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If it’s possible to miss the signs of Halloween – the chill in the air, red and yellow leaves crunching under your feet and the costume and fun-size candy ads that have clogged the airwaves since August, I’d still know the holiday’s upon us.

Yes, I have a calendar. I also have an official Halloween Correspondent for margagogo.com. As a former colleague, she was endlessly disappointed with the Halloween spirit in our office. We are always in for candy but our energy wanes well before the costume stage. So she left her job behind to build a Halloween empire. As you can see, she’s been hugely successful.

Her Halloween flock is ready to go – they were ready a week ago.

All the feathers are hand cut and stitched. The little boy bird is wearing knitted legs. Yes, yellow, hand-knit bird pants. I think there are real feathers involved with the hats – I mean beaks. Last week they marched in a parade and costume tweaks are being made based on that test run. The trick-or-treat route is mapped. Halloween 2014 is almost in the books for margagogo.com‘s Halloween expert.

When she asked how I’m celebrating the holiday, I told her I’m dressing up like a “Candy-scarfing Lady” and eating Butterfingers till the candy cakes in my teeth and I’m loopy on sugar. No costumes or Halloween parties for me.

There was a time when I put a lot of effort into Halloween. I turned my creativity dial to “genius” and poured all of it into my costumes.

The problem is that “genius” sits on a narrow, precarious point. Success and disaster are just a teeter apart.

I once dressed up as a band-aid box. To make the box shape, I put a head hole in a board and let it rest across my shoulders to make the frame of the box. I painted the logo and art from a band-aid box into a sheet and attached it. Genius! But the execution didn’t hold up to real world demands. The frame was too wide so trick-or-treating became an obstacle course. I couldn’t walk next to anyone on the sidewalk and had to turn to the side to let people pass. Worst of all, I was too wide to get through porch doors, thus putting my candy haul in jeopardy.

One year I marched in my hometown Halloween parade dressed as a garbage bag. It was so great that the local paper took my name down for consideration in the costume contest. I made my costume out of a round plastic laundry basket. I cut out the bottom so I could step through, covered it with a heavy green garbage bag and then attached carefully select (and clean) trash all around the opening. Clever, right? You can be sure there wasn’t another person at the parade in a garbage bag costume. I had it in the bag! (Get it?) But nothing says “fail” like people stuffing their actual trash – dirty coffee cups and soiled food wrappers into my costume as I walked home from the parade route. And I didn’t win the contest. Not even an honorable mention. Maybe if I’d been a sexy garbage bag ….

Then there was the toothpaste tube. Yes, I dressed up as Crest. I’m proud to say I learned from earlier years. The toothpaste tube frame fit exactly on the span of my shoulders. No way I was going to be in my own way on the candy hunt. The costume was roomy enough to hide a puffy coat so cold weather wasn’t a hinderance to getting massive amounts of candy. But my cap was. The bucket I used for the tube cap rattled and jumped when I walked. It turned with each bump so I had to hold it steady with my hand or I couldn’t see. And, it seems I forgot to taper the bottom of the tube which might explain the tripping. (I’m only now enjoying the irony of dressing up like a tool for cavity prevention so I could go out begging for tooth decay.)

Possibly my favorite childhood costume was the Tootsie Pop. My father got some local college students to make it for me. They made the Tootsie Pop top out of a beer ball and drained said ball at a party while guests colored the giant Tootsie wrapper. I was cherry flavored and I wore all white for the stick. It was amazing. The height of genius! But, I was on the older range of trick-or-treaters and fair game for trouble-makers … and the face cut out in the beer ball didn’t allow for any peripheral vision. I couldn’t see the shaving cream coming and had no chance for evasive maneuvers. Have you ever seen a giant Tootsie Pop careen down the street? It’s not pretty.

Nearly all photographic evidence is missing so I can’t show you the band-aid box, garbage bag or Tootsie Pop. Please use your imagination. The people who made margagogo possible promise the pictures aren’t lost and they’ll keep looking.

So no dressing up for me. I’ve spent the last several Halloween’s in Maine with food, a fire in the stove and friends. And of course, Butterfingers and trick-or-treaters.

The first year, I was super excited for kids to come. I waited and waited and waited and then waited some more. Finally, I backed off the door sort of following the “watched pot” theory. So my friends rang the bell just to watch me dash from the kitchen, grab the candy bowl and skid to a halt in front of a door with no kids on the other side. Later my friends made knocking sounds and I fell for it again … and again.

