Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and delicious treats. I am certainly thankful for a chance to spend some time with my family and to take a moment to reflect on all the blessings I have been able to experience this year. I am looking forward to a large serving of pumpkin pie too! Happy Thanksgiving!

Go Horseback Riding – In Brooklyn!

On a city street just outside of Prospect Park in Brooklyn you might be surprised to find a Horseback Riding Stable. Kensington Stables is located at 51 Caton Place in Brooklyn and is one of the closer venues for NY city dwellers to learn to ride. They offer group trail rides and lessons, carraige rides, as well as private instruction.

When I went, I had signed up for a group trail ride so we were scheduled to depart at a certain time. I used to ride when I was younger but it has been many years so I was a little nervous. I was amazed at how the stable was just on the street corner amidst regular buildings! Because of my prior riding experience, they put me on one of the more eager horses. This horse was ready to go! The entire group had our horses brought out to us while we waited outside the stable on the street. Once everyone was ready, we were lined up and it was time for our guides to lead us to Prospect Park for our trail ride. Honestly, I was freaked out at the fact that we had to cross a busy traffic circle to get to the park. I was worried the horses would get jumpy and run off with us but the guides were experts at getting us safely across to the park.

Once in the park, there were still plenty of people walking by and riding bikes since it was a lovely day outside. But the horses were used to this and were pretty much unfased. My group was a mix of beginners and other levels so we maintained a nice walking pace during most of the trail. It was beautiful walking through the park and exhilerating to do so on horseback! The group trail rides last for about an hour. I’ll admit it was hard to turn back since I was having so much fun. As someone who used to be an advanced rider, I felt ready to take it to the next level the next time I signed up to ride. But for those who have never been on a horse before and are looking to get started, this is a great way to get out there.

Kensington Stables has all their information on pricing and the services they offer on their website: http://www.kensingtonstables.com/. The people who work there are friendly and very helpful in making sure you enjoy your horseback riding experience.

A Divine Addition to Astoria

This past Saturday evening, a friend and I had the pleasure of going to try a new Astoria restaurant – Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar. We were both completely won over!!! Located on the corner of 30th Avenue and 21st Street, Vesta is a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Word of mouth is spreading fast about how delicious this place is so we ended up arriving just in time before the crowds. Since there were so many people coming in, they asked if we could sit at a table for two instead of the table for four we had initially selected for ourselves. We were happy to oblige as they offered us a free round of drinks to make up for the table move.

Once we settled into our seats, it was time to decide what to order. I am not the best at selecting a good wine (I prefer a dry red) so I went with their suggestion – the Aglianico. It was a perfect match for me and I stuck with this selection for the rest of my evening. As for our dinner choices, I wanted to try the Margherita thin crust pizza to start while my friend chose the Antipasto Plate, containing manchego cheese, hot sopressata and fig spread. Both were delicious and were devoured promptly. The pizza was much larger than I had anticipated but because the crust was so thin and crisp, I was able to enjoy half of it, share some with my friend and have room to try an entree. We both quite enjoyed these appetizers.

After much internal debate, my friend helped encourage me to try the Baked Gnocchi with chanterele mushroom and cream for my entree. It was definitely the right choice! The gnocchi melted in my mouth and everything in the dish perfectly complimented each other. I made sure to savor each bite and finished the entire serving, even though it meant no room for dessert for me. I was too happy to care! My friend enjoyed the Asparagus & three sisters Serena cheese which had a hint of lemon to it. Although I didn’t have room for dessert, my friend got to try the Tiramisu. Everything we sampled during our visit was excellent! When it was time to leave, I can definitely say that we left quite content.

There are plenty of items on the menu that I am still eager to try, so I plan to go back as soon as I can. Vesta also serves lunch weekdays and offers a brunch menu on the weekends. For those looking for a place to go for the holiday, they will be open on Thanksgiving serving a special holiday menu. For all of their details, visit them on the web at www.vestavino.com.

Ready to Hit the Slopes this Winter?

