March 31, 2010

Florida pics, yo!

FINALLY. Sorry to keep you waiting - here are the pics from our Florida trip. We flew into Orlando on Monday (my birthday!), stayed in Vero Beach for two nights and then headed to The Keys. We spent one night in Key Largo and then the next 4 days we stayed at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West. Holy crap. It was gorgeous. Our pics don't even do it justice. It had a private beach, and real live cabana boys that would fetch you a lounge chair, lay out your towels for you, and bring you popsicles. I'm not even kidding. Our room had a beautiful view of the ocean and a large balcony. Outdoor pools, tiki bar, outdoor dining (I think there was 3 restaurants on site. We only ate at one). It was nice. The resort may have been a little stuffy, but nice. Most of the cars in the parking lot were worth more than my house (for real). I thought it was only in the movies that young ladies called their "daddy's" to ask for more money to be put on the credit card, but we actually heard a girl doing it while we were there. I may or may not have looked out of place in my Target capris and sunglasses from Younkers...but who cares! We had a blast, the food was wonderful and the drinks were strong. And that, my friends, is all that matters. Check it out!
Here are some Vero pics:
I was so excited to see the ocean, I forgot to roll up my pants before I came running out onto the beach!
For dinner, we went to Gloria Estefan's Hotel/Restaurant called Costa d' Este. The restaurant has a Cuban flair to it, and Steve and I shared the Paella for two. It was so good. It had fish, shrimp, mussels, scallops, squid and octopus. Plus andouille sausage (which I thought was going to be weird, but was one of my favorite parts) and chicken. YUM.
Happy Birthday to ME!
Outside of Costa d' Este. Full and happy. Why do I have to live so far away from an ocean?
On the beach in Vero, picking shells. No offense to anyone who lives in Vero Beach, but it is a retirement community and held very little interest for Steve and I, other than the beach. Bob and Jane (Steve's friends who we stayed with in Vero) had a beautiful condo in a gated community, with a fantastic pool, hot tub, bar, and ocean access. No one was ever using any of them. The beach was empty as far as you could see. The pool and hot tub were always empty. It was unbelievable - these people pay millions of dollars to live by the beach in these upscale complexes, and never make use of any of it. All I'm sayin' is - I just can't imagine. I lived 20 minutes from the ocean for 2 years and I never got tired of it. Oh well...Se la Vie!
This is me in our pimp-ride! It screamed "TOURIST!", but it was so nice to take the top off, especially driving through The Keys!Here is a beach that we stopped at on our drive down from Vero to The Keys, because we couldn't take it anymore and needed to lay in sun. Vero was chilly, but the weather got warmer and warmer as we made our way down.
Toes in sand! Toes in sand! Nothing better than your toes in sand!
And then we were off to The Keys. I have MILLIONS of pictures, people. I can't post millions of pictures, I just don't have the time or energy it requires. But here are a few that I picked out that I thought were nice...
Our resort...
And here is the whole thing taken with a wide-angle lens from the end of one of two piers on the property
Here is the other pier...
Here is Steve on the 2nd pier (aren't my captions just...captivating?)
This is a crazy pelican that sat on the pier and let us get dangerously close to him. I kept envisioning him freaking out and attacking...can you see that sharp hook at the end of his beak? That can crack an oyster shell like its paper! (I'm totally making all that up, I think. I don't know if pelicans even eat oysters.)
SEE?!?! (and then pretend like you don't see the tag hanging out of my swimsuit. Or my fat rolls.)
This is the view from our balcony with the fish-eye lens
Another fish-eye (I think it's Steve's favorite lens)
One of the nights we were in Key West, we ate at a delicious little Mexican restaurant called Salsa Loco, and our waiter was awesome. He was more than willing to give up some local secret spots, and he told us about a beach on the West side of Key West that very few people frequented...we went there on our last night to watch the sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous!
There were lots of sailboats that stopped to watch too...

Doesn't it make you want to put your flip flops on and fly as fast as you can to the nearest tropical location?
I'm sorry.
On our way through The Keys back up to Orlando, we stopped at Seven-Mile Bridge. It is amazing. Just going over a bridge for that long with the most gorgeous views is one thing...but you can also walk on the old, Historic Seven-Mile Bridge. It was so cool - you can walk out for quite a ways...

