Weekend Wrap-Up & Happy Monday

Hello everyone!  I hope you all enjoyed your weekend.  It was lovely here in NYC… more like early fall/springtime weather, which was a treat!  Since we last spoke on Thursday, I did another day shooting time-lapse of the Barneys holiday window with Bodega, I joined in celebrating the official grand opening of Brooklyn Victory Garden – featuring my first photography show, I ate at a couple new restaurants… well, one pretty new and one older but new to me, AND…  I bought a freaking AWESOME new lens for my camera!!  Yippee!!

So this lens… I’m super excited about it, as I was beginning to feel a little stagnant with my photography, like I wasn’t growing much or experimenting with new looks and it was frustrating me.  I bought the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens, which is a really great buy for several reasons.  First, it is an L series lens under $1,000 and there aren’t many of them.  I’m not exactly sure what the technical differences are with the L series lenses, but I know they cost way more and are known to be the best professional-grade lenses from Canon.  In addition to that, this 100mm macro lens is pretty much like adding two new lenses to my arsenal.  Now instead of just relying on the 50mm lens, I have a 100mm lens, which means I don’t have to be so close to my subjects!  A 100mm lens is great for taking portraits and it also enables me to take pictures of people while being a little further away and thus maybe a little more incognito for candid street photography purposes.  Then, the macro function is amazing!  I took a photo a while back of coffee beans using this lens (which I had rented at the time).  You can get within an inch or so of your subject with the macro lens and capture enormous detail – this is a great lens for photographing small detailed things – flowers, insects, textures, etc.  I’ll be playing around with it a lot now – so I’m sure you’ll see what it can do in the next few months!

So, I’m once again feeling really stoked about the photography and ready to dive in with my new lens – it’s like looking at the world in an entirely new way again – which is nice when you are trying to find beautiful and interesting things to take pictures of every day.

On another note – I ate rather well this weekend.  On thursday night we had dinner with our friends Scott and Jess and we checked out the new Keith McNally restaurant Pulino’s, which is right in our neighborhood on Bowery and Houston.  The restaurant is rather beautiful in my opinion – though very crowded, hectic and loud.  You have to be in the mood.  That said, we were totally in the mood.  One of the highlights of the meal for me was an appetizer of baked ricotta (in a cute little cast-iron pan) with roasted grapes, mosto (fresh grape juice that has not begun fermentation… I looked it up), fennel seeds and fresh ground pepper.  This was served with some delicious bruschetta.  It was wonderful – especially the roasted grapes!  I’d never had roasted grapes before but now I want to make this at home!

We also had a dish of semolina gnocchi with braised oxtail, which was wonderful!  They were the most beautiful gnocchi I had ever seen – perfectly round little balls of yumminess!  They became my photo of the day:

Photo 216 out of 365 – “Gnocchi”

"Gnocchi" - Settings: ISO 6400, f/2, 1/60 sec, 50mm lens

Then, we tried two of the pizzas, which the restaurant is known for.  We had the Salame Piccante – with house-made pepperoni, tomato, mozzarella, olives and oregano as well as the Polpetine – with beef meatballs, tomato, mozzarella, pickled chiles and basil.  Both were yummy – but not mind-blowing.  I liked the pizza from Una Pizza Napoletana much better but unfortunately they’re closed now – replaced by Motorino, which I have yet to try!  I’m always on the hunt for the best pizza.  All in all it was a good, fun meal.  I would definitely go back – but only on the early side as it’s pretty sceney and hectic and I’m usually not really in the mood for that.

Photo 217 out of 365 – “Birds in Unison”

"Birds in Unison" - Settings: ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/400 sec, 50mm lens

I took this picture on Friday while on my way to Barneys for more time-lapse photography.  I was walking to the subway when I saw this flock of birds fly by above me, then fly out of view.  Then, around they came again – in perfect unison.  They must have done about five laps or so – giving me just enough time to grab my camera and snap a few shots.  I played with this one a little in Lightroom 3 (I just upgraded from 2 this weekend) – I made the sky a more vibrant, aqua color and upped the contrast quite a bit. I’m surprised how sharp the birds are, considering I was using my 50mm lens from far away and they were moving pretty fast!