The kids finally showed and I lucked out with more candy than kids so I didn’t have to share my Butterfingers. My carved pumpkin was the best ever made in the entire world, my friends were funny, nobody chased me with shaving cream or stuffed garbage in my shirt. I didn’t trip, I could see and I fit through all my doors. It was pretty perfect.

New York City is of course, Halloween central. Nobody does it better if you like that sort of thing. I got into the spirit this week by heading to the West Village for dinner at Extra Virgin (West 4th St, NYC). Extra Virgin is a Village classic. The American, Comfort, Classic and Inspired food is always amazing. The bartender can mix a drink, the staff is friendly and Sunday night is Spaghetti and Meatballs night. Yum. So please go to Extra Virgin (or don’t so there will be more room for me).

And order a margarita. In honor of Halloween, I had them make mine extra spooky.

 

Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night!

 

 

 

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Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) suggested the pond would be good for Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack. He didn’t struggle with his judgment. It was obvious.

Today’s question is tougher and requires more consideration. Would Chevy Chase send Bill Murray to Rosa Mexicano or Dos Caminos?

I won’t keep you in suspense: I’d send Bill Murray and Chevy Chase to Rosa Mexicano for the food and to Dos Caminos for the people watching.

Rosa Mexicano has frozen pomegranate margaritas. They are pretty, pink and powerful. I’m legless after two. The guacamole is amazing and since they make it table side, I’ve been able to copy their recipe – Avocado, onion, jalapeno pepper, tomato, cilantro, sea salt – simple. This recipe fits into my purist, keep it simple, don’t like too much stuff in my stuff attitude about food. And I’m now the official guacamole maker for my friends. They say my guac is the best. Maybe it is or maybe they know the compliment will motivate me to make it – but either way, it’s Rosa’s recipe. I just add the love.

My first Rosa experience was at the original location on the East Side (NYC). They weave some serious magic into their food because my most favorite thing on the menu is Rollo de Pechuga de Pollo – made with huitlacoche – corn fungus. When I say I’m a food purist, I’m putting the best spin on the reality that I’m picky and easily grossed out. Corn fungus violates at least 20 of my hard and fast food rules and not only do I eat it but if licking the plate was socially acceptable, lick I would.

I even shared the Rosa experience with my mom. She had two frozen pomegranate margaritas (they’re too good to just have one) and she got tipsy and yes, it was my fault since she was drinking my Signature Drink.

Rosa Mexicano has three locations in New York City (all with different menus I think) and they are sprouting up across the country. They even have one in Chevy Chase, Maryland. (Get it, Chevy Chase.)

Dos Caminos is always packed and has a loyal following. I’ve betrayed a Rosa bias so I promise you that when I went to Dos Caminos this weekend, I took a panel of impartial judges (aka friends). The Dos Caminos guacamole is a little runny and unevenly seasoned. I think they use lime in their recipe and sometimes it overpowers the other flavors. I ordered a Prickly Pear Margarita (since it’s pink and frozen it seemed like a good contrast for the Rosa Pomegranate Marg). It was OK though it had a hint of something that made me nostalgic for the days when I thought Luden’s Cough Drops were candy.

The tacos were cold and the service was slow. But on a day when everyone in Manhattan was out soaking in the first warm spring rays, slow service wasn’t a surprise. The Dos Caminos in the Meatpacking district might have the best outdoor seating in town, complete with unparalleled people watching and a helpful hostess who smiled even when faced with an endless crush of people waiting for tables. Dos Caminos also has multiple locations. Check out their site here.

To be fair to Dos Caminos, my panel of impartial judges influenced food choices. They gave up fried foods for Lent so we couldn’t order the cobb salad (with fried chips for crunch) and we had to avert our eyes when waiters went by with outrageous looking french fries.

I didn’t set out to write about these two chains in one blog post and really, they deserve their own special space. But when go to one, I often compare and contrast to the other so I suppose this format was predestined. I’ll be back to both with my panel of impartial judges and will write about Rosa Mexicano and Dos Caminos again when the mood strikes.

But for today, my answer to the question of the pool or the pond is Rosa Mexicano. Mr. Chase and Mr. Murray, if you’re in NYC and in the mood for Mexican food, drop me a line.

Dos Caminos Prickly Pear Marg al fresco!

Rosa Mexicano Pomegranate Margarita - Pretty, Pink, Powerful

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