beach house live @ central park

beach house - central park summerstage

summer concerts, especially in central park, are always a much anticipated event, and last night’s beach house show was no exception.  though it was sweltering hot and about 85% humidity, the band played enthusiastically for a sold out crowd of new york city hipsters. about a third of the way through the show, the rain started pouring, but it was almost a welcome relief to the heat and seemed to have added rather than detracted from the overall vibe.  victoria legrand (the singer and keyboard player) let the crowd know that, “we’re all in this together” and continued singing her laid-back, spacey tunes.  they played a good mixture of old and new songs, and it wasn’t until their hit song “myth” was over that people started meandering out of the park and onto dryer ground.  this is my second time seeing the band, and i would definitely recommend seeing them live if you haven’t already.

beach house - bloom

additionally, if you haven’t picked up their latest album, you need to do that as well.  similar in style to their prior releases, bloom is lush, subtly-complicated, and dreamy.

book review: 1Q84

i’d never heard of haruki marukami before reading his latest novel, 1Q84, at the recommendation of one of my friends.  i read every day on the subway ride to and from work – about 35 minutes each way – and at 1,040 pages, i was glad to have the electronic version of this particular work.

the story focuses on 2 main characters – aomame, a fitness instructor who moonlights as an assassin to abusive men, and tengo, a cram school teacher who spends his free time writing literature.  aomome ends up getting involved in a situation that brings her precisely-calculated life to a halt; while tengo becomes engrossed in rewriting the novel of fuka-eri, a beautiful young girl whose background involves a religious organization that revolves around “little people”, and which she fled from at 10 years old.  the two story lines are intertwined in a fantasy-like alter-world, nicknamed “1Q84″ by aomame,  this world’s most distinguishing characteristic is 2 moons in the sky, the regular moon, and a smaller green mossy moon.

the story is interesting, especially in the beginning, but i can see this novel becoming monotonous for some people (i don’t usually mind novels that drag somewhat – i guess that’s from reading all those large russian novels over the years!).  my one disappointment, however, was with the ending – there seemed to have been quite a few loose ends and unanswered questions that weren’t exactly explained/tied up.  but after thinking about it for awhile, i realized that maybe those things didn’t really matter – because at its heart, the novel is a love story – perhaps not the most conventional, but a love story nonetheless.  is it worth the time investment?  while i certainly enjoyed it, i’m honestly not sure.  i’d say 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

 

movie review: safety not guaranteed

i love going to sunday afternoon matinees, so i was really happy when i discovered brooklyn heights cinema, a 2-screen movie theatre located just a few blocks from my apartment in dumbo.  this tiny theatre plays independent and foreign movies and has a quant old-school vibe.

this was a great venue to see the wonderful ‘safety not guaranteed’, a low-key indie  movie about a guy who writes an add seeking a partner to “go back in time” with him, and the team of journalists who seek him out for an upcoming story.  i thought the young aubrey plaza did an excellent job as the intern who befriends kenneth, the writer of the article.  i was also happy to see jake johnson, who i’ve only seen as struggling hipster roommate in ‘new girl’, play the writer who uses the story as an excuse to track down his childhood flame.

the movie is essentially about finding someone to connect with, and i found myself less worried about whether kenneth could actually travel back in time than in following the somewhat oddball characters and their journeys to a higher degree of self-discovery.  there is a real feeling of warmth throughout the movie which you don’t typically find in some of the higher-budget films.  overall, highly recommended.

step by step: my first attempt at eggs benedict

one of my favorite breakfasts is eggs benedict.  i always order it at restaurants, but i’ve been a bit hesitant to try out the recipe at home.  this is mostly due to my fear of making  hollandaise sauce and also poaching eggs.  luckily, i found a really great recipe for making hollandaise sauce, compliments of julia child:

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, if needed (or more) [i used lime juice since i didn't have lemon]
6 -8 ounces very soft unsalted butter [i used 6 ounces even]
1 dash cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
fresh ground white pepper, to taste [i used black pepper]

Directions:

1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).

2. Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook.

3. To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. (If, by chance, the eggs seem to be cooking too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then continue).

4. As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.

5. By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.

6. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.

it took me about 10 minutes of constant whisking before i added butter to the frothy egg yolks.  at first i was worried that we’d be eating raw eggs since the mixture really wan’t getting thick, but then i whisked to my hearts content for another 15 minutes or so.  much to my surprise, those puppies thickened right up and were the perfect velvety, smooth consistency.

while all this was going on, i had a pot of water boiling for the eggs.  i’ve tried making poached eggs before – using the vinegar method and the swirly method – and they’ve never turned out quite right.  as a solution, this time i used 2 poachpods, which can purchased for about $10 at bed bath and beyond.

these little silicon pods really work wonders.  all you need to do is butter the poachpod, add an egg, and cook it in boiling water for about 5 1/2 minutes with the lid on.  i cooked 2 eggs at a time since i only had 2 pods, but you could definitely cook about 4 eggs in one medium-sized saucepan.  once the time is up, gently remove the eggs from the boiling water and turn the pod upside-down to release.

i then toasted a couple english muffins, warmed up my canadian bacon on the stovetop, and put together the breakfast.  to do this, i stacked the canadian bacon and then the poached egg atop the toasted english muffin.  i finished it off with the creamy hollandaise sauce and and a sprinkle of parsley.

to my pleasant surprise, the whole thing turned out really well.  although i was a bit worried about substituting the lime juice for the lemon juice, i think the lime gave the hollandaise a really nice flavor.  and the eggs were the perfect constancy.  overall, a very good meal which i’m really happy i finally tried.  i know i’ll be making these yummy eggs benedicts for many sunday mornings to come.

movie review: take this waltz

i had never heard of ‘take this waltz’ when i ordered it late a night in a philadelphia hotel room, and i really ended up enjoying it.  the movie is beautifully shot; it takes place in the dead of summer, and you can almost feel the heat coming off the screen.  michelle williams plays a housewife who falls for one of her neighbors, and her portrayal of the guilt and inner-conflict that stems from this situation is well-acted and believable.  williams seems to flock toward these type of roles, and her performance here reminded me of the characters she played in ‘blue valentine’ and ‘my week with marilyn’ (i’d also recommend both of those movies if you haven’t seen them).  though williams is the focal-point of this movie, it was also interesting to see seth rogen play a serious role of her chef husband.

this low-key movie is more about atmosphere than a huge amount of action, and some  people may find the pacing a bit slow.  however, i thought it was really well-done and thought-provoking.  recommended.

the dandelion – quaint london pub-style brunch in philly

on one of my recent trips to philadelphia, i discovered the dandelion, a cute little pub on the corner of sansom and s 18th street. the atmosphere is engligh pub-style, with dark mahogany and rich colors.  the music was better-than-average and the overall ambiance was really nice.  i ordered the eggs benedict, and everything was cooked perfectly. my boyfriend had the toasted bagel and catskills smoked salmon, and even though it doesn’t sound like much of a meal, the salmon was fresh and the presentation was flawless.

the dandelion is a stephen starr restaurant, the ‘it’ chef of philadelphia, and i have to say, this restaurant did not disappoint.  if you’re looking for a nice low-key place for brunch in philly, this is definitely a good choice.