and took a jaunt out to Red Hook to wander wide-eyed through a few of the big-box home stores, namely Ikea and Lowe's.

And let me start by saying, I know I snobbishly swore off Ikea for my new place in an effort to move away from the temporary, generic feeling of college decor, but I take it allll back - Ikea is a GOLD MINE if you just look past those few painfully ubiquitous pieces (please, for the love of god, no more locker furniture, "birch veneer", or Ektorp!!). They have so much cool new stuff that feels really understated and stylish: their Docksta table is a pretty decent knockoff of the $2000+ Saarinen tulip table, AND since it's such a cheapie, I can afford to just use the base and replace the top with pretty much anything I want (marble slab anyone?) to fit my space, since the basic Docksta top is a little too big for my breakfast nook.

I LOVE the Kulla lamp, with an opaque, glossy metal shade (I like white, but it also comes in black and red), which comes in a tabletop size and a full upright size.

I can't WAIT to raid the Whole Foods bulk bins and put everything in the cute little glass containers that come in the funky Forhoja. A coat of VOC-free paint would make the wooden frame even more unique.

And I couldn't help but love this hilariously random moose coat hook - perfect for my narrow entryway. A coat of spray paint in something other than "Ikea red" would make it feel a little more unique and less out of place in my apartment.

I unfortunately don't get to start actually buying stuff, because I just got the bad news that the previous tenants have changed their minds, and instead of cutting their lease short and moving out at the end of April, they're now staying through May, until the end of their lease. Boo. Oh well, that just means more time to get inspired!

We went to Lowe's more for some basic hardware stuff, but ended up looking around and finding some pretty cool stuff there too! I've been on the lookout for some sort of pretty little crystal chandelier for the closet, and while I'm hoping for a cheap and unique Craigslist find, I actually found a pretty nice option at Lowe's for a little over $100, which would be a decent back-up if my dream antique version doesn't reveal itself by the time I'm all moved in.

We're also thinking of doing a wall-mounted closet system for my walk-in rather than a bulky, prohibitively expensive custom built-in, and we actually found a couple of pretty classy versions here. The photos are not so appealing, but I promise they're nice in person.

Very exciting. Now I just need these damn tenants to get their asses OUT so I can get started already!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

burgers on a Brooklyn balcony

I'm baaackkk!! It is so good to be back in the city. I've been pretty swamped with design work so I haven't had the chance to do quite as much frolicking-gleefully-through-the-city as I would have liked, but I did finally get the chance to visit the apartment of our great friends, the culinary masterminds behind Cocktail Buzz, Paul and Steve. They've been in Prospect Heights for years and I always hear about their legendary balcony from Mom, and I finally got to see it in the flesh - and damn, it was gorgeous. Near-360º views of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline, tons of space to lounge and sip cocktails - I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty damn jealous, considering my new place has not a scrap of outdoor space. A girl can dream...

But it's not just the outdoor space that's amazing - the interior of the apartment is pretty awesome as well. Being master mixologists, their bar is totally drool-worthy, stocked with crazy obscurities such as Creme de Violette (the fragrant elixir that colored my cocktail at Emeril's that lovely lavender shade), as well as an impressive number of homemade flavored gins and vodkas. Rhubarb bitters, anyone? How about some tarragon-infused vodka? So enviable.

I am also kind of obsessed with their creative storage solution for their borderline-excessive spice collection. So clever! And all inexpensive to assemble, nice and uniform, and quite cute. I totally want to steal the idea, but I'm a big fan of shaking my spices into soups and sauces with wild abandon, so the fact that those quaint little Ikea spice jars don't come with any sort of perforated cap is kind of a bummer, since I'm not a big measurer, and I tend to be a menace with shaker-less spice jars (just the other day I accidentally dumped my mom's entire shaker-less bottle of Penzey's basil into my bolognese... oops). Anyone know of somewhere to get some sort of shaker insert to fit those Ikea jars? Or know of any other cute, inexpensive spice jars that come with that fabled scrap of perforated plastic? Whoever finds a viable solution wins a spice jar full of my famous chai tea mix :)

In addition to the killer balcony, awe-inspiring bar, and crazy spice collection, they have this AMAZING neon cloud sign, which is just so fabulous. I want one!!

The boys fed us delicious burgers and classic margaritas, which we sipped on their glorious balcony, watching the sunset over our beautiful Brooklyn.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

fun. and lots of it.

Oh man, the swamp tour was HILARIOUS! It seemed as though we were the only people in New Orleans who thought an 8am wake-up call on a Saturday morning to feed marshmallows to alligators was a great idea, since we were literally the ONLY people to board the bus that shuttled us to the swamp entrance about 40 minutes outside of the city, but luckily a few other brave (or maybe just stupid?) souls joined us and off we went.

It was actually quite beautiful, albeit slightly trashy… since we literally fed marshmallows to alligators who seemed suspiciously well-trained. But we definitely enjoyed it, and after two-plus hours of wildlife sightings and creepy stares from the weirdo German solo-traveler sitting next to me, we still had the whole day ahead of us for more adventures.

