Wednesday, June 8, 2011

lauren + matt

some people are surprised when they learn that i was born and raised in north carolina. i think this is because there are some common misperceptions about southern women, i.e. southern women are genteel, we say things like "well, i declare!", wear white kid gloves to drink our mint juleps and we are never, ever assertive about what we want. in my case, the correct answer is d. none of the above.

but one perception about southern women that is true is that we can coat our sneakiness in sticky sweet syrup so you'll never know what hit you over the head. case in point, the story of how my long-time friend (and college roommate) lauren met her husband. a couple of months ago, when the dubyuhnell girls got together in lexington (our college town), i round-robined my girlfriends for their meat cute stories. when lauren's turn came, she started out by summarizing her meat cute with her husband matt as a "cavewoman" approach. or as she put it oh-so-delicately, there was "some dragging involved".

i've known lauren, otherwise known as "paxton" (her maiden name) since we went to rival high schools in north carolina. we knew of each other through mutual acquaintances, but didn't get to know each other until we both visited washington & lee the same weekend during our senior year of high school. after that brief introduction, i wasn't sure i'd ever be friends with paxton, as she had decided to enroll at unc instead. but as fate would have it, somewhere between sending in her acceptance letter and matriculation, paxton decided instead to enroll at dubyuhnell. over the next four years, paxton and i became sorority sisters, close friends and eventually housemates. senior year, when paxton and i (with our other good friend amanda) lived in "charlies" (see reference: charlie's angels, the remake version...get it?), the three of us spent quite a bit of time concocting ideas that combined boys + booze (and sometimes playgrounds). these ideas can really only be described as "shenanigans" as we southern girls would say. one of our favorites was the game of drunk jenga (if you've never played, you really should. it has a tendency to lead to some interesting outcomes...)

another of our favorite activities during senior year was weekly bowling night at the local alley, followed by several rounds of drinks at our local bar, the palms. i still have pictures and stories from these bowling + bar nights that only those who were there are allowed to see and know. during alumni weekend of our senior year in college, paxton met matt during one such of these nights because a mutual friend happened to be dating his roommate. amanda, our other roommate, ever the outspoke one (she is NOT a southern girl, but rather, a self-priding "yankee girl") commented that "law school guys are such dorks" after paxton relayed that she had met a cute law school boy. such was the type of generalization that we snotty undergrad girls were prone to. see, dubyuhnell was a school all about divides and one of those was the divide between the awesome, hard-partying undergrads and the not-so-awesome, more hard-working law school students. paxton happened to be one of the few who could bridge that divide and she had decided to spend not just four, but an additional three years in lexington as both an undergrad and law school student.

a couple of weeks later, paxton ran into matt again at the palms (did i mention that our college town is super small?). this time, looking for a reason to continue talking to paxton, matt offered to give her some advice on the law student's experience and gave her his email. paxton didn't think much of matt's offer at the fact, she was convinced he had given her a fake email! it wasn't until paxton matriculated at w&l law a few months later that she met matt again. this time, it was a game of drunken jenga (such an amazing game for so many different reasons!) that bonded them. drunk jenga led to a shots challenge (a truism: southern girls will rarely back down from a shot) which then led to "cavewoman" and eventually to the rest...

lauren and matt were married in lexington, va, in june of 2006.

when i asked paxton about her and matt's meat cute meal, she responded that it was bacon. erm...what? as a north carolina girl, i love pork in all its various forms (especially pulled pork!) more than most. but an entire meal of just bacon?! lauren explained that she and matt had once decided to cook a pound of bacon in as many different ways as possible. for example, elvis style, with peanut butter. or classic southern style, as in bacon biscuits. when it comes to food, i am smitten when a meal or dish can combine some of my favorite flavors and textures in one, so for paxton + matt's meat cute meal, i decided to try chocolate covered bacon. i have long loved bacon flavored chocolate (vosges has an amazing version) but i had never thought to make bacon the dominant ingredient. what i love about this is that it's super duper easy. being totally honest (and perhaps true to the inspiration), i made this when i was oh-so-mildly hungover (it's a great remedy!). luckily, my version was incredibly easy - i simply melted some chocolate (i like cadbury chocolate bars the best for this purpose. also, the "fancy" way to melt chocolate is in a double boiler, but the microwave just works as well if you watch to make sure the chocolate doesn't burn) and coated the pre-cooked bacon in it. for those of you who like the challenge, here's a recipe for bacon fudge that probably looks more impressive than my version but i'm pretty sure the bacony-chocolate goodness is the same no matter how you combine these two infatuating/ed food ingredients...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

