Archives for July 2014

Taka Taka – Tasty, Amusing, and Also the Grossest Thing I Ever Ate

Conveyor belt sushi is incredibly fun.

You just pick up plates off of the conveyor belt that flows around the tables and are charged based on the color of the plate – different colors for the more expensive and less expensive rolls. However many plates your rack up determines your bill. The sushi isn’t the same quality as, say, Sushi of Gari, but it isn’t as expensive either – plus, it’s fun!

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When I headed to Taka Taka, a Japanese-Mexican restaurant that was part kitchen entrees, part conveyor belt sushi, this is what I found:

Some great stuff:

20140730_132517 Japanese ribeye taco

This tastes like Yoshinoya beef, aka my favorite comfort food on the planet. The beef is tender and juicy, with tender onions and just a bit of cumin to bring out the Mexican taste. It’s wrapped in a warm, soft tortilla and is delicious when dipped in the citrus infused Mexican soy sauce. It’s rich, tender, and juicy – I could easily down 6 of these myself.

20140730_125835 11 – rice and chives with spicy tuna and cucumber

My favorite of the sushi conveyor belt items. Fresh, spicy, and exactly what I want in a spicy tuna roll.

There was also the less than great:

20140730_131452 Towi roll – shrimp tempura, avocado, and chipotle sauce roll covered with grilled jack cheese

This is literally the most disgusting thing that I have ever eaten. I hope that other people enjoy it, and more power to them if they do. I can’t imagine anything more wretched than this warm, rubbery cheese over fried shrimp and too much creamy chipotle sauce.

And this comes from someone who has eaten pig’s blood popsicles.

This place is fun and the atmosphere is cool – perfect for an after work happy hour. However, the service is a little scattered and the food is way overpriced – I know that this is SoHo, but there are great restaurants all over the place offering more for the same price or lower. We ordered a bunch of food and still left sort of peckish.

This is a very fun novelty and some of the sushi rolls were quite good. I would get that japanese taco again for sure – I’m still craving it.

But that jack cheese thing scared the willies out of me.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower is the greatest thing since mashed potatoes.

It’s creamy, it can be as rich or as virtuous as you desire, it’s fast to make, and it’s GENIUS if you are cutting down on carbs.

But you know what I say…lose the carbs, keep the fat.

So here it is…one of my fave mashed cauliflower dishes ever, with a little something healthy mixed in.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

2011-08-25 fritatta and cheatloaf Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces and cleaned

1.5 cups shredded horseradish cheese

1 bunch scallions, diced

1/3 cup cream cheese

3 tbsp. seasoning (throw some salt in there, too!)

IMG_0904 1. Toss the kale and cauliflower in a large stockpot filled with water. It’s okay if the veggies almost overflow from the pot – the kale cooks waaaayyy down. Cover the pot and cook for at least 40 minutes at a full rolling boil. I mean, you want that kale WILTED into submission. It should be almost as tender as spinach. You cannot overcook this – cook it longer than you think is necessary.
IMG_0918 2. When everything is totally limp (that’s what she said), turn off the heat, drain the veggies well, and return it to the pot.  IMG_0920 3. Add the cheese, seasoning, scallions, and cream cheese to the pot. The cheese should instantly start to melt.  IMG_0923 4. Puree with a hand blender (ie, the best thing on our registry…I LOVE this thing!). IMG_0925 5. Taste for seasonings and serve.

THIS is the way that you get someone to eat kale. This is the way that you get someone to forget that they can’t eat potatoes. This is the way to use up that cauliflower that is about to go bad. This is just awesome. The horseradish really gives a sharp, spicy hit  and the cream cheese makes the dish both buttery and creamy. The scallions make the whole thing taste like loaded mashed potatoes, and – guess what? – you don’t taste the kale. Such a great way to sneak in some roughage. It’s the ideal one-pot meal, especially with the stick blender – serve it right out of the pot, like I do.  IMG_0927 Then, scrape the remnants with your finger, like I do.

Bacon Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

Okay, so this is something that I don’t even know if I can count as a recipe.

But…then…I certainly never had it growing up. And I didn’t know how it would turn out. And it turned out GREAT. So maybe you want to know how to make it, too!