Friday night I went to Brooklyn Victory Garden for the grand opening celebration.  It was a nice neighborhood affair and I got a lot of great feedback on my photography – and perhaps a few more people checking out the blog?  I also did a major shop and returned home with some ridiculously yummy goodies including apple cider, bacon, eggs, pickles and three cheeses made proudly right here in the northeast:

  • Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise – a raw cow’s milk cooked-curd semi hard cheese from Vermont!  It is made in a French Alpine style, with a toasty, nutty, grassy taste and is a beautiful golden yellow color (from that raw milk – all the delicious fresh grass the cows eat translates beautifully into the cheese!)  This is a great snacking cheese and it also supposedly melts well… going to have to try that.
  • Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – I’m sure you’ve all heard me rave about this cheese by now.  This is also a cow’s milk cheese from Vermont, but this one is made with pasteurized milk.  This really is hands down one of my favorite cheeses of all time.  It is irresistibly snacky – with notes of caramel, nuts and butter.  And my favorite part of the cheese is when you get closer to the rind.  Because of the cave-aging, the cheese closest to the outside cloth covering takes on this deep earthy cavey flavor.  It’s so beyond yummy.
  • Old Chatham Shaker Blue –  this is a wonderfully rich and creamy raw sheep’s milk blue cheese from the Hudson Valley region of NY.  It has a nice potent blue taste – but at the same time, it is sweet on the finish and almost melts in your mouth.  It’s wonderful.

In addition to the cheese, I also bought an amazing Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Stony Brook Whole Hearted Foods.  This oil is wonderfully nutty.  It reminds me of toasted pumpkin seeds.  If my mom is making her excellent butternut squash soup for Thanksgiving this year, I’m dying to drizzle a bit of this on top… it’s super delicious.  It also works great just as an oil to dip bread – instead of olive oil.  Or perhaps as a finisher on veggies?  Really good stuff.


Photo 218 out of 365 – “Church Silhouette”

"Church Silhouette" - Settings: ISO 3200, f/3.2, 1/30 sec, 50mm lens

I took this photo on Saturday – I think it was only five o’clock or so… crazy how it’s getting dark so early now!  I typically wouldn’t include so much empty space in a composition… but with this photo I think it works.  Maybe it’s because of the reflection of the moon on the left side… maybe it’s because I added a lot of vignetting and shadowing on the left side so it feels more balanced.  What do you think?

Anyway – on Saturday we had our friends Beth and Wyeth over to try all the cheesy goods from BVG before a late dinner at Barbuto.  Beth and Wyeth are in town visiting from North Carolina and we share a complete passion for food, travel and nerdy stuff (Wyeth is also a photo enthusiast and works in video games & Beth wants to be a cheese monger – a match made in heaven right?) – so whenever they come to visit, we have a merry old time and we EAT – and I mean good restaurants with lots of research put in beforehand (thank you Beth!).  We are all fans of Jonathan Waxman – the owner of Barbuto from his time on Top Chef Masters last season, so we were all pretty excited to try out his place. In typical me style… we each got a different main dish and passed them all around the table for tastes.  Their menu is not updated online, and I can’t remember all the details of our dishes, but our favorite dishes of the evening were a creamy, garlicky pasta with cauliflower and chilis and the soup of the day, which was made with celery root, cream, apples and bacon.  Both of these dishes were surprising, creative and delicious!  On the whole, I’d say the rest of the meal was just good (not amazing) but actually more reasonably priced than I was expecting.  I think the menu changes quite frequently, so I’d go back again… but there are definitely many restaurants in the same price point that I find to be a little more exciting and inspiring.  I’d give it a B.

Finally, on Sunday we went to B&H and bought my new lens!!!  Woo hoo!!!  And here is photo 219 – shot with the macro setting:

Photo 219 out of 365 – “Leaf”

"Leaf" - Settings: ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/250 sec, 100mm macro

With this photo, I just held the leaf up to my living room window so the light would pass through and highlight all the veins and texture.  Then I got in real close with the macro lens.  This is a totally different type of photography and I have some studying and experimenting to do to see how to best use this lens… but isn’t it cool?!  I find I often like to get really close to subjects and look at details that typically go unnoticed – so I have a feeling that me and this lens are definitely on our way to becoming close friends.  Fun stuff.

Anyone try any new and exciting cheeses lately?  Hey… if you ever try a cheese because you read it about it here on nellsdish, I DEFINITELY want to know about it!  Oh – and you might have noticed I’ve put my weekly cheese feature on hold the past few weeks.  I am definitely planning on bringing it back, I am just working on approaching it from a different way.  I want to only highlight cheeses that DO rock my world – thus much more cheese tasting is necessary.  I’m also working on developing a personal cheese rating system.  So – don’t fret.  Weekly cheese will be back and will be better.  It’s a work in progress.

See you tomorrow!


8 thoughts on “Weekend Wrap-Up & Happy Monday

    • wow! so glad you found me! seriously – my husband and I are so addicted to Cabot Clothbound it’s ridiculous. It’s definitely on my top ten list of cheese favorites… and I taste as many cheeses as I can get my hands on!! I’ll have to come visit Cabot & Jasper Hill someday. 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I’m so excited you found your way to my blog! I am so in love with the Clothbound Cheddar – it’s a cheese masterpiece! If you ever need cheese photos you know where to find me!

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