itay + orit

they're gonna kill me for using this picture. and that's not something i say lightly since itay used to be a sniper in the israeli army. this is one of the first things i learned about him when we were in the same block at nyu stern. i also learned that itay's wife, orit, was also an mba1 at nyu stern, albeit in a different block (a stern mba block is a group of sixty to seventy students that you are slotted into before you start school. you take all of your classes with this group during your first semester, so they're kinda like your first business school friends. or that's the idea anyway). it took me awhile to actually meet orit, but her reputation preceded her. i already knew from friends in itay's study group that itay was one of those consistently blowing the curve for the rest of us. i soon heard that orit's academic performance would have been curve blowing for her husband. i had to meet her.

another thing i knew about orit before i met her was the story of how she and itay met. least the story of what happened before they met. in very unromantic fashion, i kinda wholeheartedly disagree with soul mates. i'll let my mba nerdery kick in here and say that if there really was only one soul mate for each of us, then from a probability standpoint, most of us are kinda screwed (or not, as the case may be). but i do wholeheartedly believe in couples that just work...the kind of couple that makes you want to find your better half/best friend/partner in crime because they make relationships seem ideal. not the hollywood-rom-com kind of ideal, but in the this-is-real-life-and-i-have-someone-who's-trekking-it-with-me kind of ideal. i also believe that some things are meant to be and that some things happen for a reason. in both regards, that's itay and orit. because in some ways, they kinda were destined to be together.

orit was traveling in latin america in 2002 before she was to start university in israel. it was here that she met and traveled with yael, a childhood friend of itay's. as yael and orit bid goodbye to each other in latin america, yael called itay to tell him that she had met his female self and perhaps his future wife. fast forward a few months to orientation at hebrew university in jerusalem where both itay and orit were matriculating. they met early on but it wasn't kismet when they first met...this could be in part due to the fact that each was dating someone else. but as they got to know each other through study group work (they make a mean study group combo, by the way...i can personally attest to this), they started to realize that maybe yael could have been right...or at least itay did. over the summer, itay ended his relationship and when school started again in the fall, he began his pursuit of orit, who naturally was wholeheartedly disinterested until he announced that he was letting her go since she wasn't receptive to him.

i picked this photo of them from their wedding because it reminds me of one of my favorite memories of them as a couple. one day while classes were changing at school, i noticed itay and orit sharing a tender moment (much like the one pictured) in the middle of the hallway. being the obnoxious intruder that i am, i shouted out to them, 'hey! why so lovey dovey in the hallway?!' they then turned to me and explained that it was the day that itay had proposed to orit. good job, me, for ruining a lovely moment for them. over our two years at stern, itay and orit became good friends, study buddies and confidantes. since graduation, we make it a point to meet for monthly dinners and they have become friends i trust and respect the point where i jokingly refer to them as my (tiny israeli) surrogate parents.

itay and orit were married in june 2007 and they will become (real) parents this fall.

i was particularly excited for their meat cute meal because it would be the first opportunity i could cook the meal with/for the couple. their meat cute meal is one they had in tuscany at an unmarked place called sora margherita - a simple meal of homemade fettucine with fresh ricotta and sea salt, delicious in its simplicity. when they told me their meat cute meal, i became a bit concerned because, while i'm happy to try anything once, i'm fairly certain that attempting to make homemade pasta would be a simple disaster. however, potential mishap was avoided because our meat cute meal/monthly dinner happened to fall during passover (whew!). it also happened to fall on easter, so for their (first) meat cute meal, i made a roast in honor of passover and lamb meatballs with rice/pea/mint pilaf for easter. itay and orit decided they would make charoset (a traditional passover dish). in the days leading up to our dinner, a deathmatch ensued via email over whose recipe for charoset was better - itay's grandmother's vs. orit's mothers. when they actually compared the recipes, they turned out to be almost identical.

ok, so maybe i definitely believe in fate.

roast in the background, lamb meatballs with rice/pea/mint pilaf (and cucumber yogurt sauce) in foreground

