Friday, November 1, 2013

this is next

I've been working on a few projects for next year that involve travel and food and judaism. While trying to figure out what it is that I should be doing with my life I have found myself gravitating towards opportunities that bring together the power of food in religion. I think I'm on to something here and pieces may actually fall into place one day. 

I'm leaving my restaurant job at the end of the year, which is finally public knowledge. What restaurant job? you may be asking. The job that I got right as I stopped writing here! It was an incredible opportunity and maybe I'm an idiot for leaving it behind, but I got something in my gut that I just have to listen to.

This is real. I need to remember this.

In 2014 I am going to connect deeper with my friends, I am going to travel, plan, and "do" more often, I am going to marry the love of my life, and I am going to trust myself.

Monday, June 17, 2013

We're Getting Married Y'all!

Is it worth even addressing how long it's been since I wrote here regularly? It's been a long long time and so much has happened.

The most important thing is that Sean proposed to me on May 23rd, on the back porch of our apartment near Lincoln Park in Northeast. Maybe that's why I'm so hesitant to move now. It was an urgent and simple proposal - as if once he had the ring in his hand and me in his line of sight, he couldn't hold it in any longer. This June 24th will be our five year anniversary, so getting engaged has been on the horizon for a little while now. I hoped it would happen this year and even had a suspicion that he would propose as a birthday present... but hopes and expectations and day dreams could have never prepared me for the feeling of that moment. It was complete surreal magic that can't even be expressed here in the written word.

The most shocking part for us has been the engagement ring. I never suspected to feel its purpose so deeply. Every day for the rest of my life I will be wearing this beautiful, simple, classic diamond on my finger that he picked out. And that's really the key here - we never looked at rings together or talked about what kind of ring I wanted, so the ring that I have is what he believed to be a reflection of both of us. Feminist Sarah is a little bit sheepish when saying this, but it's a really primal territorial feeling. That's also the point of the ring, right? To publically show other people that I'm taken. And Sean feels that when he sees me wearing his ring. And that's my point - it's a ring that he decided represents us, that explains to everyone that sees it that we have chosen to take this step together. I kinda wish he wore an engagement ring too.

We're fighting our urges to make our long invitation lists and pick out a location and a date. We've received enough advice from newlyweds about how stressful planning quickly gets, so we're enjoying  a month of just being engaged and will start to dive in a few weeks from now.

I'm not waking this blog up to make it a story of wedding planning, although I'm sure it will come up a lot in the next year. I'm waking it up because I'm finally feeling things deeper than stress and anxiety. We're in love and we're getting married! I've also been wanting to write a little bit about my tree, my reminder of the importance of living, my best friend, my Tracy. A huge milestone like this makes the hole in my heart feel big and empty. I wanted to call her and ask her to be in my wedding party. I wanted to tell her every single detail. I wanted to make sure she knew how much her approval of him has always meant to me. And while that emptiness will always be there, sometimes I'm surprised by how close she really is. I see her in places I would never expect. I hear her in Meghan when she's in one of her fun, silly moods and saying the most random childish things. I feel her in Molly when she's so absorbed in dancing that nothing else exists around her. And I see her in Genny when she's neatly folding the tissue paper from her bridal shower gifts.

 I've always believed that once you discover who you are, the good and kind will be like magnets to you. I never thought it would happen this way, but I love seeing these pieces of Tracy in the people I currently surround myself with. It sounds trite, but I know that really will be here through all of it.

I'm late for a breakfast date with friends now, so that's all I have for today. But here's hoping I'll be writing and drinking piu vino in the months ahead.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Hiatus

The problem is that I haven't had much time to feel anything. Well, I've been feeling lots of things the past few months. I entirely cherish every moment with Sean and am fulfilled with meaningful (albeit infrequent) encounters with my friends and family. And that makes me feel good, and loved, and happy. But it had been a long time since I got that excited feeling in my bones... that feeling that inspired me to start this blog almost six years ago... that feeling that confirms that I'm doing the right thing... that feeling that inspires me in a way that goes beyond the ordinary level of life. And that gut feeling is what makes me want to write write write for the whole world wide web.

