For The Love of Ice Cream

I was telling my massage therapist that I had heard that New Englanders eat more ice cream year round than any other part of the United States. As a New England ex-pat, I consider it my duty to continue certain traditions. After getting my massage, I wandered over to Red Mango to get my winter’s ice cream requirement.

Red Mango Yogurt

I got the mix of peanut butter and hazelnut yogurt, topped with vanilla yogurt, strawberries, chocolate chips, and one rainbow cookie (missing from the picture because it was quickly eaten). Yum! I do love Red Mango’s frozen yogurt. It’s not ultra sweet.

However, it’s not quite the saaaaame as ice cream. It’s what I can get around here year round. I do have a Hershey’s ice cream store that is part of a local car wash (no, seriously – get your car washed and eat ice cream while you wait. Brilliant!).

To me, the best ice cream in the world comes from Toscanini’s Ice Cream Shop in Cambridge, MA. How I miss it!! Don’t bother visiting Harvard University – go get ice cream from Toscanini’s. I’m telling you. You won’t regret it.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you about Toscanini’s. Did I mention it was the best ice cream store in the world? First, they make all their own ice cream from scratch using fresh ingredients. That to me is key. However, the staff often experiment with flavors. The kitchen is viewable from the street, so you can see what’s going on. I rather like being able to see the food as its prepared. It makes me feel like the establishment is helping ensure purity through transparency.

I would not be doing my bloggerly job if I did not tell you that one huge delight is the extensive menu. It’s not unusual to see 25 different kinds of ice cream on the list. Best of all, the flavor varieties change week to week, all year round. I was on a sweet cream kick for a while. My two all-time favorites, in order, were the strawberry ice cream and, one of many ingenious concoctions, bourbon vienna finger cookie ice cream. I’ve also tried lemon espresso, honey lavender, cherry, coffee heathbar, and many, many others. I dare you to get bored eating their ice cream. Not possible.

If you’re anything like me and you like to shop at locally-owned establishments, then going to Toscanini’s for a pint of ice cream instead of buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or one of the other containers in a supermarket is for you! I like that the owner of Tosci’s, Gus, often works in his own store, serving customers, helping with supplying the front, or working in the back with the ice cream. Whatever he needs to do, he does. Gus is an active and beloved member of the Cambridge, MA community, and he makes the best ice cream in the whole world.

When I moved back to New York, I moved over 200 miles away from this little place of heaven. I dream about it, talk about it, and yearn to get my next ice cream from Gus. In the meantime, Red Mango or the Hershey’s at the car wash will get my business.

Til next we eat, Tosci’s!

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Winter Birthday Shenanigans

I’m not sure I can call them shenanigans at this stage in my life since it didn’t involve wackiness or enough alcohol to lead to my stripping naked in public. Not that I’ve ever done that, but you know. Shenanigans.

My birthday celebrations on Friday revolved around two of my favorite things: food and museums (but not museum food, which often leaves a lot to be desired).

I went out the day before and picked up bagels from A&S bagels in Franklin Square, NY, along with plain Philadelphia cream cheese, and Nova Scotia lox. My lovely husband went to get fresh Starbucks decaf coffee for me because I don’t have any at home. He also made our bagels sandwiches for me.

Breakfast - NY Style!

Coffee, even decaf, is a treat for me, so I don’t stock it up. Otherwise, I would drink it. All of it. Every last drop. After breakfast, we hopped the train to NYC and took a subway uptown to W. 83rd Street. From the west side of Central Park, we walked through snow covered hills. I was so excited!

Walking through Central Parking

Walking through Central Parking

The beauty of Central Park in winter with all of nature covered in snow is breathtaking.

Central Park, upper west side, covered in snow

Central Park, upper west side

Erroneously, we headed South for a bit and had to backtrack. Without the help of GPS in my phone, that could have been a lot worse than it was. We didn’t really lose much time. Before long, we were at my favorite museum in NYC: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The El Greco exhibit was running through February 1st, and it was a great excuse to go back. What we noted about his works is that El Greco paid a great deal of attention to a figure’s face, hands, and feet, but other details were not so refined. Here is a snap of one of my faves that was on display:

El Greco painting

El Greco painting

We also saw an exhibit called Death Becomes Her about women’s mourning garb through the 18th and 19th centuries. As you descended down these stairs, classical music could be heard piping up through and up from the exhibit in the basement, giving me chills and causing intense emotions to arise and make me feel like crying.

2015-01-30 11.38.24

Around the perimeter of the room, quotes from women about mourning were being projected onto the walls. This one made me laugh out loud. It disrupted the mood a bit, but I could not help myself – especially the end bit – “or what it is”. I also took a few photos of some of the lovelier mourning gowns.

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Exhibit: Death Becomes Her 2015-01-30 11.44.02 2015-01-30 11.40.33

I could take a thousand pictures of all the wonderful items in the museum that left an impression on me, but I will leave you with these three  – a sculpture by Degas that was even more wonderful to see in person and two works by Tiffany.

Rodin's Girl Statue Tiffany Stained Glass Tiffany Stained Glass

The cool thing about the Degas sculpture is that her blue ribbon was made of satin and the skirt was made of a pleated mesh metallic-type material. The touch of fabric on the metal sculpture gave the girl a sense of life about her, as if she was going to hop off the stand and start dancing. The Tiffany stained glass photo on the right was actually a fountain with running water right behind the plants. A beautiful little oasis.