I have been living in NYC for many years now. I have always wanted to go skiing at one of the nearby mountains but for many different reasons it has not happened yet. Well, this year I am determined to go skiing on at least one day trip. The company I went wine tasting with in October, Zogsports, also offers a few day and weekend ski trips during the winter season. On Wednesday I went to their Pre-Season Happy Hour to get more information about the trips they have available. I decided to sign up for the one in January that includes a one hour lesson (in the ski level of your choice) and rentals. Your transportation to the mountain and lift tickets are also included. Of course if you already have your own skis there is a way to sign up without renting. If all goes well with my first trip, I also hope to sign up for another one later in the winter too!

You can find out what trip might work for you on their website at www.zogsports.com. This is a great way to go skiing with other fun NYers without the hassle of arranging your own transportation, etc.! The wine tasting was so much fun that I am sure I will have a blast skiing with this company as well.

While learning about these great ski trips and meeting people, I was enjoying the setting at the Black Bear Lodge. This is a great Happy Hour spot! During Happy Hour you can get $3 Guinness(!!), drafts, and frozen margaritas in addition to $4 well drinks. What a great deal!

Black Bear Lodge is located at 274 3rd Ave (Btwn 21st and 22nd Streets). Check out their website for all the details at www.bblnyc.com.

Not Your Typical Mac and Cheese!

Bet you never had macaroni and cheese like this as a kid! This establishment will keep you coming back for more with their scrumptious varieties of this classic dish.

I was at Boxcar Lounge with my happy hour group enjoying their Buy One – Get One Drink special when some of us got rather hungry. After perusing the menus, it was decided to order from Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, also known as S’Mac. (It didn’t hurt that a couple had brought in a serving to eat upon arriving at the bar. It smelled so good it was hard not to order from the same place that they had!) From the moment of delivery my new addiction had begun. I had the opportunity to sample the more traditional four cheese which was delicious but my heart was sold when I tried the Parisienne. Described as ‘Mac-n-Cheese for the “upper crust”‘ this dish consists of creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. These are things I would not ordinarily think of mixing up but when I took my first bite it was evident that they belong together! S’Mac has many other varieties to try or you can choose your own ingredients and create your own. I cannot wait to order from them again!

Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese is located at 345 East 12th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. You can view more details on their website at www.smacnyc.com.

As for the Boxcar Lounge, located at 168 Ave. B (between 10th and 11th Streets), it is an excellent Happy Hour spot. They have a more extended happy hour special than most which goes till 10pm or 8pm depending on the day of the week. Their drink special is Two for One drinks per person on most items at the bar.

This lounge is appropriately named as it is a rather narrow space with a bar in front followed by some seats to lounge in towards the back. There is also a heated outdoor garden so there is plenty of room for all the happy hour revellers to gather and let off some steam after work. For more info check out their website: www.boxcarlounge.com.

Learn How to Mix it Up

This past Wednesday, I decided to see what things looked like on the other side of the bar stool. I signed up for an Intro to Bar Tending class through MMA. We were to get an hour long learning session and then have an hour of open bar mingling afterwards.

The class was held at The Village Pourhouse and it was quite evident that our bar tender knew his stuff. We began by going over where to find everything behind the bar and then it was time to learn how to pour a perfect pint! As a huge fan of beer, I eagerly volunteered to try my hand at this part of the lesson. I was a little nervous since I was up in front of a crowd, however it was a lot of fun to actually be on the pouring side of the tap!

Next up, we learned how to mix well drinks, followed by martinis. We finished off our lesson with some fun (and tasty) shots. For each segment, different class members got a chance to come up and prepare drinks which were then passed on to the classmates who had ordered them. Needless to say, we had a chance to sample many of the beverages we were learning to make and it was great that everyone got their turn to participate. Afterwards, we all got to enjoy an open bar where our only responsibility was to relax and enjoy.

Since this was an intro course, I would still need to study a bit more before I would feel completely comfortable behind the bar but I definitely feel like I learned a lot. It was a really fun learning experience and I enjoyed it so much that I might sign up for another class in the near future.

You can find out more about the Village Pourhouse at http://www.pourhousenyc.com/.

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Today, Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 is election day. Make sure you get out to your local polling station and exercise your rights by placing your vote! Turn out is supposed to break records so be prepared for long lines. It is worth the wait to make sure you get a say in who becomes the next President of the United States of America. Get out there and VOTE!

You can find out if you are officially registered and also look up where to go on http://www.canivote.org/.