It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner because it’s incredibly quick and easy to make. It’s adjustable – make it low fat with chicken breasts, kosher with turkey bacon, or gluten free with gluten free teriyaki sauce.

That’s right…I’m using bottled teriyaki sauce and calling this a recipe.

Because if you never grew up wrapping things in bacon, it’s a gosh darned near revelation.

Bacon Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

2013-03-27 meatloaf Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup teriyaki sauce

1 onion, diced

4 strips thick cut bacon

1 dash of sambal olek or sriracha

IMG_0886 1. Lay the onions in the bottom of a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350F. Then, wrap each of the bacon pieces around the chicken, with the ends underneath the chicken on the bottom so they are secured. The chicken may be wrapped diagonally, horizontally, or any which way…it really doesn’t matter. You just want as much of the bacon on the top of the chicken as possible.

IMG_0889 2. Pour over the teriyaki sauce and drizzle on the sriracha or pepper paste. Then, pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, basting the chicken with the juices and teriyaki sauce every 10 minutes.

IMG_0915 3. When the chicken is almost done – within 5 minutes of being totally done – set the oven to broil for about 4 minutes, or until the chicken is finished, the bacon is very crisp, and the teriyaki sauce makes the whole kitchen smell savory and sweet.

IMG_0924 This is some really tasty chicken. It’s juicy and soft, with bacon that is so insanely crispy on top that it shatters between your teeth. The sugars in the sauce caramelize on the bacon, giving it a candied sensation and the sriracha adds a touch of heat. The onions pretty much melt into the sauce, which itself is perfect atop mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower and kale (don’t worry, that recipe is coming). The bacon on the bottom isn’t really crispy, but if you turned the chicken it would be.

Or if you are lazy and an inner fat kid like me, you just eat that floppy bacon on the bottom and you like it.

That’s what she said.

Restaurant Week at The Writing Room – As Corny as Kansas in August

Restaurant Week is here again, and this time I headed to Yorkville’s The Writing Room to check out the lunch menu.

20140725_121842 The restaurant is large and airy, which helps to lighten and soften the clubby, dark interior. It’s casual but still upscale – come here in jeans but not dirty ones, and maybe throw on some nice shoes – got it? 20140725_124151 Parker House roll

A far superior bread service than many in more expensive restaurants. They arrive freshly baked and still warm. The tops are slick with butter and covered in crunchy salt pyramids. The insides are warm and pull apart in light, eggy tufts. This is a wonderful way to start what turns out to be a wonderful meal. 
20140725_124851 Corn soup with baby shrimp and corn fritters

I was expecting cold soup, but this arrived piping hot and very savory. Usually corn is sweet, but this soup brought out the earthy, savory flavors. It’s creamy and filled with mild, pristine  baby shrimp, buttery fava beans, and hunks of grilled corn segments. The herb swirl atop adds a spicy, jalapeno-y flavor that bumps up the flavor profile. And those corn fritters on the skewer…well, who doesn’t love corn fritters on a skewer, right? 20140725_131032 Slow roasted salmon

Tasty, but nothing more. Cooked to a medium with a vibrant, firm pink interior and topped with garlicky roasted tomatoes. It’s served atop creamy, salty grits laden with more grilled corn – this time, next to those herby tomatoes, the corn tastes so sweet. This restaurant really does corn well!
20140725_134630 Creamsicle with brownie

My favorite course, which hardly ever happens with dessert. The creamsicle is tart and has a fresh burst of citrus flavor inside a thick, dark chocolate coating. It’s sweet and totally reminiscent of the creamsicles of my youth from the ice cream truck – to say nothing of the uber-gooey, warm, dark chocolate brownie. Warm brownie and cold ice cream…is there anything better? Be warned, the brownie has nuts.

20140725_121849 The Writing Room has a great Restaurant Week menu! All of the dishes are on the normal menu, and if you ordered them separately, they would definitely come out to more than $30 altogether. The service couldn’t be lovelier (honestly…I was seated by perhaps the sweetest maitre d’hotel in the entire city), the surroundings are attractive, and the food is really great.

It’s definitely something to write home about. 

Shut up. I love my dad puns. 

