Monthly Archives: March 2012

From The Kitchen With Love

I love food.  I do, I’m sorry.  Judge me all you want, but out of all of my vices (and believe me, I have a number of them) food would be the one I could never give up.  And I’m not just talking about outlandish meals from 4 star restaurants.  I’m also talking about rye bread & butter, scrambled eggs, pb&j, noodles with parm cheese, roasted chicken. I can’t remember a time in my life where I DIDN’T love food (I mean, just check out the size of my derriere).

Food isn’t just about how it tastes.  It’s about a feeling it gives you. With one bite, one look, one sniff, food can fill you with a flood of emotion.  Food can bring back memories you sometimes forget are there.  To this day, every time I walk passed Scoop du Jour (nee Dreeson’s Donuts) in East Hampton and get a whiff of the fresh donuts being made I am instantly sent back to being 6 years old, sitting on a bench, eating a fresh cinnamon sugar donut with my Poppa during the early hours of a summer Saturday.  I can feel the warm sun on my face, the bench wood slightly pinching my chubby thighs, and the light film of grease and sugar on my fingers.


The love extends past just eating, I’m a lifelong food tv junkie.  Before there was the Food Network, I would watch “The Frugal Gourmet” with Jeff Smith (on which my cousin Paul made an appearance) on PBS.   I was entranced by the chef’s soothing Pacific Northwest accent and the magic of his cookery.  I remember watching once with my Poppa (who I credit with teaching me to love food) and we later replicated the recipes we saw on tv.  I remember how exciting it was to watch this meal come to life.

The Frugal Gourmet

And then came the Food Network.  Oh, the mighty Food Network.  It isn’t confirmed, but I think I can pretty much guarantee I was one of the first viewers the network ever had.  I would watch every show that channel had to offer–except for Emeril. I just can’t get myself behind the “Bam!”.  Rachael Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” was like a gift from heaven (before she became an annoying sell-out).  I was hooked on that show like it was crack.  I would stay up late at night watching “Good Eats” and learning the science of food with Alton Brown.  And the original Iron Chef!! Oh, who cared if it was in Japanese and had weird translator voices, it was GLORIOUS!!!

The irony in all of this is that as much as I loved food, I never cooked.  EVER.  My mom never needed a sous chef when we were growing up.  Yes, we would occasionally bake cookies and banana bread but it was few and far between.  I was an expert in making cheese-eggs and turkey sandwiches, but that was the extent of my cooking experience.  If you don’t believe me, ask my college roommates.  Senior year, I would make the BEST reservations and take out orders Syracuse had ever seen.  I don’t think I ever used anything in our kitchen.  I was more familiar with the woman who picked up the phone at #1 Kitchen (the greasiest Chinese take-out that ever existed) than I was with our toaster oven.  I always wanted to learn to cook though.  There was a part of me that was yearning to know how to do it.

Dinner is served

And as fate would have it, I DID in fact learn how to cook.  During my “freshman year of life” I had my first real boyfriend.  He knew of my desire to cook and I even tried to make one (not so successful) meal for him.  Even though, like the meal, the relationship wasn’t successful he left me with two of the greatest gifts I had ever received…a George Foreman Grill and a gift certificate for an “Intro to Cooking Techniques” class.  After a year of putting it off (mainly because I was nervous about not knowing anyone in the class), I finally signed up for this 5 week cooking course.  HOLY BAJESUS!! I was hooked.  Addicted.  Obsessed. I could not get over the fact that I could actually cook.  And I was pretty good.  It was NOT as hard as it looked.  Even after a mandolin sliced the tip of my finger off, I could not wait to get bandaged up and back into the kitchen.  Cooking gave me a rush I had never felt before.

After that class I couldn’t stop cooking.  I would test out new my new skills and recipes on my friends.  I would bring treats into the office for my co-workers to sample.  I’m more than happy to offer to bring a dish to a friend’s party or a holiday meal.  I voraciously read cook books and mark off recipes that I dream about making.  I reserve Sunday afternoons for cooking.  I’ll not only cook for the day, but I’ll be in the kitchen for hours prepping meals for the week ahead. Cooking’s calming and exciting all at the same time. And I guess I was pretty good at cooking, because every time I would debut a new dish I would get compliments and rave reviews.  At first I thought it was just because people were just being nice, but then again, we are in New York…people aren’t that nice!  The more I would cook, the prouder I was at what I had accomplished, yet I never thought that I could turn this into anything except a hobby.

