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This weekend, New York opened its slushy, crusty coat of winter to give us a glimpse of the blue sky and heart-warming hope of spring.  It was a spectacular February weather weekend.  It was also National Margarita Day. Coincidence?  I think not.

Spring and Margaritas have a lot on common.  In their best form, they both have a pleasant hue.  Both can make you forget your troubles.  Both can inspire love and adventure.  Both can change your perspective.

I can’t say which had more influence this weekend – spring-like weather or Margaritas.  But the good citizens of New York City were out in force and in the mood to celebrate.  I think of their numbers and zeal as an unofficial parade in honor of National Margarita Day.

There was a man on the sidewalk, tucked into the shadowy crevice of a building.  Usually this kind of beginning would have a bad ending – but not on National Margarita Day!  He was air-swinging a “golf club.” He had a cigarette perched between his lips.  He inhaled on the back swing and exhaled on the forward swing so his hands cut through his giant puff of smoke.  He smoked with no hands and golfed with no club and looked thrilled.

The grifters, dressed as your children’s favorite characters, had an extra spring in their step.  Elmo and Cookie Monster gave exuberant high-fives as they stuffed tips in their fanny packs.  Their costumes could harbor margarita sippy cups.  I picture a hat with two cup holders and straws under those furry heads.  Or maybe it was just the sunshine?

Coats were off and skin was out.  Ladies on the way to the gym let their calves loose and left their coats at home.  Grateful faces sat on benches, cheeks turned to the sun, soaking up Vitamin D.

And love was in the air.  I sat, sipping a margarita and eavesdropping on the people next to me.  Eavesdropping is a New York City hobby.  In more polite moments (or when we can’t get close enough to listen) we call it “people watching.” But I was flat-out listening to a couple on their first date. as he explained that he isn’t rich and isn’t successful but he’s glad about that because he really likes to scramble.  His ex-wife is a vindictive person and he’s in a good place about their break-up. He views it as a blessing because had they stayed together, he would have killed her.  Oh, and he cries in therapy weekly.

I tend to think that first dates need better game.  It’s wise to keep murderous thoughts to yourself if you’re hoping for date #2.  But thank the margaritas – either overconsumption or the magic in the air … she was leaning in.  I wish them well! And, I’ve taken a mental snapshot of his face if he ever comes up in an online dating match.

I went a little crazy too.

At Quality Italian, I turned down Aprile Super Oakville (2010) from Gargiulo Vineyards in favor of a margarita. Super Oakville is Gargiulo Vineyards version of a Super Tuscan or Brunello and Brunello is my favorite wine treat.  But margaritas are well, margaritas.  And I’m nothing if not dedicated to my research.

We had Chicken Parmigiana for Two (which is really enough for six).  It’s a giant, round chicken parm disguised as a pizza.  The chickens I’m used to eating doesn’t come flat and round so I’m sure a lot of manipulation (I don’t want to know) goes into this entrée.

We shared Dry-Aged Porterhouse Agnolotti and a bunch of sides.  If you go, bring your appetite.  Quality Italian is a steakhouse and the dinner menu is protein-heavy and priced to match.

And if you go, bring a lot of friends.  Even the best restaurant is helped by good company and on this night, the company was really good.

The weather here in New York has turned cold again so we tuck our skin under coats and scarves and bend our heads against the wind.   But the sun is out and hints of spring linger … and margarita magic is still (always) in the air.  I hope you can all feel it and I hope you had a wonderful National Margarita Day!

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At the end of each year, my friends pick a theme for the year to come.

Finding a few words to set a tone for the days ahead is tricky business.  Add in the wish to balance humor with momentum and the need to come up with a single idea that will gain mass acceptance and you get an idea of the care that goes into each theme choice.

Despite our best efforts, some have been more successful than others.

The Year of The Hard Body:  We gave ourselves latitude on this one. We could meet the goal by improving personal fitness or by dating a hot guy who already had a hard body.  This was a spectacular failure on both counts.

The Year of Amore:  I think this was the year I dated a guy with a cheese phobia. Amore? Not quite.

The Year of Giving:  What I gave must have been brain cells because I really don’t remember how we followed through on the theme’s intention.  I do recall an attempt to be giving of spirit.  I gave a second, third and fourth chance to the guy I was dating and as a result, I have the distinction of being broken up with four times in four months.

The Year of the Bitch:  This might have been an over-correction after The Year of Giving.

The Year of No Fear:  Awesome because it rhymes, this theme was about going after dreams.  I wrote a novel.  I didn’t get it published before the theme expired so fear set in. Maybe this theme should be renewed.