Where to Eat This Weekend – Harlem Tavern Edition

Here’s what I’m eating and where I’m eating it:

20140717_130016 Summer salad at Cafe Luxembourg

This is so seasonal that you better get it while it’s hot. Literally…these farm fresh vegetables are grilled and then served room temperature with a garlicky, fragrant, basil-y green goddess vinaigrette. The beans are smooth and creamy, the radish is crispy,a nd the lettuce has that wonderful chewy, charred texture that makes it more substantial and meaty than it is when raw. Get the grilled asparagus in a spicy chili vinaigrette for a fully healthy, vegetarian meal. Or go for the burger…that’s a good call, too.
20140718_203912 Asian chicken salad at Harlem Tavern

This large, comfortable sports bar-cum-restaurant is smack dab in the middle of the loveliest stretch of Harlem I have ever seen…hell, it’s one of the loveliest stretches of city I have seen anywhere in NYC. It’s a pleasure to sit on the large, covered patio and sip on one of the many craft beers or cocktails and eat delicious spinach artichoke dip, well salted sweet potato fries, or this – the Asian chicken salad. A huge pile of tender greens tossed in a sweet and tangy Asian dressing, topped with salty-sticky-sugary teriyaki chicken.  20140719_115400 Eggs Ronda at Cafe Ronda

Hands down the best dish I have had here. Why was I only coming here for dinner? Two beautifully poached eggs under a layer of spicy red pepper infused tomato sauce. Best of all, it’s laid upon a fluffy, chewy slice of garlic bread, slick with oil and garlic and parsley. The bread becomes soft and pliable with the broken yolk and the tomato sauce, but not too soggy or falling apart. The potatoes served alongside are incredibly crispy with fluffy interiors – I couldn’t be more happy with this dish if I tried.

I mean, maybe if I ordered a mimosa. That might make me a little happier.

Happy weekend, foodie friends!

MacDougal Street’s Greatest Hits – Mamoun’s and Artichoke Basille’s

You may, someday in the future, find yourself in Greenwich Village, near MacDougal Street.

You may be wearing a shirt that says “The Peach Pit” and carrying your backpack.

And yet , you are not 19.

But you still want to eat with the cool kids.

So you go here:

20140719_175214 Mamoun’s. Where you will hob knob with prepsters visiting from Virginia, tourists from Japan with cameras larger than my bedroom, hospital residents on their 20 minute dinner break, and middle aged New Yorkers just looking for a standing room table and a hot falafel. Don’t miss the sleeper hit – tender, warm spinach pie that is mildly spiced and wrapped in what must be homemade pastry.

This place isn’t my favorite falafel in NYC, but it really does hit the spot and the price can’t be beat.
20140719_175457 Schwarma

Chargrilled with deep, smoky flavors and crispy edges surrounding juicy meat. The meat isn’t as tender as I like it, but when it’s served up with tahini and crunchy veggies in a warm pita, how can you resist? I can’t! The hot sauce her is VERY hot…not a lot of other flavors, but it does liven up the sandwich.  20140719_175509 Falafel

Mmm-mmm good! Soft and wide so it spans the width of the bread – no sad, falafel-less bites in this sandwich! The chickpea patty is gently spiced with fragrant herbs so it blends with the tart radishes and that nutty tahini. I liked this a lot, and for the price -well, it’s sensational.

Also ,these sandwiches are the perfect size – one will fill you up but not make you overstuffed.

That’s why you might want this after a few hours: 20140719_203743 Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

I mean, of course I waited this long to get to this popular pizza joint – that’s how I roll.

And though it’s not my be all-end all pizza  – I totally get the hype. It’s cheesy. It’s creamy. It’s laden with chewy artichokes and slivers of spinach. It’s salty and garlicky and indulgent. The crust is way too thick and stiff for me, but my husband loved it. I guess it’s to hold up to the slippery, uber thick and rich topping, but I like cracker thin pizza crust.

I mean, I still ate it…it was still pretty great.

Add in the 2 drinks I had earlier that night and you can see why I got the hype.

Trust me, when you are on MacDougal street, you will have had at least 2 drinks too. And then these 2 places will taste even better.

It’s (Not!) Too Darn Hot!

I grew up in a house that was afraid of the oven. 

My mother never – EVER – puts the oven above 350F. She wholeheartedly believes that the house will spontaneously combust if the oven goes anywhere near 400F.