Monday, April 18, 2011

rebekah + gray (+ amanda + lucy + kat + val + lucy + kate + paxton)

this isn't a sister wives kinda post. although i'm gonna let some of my innate cheesiness shine and say that it is about sisterhood in a way. i spent this past weekend in lexington, virginia, where i went to college, with seven of my girlfriends. (read: sorority sisters. yup! that kind of sister.) these girls - i guess, women now(?) - have known me since the days when i thought my food tastes peaked with sophistication when i started ordering the cavatelli during monday pasta night at frank's, the local pizzeria. as my friend amanda asked this weekend, "when did you become a foodie?!" answer: when i left lexington, virginia, and moved to new york, new york.

over the last thirteen years, we have started/progressed/transitioned/restarted our careers, met new best friends and got married to them in some cases, started families with those new best friends, and shifted a bit uncomfortably as we became the adults with our own parents. through it all, we've moved in with and sometimes far away from each other, grown closer, apart and then close again, but always been able to come back together to our college memories and the comfort that comes with being with friends who have known you since the days when j. crew cableknit and clogs made you cool.

this past weekend was more of that: simply drinking, eating, talking, laughing and being together, albeit a slightly more mature version. we all arrived in lex from all over the east coast late friday evening, so our meal had to be simple (read: impossible to screw up even after copious amounts of vino). and of course, it needed to pay homage to our college days. when we all lived in the sorority house together our junior year, our go-to come-home-drunk meal was quesadillas. but before that booze-fueled, double-whammy of a gluttonous habit, we were all helpless to our local domino's which was, as my friend val put it, the only domino's in the world that actually tasted good. kid you not, my friend sarah (lovingly known otherwise as f*cko) and i each gained fifteen lbs ("libs" as we not-so-lovingly called them in college) over six weeks during spring term our freshman year, thanks to our unhealthy addiction to that domino's.

so for our meat cute meal, we made homemade pizzas. these days, homemade pizza is incredibly easy to do since you can buy pre-made dough. (even easier still to make in the beautiful kitchen of my friend gray's parents, which had not one but two convection ovens!). even though frozen or delivery pizza may feel more indulgent in laziness, homemade convinces almost anyone you can actually cook (it worked for me on my friends!). while my friend kat rolled out the pizza dough, i assembled the pizza "flavors". two in particular came out quite tasty - a "white" pizza of truffle oil, sea salt, fontina and caramelized onions; and a spicy spinach sausage pizza made with red sauce, chorizo sausage, mozzarella and shredded spinach. because there were seven hungry, wine-fueled girls waiting for these pizzas, i didn't have a chance to snap any pics before the slices all disappeared. but it was well worth it when, after dinner, i pulled out my iphone notepad (i love technology) and each vino-fueled and pizza-filled girl recounted the story of how she had met her husband.

i wish that i lived closer to these girlfriends so we could do this more often. although i suspect some of those lovely college "libs" would find their way back to me if that was the case. regardless, i'm excited to tell you the stories of how my best friends met their lifelong best friends in upcoming posts...

the sorority "srat" house where we all lived junior year.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

ashley + trevor

this blog is actually quite tardy. about seven months late, in fact. the idea for it came about last august as a result of a conversation between two strangers who happened to be sitting next to each other on a plane to costa rica. but that's a meat cute for a different post.

part of the reason i took so long to start this blog was that i couldn't come up with just the right name for it. as a marketer, i felt that the brand should be just as, if not more important than the content. first, i wanted to call it 'love at first bite'. cute, right? this palm springs caterer thought so too. then i thought maybe '' hey, if the device got elizabeth gilbert a bestseller and a movie, then maybe me too? but like a good-on-paper-relationship, it just didn't feel right.

then this february, i was in palm springs with my college friend ashley. i was out there for work, and ashley and her husband trevor were out for the long holiday for some shopping (her) and golf (him). as ashley, her sister jamie and i were driving from strip mall to strip mall, i started telling them about this blog and mentioned my branding issues. ashley suddenly turned to me and said, 'why don't you call it 'meat cute'?'. to which both her sister and i replied, 'call it a what?!'. then ashley went on to explain how, in films, the moment when a couple meets in the story is their meet cute. eureka.

my meat cute with ashley goes back 13 years. she was my student host (meaning she let me, a total stranger and over-eager high-schooler, sleep on her floor for two days) when i visited washington & lee, where we both went to school. i still remember meeting her and watching her lay in her top bunk eating string cheese before she took her 6pm pre-study nap. i should mention that the factoid commonly passed around our small campus about ashley was that she was miss teen delaware in high school. she is simply stunning. and brilliant. and vivacious to boot. and did i mention that both she and her husband trevor used to work for the department of homeland security? so that's their meat cute...ashley and trevor met at work, like plenty of other couples have. but what i love about their meat cute is how ashley tells it (or how she told it to me that day in palm springs).