 We stopped for a while, and watched the boats go underneath the bridges. Then we saw this pelican looking for his next meal, and Steve happened to catch him in the act

Ok, I'm spent. I just want to tell you one more thing about our trip...Under Tara's guidance, we went to Little Palm Island for dinner one night. It was magical - you take a beautiful "ferry boat" (which is more like a yacht) to this little island (hence the name Little Palm Island - duh!) were you can dine right on the beach, and after dinner you can go into a porch off of the bar area and listen to someone play the piano, or sit around a lava rock fire on the beach with your was amazing. It is not cheap, of course, but the food was fantastic. The lamb was the best I've ever had. We had a great time - it was super romantic. Then the ferry took us back to mainland and we drove back to Key West with the top down on our little rental car. It was perfect. Thank you Steve for the best Birthday present anyone has ever given me.

March 29, 2010

Roasted Tomato Sauce - Part I of "I can't stop cooking and eating Italian food!"

This is the first in a 341 part series about my obsession with Italian food since I came home from my trip! Please send a crane to lift my ass out of my chair.

Just kidding! Kind of.

I think I am over my Italian food obsession now. I can eat other cuisines without feeling like I'm wasting an entire meal on something that doesn't include tomatoes, basil or mozzarella cheese. For instance, I am planning a deck party for this week to celebrate the nice weather, and I am thinking about making pulled pork sandwiches. ***As an entirely unrelated side note: This is how in tune my brother and I are...I think it has something to do with being reared by the same pack of wild dogs...I printed my recipe for pulled pork off of my blog this morning (this is also a very convenient way for me to keep all my recipes in one place!), and then my brother just called me 30 seconds ago and asked me a question about substituting something in my pulled pork recipe because HE IS MAKING THEM RIGHT NOW! He is half way across the country and we are thinking alike. Crazy, huh? I think I have him and Lyndi addicted to my blog. I imagine it is something like being addicted to a soap opera. They didn't start reading it until a couple of weeks ago, and I can picture them sitting down at night, after dinner, and reading my blog archives in their pajamas with a bowl of popcorn. By the way, he thinks I just stop all of this blogging nonsense, and just start a website with recipes. Little does he know that I am protecting both of our waistlines by not strictly posting about food.

Anyway, back to the food. And back to my brother. Remember I told you in this post about how my brother gave me four giant bags of frozen tomatoes from his garden (my tomatoes got blossom end rot because I neglected them. I am a terrible, terrible person)? I used my second-to-last bag last Sunday (as in 8 days ago) to make homemade roasted tomato sauce. It actually had a similar flavor to my homemade tomato basil soup, but I changed the process a little bit, thickened up the consistency, and added some homemade Italian sausage...then I served it over whole wheat rotini with shaved Parmesan cheese. YUM!

Here is the basic recipe (As usual, I use this term loosely):
Roasted Tomato Sauce
  • 3-4 pounds whole tomatoes (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 medium sized onion (I always use yellow onions. Unless it calls for red.)
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • a couple of sprigs of oregano
  • a couple of sprigs of thyme
  • lots of basil...I used probably about 1.5 cups, if you packed the leaves in there
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1+ tablespoon of sugar
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Pizza and Pasta Magic (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees*. Cut the tomatoes in half, peel the garlic cloves, and cut the onion into large chunks. Throw all of this into a zip-top bag, add the olive oil, sprinkle in some salt, pepper, sugar, and Pizza and Pasta Magic. Shake it like a Polaroid picture! Ha ha - or just mix it around until everything is coated with the OO. Then, dump the contents of the bag onto a large baking sheet (flip the tomatoes if needed so that the cut side is up), and stick the sprigs of oregano and thyme throughout the mixture. Put it all into the oven and roast for 3 - 4 hours*. Transfer all of the contents of the roasting pan into a large dutch oven (including all the juices), add the basil and bring it to a soft boil, reduce heat and simmer for a little bit (I let it simmer for about an hour because I was making chicken noodle soup at the same time. It's called multi-tasking), then hit it with the immersion blender (or put it in a regular blender or food processor) to smooth out the texture (If you don't have any one of these, make sure to mince your garlic and onions before you roast them, and chop your basil before you add it. Then you can just mash it with a potato masher or the back of a big spoon to break down the tomatoes). Once it is at your desired consistency, season it to taste. You could add more salt, pepper, sugar, or Italian seasonings. Then just let it cook for another 30 - 60 minutes. I don't know why, but for some reason it doesn't matter how much seasonings you add, it doesn't get the desired flavor unless you just let it cook!