This could be because that’s what her mother told her or it could be because of my propensity to start greasefires, but let’s not dwell on that.

Let’s dwell on when you absolutely MUST put your oven on the HIGHEST TEMPERATURE you can stand in order to get the most out of your meal. 

Pizza

When I took my pizza making class, it was a revelation. Though I still usually buy premade pizza dough (because no matter how hard I try, my bread products consistently turn out tasting like punishments), I always heat my oven up to 475F with the pizza stone in there. I put my dough on a well floured overturned cookie sheet and top it with sauce, cheese, and accouterments. I then open the oven door lightning fast, shimmy  the pizza onto the hot stone, then slam it shut. I turn the oven light on so I can see inside and don’t open the door at ALL until the crust looks golden and the cheese is bubbly hot. This way, the crust turns out super tender and airy with a crackly exterior. Lower heat just makes the crust soggy and sometimes gummy – you really need that blast of constant heat to get restaurant-worthy pizza. 

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Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans)

This is the only way that I get my husband or dad to eat vegetables. It’s SUCH a cliche, but these are men who would live off of fast food hamburgers and milkshakes for the rest of their lives if they could. They just don’t like the taste of vegetables and don’t feel sick if they don’t eat them for weeks on end. The only way that I get them to eat veggies is if they are super crisp and ideally charred within an inch of disintegrating altogether. Toss your vegetables in a bit of olive oil and some seasonings, then just throw them in an oven cranked to 450F and retrieve them after about 45 minutes, turning once. These should not be made ahead of time – the green beans fare best overnight, but nothing will be as crispy and satisfying as it is the day of. Don’t try this with veggies that are too watery or starchy – stick to the ones listed here. Top them with sesame oil, dip them in ketchup, and give thanks to the high heat heavens.

Steak

Because no one wants to eat shoe leather. The cow is already dead…you don’t need to cook it to death again. Unless we are talking short ribs or stew meat, beef MUST be cooked quickly and over high heat. This allows the outside of meat to get a lovely sear and the inside to remain juicy and tender. Start it in a pan over high heat and then finish it quickly in a very, very hot oven to cook the inside to a beautiful medium rare. Just follow these instructions and you won’t ever be disappointed. 

via

Fruit

Sprinkle sliced bananas or stone fruit with brown sugar and put them under the broiler on high. In 5 minutes or less, you have a crunchy, juicy, sweet dessert that is PERFECT with shortbread cookies and mascarpone cheese. 

You’re welcome. 

And if you can’t stand the heat…get out of the kitchen. 

Sorry, mom.

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

I am trying to be healthier.

And let me tell you – it is hard.

But I have a really big birthday coming up and I hear that my metabolism is going to hit the rocks. And the chances of me exercising are probably slim to none, so I should start eating a  little healthier, at least when I cook at home.

For me, that means cutting down on the refined carbs. Blah.

But I can’t let go of the fat – I need that fat.

Well, I want it, anyway.

So this is something to make me forget that I am trying not to eat bread. It’s fatty, spicy, a little sweet, and smoky.

Obviously it has bacon.

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

bacon mushroom burgers Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey or chicken

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

1 package cleaned and chopped mushrooms, diced a little smaller

1 onion or 1 bunch scallions, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 cup spicy steak sauce

salt and pepper to taste

drizzle of olive oil

blue cheese dressing

wedge salad fixins

20140715_174750 1. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and then throw the chopped bacon in there over medium heat. You just want enough oil to get the bacon going. When the bacon starts to sputter and brown, add the mushrooms – expect some oil splatter.  20140715_180359 2. When the bacon and shrooms are super brown, in about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and take them out and drain on a paper towel. However, do not drain the pan.  20140715_191752 3. Combine the ground turkey, steak sauce, onions, garlic, and salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and bacon and mix well, then form into 4 patties. Make sure that the steak sauce that you choose is a little spicy and properly salty, because this is where most of the flavoring comes from.  20140715_191946 4. Turn the pan on medium high and cook those burgers right in the bacon fat. I sometimes take the easy way out and put a lid on the pan to steam cook the burgers – you lose the charred taste but it keeps the burgers moist, and since this is turkey, you don’t have to worry about keeping them rare.  20140715_200245 5. Serve over salad or in portabella buns with blue cheese dressing.  20140715_200256 I mean, this doesn’t taste like I’m missing out on carbs. It tastes like a sweet, spicy burger with crispy bits of bacon and juicy mushrooms. The raw onions or scallions add an unexpected brightness and if you steam the burgers like I do, they are especially soft and juicy. Best of all, the blue cheese is a creamy, cooling counterpart with just a bit of tangy blue cheese taste. The key here is adding the steak sauce to the burgers – it takes care of the seasoning for you. Just try to choose one low in sugar so you don’t sabotage your own healthy meal.