I have had a few inspiring moments these past few days and little blog posts have been bubbling up in my head, but quickly drifting away. I wanted to tell you about the morning of Inauguration, when I had to park a few blocks away from my house because I live too close to the Capitol. It was 6am and everyone was already up and heading towards the mall. I found myself running to my house while the sun was rising after spending the night in the hospital with a friend I love dearly, feeling cold and tired and grateful for her health and mine.

I wanted to tell you about the man at the new Union Market nearby, who stands outside of his butcher shop to speak to his guests without the display case infront of him. I wanted to tell you about my dad who in his sixties decided to join a bunch of Catholics and put on a Passion Play during lent, and how he's the only one who doesn't know the Our Father. I wanted to tell you how living with Sean has made me love him in a whole new way.

Yesterday I ended up with a box of old notes, cards, and journals back in my possession. I reread Ireland in 2007, Rilke, the stars on the Aryan Islands, and kitkats. I went back to Thanksgiving in Switzerland, romance in Bologna, and being surrounded by God. I found a 21st birthday card from Tracy, who was so thankful we have grown and matured together, and how we have left both small and large traces of ourselves in each other. I found a letter from Michael Feldstein, who was my Homecoming King in October of 2004. He wrote it on September 15, 2009, and mentioned sisterhood, friendship, laughs, and sorrow. I found cards from many people in September of 2009, and a picture of me and Megh in Ireland with the simple note "Welcome Home".  I found the first note Sean ever wrote me, the summer of 2008, which accompanied a mix of his favorite Bruce Spingsteen songs. Tonight I listened to Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker and made Sean and I dinner in a cast iron skillet.

Coming back to Piu Vino, slowly but surely.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Secret 3 of 3 - A New Life Back at Home

Before I give you my final secret, I want to encourage you to like Più Vino on Facebook!
If you are my 100th like, you will get a special prize! For real!

  1. A New Life at Home

I announced this news on Facebook last week, but I wanted to make sure it was here on Più Vino! I have somehow been offered a mind boggling position as a General Manager of a new restaurant back home in Washington, DC. I'm still in shock about it because... well... I don't have any restaurant experience. But I care a lot about this city and its community and I'm so insanely excited to be contributing to it again. I'm sorry to all New Yorkers, but this may be the point where I start telling people I'm from DC. 

So maybe you're confused as to why this is all happening. Let me explain. When I moved to DC in 2009, I did not love it for a number of reasons:
  1. This city is nothing compared to NYC
  2. It's a transient city. All who come will some day leave
  3. Everyone I went to college with is here, making it post-college college. Where was the challenge?
This list was problematic for many reasons, but I didn't fully realize that until... hmm, I really realized how wrong I was just two months ago. But let's start from the top.

First of all, there is no city like New York City, and it's stupid to draw comparisons. NYC has 13 times more people than DC. So of course there is going to be more ethnicities, bigger neighborhoods, more creative people, more art, more food, MORE OF EVERYTHING! And why did I even care? I did not want to live to NYC. It was time to take a good hard objective look at DC.

When looking at this city, it's really important to forget about anything you ever knew about it. Yes, DC has free incredible museums and yes, the White House is here and so is Abe Lincoln. And downtown is filled with men in suits and women in skirts and sneakers with lunch shops that close on the weekends. What actually defines DC is just north and east of all of that, and goes all the way out to Petworth and stretches to Anacostia. It's the richness of our small neighborhoods that makes Washington special.

There was a moment in 2010, when I was still living in the Fairmont house in Columbia Heights with seven other friends, that I realized that I was living out a very typical "DC thing". A group house in Columbia Heights? Housing eight people in their 20s? It's a very specific lifestyle, and we weren't alone. The neighborhood was made of both families who have been living there forever, and packed houses of kids in their 20s. I was a part of a culture, and it felt special.

When I moved to Le Droit Park/Bloomingdale/Shaw in 2011,  it all clicked. The culture I had been a part of in Columbia Heights is not the only culture that exists in DC. There are so many smart people here who want to change the world and do good, and that is so apparent in the way everything is executed. Within my first three years in DC, the amount of well done restaurants, bars, and cafes skyrocketed. And when I say "well done", I mean these places really care about finding the best ingredients with the best service and making a community out of a neighborhood. The greatest part is that these spots are always packed because DC is so hungry for a place where they can be a part of something.