At this point, you have several options. If you want, you can be done. Cook up some of your favorite pasta (I would use something delicate, like angel hair or orzo) and serve this with some Parmesan cheese on top. Or, you can add things to make it more substantial. For instance, at this point I took half of the sauce as is, and put it in the freezer for future consumption (maybe over cheese stuffed tortellini), then with the remaining half, I made it more man-friendly (I added meat). Steve's family makes homemade Polish and Italian sausage every year, so I browned up some bulk Italian and threw it in. You could also add mushrooms, ground beef, or any combination of those things. Or, if you were really feeling crazy, you could use this as the sauce for chicken parmesan. Just make sure to check the flavor after you make any addition! So fresh, so delicious. Enjoy!

*There are so many different ways to roast tomatoes...anywhere from putting them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, to putting them in at 200 degrees for 7 hours. It depends on how much time you have. I find that 325 degrees for 3 - 4 hours is somewhere in the middle. Either way, your house will smell phenomenal while they are roasting.

Printable Recipe

Happy Birthday Marisa!

Yesterday was my friend Marisa's 32nd Birthday! We celebrated on Thursday night by ordering out Thai Food and drinking to much wine (surprise!). Then she proceeded to go to the cities to continue the celebration with a spa day, and (I'm sure) too much wine. Hee hee hee!

Marisa and I met back in 2007 when she hired me for an internship in Human Resources during my last year of my undergrad. She managed to keep me on long after my 3 months were up and we became fast friends. We have been through a lot together in the past few years, and have had lots of fun too! Too much fun! Fun that involves snort laughing and inappropriate behavior and other things that I will not mention on this blog to protect both of our dignities!

Marisa - thank you for always being there for me with a glass of wine and sympathy. I hope 32 is your best year ever! LOVE YOU!
PS - sorry about the pic...I was looking on your facebook for pictures and I was having a hard time uploading any of them. This was the only one that would work...but it is definitely one of my favorite pics of you!

March 22, 2010

Monday Update

Happy Monday everyone!

I posted a recipe for a superfast chicken noodle soup earlier, because I thought it was revolutionary (who, me? overreact? never.), and because I am trying to stall you. Steve and his evil Macintosh are still holding the Florida pictures hostage. Which might be a good thing because they are just going to make you wish that you were someplace warm and tropical, with the sound of the ocean lulling you to sleep every night. But I am going to torture you with them anyway (eventually), because if I stop interjecting random tidbits every so often, this is going to turn into a full fledged cooking blog. And that, my friends, is not my intention.

As a side note: stayed tuned for an upcoming blog feature - "I Can't Stop Cooking and Eating Italian Food". Starring me. And my ass. Ha!

Anyway, since I need to bore you on the mundane details of my boring life - here goes:

Um, ok. Besides cooking all weekend, I also attended a meditation workshop at the yoga studio that I have been attending classes at. It was taught by the woman who runs the studio, and she was a gem. Upbeat and super nice and very educated on her topic...and as I was trying to explain to Steve last night, she just seemed to exude a certain grace. Or maybe it was peace. I'm not sure, but either way - I want to be like her. Because I'm pretty sure that if I exude anything, grace and peace are certainly not on the list. But either way, it was a really helpful workshop that answered a lot questions that I had, and that I believe this will help me in making meditation a part of my daily routine. Bring on the inner peace already.

What else?

Oh - remember this post where I told you about the self-help book I was reading? Yeah...I'm still trying to struggle through it. I re-read the Twilight series as a distraction and now I am back, trying to push through - mostly just because I told you that I would. I read about a dozen pages this weekend, and I get the message: Stop constantly trying to change yourself to fit everyone else's expectations...Look at yourself with patience and compassion...Stop focusing on the negatives...etc; but the book is a little repetitive and I am anxious to get it over with so that I can move on to the book of Cheri Huber's that I really want to read, "Making a Change for Good" a guide to compassionate self-discipline. Because: did I tell you that after quitting for 3 weeks I was naughty on vacation and started smoking again? Yes, I did. Crap.