Especially since you are going to want seconds.

Locali in New Canaan and…a Guilty Pleasure

My sister is starring in Hairspray at Summer Theatre of New Canaan – yes, I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I figure that you might want to see her while she is still in a show where we can all afford tickets. I’m basically sure that Broadway is next.

But while you are in New Canaan, you might want something to eat.

Right in town, I highly recommend Thali or this new place we hit up, Locali. This lovely little restaurant has a breezy patio, friendly servers, and a menu of small and large Italian accented plates. The edamame Milanese, topped with garlicky breadcrumbs and the fried artichokes on punchy anchovy remoulade are both winners. However, if you come here, be sure to get some pizza.

20140720_151951 Hudson gem pizza with beet powder, goat cheese, and figs

Hit of the day, no question. The crust is whisper thin and crispy, with a puffy, airy crust at the edge that has plenty of charred spots. The pizza is covered in tangy goat cheese that is creamy and warm, with spots of sweet, juicy figs. The kicker is the beet powder – it’s so delicate that it has no texture, but it releases a deep, earthy taste that is unmistakably beet-like. This is the most fun twist on beets and goat cheese that I have had in awhile and it’s totally delicious. Sweet, savory, and vegetarian to boot!
20140720_151955 Ratatouille pizza

I mean, dontcha just love summer? That wonderful, tender-crisp crust covered in fresh, sweet tomato sauce (no heavy had with the oregano here, it’s all about the tomatoes), shaved zucchini and summer squash, grilled onions, and other fresh veggies. It’s doubtless made with whatever was fresh at the farmer’s market that morning and there is no way that our pizza is the same as the one that you would get if you ordered it next week  -maybe yours would have corn or zucchini blossoms. This is a garden on a crust. It greatly improved with the addition of some red pepper flakes, but then…what doesn’t?

I would go back to Locali in a heartbeat, and quite probably will.

Then, on the way home from the show, you may want to stop somewhere for dinner. Sure, you could get a steamed cheeseburger in Connecticut or maybe try Arthur Avenue in the Bronx…but, why would you, when you could go here:

20140720_195401 Luau salad at The Cheesecake Factory

Why, when I live in one of the greatest eating cities on earth, do I crave the mass produced crap was the only restaurant in town when I was growing up? It’s all generic salt and fat. It’s nothing local or seasonal. I highly doubt that it will ever win a Zagat rating, let alone a Michelin star. However…I just love The Cheesecake Factory. It reminds me of lunches with my aunt, of sliders with my best friend, and of being cool enough to drive myself to the mall. It’s so nostalgic that I can never resist it.

And unlike so many other memories, this one actually lives up to its former self each and every time. 

This salad is sweet and a little sour from the rice wine vinegar in the dressing. It’s thinly sliced chilled chicken, crunchy macadamia nuts, julienned bell peppers, and soft lettuce. And it’s those huge, crispy, fried and bad for you wontons. It’s kitschy, light, and indulgent – “Luau” is a perfectly apt name. I love this salad. All 19,459 calories of it. 
20140720_204724 I mean I didn’t eat this super sweet, brick like cheesecake studded with Oreos and loaded with preservatives. I didn’t eat the peanut butter cup version, either. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

Planning a Wedding in NYC – The Big, Bad Breakdown

BE AWARE…WEDDING POST AHEAD!

I was asked several times on this blog and by email to do a wedding post detailing what I did and did not like about my wedding.

However…due to my overwhelmingly excellent experience, I will really only be posting the positives. If you have questions about vendors you did not see here (Such as my florist), please leave a comment or email me and I will be more than happy to share those experiences with you.

And if you have no interest in weddings whatsoever, I don’t blame you. I absolutely NEVER did until it was my own. I promise to be back with more eats on Monday.