After The Met, we took the subway downtown to the Union Square area for lunch at ABC Cocina, one of a number of restaurants in NYC by Michelin chef Jean-George Vongerichten. I really wanted to go to ABC Kitchen, a sister restaurant of his that runs directly behind ABC Cocina behind a glass wall. But I could not get a reservation until 2:30pm so I decided to book my birthday lunch for Cocina instead.

Check out the site for pictures to the restaurant. I ❤ the decor, that the kitchen was open and part of the floor plan adjacent to the bar, and the hunky bartender! I ordered a spiced cider toddy that was delightful, scrumptious, and strong.

Spiced cider hot toddy

We ordered gooey ham and cheesy bites (yes, that was actually the description on the menu), sweet potato empanadas, a meat board, and crispy fish tacos. My favorite were the tacos and the ham and cheesy bites. I would go back, but next time I’m hoping to make it to ABC Kitchen, which serves non-GMO, antibiotic free foods.

The next museum we visited was The Rubin Museum of Art, a museum dedicated to Himalayan/Asian art. Two exhibits were of interest: an exhibit of Francesco Clemente, an Italian painter and sculptor, of his paintings and sculpture with Indian influences; and an exhibit called The All-Knowing Buddha, which displayed 54 panels that illustrate how to meditate. Also at this museum was a Tibetan Temple room, replete with ornate decorations, incense, and chanting monks.

Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without some celebratory dessert. For me, that means ice cream! We were only a few blocks away from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (Yes, it’s really called that) in Sheridan Square, so that is where we went.

Mark and I ordered two versions of the same ice cream gobbler: mine was pumpkin and his was apple.

Pumpkin Gobbler

But they were both delicious! By the time we were done, we were full and exhausted, so we headed back home to start rewatching the Babylon 5 sci-fi series that was my favorite series at one time.

I had a great day in a great city with a wonderful man eating fantastic food and seeing inspirational artwork. I grinned like a madwoman all day long.

Not that I’m complaining. 😀

My Monday Evening Happiness

Some people need a lot of money. Others need a sports car, time shares in Hawaii, or $10,000 in monthly income to be happy.

Me? I need this:

Vanilla Ice Cream Soda

Hope your day ended as well as mine!

On My Dad’s Birthday

Dad ProfileIf my father were alive, he would have celebrated his 89th birthday with his wife of 65 years, two of his daughters, one son-in-law, and his only grandson. Dad would have eaten cheese ravioli with meatballs. For dessert, he would have tasted fresh baked coffee cake ridged with white icing and walnut pieces. He would chased the cake with sips of Starbucks Gold Coast coffee served in a white china teacup with blue decorations all around it and on its plate.

Today my Dad would have laughed when my mom told the story of an excerpt from the book Lady from the Longboat Key by Edith Barr Dunn. Ms. Dunn successfully bought and sold real estate in Longboat Key, Florida. One of her businesses was a beauty salon wherein she employed two gay men and a female impersonator. One day, she came into the office to find the office refrigerator filled with different kinds of fruit. Frustrated, she asked the employees:

“What are all these fruit doing here?”
One of the men replied: “What do you mean? There’s only three of us here.”

My Dad would have been there when we used Facetime to talk to my sister M, her husband J, and their son J2  who are currently in Southern California to celebrate my brother-in-laws’ 50th birthday during J2’s winter school break. I can imagine his face lighting up like a shining star, mouth in a wide open smile, cheeks bunching up, and laughing just to be able to see his grandson on the screen and wish him a great vacation. My Dad would have wished them all a great time despite feeling nauseous and in pain from a growing, too-large spleen.

After the meal, my Dad would have turned slowly around in this chair to grab his walker, pull himself up, and take slow, steady steps. He would have retreated to the empillowed chair and selected a classic movie while he napped there. My family and I would have sat around, laughed, and talked.

We would ask my Dad how he felt, but the answer was the same as the answer the last time you asked. He was feeling, more or less, chronically nauseous and often unable to keep food down. He was in pain when he needed to bend or move because the spleen had grown so large that it was pushing on other organs. If it was a particularly bad day, my Dad would tell you that he prayed for God to take him. My mother would beg him to stay.

“I need you, Joe.”

The last four years after my Dad’s stroke were extremely hard on him. A robust, healthy, hard-working, construction manager who spent his days outdoors became a man too ill to enjoy his life, bathe by himself, or walk steadily unaided.  He often had difficulty swallowing and would choke on food. Whatever was happening to his body, his mind remained clear. He was a chronic insomniac who could never escape his body, the ultimate prison.

My father remembered living a happy life.

“When I was on the farm and worked outdoors, I was happy.”
“When I had no shoes because we were too poor, I was happy.”
“When all I had to eat was honey on a piece of bread, I was happy.”

I have seen pictures of my Dad when he was younger. My Dad was a man with a big smile, glistening teeth, and a hearty laugh. The man I see in those pictures is not the man I remember. I remember the old, sick man who wished to die because his body’s ailments took away his life’s pleasures. He stopped eating ice cream because it made him too cold. When that happens, life has gotten pretty bad.

My wish for you is that, whatever happens, you relish your desire to eat ice cream.

Third Birthday Bites

I looked online for places to great places to eat nearby. After browsing a Google map of the area, I figured it would help me to narrow down the type of cuisine I wanted to try. If I was still living in Cambridge, MA, I would want my birthday dinner at Central Kitchen or Rendezvous  in Central Square. I searched for Central Kitchen and saw Yelp reviews that identified the cuisine as “New American” dining….  Continue reading