I am kind of at a loss for anything else exciting (I use this term loosely) going on in my is Monday, after all. So I'll keep you posted on the Florida pics, all the Italian food, and the creepy self help books. Have a great week!

Quick and Dirty Chicken Noodle Soup

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...I told you how I make my chicken stock in this post about my chicken wild rice soup. It's quite the process (although it turns out very yummy!), especially if you are a freak like me about skimming all the fat off.

This weekend, Steve came down with a cold and my first thought was "I better make him some chicken noodle soup". Because it is an indisputable rule written about the universe, that when people we love get sick, women (and some men) feel the immediate need to make chicken noodle soup. Right? Or is it just that my first thought always centers around food, and this is just a good excuse for me to hole up in my kitchen for several hours? Not sure...

Either way, here was my dilemma: I didn't really want to hole up in my kitchen for several hours making chicken noodle soup. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and I am still on my crazy Italian food kick (will it ever stop?). My plan was to roast tomatoes all afternoon for homemade marinara sauce. But the man must have chicken noodle soup. Sick people MUST eat chicken noodle soup, or they will never, ever, heal. Plus I felt bad for him. It sucks to be sick.

So I compromised my belief system and made a "cheater" chicken noodle soup, where I skipped out on making the long version of my chicken stock. Here's what I did:

PS - it turned out really good

Quick and Dirty Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut up into bite sized pieces
  • carrots
  • celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • lots of fat free, less sodium chicken broth (like 72 oz or more)
  • chicken bouillon
  • egg noodles
Dump all of the chicken broth in a stock pot. Add a few sprigs of thyme and oregano, along with the bay leaves and a couple teaspoons of chicken bouillon. Chop up your carrots, celery, garlic and onion (I used lots of veggies - it is supposed to be a healing soup, after all), and add them to the pot. Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are starting to get tender*. Remove the sprigs of thyme, oregano, and the bay leaves and discard. Add chicken, simmer until cooked through. Season with salt, pepper and more chicken bouillon to taste. Add egg noodles (again, the amount depends on if you want a super hearty soup, or lots of broth) and cook until al dente. Serve! And feel better!

* Do you see what is happening here? Instead of sauteing the veggies first in butter or oil, we are cooking them right in the broth, along with the fresh herbs - thereby infusing the broth with the flavors...which is what you do when you make homemade chicken stock! Shortcut! And boneless, skinless chicken breasts don't have the fat that a whole chicken does, so you don't have to skim any fat off. Aren't I SMART?!?!

The only downfall to this soup is that because the chicken is boneless, skinless and lower in fat, it doesn't come out as tender (it is drier...if that makes sense talking about soup...). Other than that I was very happy with the results. And now Steve will not have to suffer from this cold until next winter, when I am in the mood to make magical chicken soup again.

Printable Recipe

March 17, 2010

(One of many) Birthday Celebrations

First of all, I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone for making my birthday so special this year. I always joke that I celebrate my birthday for the whole month of March, but this year it has actually came close to that (the first 2 weeks solid, anyway). I am so lucky to have such wonderful family and all make me feel very loved! One of my favorite bday celebrations was a "girl day" with Marisa, Gina and Tara. Bear with me on the pics, they are either from my iPhone, or pirated from Tara's facebook page! We started out with pedicures, except for Marisa, she got a facial:

And then Gina had to leave because she was going out of town. Bye Bean! Thanks for coming! And thank you for the sweet birthday gifts. I think I am going to put this picture in the frame you gave me!
After that - Tara, Marisa and I headed up the shore to hit up my favorite restaurant in the state (maybe even in the midwest), The Scenic Cafe. YUM!
We started with the artichoke slather. I am drooling just thinking about it. It is THE BEST artichoke dip I've ever is heavy on the parmesan cheese (yum), and they add sun dried tomatoes (and you know how I feel about sun dried tomatoes!)...and a bottle of wine:
This wine was delicious. We asked our waitress for suggestions, because we wanted a dry white wine that wasn't very oaky. I was a little leery about a Chablis, because...I'm not sure why, because I hadn't ever had a Chablis...but evidently I had some preconceived notions about Chablis in my head. This is me officially apologizing to the Chablis grape for ever doubting it. I really enjoyed this wine. Then on to the main course(s):
Tara and I both had their delicious and creamy tomato soup. I had mine with a salad, and she had hers with grilled cheese. This soup is to die for. The heavy cream in it makes my stomach very unhappy, but I don't even care. I love it anyway.
Marisa had her regular: Pistachio crusted goat cheese salad. She loves it so much, she rarely gets anything else!
And on to the next bottle of wine...
We were feeling pretty good at this point, and having a great time.
Can you tell?
Content and happy.
On our way home, we decided it would be a good idea to get out of the car at Brighton Beach and take some pictures of the ice (which was probably a good idea, because I'm sure most of the ice is gone now with the temps we have been having!), but ended up mostly just taking pictures of ourselves:
Pretty, huh?
Pretty, huh? Just kidding. It looks like I am going to attack her, but I was only trying to get the hair out of my face. It was breezy.
Awwwwww - thanks ladies! I had a wonderful time! Love you all!

I'm alive!

I made it home safely on Monday from a wonderful and relaxing Florida vacation.

The end.

Just kidding, I know I have been neglecting you. I have pictures that I will wrestle from Steve and his damn MacBook. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to catch up on blogging...and cooking! As much as I love vacationing and eating out and having people wait on me (you are going to die when I tell you about the resort we stayed at in Key West...can you say "out of my league"?), I can't tell you how excited I am to get back in the kitchen. I am going to overdose on Italian food. Tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, pasta, arborio rice, Parmesan cheese, pizza...I mean really - is there anything better?

Plus, I have some birthday celebration photos to share with you. Along with all the things I promised you I would post before I went on vacation.

...they say that anticipation is the purest form of pleasure...

But I won't make you wait too much longer.

March 3, 2010

Important Food Thingies (and Chicken Stir Fry Recipe)

I am such a boring food blogger right now. I'm sorry - I just don't want to throw up when I see myself in a swimsuit in 5 days (assuming that it is even warm enough in Florida for a swimsuit. Mother Nature: if you are listening, I love you and 80 degrees and sunny would be just perfect for me), so I have been behaving myself. Tonight I am making chef's salad for dinner. How boring is that? No need to post that recipe. I do however have a pic and a recipe from last Saturday night when Steve decided to cook me dinner. And clean up after. By himself. He literally would not let me in the kitchen! I pouted and paced back and forth at the perimeter for a while, before I gave up and curled up on the couch and read my book. Have you ever met anyone so spoiled? Anyway, he made me bbq chicken...with homemade bbq sauce and a homemade spice rub. We are currently renegotiating the cooking responsibilities because he is trying to give me a run for my money. I will post that story soon.

Next...I want to eat this: Sundried Tomato Risotto. I will have that...soon. I have already contemplated leaving the heavy cream out of it so that I could eat it before vacation. I mean really - isn't risotto creamy and delicious enough without heavy cream??? Must we be so indulgent? Of course! But cream or no cream, that is getting in my belly. And whenever I think of sundried tomatoes, I think of this: Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad, and then my heart goes pitter-patter. It's like crack to me. I don't think I'll be able to go very long without having it in my life again. The problem I have with food, is that once I start fantasizing about it, I can't stop. One thing leads to another and then I can't help but wonder why the hell I would screw around with a salad for dinner, when I could be eating something fantastic. Like risotto. Or pasta salad. Or tomato basil soup. Or this pizza. Can you tell that tomatoes and basil are my favorite?