SarahJosh_GettingReady_030

Invitations – Wedding Paper Divas and Envelopper Ink

Awesome experiences with both. Wedding Paper Divas is both fairly priced and easy to use – you can go pretty inexpensive or way, way pricey, and they will always let you order a few free samples first to make sure that you like the feel of the paper (yeah, when you plan a wedding, you do things like feel paper. It’s only the beginning of the weird stuff you find yourself thinking about. Breathe into it.). I wanted to do custom envelop liners, so we had them done for a very reasonable price at Enveloppers, who even printed, for a very fair fee, each recipients name and address on each envelope. The little cards were from Vistaprint and had our wedding website information on the back, and my mom and I tied each little gold cord on each invitation and stuffed every envelope.

It took forever and was totally worth it.

SarahJosh_GettingReady_012

Dress – Annasul Y by Lusan MAndongus. Purchased at Cymbeline and L’fay Bridal

This store was HEAVEN SENT. Little known fact – I hate to shop. HATE to shop. Hate trying on clothes, hate taking them off, hate people saying what they think of me wearing them…I literally despise shopping. More often than not, my clothes are castoffs from friends or my sister buys them for me.

So my mom and sis knew that they had LIMITED time in which to buy me a dress. The first place was a disaster. Too many sequins, too little arm fabric. The second place had a woman who just knew that I would look great in a ballgown.

Pardon me as I gag.

Thank heaven they found L’fay. This tiny flatiron shop is awash in tulle and lace, but they let you choose your own dress here. Grab a bottle of water and ask a consultant for help, or just browse. If you show up a little early or late, don’t worry – they will let you in. They will bend over backwards to let you Skype with your dad so he can see the dress before you buy. They will let you go back multiple times to pair jewelry with your dress. And if you don’t buy that day, they DON’T PRESSURE YOU. You have no idea how rare this is…and it’s SO appreciated.

SarahJosh_Ceremony_197

I loved my dress. It was modest but not Amish. Feminine but not overly girly. Not too puffy, not too tight, and the seamstress was a dream and put wonderful sleeves on it. I can’t say enough about my experiences with the incredible staff and beautiful, unique selection of dresses at Cymbeline/L’Fay. Plus, they gave my dad a diet Sprite and a plug for his Ipad so he wouldn’t be bored at the fitting that my mom dragged him to.

Winners, I tell ya. Though my wonderful consultant Serena no longer works there, I worked with 2 or 3 other people who were all professional, kind, and helpful.

SarahJosh_GettingReady_040

Shoes – Tango shoes by Arika Nerguiz

Another little known fact – I have a horrible, terrible, awful bunion on my right foot (wow, we are really getting personal today). I wanted to wear flats, but my groom BEGGED me to wear heels so he wouldn’t look like the jolly Jewish giant. I can’t wear conventional heels for more than 30 minutes at a time without feeling intense pain and my sister actually hid my favorite nude wedges to prevent me from just reusing those. Enter ballroom dancing shoes. With super flexible heels and a variety of styles and colors, these are the best, awesomest, prettiest, and comfiest fancy shoes I have ever worn …EVER. Not as comfy as my favorite Toms, but I wore them for about 8 hours straight with next to no pain until the final hour. The shoes are so soft and flexible that they stretched to accommodate that big ass bunion. These wouldn’t work for an outdoor wedding, since the shoes are made for dance floors, but for those with bunions or indoor weddings, these are utterly fabulous! I got mine at Worldtone, where many Broadway costumers outfit their casts.

SarahJosh_GettingReady_096

Jewelry – Tejani

Because I am a drag queen…we all know it. This store sells jewelry fit for a Maharajah’s wedding – bling it ON. The staff here is sweet, the stuff is WAY cheaper than anything else that looks as good, and the quality is excellent.

SarahJosh_GettingReady_123

Makeup – Christina Amador

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. This girl is red hot. On fire. Amazing. Sweet, talented, professional, and did I mention WONDERFUL to work with? she made my mom look like Anne Bancroft, my sister look like Sophia Loren, and me look like Rita Hayworth. She does airbrush makeup. She does false eyelashes. She does anything and everything that you want. If you decide that your nose looks flat after the trial, just email her and she will call you back in 2 seconds reassuring you that she will do whatever you want to make your nose look good the day of the wedding. Like I said, weird things happen to you when you plan your wedding – you have a fear of flat noses.