So let's find the logic here. If people are desperate to have a place to go, then there is obviously a culture of DC citizens who want to be a part of DC. This must mean that they do have some kind of DC pride. And why would they have DC pride if they were only here for a year and then leaving? Maybe DC used to be transient, but the times they are achanging, y'all.

One more note about transiency - I quickly learned that calling DC transient is a fairly short sighted (and kind of racist) way of looking at the city. When one says it is a transient city, they are referring to middle class people in their 20s-40s who come for a fellowship, short government gig, politics, or grad school, and leave. But there are people who have been in DC for a very long time and have raised many generations here. These are black families, ranging from lower to upper class, who were here way before the race riots and stayed on through DC's depression and are witnessing its renewal. These are your neighbors in Columbia Heights. These are the people who live off of H st. These are the people of Anacostia (which, hey! guess what! is a huge part of DC.) So DC was never actually a truly transient city, and definitely should be losing its reputation as such.

So there we go, numbers 1 & 2 on my reasons why I didn't love DC were debunked.

I hope my dear friends aren't offended by number three on the list. I want to kick myself for being so foolish. I obviously adored every minute spent with my friends who I lived with and saw so often in DC, but I always wondered what it would be like to be put into a brand new situation where I was challenged to find another good group of friends.

And then I came to Boston for the summer and good god have I been lonely. My life is completely saturated with work, which I have been thankful for because I don't have much else to do. When I visited DC this summer, I couldn't stop smiling. I was home. It felt right. I missed Sean too much. I miss friends too much. I missed this fascinated city and so desperately wanted to contribute to it. Two cheesy phrases kept running through my head: "home is where the heart is" and "you don't know a good thing till its gone". I had to find a way home.

After a number of really fun interviews via Skype and in DC, I was offered this incredible job. This will be the restaurant group's fourth place and I am so honored to be a part of their team. They are known in the community as being pioneers on the DC coffee & food scene and I'm thrilled to see how this restaurant takes shape. I'm also terrified because it was a huge reach for me, and if it weren't for such crazy support from Sean, Meghan, my family, friends, and current staff, I would feel totally unprepared (so thank you to those of you who shot me down when I said they were batshit crazy for hiring me).

In conclusion, here's my big secret: Washington, DC is now my home. And I'm coming home to DC on Thursday, August 23rd and will start training on Friday. Have I mentioned how excited I am to be a part of the DC food scene? How unbelievably lucky I feel to have this opportunity? How thrilled I am to be spending so much time back in Columbia Heights with all of my friends? How grateful I am for everything cupcake has given me? How over the moon I am about moving in with Sean? How geared up I am to work constantly?  It's unbelievable.

We're opening soon! I don't have a date yet, but I will make sure that you are all invited to the grand opening!

Thank you readers! Don't forget to like me on facebook to follow the rest of my adventures! :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Secret 2 of 3 - Open Door Dining

Have you been itching for more secrets?

Well get excited because this is a pretty cool one,

and if you live in the DC area then you should be even more excited...

2. Open Door Dining

Big Bear Cafe, one of my favorite spots in DC, used to host Sunday dinners. It was $60-$70 a head for a three course meal with wine pairings. I got an e-mail every week about it, but I moved to Boston before Sean and I ever had a chance to try it. I started ignoring the weekly e-mails because it was depressing to think I couldn't be a part of it. Then, they stopped. And all of a sudden I started getting strangely poetic weekly invitations to Friday Night dinner with Open Door Dining. 

It sounded so fun and homegrown that I could barely stand to read them knowing I was still in Boston. 

Then last week, I had an undercover mission in DC. I came for only 36 hours and was hoping I could squeeze in a Friday night dinner. I e-mailed Open Door about it, and the host kindly explained that she isn't holding one this Friday. I told her I was trying desperately to come back to DC to be involved in the food industry, and asked if she needed any help hosting come September. I got an e-mail back from Clementina Russo, inviting me over for dinner on Thursday night. My own private Open Door dinner?! With the woman who made Big Bear go from a coffee shop to a real cafe? How could I possibly say no?