before i go any further, i have to say that trevor is one of the nicest guys i have ever met. when we met at the wedding of a mutual friend of ashley and me, trevor was very patient in letting me show off my 'vast' sports knowledge. i still give him credit for not even cracking a smile when i told him i learned about football by reading and watching The Blind Side. according to ashley, she was the girl who played it totally wrong before they actually got together. when trevor would ask ashley what she was up to and make loose plans to meet up for drinks friday after work, ashley would break any existing plans she had, go home and prettify/get excited/imagine-her-wedding-to-this guy and then...would never hear from him that night. then on monday, when ashley saw trevor at work, instead of cold-shouldering or yelling at trevor, she would smile and pleasantly ask how his weekend was. (did i mention she's a former beauty queen?) this went on for six. months. at this point in ashley's story, i asked (yelled at) her, 'how did you keep from going crazy? and why did you put up with it?'. to which ashley responded, 'i just knew he was different and that he needed some time to realize he was in love with me.'

ashley and trevor were married in september 2010 and now live in manhattan beach, cali.

when they (finally) got together, they used to frequent an italian restaurant in DC called Sorriso Ristorante where trevor typically gets the pasta carbonara. for their meat cute, i used Food Network recipe adopted from North End Caffe in manhattan beach (cause that's where they live!). but instead of linguini, i subbed rotini in honor of ashley's corkscrew curls (did i mention she's stunning?). i also added peas for a bit of color and because spring is finally kinda here in new york. as a starter, i dressed mesclun greens and mini heirloom tomatoes with truffle oil, white balsamic vinegar and sea salt. as a finisher, i drizzled some clover blossom honey over ricotta and added some chopped dates.

ashley, thanks for the namesake...can't wait to make this for you and trevor next time i'm in LA!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

phillip + eunice (my parents)

i've always considered myself a relative pragmatist. that is, a pragmatist with a core of total lovey-dovey mush. i've also always thought of my parents as fairly snoozey people. i mean, these are my parents! they get up, they go to work together, they spend their sundays at church (yawn!). then i found out something that made me look at my parents in a whole new light. and also explained why i'm such a sucker for a good love story.

both of my parents are korean immigrants. my dad arrived in the US first, over 35 years ago. he ended up in north carolina, where i was born and raised, because my aunt was a war bride and her husband was originally from the south. my dad had been living in the State for a few years, making his living as a bachelor in various odd jobs. in his free time, my dad was a literary nerd and would spend his time sending letters to writers whose poems and stories he had read and liked. luckily for both my brother and me, my mom was a literary nerd who liked to write...and one of her poems was one that my dad liked. so, poem begat letter, begat another letter, then another...then a pen pal friendship.

after a few months, my dad was due to go back to korea to make his bachelor debut. no joke. i mean, in 1970s korea, an american bachelor was a hot property! his trip back was scheduled for december and korean winters make new york winters look amateur. according to my dad's version of the story, the day that he was due to land in korea, there was a whole host of young ladies waiting to meet him - friends' daughters, neighbors' daughters, firemen's daughters - what have you. but because of the snow, the only one with enough gumption to come out and meet him was...eunice, my mom!

philip and eunice were married on december 31st, 1975. they recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.

i actually don't know what my parents' first meal together was and i could guess what their favorite meal is (some deriviate of rice and kimchi, the korean version of meat and potatoes). but for their meal, i wanted to make kimchi pah-jun or bindaedok. pah-jun/bindaedok is like a korean scallion pancake and is usually made with seafood but my mom's version is simple - just kimchi. i remember standing on our porch as a little girl, watching it rain while my mom made kimchi pah-jun on the electric griddle plugged in outside.

i don't think rain inside my studio would be quite as charming, so i made some adjustments and used a regular pan on the stove to make mine. i used a cheat available to those of you who live in urban centers with large asian populations (and corresponding, asian markets) - premade asian pancake mix. i also used another cheat available to those of you who know better than to try and make your own kimchi - premade kimchi! luckily, kimchi is now readily available at many grocery markets.

*i like to use kimchi that's a little too ripe...the kind that usually goes into stews. i also added some scallions for extra flavor. judging by the results, you don't lose any flavor with these cheats. but for you purists, here's a recipe from epicurious you can try: