A Valentine’s Day Tradition

I have never really been into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. While I certainly enjoy receiving candy hearts and making homemade valentine’s cards out of red and white paper doilies, I never felt the need to expect boxes of chocolate, a dozen red roses and expensive jewelry. Matt agrees with me on this and we originally celebrated by going out to dinner.

The first year after college, I was working as a consultant, traveling to Princeton,  NJ a fair amount. On Valentine’s Day, I had a 10am flight out to NJ so I wasn’t going to be able to do dinner with Matt. Instead, he suggested that we get brunch at the Four Season before work. It seemed like a good solution, so I went along with it. At 7am in the morning, we sat down to eat and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in a room with a breath-taking view of Boston Common.

There was something nice about going out to breakfast on a week day and in a hotel where the wait staff treats you incredibly nice. I am not sure if it is because they assume you are a guest of the hotel or not, but there was certainly something in the interactions that make you feel really special. Matt and I decided to continue this tradition of celebration Valentine’s Day with a breakfast in various hotel restaurants.

This morning, Matt surprised me by taking me to Norma’s, located in the Parker Meridien. He got the idea from an episode of Gossip Girl, when Nate first met Juliette. So not only did Matt take me out to breakfast, but he was aiming to be as smooth as Nate Archibald – pretty impressive after more than nine years.

Breakfast was amazing. Matt and I both enjoyed ourselves fully and left completely stuffed. It was the best way to start my day and I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day any other way.

Florida Grapefruit

Every year over April vacation, Abby, my mom and I would visit my grandparents in Jupiter, Florida. My grandparents were incredibly smart for moving to Florida when they did. Although Florida is not very close to New Hampshire, limiting the number of times we actually saw them each year, the draws of Florida – the beach, warm weather and super cute boy who lived next door to their house, were enough to keep us coming back year after year. If they had stayed in Ohio, I must admit, I wouldn’t have been as excited to visit. Instead of body surfing at the beach, we would have been shucking corn and tipping cows.

Some of my favorite things about visit my grandparents were things that we did nearly ever year. We would always go to the Palm Beach Mall and have a mini-shopping spree at The Limited Too. Later, when we entered high school, we would get our prom dresses during this trip. The local school had their prom the week before our visit, so we were able to score amazing deals on some pretty nice dresses.

Abby and I ate many meals aboard our grandparent’s boat, “JeBo.” We would make sandwiches, PB & J for Abby, PB & banana for me, and sit aboard the board munching away. It was like the boat was our very own club house, almost making up for the fact that my dad never built us the treehouse he promised. Every year, my grandfather would take us for a ride in the boat to see the new developments around the intercostal. During one trip,with the boat nearing the end of its life, the engine died in the middle of our ride and my dad and grandfather were forced to paddle us back to their dock. But that was not nearly as adventurous as the time their neighbor’s massive yacht became untied from their dock and started drifting towards our dock. For some reason, I remember Abby swimming over to the boat and climbing aboard – I am not sure what happened next, or if this actually happened. I did have a wild imagination as a child…

Abby and I spent a lot of time swimming in the bay in front of our grandparents house. We would blow up rafts and inner tubes, and see who could stand on them the longest without falling in the water. At the end of the bay, there was a mangrove island, no more than 150 yards away. When Abby was 7 years old, she decided she was going to swim out to this island. My dad jumped in the inflatable row-boat and paddled along besides her as she bravely made her way out to the island and back. When she returned, my grandfather gave her a sliver dollar for accomplishing this feat. Year after year, when we returned to their house, my grandfather would ask me if I was ready to make the same swim. Not until I was 21 years old did I actually do it; and I was freaking out the entire time. Sadly, I never received a silver dollar for my feat of bravery…

The memory that stands out the most in my mind was the time we spent every morning during breakfast. When we came to visit, my grandfather would go out and buy fresh Florida oranges and grapefruit. Every morning we had the choice of a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or a small glass of OJ and half of a grapefruit, pre-cut and ready to eat. Abby and I ALWAYS took the second option. We would take a few sips of the juice, then scoop away at the grapefruit, and then squeeze the juice into our 1/2 empty OJ glass creating a mixture of OJ and Grapefruit juice. It was a morning ritual that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

It wasn’t until I was probably 14 or 15 that I realized grapefruits didn’t come pre-cut. It was a sad reality to learn than in order to enjoy this delicious treat,  I had to spent the time cutting around each and every section of grapefruit. It goes without saying, that because of this, grapefruit isn’t something that I have incorporated into my daily diet.