Reading material

Then, July 7th happened and I was let go from my job.  I spent MONTHS trying to figure out my next move.  I loved event planning, but I would hesitate when applying for any opening I would find.  Maybe I wanted to go into non-profit?! But no, I wasn’t qualified for even the most elementary of positions.  Teaching?? I toyed with that idea for a bit, but then realized I would probably want to drop kick a kid out the window the minute they bothered me.  Back in January, in a fit of vulnerability and despair, I went to my Dad’s office for help.  I sat in a little conference room with him hysterically crying (I mean, I ALWAYS cry).  What was I supposed to do with my life?! Where did I fit in?! Did I have the skills to do anything?!  After he let me “woe-is-me” for a few minutes, he said “What do you honestly want to do?”  Honestly, I just wanted to cook.  “So let’s do it”, he said.  I left that meeting with my dad, motivated, invigorated, and ready to take on the culinary world.  I set up a meeting with an admissions counselor, and within a week I was enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education’s Culinary Arts program. And as of tomorrow at 8am, I will officially be a student in culinary school!!! HOLY SHITBALLS!!!!

My goal is not to open a restaurant.  My goal is not to become a celebri-chef (though, I would totally kick Rachael Ray’s ass in ratings).  My goal is to make people love food the way I do.  To be able to create the feelings, emotions, and memories for others that I cherish so much.  And I’ve actually started this venture, even before school started.  The  fates aligned (I’m telling you, I believe strongly in karma) and I have been cooking part time for a family here on the Upper East Side.  I prepare 6 nights of meals for a couple who once solely relied on a cookbook full of take-out menus.  I love cooking their meals as much as they love eating them. What an incredible feeling to know that I am doing what I love and people are enjoying it!

When I lost my job, I constantly heard “everything happens for a reason” and “this is a blessing in disguise”.  And as hard as it was to hear then, those words could NOT be truer than they are today.  I am about to embark on something that I could only dream of before.  There aren’t many people that are truly doing what they love.  And not to rub it in, but after tomorrow, I can say that I am one of them 🙂

My New Uniform


Orange Madness

The ball is tipped and there you are.  You’re running for your life, you’re a shooting star. And all those years no one knows.  Just how hard you worked, but now it shooooooooooooooooooooooooows… 

Could Luther Vandross have sung a more inspirational song? I think not.  Today, bloggies, begins possibly my most favorite sports event of the year…the NCAA tournament.  I love college basketball.  Specifically Syracuse basketball. Seriously love.  I know that I write “I love this” and “I love that” pretty often in this blog, but if you know me in real life, this is NO JOKE. I often change my Facebook profile picture during the the season to reflect my love for the team. When it comes to college basketball I will stop at nothing to watch the game.  I rearrange my already packed DVR in order to watch live.  With my fellow fan friend Laura, I usually watch most games.  If we aren’t together, our texts during the games are epic.  And when it comes to March Madness, my common response to emails about future plans is “I can not commit to any plans until the bracket is released”. Nothing comes between me and my love for the Orange.

Have you ever been to the Carrier Dome for a basketball game before?  Well, put it on your bucket list, sports fans.  It is an incredible place to watch a basketball game.  On my 19th birthday, while all of my other freshman girlfriends were going through the rush process, my 3 guy friends took me to a Cuse V Seton Hall (ironically, my hometown team) basketball game.  Though I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on during the game (seriously, it has taken me 12 years of fandom to figure out the significance of the 2:3 zone), the feeling in the Carrier Dome that night was electrifying!  They don’t call it the loud house for nothing.  The building literally rocks during the entire game.  Otto runs the perimeter of the court and the sea of orange fans chant “F* ’em up, F* ’em up, GO SU!” Even the Dunkin Bright halftime show gets more applause than some Knicks games I’ve been to. I was addicted!

My first two years at school, the team wasn’t so great.  And then…and then came the 2002-2003 basketball season.  Carmelo.  Gerry.  Hakim.  Kueth.  Jeremy.  Love love love love love.  This team.  This glorious team.  As I spent the winter of 2003 studying abroad in London; the Syracuse basketball team was making its way through the regular season, the Big East Tournament, and through the field of 64 to find themselves in the National Championship game.  The other abroadies and I would hang out at the Sports Cafe in Piccadilly to   watch all of the games.  After each ulcer-inducing gut-wrenching game, I remember screaming into my pay-as-you-go cell phone every night to my dad after each win “We are a second half team! I knew we were going to do it!” 

That championship game night is something I will never forget. Since the game started at 2am London time, we had made special arrangements that the Sports Cafe would stay open for us to watch.  Decked in head to toe Syracuse gear, we all filed into the bar where they set up a huge screen for us to watch the game.  A tense and exhausting few hours to say the least, when Hakim Warrick blocked Kansas’ game tying shot to win the game, it was all worth it!! We ran through the streets of London as if we owned them-and we did as it was 5am!  People jumped in the fountains, we screamed through the streets, we called our friends who were celebrating on Marshall Street.  WE WERE THE CHAMPIONS!

But being a Syracuse Basketball fan isn’t always sunshine and championships.  This year alone we dealt with the Bernie Fine allegations and the double suspension of (not so) Fab Melo. Billy Edelin was suspended in 2001 for misconduct with a female student (then disappeared off the face of the earth).  Arinze Onuaku suffered a (basically) career ending injury during the 2010 Big East Tournament.  We prematurely lost players to the NBA draft: Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Paul Harris, Carmelo Anthony-probably Dion Waiters this year.  And let’s NOT discuss the excruciating loss to Vermont in the first round of the 2005  tournament.  I am STILL trying to recover from that game.

What, or should I say who, gets me from season to season is the man himself, James (Jim) Arthur Boeheim.  He is my spiritual leader.  He is my true center.  If he wanted me to join a cult I’d say “where’s the kool-aid and matching sneakers?”.  He is the glue that holds the team and it’s fans together.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no matter what political party he is a part of, I would vote Boeheim for President.  He is the 3rd most winningest (is that a word?!) coach in college basketball and the 1st most winningest in my heart.  The team line-up changes year to year, but he is the one constant the Orange fans have.  His coaching style is like a dad…tough love.  He’ll sit a player in the “punishment chair” after a horrendous play, but then highlight their strength of character in a post game interview.  He’s taught the players that it isn’t about the individual, it’s about the team.  He genuinely loves Syracuse and Syracuse genuinely loves him.  Not to mention the fact that his face looks like it’s made of silly putty and his side-court hand gestures have made me believe that his wrist joints don’t exist. 

On a personal note (well, this is my blog, so it is ALL a personal note), the biggest Robin family March Madness nightmare is slowly becoming a reality.  My beloved Orange could possibly meet my sister’s Wisconsin Badgers in the Sweet 16 round.  For my father, I think this would be his own personal hell.  He will be democratic and wear gear from both schools, but without a doubt he will not pick up a phone call from either of his daughters, and will probably watch the game alone…in a closet…trying not to root for anyone.  For me, if (when) Syracuse beats Wisconsin it will be my own personal victory.  Take THAT admissions office in Madison!!

At 3:10pm today, Syracuse tips off against UNC-Ashville in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.  And even though we are ranked #1 in the East Region, it is not going to be an easy road to New Orleans for us.  Taking the Big East Defensive Player of the Year out of the equation is genuinely a frightening thought, but as the experts have said all year, our bench is “deep” and we will fill the gap that the wonky eyed Brazilian has left us with.  Hopefully (Rakeem) Christmas will come early for us Orange-folk, and our team will shine as bright as Rudolphs nose!  I hope the path to the championship game is paved in orange, but no matter what happens in the tournament, I will ALWAYS love March Madness and the Syracuse basketball.  Just remember what Luther sang:

And when it’s done
win or lose
you always did your best
cuz inside you knew…

Paris, Je t’aime

My being belongs to New York.  My soul belongs to London.  But my heart.  My heart belongs to Paris.  And I have been lucky enough to have spent the last 4 days in the city of my heart.  Thanks to my dad AND sister having to do business there, my mom and I packed our bags and tagged along for the ride.  Even though this was my 5th trip to the city of lights, it was no less magical or magnifique than the first time!