What else? Oh yeah, I made chicken stir fry the other night. That is kind of interesting and unhealthy and tasty. Want the recipe? My mom is the master at cooking Asian food, but as I have mentioned before, she doesn't use recipes so duplicating her dishes is nearly impossible. I think that's probably the point. But here is my humble version:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ginger
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • soy sauce (I use low sodium, because I use a lot)
  • hoisen sauce
  • crushed red pepper flakes and/or sriracha to make it spicy!
  • peanut oil
  • sesame oil
  • corn starch
  • chicken broth
  • vegetables (I used onion, bell peppers, pea pods, carrots and broccoli)
  • white rice (or brown rice, if that floats your boat)
Cut your chicken up into bite sized pieces, mince some ginger (by some, I mean a couple tablespoons if you like it...if you don't...well...I'm speechless and I suppose you could leave it out, but I won't be happy about it), and marinate the chicken in the ginger, garlic, a couple tablespooons of soy sauce, a couple tablespoons of hoisen, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and/or a few drops of sriracha (if you use the latter, be careful...that stuff is HOT), and a drizzle of sesame oil. I let mine marinate for a couple of hours, but it's ok to only let it go for 30 minutes if you have less time.
While the chicken is marinading, wash and cut your vegetables. Then mix about 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup chicken broth, and about a tablespoon of corn starch (did I mention that I don't measure anything? sorry!) in a separate bowl. You want to have as much crap done as possible because you won't have time once you start stirring and frying. Ha!
Make some rice according to package directions. Heat a couple tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok (most recipes say over high heat, but I am afraid of high heat so I use medium high). Add the chicken and stir fry for a few minutes or until the chicken is just cooked. Remove to a separate bowl. Heat another tablespoon of oil and throw in the veggies, stir fry until crisp-tender (isn't that an oxymoron? You know what I mean though), then add the soy/broth/corn starch and the chicken to the veggies. Turn the heat down to medium low and stir around to coat until the sauce gets thick. Yum. Serve over rice (make sure to spoon some yummy sauce to put over the top too).

Finally - yes, I still have not smoked a cigarette. You will be glad to know that it has been 17 days today. YAY!

March 1, 2010


And finally, the post you have all been waiting for (except those of you who have weak stomachs or the people who *GASP* think that raw fish is people may want to skip this post)...a new sushi bar opened in town, and I was just dying to try it out. So I did. Twice. And it was delicious! Do you like sushi? If you haven't tried it, you should. If you are afraid of the raw fish, start with some vegetable rolls, or rolls with cooked fish/shrimp in them. Learn how to use chopsticks (it is easy and it makes it way more fun, in my opinion), and then go for it. Contrary to what some people think, raw fish is not fishy smelling or tasting (at least not the fresh, high grade stuff used in the food at Hanabi and most Japanese restaurants. They are able to get fresh, high quality raw fish that was never frozen several times a week). It is actually very mild and it just melts in your mouth. Wash it down with some sake.

Here are some pics from the first trip to Hanabi (I forgot my camera when we went last week if you can believe it!):

Yum - I can't remember the names of all three of these rolls...I just remember that the middle one was the one that I ordered...a North Shore roll, which has raw salmon and avocado inside, plus seaweed salad on top and 5 different kinds of roe (fish eggs). It was really good - a dish put together especially for this region. The roll on the right has mango draped over the top, and the one on the left has tempura shrimp in it...that is all I can remember! Marisa, Tara - do you remember?
Here is another look. I think the one topped with mango also has crab in it...
This is probably the reason that I don't remember:
Sake! Yum. I mostly just like the tiny wooden cups they serve it in. Here is a look at our table before our food came:
The second time we went (again, I apologize for lack of pictures), I got the spicy maki combo which consisted of a spicy tuna roll, a spicy salmon roll, and a california roll. Steve (who was unable to eat raw ingredients due to his compromised immune system the first time we went), went all out on the raw fish this time and ordered a sushi combo which was 3 pieces each of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail each draped over a small ball of rice. It was all very good. The only thing that we have noticed/disliked is that the things that are labeled "spicy" or "hot", are not really that spicy. Or not spicy at all. They must be afraid that this far north we can't handle the heat...I think the next time we will ask for them to lay it on us! I'll let you know how that goes...

Another note (or 6) on Hanabi: the bartender is funny and really, really good. Bring your sense of humor and sit at the bar for a drink before you dine. The atmosphere is refreshing and very hip (even though using the word "hip", is probably not very hip!), and they not only offer traditional Japanese dishes, but also very creative, surprising combinations. They have different specials all the time in addition to their regular menu, or you could sit at the chef's table and have him decide what he wants you to eat. Very cool. I would post a link to their website, but it has not been working today. I'll keep you posted. Also - if you decide to go, make reservations! Especially if you have a large group. They always seem to be pretty busy - I hope (for their sake) it stays that way!