I brought a bottle of wine and walked into her home, following the little signs on the door that read "Door's open! Come on in!". I poured us two glasses and we talked like we were old friends who just had a lot of catching up to do. I watched her pick apart herbs from their stems and smash huge cloves of garlic to make a tangy pesto that only raw garlic can give. Huge tomatoes and rounds of eggplant had been slowly roasting in the oven. And then she pulled out two huge rib eye steaks, which were browned and thrown into the oven. Huge leafy greens cooked down in their leftover juices. She worked with Big Bear for a year, made a menu and started their Sunday night dinners. When she left, she took the mailing list with her. Why did she leave? Because she happens to have a PhD in Physics (no biggie), and is looking to use her degree.

After a three hour dinner, I had finally finished my huge piece of steak and we talked about everything from hospitality and home cooking, to DC politics and Rome. I had to force myself from the table to catch my bus home. 

The bottom line: Clementina is someone who should cook for you, but most importantly she is someone who you should meet. She is a wonderful human with serious passion inside of her. And what could possibly beat being fed a delicious meal in someone's own home? 

You can read more about Open Door Dining here, you can follow her on twitter and sign up for her mailing list here or e-mail her here! Her meals have a suggested donation of $60 each, which is well worth it.

DCites: make your reservation now!

My last secret to come this week!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Secret 1 of 3 - Chanterelles

I've been keeping secrets from you.

big, important, exciting secrets.

let's start from the beginning.

1. Chantarelle Mushrooms

 I was in Whole Foods aka The Promised Land, perusing through the beautiful produce section when I, for the first time ever, decided to pay attention to the small mushroom section. And that's when I saw them.

I don't like mushrooms. When asked if I have any food restrictions, I explain that I will eat anything...but mushrooms. Yet these small, wild, and beautifully colored Chanterelle mushrooms called out to me. At $30 a pound, I knew there must be something special about them. I grabbed a handful and brought them home.

I sauteed a thinly sliced onion in some butter and tossed them in.

They glistened with hope (and butter) by the time they were ready.

and oh my god. I mean seriously, holy shit, I actually loved these mushrooms. They have an incredible texture with a meaty, earthy, flavor.  I loved them enough to immediately text my brother to tell him. I loved them enough to spend the night reading their Wikipedia page. I loved them enough to become a believer, for sure. Now who knows what the possibilities are?!? Does anyone have any recommendations on what my next mushroom tasting should be??

God, it feels good to get that secret out there. I've been holding it in for a while. More secrets to come.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dreams of Shellfish

You know you've had a good vacation when the first thing you do upon returning home is buy shrimp cocktail. With my last ditch attempt to hold on to the past six days, I just needed shellfish. 

I've had a wonderful few days.

As soon as we started dating, I knew I was pretty lucky to snag this guy. I mean let's not beat around the bush here people -- it really took me an entire semester to lock this down, so I've been grateful from the start.

But I didn't fully realize how much I truly hit the jack pot until I got to know his family. With three awesome younger siblings and an incredible mother, being welcomed into their home has been so completely heart warming and fun. Visit after visit and vacation after vacation, I have been made to feel like a part of the family. Their acceptance and good humor seem to come so easily for every O'Mealia, and I always leave their gatherings feeling happy and complete.

I met them in Maine for the last half of their vacation in a beautiful lake house in Sedgewick, where the clan had been lazily reading, swimming, and soaking up sun.

(this photo & more from Mary Ellen's album)

I also enjoyed the lounging, the sun, and a trip to a local organic farm.


 The best part, however, was definitely Friday night.  Cathy, the amazing owner of the home, made us a truly authentic Maine meal.

Crab dip and steamers to start us off as the sun set.

and a lobster for everyone. 

It was a really special experience to have such a master teach us the art of getting every last bit of meat out of these beasts. 

Tom definitely ate his lobster for at least an hour and a half.

The six of us sat around for a very long time, polishing off the lobster, sweet corn on the cob and a simple, refreshing salad. If we hadn't lingered at the table for so long, we may have never found room for the blueberry pie and ginger ice cream that followed.

It was an incredible meal that I felt so lucky to be a part of. 

The next morning Sean and I packed up to start our journey south to Long Island, for more coastal happiness. It was hard to leave that beautiful place in a state with such a cool culture -- here's hoping that we'll be back again next year. 

More on Long Island later... I still have more shrimp to get through before the night is over.