People seem to give Parisians (and the French people as a whole) a bad rap.  They think they are rude and snobby.  They dress in all black and aren’t nice to tourists.  But hey…the same could be said about New Yorkers!!  Nothing, in my eyes, could ever make me hate France.  Well, I will admit that I did go into a minor rage attack on the French when my luggage was lost for 20 minutes at Charles de Gaulle Airport.  That’s why I carry on only!  I digress.  How can you not love this city?!?!? Each neighborhood tells a unique story.  Each building is rich with history.  You never know what there is to discover around each corner.  The air is literally thick with love. **My cousin actually proposed to his now wife during a trip to Paris**

I know I am a hopeless romantic and still tending to a bruised heart, but seriously every where I looked in Paris there were people in love.  Couples looking longingly at each other as they ride the metro. Walking with their arms around each other down Boulevard St. Germain.  Men are more than happy to hold the shopping bags of their lady’s as they shop through Bon Marche.  There was even a couple next to us at dinner one night who held hands across the table through their entire  meal! Even though it nauseated my family beyond words, I was incredibly touched.  Ok, yes, maybe when they were actually eating they could have let go, but they seemed to be so enraptured in their love not to care that they couldn’t properly use their utensils with only one hand.

And speaking of dinner, the food in Paris…mon dieu!! The best part about eating in Paris is that you don’t have to go to the fancy shmancy restaurants to have an out of this world meal.  In fact, one of  my favorite meals of the trip was at an itsy bitsy falafel restaurant in the Le  Marais neighborhood.  Food in France isn’t just about eating.  Every chef, from the Michelin starred to the crepe vendor on the street, creates their food to entice all of the senses. At our last dinner (which I voted as my favorite “full meal”.  We like to rank everything we eat in different categories), the chef only offered one menu and the restaurant only had 29 seats.  This allowed the chef the luxury to give a certain attention to detail to each and every dish he sent out that most chef’s don’t.  The flavor combinations were something I had never tasted before and each plate was as if it were a work of art that came straight from the Louvre.  I have to admit, that I may have been drunk with love (and champagne) at this dinner.  The chef, who worked in a kitchen that was open to the restaurant floor, was adorable, from New York, and a college basketball fan.  Seriously, if I had another glass of champagne, I would have proposed to him.

Below are some pictures of my favorite dishes from the trip.  In no particular order:

And even though through the pictures it looks like all we did was eat (which would not have been a bad thing), we did some touring and shopping as well.  Though it may have been my 5th time in Paris, there were so many things I was able to experience for the first time.  No, I didn’t wait in line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but I did get to see it lit up and sparkling for the first time.  No, I didn’t go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa, but I did go to the Musee D’Orsay to see the impressionist paintings of Monet, Degas, and Renoir (my favorite artists).  But the creme de la creme of the “first time Parisian experiences” and the real reason we took this trip, was that we were able to attend the Valentino show for Paris Fashion Week.  This was the “overseas business” that I had mentioned my sister had.  The show was full of energy and the clothes were as breathtaking as the pieces of art that I had seen earlier that day.

At the beginning of my trip I had said that the next time I travel to France, I was not going to come to Paris because there was so much more of the country that I wanted to discover.  Bordeaux, Normandy, Provence, Nice…all places on my travel bucket list.  I had exhausted these cobble stoned streets and it was time to see more.  But, on our last night as our cab drove through the Place de la Concorde, passed the Eiffel Tower, and up the Champs Elysee my heart began to ache.  How could I turn my back on my love? So for now, I’ll  say à bientôt, Paris!  Je t’aime.