Last night, while shopping for my quinoa at Whole Foods, I spotting some big and delicious looking grapefruit. I decided to buy a few and try my hand in preparing this fruit as a mid-morning snack. Well, after 15 minutes of cutting, slicing and scooping, my desire for the sweet fruit was realized. I finished with sticky hands and grapefruit juice running all over my desk. Was it worth it? Yes… but I would give anything to have my grandfather live next door and deliver a perfectly sliced grapefruit to my door every morning.

What do you say grandpa? I think there are some one-bedrooms open in my apartment. Ready for life in the big city?

Brunch

I am a huge Brunch fan. If there was a contest for the best meal, brunch would win by a landslide in my book. Not only are you allowed to sleep in, but you can do so and not miss all of the wonderful delicious breakfast options. However, if you want to wake up early and eat a small breakfast first, that is ok because there are lunch options at brunch too! And if you want to just go crazy and have two breakfasts, GO FOR IT! You can start out with a nice cup of coffee followed up with Bloody Marys and Mimosas. You can eat brunch at 10am (Upper West Side family crowd), 12pm (Midtown and tourists) or 3pm (West Villagiates). There are no rules at brunch.

I, first and foremost, love breakfast food. Growing up, family dinners were a nightly occurence in our house. Most of the time my mom did the cooking, but we were expected to help out with the planning. I was a VERY picky eater growing up, which my parents learned very quickly. So instead of constantly fighting with me to eat the food put in front of me, my mom came up with a better solution. Every week before we did the grocery shopping, we all had to suggest 1-2 meals that we wanted to have for dinner. I had 3 “go tos”: spaghetti, hamburger helper and waffles. Breakfast was great in the morning, but breakfast for dinner – as a kid it doesn’t get any better than that (well maybe ice cream for dinner, but that, as we all know,  is an anomaly). Working in a school, I have the “benefit” of eating lunch in the cafeteria for free. It is funny because the most dreaded day of school lunches for our office is “breakfast for lunch” day. Clearly, as a kid, I would have loved that. Another sad reminder that I am old!

In college, brunch changed from being all about the food, to all about the company. Sitting around the dining hall tables with my best friends, we would catch up on the gossip from the night before. We could make brunch last for hours – especially if we had a paper to write or a test to study for. I miss my college friends the most when Sunday mornings roll around.

Living in New York, you have the opportunity to eat at amazing restaurants. While I certainly eat our for other meals, eating out for brunch is my all-time favorite. Just like a band’s performance of the song “Don’t Stop Believing” is my way of judging their ability level, a restaurant’s brunch menu (and the quality of those dishes) is the best way to rate a restaurant.

On Sunday Matt and I visited Sarahbeth’s on the Upper West Side. I had been there once before with my parents and Abby, but it was Matt’s first time. The menu has a great selection and I was torn on what to order. Last time I ordered the eggs benedict, so I decided to change things up a bit and I ordered the lemon and ricotta pancakes.

Being fron New Hampshire, I am a complete maple syrup snob. While I love pancakes, french toast and waffles, I hardly ever order them at restaurants because they always come with Aunt Jemima or some other nasty immitation syrup. When I was younger I used to bring a small jar of pure maple syrup to sleepovers so that I was prepared for whatever food came my way at breakfast. (Yes, I was THAT kid.) Sarahbeth’s serves all of their “sweet breakfast” dishes with organic maple  syrup. Score one in my book!

The food was great and the atmosphere almost made you forget you were in New York City. I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for a good brunch spot in NYC. Just remember to make revervations because the Upper West Side crowd certainly gets after it early on Sundays.

And if you aren’t planning on visiting the Big Apple anytime soon, don’t worry! They have a location in Key West Florida and an online store: http://www.sarabeth.com/ Sarahbeth’s for all!