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I learned long ago that when life hands me limes, it’s up to me to figure out how to turn them into something tasty.

So when this sunny Cinco de Mayo crept up on me – and me, a margarita aficionado had no plans, I had to spring into recovery mode to turn limes into margaritas.

5 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Fun (for people like me who lack planning skills)

1. Make Guacamole and cry tears of joy. You can pick up all the ingredients on your way home and whip up a little love in a bowl. Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out. My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love
  • Mix but don’t mush!
  • Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

2. Make Scarlet Margaritas! I found this recipe on myrecipe.com. We have recipe/taste tested and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win.

Scarlet Margs!

Scarlet Margs!

 

3. Make Margaritas from Mix! Ok, I said it. Don’t hate me. Sometimes cutting corners is the only way to celebrate a holiday without adding stress. So if picking up all the ingredients for a fresh-made drink is too much, you can get by with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of mix. For the tequila, I still suggest Milagro. For the mix, you’re on your own. But what ever you do, do not follow the instructions on the mix bottle. Those recipes usually suggest a 3 to 1 ratio of mix to tequila. If you’re looking for a spike in blood sugar, this is the way to go. If you want a reasonable drink, experiment and cut back on the mix and increase the tequila (I suggest a ratio of 1 to 1). Add lots of ice and … a message from my Dad … drink responsibly.

4. Margarita Ice Cream! This is so easy to make you’ll almost feel guilty when your friends worship you for your ice cream making skills.  This recipe is from Nigella Lawson so it makes sense that it’s called Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream. After a rough year that included being choked by her husband, publically outed for a cocaine habit, banned from travelling to the US and getting divorced (well maybe that last one is a good thing) Nigella is someone who needs to turn her limes into something great. So thank goodness she has this recipe!

And this recipe is universally loved. When I made it, I got raves from someone who doesn’t like margaritas (gasp!), someone who doesn’t like ice cream (double gasp!) and someone who doesn’t drink at all (huh?). Everyone loves Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

 

Margarita Ice Cream

Margarita Ice Cream – I swear this picture doesn’t do this treat justice

 

5. Celebrate at a Place known for something other than Margaritas.  I’m turning my limes into an outing to Butter (NYC). Butter in Midtown is a cool space. It’s set underground and its high ceilings reach the street to let light shine into the restaurant. And they have Parker House Rolls – or at least what I remember as slightly sweet rolls, with a little salt on the top that were amazing (but maybe not Parker House shaped). And while I don’t exactly equate drinking margaritas with eating rolls, anything goes for this non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Butter NYC

Margarita & Flowers, Butter NYC

 

Here’s wishing you turn all the limes in your life into the best margaritas ever!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

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Yes, it’s true, I went to see Les Misérables this past weekend. While I was watching the show, I dreamed it was forty minutes shorter. But besides dreaming of a longer attention span, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dreams and why some are achievable and some seem out of reach.

In 6th Grade, my friends and I volunteered to clean the attic over our friend Kristin’s parent’s garage so we could have a clubhouse. We pushed and swallowed years of dust to carve out a meeting space. As much as an attic can, it sparkled when we finished.

We never met.

I don’t recall why we needed a clubhouse. Maybe Kristin’s parents just wanted their garage cleaned and knew they could trick us into doing it. Or maybe we had a mission in mind but doomed ourselves with lack of planning. But for whatever reason, we dreamt small and didn’t make it.

That same year, my 6th Grade class went on a trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg. I remember very little of the trip except for a light up board to illustrate troop movement during the battle of Gettysburg and a night in a hotel room signing choir songs in four-part harmony with my roommates. The light up board was educational. The singing was magical.

My spirit soared with the high notes; our bond grew with the harmony. We sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” like no four tweens in a hotel room ever had. I saw big things in our future (including solos for me but I was willing to share the spotlight). Next stop: Carnegie Hall. All we had to do is practice, practice, practice.

I was still dreaming BIG the next day, until a doubter brought me down. We arrived home and as we lumbered off the bus, a classmate sniped something like, “Hey, I hear you’re going on tour.”  A friend, our soprano, jumped to my defense! She said I didn’t mean it. She said everyone knows the idea of a singing group is just a joke.

I felt stripped bare, as if I’d ridden the bus home naked and everyone noticed the moment I stepped on the sidewalk. And, I thought, I wasn’t joking.

Before I let this story tug too hard on your heart, you need to know I have precious little musical aptitude. Years of piano lessons yielded one single, shaky performance of “Cockles And Muscles” and I hated every moment of practice. I didn’t go to a performing arts school and I wasn’t paying my dues in sweat or dancing my feet to bloody stumps. I doubt my friends had begun to consider their future and I’ve learned that it’s often easier to doubt than believe.

Around the same time my singing career crashed and burned on the sidewalk, I also wanted to be a hairdresser, a Supreme Court Justice, a dancer, an actor, a teacher and a large animal vet. Those are just the ones I remember.

The hairdresser dream came out of a day at the public pool. I styled my friend Tracy’s hair during the car ride home and Tracy’s mom said it looked so good that she didn’t want her to wash the chlorine out since doing so would ruin her do. Had scissors been in play that day, her mother would have taken a very different tone.

Dreams, it seems, are tricky business.

One magic moment can set your dream machine in motion and one harsh word can break it apart.

So how do parents know how to nurture children’s dreams? And how do dreamers know which dreams to follow and which to let go?

I’m mentoring a 14-year old girl and I see that she, like most 14-year-old kids, has trouble looking past the next big moment. She likes to dance. She wants to be a pediatrician but she doesn’t like science and she doesn’t intend to live away from her parents even for a second.  I think back to some of my dreams and what became of them and I wonder how I can influence my mentee to dream well and dream BIG.