We changed out of our sweaty swamp clothes and headed out for a stroll down Magazine Street to check out all the home goods and antique stores, and man was it a gold mine! SO many beautiful, interesting things to look at! And Magazine street runs through the most gorgeous
neighborhood, the garden district, with all of these beautiful, tree-lines streets and impeccable, classic homes painted pretty colors, and there was jasmine blooming all over the place it was really crazy. Between the streets and the stores, I think I found my color scheme for my new place – lots of richly textured whites and greys, with dusty purples and pale greens mixed in, punctuated by a few pops of a warm gold. We dubbed it “New Orleans decay”, since a stop in to the famous Court of the Two Sisters restaurant in the French Quarter revealed a kind of artfully decrepit wall in the courtyard, covered in layers of peeling paint, that literally consisted of exactly those colors. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of it, but it’s burned in my mind as inspiration.

After wandering around all afternoon, I met up with Matt and some of his friends for one of the most ridiculous nights I’ve had in a long time. We started at their favorite local bar, Mimi’s in the Marigny and then moved on to the slophouse of all slophouses, Gold Mine, which was SUCH a good time. Sometimes you just need a room full of fratty dudes, mysterious black puddles on the floor, and the best of early 2000’s hip hop blasting on very large speakers.  I could have done without those last 2 (or 5...?) bourbons, but hey, when in Rome…

Needless to say, after a 4:30am arrival back to mom’s apartment, our 11am reservation for the Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace was both a blessing and a curse - blessing, in that I would be promptly treated with some hair-of-the-dog; curse, in that it had to happen before noon.

Luckily, Matt and his friend Sarah came with us, so I wasn’t alone in my horrendous hung over-ness. And four ended up being the perfect number – we all ordered different things and got to taste some of the most ridiculous food of the whole trip. Some highlights – my insane Creole cream cheese gnocchi with crawfish tails, Matt’s venison with melted leeks, poached egg, sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese grits, and Sarah’s ridiculous bananas foster bread pudding, all of which were really just legendary. Three courses, several bloody marys, and some lovely live jazz later, and we practically needed to be rolled out of there.

I’m pretty sure that’s all we managed to accomplish for the day… It was kind of a blur. I think there was another short stroll through the garden district, and definitely a nap… and a rainstorm I think?

The next day we went all-out touristy: we strolled over to the French Quarter and started the day off with some beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde, then took a riverboat cruise (and nice nap) down the Mississippi, followed by a fried oyster po’ boy at Stanley’s and some shopping around the Quarter. Then, being the cheeseballs that we are, we took a haunted house tour, complete with a mid-way bar stop where we got to engage in one of my favorite cultural anomalies of New Orleans – wandering through the streets with an open container of alcohol. LEGALLY. Amazing.

We managed to stay generally skeptical throughout the duration of the tour, but as soon as we got on our own and turned down a dark alley on our way to Tujagues for some secret-menu fried chicken, we ended up scaring ourselves so bad that we ended up running and screaming down the block. Classic.

Upon arrival to Tujagues (pronounced “two jacks”) upon the recommendation of one of mom’s costars who is a Nola native, we skipped the dining room and went straight to the grungy bar, and immediately asked the rather grumpy bartender for a few beers and the “fried chicken bon femme” and then waited patiently for almost 45 minutes until it arrived, towering in all its glory, piled upon a silver platter and piping hot. You are given the choice of a whole chicken or half (the answer is WHOLE, obviously), and the “bon femme” means it arrives buried under a pile of perfectly fried potato slices, and topped with mounds of a modified chimichurri sauce, that tasted like it was an even blend of fresh minced garlic and parsley.  TO. DIE. FOR. Seriously. We slept like happy little babies that night.

And then our last day was another tourists’ paradise – we hopped a trolley to the Audobon Zoo, the highlight of which was the ADORABLE baby orangutan who put on a huge show for us. So freakin’ cute. Then we strolled back down Magazine Street to catch the rest of the shops, and finished up with dinner at Emeril’s. Which, despite being the restaurant of a “celebrity chef” and a pretty cheesy one at that, was impeccable. SO delicious. We started with some lovely cocktails – a Violette Royale for me, which was a flute of champagne topped off with Crème de Violette, a sweet and lightly floral liquer that made my cocktail distinctly lavender-colored, and a Flirtini for Mom (yeah, she’s that girl…) 

We split some scrumptious calamari and a gorgeous steak with arugula and gorgonzola, followed by a slice of quite possibly one of my favorite items on the planet: Emeril’s banana cream pie. It’s really just orgasmic. If any of you experienced my banana pudding from two summers ago, it’s in the same family of deliciousness; however, I find Emeril’s custard base almost too sweet, whereas mine was almost too creamy, so I might just have to make it my mission this summer to somehow merge the two recipes to create the ultimate dessert… stay tuned for kitchen experiments to come. And tales from New York!