The Year of Fun:  It had been a while since we had a contagious giggle. You know, when it’s hard to say the exact funny thing that sets the laughter in motion but it starts to roll and if you stop, you can’t look your friends in the eye without starting again. We had so much fun in this year that I decided to replay it because the next year was …

The Year of Yes:  I’ve come to believe all those childhood promises:  Ask and ye shall receive; You reap what you sow; I’m rubber and you’re glue ….  So it felt reckless for “yes” to be the standard for the year.  There are a lot of things that nobody should say yes to and there’s no need to invite them around.  So I went rogue and repeated our most successful theme, The Year of Fun.

The Year of Adventure:  We defined “Adventure” as anything new.  Anytime we were on the fence about a plan and wondered if we should bother with the first date or the museum exhibition or the out of the blue plans with new friends, we said, “Well, it is the year of adventure!” And we went. We also went to Turkey and Greece (and for the record, I was able to get excellent margaritas in both countries.)

This year is The Year of Well and Good.  This suggests balance and every past theme rolls into this one.  We need to be giving and bitchy, have fun and adventure, be fit in body and mind and be all around good citizens. I think we’re off to a good start. I’m mentoring a 14-year old through IMentor and if all goes well, I will mentor her straight into college. We are lending our effort to Cycle for Survival to raise money for research into cures for “rare” cancers.  Because Cycle for Survival requires getting on a bike, I’ve finally started to exercise.  And, we’ve booked a trip to Iceland with hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis.

And the year has only begun!

My adventure to find the perfect margarita continues.

I checked out Park Kitchen. It’s brand new in the lobby of newly renovated Park Central Hotel (NYC).  The space is graciously designed though it’s impossible to forget, even for a moment, that you’re in the middle of a hotel lobby.

I didn’t have much hope for the margarita since lobby bars, even in New York City, often disappoint.  When my drink appeared, the bright yellow hue made me think I was looking at high-end mix abuse.

Park Kitchen Marg - Well & Good!

Park Kitchen Marg – Well & Good!

But it was good and strong.  The flavors well-balanced and the tequila was the clear star.

I left feeling both well and good.

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If you don’t write a post for five months, do you still have a blog?

The answer seems to be “Yes!” since wonderful, margarita-loving people around the globe clicked and read despite the lack of new content to beckon them and yesterday, the hit count on margagogo.com topped 3,000.  That my words live on in the face of my neglect is a gift, a miracle and a mystery and it has me pondering other life wonders.

And I mean the BIG stuff.  None of this stuff like, “Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?” or “Do bleached blondes pretend to have more fun?” For my first post since my last post, I’m delving deep into the mysteries of life.  Yes, I’m going there – wherever “there” is.

Wonder 1:  “The Blog is Back in Town” – Who knows this musical reference and why in the world did I choose it for this blog post title?  I don’t own an album by this band and have never downloaded a single.  But the song stuck in my head and now possibly stuck in yours too.

Wonder 2:  Why do songs get stuck in your head?  I don’t mean just the catchy Song-of-Summer.  Blurred Lines never registered for me.  (No offense to Robin Thicke who is surely capable of writing a catchy tune that will get stuck in heads everywhere.)  But random tunes burrow in and make a home.  My current musical backdrop for rainy days is Rise and Shine song:  “Noah, he built, he built and ark-y, ark-y, ark-y – So rise and shine and give God your glor-y, glor-y…” You get the idea.  The thing is, I probably haven’t heard that song since I went to Tuesday afternoon religious education when I was 8-years old.

Wonder 3:  Bacon.  Why is bacon universally loved?  (And I mean the cured meat, not Kevin Bacon though he has his own dedicated following.)  I’ve met a rare few who say they don’t eat bacon but I’ve never met anyone who says they don’t like bacon.  Bacon is the gateway meat for vegetarians who fall off the plant wagon.  People hate chocolate (huh?) and ice cream (what?) but put a little bacon in either and those same people salivate. It’s a mystery to me.

Wonder 4:  Golf. I don’t understand it. Why do people play this sport and how can networks justify putting in on television? Playing is an exercise in frustration and watching requires extraordinary mental toughness because it’s so boring.  I’m not the only one who thinks so – just ask the streaker who decided to brighten up the President’s Cup with a naked dash.