This woman is PHENOMENAL and a VERY fair price. Get her asap.

SarahJosh_Reception_051

Choreographer – Shari Polis

It’s hard for me to put into words how I feel about wonderful Shari…here is what I wrote for her site as a review:

Shari Polis is a dream choreographer because she doesn’t do what she want to do – she does what you need to do. I am an actress with many years of dance experience and my husband has never even seen “A Chorus Line,” much less knows what a waltz is. Sherri managed, in just 2 sessions, to give us a small dance routine, complete with a lift, that was simple enough for us both to remember but really dazzled the audience. The moment when he lifted me and our friends burst out into applause, rising to their feet, was a shining moment of our wedding. Shari listened to what we needed and made us look better than we ever dreamed we could – she really matched up the Odd Couple in a dance that made us look like Fred and Ginger 2.0. She is professional, talented, kind, unassuming, and most of all, made our wedding a cut above the rest. We recommend her without reservation.

SarahJosh_Reception_003

Photographer – Jami Saunders

Love. This. Woman. Timely, friendly, professional, kind…I could go on and on. She is really salt of the earth. Homegirl runs a nonprofit. For heaven’s sake, she rescheduled our photo shoot last minute because we had an emergency and then got us all of our wedding photos within 5 weeks of the wedding…unreal. Plus, you get all of the photos on a disk and you don’t have to buy the album through her.  But the proof is in the pudding.

She got every single shot that we asked for.  Her packages are fairly priced by NYC standards, and she becomes more than a vendor – she becomes a friend.

Videographer – CinemaCake

This was my incredible sister’s wedding gift to us and it was one that I truly cherish. I wouldn’t have gotten a videographer – easy way to trim the budget and who really watches a video anyway? But my sister wanted to get me the video and she wanted to use this vendor. Okay, whatever. The company was super cool to work with, the guys who came were total gems – sweet, fun, unobtrusive – and the whole experience was nice. I didn’t think anything of it.

Then, a month after the wedding, my grandfather passed away.

All of a sudden, I realized why people get videos. Photos are beautiful and conjure great memories – but videos are living, breathing memories all on their own. To see my dad’s face when watches his dad on the video is just…amazing. To see the dance that my husband and I worked on SO HARD makes me laugh until I cry. To be able to show my kids and grandkids what everyone looked and sounded like is something that I will treasure forever. And we didn’t have to rely on an iPhone that might run out of battery or a Droid that might not work for the video. Please, if you can, stretch the budget for a video. And if it can stretch as far as CinemaCake, then you will be overjoyed with the result.

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Band – Around Town Entertainment

Hey-yo! The band rocked our SOCKS off! Adam Michaels was attentive, personal, quick with emails, and didn’t try to upsell us on a bigger, more expensive band. I had heard him at my friend’s wedding and just knew that I wanted this band. They are AWESOME! Live music the entire time, some killer singers (they did MIKA for heaven’s sake), and a fantastic mix of slow, fast, old, new, popular, and avant garde songs. We gave them a HUGE list of songs that we wanted and they hit almost all of them. Plus, they let my sister and the groom rock out with them.

Yeah, we are a very musical family. What can I say?

This band was one of the best, easiest, and most joyful vendors with whom we worked. Bravo!

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Venue – JW Marriot Essex House

What can I say that you don’t already know? The food was incredible. Their service is personalized, efficient, and over the top. They can get you a last minute stage covering, ensure that your father has a plateful of pigs in blankets so he doesnt get whiny during photos and arrange for your guests to have a large, comfy area in South Gate for the after party. They will bend over backwards to deliver your mother’s welcome bags to guest rooms, make sure that your groom’s guitar is unmolested while it sits with the musicians, and calm you down when one of your vendors is late. The Grand Salon truly deserves its name – gold and crystal and pastoral murals all over the place. It’s grand, it’s elegant, and it’s totally old world. Nothing too hip or sharp here – it’s fancy, ornate, and soft. I can’t recommend Essex House and the fantastic team, led by Cecilia DeAngelis, enough.

One wedding is all you will ever have (unless Jon Hamm comes knocking). But if you do it right…one is enough.