I’ve noticed that practice often trumps natural ability. I overcame middle to poor athletic ability to be a starter on my high school soccer team and score a soccer scholarship to college. I did that even though I’m likely to trip over a crack in the sidewalk and I often don’t know my right from my left. But sports were a constant in my life and I was willing to put in the work to be a part of it. I was willing to pay my dues in sweat.

I want my mentee to know that dreams are in her grasp and maybe she can tell the fake ones from the real ones by deciding which she is willing to work for. The things she loves enough and has enough drive to sweat for might be the real deal.  And if she is willing to open it up to the light of day, make her intention clear and let people know what her dream is, then she is brave and wonderful and on the right path.

So I’m proud of her because she decided she wants to play volleyball so she goes to open gym after school to practice so she can try out for the team next year. She gets mad at herself when she makes a bad play and that makes her want to practice more. The dream to play volleyball was laying right in front of her. She picked it up and she’s going for it.

I’m grateful to her for reminding me of lessons long forgotten.

I have a dream that I sweat for on occasion. I pick it up and put it down. I take it for a walk in the sunshine and then drop it back in the closet. But it’s been with me my whole life. Even when I abandon it, it doesn’t leave me. And unlike the dream of being a singing star, I can practice, practice, practice and make this one come true.

I dream the dream of writing a novel. It is my intention to get it done. I also dream the dream of getting this novel published. That one is a little less in my control but I’m going for that too. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re dreaming of good food, drink and fun, please check out The Lion (NYC).  The Lion made lots of dreams come true when I went with The Independent Panel of Judges for an extended brunch. Everything was perfect – including that they forgot to put chicken in the Chicken Pot Pie. When we told the waiter we expected Chicken Pot Pie to have chicken in it, he pointed out that we were at a restaurant called The Lion and there aren’t any lions…. He then dreamed a dream that he could make us forget the kitchen’s “oops.”  He did an excellent job.

Please go and when you do, try the Chicken Pot Pie. I’m not joking. Even chicken-less, it was pretty good.

And if you dream of margaritas – order one! It was tasty and they don’t skimp on the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn't forget the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn’t forget the tequila!

 

 

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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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I think work is the problem.

I’m credentialed to say this because I passed a pass/fail class called “The Philosophy of Work.” The course was required toward my undergraduate Honors Degree in Liberal Studies. For those of you thinking that an Honors Degree in Liberal Studies is useless, don’t worry, I have a BA English Literature too.

In class, we talked about what it means to have a job versus a career versus a vocation.  We talked about the value of work in our culture. Hard work is respected and applauded.  We are bootstrap pulling people.  We even have a national holiday, where we don’t work, to celebrate all the other days when we do.

We talked about work and happiness. Is work a necessary evil or the path to fulfillment?  Is it toil or enlightenment?  Maybe both?

Does the type of work matter? Is the person who digs a ditch, using muscles and will to make things happen more or less fulfilled than the person who uses a computer to diagram the ditch and makes things happen while dressed in business casual attire?

Looking back on my school days, I didn’t have a clue about what real work meant and the philosophical discussions didn’t do a thing to prepare me.  I thought I had it rough if I had a class on Friday.  I thought housekeeping chores were a burden.  I might have cut my arm off with a weed-whacker, if we’d had one, to avoid lawn maintenance.

I’ve been in the 9 – whenever working world for a while now. There are days when I look forward to getting to the office and know I make a difference.  When I work with someone on my staff and see the light of understanding flip on in their iris, my chest swells. There are also work days when no amount of compensation seems worth it.  And there are more workdays than I like to think about that end 13 hours after they begin.

Work helps me appreciate my leisure time.  And, my leisure time makes it possible for me to do my work.

My friends; my funny, smart, interested and interesting friends are a big part of my leisure time.

And we are funny.

The funny grows with group size.  Margaritas probably don’t hurt either.  And we were funny on fire the night we celebrated the birthday of a good friend (and short list candidate for margagogo’s open slot for a Brooklyn Correspondent).

Sometimes when we are together, I laugh so hard my cheeks cramp and tears run down my face.  When I get going, each peal of laughter rolls over the one before it, squeezing out the normal rhythm of my giggle until I sound like an asthmatic, wheezy bulldog.  I wish I could come up with a more attractive description than cramped cheeks, tears and wheezing. But in these moments, when I’m surrounded by friends and laughter, I know I’m exactly where I belong.

My friend’s birthday celebration at Bamonte’s in Williamsburg (32 Withers St) was the scene of one of these perfect moments.

Bamontes

Bamonte’s is old school Italian.  The lights are a little too bright, fixtures ornate, walls red and the staff supports every old school stereotype. My friends chose Bamonte’s for the celebration because their family has a relationship with the restaurant since way ‘back in the day’.  You’ll feel the history when you walk in the door.  It was the perfect setting to explain hashtags to friends who don’t and won’t ever tweet and it made total sense when “hashtag” became “hound dog”.  Thanks to this night, I will forever be “hound-doging” #hounddogisthenewhashtag  #funnyonfire

You should go to Bamonte’s and get a double order of the Eggplant Rollatini – it is insane.  Everyone had a great meal and unless you’re really, really hungry, you’ll have left overs to take home. I had spaghetti and meatballs (amazing) and my laughter turned to real tears the next day when I realized I wasn’t getting the lunch I was drooling for because my to-go never made it to my refrigerator and instead spent the night in my purse. #bummer #cryingagain

Food Styling by the Birthday Boy.

Food Styling by the Birthday Boy.

Grab a group of friends and head to Bamonte’s.  You should, under no circumstances, order a margarita.  But if you stick with wine and anything else on menu, I know you’ll have a great meal and I hope you have half the fun that we had. #funnyonfire #happybirthday #Ineedahounddogsymbol

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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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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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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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