Wonder 5:  How does the Congressional Gym stay open when the government is closed?  If National Parks, the FDA, and the National Zoo closed, shouldn’t the gym shutter too?  Do congressional members need access to free treadmills so they can blow off steam while they’re blowing off the business of the country?  If they want to understand with their constituents, they should buy overpriced memberships to chain gyms that they’ll stop using after 60 days though they’ll continue monthly payments indefinitely.  They should also have similar health care to the rest of us.  I’d be fired for far lesser offenses than maneuvering the shut down of my company.

Wonder 6:  Avocado. How can an ugly, Seuss-ian orb hold so much creamy goodness? A fish oil substitute? Yes! The magic and soul of guacamole? Clearly.  More to come on the avocado. It deserves a dedicated post.  And the lovely avocado leads me to my next wonder …

Wonder 7:  Should pomegranate seeds be part of any guacamole recipe?  Ok, this is a clear continuation of Wonder 6 but this is the only Wonder I’m able to solve.  Pomegranate might be great for a lot of things. In fact, I hear it actually improves the power of sunscreen.  But as a component of guacamole?  No. The answer is no.  Uh-uh.  No way.  Not right.  Not Guacamole. I know this because I tested it at La Cenita, 409 W 14h St, NYC.

La Cenita is a new addition to the Meatpacking District and they put pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts in their guac. The pistachio nuts I like. I’m evolving to believe that pistachio or pine nuts should be included in almost everything. But I can’t work with pomegranate seeds. They add an unwelcome sweet surprise to guacamole, a near-perfect treat in its traditional form. I suggest you get the seeds on the side.

 

La Cenita has a street theme to it. They don’t have stools at the bar and they serve their chips in paper bags with the edges rolled down.  But the standing bar-flies pay around $15 per drink so the street theme “Park Avenue” and less “Calle en Mexico”.

 

The traditional margarita on their menu is made with grapefruit juice and the flavor is overpowering.  So if you like tequila more than grapefruit, I suggest you request your marg sans this citrus.

So far, La Cenita has pulled in 2.5 stars on Yelp and the universal theme is the food is ok and really expensive but you should go once and go to be seen. But when you do go, watch your wallet.

And so margagogo.com is back in town. I’ve got much to discuss, like romance novels, the avocado, things I’m grateful for (besides romance novels and avocados) and great places for hanging out and having a drink.

So please stay tuned and thank you for hanging with me through my long blog sabbatical.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the blog is back in town!

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I was sitting at Clarkson (225 Varick St, NYC), chatting with a member of the Independent Panel of Judges and drinking a margarita while writing about margaritas.  I’d have finished the post too if not for the restaurant’s rule of no laptops out after 5PM (They want their patrons to “join the party”) For a brief shining moment, I was a triple threat of efficiency – simultaneous drinking, writing about drinking and socializing.

I’ve been streamlining my life for some time.

I like to read myself to sleep and since my Marketing Director and West Coast Bureau Chief gave me an I Pad, reading in bed took on a note of danger. Laying down and holding the I Pad up in front of me like I would a regular book only works until my eyes droop.  I endured two rude wake-ups, my I Pad edge slamming into the bridge of my nose, before I came up with a better way. Now, I curl up in the fetal position with my I Pad propped up on the pillow next to me.  I can snuggle under the covers and only need to stick a single finger out into the air to flick the pages.  I’m primed for sleep, already in my favorite position on my favorite side so when I read the same paragraph twice and my eyes flutter shut, my nose is safe.  The unexpected bonus – the I Pad is in position if I wake in the middle of the night or in the morning and want to pick up where I left off.  The only downside is that sometimes the bedclothes cover it but since I never make my bed, this isn’t really an issue for me.

For those of you who want to try this at home, as long as your partner isn’t a fitful sleeper, you can prop up on a person too.

Streamlining doesn’t stop here! Showers are faster when I don’t wash my hair and if I go easy on hair goo, I wake up day-ready and don’t even have to wet it.

Going out to eat saves cooking and cleaning time.  If I don’t go out, I order dinner and have it delivered.

If I do go to the supermarket and if I bother to write a list, I write it to follow the supermarket set up so I don’t retrace steps.

I believe “if it’s yellow let it mellow” and I save a flush.

At work my most impressive, finely honed skill is delegation.

To clean my floor, I step on Swiffer cloths and skate around, catching dust bunnies while my hands are free to do other stuff.

I avoid the washing machine by owning more underwear than anyone should.  Employment and relatively stable weight over the past 10 years means I’ve been able to expand this principle.  My closet bursts with enough shirts, pants and dresses to outlast my underwear.  It’s usually a pile of dirty exercise clothes that thwart me so I found a solution for that too – I rarely work out.

For those of you who think “efficient” isn’t the word that jumps to mind, I’m about to knock your sox off (I hope, like me, you have spare pairs).

When laundry day finally arrives, my clothes are in the washer by 6:30AM and I go to the gym.  I work out until it’s time to transfer the load to the drier and sometimes until the clothes are dry.  My clothes are clean and calories burned before 7:30AM.  If the story of my morning comes up in the office, and it usually does but I don’t know how, my co-worker’s expressions are nothing short of dazzled.  Wishful even, that they’d be motivated to hit the gym and do laundry in the sleepy hours before the day really gets rolling. (It’s nobody’s business that I go to the gym because the laundry room and gym are on the same floor in my apartment building and it annoys me to have to go up and down and up and down – in the elevator – so the gym is preferable to watching my whites soap and spin.)

Drinks at Clarkson

Drinks at Clarkson

Even though Clarkson’s no lap top policy kept me from efficiently banging out this post, I kind of like the restaurant.  It has an Amelia Earhart meets Mad Men vibe.  (I felt like there should have been a sky blue Chevy convertible waiting on a dusty tarmac to take me home.)  The party at Clarkson hasn’t started yet as they’ve only been open for a week.  For much of my visit, they had more wait staff than customers, but I think it’s going to take off.

Please go and get the calamari with white beans and chorizo (menu here).  When you look at the dish and wonder where the beans and sausage are, they’re ground into a tasty paste and stuffed in the calamari shells. The margarita was good, maybe too sweet and too “hot” with alcohol but made with great care and lots of love.

And when you go, please say “hi” to Jeremy, the head of the bar program.  I know him from his last gig.  This means I either drink too much or he’s a really good guy.  I vote for the latter.

When I plotted this post in my head, I figured I’d review pre-mixed drinks – the ones you buy in a bottle or squeeze frozen out of foil wrappers.  But that would have entailed finding them, buying them and trying them.  I think this is better.  Don’t you?

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National Margarita Day (2/22) is a hopeful day when thoughts turn to spring, sunshine and tasty tequila drinks.

And this year, on this special day, I’m sure some thoughts from the Margaritavilleians are for my blog, margagogo.com.  Not only is it a national margarita drinking holiday but this week, margagogo turned one.

And what a year it’s been!

I started with a tag line and a dream:  Every hour should be happy.

And suddenly, happy hours abound!

Who knew margagogo.com would unleash a culture changing, time altering movement?  Who knew that with a mere 38 posts (though WordPress claims the over-achieving blogosphere posts multiple times per week) and with 137 followers (including Twitter and nobody clicks in from Twitter) , a national and unstoppable movement would capture the imagination of drinkers everywhere?

I hate hyperbole and I’m loathe to oversell but I think in the most conservative assessment, margagogo is happily a bar-cultural game-changer.

Some examples – There are late night happy hours:

Late Night Happy Hour

Late Night Happy Hour

And displays of happy hour gumption:

Early Bird Catches the Cheap Drink!

Early Bird Catches the Cheap Drink!

Now I know what some of you are thinking.

You’re thinking, happy hour is the oldest trick in the bar playbook.  If there was a bar in the stone age (serving margaritas on the rocks of course) they’d have rock bottom prices for a few hours each day.  Some of you might even be thinking back to college days when happy hour meant ladies drink free, men pay double and everyone gets free chicken wings.

And to all of you thinking these thoughts, I say, “Cut it out!”  It’s totally my blog.

With great power comes great responsibility.  So I need to warn you of the dangers of happy hour over-indulgence.  You might not lose your head but you could come completely undone.

maniquin

And your best efforts might not turn out as you expect:

It's hard to get good help these days

It’s hard to get good help these days

But if you keep your wits about you, you can not only be happy for an hour or two but expand the happiness for the entire night.

And that’s just what they’ve done at Fonda.  Fonda makes time for happy hour every night of the week and on Monday, magic Margarita Monday, the happy hour runs all night long!  If that doesn’t draw you in, the amazing food from Chef Roberto Santibanez should.

Fonda

So check out Fonda, either in Brooklyn or in the East Village (NYC).

And may all of your hours be happy – especially on this very special National Margarita Day.

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I’m spending Thanksgiving with my parents, aunt and uncle.  It’s a pretty awesome gig for me because everyone comes to my house and my mom does most of the work. She makes the pies and cooks the turkey (including cooked-in turkey stuffing).  I come in strong with roasted squash, brussels sprouts with bacon and shallots and exceptional skin-on smashies but I’ve yet to take over any of the heavy lifting (literally – is it even possible to buy a turkey that’s less than 15 pounds?).

Hosting has lots of perks. Besides getting credit for my mom’s hard work and getting house gifts from grateful guests, like a bottle of wine or ceramic turkey salt and pepper shakers, I get to know my family in a different way. My house fills with the smell of roasting turkey and the warmth of family. Hustle and bustle and cook’s conversation flow through the kitchen and even though I’m still the kid here, I’m grateful to be able to give care as I receive it.

We’re a game playing family so we ward off food coma with a marathon of Bid Whist.  Bid Whist, a card game for those not in the know, is in my DNA. I started playing with my cousins over summer visits and holidays while our parents played at the big table. I confess winning is way more fun than not, but I love sitting at the table with my parents and my uncle (my official and forever partner) no matter how the game ends.

My friends are lacking the BW chromosome (Bid Whist) but as I have friends I think of as sisters and brothers or at the very least, cousins, they fall within my definition of family.

With all life’s uncertainty, I know my friends will be with me when we’re all a little frail and we’ve traded stools in a bar for rocking chairs on a porch.  We’ll be together and we’ll still be drinking margaritas.

So the other night, when I should have been home doing Thanksgiving prep, I met up with a few of my fellow future chair rockers for a pre-Thanksgiving drink. We lingered in the bar, and lingered on the sidewalk because with family this entertaining, it’s hard to walk away. And though we’re not spending the holiday together and a pre-holiday catch up might be just another night out among many, it’s all of these small moments (more than the big ones) that mold friends into family.

El Toro Blanco (267 6th Ave, NYC) understands the spirit of family and their family of spirits. At El Toro Blanco, the margarita has cousins. (As soon as I get over a glitch, there will be a picture here – and you’ll be very impressed.) I had Mrs. Margarita Sames, a margarita made of herradura blanco, Cointreau and fresh lime. It was excellent – smooth, exciting and comforting all at once. For the more adventurous, give the Jicama and Fig or the Chile Rubbed Mango Marg a try.  And make sure you get the quac – they serve it with warm chips.

El Toro Blanco opened its doors for the first time ever just four days before Sandy hit.  So they are literally starting over again – and they, like all the other businesses in the effected areas, appreciate our support! (And if Eater’s Heatmap is any indication, El Toro Blanco is bouncing back nicely!)

So, to my family, those near and far and those I’ve yet to meet, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re having as much fun as I am and let me know if you’re ever up for a game of Whist!

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Another plug for eating and drinking … out.

Restaurants and bars, the small businesses that are our neighbors and make up our neighborhoods, struggle quietly to regain their footing.  And if the establishment struggles, so does the wait staff, kitchen staff, bartenders and hosts.  So if you’re able, please go out – eat, drink and be merry. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it might be a good idea to put some eating time in so your stomach is properly expanded for the big day.  Think of it as training.
You can also think of it as charity since some of the restaurants around the city and in effected areas are donating a portion of their profits to hurricane relief funds.  Neighbors helping neighbors.  It takes a village – so thank goodness NYC has a village or two.

Go to Empellon.  I’ve written a post on Empellon before (check it out) and I’m a fan.  Now I’m an even bigger fan since they’ve mixed up a special margarita, the FU Sandy and through November 15, are donating $2 from each ordered to the Red Cross.  So please run there.  Order the FU Sandy and treat yourself to the Fish Tempura, Cabbage and Lime Mayo taco.  You won’t be sorry.

Go to Entwine. Entwine was “pummelled” by the storm and they’re back in action –  food, drinks every night and great music Wednesdays.  And all month-long you can try a Cocktail for the Cause! Enjoy a lovingly mixed drink and Entwine will give $2 to relief efforts. And, they’re having a number of fundraisers throughout the month so check out their blog here for details.

Buy Robicelli’s products.  The owners make cupcakes and other sweet treats and have been actively involved in relief efforts by organizing volunteers and getting good food (and not just baked pasta) out to effected areas. They’re  nourishing body and soul of relief workers and dazed residents in some of the hardest hit areas. They are doing amazing work.  So if you have a sweet tooth, check out locations where you can buy their amazing treats.  You can also give supplies, or if you’re a chef your time, to their effort.  Check out details here.

There are of course many other places doing great things to help in the recovery and fill our stomachs.  Check out Eater or Grub Street for more restaurant info as it comes up or just check in on your local to see what’s up.
Remember, SoPo (South of Power for those not in the NYC neighborhood know) is all lit up and open for business.

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